Kettle’s Yard: a reflection

I recently visited Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, UK.  Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim and Helen Ede during 1958 to 1973 . Jim had been a curator at the Tate Gallery in London 1920-30s.  Collecting and curating art and nature in his home, became his cure for undiagnosed PTSD brought on by the Great War.  He became a patron, collector and buyer of works by then unknown (and some famous) artists- paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones and Joan Miró, as well as sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

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This work, called ‘Bird swallows a fish’ by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, made a profound impression on me. Very pertinent for our ecological crisis.

Jim did not distinguish between high art, naive art, and nature.  There are no labels, so the visitor enjoys the work as it is.  Surprisingly for a curator’s home, there no curatorial statements either.  Alongside carefully positioned valued artworks, we find broken and old furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects. The aim was to create creating a harmonic whole, not perfection. He was influenced by his visit to India after the war and his work reflects his interests in Eastern religions and folk art.  He invited students for talks at the end of each term and in the end, left the house to Cambridge University.  He meant this humble home to be neither ‘an art gallery or museum, nor … simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.’

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Humble collections of stones, arranged carefully, give a peaceful ‘zen-like’ calm to the home.

Looking and reflecting on the interiors, as an architect and home maker, I came to realise that to create a home you have to know yourself and your own needs deeply.  And to create such an harmonious home, you don’t need expensive things- just things that reflect who you are.  So Jim and Helen Ede’s home could be viewed by some as eccentric and unsophisticated but the abiding impression is that of a couple who consciously chose to eschew the materially rich for that which is soulfully rich.  A lesson indeed for these chaotic times and materialistic culture.  Such expression where someone’s inner life has been thrown open public gaze requires inner confidence, critical thinking and unwavering certainty.  This is the home of someone who has absolute happiness, not relative one.  In the end, the lesson for me wasn’t from the art but from the collection and the home as one.

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Works of art by famous artists are placed deliberately low on the floor so that the viewer can sit down and contemplate these.
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Light and shadows play a part in how sculptures are placed
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Plants also part of the display- a living natural art
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You are invited to sit on the chairs to contemplate the space and art

Lessons on design and interiors from Kettle’s Yard

  1. Make the design work for you, don’t follow others blindly.
  2. Choose things that enhance the spaces- these might be cheap things like plants, rocks, books and sea shells. They could be things that you love to touch and see.
  3. Follow the design through as you walk from space to space.  It might be simpler and cheaper to have a flow, rather than each space having its own ‘theme’.
  4. Remove and hide things seasonally.  This gives a sense of the home through the seasons.
  5. Eclectic collections have a charm of their own.  Many design magazines feature empty monastic looking spaces but as this home shows, you can have many things if displayed well.

 

Why you shouldn’t throw out milk

Quite simply because you can cook with it!

Here is my Indian paneer (Indian cheese) recipe that I made for lunch. I had two small bottles of milk which my son sniffed and said, ‘Mum, it’s gone off!’ and proceeded to tip one down the sink.  I managed to stop him in time.

My family never used shop bought paneer but paneer is now widely available outside India.  Even in India, you can buy commercially made paneer.  The commercially made paneer is quite hard and strangely enough softens up during cooking. If the food goes cold, the paneer goes hard again!  Apparently paneer doesn’t like being refrigerated or being cold, but I am guessing there must be other ingredients in the commercial product to keep it fresh that make it behave in that way.  Anyway, the homemade version is very easy to make and tastes lovely. It doesn’t go hard, soft, hard!  And there is no plastic waste.

I took the milk and boiled it, squeezing a few drops of lemon juice in the pan with it.  Soon, the milk had curdled up.  Then I tipped the entire thing on to bowl covered with a fine cotton cloth and the liquid (called whey) drained away into the bowl, leaving me with the paneer on the cloth. I brought the ends of the cloth together and squeezed it tightly.  The fresh paneer was ready.

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Fresh home made paneer
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Paneer being drained using fine cotton cloth

I dry fried teaspoon each of cumin and coriander, and couple of cloves and inch cinnamon stick and a tiny piece of red chilly in a wok.  After a minute, I took the wok off the stove and crushed all the spices using a pestle.  Then I put a table spoon of rapeseed oil and put the paneer in the wok along with a teaspoon of turmeric and two teaspoons of dry ginger (fresh ginger is very nice but since I am trying to use up all my dried ginger, I used that).  One tablespoon of dried mango powder and salt to taste. I fried this mixture for about five minutes.

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Paneer pieces being fried with the spices

I added half a cup of water and one cup of frozen peas.  I also added a tablespoon of tinned tomatoes.  After about 10 minutes, the paneer dish was ready.  And it was so tasty! (The photo below was taken on another day when I decided to cut up the paneer pieces so that it cooked quicker.  It was even tastier as the flavour of the sauce had penetrated the paneer more)

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Don’t worry too much if your home made paneer is not cube shaped!  This is way tastier

What of the whey left behind?

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Whey is nutritious- don’t chuck it!

Whey is full of protein and dried whey is used by people wanting to build muscles. It seems stupid to throw it away because I am not interested in body building. It has a pleasant taste, especially if lemon juice is added but personally I don’t like it, although many people do.  So I used it to make the chapati (Indian bread), using the whey instead of water to make the dough. And that turned out to be a hit too.  Certainly a zero waste lunch!

 

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Indian fried bread made with the whey and a mix of organic spelt and plain flours, with added poppy and ajwain seeds
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And here is another version of the bread without frying, just cooked on a frying pan with no oil.