HOT TREND: Anatomy

November 2, 2010

If you’re squeamish, look away now. This trend’s gory, medical, macabre and PERFECT for Halloween. Shame I forgot to post it on the 31st really. Hmm. It is now the 2nd of November, alas. In fact, it’s nearly the 3rd. But bear with me…

Let’s kick things off with a quick visit to the mama of industrial and retro buys, Elemental, for stunning vintage ‘Elementary Physiology, Hygiene and Ambulance’ posters. The colours are vibrant, but the diagrams are not for the faint hearted. This is science-chic at it’s peak!

We’ve admired RE‘s skeleton plates AKA Bone China before on here (darn it, I knew I should have saved them…) so let’s move swiftly on to more macabre, medical buys:

Clockwise from top left: Heart model and skull objet from Ben Pentreath; a blingy diamanté-encrusted skull from Dwell; and vintage cream/paste pots and medicine bottles from Retropolitan. I have one of these old medicine bottles in the bathroom. I googled the strange name on it and found it used to contain a kind of medicine for measles. But it still looks very pretty with a flower stem in it!

Phrenology’s always fun at parties. (I made that up). So, I love this Phrenology Print from Mary Evans on Amazon. You can get a large, ceramic Phrenology head from Amazon, too. I’ve studied this head in detail and I still can’t find the area of the brain that controls ‘strange trend-related shopping decisions’, but there must be one. Surely. Here’s a £5 tea towel from RE – ripe for framing, me thinks…

If you like all things gory and live in London (or even if you don’t – there’s a ‘virtual tour‘ to check out!) you must visit the Old Operating Theatre in SE1.

It’s a fascinating place – and the process of ‘digitising’ the museum’s collection of hideous instruments, pill boxes, bottles and operation-related bits and bobs is underway. Sadly, it seems to involve a slightly out-of-focus camera…but you can see all the photos online in their new gallery which is interesting to browse, niggles aside. I’ll spare you the amputation saws and the more scary-looking ‘tools’ in case you’re eating, but here’s a sneaky peep at what’s on display:

Check out the Old Operating Theatre online shop to buy syringe pens, anatomical key rings, life-size skulls and a postcard featuring ‘the absolute cure for an in-growing toe nail’. It’s too horrible to repeat. But it involves a hammer. With this trend, it’s best to stick to just one or two accessories I feel. Unless you’re up for turning your living room into an apothecary shop à la Sibella Court, who pulls it off nicely. If you are, throw caution to the wind – stuff your bell jars full with curiosities, deck the halls with taxidermy, arrange a human skeleton on your sofa and sit back to sip tea from a vintage Victorian sputum mug. Milk? Sugar? TB? – Ellie

The bell jar obsession

November 25, 2009

There’s an atmosphere of slight hysteria in the office today. It might have something to do with the arrival of a scratch ‘n’ sniff Yankee Candle press release (low-lights include  ‘Strawberry Buttercream’ and ‘Tutti-Frutti’…), or perhaps it’s the news that two of the most lovely home brands, Farrow & Ball and Jo Malone, are teaming up to launch an exciting new collection next week? (We’ll keep you posted!) Then again, perhaps it’s the thought of today’s annual Cath Kidston sample sale that’s getting us all a bit over-excited. For me though, it’s bell jars that are floating my boat today…

Whether it’s ogling the gorgeous bell jar displays in London’s hippest Shoreditch shops, Comfort Station and Caravan, or staring longingly at the stunning pages of Australian stylist Sibella Court’s new book Etcetera (which has just landed on my desk. Hurrah, hurrah! Hopefully we’ll show some pics on here soon – it’s due out in April in the UK. For now, check out her shop The Society Inc for a flavour or click here for a preview…), I seem to be surrounded by glass domes filled with curious objets…and I’m hooked! This all ties in with the current vogue for dark romanticism, macabre Victoriana drama and dusty museum display cases – something we’ve discussed before. All very Darwin. All very Gothic. All very dead. Of course, you don’t have to fill your bell jar with beady-eyed taxidermy or creepy skeletons…dried hydrangeas, vintage silk ballet pumps and mercury glass candlesticks would all look lovely. Or you could always opt for a little china bird. For reasonably-priced bell jars, see yesterday’s hot shop, Dee Puddy (£22 for a large 30cm one), Hibbitt, or Crocus. If you can wait until springtime, we spotted a fab little glass bell jar in the new Sainsbury’s spring/summer 2010 collection for just £7.99! Bargainous, to be sure. Of course, garden cloche bell jars DO look a bit like boobs, and they don’t come with bases – but a glass cake plate does the trick. Vintage lab bell jars with bases are REALLY expensive, even on eBay, tragically.

Here’s a cute bell jar pic from The Guardian to add yet more fuel to my bell-jar-obsession fire! I really can’t stop thinking about bell jars. Perhaps I’m actually losing the plot. Or maybe I’m just high on ‘Tutti Frutti’ scratch ‘n’ sniff…– Ellie

Skulls, insects, diagrams of horrific medical instruments, Victorian-style Darwin-esque etchings and Natural History sketches are all over the world of design at the moment. Let’s call this trend: Macabre. It’s dark. It’s gothic. It’s black. It’s creepy. Think of a dusty museum display case in the 1800s – full of spidery death and decay; skeletons, faded labels, stuffed birds with beady eyes, sad rows of dead butterflies, scientific diagrams of insects, plants and animals – all lifeless.

Re-found Objects/NorthumberlandHas this dark romanticism got something to do with 2009 being the bi-centenary of Charles Darwin’s birth? Perhaps. But whatever the roots of this dark trend, I’m LOVING it all. RE, one of my favourite shops, has embraced it with relish, launching a whole new ‘Macabre’ collection, with vintage plates covered in skulls, eyes, snakes, scorpions, lizards, lobsters and spiders, as well as insect napkins.

Re-found Objects/Northumberland

Re-found Objects/NorthumberlandAlso, check out their ‘Esquire’ notebooks with sketches of lethal-looking barber’s and dentist’s tools as well as some less-scary brushes. Their ‘Gardener’ notebooks and ‘Cook’ books all feature similar Victorian etchings, too.


notebooks REThe recent revival of the glorious Pictorial Webster’s – A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities might have contributed to the current obsession with flora, fauna, and dead things sketched or etched…

Picture 20Picture 19Featuring over 1,500 engravings that originally graced the pages of Webster’s dictionaries in the 19th century, this chunky volume is absolutely fascinating. Meticulously cleaned and restored by fine-press bookmaker Johnny Carrera, the alphabetically-arranged engravings show everything from Acorns to Zebras, Bell Jars to Velocipedes – a Victorian list of ‘curiosities’. Crafting fans will be as excited as I am about the rubber stamp set that features these fantastic images…and the A-Z wall cards are CRYING out to be framed as wall art, or propped up in nurseries and designer offices…

pictorial webster's stamp set

pictorial webster's wall cardsThese cute cards also tap into another trend we’re seeing emerge – the Alphabet trend – but let’s not complicate things with all that now!! Having a quick look for some high-street Macabre buys, I spotted a black skull candle in Paperchase, a skull cushion in Dwell, and some funky flock skull wallpaper from Barbara Hulanicki at Graham & Brown


I’ve been a fan of the Victorian-style sketched jewellery at Paraphenalia for a while now, and it fits in with this look perfectly!


Let’s end with this pretty butterfly calendar from Anthropologie. Have a lovely, if a tad macabre, weekend. – Ellie

butterfly calendar