Category Archives: Arts & Crafts

An Interview With Oscar Francis

My guest this week is qualified architect, Sarah Evans, who established her London based studio “Oscar Francis” in 2013. Sarah has a passion for architecture – using that passion and her creative flair, she has diversified into producing architecturally inspired prints and textiles.  I caught up with Sarah recently to find out more about her business, her passion and her forthcoming book too…. welcome Sarah!

My name is Sarah Evans. I live and work in London with my partner sand two children. I am an architect turned artist/illustrator. I started my own business in 2013 creating hand drawn artwork and digital prints almost entirely inspired by modernist architecture.

What inspired you to establish your studio, Oscar Francis?

The idea for the company grew over a period of time and was born out of a series of events, which prompted me to strike out on my own. The London office that I had worked in for 6 years closed due to the loss of a very large project and we all found ourselves out of a job. I was pregnant with twins and about to go on maternity leave so I knew then that I would need to find a new job in a new office and cover the childcare costs for two. I had always wanted to be my own boss so I began to work on what I called my “alternative” plan. If I didn’t go back to a new job could I set up my own company? So I began putting together a plan of what I wanted to do, of what I would like to do. I had a clear idea early on that I wanted to create an art label inspired by my love of architecture, but I had to figure out the ‘how’. I worked on it for 18 months before I launched the website.

Why did you settle on calling your studio, Oscar Francis?

When I decided to set up my company I initially came up with the name “Pattern Architecture”. I then realised that this could be limiting if I wanted to reach beyond the urban environment and explore other subjects. So I had a dilemma, I wanted to use a name that meant something to me but that also gave me enough room to move in another direction if I so wished. I felt that my name was too ‘ordinary’. My twin boys are called Oscar and Francis…and it just felt right!

The majority of your current collection focuses on post war modernist architecture from the 50s to the 70s. The range of products available varies from prints to wash bags, mugs to tote bags, cushion covers to tea towels. What products/prints are most popular with your clients?

When I started out I assumed that the printed textiles would be the lead product and the direction the company would go but the giclee art prints are the most popular by far – which I am really pleased about!

Do you have a particular favourite product or print from your range?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. Oddly the most popular, best selling prints become the ones you like the least because you see so much of them! I suppose it’s like a band with a hit song that they have to keep singing over and over again. My favourite work is usually the most recent I have produced so at the moment its my latest collection ‘Landmark’. These are all inspired by modern cultural buildings from all over the world. It’s the first mixed international collection I have produced. I am very proud of it.

On October 15th 2017 (November 15th for the US), your book “Modernist London” – 22 posters of inspirational architecture – will be released. As you have a passion for architecture & city/housing types, have you got a favourite place/poster?

My favourite piece from the new poster book has to be Croydon No.1. It made the front cover, and rightly so. It’s really striking and I enjoyed creating it immensely. The hand drawing I produced prior to the digital work took a ridiculously long time, but it was worth it.

People have travel bucket lists, but I would like to know, if you could travel anywhere in the world to view a building/housing/cityscape, what place would be top of your bucket list?

There are so many! If I had to name a couple they would be the Church of Light by Tadao Ando in Osaka, Japan and the National Assembly Building by Louis Kahn in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I will get there, I will.

Oscar Francis designs and products have been featured in a number of magazines such as Grand Designs, Elle Deco & Good Homes. Your products are also sold in a number of UK based boutiques and gallery shops. As you are based in London, are your products available overseas?

The shop is online only but we ship all over the world. We are building up the stockist list outside of the UK so its best to check in the ‘Where to buy’ section on the website. Here you will be able to see the latest information on stores near you that sell my products.

Growing up, what were your career aspirations? Have you always wanted to be an architect?

I wanted to be an artist. I had huge respect for the discipline of architecture, but I loved drawing and painting and thought I would study fine art. However, when I was considering further education and university I decided to try architecture. The argument being that this route was just as creative but might also open up a wider range of job opportunities. My late father was an architect and he was, of course, an influence in this decision. I had been helping out in his practice since I was 15 years old.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

It depends what I am doing. This time of year, day to day, I am in fitted trousers or dark jeans and a jumper or blouse with heeled boots. I prefer classic and unfussy. I save my creative energy for my work.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have a go to list of sites and blogs for everything from going out in London to cool homewares and interiors. Here’s a selection of my favourites: London on the Inside; The Nudge; Such and Such – interiors and homewares; An Artful Life; Laura Lea Design; We Built This City; RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects; Design Milk Blog; London Design Festival; Indie Wire; Little White Lies.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe/accessory wish list?

