Sunday, 16 November 2014

My Grandmother - Violet Book Issue 2

My grandma is something of a marvel - a whirl of tales and anecdotes and curiosity and unwavering  affection. I've chronicled some of her various escapades and fabulous clothes on this blog over the years, ranging from her coat bought at the winter Olympics to her re-purposed wedding dress to her Balenciaga cocktail dress bought in an NY thrift store for $20 (apologies for the layout of photos in this early one - my strong point is not blog design) to paying homage to her in her modelling days

Her life is one of incredible experiences and devastating events. There are lines I can roll out when talking to others, like: "her family escaped Czechoslovakia in 1948 disguised as ski tourists" or "yeah, she appeared in Doctor Who as Empress of the Earth" or "she found love again in her later years and moved to Alaska." They are huge stories condensed down, giving the bare bones outline of times so much more complicated and sprawling than one could summarise in a single sentence. I enjoy that heritage though - the rich seam of words and episodes to draw on. 

So imagine my delight when I was asked if I would interview her for the second issue of Violet magazine - out at the moment. Finally I had the chance to thread together all these instances, filling out narratives I already knew and adding in others I hadn't heard before. Several conversations and 6000 words later, I had our dialogue - a document not only of her memories, but also her outlook, her way of approaching a life that has been filled with love and loss in equal measure. You can read about everything from her parents' courtship to how she secured a place at RADA to Hollywood's warped view of body size to the Open University degrees she completed in her fifties. There are also some fabulous photos from her large archive of snaps and newspaper articles (this one is my absolute favourite - I can empathise somewhat). It was a privilege beyond description to be involved with producing this, and the interview now rests among the pieces of work of which I'm most proud.

The accompanying portraits were shot by wonderful photographer Susannah Baker-Smith - they absolutely capture my Babi's (Grandma's) animation and I treasure the image of us together. Styling was by the lovely Kristina Golightly. Apologies for slightly awful photo resolution. Snaps from my phone are practical, but not necessarily the most pretty. Guess it means you'll have the buy the mag to see everything in its full glory... The rest of it is amazing too, ranging from in-depth interviews with Alexa Chung to Zoe Kazan's stage diary to a feature on the (lack of) ethics when it comes to fur. 


Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

Woh! Such an inspiring grandmother! I wish I had in my family more models like her to follow.

When I was little my grandmother told me that she was all kind of amazing things when she was young: bullfighter, karate expert, parachutist... But quickly I found out that it wasn't true. Later I realized that my grandfather was a fascist and chauvinistic man. My grandmother was his follower, no questioning him, no imposing her will. It was disappointing.

You grandmother seem to be a young soul with a wise mind. You are a lucky girl :)


Vix said...

What a beautiful and inspirational lady! Your Grandmother sounds utterly wonderful. xxx

Hannah McManus said...

How inspiring, it's no wonder you have such an imagination when it comes to both writing and dressing when you have role models such as your grandmother and have heard all her, what sound like fascinating, stories! And congratulations on another published piece of work!
Hannah x

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Oh, what an extraordinary homage to a lady worthy of it! I wish I could get my hands on Violet here in the US. (If you have a digital copy, I would dearly appreciate a copy via e-mail.) That newspaper clipping is so telling! Brains and beauty combine formidably in a way that can make even the hardiest of men quake in fear ...

Well, I can certainly tell that the apple does not fall far from the tree. With roots like this, how can you not have become you? Your grandmother must be as proud of you as you are of her.

xx Jenny

Melanie said...

I love the connection that you and your grandmother share and I love that Violet knows the importance of such things. These photos of you together are very beautiful. Of course I went back and checked all your links. What a remarkable woman your grandmother is - clearly you come from the same cloth.

Ivana Split said...

What an amazing lady! I can see in her smile that is has a great spirit:) Her face is just so full of that mix of joy, life and wisdom so typical of those that lived their life to the full and never let life as such scare them.

Interview was always one of my favourite mediums...there is much more to it than meets the eye. When done well it really opens the window in that person's soul.

Thank you for sharing this....very inspirational indeed.

Narendra Thakur said...

Amazing lady with beautiful smile.Her simle say something the words that she says with in here smily face.thanks for share this thoughtful


Your grandmother seems to be an incredible woman, both inspirational and I'm sure a great mentor. Marvellous similarities between you two, I'm sure. What a splendid post and the photos are joyful wonderful to see. I'll have to see if my cousin can grab a copy of Violet for me.