Curious Pip is a vintage inspired illustrator and dollmaker. The creative force behind Curious Pip is the lovely Sarah Burford. Her work is heavily influenced by vintage glamour and old Hollywood.
I’ve been an admirer of her work ever since I set my eyes on her fun illustrations and glamour girls, and was over the moon when Sarah agreed to illustrate Honey & Lola Vintage‘s postcards.
Please read on to discover what goes on in the fabulous world of Curious Pip!
H&L: I have read you trained as an actor. How has your experience on the stage influenced your work?
CP: Well, I wouldn’t say my experiences as an actor necessarily influenced what I do now.
It’s more about how the magical world of old movies, theatre and the ballet influenced the creative paths I’ve taken. When I was about 5 I wanted to be a mermaid (naturally) then I wanted to be Doris Day or Judy Garland once I discovered technicolor musical. Then, I guess I just wanted to be someone who was part of making all those lovely visual productions come together.
One thing has always been constant since I was a very young though and that is that I have never been without my sketchbook. My decision to study Performing Arts – specialising in Acting for Theatre feels like a million years ago now but at the time I loved what I was doing and I had a great deal of fun. You soon discover it’s a hard slog being a jobbing actor and I guess after about 10 years I just lost ambition. I wasn’t fierce enough at the networking and I got to a point where I found it all quite exhausting and, at times, very false.
After I had my little boy I just yearned to be at home looking after my child and sketching stories about Busby Berkeley girls and slinky femme fatales. Once I discovered blogging I soon realised I could post my ramblings, sketches and ideas and see if I had an audience and market. Suddenly everything fell into place. I have worked hard to get my work noticed and now feel very lucky as I have the best of both worlds. I’m at home with my family and doing what I love.
H&L: Could you talk us through your creative process?
CP: The seasons quite often depict what I want to make. In the summer it’s often all about Esther Williams in her technicolor bathing suits or wild, happy mermaids inspired by trips to the seaside. Come Autumn (my favourite time of year) I start to create vamps and Halloween inspired characters as we start to anticipate dark nights and the coming of Halloween. By the time we reach the festive season I’m all ready for ski slope glamour and Nora Charles inspired dolls in Christmas cocktail dresses.
You will have probably guessed I watch a lot of old movies but I also have a huge library of vintage movie books, biographies and fashion history books. These are things I have collected through the years and most definitely help in fuelling my day to day inspirations as well as influencing my own wardrobe choices.
When I’m about to start work on a new piece I do exactly what I did when I was a young girl. I watch an old movie and I sketch the costumes. These days I make a rough design of how she might look if I make her into a Pip doll or use that character for a mini illustrated series of prints. I usually work on 3 or 4 dolls at a time and they can take anything from a few days to a few months, depending on how often I work on them. I also create my own characters, from 1930’s beach pajama clad Persephone to Xavier the handsome fisherman and more recently Agnes the witch.
Because I trained as an actor and not an artist, everything I do, is self taught. I rarely use a sewing a machine as most of what I do is hand stitched. I did teach myself how to use that machine though for when I need it! I also taught myself how to knit, embroider, make mini patterns and use computer programmes such as Photoshop and Excel.
H&L:What happens in a typical day at Curious Pip HQ?
CP: I’m not a natural morning person and my brain doesn’t usually kick in until 11 o’clock. I have an 8 year old boy so he’s my first priority in the morning. Once I’ve dropped him off at school and sank several cups of coffee I start by looking at any emails and having a nose at social media. When I’m working I often watch old movies or listen to music.
I prefer to work totally alone when I’m making stuff or painting, but I do get a little lonely when I need to catch up on admin stuff. That’s when I miss having other people around me…however I do get distracted easily and would probably spend the whole time chatting!
I’m quite a motivated worker but I do have my down days when nothing is working and I get frustrated. When I get stuck in that rut I generally pack up, go for a walk or manically clean the house!
I take several dance classes every week then come home and often work. I’m a night owl and will work into the small hours if the mood takes me or my husband is away on business.
H&L: As a vintage lover, do you have a favourite era and why? Which style icons inspire you the most?
The 1930’s has always been my favourite era particularly the late 30’s when structured shoulders started to creep in and quirky designers such as Gilbert Adrian and Elsa Schiaparelli started to have their moment. I love seeing women in slinky lounge pajamas with high heeled slippers or neat hats, matching handbags and gloves. Looks that are well thought through really rock my boat – especially if they have a vampy undertone. I like a sense of humour in outfits too. This is why I’m drawn to designers like Gilbert Adrian or Schiaparelli. One of my favourite movies is The Women (1939) not only are the cast so beautifully dressed (Gowns by Adrian) but there’s a stunning colour fashion sequence half way through the film that burns my eyes with such stunning outfits, accessories and colours. Glamour overload!
My many style icons constantly swap and change, but to pick a few of my constant ones, I would say Myrna Loy, because not only does she embody Hollywood glamour so perfectly, but as a person she fascinates me more than any other cinematic icon. If you read her autobiography you’ll find a woman with an incredible attitude to life and politics. She was a staunch liberal democratic who always spoke out for what she believed in and she was one of the best hat wearers in history!
I’m also incredibly fascinated by Elsa Schiaparelli. I saw a photo of her once before I really knew much about her and I loved how unique and modern she looked even though the picture was from the mid 30’s. Her designs depict anything from crimson lobsters on evening gowns to gloves with appliqued nails, jackets with bug buttons and of course her famous shoe hat.
Also among my style constants would be Renée Perle. She’s quite hard to research as there’s not an awful lot known about her – part of her mystery I guess. She was a Romanian model who became the muse of French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue. Again she looks like she’s from another era yet so incredibly modern in her vest tops, wide legged pants and arms full of bangles.
H&L: What is your most treasured vintage find?
CP: Probably my 1930’s liquid velvet black evening gown. It has huge bell sleeves and little cuffs. It’s something Myrna Loy would have worn. Infact she wears an almost identical dress in Manhattan Melodrama (1934). I came across it a few years ago on Etsy and just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Once I’d checked all the measurements, the condition and if I could afford it (beautiful items don’t always come cheap), I purchased. I don’t believe in having beautiful clothes from other era if you’re not going to wear them. They’re there to be loved and worn, not sat in a wardrobe because they’re too precious.
I’m not much into that head to toe vintage look. I don’t want to look like I’m in a costume drama or heading to a vintage themed wedding. I like to dress stylishly and I do wear a lot of vintage however. I like to support independent designers and often I’d prefer a piece that has been beautifully designed and made with a nostalgic edge rather than purchase something vintage.