retro Archives - Forest Friend Creative Projects

The Grown-Up Kitchen

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I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. The kitchen table is my official workspace. I have a tiny desk in an “office nook” in the living room, but it’s above a heat vent so it’s officially covered in sleeping cat 90% of the time. I’m a notoriously messy worker so my trail of chaos usually leads from my be-catted desk, though the bedroom and into the kitchen, over the table, chairs, cabinet and counter-tops. And I have to say that the kitchen, even though it’s by far the most used room in the house, is the only one that I haven’t got quite figured out.

I’m not exactly sure when I started caring about kitchenware. It was definitely after I stopped living with roommates and moved in with the guy who’s now my husband. I’ve always been into clothes, accessories and fashion in general, but not having my own domestic terrain until recently kept my aesthetic cravings largely out of that zone. Perhaps it was just adulthood and necessity that began to stir those cravings — we needed things to cook in, eat off of and sit on, and the harvested dregs of parents’ cupboards and old roomies’ leavings slowly deteriorated or became otherwise inadequate. And thus, another excuse to consume was born.

Though I’m possibly the least immune person in the world to beautiful kitchen things, my desire has not yet fully blossomed, mostly because I know that owning nice things will involve more attention and care than I’m willing to give. (I did get one of my wishes, a Chemex coffee maker, as a wedding present, and it caused nothing but contention between me and the Mr. because it doesn’t have an “on” button.) I think this natural avoidance of the responsibility inherent in owning things is important (though admittedly much stronger in my husband). It serves as an essential check against my equally natural inclination towards collecting beautiful things and against the advertising blitzkrieg I’ve grown up within. Futhermore, the combined income of two sporadically employed twentysomethings doesn’t exactly accommodate the fine furnishings, decor and kitchenware I drool over — which is a resonating reminder that what I want isn’t necessarily what I should get.

All the same, in recent years I’ve spent many an hour ogling MUJI (no MUJI stores in Canada yet!) and Ikea (no Ikea in Atlantic Canada yet!) catalogues, the house porn of Dwell and blogs like KITKA Design, by the proprietors of the fantastic Toronto boutique Mjölk (seriously, I dare you to look here and not feel like you got socked in the gut with aesthetic bliss and overwhelming, almost infantile desire).

So to make peace with the warring factions inside my head, my relationship and my bank account, I look for houseware and kitchenware satisfaction the only place I know will deliver a surprising bang for my stingy buck: the thrift store. Mixed and matched dishes, vintage European cookware and awesome kitschy glassware aren’t exactly handcrafted Japanese cups or pristine midcentury teak furniture, but they’re cool and cheap and fun to use and don’t completely break your heart when your cat destroys them. And I can take plenty of aesthetic and financial satisfaction in that.

All the fun vintage kitchenware that appear in the photos are listed on the Forest Friend Etsy shop. But if you’re around Halifax and you’re interested in any of the pieces, you can pick them up directly from me! You’ll save us both a fortune in shipping and I’ll even give you a discount. Email me at

Being A Spy

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The best thing about the post-007 spy is the paperwork. Maybe it’s just because I’m a stationery junkie or an indoor girl, but I appreciate that the le Carré school of learned, papered spycraft, rather than that of Broccoli’s PPK-toting slickster, has been adopted by the writers and producers of today’s espionage dramas. Spies in films like last year’s excellent remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy don’t wave weapons about, consort with supermodels or bust out gadgets that probably cost the GDP of a small country to produce. They are instead quiet, deliberate men in sensible hats who follow paper trails, do a lot of driving and know how to ask the right questions. The late lamented AMC series Rubicon, which takes place inside a fictional intelligence agency, got it spot on as well — the analysts are handed literally piles of documents, printouts, files and envelopes to sort through each morning, and people hardly ever leave the building. (I’m pretty sure it was cancelled because there weren’t “enuf exploshuns.”)

