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A Small World

A Small World

A Letter From Isabel

"It’s funny when I took this studio… I thought it was tiny. But the longer I stayed, the bigger it became. I could fit anything I wanted into it." – Alberto Giacometti.

A Small World

In December I purchased a bird table from the RSPB and it has proved, beyond doubt, my biggest morning treat. I even miss, a little less, my delicious first cup of coffee and hot buttered toast and neighbourly chats with the early regulars at Morris Café on Clifford Street. The breakfast ceremony of nature’s regulars and their routine is fascinating and heart- warming; the excitement and pleasure when I see the robin (now with a partner) and the swooping gentle blue tits and the greedy nut hatch and finally the family of squirrels who wait until the birds have fed, to hoover up the rest of the nutty feast. Then I go to sit at my desk staring at familiar objects that are not the ubiquitous computer screen – the new portal to the world (never was a product more aptly named Windows)... waiting for the first zoom or Teams meeting to connect with the outside.

I realise that this reduced universe actually holds delights and memories and I should voyage around it a little more than I do, and I don’t need a PCR test or a Schengen passport. I have fallen in love again with my old Connolly leather coaster, a reminder from when I first opened the Connolly shop in the riding stables behind the Lanesborough hotel, where my coffee cup sits or later the glass of wine. The large pen pot, our first Connolly homeware designed by Couli Jobert; beautifully hand formed and hand stitched by third generation craftsmen and their family in a small town outside Ubrique, and where we sat and had the most mouth-watering fresh anchovies one hot summer afternoon; now stuffed with pencils, reading glasses and Japanese roller ball pens. Next to a pile of old leather notebooks and a new beaten silver pot given to me by a friend last week and brought back from a strife torn Beirut that is still creating beauty. And on the bookshelf hiding ugly files is a small watercolour by Peter Blake, a Christmas card from 2019, of a Robin puffed up with his red breast. It makes me think of a long journey to Wales to see his seminal Dylan Thomas show,, with close friends who are now self isolating and I won’t see until after vaccinations... and old family photographs; there is one of a young Joe and Kenzo, and of friends after a crazy birthday weekend at the Colombe D’Or… all happy memories that serve to remind me we will have such moments again.

It’s the smallness, the familiarity of this world that is becoming its delight and it made me think that sometimes, the smaller the ship, the greater the horizon... the monk’s cell, the artist’s studio. Giacometti produced in a tiny space. When I had the chance to visit the wonderful Giacometti Foundation, in Paris, it was the extreme limitation of the space that amazed me. And this beautiful photograph of Diego Giacometti working on a bird feeder in the small studio on the corner of the rue Hippolyte-Maindron, that he had shared with his older brother, encapsulated everything I have been feeling. To see this table, pictured here with tiny trees that somehow bring the universe inside, is both magical and life enhancing and a new kind of reality. It was there, or next door to a marginally bigger workshop, that visitors flocked to admire Alberto's sculptures and, later, Diego’s work, including my favourite of the two bronze cats slyly offering bowls of birdseed, commissioned by Aimé Maeght. He wanted bird feeders for the aviaries at the Maeght Foundation.

“On the wall was his face, his commemorative plaque a little further away, then the goldfinch by Karel Fabritius, squirrels by Albert Durer, a chinese horse among the pliers, T Squares, wrenches, spanners, rabbets, sockets, a plaster bird, peeling paint, drips, pinned up sketches, envelopes, postcards and mementoes and, in front, a miniature tree in a pot, a mount, or perhaps more of a saddle, jars, cardboard boxes, saucers the black cat would drink from, sheets of plaster that would become the bronze trees to support glass tables.”

MICHEL BUTOR Soliloque de Diego, Nice 1985.

Isabel recommends reading: Diego Giacometti

Words by Michel Butor. Photographs by Jean Vincent

Published by Adrien Maeght Editeur, Paris, 1985