A stylish raincoat. It rains a lot here this time of year.

Boots or Shoes?

Usually boots. London is only warm about three months of the year so boots of all shapes and sizes are preferred.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Oscar Francis

Web:
https://oscarfrancis.co.uk
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/oscarfrancisprints
Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/oscar_francis/
Twitter:
https://twitter.com/OFrancisLondon

Thank you Sarah and I love the fact that you named your studio after your twin boys!  My mum named her house years ago “Carlin” after my sister Carol & myself! Dear readers, have you ever named a business, house or boat after your offspring?  Have you got on your bucket list a building or other structure that you’d love to visit? I think the Taj Mahal is one building I’d love to see.  Share your views in the comments below, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Sarah Evans.

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Shopping Fairtrade Style

It’s September already and here in the UK, harvesting is in full flow.  It’s time to think about farmers around the world who toil endlessly – growing cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, flowers.  I found out the other day that September is the time to celebrate all things organic.  When I think of “organic”, I automatically think of Fairtrade – The Fairtrade Foundation is the UK based organisation behind the Fairtrade trademark – although, to be fair, not all Fairtrade items are organic.

So, what is Fairtrade? Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers and gold. According to Fairtrade’s website, their mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives”.  Fairtrade’s vision: ” a world in which all producers and consumers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future”.  Fairtrade has strict standards for companies, farmers & workers  as well as ensuring that worker’s rights are maintained, that payment is made of at least the Fairtrade minimum price and that extra money is given to reinvest in business/community projects of the community’s choice. By choosing to buy Fairtrade goods, you can positively help farmers, workers & their communities.

Buying Fairtrade products is easier than you think – products are on sale in supermarkets, independent shops, cafes, restaurants, catering suppliers & wholesalers, as well as online.  I’m lucky, my local village coffee shop/book shop is also the local mecca for Fairtrade goods from companies such as Divine and Traidcraft.  It’s great to see the crafts, products, jewellery and clothes – they make fantastic gifts and it is great to have a browse.

Divine chocolate – I love the plain dark chocolate but I am tempted to try the Dark Chocolate with Himalayan Salt! Divine is the only mainstream chocolate company 44% owned by the farmers who supply the cocoa!  Other Fairtrade chocolates include Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s Organic, M & S, Rawr Foods, Sainsbury’s “Taste The Difference” White, Dark & Milk chocolate bars, The Co-Op; Meaningful Chocolate Company, Raw Chocolate Company, Traidcraft, Waitrose “Seriously” & Belgian range, and Zotter Chocolate.

Traidcraft do some fantastic stem ginger cookies – I devoured packets whilst I was pregnant with my children ( ginger cookies and lemons/limes were my pregnancy cravings!)  Traidcraft itself has been at the fore front of Fairtrade since 1979. The company offers the widest range of fair trade products in the UK.  They even do Fairtrade wine – but I haven’t tasted it yet so I can’t comment.  I can recommend their range of spices, dried fruits and rices; their craft boxes, jewellery, socks, scarves are all pretty and make good gifts. Their clothing range is pricy but having said that the Fairtrade ethos is fair price to the workers and to be honest I rather pay a bit more knowing that the workers are not young children toiling under horrendous conditions to produce a t shirt. I know that they are getting a decent wage for their labours.

I have included some pictures of the Fairtrade items sold in my local shop … if you wish to find out more about Fairtrade or wish to shop/browse Traidcraft’s goods online, here are some websites you might find useful:

http://fairtrade.org.uk

http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Box Ed’s Paper Crafts

When I was a little girl, many moons ago, I used to play with paper dolls with paper clothes.  The  fashion designs could be coloured in or they were already adorned in the colours of the day – I remember mustard yellow, navy blue and baby blue being the predominant ones (this was in the 1970s!) Nowadays, paper toys are a bit more sophisticated but just as much fun to construct. My son has a model that he constructed of Star Wars R2D2 … it now stands pride of place on our window sill…

It gives me great pleasure this week to welcome onto my blog Andrew Dunn, a paper toy designer.  His paper toys cover a vast range from famous name icons to sporting figures to animals with moving heads, to name but a few! Hello Andrew!