But a continual disappointment to me is the lack of female counterparts to my favourite leading male spies. I’m not sure even James Bond has a female counterpart (Lara Croft? Evelyn Salt? Whoever she is, she’s probably played by Angelina Jolie). And Judy Dench may be M, but she certainly doesn’t see any action. Showtime’s Homeland has Carrie Matheson, but she’s rather unhinged and irritating — hardly a match for the likes of George Smiley. Can we get a spy drama featuring a seasoned female actor playing the implacable, brilliant loner type that we spy enthusiasts enjoy so much? How about Tilda Swinton? Or Helen Mirren? I’d watch the crap out of that.

Until then, I suppose we have to fantasize about the quintessential female spy, how she would behave and live, what she would look like and what the tone of the world around her would be. Against the bleak backdrop of the Cold War in Europe, our heroine would begin in the British service under files, stacks, reams of paper intel and slowly weave together a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows and trusts (and necessitates a trip into the Eastern Bloc). Her appearance will unravel into attractive unkemptness as the drama builds. The climax will involve a battle of wits rather than sexual innuendo and perhaps the merest flash of a pistol rather than a nipple. And she will most certainly require the following equipment:


Being A Spy

(I put this image together on Polyvore — lots of fun.)

1. A gun. Our heroine does not carry this with her all the time. That is impractical. It is in her desk at the office and may be packed into her valise on the train to East Berlin — with silencer, of course.

This is a Walther-PPK, à la 007, which is all business. Or for your own uses you could consider a less deadly toy ray gun, or a gun made out of soap.

2. A typewriter. There is nothing less acceptable in the Bureau than reports that do not follow protocol. Our heroine has a standard-issue model at the office, but something more exciting — a souvenir from her studies in Italy, perhaps? — at home.

In picture: I think this is an Hermès 3000 mini typewriter. On Etsy: Beautiful orange vintage Olivetti typewriter.

3. A camera. A two-foot zoom lens is hardly useful for remaining incognito. A “tourist” camera is much better for photographing state secrets.

In picture: Fuji Finepix. On Etsy: Vintage German-made Zeiss Ikon camera.

4. A hat. Our heroine does not remain behind a desk for the entirety of the drama. She will need to tail suspects through back streets and alleyways undetected, with her red hair tucked up into a fedora and her freckles hidden behind her sunglasses.

In picture: Rag & Bone navy fedora. On Etsy: Classic fedora in unexpected forest green. 

5. A comfortable chair. Long, late hours poring over white paper documents smuggled from the deepest recesses of the Bureau’s library necessitates black coffee, good scotch and an elegant, ergonomic chair.

In picture: Ettore Sottsass armchair. On Etsy: Amazing Japanese office chair. 

6. A pen. A decent fountain pen never leaves her scrambling for a pencil when she needs to take down a license plate at a moment’s notice.

In picture: Insanely expensive Visconti pen. On Etsy: Very cool red vintage Arnold pen.

7. A trench coat. Since our first act is set in Britain, our heroine will of course be caught in the rain at least once. The trench is a stylish, practical, multipurpose item that, much like the hat, will protect her from the elements and help her to blend into a crowd.

In picture: A beautiful Burberry Prorsum trench that costs more than 3 months’ rent. On Etsy: Classic 1970s trench. 

8. Glasses. Morgan’s (which I’ve just decided is the name of our heroine) bookish tendencies and attention to detail are what got her recruited to the Bureau in the first place. She’s useless without her glasses.

In picture: Super cool Opening Ceremony sunglasses (I would totally switch the tinted lenses with prescription ones). On Etsy: 1970s cateye glasses.

9. A bag. A graduation present — and more than a month’s salary — from her working-class parents. Perfect for everyday use but can serve as an overnighter in case she suspects her flat is being watched.

In picture: Rochas overnight bag. On Etsy: Leather vintage briefcase.

10. A watch. Spies are people of habit. As they themselves undermine the stability of the world around them, they take comfort in quotidian ritual — and Morgan is quick to recognize such patterns in others.

In picture: Surprisingly affordable Urban Outfitters watch. On Etsy: Soviet-made watch

11. Comfortable shoes. Durable, hardworking but elegant shoes are useful to a lady spy who knows how to take advantage of being underestimated.

In picture: House of Fraser Mary Janes. On Etsy: 1970s Oxford pumps.

