A New Obsession


That's all I need to say. Barkcloth. I've been poring over barkcloth samples for the last couple of weeks with a shameless enthusiasm and I can't see my excitement in seeing these beautiful fabrics diminishing in any way. 

Recently, a friend of ours made an amazing skirt out of barkcloth with a scene of deer in a forest. It was gorgeous and she looked swell in this dazzling fabric.  So, it got us thinking...

We have a couple of 1950s TV chairs we would like to have reupholstered and so this started my barkcloth journey/pilgrimage/crusade as we wanted something which melded the 1950s design of the chairs with something a bit older, perhaps a 40s style fabric. Barkcloth was used through the 30s to the 50s for a range of uses but particularly upholstery and curtains.

What particularly appealed to us was the exuberant designs, lavish swirls and feathers, make believe flowers, vivid colours in unexpected combinations.  We also loved the gorgeous modern take on toile, bright scenes of waterfalls, ruins, mansions, forests and yachts. How could anyone resist?

So, here is my first purchase - not even for the chairs! No, this will be for cushions, but look at it!

Apologies for the photo, I whipped it out of its envelope and snapped it as soon as possible!

This fabric is the sort used for curtains along the art deco style hotels of South Beach, Miami in the 1930s, so it doesn't come more highly recommended!

Another Trip to the Museum

Sunny Sunday

It has been a glorious day today in Adelaide. Perfect blue skies, warm in the sun, cool in the shade. We thought we would go and check out an exhibition of opals at the Museum of South Australia. Like a bower bird, I like colourful bits and pieces!

Parking behind the Botanic Gardens is the best part of coming into town on a non-work day. I love the walk through the gardens to see what is out (see pics below!) and enjoy the day like the other folk having picnics, lying on the grass and drinking coffee (we even passed a group of young guys talking about My Little Ponies, which I thought strange yet great!). 

The exhibition was small but interesting. I'm not a big fan of large information boards and video screens,  but I guess these are for groups of children and it can't always be about me. I like to get straight to the cabinets, the rocks, the jewels, the colourful bits. And that we did. My only criticism I guess is the entry fee for adults, being $17 seemed to be on the steep side, though I understand the insurance costs might have been hefty for the museum (the Queen sent a tiny carved stoat in white opal with ruby eyes, by Faberge, no less).

Here are some snaps from our time out. The lino is from the Egyptian Room, the possum from a tree on North Terrace (eating a strawberry of course) and the rest are opal and mineral displays (just click on the image and it will switch to the next).

Post Market Post

The Human Snail

Here is a picture of me working at my blog:


Well, it's not really, it's a snail, photographed by an amateur photographer in the 1930s.  A recent addition to my collection of snaps.  I have been working quite hard recently, in preparation for two markets over the weekend just gone.  The fall-out of this is I have been slow to post to my blog! 

One of the products I launched over the weekend is the gift pack.  Not just any gift pack, but a party in a box:

Karena from Magic Jelly prepared the beautiful labels and patterns, of course, and each gift box is different, containing a variety of Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez products.  Some even have Magic Jelly buttons, coasters or mirrors!   They were well received over the weekend and I plan to have more ready for the next round of markets before Christmas. I hope to be able to offer some via the online shop too, so more on that later. 

I have had a couple of enquiries from people asking where I will be next.  There are a couple of simple ways to find out:

1. sign up to my monthly newsletter - I will tell you about the markets for the following month, any special offers and any other news relating the Shanghai Lil & The Scarlet Fez;

2. follow me on Facebook.com/ScarletFez;

3. visit me at a market and ask me!

Royal Adelaide Show

Another extravaganza!

Part of our spring ritual is to visit the Royal Adelaide Show.  When we went yesterday, it was a beautiful clear day, very crowded and full of things to see.  

We always visit the floral displays, the crafts, the baking, the birds and the Grand Parade.  We always buy a freshly squeezed orange juice, buy daffodils from Hancock's and have tea at the CWA cafe.  I look forward to these simple pleasures every year.

This year, it was the 175th anniversary of the Royal Adelaide Show, something I had to think twice about - 175 years?! 

