Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Tatty Patchwork








There are certain authors whose impact can be felt long after the book has been closed, put back on the shelf and left some years behind in the past. Margaret Mahy is one such writer for me - a New Zealander whose work was imaginative, playful and ever so rambunctious. Stories with titles such as ‘The Blood and Thunder Adventure on Hurricane Peak’ or ‘Raging Robots and Unruly Uncles’ swung between the surreal and the sublimely exciting. My family cherished her. Both my brother and I grew up listening to Mahy’s glittering tales on cassette. We still have these tapes somewhere. A few of her books remain among our general collection, but others have been lost or passed on to friends with younger children.
I could say that I stumbled across Mahy, but that isn’t true. She was handed to me. My parents were the ones responsible for finding this extraordinary set of stories and passing them on to their daughter. I adored this woman’s complete willingness to dive into the realms of whimsy or fantasy – sending pirates on mixed up voyages across 1001 islands, or assembling an outer-space circus, complete with a troupe of acrobats. Nothing was too outlandish or silly to be excluded. A lonely boy stole birthdays; the devil entered into pacts with the corner grocer; thieves were foiled through the adept use of chewing gum.
These kinds of narratives feed the young imagination. They are rich - reveling in all that is out of the ordinary. Like Geraldine McCaughrean and Eva Ibbotsen, Mahy’s output never flagged when it came to being inventive and rather mesmerizing. The space between the real and the imagined was rubbed out and re-drawn. In the world of these texts there was nothing more natural than transformations, acts of sorcery, disguise and mischief.

We often use children’s books as a point of reference, a shared past that can be quoted and remembered collectively. However, it’s harder with someone like Mahy. I’m not sure whether any of my friends know of her. She is adored in New Zealand but little known here. This relative obscurity in comparison to Maurice Sendak, Enid Blyton or J.M Barrie is both unfortunate and beneficial. It means I can't mention the stories in that rapturous way reserved for communal reminiscing – for recalling characters and storylines known to all. But the counterbalance is in knowing that her work is somehow more personal to our family. A more individual sense of discovery and delight remains.  

The premise behind the pictured shoot with my beautiful friend Lucy was a loose adaptation of ‘The Tatty Patchwork Rubbish Dump Dancers.’ Published in 'The Chewing Gum Rescue and other stories', this short tale of Mahy’s charts the fortunes of a grandmother and granddaughter who turn a cave by a rubbish dump into their eclectic home – surviving on wild apples, entertaining hoards of feral cats and sourcing their household items from others’ cast offs. They make “tatty patchwork” clothing on a sewing machine with “crazy stitching” and discover a “tatty patchwork” piano that plays “crazy music.” Beauty resides in flaws and imperfection. The story stirred me so much that at age seven or eight my best friend and I would scatter objects across the garden and then pretend to ‘find’ them. We foraged for watering cans, baskets, rugs and twine to build makeshift dens.

Idealizing the ‘dump’ as a depository from which to scavenge taps into the same desire that makes treasure hunts so popular. It’s the longing to seek and discover, or if you want to make it very primal, to hunt and gather. This story is still one that I return to with a dizzy pleasure. There is joy in the telling, and inspiration in the idea behind it. Like the rest of the tales in the collection, it is a kind of make-believe that one does still believe in and wish to be true.

The clothes may not be tatty, but they are a patchwork mix of layers and second hand dressing up garb. I enjoyed the process of mixing together texture and colour. The stunning Lucy is a very talented artist, photographer, designer and seamstress who I’m sure will make a lasting creative mark on the future. You can also see her modelling in her brother Linden's music video here.
All photos by me.






21 comments:

Tara said...

Though I am one of those unable to share in the “communal” joys of reminiscing about this particular tale, the written picture you painted of Mahy’s work is so vivid and absolute – yet undoubtedly personal – I can at least revel in a warm sense of childhood nostalgia…
I loved Eva Ibbotson’s “A Company of Swans” so much when I was nine or ten, I probably started re-reading it before I had actually finished reading it initially!

Best Wishes,

Tara

vintagevixenarts said...

Gorgeous exotic model,clothe's and backdrop's. And I love, loved storie's about children making something's out of nothing's,using their unending imagination's (The Box Car Children) was one of my fave's, among many other's I could ramble on about. I will be searching the web for your intriguing author for my little guy..er, uh, and myself;0

Pilgrim at Kerjacob said...