Hello I’m Andrew from Torquay in Melbourne, Australia. 25 years living in England, 10 in New Zealand and 5 in Melbourne. Full time husband, full time dad, part-time administrator, part-time illustrator (prioritised in that order ;o))

What inspired you to launch your business, Box Ed’s Paper Crafts?

I started to create paper toys in 2011 as a way to share my passion for drawing and crafting with my two young children. My kids love of Lego and Minecraft inspired me to design paper crafts that children could build to create their own worlds.

What are the benefits of using paper craft figures as opposed to using other materials?

Paper is such a versatile material, easy to manipulate, familiar, cheap and surprisingly sturdy too. My paper crafts activities introduce children to how 2D shapes combine to create 3D shapes. The activity allows children to develop their fine motor skills by cutting, folding and sticking. It teaches them patience and accuracy, how to use and combine materials and gives them a real sense of accomplishment once completed. The inclusion of a blank template in each pack allows the creative freedom to colour-in and design a unique, custom paper toy.

I do so love the “Hipster” and “Donald Trump” paper craft figures. What paper crafts have proved popular with customers so far this season?

The cats and dogs a​re always popular in my Etsy store. I do a few craft markets every year and the tiger and lion are always the favourites because of their flip top heads!​

Out of all the paper crafts, do you have a particular favourite?

I’ve just completed a series of American sports paper toys – basketballers, baseballers etc. and I was particularly happy with the Ice Hockey players getting their sticks, pucks and skates all onto two sheets of paper.

What has been the most unusual paper craft figure you’ve created? Have any been really difficult to reproduce?

I’ve designed a skeleton which I remember agonising over. I think because it was essentially just black and white it was tricky to get much detail and make it fit within my template. I gave that a flip top head though and that seemed to help!

Your collection of paper craft figures is vast… How did you decide what paper craft figures to first introduce? Were your ideas influenced by customer requests, your children’s ideas, or your own observations?

I’ve always designed my paper crafts for everyone and anyone who live anywhere – crafters from 5 to 95 anywhere in the world can cut, fold and stick together a character and have some fun. So cats, dogs and bunnies were the first characters. My kids are always giving me ideas and feedback on what works and doesn’t work which is great to get some constructive criticism.

I also love your sideline products of the tank tops, mugs etc that feature your paper craft figure motifs. My personal favourite is the Ice Hockey mug. What sideline products have proved most popular?

Thanks, actually the ice hockey designs have proved to be the most popular. The designs are pretty much lifted straight from my paper toy designs, with a few tweaks here and there to make it suit the t-shirt or cushion cover or shower curtains they’ll be printed on!

As you are based in Melbourne, Australia, do you ship overseas too?

All my paper crafts can be instantly downloaded wherever you are. The internet has made the world a whole lot smaller and more accessible. I do offer a physical product too so I can send my craft packs wherever people want to get their craft on.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

For the past 5 years I’ve not strayed far from black t-shirts, blue jeans and a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love flipping through the sites where I have my online shops Etsy, Redbubble and Society6. People are so creative and crafty and these platforms allow anyone and everyone to express themselves and get their art out to the world. It feels good knowing that I’m supporting artists and creatives just like me.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe/accessory wish list?

Well August and September downunder is coming into spring time and living at the start of the surfcoast road I’ll be stocking up on flip-flops/sandals/thongs and possibly some rad surf-influenced tshirts!

Boots or Shoes? 

Chucks! Simple, comfortable and classic.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Box Ed’s Paper Crafts.

Website – www.boxedspapercrafts.com
Instagram – @boxedspapercrafts
Store – www.etsy.com/au/shop/BoxEdsPaperCrafts

Thank you Andrew for chatting to us! Dear readers, did you ever have paper toys as a child?  What do you think of Andrew’s designs? As always, do share your views … I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from  Andrew Dunn apart from the R2D2 picture at the top of the post which was taken by me. 

