¨¨¨°º the adventures of choklit chanteuse º°¨¨¨


CoutureLust: Quaintrelle Couture

One of the glories of the Edwardian Ball is meeting brilliant like-minded people... such as the stunning and incredibly talented Calamity Lulu of Quaintrelle Couture, who I lured to my booth with 80% dark chocolate.

(Lulu in Tudor Dress by Quaintrelle / Photo by Mr. Nightshade)

And what, you will ask, is a quaintrelle? On her Web site, Lulu quotes Wikipedia: a woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm, and the cultivation of Life’s pleasures... Dear readers, imagine my pleasure upon finding that a word existed that so splendidly summed up my tendencies! I immediately knew Lulu was a woman after my own heart, and was delighted that she agreed to share some more about her work here.

(Eva in Can-Can ensemble by Quaintrelle / Photo by Mr. Nightshade)

How would you describe yourself and your style of work?

Frippery as philosophy. Fabric-based alchemy without any gold -- not in the sense of money or colour, but rather, the narrow mindset of boiling down elements for a highly specific and defined objective. In alchemy they say the Masterwork is achieved only when the alchemist forgets about gold and loses himself and his aim in the purification process. When I design, I usually don't have any picture in my head when I put the pencil to paper, and I try not to get caught up doing one style--I don't want to make variations of the same piece over and over again, so my "style" is chameleonic and as mercurial as I am. Fashion for shapeshifters.

(Mr. Nightshade in Waistcoat by Quaintrelle / Photo by Audrey Penven)

Where do you find inspiration?

The usual suspects: history, architecture, the human form, but I'd say my number one inspiration is the material itself. I frequently feel like fabric has an intent of its own, as if it knows what it wants to be when it grows up, so I try to listen to its little whispers. (I see fabric fulfilling its destiny in Adornments for Tarts, so I think you intuitively do this too!)

What do you do besides design amazing clothes?

Ballroom dance, burlesque, travel, psychological treatises, study foreign languages.

(Lulu in Headpiece by Quaintrelle / Photo by Mr. Nightshade)

What are three things that please you the most in the world, and why?

Fabric. I'm a sensual hedonist, and I can't even begin to explain the joy of a beautiful silk, velvet, wool, or linen on skin. A truly perverted fabricphile, I even like to smell it. The smell of silk: mmm.

Books and intellectually stimulating conversations, because I am a nerd. A big, fancy nerd.

I lack a precise word for the third, and perhaps most significant, thing that pleases me (undoubtedly the Germans have the perfect one). Art, perhaps, because it involves creation; and also the kind of passion that leads to meticulous attention to detail and perfection of one's craft; or love, because it has to do with developing one's sense of joy without root in attachment to stagnant things; or learning, perhaps, because it involves the evolution of the mind... that's it: I'll use Evolution. Nothing pleases me more in this world than evolution -- feeling myself evolve and seeing others evolve.

(Detail of Can-Can Corset by Quaintrelle / Photo by Mr. Nightshade)

How did you get your start making clothes?

I was born a quaintrelle. From the time I could hold a crayon, I would almost exclusively draw women in fancy dresses, and would always design some monstrously complicated costume for Halloween months in advance and give it to my mother, an accomplished seamstress herself, to make for me. She'd take my drawing and move a seam somewhere more convenient, and I'd take the drawing and move the seam right back, so she decided I should learn myself pretty early on. I had my first machine -- a child's Singer with only one function -- at the age of six, and being an independent little chit, I worked things out more or less for myself over the years.

(Detail of Tudor Headpiece by Quaintrelle / Photo by Mr. Nightshade)

What piece of work are you most proud of?

I'm a ghastly perfectionist, so I always feel like my work could be better! I am a little proud of the stomacher I made for my silk mantua -- raw silk, gathered in three rows, embellished with organza trim of a delicate fawn colour (though it looks rather pink in the photo), beaded all over and with cording couched with decorative crosses in silver embroidery floss. On the mantua, which is as lovely sage green with a baroque acanthus print in gold, it has a look that's both opulent and organic.

(Detail of Tudor Mantua Stomacher by Quaintrelle)

Where can we find your line?

For the moment, exclusively through my website by commission. I haven't quite been won over to the idea of prêt-à-porter, since absolutely nothing makes someone feel as luxuriously well-dressed as a custom-tailored garment, but I'd like to offer at least ready jewelery or accessories on my website -- once I find time to set it all up!