The bonus this year was a stage show put on in the Goyder Pavilion.   "175 Years of Fashion" promised to be an interesting display of costumes from those years, a fashion parade, or so we thought.  It proved to be a dazzlingly camp dance extravaganza of dubious historical accuracy.  The routines, gymnastics and glitter more than made up for the lapses in detail and the show was well received by the audience of city and country folk who crowded around the stage.

I highly recommend a visit.  The show has a rare connection with the past and is a wonderful opportunity to indulge in nostalgia and to eat lots of sugary food.  I even love the promotional campaign for the show this year.  It has collage, old photographs and flowers - of course I love it!   Here it is;


A new soap

I have just released a new soap, Winterfield.   I love coming up with new soap ingredient or essential oil combinations and with this soap, I chose to go for a classic Mediterranean scent, lavender and rosemary.  As I was releasing the soap in winter, I wanted it to have a 'comforting' feel, so I used extra rich and creamy oils including avocado, apricot kernel and hemp seed oils, to achieve a lovely smooth lather - perfect to counter the drying effects of a hot shower.   Winterfield is gently coloured with green clay.

So, please feel free to visit the store to purchase some Winterfield of your own.  Otherwise, you can follow my Facebook page (you may wish to select the setting to receive all of my notifications as otherwise you may find Facebook is something of a brat, not liking to share everything it should) to keep up to date with which markets I'll be at and when.

The Good 80s

Hurrah for Hoarding!

This may come as a shock to you, but the internet hasn't always been around.  I know, imagine!   Magazines used to be my number one path to inspiration, though they often fell short of my expectation, or alternatively, exceeded my ability to be 'cool'.   I kept most of my magazines, not being one to throw away ANYTHING, so I am pleased to be able to present a few images of the covers of an early 1980s magazine called Stiletto.  It was large format, had coloured covers but newsprint within, and it covered off on a wide variety of fashion, music and popular culture, with an inevitable focus on the Melbourne and Sydney scenes.

I remember reading through them (and this was one of the magazines I thought I couldn't quite live up to) and marveling at these strange types who dressed however they wanted and lived their entire lives in glittering nightclubs and bars.  I'm sure the reality was quite different, but they had an impact on me nonetheless.

Now I look at these magazines with nostalgia, but also, I can look at the covers afresh and note how imaginative they are.  I love the collage, the photocopied graininess, the hand-coloured detailing, strident patterns and limited colour palette.  There's no shoulder-padded corporate power-walking here, just good fresh design working within the restraints of budget and technology.   

Leaving all that aside, I MUST do a spread on the fashions within - everyone needs to know how to wear a sack well!

1960s Colour Inspiration

Capri, by Crown Lynn

We recently acquired a set of Crown Lynn crockery in the Capri range.   Made in New Zealand, Crown Lynn was the largest manufacturer of pottery in the Southern Hemisphere up to the late 1970s, and the "Colourglaze" range was one of the most popular styles.  The "Colourglaze" range was also sold under the names "Capri", "South Pacific" and "Caribbean Ware". 

The range of colours is inspiring, with names like Pumpkin, Jade, Tropic, Duck Egg, Oyster, Clover, Ant Green, Coral, Cocoa, Citrus, Honey and Mushroom.   Apparently, there are many other colours too, so my inner collector (not so inner, really) is all fired up!  Here are some snaps:

Vintage Perfume Ingredient Catalogue

Junk shop find

(Extracts from 'Perfumes', a catalogue published by the Societe Chimique des Usines du Rhone, probably in the early 1920s.  From my private collection.)

I love reading the 'Perfumes' catalogue.   It contains a descriptive list of a wide range of synthetic perfumes, their benefits over natural essential oils (usually cost and potency), a few recipes for perfumes and a series of photographs of the factories that produced the chemicals.   It's full of possibilities!

I've been thinking for some time about making my own perfumes.   I am ambivalent about synthetic perfumes like the ones listed in the catalogue.  On the one hand, I would prefer to avoid the use of synthetic chemicals as I generally prefer keeping things as natural as possible.  I certainly stick to natural ingredients in the soaps I make. But I'm also aware of the advantages of using alternatives to natural products, particularly where there might be a dwindling or limited supply (like rosewood essential oil). 

I've tried researching various essential oils to check whether the production of the oils are in any way  detrimental to either the environment or the people who live near the resource.  The more expensive oils seem to be obtained from specifically grown crops.  Otherwise, it might be wise if I'm concerned about a particular oil to at least try to source an organic version, or one that is locally produced.

