Art Supplies in London: Liberty & L. Cornelissen and Son

Feeling creative in London? Looking for that hard-to-find craft tool or artist’s medium? Want to gild or sew something? Then I highly recommend stopping in at two stores that you will find VERY Inspiring: L. Cornelissen and Son and the Liberty London department store.

L. Cornelisson and Sons carries a broad spectrum of  artists' media
L. Cornelissen and Son carries a broad spectrum of artists’ media  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Located at 105A Great Russell Street, just down the road from the British Museum, L. Cornelissen & Son is a serious artist’s paradise. The store is stocked from floor to ceiling with paints, brushes, papers, and varnishes. For both serious and student painters, they carry a good range of Schminke Watercolors, as well as Schminke and Winsor & Newton Oil Paints. But that is not what they do best. L. Cornelissen specializes in hard-to-find materials, gilding supplies, art restoration materials and professional paints and pigments.

Red Bole and Parchment Clippings are not for amateurs
Red Bole and Parchment Clippings are not for amateurs  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

I love this stuff. Conservation, restoration, bits of pigment, glues and resins, feathery brushes, colors so deep you want to weep. Art supplies are as fascinating as the art that is made with them. I could not stop looking around L. Cornelissen and Son. Upon entering the store, I happily dove into a box of discounted single sheets of watercolor paper and came up with some beautiful pieces.

Find your best brush here
Find your best brush here  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Then I surveyed the brushes and stood in awe of the assortment of hard-to-find Michael Harding Oil Paints and painting varnishes lining the wall.

Michael Harding Paints
Michael Harding Paints  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

C. Roberson & Company and L. Cornelissen house brand offer some hard to find varnishes and spirits for painters and conservation specialists. I’ll have to do some research on exactly what “Venice” Turpentine is.

Not just your regular Dammar Varnish, although they have that too!
Not just your regular Dammar Varnish, although they have that too!  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Don’t be deceived by all the colorful bounty that surrounds you. If you can’t find what you need just by looking at everything, be sure to ask one of the sales clerks. They are helpful and know their trade. While the store is visibly packed with both necessities and hard-to-find materials, it takes a sales clerk to find the impossible for you. I have been on an odyssey to find silverpoint materials for about three years now. While silverpoint grounds are readily available I could not find the stylus or the metal filaments to draw with anywhere…until I arrived at L. Cornelissen. I was used to silverpoint rejection, so I was expecting the usual blank stare or regretful grin of the numerous clerks I have asked at many US art supply stores. But something different happened here. Upon inquiring about silverpoint, the clerk reached up into the large wall of numbered drawers and brought down a drawer filled with silverpoint materials. Eureka! It was such a clever thing to peer into that drawer and see everything an artist would need in that single medium organized together. Bundles of metal filaments, boxes of styluses. Everything lined up and tidy. I ended up purchasing 2 styluses – one metal, and one wood, as well as several thicknesses of silver to draw with.

The ULTIMATE in Art Supply Organization
The ULTIMATE in Art Supply Organization  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

I can only wonder what other amazing materials lie inside these unassuming numbered boxes. In total, I bought a lot of watercolor paper, my silverpoint materials, and a beautiful dove gray sketchbook. LOML also bought a very nice full tin of drawing pencils. We left the store reluctantly, glancing back at all the treasures we left behind.

We had to leave some things behind for you
We had to leave some things behind for you  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

The next day we stopped in at Liberty on Regents Street. Well, ok, we didn’t just happen by. I have a “thing” for Liberty prints… don’t you? Fuddy Duddy chintz looks oh so chic when Liberty does it! I have been used to drooling over the Liberty Fabric at PURL Soho in NYC, but nothing beats seeing hundreds of bolts of Liberty  side by side in their London home. Let the fashionistas fawn over the clothes, jewelry, and perfumes on the lower floors of the department store! Um, ok, well don’t let them have everything, because I’ll be stopping down there later. LOML and I headed straight to floor three: Haberdashery.