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An Interview With Jane McAdam Freud


Currently exhibiting her sculptures in the Pasmore Gallery (Harrow School) in London, my interview guest this week is British conceptual sculptor Jane McAdam Freud.  If the name seems familiar, that is because Jane is the daughter of famed artist Lucian Freud and great granddaughter of psychologist Sigmund Freud. It is not surprising, therefore, that Jane’s artwork is highly influenced by her family history – her sculptures explore similar themes that her great-grandfather first explored, including sexuality, the unconscious and the other psychoanalytic theories.  Jane also has an impressive list of awards including being granted the ancient honorary decree on merit of Freedom of the City of London in 1991; and was winner of the 2014 European Trebbia Award for Artistic Achievement.  Without further ado, let’s welcome Jane onto the blog… hello Jane!

Hello, I’m Jane. I am Me. I am very much myself as far as my work and my life are concerned. As such I make works that feel authentic to the situation I am working in and to the context I am living in. By that I mean that everything affects us and we are all conduits for that information. My sculpture may inevitably reflect our times and will certainly reflect my particular circumstance on a personal level. So in short my work is my introduction.

Your biography states that you studied “mosaics” in Ravenna before returning to Italy to study sculpture in Rome. What inspired you to study and become a conceptual sculptor?

I have always drawn and made things and consider my first sculptural experience to have been in the sandpit at nursery school. I loved the feel of things, the feel of sand in water and the feel of chocolate powder on the finger and the feel of silk and satin. Working with different mediums and materials was something I got from my various studies. I loved learning about everything and thinking about everything. The combination of the two means that I make works driven by meaning, which is in shorthand – conceptual sculpture.

As a young girl growing up, had you always shown artistic ability or did you have dreams of following a different career?

I knew nothing else from the beginning as both my parents were artists, although my mother has been my main influence. She studied painting and then fashion at Saint Martins, which explains my love of the feel of silk and satin. I remember pulling the wishbone as a very young child and making the wish that my work would one day be exhibited at the Tate Gallery, so the answer to your question regarding ‘art always’ is yes, yes, yes always and forever and with a vengeance! Making drawings and objects was everything I did and everything I dreamed of. Nothing much else existed for me and I don’t think things have changed much, which sounds terrible but the drive is stronger than I. Luckily I went to nurseries and schools that were focused on art subjects and from aged eight till twelve I attended the Froebel Institute which focused on and encouraged creativity and spontaneity. The founder, Friedrich Froebel, is famous for his radical insight that the first learning experiences of the very young influence their later educational achievements. In his book written in 1826, Education of Man, he argued that “the spontaneous play of the child discloses the future inner life of the man” and that for the child “play at this stage is not trivial; it is highly serious and of deep significance”. This was a revolutionary statement made almost 200 years ago but generally accepted now. I owe so much to my teachers and to my classmates who told me so often that I would be an ‘artist’, which was a sort of constant reinforcement. I did in fact win all the art prizes from the infant school onwards and had my first solo exhibition while taking A-level. The show was organised by my art teacher, Robin Dale and was held in Putney Library. I used my mother’s name throughout that period and right up until I was 33 years old when I was awarded the Freedom of the City of London on merit, due to several institutions in the City, including the BM and the V&A having collected my works. I had these early successes in my mother’s name, which I’m totally proud of. Most importantly it allows me to celebrate success in my own right, a very important fact. I love that my main influences were my mother and paternal grandmother and that they made all the choices for my schooling. It is the power of those early forbears, those strong women that define my life.

You have lectured at Central Saint Martins, Morley College, London’s Royal College of Art and Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Having attended the Royal College of Art as a student, does it feel strange to return to teach? What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I just love playing with ideas and materials and to participate in the excitement and joy of discovery, so the thing I like most about teaching is engaging with creative individuals and helping them realize their thoughts and ideas through materials. I am currently artist in residence at Harrow School (the famous public school on the Hill – aka Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School). The residency involves some teaching of the younger years and for the same reasons I love exploring ideas with them too, although I would never dream of teaching full-time.

You have a solo exhibition at the Gazelli Art House from 24 November 2017 – 6 January 2018. How long before an exhibition do you decide a theme? Do you exhibit new work specifically for each exhibition or a mixture of both?

The thing evolves really and always depends on where I am in my head ideas wise, what I am doing at the time, but most importantly is the fact that the theme is a developing thing and depends on what I have done immediately prior and what is coming up after. These things are all connected to each other and grow out of each other, kind of laterally. The exhibition at Gazelli in November follows on from a large body of work I made during my residency at Harrow School, so the Gazelli show will no doubt contain some of those works but will also contain the follow up works I make in the meantime, ie between now and November.