In any event, I still find the catalogue inspiring; it's like looking in a well illustrated cook book that makes you rush out and buy far too many vegetables.  And here's something else I find inspiring - a Holga pic of begonias in glorious late summer colours:

As a second thought, below is an extract from 'Perfume' of a perfume recipe for 'Bouquet of Moss Rose':

Firstly, you need to make 'rose spirit' as follows;

"Grain spirit of 94% strength without odour or flavour is reduced to 70% strength by adding Rose water, and then dissolving Rhodinol in this alcohol in the following proportions:
Rhodinol I   20gr
Alcohol 70% 1 litre."

This is the 'rose spirit'.  So, the recipe is:

"Rose Spirit.....................660cc
Extract of Orange flowers....240cc
Tincture of Ambergris........30cc
Tincture of Musk..............25cc
Tincture of Vanilla.............45cc
These ingredients are mixed, shaken and left for 15 days in a well closed bottle at a temperature of 25 degrees to 30 degrees C; it is then allowed to cool, filtered and put into bottles for sale."

I am pleased to say that Shanghai Lil and The Scarlet Fez perfumes will be all-natural and vegan!

1960s Toy Stencils

Colour Inspiration

Some time ago, I came across a bunch of old toys and stuff from my childhood including these wonderfully coloured plastic stencils.  I love that translucent soft plastic and the 1960s Eurasian designs.   I think my favourite was the seal, though the lion and squirrel come pretty close.

19th Century Papier Mache Mushrooms

The Museum of Economic Botany, Adelaide Botanic Gardens

I don't know why, but I often feel drawn to Victorian things in the days following Christmas.  I think it must be a desire to be grounded in that quiet, solid world of elaborate design, earnest pursuits and brown things after the brash, noisy rush of Christmas.

Boxing Day, I like to pore over (or is that paw over - I do both) my small collection of 19th century gardening books, read a little Tennyson and go through my collection of cabinet cards and cdv photographs. 

So, today, I was pleased to make a visit to town with my partner and we wandered through the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, including the wonderfully stern Museum of Economic Botany.

Within this small museum, there is housed an amazing collection of 19th century papier mache mushrooms, apples, pears and plums, made by Heinrich Arnoldi & Co, Gotha, Germany.   They live in lovely Victorian cabinetry with their original labels.  They were a joy to see!

Party Season

Tokens of appreciation

It's a busy time of year for most people and there are usually plenty of events to attend in the lead up to Christmas.  Work functions, barbeques, family reunions (eek!) and, if you're brave, you throw your own party!

Attending this whirl of activity can get expensive, new clothes, the food, the wine but it is often the gift that causes the most anxiety.  A small token of appreciation is an appropriate way to thank your host and wish them all the best for the season, but it's picking out something a little different and a little easier on the waistline, that can be a challenge for some.  

Here at Shanghai Lil and The Scarlet Fez, you have a vast range of all natural, vegan soaps, hand-crafted right here in Adelaide, to select from if you are looking for an inexpensive gift.  Take a look here:

There are 19 soaps to choose from!  Each soap comes packaged in a lovely box, ready to gift, and only $7.50 per bar!  This is good value when you consider the luxurious oils used to make the soaps, designed to cleanse your skin without making you as dry as a biscuit.  Each bar is scented with essential oils - oils extracted from flowers, leaves and fruits - which provide you with an authentic, natural sensory experience without being bowled over by tenacious synthetic fragrances.

Visit the shop by clicking the button above.  Have fun and let me know if you have any queries.

One Fine Summer - Remix

A tweaking of a favourite soap

Having sold out of the first batch of One Fine Summer, I quickly whipped up a new batch.  I have kept the same oil content as the first batch, as this is a wonderful, creamy soap and I wanted to keep it that way.  I have, however, switched the green to mica and added a splash of rose red (a mix of French pink clay and red oxide).  

One Fine Summer still has that glorious scent - so hard to describe but it's like a citrusy floral, green and sweet.  Here is a snap of the soap just poured into its mould.  The colours will be be more subdued in the cured soap, of course, but how promising!  Four long weeks to wait for this one, but let me know if you want to reserve a bar or two as this one gets snapped up quickly!