Haberdashery is SEW NICE at Liberty London
Haberdashery is SEW NICE at Liberty London  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

If you like to sew and stitch, this is the place for you. They have awesome stuff! In the center of the department’s floor was a big long table filled with discounted remnants. Not brown corduroy! Liberty Prints, hallelujah! It was a crafty gal’s dream. Be sure to look across the floor at all of the bolts of fabric you have yet to encounter. IMG_1893 In a long window-lined room, you will find bins of sewing tools, housed in Liberty print holders: small sewing scissors, clever cushioned boxes that fold down to reveal everything you could need on your next sewing projects, patchwork Liberty pincushions in the shape of pears and mice, and little snap needle cases with scissors in a pouch in the back. They also have larger Liberty print sewing boxes agains the wall. And for Liberty…everything is affordable. Which means that 60% of my souvenirs for my artsy friends came from Liberty’s sewing department. Delightful.

The perfect gifts for creative gals
The perfect gifts for creative gals  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

I left the bigger sewing boxes behind, reluctantly, because how could I pack it. If you are local, you lucky lady, be sure get one.

Don't leave the big ones behind
Don’t leave the big ones behind  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Originally, I was hoping to find lots of embroidery threads and transfers here. I didn’t find them, but if you do Needlepoint or Tapestry, you are in LUCK! The haberdashery floor was lined with Elizabeth Bradley and Primavera needlepoint kits that made me…well…want to take up needlepoint. The pillow kits were amazing!

Add to your Liberty Garden with Elizabeth Bradley botanical stitch kits
Add to your Liberty Garden with Elizabeth Bradley botanical stitch kits  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Maybe I could make these pillows? In between everything else? Eh?

Primavera Pillow Kits
Primavera Pillow Kits  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Probably not. But that’s ok. I bought these lovely Liberty fabric covered button sets to restyle some of my coats and sweaters.

Cute as a Button at Liberty
Cute as a Button at Liberty  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Finally, I succumbed to vintage graphic design at the Merchant and Mills table, loading up on some thread wax, push pins, and tailoring tools. They also carry Merchant and Mills patterns for clothing, so you know what to do with your Liberty fabrics now.

Merchant and Mills makes it professional
Merchant and Mills makes it legit  (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

There was one more stop in London that I wanted to make: Green and Stone Art Supplies in Chelsea. Unfortunately, there just was not enough time during our four-day stay in London. But rumor has it, they have “Turner’s Blue” paper here. If you get a chance to visit the store, let us know it is so! Happy Creating!

L. Cornelissen and Son – 105A Great Russel Street  London WC1B +44 20 7636 1045 Liberty Department Store – Regent Street  London, UK  +44 20 7734 1234


Field Station Dinosaurs in Secaucus, NJ


Have you ever wondered what a dinosaur would sound like? Me neither. My thoughts regarding dinosaurs have always basically been twofold: Could I outrun a dinosaur? and Would I have been able to ride a Brontosaurus like the Flintstones? Limited in my knowledge, yet fascinated like the rest of us, I recently traveled to Field Station Dinosaurs in Secaucus, NJ to become much more enlightened on the subject.

Located in a marsh-like former quarry area just yards from the Secaucus train station, Field Station Dinosaur enables you to walk through the forest and encounter true-to-size animatronic dinosaurs going about their business. My love and I strolled hand-in-hand down the trampled dirt paths, stopping along the way to gawk at the dinosaurs eating in clearings in the woods, perched up high on rocky outcroppings, and poised to attack in the marshland with Empire State building looming in the distance.

Not all dinosaurs want to eat you…I think...
Not all dinosaurs want to eat you…I think…

At each dinosaur clearing there is a posted display that educates you about the species. Fun and informative, we enjoyed seeing the original geographic location of each dinosaur (Montana, The Gobi Desert, and yes, even New Jersey, were all represented). There are also pronunciations listed, fun facts, and other statistics provided.

Good Graphic Design at Field Station Dinosaur
Good Graphic Design at Field Station Dinosaur

Much of Field Station Dinosaurs is geared towards young children. At the back of the park is an area where children can chip away at plaster blogs to excavate dinosaur bones in a complete laboratory. Just beyond this area is a sand pit where your little Paleontologist can brush away the sands of time and reveal bones in situ. An incredible number of shows and activities led by park staff are offered in an outdoor theatre just near the concessions stand, to be enjoyed by children. Topics include: Field Station Challenge, Mesozoic Concentration, Fossil’s Up Close, Dinosaur Dance Party, Avian Dinosaurs and more (if you have a kinesthetic learner this is the place to be). The Commander’s Tent at the top of the park offered air conditioning and a singalong with “baby” dinosaurs when we were there. Incidentally, none of the children we saw seemed scared of the giant moving dinosaurs in front of them. That includes the two-year olds in their strollers and the babies in their mothers’ arms. Which is more than I can say for some of the adults.