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for an exhibition of sculptures, where would you go & why?

I don’t really go looking for inspiration as I find that inspiration is all around in the immediate events of a life and in the immediate field of vision ie in front of our noses. Having said that,  I travel a lot and am looking, for work purposes, to go soon to Rio in Brazil and Timisoara in Romania and also back to Istanbul.

I’m sure every artist has some form of art theme that they just cannot master as well as other themes – some avoid drawing people, others animals etc. What theme of sculpture do you find hardest to recreate?

I don’t really approach my work like that – it is not a question of avoidance but more a question of utilizing the skills one has mastered and of mastering new skills when needed – for example, if a project calls for a video, I have to invest in the kit and learn how to make and edit the video or to make it do what I want it to do. Or alternatively, I might have a go at something new and happen on an accident, which somehow says it all. This way of working can also help in the discovery of new ways of doing old things so as to find new ways of saying ‘said’ things.

Your work has been exhibited around the world – including the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Gallery archives in London, Brooklyn Museum in New York City, British Museum, to name just a few – have you got a favourite venue? Are there any venues/galleries that you haven’t exhibited in yet but are on your bucket list to do so?

This takes me back to my childhood dream, which was to exhibit at the Tate. I also think the National Portrait Gallery could show some of my earlier portrait sculptures. On my bucket list are the following, South London Gallery in Camberwell, Serpentine, Whitechapel, ICA and oh, so many!

When you are not sculpting, do you have any other hobbies?

No…., well reading perhaps if that can be considered a hobby, more a habit I think. Also walking, jogging and a bit of yoga.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

When working I throw on any old comfortable thing and this usually consists of a tunic style dress – often my beloved jeans dress and loose fitting lycra sports slacks with flat shoes or boots. If not working I love feeling tall and I love platforms best. Otherwise I favour my nude colour, pointed mules with a small heel worn with a knee length skirt or dress – for smarter occasions.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new wardrobe with loads of summer dresses and really dainty sandals. I think this is a reaction to the recent hot weather but also to the fact that I have been wearing my oldest and dirtiest clothes to make sculpture this last two years.

Boots or Shoes?

I prefer boots but they are so seasonal. Boots feel supportive, can be high and also comfortable and look best under trousers.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your work.

My website

www.janemcadamfreud.com

One video I particularly like is called Memories and Reflections https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Adshlx2oJ8

And this Crane TV one

Also the recent video made in the Harrow School Studio

Great to chat to you Jane – it was fab to know that the female side of your family are just as artistic and were the major influence in your life.  I loved how you were saying that you used to mould objects  whilst in the sandpit as a child …it is amazing how an interest as a child can lead to a similar career choice as you grow older.  My middle son has always been adamant from the age of 6 that he was going to be an animator – he is now 19 and studying animation at university. Dear readers, have you pursued a career in adult life that stems, in a roundabout way,  from your early childhood habits/games? Did you used to have a “Girls World” model head and played with the hair to later become a hairdresser? Did you constantly make mud pies to later become a chef?  Do share your stories, I’d love to know….

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Jane McAdam Freud and Gazelli Art Gallery.  Photo Credits: Jane’s picture: Jens Marrot;  Artwork pictures: Ben Westaby.

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An Interview With Artist Niyaz Najafov

There is an art exhibition currently showing  until this coming Saturday at the Gazelli Art House  in London by a self-taught artist, Niyaz Najafov.  This is his 2nd exhibition with the Gazelli Art House, and his paintings are in a similar vein to the artist Francis Bacon, who was also self taught.  Drawn towards nature and human/e situations, Niyaz has certainly produced thought provoking work  – in Paris, where he now lives and works,  he started actively painting flowers on found paper and cardboard in 2016/2017 and stuck them on various street corners. He did it so that people walking past could absorb the work, remove from the walls and continue with their journey. To date over 1000 flowers have been painted and distributed.  I was lucky enough to interview Niyaz and ask him some questions about his life and work… Hello Niyaz …

Hello. I’m Niyaz Najafov, born 1968 in Baku, Azerbaijan. I went to school then I joined the Soviet army and worked in police departments. I experienced a darker path with drugs and imprisonment. I  was drawing all this time but mainly as a hobby – I came out of prison in 1998 and in spring 2003 I first started experimenting with canvas, which I still do today.

What inspired you to do the “Absorb, Adhere, Advance” exhibition in London?

