On Nouveau Peasantry & Elitist Simplicity!

Wood, simple living, rustic, new peasant

Peasant blouses, boho skirts and handmade, vegetable-dyed leather that one meets in every single catalogue and website is a trend I warm toward! (Largely because the look covers a multitude of sins, and apart from a very fortunate handful, makes everyone look ridiculously shapeless. It also fosters belief that a large segment of the world couldn’t-care-less about what they put on! Yes, my naiveté is charming, indeed!) 🙂

Conversing about this and the incomprehensible prices of ‘heirloom grains’ with my in-the-know, whole-foods loving friends, I recently got called an aspiring ‘New Peasant’ and was pointed to the Harper’s Bazaar quiz to check if I really had ‘the symptoms’! (Well, I do live in Dorset and buy way more Goats cheese than anyone above a size 0 legimitately should! ;P) But, all jokes aside, I have to admit that there is a latent, softly-emerging “Nouveau Peasant” that’s come to the fore as my nesting instincts have been test driven these past few months! (If you are a first time visitor, can I gently point in you in this direction for a catch up?!)


Wood, simple living, rustic, new peasant
Wood, simple living, rustic, new peasant

Like endless culturally and geographically displaced 30 + year olds, the appeal of a more meaningful existence removed from the abject capitalism of the 80’s and 90’s appeals to me. The idea of a quieter, more pro-active life filled with pursuits deemed “authentic”, “real” and “meaningful” holds a certain inescapable charm.  Possibly echoing an entire generation that I’m part of, I’ve felt like a hamster on the wheel and toyed with the idea of a country home with the smells of freshly baking bread, rain kissed gardens and the pleasures of home-made chutneys/ jams devoured gratefully with a few friends that matter etc. etc…and if that makes me a new peasant, I’d gladly don the title! (After all, who wouldn’t want a slice of this careless perfection, often captured in scores of lifestyle mags with cool muted photos on matte film, untouched by the taint of reality?!)

The only fly in the ointment here is that the closer I look at these suburban aspirations available in a profusion of “Indie” channels, the more obvious the elitism of this ‘simplicity’ is! Often, carefully concealed in these frugal, made-from-scratch lifestyles of homesteading dreams and rustic hand-thrown salads is a subtext of discrimination and division. One can’t but see through the rhetoric of the ‘jam-jar revolution’ to know that it’s as much about the haves and have-nots as is a full-fledged designer dinner put together by high-profile planners and caterers. Aspiring to this new-peasant, fern-rich-simplicity is sadly a very middle-class ethos!


Wood, simple living, rustic, new peasant, tea, speciality, hipster

The more I think about this, the more I conclude that we’re drawn to the lure of a life of unmitigated good times for a reason; after all, no other generation stood the chance of seeing the advancements ours has, or felt more entitled to a better life! Our constant search for contentment is seen even in the mere reminiscence of a well baked croissant or a freshly brewed pot of your drink of choice! The story of our lives seems to have moved to the fine print and the magic lies solely in the details. The bigger picture is just too daunting to contemplate.

Life only seems to make sense when broken down into it’s rudimentary form of human connections. With this I agree….

What I find fault with is the story of people/collectives who project the lives you wish you could live, the cool elitism of their ‘artisan’ simplicity causing distinctions and exclusions in their thumbing their noses at anything mainstream. (Tut-tut anyone who uses regular plates or supermarket cutlery to photograph their authentic offerings!) A contradiction unambiguously jarring to the very premise of home-making and fellowshipping; connectedness and community! The fundamental backbone of a human collective, as it were!

Wood, simple living, rustic, new peasant, bread

Interesting that this profusion of baking , the “real” food and the “real” living and all our “cultivated” and “curated” beauty occurs quite conspicuously among those fairly well placed on the social ladder (quite unlike generations that precceeded us with their dreams of capitalism and a resultant land of ‘milk and honey’).  Is it all evidence that we yearn for a better world and seek to create a microcosm of it in our own lives, despite the fact that we are not quite the ‘struggling’?!

Living as we do in a world that stamps out honest, wholesome principles of relationships ie: intimacy and connectedness and plays into the ample hands of fabricated creativity-the answer barely lies in a ‘choreography’ of meaningfulness. Recognising that living simple shouldn’t cost so much, connecting with loved ones shouldn’t need a £1000 camera and every social media at the ready, is probably a good place to start!

And please, for the love of life, let’s bring potato chips and cheese puffs back to the party –the people serving Quinoa on Nori mostly look miserable for a reason! ;P


Wood, simple living, rustic, new peasant, chorizo, wine


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Still Lifes & Shelfies – The Art of Repeat!