Digging up Dinosaurs gets serious
Digging up Dinosaurs gets serious

Should you get hungry, Field Station offers a small concessions area selling “Dino Dogs” and “Bronto Burgers”, chips, candy, soda and Italian ices. There is a nice, large, covered seating area with picnic tables provided.

The only place to get Dino Dogs and Bronto Burgers this side of Texas
The only place to get Dino Dogs and Bronto Burgers this side of Texas

The park also offers a small, but stocked gift shop with Field Station memorabilia and dinosaur trinkets. This is also the place where you can purchase the “dinosaur about to eat us in front of a green screen” photo that taken of your group when you enter the park.

Commemorative Memorabilia
Commemorative Memorabilia

So back to what dinosaurs sound like. This was my absolute favorite thing about our visit. Not only do the dinosaurs move, but you can hear the audio of what paleontologists believe was the natural sound of each dinosaur. It really brought the animals to life and made us even more interested to learn about the characteristics of each dinosaur. There was something also rather time-transporting about hearing the calls of the dinosaurs echoing through the forest. When you visit, look, take selfies, read the info…but make sure to listen carefully to them calling out to you.

Head-to-Head and Heart-to-Heart
Head-to-Head rather than Heart-to-Heart

We really enjoyed our visit to this very unusual attraction. I expect (hope) that following the release of the summer movie “Jurassic World” there will be a surge in attendance at this park just across the river from Manhattan. Actually, that would probably make for an exceptional day! Jurassic World and a day at Field Station Dinosaurs.

Look Up!
Look Up!

Unfortunately, days are numbered for the current Field Station Dinosaurs. The park will close in the fall of 2015. The site will be new location for the High Tech High School. Until a new site is found elsewhere in NJ to house the massive dinosaurs, enjoy it while you can get it!

Thank you for visiting!
Thank you for visiting!

Practical Matters: 

Wear comfortable walking shoes…you will be walking on unpaved terrain.

Sunscreen and a hat is also useful, particularly in the marshy areas. Bug spray was not ultimately necessary, but would be nice to keep the black flies away in the marshy section.

There are many benches located throughout all of Field Station Dinosaurs. We were pleased to see this, as it is beneficial to older visitors bringing grand children and jet-lagged tourists.

Bring water with you, you will get thirsty! There are also drink vending machines available and a sheltered area to picnic with hot dog and hamburger stands.

Parking for the day is $5 in the lot to the right of the front gate. Just follow the dinosaur signs to the park.

Admission Pricing:

Your Expedition Awaits...
Your Expedition Awaits…

Park Website:

Skylands Botanical Garden, Ringwood, NJ

They don't call it the Skylands for nothing!
They don’t call it the Skylands Region of NJ for nothing!

If you itching to get out of New York City or are close by in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut or upstate New York, try a day road trip to Ringwood State Park, home of the New Jersey State Botanical Gardens. New Jersey is called the “Garden State” and the more you explore it, the more you will find the small farms and beautiful gardens of this state. The formal gardens of the NJSBG and hiking trails of Ringwood are hidden gems tucked away in the northern reaches of NJ. Open 8 am to 8 pm, daily, year-round, it is easily accessible via Route 208 in NJ or the N.Y. Thruway and Route 17 from New York.

Parking at Sklyands is located in three lots. Your best bet is Parking A, located at the front of the park near the entrance. If this is unavailable, Parking lot B is the next convenient, located at the far end of the lilac garden. Parking C is waaaaaay out there on the opposite side of the botanical garden. If you up for a hike, it’s fine. If you are up for a light stroll…try to avoid this lot.

The Pump House, at Skylands
The Pump House amidst a sea of daffodils

Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center at the start of your walk to pick up a map. Then stick it in your pocket or your purse. The garden features a lot of happy surprises and you’ll want to know what you are stumbling upon! To the right of the Visitor Center is the manicured Annual Garden.

Find changing Annual surprises in this garden.
Find changing Annual surprises in this garden.

If you are visiting in the spring, you might want to pause under the swaying pink trees of the Perennial Garden. We found many people sitting on blankets reading books and playing cards under the tree canopy.