Thank you, Lulu, for sharing your inspiring vision and your delectable creations... and this quaintrelle is looking forward to seeing more from you!

...Read the full interview...


Things That Please Me: Arts & Crafts Wallpapers

I must confess that I am a hoarder of fine bits of paper. I am reminded of this each Valentine's Day, as I pull out my many bins full of scraps to make cards. I love textured paper, brightly colored hand-made paper, and translucent vellum ~ but most of all I love patterned paper.

(Owl by Charles Frances Annesley Voysey, 1898)

So imagine my delight when I found a trove of reproduction wallpapers online at Trustworth Studios, which sent me down a rabbit-hole searching for the original illustrations. I am quite sure that could I afford to, I would be squirreling away rolls and rolls of it. Oh, such complex valentines I would make, with the rich and intricate repeating patterns!

(The Demon by Charles Frances Annesley Voysey, 1889)

I have always loved the style and sentiment of the Arts and Crafts movement ~ the modern steampunk movement has borrowed much of that doctrine, certainly in the appreciation for the finely crafted and the hand-made. While it's the organic curves and sensuality of Art Nouveau that inspire me most, there's something glorious in the simplicity and utility of Arts and Crafts that is dear to me as well, and in some designs, as the ones here, the line between the two is blurred.

(Seahorses by Charles Frances Annesley Voysey, 1887)

Most of these wallpaper designs are by British architect C.F.A. Voysey, who had an eye for whimsy and playfulness that I find irresistible. In his late career, Voysey focused almost completely on fanciful designs for children's nurseries.

(I Love Little Pussy by Charles Frances Annesley Voysey, 1898)

Design movements aside, I could just lose myself in the worlds of these papers, like this seemingly odd and lovely combination by French designer M.P. Verneuil, of bats and poppies ~ which were both motifs used to suggest altered states of consciousness...

(Bat and Poppy by Maurice Pillard Verneuil, 1897)

Learn more at The Textile Blog or the Arts and Crafts Home.


Frolicking in the Evil Garden

It already feels far away now, but the Edwardian Ball was, of course, absolutely splendid. This year's theme, The Evil Garden, invited escapades involving indoor croquet and all manner of strange foliage.

It's always a pleasure to see the usual bands of miscreants - the Golden Mean Snail Car crew, the merry pranksters of the Neverwas Haul, Fou Fou Ha, and Kinetic Steam Works...

The Adornments for Tarts booth was much~visited, and copious quantities of both good bourbon and dark chocolate were consumed, as is only appropriate. I had a lovely time sharing my space with Industrial Fairytale, and some plans for collaboration were concocted...

And I was so pleased to be assisted by my dear Stache, who took his handlebars to a new level for the occasion.

(Picture by Mr. Nightshade)

Perhaps my favorite part of the weekend, besides the incredible costume~watching, was connecting with all the other artisans with an eye for opulence and detail. The vendor rooms were a glory to behold. I was mesmerized by the work of Rachel of Rubyblackbird ~ her meticulous processes, the intricate embroidery, and the marriage of soft textile arts with metallurgy won my heart.

(Picture by Mr. Nightshade, actually from 2009, shhh!)

She was booth-sharing with lovely Rachael of Nouveau Motley, who had a display of incredibly gorgeous assemblage jewelry. I was also thrilled to meet Tricia of House of Nines Design and see her most delightful hand-crafted hats in person... one could find her hats perching jauntily on the heads of many an attendee and performer, and Tricia herself looked impeccably fabulous.

(Picture by Lbc42)

Having the vendors downstairs from the stages caused me to miss much of the entertainment, but I did manage to sneak away for a few songs from my beloved Vagabond Opera. I hear that Blaze and David of Flynn Creek Circus put on an incredible double-trapeze act... and I was pleased I was able to see Justin, the event's incomparable producer, perform with Vau de Vire Society and his band Rosin Coven for a few mad and wonderful songs.

(Picture by Mr. Nightshade)

The whole weekend was a blurry bliss, if a wee bit exhausting. In the few precious moments of quiet, I kept myself entertained with handwork... and I have a never~ending supply of that.

(Picture by Heather Wakefield)

If you're intrigued and want more imagery, the best place is Mr. Nightshade's gallery on The Blight. And now, to finish a few custom orders and prepare for the next event... the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition in March!