I didn’t know this would happen so no particular inspiration but the title, I presume, was picked due to the style and the subject matter in the paintings and the selection that was made. Although this inspiration was on an unconscious level to me, I guess I still influenced the title.

Dog 2016 Oil on Canvas

Your flowers have adorned walls all over Paris. How many flowers were made? What was the reaction of the general public?

The “flowers” exist there alongside the surfaces of the streets/walls.This hasn’t been done all over Paris (yet) – I assume if I will be continuing to do this for another 3 years, it will end up ‘decorating’ the whole of Paris! Probably around 1700 flowers have been put out there so far. Social reaction varies – from tearing it down to having a positive engagement with them. A girl once walked passed flowers that were no longer there (they were torn down) and said that it was a shame they were no longer there (she said this to a shop assistant of a shop that was next door to one of the walls the works were on)…there are various responses – another one was when accidentally I was sticking another work on a wall of a police building and the police asked what I was doing, when I explained to them and immediately asked “…shall I take this down, it is probably illegal…”, they urged me to carry on!

You describe the selection of your colours as “social art”  rather than  “Street art”.  What are the differences?

There is no difference between the two. I deeply dislike intentional work – if I know I am doing something for a specific reason, it automatically loses any purpose or value to me. I work whether for the purpose of a selling exhibition , or to stick it on the walls of the streets, because I have to , because I want to.

Sex at Night 2016 Oil on Canvas

You were raised in Baku, Azerbaijan and trained as a soldier, as well as being a professional sportsman coaching hand-to-hand combat. Did you enjoy that career?

Azerbaijan is a very peaceful international place – even during the Soviet times, we were never paying attention to where people that lived there were from. I was born during the soviet times and yes, the army training set me up to protect rather than attack. I never had a profession out of the martial arts – karate, kyokoshin kai- I never made money out of it or intentionally. Life so happened that I trained.

What made you change your profession and become an artist?

I lost faith in me as someone who can combat – I couldn’t make a living out of it, despite having won 7 medals in competitions. I came back to Baku from Ukraine (where these competitions were held). The drugs interfered with the whole process , with that part of my life. You do not become an artist, you’re probably born one and then become that during your time here on Earth.

Present 2016 Oil on Canvas

If you could visit anywhere in the world to get inspired for the colours , where would you go?

Nowhere – anywhere in the world and any place in that location – be it a toilet cabin, or an airplane – Louvre or Hermitage – a woman, a fight, policemen, museums … anything around can be inspiring.

What subject matter is the most difficult for you to create?

The subject of money! This would be most difficult for me to create or recreate… this might be my next body of work – money from countries that do not exist. It is something I thought of on my way back to Paris from London this time round. I am already going towards that direction with a body of work produced as the ‘attack of the frame’ …

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Niyaz’s artworks have been exhibited throughout Europe – London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Geneva.  He is currently exhibiting his work in London until Saturday 3rd June 2017 at  the Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London. W1S 4NN.

www.gazelliarthouse.com

Thank you for time chatting to me Niyaz and I am looking forward to seeing your next body of work.

Linda x

All photographs are copyright of the artist (Niyaz Najafor); courtesy of Gazelli Art House.

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Happiness Is PomPoms

A few weeks ago on the blog I interviewed the UK charity Living Streets (read the interview HERE) and the charity were preparing for the UK’s National Walk Month  this May.  One of the events they mentioned was #HappyShoesday on Tuesday 16th May.  That date is not quite here yet, I know, but it got me thinking about happy shoes! One of the current summer shoe wear fads this year is footwear with pom-poms.  Adding a sense of humour to your outfit, this fad is not “new” by any means, the 2017 twist is plimsolls with a pom-pom on top… 

So, what is a pom-pom? Pom-pom comes from the French word “pompon” which refers to a small ball made of fabric or feathers; an ornamental round tuft that originally adorned hats.  Even Napoleon sported a pom-pom or two on his hats.  

Pom-poms on shoes are not entirely a new idea either.  Pom-pom mules called “tauranwari jutti” have been around since the early 16th century in the Pakistani province of Sindhu.  They are perfectly suited to the hilly, sandy environment of the region – the pom-poms cushion the foot at the front whereas the open back of the mule makes it easy to flip out trapped sand.