A shower of pink confetti at Skylands
A shower of pink confetti at Skylands in the month of May

Proceeding down the lawn of Crabapple Vista look off to the left at the rolling Ramapo Mountains. You’ll feel sheltered in the giant “secret garden” of the NJBG. A the far end of the vista, beneath a row of towering pines, you’ll find the Four Continents Statues. These are life-size statues representing four continents: Asia, America, Africa, and Europe (you’ll see them left to right).

America of the Four Continents
America of the Four Continents

You can use your cell phone to punch in an audio tour, including a discussion about the Four Continents statues. Look to the right of the statue group for the phone code.  I did not do this. Instead, I sat under the trees thinking about Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome, and any similarities I could find between the two groupings of statues. I also thought about how the elements have not been kind to these figures and I investigated the “treasures” sculpted into the base of each statue relating to the rich resources of each continent.

On your way back towards the Visitor Center, pass by Swan Pond. Walk throughout the Dry Meadow to the gated garden. You can undo the latch, but be sure to close the gate behind you. Here you will find the Hosta Garden and Rhododendron Garden. In early May, we hit the timing just right to see the bright purple Rhododendrons bursting onto the scene.

Rhododendrons have their own garden
Rhododendrons have their own garden

Perhaps the most unique garden at Skylands is the Moraine Garden. Located just past the Rhododendrons, it is a reminder of just how ancient the Appalachian Mountains are. A moraine is a glacial deposit left behind by the melting of the glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. Low plants thrive around the rocks deposited by glaciers on this gently sloping hill. You can search closely for gentians, dwarf conifers, and heather, plants that are indigenous to the region, or sit on the bench located beneath the tree canopy and marvel at this unusual garden.

Have you ever seen a Moraine Garden?
Have you ever seen a Moraine Garden?

Leave these enclosed gardens and make your way over to Skylands Manor. The country estate on which the gardens stand was originally called “Skylands Farms” and was owned by Francis Lynde Stetson a lawyer who entertained Grover Cleveland, the Carnegies, and J.P. Morgan at the farms. He was also a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden and chose Samuel Parsons Jr., a student of Frederick Law Olmstead, to design the grounds you are standing on.

The Tudor Mansion that stands on Skylands today is not that of Stetson, but a later wonder, Clarence McKenzie Lewis, a New York banker, also a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden.

Marvel at the Tudor Architecture revived at the turn of the 20th century
the Tudor Architecture of Skylands manor was designed by architect Joh R. Pope, architect for the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Incidently, the Ramapo Mountains were home in the early 20th century to the most illustrious barons of Gilded Age society. Down the road sits Ringwood Manor, the summer home of the Cooper-Hewitt families. You can also see the vacation home of sugar magnate Theodore Havemeyer not far away in Mahwah, NJ, across the street from Ramapo College and the home of copper magnate Stephen Birch, whose mansion is now an administrative building on campus. Havemeyer’s brother, H.O. Havemeyer bequeathed a massive collection of over 4,500 works of art to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.

Created in the style favored by America’s wealthiest patrons at the time, the Tudor Revival Skylands Manor features native granite excavated from Pierson Ridge on the estate, as well as oak interior paneling from from Lyme Regis, England. The construction firm, Elliot C. Brown Co. of New York City built Skylands manor, in addition to the Hyde Park mansion of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Most of the gardens are the brainchild of Lewis. A meticulous botanist by hobby, Lewis collected plants and curated the Sklyands grounds, recording each acquisition and employing up to fifty gardeners at any given time. The 96 acres bordering the manor house are the State’s official botanical gardens.

The backyard of the manor features a highly organized, symmetrical series of groomed gardens, including the fragrant Magnolia Walk, the Azalea Garden, Summer Garden, Tree Peony Garden featuring flowering plants from China, and the Lilac Garden, a heady riot of violet which peaks around Mother’s Day in mid-May. The twelve main beds of lilacs are a haven for everyone to linger by.

Whether you are visiting during the spring, or the peak of fall, there is always something to see at this gem tucked away in Ringwood, NJ.

A riot of color in the Azalea Garden
A riot of color in the Azalea Garden

Skylands NJ State Botanical Garden in Ringwood, NJ is open daily. For more information call 973-962-9534.