The Nude in the Dark Hat
I’ve always loved greeting cards and used them as souvenirs and decorations as well as for occasions. Some have become precious: for years I hoarded three cards with illustrations from Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, bought at the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire.
There were many inspirations for Mantelpiece, but two stand out. One was my sister’s wedding on the island of Islay; the reception was held in a whisky distillery and we travelled there on a shaky 1950s bus. My brother-in-law’s speech made everyone laugh, and especially when he said to his bride: ‘Shall I compare thee to a single malt? Thou art more refreshing and more soothing.’ There’s a greetings card in that, I thought, and hence the Modern Sonnets range. Thanks, Jon Ellis.
Another influence was my job as a book editor at The National Archives in London, which keeps state records from the Domesday Book to nearly the present day. Researching illustrations, I kept coming across pictures in the Archives or its fantastic image library that would make great cards. The nude in the dark hat leapt out at me when I was preparing a book on contraband; she was Edwardian ‘erotic literature’ seized by gov-ernment officials in Cairo, and her destiny was the dusty Foreign Office files. There she languished with other saucy beauties for over a hundred years. One day over lunch with my book’s author I said, ‘Someone ought to make her into a card’. He, being a bold sort of guy, said: ‘Well why don’t you?’ Then we clinked glasses.
Hope the cards bring a smile to your face too.