Giftast Loves… The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild

Review: The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild, Knopf.

Now, it’ about love and it’s about art. That’s all the justification I need for having this on my wedding blog. 

I like books with paintings in. Every book I’ve written to date features at least one artist, (yeah, I do that sometimes too…) and some of my favourite books centre around either particular paintings or the art world. There’s Jilly Cooper’s Pandora, A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book and now, Hannah Rothschild’s The Improbability of Love.

I left university (having studied Illustration) entirely disillusioned and determined never to pick up a pencil again. I hated everything I had created, and had lost all sense of pride in my work. I could say something extremely bitter here about the quality of teaching I received, but frankly, if you choose a university based only on how close it is to your home and nothing else, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

As the years went by I dabbled here and there, but I had forgotten how it used to be. I had lost all the joy in creating.

Then, quite by chance, two events collided. I started to read The Improbability of Love, and I saw my old artwork from school for the first time in almost 10 years. I realised just how much I had lost. Looking through my portfolio from AS Level to the end of Uni, I saw how the pleasure had gone out of creating and how my education, rather than pulling me forward, had pushed me back to a level of such deep insecurity that I was unable to paint. I will say one thing for my art education – it’s taught me how to be extremely critical.

I’ve since gone on to start drawing again, and creating, and in the process started Giftast. Is it down to this book? No. Did this book help give me a little push in the right direction? Undoubtedly.

The Improbability of Love reminded me of a feeling I had completely forgotten – of being entirely captivated by a painting. Of having the process of creating something with your hands be the first and last thing in your mind. Of being all-consumed.

Click to view on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The story centres around one painting, The Improbability of Love, and chronicles the effect that art can have on the lives of those it touches. From the just-not-bothered to the obsessed, from those who want to bask in reflected glory to those who feel a deep attachment, Rothschild skilfully answers the question of what makes art, art, and what makes one picture more valuable than another.

Rothschild presents a broad cast of characters, from exiled Russian billionaires to struggling tour-guides, through the impoverished British aristocracy and dusty scholars. She opens up a world of sleaze, intrigue and high integrity. She contrasts the life of the artist, both idealised and not, and the gravitational pull that mysterious world has on those who surround themselves in it. There is a great deal of difference between, for example, Damien Hirst, and Watteau, painter of the story’s central masterpiece. There is a greater distance still between the work of those who create and those who deal in high art, and Rothschild illustrates this perfectly.

For me the real beauty of The Improbability of Love is that it makes me want to go to museums and galleries. It makes my hands stretch out to paint, it reminds me of the way I feel when I create something meaningful.

Have you read The Improbability of LoveI’d love to hear what you thought!

A version of this post first appeared on Murder and Manners on May 9th 2016

Giftast Loves… DIY Cement Stuff

If my review of Big Magic (or the book itself) has inspired you to to try something a bit more creative for your wedding, and you fancy something a bit more heavy duty, this could be the one for you!

I haven’t tried this myself yet, but it’s on the list – I’m thinking those little pots with succulents or cacti as a table centre, wedding favour, bridesmaid/groomsman gift? I love the idea of spray painting these in bold colours to fit your theme, and those bottle-shaped vases half-painted with a pastel colour? Gorgeous centrepiece. There are loads of possibilities here, and it’s amazing what you can do with some cement!

How about this for a cute little planter? You could even use these instead of place cards and table favours if you personalised them with guest names… Yeah, that would be a lot of candle holders, even at a small wedding. Maybe just stick with these for gifts for the in laws;)

This video is really great though, as it gives you more safety tips for working with cement, which seem pretty important.

And finally… my Spanish isn’t great, but you get the idea! There lacy little pots look so pretty, and would be really nice painted white and then stippled with copper coloured pain to bring out the pattern…

If you try any of these, I’d love to see the results! Tag me in your photos @giftast, and I’ll share! And if I ever get round to trying them, I’ll show you my results xx

Giftast Loves… Elsie’s Attic

Finally, some wedding stuff, amirite?!

Let’s talk about tulle!

Nottinghamshire-based Elsie’s Attic is a cute vintage-inspired fashion store with an absolute wealth of gorgeous dresses. They’re a wedding-planner’s paradise, with pages and pages of beautiful, flattering and affordable dresses which could look oh-so-lovely on your bridesmaids.

Isn’t this just the most beautiful confection you’ve ever seen? Photo courtesy of Elsie’s Attic – click the picture to view on their site.

But my personal favourite is their collection of tulle tutus.

Available in a rainbow of wedding-friendly colours, these skirts are what my younger, secretly princess-obsessed, and current, openly princess-obsessed self wants to skip around the garden in, talking to the animals, or dancing with the cat.

Photo courtesy of Elsie’s Attic – click the picture to view on their site.

