The Magpie in Me

Ok, so last time I likened myself  to a hedgehog but I think a ‘magpie. is nearer the mark! I’m afraid I’m a bit of a hoarder; since early childhood, I have always been an avid collector of ‘things’ and I’ve finally found a woman after my own heart; Sibella Court, a stylist & designer, who is the author of two visually stunning and totally inspiring books:

Both of which can be found here on Amazon

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to discover her books because I totally identify with her!

Like myself, her creativity in borne out of intense visual stimulation and she, like me, surrounds herself with found objects picked up on her travels, finding beauty in the simplest of things, from pebbles and shells on a beach and ageing love letters to rich textiles, ceramics and glass. Like her, I spend much of my free time rummaging in junk shops, antique markets and boot fairs and love nothing more than to fill my spaces with my treasured ‘finds’ – much to the surprise, and sometimes annoyance (though more often delight!) of my family – who can’t quite understand my obsession with my ‘junk and clutter’ – as it is often referred to.  Of course I don’t see it as that. Perhaps its my love of social history that draws me to old and worn objects – I fantasise about their previous owners, the life they led……it’s a direct way to touch the past, and I find that fascinating! The whole point is it’s not the monetary value of them but rather what and who they represent and where they come from that I find so intriguing. and of course as a painter, they provide plenty of reference material and visual and tactile inspiration too, so I thought I would share some of my ‘treasures’ with you:

My collection of  1930’s ‘Carlton’ ware represents a time I always wished I had lived in. It’s light pretty and feminine pastel colours, decorated with honeysuckle, hollyhocks, wild roses and ripe cherries and won’t suit everyone but for me they conjure up a brief moment of time in England’s past when,  life was simpler, carefree, and innocent; a time when motoring through leafy country lanes was still a novelty,  stopping for tea was an elegant pastime and good manners and sound values were paramount…..Even after the horrors of War and the ensuing austerity, well into the 1950’s this china was popular and much of it found its way to the Antipodes during the mass migration when a £10 .00 boat ticket offered the chance of a new beginning. Yes, for me it still represents a sense of hope and optimism and the resilience of the human spirit.

Still on a ‘history’ theme is my collection of bits & bobs from a bygone era:

and tiny porcelain boxes, each one  chosen to mark an important right of passage:

While hand-worked needle point tapestries and patchwork quilts  conjure up images of Victorian women, quietly working by candle light in both the elegant drawing rooms of  Europe:

Or perhaps on the ‘Grand Tour’, which inspired this, my latest painting:

‘Venice, Grand Canal in Sepia’ © Yvonne Ayoub

or the humble homesteads of the ‘New World:

where beautiful objects such as these decoy ducks were fashioned out of whatever was at hand:

In other parts of the world women have always found time in their hard daily lives to make objects that were not only functional but aesthetically pleasing too, such as these old examples of traditional Palestinian embroidery:

which were more generally  used to brighten their traditional dress and a colourful piece of craftwork from the Levant inspired this painting:

 ‘L’Esprit du Liban’ © Yvonne Ayoub

I like to imagine the women working in sisterly unison , chattering away and helping each other, perhaps  to provide a ‘trousseau’ for a prospective  young almond-eyed bride ….

And still further into the desert of Arabian peninsular, my collection of bedouin jewelery, coffee pots and artifacts:

sourced in Saudi, Oman and the Emirates, conjures up visions of the almost unimaginable hardships of nomadic life. They prove that even in the barren empty wastelands and under the harshest conditions, objects of beauty can be found and provided the inspiration for this painting:

‘Still Life with Arabian Oud’ © Yvonne Ayoub

It is in the ‘honest’ natural every day utensils of a hardworking life that very often a greater appeal lies. The hand thrown glazed pots of rural France:

and  in fact all over the globe. Greek pottery inspired this painting:

‘Skyros Pots with Mandarins’© Yvonne Ayoub

I particularly love the simple yet perfectly functional wooden tools of trade; butter churns, wool teasers and clothes pegs of a bygone age, long before plastic and mass production:

And while I love the elegance and romance  of today’s fashionable ‘shabby chic:

and enjoy the eternal allure of blue and white:

not to mention my passion for cut glass antique perfume bottles:

and the exquisite work of the master of all glass craftsmen, Rene Lalique:

Nothing quite compares to the simple, natural beauty of sea shells, pebbles and driftwood found washed up along a lonely rocky shore:

or the magical words imprinted in my many well-thumbed volumes of poetry books…..:

At the end of the day, I know it’s all just ‘stuff’ , material possessions of no great value and that we are merely the guardians of it all, keeping for the generations to come…. but if in the meantime we can continue to look around us and find beauty in even the most mundane of objects… ..and whether we hoard it, record it, preserve it or paint it…… or simply just admire it for what it is….our journey through this all too brief life is undoubtedly all the richer for it……Well, mine is, anyway.

Further reading: If you’re interested in nostalgia and collectables, you may find this link useful: Nostalgia at the Stone House

6 thoughts on “The Magpie in Me

  1. Hi Yvonne, funnily enough as I was visiting those that commented on my “freshly pressed” page I was commenting with you on Chrissy’s link…. and then I came to your comment!……. I did read this post some time back and before I’d finished reading it I had formulated a suitable comment but unfortunately Mary had beaten me to “hoarding with style”……. However I can say that not just artists hoard!… I hoard too although we engineers tend to hoard “bits”, not as exciting as your collection and certainly not welcome in a display cabinet but just as much an insight into the owners character!….. long may our collections give comfort and inspiration!…….:)


    • Thanks Andy! Yes hoarders collect all sort and I believe it runs in families (I take after my Dad!) He had the old Kalivi full to the rafters with bits and bobs of the ‘one-day-it’ll-come-in-handy’ sort; bits of old motors, washers, handles, hinges, string, nuts and bolts etc. etc. etc. I must say it was very theraputic sorting them all out into labelled boxes and jars (I’m a bit like that I’m afraid) but I have been glad of them on many occasion when something broke or a ‘bit’ was missing!!Yes, Long may our passions continue!


  2. Oh to be a hoarder with such panache and style as you! My experience of ‘hoarding’ unfortunately is more on the lines of Francis Bacon! But there is always tomorrow….


  3. Hmmm, whilst I don’t have collections of “everything” listed here, you could add one for all that I take off like paperweights, old teddies, silver spoons…I think I will stop there 😉 I think I also still have several boxes from the last Antique stall I had ~ which needs a sort out! I love to imagine where things came from, who owned them. I also love hand painted pieces and looking back on the artists who were so amazing ~ especially on porcelain and pottery when you realise that they couldn’t see their work as they were painting it. I love the tactile things too but, particularly wood for some reason. And yes it is all stuff ~ stuff with a unique story 😀


    • I knew you’d be able relate to this too, Chrissy. I guess all artists have an affinity with ‘stuff’ – though not necessarily ‘old stuff, granted – I thinks it comes of having a keen ‘eye’ for things – whatever they are, as well as an appreciation for craftsmanship in all its forms….


Comments are closed.