Over in West Africa, in Burkina Faso, brightly coloured leather flip flops were worn with pride in 1965 … and still fashionable today!

In 2015/2016 fur pom-poms were a winter fad – in 1950, Ferragamo made laced up shoes dominated by a white mink pompom.  In 2015/2016, real fur and its implications were shunned and there were plenty of vegan fur pom-poms around so that you can express your style without supporting an industry that kills animals.  

Coming back to this summer, I have spotted many sandals sporting colourful little pom-poms – such as my high heeled sandals that I bought from La Redoute:

If you are really into your crafts, why not have a go at creating your own pompom created sandals?  Shops like Accessorize or ASOS have pompom shoe clips … or grab a bag of tiny pom-poms from a craft shop or even in your local supermarket (I spotted lots of sparkly ones in Asda yesterday :))  There are plenty of YouTube videos explaining how to do your pompom creations.

You can’t deny that pom-poms do bring a smile to your face – brings back memories of making wool pom-poms in Girls Brigade! Did anybody else enjoy making wool pom-poms in their youth?  Do share your pompom stories… I’d love to hear them 🙂

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book

I love colouring.  I love fashion. I love art. I love the latest fad for adult colouring books. And I love “The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” by fashion designer Natasha Itzcovitz.  “The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” features 100 hand drawn fashion illustrations, showcasing her own unique designs as well as her interpretation of fashion styles of previous decades.  I just had to interview the talented lady that has created through this book a chance for us all to be budding fashionistas, designers and artists in our own wacky colouring world. Please welcome onto the blog Natasha….

Hello! I’m Natasha Itzcovitz, a fashion stylist/ author/ illustrator from London 🙂

“The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” is a fabulous adult colouring book that showcases your designs. So what was the inspiration behind compiling this book?

I was working in a retail shop that was selling patterned colouring books and felt inspired to make one in my own fashion style. I had already been drawing colouring pages for my cousins for years but never thought to make it into a book until then!

There are 100 hand-drawn illustrations that follow fashion through the ages – from famous fashionistas including Marie Antoinette and Jane Austen, to more contemporary styles eg boho chic and hipster street styles. Where did the inspiration for each colouring page come from – your own fashion designs, historical designs, fashion magazines, your own wardrobe?

The colouring pages are a mix of clothes I’ve made, some I wish I could make, clothes I own and fun characters in my head! I looked to fashion photoshoots for poses as well as manga and vintage fashion for historical inspiration and my cat may feature in a few pages.

Do you have a particular favourite colouring page? What fashion style is easy to recreate? Which fashion style was hard to capture?

My favourite page in my book is the drawing of the girl made of wool that’s knitting herself – it’s just so mad! I’ve drawn a lot of street style and the men’s wear especially, can be recreated. Also, if you head to a costume shop, I’m sure you’d find Mary Antionette’s dress and wig! The historic fashion eras which I found hard to capture were not included in the book – only the best for my readers.

Although you are based in the UK, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, my book is available on Amazon worldwide and if you search the title on google, you’ll find that it is on book related websites from many different countries!

Have you any plans to expand your range of colouring books in the future?

I’d love to illustrate more books and do more with my art in the future – look forward to it!

What do you do when you are not drawing?

I’m currently a freelance stylist so I assist on photoshoots and when I get down time, I like to watch anime, ballroom dance and play the guitar.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

A typical Natasha look would be a fun printed dress, over-the-knee socks, grungy boots, a choker, chunky knit and maybe a cheeky bandanna – I’ve gotten into those recently (try and spot one in the book).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

High-street shops are my favourites, I find different ones are good for different things. Topshop, New Look, Forever 21 and asos are pretty good to me and recently I’ve fallen in love with Zara’s Kidswear.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I went into Zara kids for a styling job and wanted to buy things for myself – think my next purchase will be a dress from there. I’m also planning on getting summer shoes as soon as it brightens up!

Boots or Shoes?

Both boots and shoes suit different occasions so it’s hard to pick one or another. I personally love boots and would wear them all year long since I love how they grunge up a feminine look and are comfy at the same time but you can wear shoes for all occasions and in any season so shoes win on practicality.

Links you would like to share:

Check out my Instagram @itzdrawings for regular artwork! My twitter is @natashaitz and my website is www.itzfashion.uk if you’d like to see some of the clothes and accessories I hand-sew.