Shelfie, Nordic, Scandi, Muuoto, Ikea, Kinfolk

As ‘NeoNordic’ and ‘Scandinavian Chic’ become buzzwords in design-conscious homes across the UK- it got me thinking about how most trends are generally cyclical! If you think Still Lifes (think meticulously administered narratives of home/travel/food- things set against equally considered backdrops), and Shelfies (shelves or any homespace that have a few lifestyle markers indicating the sort of things “you’re into” ) are a new age phenomenon – think again! Both art forms ironically trace back to Northern Europe and as far back as the 1600’s. I’ll let this lovely page on Wikipedia fill you in on the engrossing details of Flemish and Dutch still lifes ! ;P

Every year, I ‘cache’ a few words in my mind and they become linguistic symbols of what moved the year in my memory – this is apart from my children ‘brunging’ me water or ‘growding up’ etc! 2013 definitely included “government” and “surveillance” as we horrifyingly zoned in on information breaches, security or the lack thereof. One that’ll hold strong for 2014 is the ‘shelfie’, the sorta more intelligent version of the ubiquitous selfie that’s been around in it’s evolutionary trajectory from the early kissy face to the more suprise-driven ‘o’-pout – often with a strategic but oh-so totally unpremeditated lipstick held against the cheek! Barring the lipstick, Van Gogh’s self portraits weren’t too different. 🙂


apples, still life, shelfie, vintage, farmhouse, reclaimed wood table, baking
Still Life of the birth of an Apple&Cinnamon Swirl…or bun!

And then there’s “artisanal” – I love this word! Added to a deli menu or sribbled on a chalkboard, it inevitably raises the mark-up on everything – Herb Butter. Handmade Crisps. Wooden Cacti! And linen. Non-artisanal linen blouses? just so wrong! Artisan in my humble opinion is the new ‘Designer’ – before “buying designer” came to be seen as plain lack of good sense or insight 🙂

I am often well aware (Yes, I am!) that all the aerial shots I take of tables set for the making of cinnamon apple rolls or shelves dotted with my kitchen pride can be construed as a form of self-absorbtion, adding to a world already free-falling into an obsession of pictorally cataloging their lives! Why else would there be place for something like Instagram or the “VSCo Grid”?! <bows deferentially!>


Apple&Cinnamon swirl, dessert, pastry, baking, foodporn, blossom
Still Life of the existence of the Apple&Cinnamon swirl…or bun in Spring!

To me, shelfies and still life shots are very similar to dressing up and personal grooming -the reason why we generally don’t prefer to dress in nondescript clothing – grey – lacking any ornamentation or accessories. (Arguably, it all hits “Taupe” when you move past your mid-thirties, but moving swiftly on…!) Why should we condescend on a description of a life/hobby/ pursuit which is invested with self-expression – regardless of how self-involved it be! After all, being well groomed is not an act of philanthropy either!  If the penny hasn’t dropped yet, this post IS in the defence of every Blogger, Facebooker and Instagrammer’s right to take “carefully assembled snapshots of beautiful things”‘!


croissants, french, pastry, foodporn, bonne maman, jam
A Cornucopia of Croissants..and a nifty Jam!

The ease of creating a beautiful picture without a lot of expensive equipment, calling for an eye for beauty and attention to detail (which is admittedly a dying artform) , is all that’s needed! If it was good enough for Cezanne and his apples – strategically placed for weeks till he completed a painting that would forever be viewed as the inner landscape of his psycholgical state, it’s good enough for me!  My friends argue that in the making of beautiful settings , spontaneity is lost. I agree, there’s a a place for cheap plastic bowls filled with uninspiring potato crisps and cheese puffs, and a place for pull-ons and jogging bottoms; but sometimes you want to go that extra mile, set the table. Invest in your aesthetic. Even if you walk that path one corner at a time! 😉

brown paper packages, string, ale, stout, local, grain, Norfolk
Still Life : An Urban Ploughman’s Lunch!

There is nothing original in our obsessive control-freakishness to pictorally depict our world… generations dating back to the Pharoahs of Egypt did it! We do it exponentially to our circumstance of modernity! Art has always been about creating one small aesthetically gratifying corner, about beauty reigning in the face of the inane (often personally translates as my one clever corner in a tip inhabited by two severely messy little girls – probably a reason why young mums have taken to it like fish to water –  the idea of controlling a few cubic feet in a home spiralling out of control!) 🙂

All considered, we must admit that all trends go from hot to NOT – we bore of it as it oversaturates our senses and we take on something fresh. According to sociologists and those who actually know what they’re talking about (coughs!), trends that are a no-no regain their appeal 50 years into their death when they begin to be viewed as ‘quaint’! That leaves me assured that in time, my grandchildren or great grandchildren will come pottering about, looking for my esteemed MacBook or dSLR-  to dust off and complete their cleverly curated and rejigged tableaux of 3D simulated reality!



map, Boden, diary, coffee
Somewhat Shelfie : Destination Abroad. Holiday to be undertaken Circa Autumn 2014.


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