12. A wedding band. Morgan has never had much time for play, but she knows that married people are more easily trusting, and keeps a gold band in an inside pocket.

On Etsy: Gold wedding bands. 

13. File folders. As the threat appears to edge closer and closer to home, Morgan needs to collect documented evidence to leave behind in case of her demise. What better place to hide something than in plain sight?

On Etsy: Vintage office supplies.

14. A notebook. A good spy never writes down anything damning. But coded notes may prove necessary to build a pattern or to communicate with a reticent source.

In picture: Muji notebook.

15. A clean pair of sensible underwear. As the tension and uncertainty mount, Morgan must be constantly on the move — and a lacy thong has no place in the working wardrobe of a busy spy.

In picture: Sensible Shimera underwear.

Lost in Time

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Wall clocks are, unfortunately, becoming more and more unnecessary. Once upon a time, before our pockets and backpacks were filled with tiny computers, every room had a clock in order to help us arrange our days.

Clocks became important stylistically because they were always so necessary. Such a universal constant presented innumerable creative opportunities to industrial designers and marketing opportunities to companies. Clocks were a mainstay that gave structure and purpose to a room, just like time gives balance and order to our ephemeral space, and they affect our lives more significantly than we might think.

The vehement organization of time falls in and out of vogue. Historically, agricultural workers’ time was defined by the movement of the sun, not ticking hours. In the early twentieth century, scientific management, a movement pioneered by Frederick Taylor and centred on improving industrial efficiency and productivity, both enabled and revolutionized mass factory production. The craftsman became the factory worker, chained to the clock, every movement planned and watched to maximize efficiency and prevent wasteful deviations. Time, measured by the clock, became a form of control and exploitation.

This obsession with regulating efficiency came to be challenged rigorously from many different angles. We’ve all experienced how such deviations, distractions and detours can prove creatively potent. And in the later twentieth century some places of work, usually in the creative field, tried to devise an atmosphere of deliberate distraction in order to encourage creativity (remember that insufferable IDEO video?). But by the time we all started using our home computers, work computers and tiny portable screens all day to check our emails, tweet our thoughts and write on our friends’ walls, the myth that distraction, novelty and multitasking were the mothers of creativity was soundly debunked.

In the early 2000s, a new take on time, productivity, efficiency and creativity developed, instigated largely by David Allen’s organizational method “Getting Things Done” (GTD), outlined in a book of the same name. Blogs like 43 Folders and Lifehacker also focused on the challenge of corralling attention to remain both creative and productive in an age of increasingly unstoppable disruptions, and offered systems and methods to make time and brain-space for creative projects.

It’s ironic that, since the last century’s innovations in mass production freed up so much daily leisure time for us, we’ve spent so much of it inventing objects and methods that help to free up more of our time. And with every new technological leap, it becomes easier and easier to sink into a semi-virtual world where our sense of time is at best irrelevant and at worst intentionally distorted.

I see the disuse of clocks in common spaces as an indication of how little we value our time. Being in front of a computer — which is where I spend most of my waking hours — necessitates so many contemporaneous operations in the mind that a warped, scattered sense of reality sets in. I seem to be so much more present in the hours I spend writing a letter by hand or working on a craft project or even cooking, simply because I am usually attending to that one thing only.

Clocks are important. A clock in a space is about simple, focused time. Even just looking up and seeing a clock is an internal check, a time for asking yourself questions about your relationship to the outside world. In that way, a clock is a mirror for your mind, a visual reminder to stop and reflect.

These beautiful clocks are both in excellent working order and are available on the Forest Friend Etsy site.

The Woodland Clock is a bit subversive — the forest background seems to encourage fantasy rather than the sober reality check clocks often provide. It looks like a workshop clock, circa 1970, but would be perfect pretty much anywhere.

The Diamond Clock is a showy piece. It reminds me of the 1960s kitchen scene in Joel’s imagination in the film “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It screams housewife kitsch, which is usually a loud reminder to thank the women’s liberation movement that you’re no longer expected to have dinner on the table by the time that clock hits five.

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