What a beautiful young woman and such imaginative photographs too.
I am going to investigate Mayh's work - I await to be delighted.

Diane.x

Emalina said...

Such beautiful photographs and lovely clothes. Lucy is gorgeous.

I loved Mahy too, she was the queen of the fantastical!

Bella Q said...

I am missing the literary reference but am smitten with the non-so-tatty great fashion photography! Your model is stunning- I love that she is unconventional in looks, yet still a classic beauty and I love the styling and layers of the vintage dresses. My fave? The pink dress over the petticoat- so Wild West frontier for me, and that incredible water blue floral print dress in the last. Lovely! I love that you are quickly becoming as fascinating behind the lens as you are in front of it.

Sacramento Amate said...

You are an artist with words and pictures,.y dear Rosalind.
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Lydia said...

She's so gorgeous. You two actually have a very complimentary look and would be great doing a shoot together.

Longuette said...

lovely pictures and I like both the model and the outfits. especially the (autumn) colours.

brava!

Love, Ylenia from Longuette

Vix said...

Your photographs are spectacular and bursting with colour, the blue skies are making me long for the Summer.
I'm all at sea with your literary references, after I grew out of Enid Blyton I went on to read adult literature. My parents' contemporaries were often shocked at the racy stuff they'd see me clutching but I must say I never did me any harm! x

Anupriya DG said...

You friend is indeed stunning, dear Roz! And although I had not heard of Mahy, her tales seem fascinating enough....must try to source some of her books! Thanks for sharing! :)

Closet Fashionista said...

I am loving all of these looks! Especially the one with the blue shoes and the one in the third photo :)

I have never heard of that author, I'll definitely have to look her up. I have that problem with some of the movies I loved as a child (like The Last Unicorn,) they were a huge part of my memories and none of my friends have seen them, ha ha.

(and as for the beach photos - we weren't that far in to the beach, maybe a foot but I walked on my tippie toes and tried to keep my heels from sinking in, haha...though they did quite a few times ;) )
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Milex said...

so much to love

allie said...

these pictures are so lovely<3

FASHION TALES said...

Lovely captures. The tales definitely seem like they would be quite fun to act out or interpret in some way, most espeically as a young child with such wonderful imagination. I admire mixing of layers. Also, very unique styling selections in her brother's video as well.

jamie-lee said...

I have to say that as a child, I only ever recall reading one Margaret Mahy book, perhaps the one about a witch? I was more enamoured with Lynley Dodd (Hairy Maclarey from Donaldson's Dairy), Goosebumps, and the Paul Jennings series.

I do love how you took inspiration from her stories for these photo's, all of which are stunningly beautiful x

odysseyhome.com said...

We do use the more popular children's books as a reference point throughout life.
Your writing is stellar. Lovely shots, too. The model Lucy is beautiful!

Willow said...

I don't think I've ever read any of Margaret Mahy's literature - but it sure sounds like my cup of tea!
I probably couldn't list all that many authors of the children's literature I read, because I read every book that was given to me. Although two distinct favourite authors were Mem Fox and Roald Dahl.

These photos are absolutely stunning, as is Lucy - such beautiful eyes, and I've envious of her freckles!
All the clothes are delectable! And great backdrops. Those shoes in the second ensemble are gorgeous, as are the ones in the third (and that dress too!) And that last dress - the colours, and that amazing pattern - ah, just all so lovely! That second outfit would have to be my favourite. What a great shoot, you're a very talented photographer.

Melanie said...

Your photography is lovely and Lucy is stunning. I love the juxtaposition of glamour and heavy equipment. How fortunate you are that your parents introduced you to these tales of whimsy and magic. Now I must check out Ms. Mahy's writing. I like how you thread your memories together.

SabinePsynopsis said...

What a beautiful model Lucy is... Great styling, setting and phtography, too. And Margaret Mahy is on my 'to read' list now.

Fashionistable said...

Oh Rosalind I do love it when you introduce new authors to us. I love the story behind your shots and the pictures too. Beautiful. Xxxx

Colour Couture said...

Lucy, You look awesome in these dress. You have great collections of beautiful photographs and lovely clothes. Lovable. :) I like your leather ladies boots.