Mary’s Stall


Good boys and girls, please kindly call
And buy some things at Mary’s stall;
You’ll just go round to Nursery Square,
And you’ll be sure to find it there.
I have not any time to tell
Of all the things she’s got to sell –
Oh, such a lot of pretty toys,
And all so cheap, for girls and boys!
Dolls’ cradles, dolls and jumping jacks
Some made of wood and some of wax;
Horses that run and dogs that bark,
And such a splendid Noah’s Ark!
And fruit which you may taste and try!
So off you go, my dears, and buy.

The Infant’s Magazine, Vol. XVIII, 1883

I like enterprising Mary’s Nursery Stall and the ingenious way that she has displayed her wares on the underside of an umbrella or parasol to best show them off to her assembled nursery-room buddies. The whole image has a “life before Etsy” appeal about it, and I confess to being enamoured with wooden and waxen wares of any sort.

However, like many of the illustrations and poems in this Victorian volume, there is a sentimentality and floweriness about GREAT BARGAINS with which I am slightly uncomfortable. Its self-conscious rhyming couplets (with which the entire volume is peppered) feel sickly sweet after a while, and yet the gorgeous print quality of the images and the rustic romanticism with which Infant’s Magazine is tinged are still somehow very appealing. I love the menagerie of animals in Infant’s Magazine, and the frequent references to the agricultural year. Just look at these lovely Chamois.

I also enjoy the macabre eccentricity of A FISH MEETING, in which Whitebait, Sprat, Cod, Eel, Sturgeon and Herring argue about their respective culinary merits:

I picked up Infant’s Magazine, Vol. XVIII at a car-boot sale in Wales – the one I recorded for Brenda’s essay “Buttons, Badges, Bright Shiny Beads” on our release, A Knitter’s Manifesto*. Of all the essays which Brenda shortlisted for A Knitter’s Manifesto “Buttons, Badges, Bright Shiny Beads” was the one I was most excited about recording and mixing for as I knew it would involve building a fire, visiting a forest, going through Brenda’s campfire bead collection, visiting the car-boot sale, and flicking through the beautiful old Girl Guide volume which was the inspiration for the original piece in Cast On, (Episode 53).

For those who haven’t heard the episode or the essay, both came about because Brenda found an old booklet at a car-boot sale. The book is a Girl Guide camping journal from the early part of the twentieth century, featuring meticulous illustrations of all things camping related and space to note many details about one’s camping experience. Finding it reminded Brenda of being a Camp Fire Girl back in the States, and of all the life-skills she learnt there. The old booklet is such a distinctive object that I insisted Brenda flick through it, and that I record the specific sounds of this for our work together. I wanted the papery sounds of the actual pages to feature in the audio piece; for the textures of the things referenced in the essay to live and sound in the final mix of “Buttons, Badges, Bright Shiny Beads”.

I like an interdisciplinary approach to sound, and for sounds to not lose their connections to real experiences, places and things. The sounds I recorded for “Buttons, Badges, Bright Shiny Things” therefore are inexorably connected with one specific booklet; with camp fires, car-boot sales, beads, and Marros Mountain. We emphasised this fact in the production of our wee sound diary which accompanies the Artist Edition CD release and which lists all the sources for the sounds in the release. You can learn how the booklet was made in this beautiful video which Tonia made; instructions are given along with some footage of me and Brenda disagreeing about how to get a fire going!

I have made a small collage of the sounds featured in “Buttons, Badges, Bright Shiny Beads” for your enjoyment and interest. It is a quiet recording; a kind of sonic moodboard featuring the atmospheres and objects which I recorded to contextualise Brenda’s essay with a sense of time, materiality and place. In fact it is very much like a personal Sonic Wallpaper, evidencing the sounds I would like to hear upon waking – or when I need to remember the good feeling of camping.

Buttons, Badges, Bright Shiny Things by FelicityVFord

Inspired by both Brenda’s shop (a very sophisticated latter-day version of Mary’s Stall) and the lovely illustrations featured in The Infant’s Magazine, Vol. XVIII, 1883, I have produced a limited number of button badges and stationery items for my own Stall AKA my Etsy Store.

The first five folks to purchase Victoriana wares from my online shop will get a free Knitter’s Manifesto Sound Diary thrown in**, because I can’t help linking the pretty, rustic, Victoriana buttons and stationery with the lovely essay Brenda wrote and all the papery, wooden, vintagey, rustic sounds I recorded to go in it.

*you can hear the car-boot sale at the start of the track!
**on that note, the winner of last weeks’ seed-packet badge giveaway is Susan Alderman! Thank you for commenting; package in the post.

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