You know what my favourite thing about Elsie’s Attic is? It’s that so many of their product photos are mirror selfies. It makes me so happy. It’s like your friend is WhatsApping you saying “Hey, found this for your wedding, what do you think?” and me replying “YES OMG PERFECT” and adding six to my basket.

Heart eyes <3 Photo courtesy of Elsie’s Attic – click the picture to view on their site.

So I guess what I’m saying here is, check them out? And also keep an eye on their Facebook page, because they occasionally hold photoshoots with followers, and they always look really fun!

Giftast Loves… Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

This isn’t always going to be books. Just mostly books, because books are literally the best things. I grew up on a steady diet of fiction, discovered Mills and Boon at 18, then diversified into mystery and thriller in my 20s. One genre I’ve never really got into until the past year or 2 is Self Help.

I was always quite dismissive of self help, because sometimes, when we are younger, we’re assholes. But as I got older and realised just how much my Self could do with Help, I decided to go for it. I think it was spurred on by starting my own business – nothing shows you how little you know than starting a business. But we digress.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I guess most people will know Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love, but I am not one of those people. Was it a historical romance? No? Then Katherine wasn’t interested. I first heard about Big Magic on the Marie Forleo podcast (see, I am 100% embracing the self help, and I love, love, love Marie). You can see the Marie TV episode below, and I’d highly recommend it.

So, Big Magic.

About 7 years ago I completed an illustration degree, and in the process had completely fallen out of love with drawing. I’d been slowly getting back into creating art over the past couple of years, as you can probably tell by this whole “Giftast” thing, but there was still this cloud of doubt in the back of my mind. I feared that I was wasting my time and wasn’t good enough.

There are lots of things I want to do, to make, to create. Fun things, big paintings, tiny, detailed drawings. I want to make a pack of cards, entirely hand painted. I want to make massive posters and experiment with gold leaf finishing on one-off portraits. But I haven’t. Why?

Fear. If you don’t do it, you don’t fail. This mentality has held me back in a lot of things in my life. But now… Big Magic.

I read chapters of this and was moved to start creating – this has reaffirmed my love and helped me remember why I drew in the first place. It’s all about the joy.

The book is written in easy to digest chunks that you can dip in and out of, and Glibert’s style is like that of an old friend who deeply cares about you. I’d recommend this to anyone considering taking up a creative pursuit, returning to one, or who finds the process of creating difficult. Gilbert’s insights about the trickster/martyr were particularly useful to me, and I’m sure I’ll revisit this book many times in the future.

Fear and doubt don’t go away, just like that, just because you read a book. But what this did for me was to put those fears and doubts into perspective. Creativity is a gift, it’s fun, and when you’re practising drawing and you just can’t get the eyes right because you keep forgetting to check them in a mirror, it can be easy to misplace that feeling of fun.

How does this relate to your wedding, you may be asking? Well, if you’re planning a wedding, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. There may be things you want to do yourself – table centres, the cake, the dress, the invitations – but if you’re out of the creative habit, it’s easy to assume you won’t be able to do what you want, or it won’t look as good as it does on Pinterest… If it is something you’re unsure about, maybe give Big Magic a read, see if it helps?

Check out Big Magic here, and don’t forget to watch Elizabeth Gilbert on Marie TV!

Giftast Loves… Beneath The Dead Oak Tree, by Emily Carroll

I’ve decided to do a series of blog posts called Giftast loves, because there’s loads of cool stuff I get so see in the wedding and art community, and I wanted the opportunity to share that with you guys, in the hope it would be helpful with inspiration for your wedding planning.

With that in mind, this first blog post… does not really fit the brief. Let me introduce you to Beneath the Dead Oak Tree, by Emily Carroll. See, being best friends with one of the best people who writes about comics in the world means that I get to see a lot of cool stuff which would otherwise pass me by.

Be still, my goth heart.

Beneath the Dead Oak Tree is, in short, made especially for me, and containing all of the things I love. Thank you, Emily Carroll, lady I have never met!

Close up of this beauty: Foxes in frockses

You want anthropomorphic foxes in period frocks?

You want gorgeous, rich artwork, filled with detail that you can stare at for hours?

You want intrigue and mystery?

You want Gatsby parties meets Marie Antoinette costume?

You want *SPOILER*, *SPOILER* and *SPOILER*??

Well, you got it.

Beneath the… shadow of the tomato plant.

It’s dark, it’s beautiful, it’s chilling. At 28 pages, it’s a short read but the wealth of detail keeps you there and pulls you back for multiple rereads.

It’s just beautiful, and the dresses are *chef’s finger kiss*. You can get it from ShortBox Comics, a steal at £7 for that gorgeous quality printing and incredible artwork.