mary fedden: beauty in finessed simplicity

I actually came to know Mary Fedden’s work in a round about sort of way. Truth is, her name was so frequently mentioned as an inspiration or influence by so many of my favorite British creators that I simply had to learn more.

Turns out she’s one of Britain’s finest and best-loved contemporary artists, one who painted daily right up until her passing in 2012 at age 96. She’s most well known for her distinctive still lifes, characterized by a bold use of color, odd and inventive perspectives, and flat picture planes. 

Artist, printmaker and illustrator Mary Fedden in her Durham Wharf Studio

She made the ordinary extraordinary with her signature näive yet sophisticated style, elevating the beauty of favorite subjects such as fruits, feathers and plants. Her extensive body of work spanned over seven decades.

Born in Bristol, England in 1915, Mary hated and dropped out of Badminton girls’ school to attend the Slade School of Fine Arts in London at age 16. While there, she studied under Russian scene painter Vladimir Polunin, who had worked with the Ballets Russes and with Pablo Picasso.

After completing her studies, she briefly designed sets for Sadler’s Wells before returning to Bristol to work as a teacher and portrait painter. Polunin’s influence was evident in her opulent palette, reminiscent of the sumptuous colors of the ballet’s sets and costumes. 

With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Fedden served in the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Voluntary Service, where she was commissioned to create murals for the war effort. She later worked as a driver for the NAAFI in Europe.

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[spicy review] We Love Pizza by Elenia Beretta

Put on your bib, it’s pizza time!

Did you know there’s a brand new picture book celebrating our favorite cheesy, crusty, spicy, tomato-luscious food? Bet you’d love to wrap your lips around a warm, ooey gooey slice right this minute. 🙂

Elenia Beretta’s We Love Pizza: Everything you want to know about your number one food (Little Gestalten, 2021) opens with this savory poem:

THE WORLD'S FAVORITE FOOD

The world is full of people,
And people have to eat,
And if they had to choose a dish,
There’s one that’s hard to beat.

You make it and you bake it,
Or you buy it in a shop.
It can be soft or crunchy,
And have lots of things on top.

It’s simple but delicious --
That’s how it’s earned its fame.
Have you now guessed what it is?
Yes, PIZZA is its name!

This delectable introduction to the dish for pizza lovers of all ages is packed with fascinating tidbits sure to surprise and delight.

Where did pizza originate and how did it come to America? What are the different sizes and shapes of pizza? What exactly is a pizzeria and who are some of the people associated with it? How do you make your own pizza, and best of all, what kinds of toppings do people all over the world prefer?

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Hello, November! Enjoying Katie Daisy’s art is the perfect way to celebrate this month of gratitude. As a longtime fan, I can’t get enough of her beautiful illustrations and hand lettering. Wildflowers, forest animals, sea creatures, celestial bodies, and inspirational quotes grace everything from greeting cards and prints to sweatshirts and mugs. 

Her style is unmistakable; you might have seen her work without knowing her name. Uplifting, lovely, nature-rich, joyous, life-affirming, feminine, always a pleasure. It’s feel good stuff.

So, what’s new? She just published her latest book, How to Be a Moonflower: A Field Guide (Chronicle Books, 2021), in August.

I also like that she’s doing tea towels now (just ordered this one). 🙂

There’s never a shortage of wonderful prints — she always chooses the best quotes to illustrate. 

Wild Beauty, her 2021-2022 17-month weekly planner, is gorgeous. It’s overflowing with her beautiful art, and contains pages for notes and gratitudes to keep you moving forward day to day. (It also includes the November quote by Lucy Maud Montgomery shown at the top of this post.)

For lots more, visit Katie’s Official Website and Etsy Shop, The Wheatfield. If you’re in holiday gift shopping mode, this is the place!

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Lunching with Frank O’Hara

“I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.” ~ Frank O’Hara

Lunch hour! Let’s step into Frank O’Hara’s shoes as he scurries around Manhattan.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in “Swing Time” (1936)
STEPS
by Frank O'Hara

How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together
for the rest of the day (what a day)
I go by to check a slide and I say
that painting’s not so blue

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
in little bags
who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
why not
the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
and in a sense we’re all winning
we’re alive

the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
who moved to the country for fun
they moved a day too soon
even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
though in the wrong country
and all those liars have left the UN
the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
not that we need liquor (we just like it)

and the little box is out on the sidewalk
next to the delicatessen
so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
while the sun is still shining

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

~ from Lunch Poems (City Lights Books, 1964)
“Dancers in Central Park” by Leonard McCombe (1961)

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[mouthwatering review + recipe] The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker and Omer Hoffmann

“Fish ‘n’ chips!
Chips ‘n’ fish!
Such a crispy, tasty dish!”

It wasn’t until I moved to London in the late 70s that I tasted authentic fish ‘n’ chips for the first time.

Whether cod and chips from a neighborhood chippy, or a plate of divine lemon sole at Geale’s in Notting Hill, it was all so good. Nothing could compare to those golden brown fillets, fried up light and crispy in a beer batter, each crunchy bite yielding to tender, flaky fish inside. Is there any meal more quintessentially British?

Naturally, I assumed fish ‘n’ chips was invented by an Englishman. But after reading The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker and Omer Hoffmann (Green Bean Books, 2021), I surprisingly learned it was a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin who opened the very first fish ‘n’ chips shop in the UK. Established in 1860, Malin’s of Bow in London’s East End remained in operation for over a century. Now that’s a lot of fish and taters!

In her flavorful fishtory, Becker surmises how fish met chips to become “one of the greatest and most popular dishes of all time.”

Young Joseph Malin loves everything about fish — catching, selling, and especially, eating it. Though his entire family works from dawn to dusk in their fish shop, they struggle to make ends meet. 

One day Joseph has a brilliant idea — what if they try to sell cooked instead of raw fish? After all, he loves his grandmother’s delicious fried fish — a special family recipe handed down through several generations. Her secret is coating the fish in flour, dipping it in beaten egg, then coating it with matzoh meal before frying it in hot oil. 

Because of its crispy crust, the fried fish is just as tasty the next day when families like Joseph’s, who are forbidden to cook on the Sabbath, can eat it cold.

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