Thank you very much Natasha!  I find colouring therapeutic – I loved art as a child and my children do too. Dear readers, do you find colouring therapeutic?  What sort of illustrations would appeal to you?  Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Natasha Itzcovitz

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An Interview With Afrika Presents

On the blog today is Mara Menzies, Kenyan-Scottish storyteller and founder of Afrika Presents.  Afrika Presents draws inspiration from Africa’s rich stories and vibrant cultures when designing its products.  I was particularly drawn to their “The African Fashion Design Sketchbook”, a book that combines the history and beauty of African fashion textiles to children, with the aim of inspiring children to want to learn more about the amazing continent. I caught up with Mara recently to find out more…. Hi Mara and welcome….

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Hi, I’m Mara, a storyteller, founder of Afrika Presents, mother of 2 incredible children, dreamer, dancer, reader and traveller.

“The African Fashion Design Sketchbook” is a book that brings together the incredible history & beauty of fashion textiles from Africa to children. So what was the inspiration behind writing & compiling this book?

I returned home from Kenya and wanted a gift for my daughter and bought a fashion book where she could design a model and I found myself wishing that there was an African version of that so she could create, imagine and explore the things she loved but learn about her African heritage at the same time. Then I thought I’m going to do that and I did! African fashions and textiles are so beautiful and their histories are so intertwined with other cultures around the world but we never hear about that so I took the approach to make sure it was fun but informative too.

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You are a Kenyan Scottish storyteller – so how come you decided to start up your company, Afrika Presents?

Once the idea of the fashion book was born, there was so much else to explore that it made sense to form the company and think of what direction it could go. Being a storyteller is a real privilege as you share some very personal moments with small groups of people. I felt that there were so many stories to be told, so many other ways to explore such a vast and vibrant continent that it was impossible to do it just by myself. Through Afrika Presents, I have been able to work with a wider range of people – artists, designers, people experienced with the business side of things, and so many more.

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Africa has many rich stories – do you have a particular favourite tale?

There are so many to choose from but I do love an Ethiopian story about a woman who innocently throws a bone out of the window which is fought over by 2 dogs, which results in 2 boys fighting, then 2 women fighting, then 2 men fighting, then 2 villages fighting until suddenly the whole thing has spiralled out of control. Finally they realise that everyone involved could have stopped it before it reached that terrible point. Sacrifices are made and peace does return but the moral is that we must always think before throwing our bones out of the window. Of course the bone is symbolic of so many things in our lives but I love sharing this story because everyone gets caught up in the ruckus without realising where the story is heading and then suddenly BAM, they get it, and it is a wonderful feeling to take people on that rollercoaster.

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You are currently developing an app that will bring the pages of the book alive. That project sounds totally awesome, I must say. What parts of the app do you think will particularly grab a child’s attention in more ways than the book?

Yes, we’re really excited about it. There are videos, games and quizzes and we plan to continually upgrade the content too. I think the children (and adults) will really like the interactive elements as they can then test themselves and we live in a digital age so it is amazing to able to fuse pen, paper and the digital world.

What books did you enjoy reading as a child? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I grew up in Kenya and my diet consisted of Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, The Famous Five, The Nancy Drew mysteries, a series of books about twins from various cultures, and we always had National Geographic magazines around the house. I also loved the books where you had to choose which page to go to to change the path of the story. Nowadays, we are lucky to have access to authors from all over the world. I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Muthoni Garland as well as random books that I stumble upon, often with a traditional folktale structure. I’m currently reading The Book of Lost Things which turns folktales on their heads and is hugely enjoyable and thought provoking and I love books about Scottish mythology and mystical creatures. Scotland tells a great story.

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I have been to Kenya myself and was captivated by the beauty of the country – Mt Kilimanjaro was a particular favourite spot of mine. Have you got a favourite part of Africa? Any part of Africa you haven’t yet visited but is on your bucket list?

One of my favourite memories was at our farm in Kenya which is on the side of a valley. there was a silver river snaking its way at the bottom and quartz in the ground always twinkled at sunset. On one evening, somebody somewhere was playing a reed flute and it was just so beautiful. That is now my favourite place. I’d love to visit Botswana and Namibia and I love Malian music so will hopefully get there too.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am seasonal in the sense that winter I close shop and wear boots, jeans and thick chunky jumpers and go for comfort over fashion. But in the summer I adore bright colours and patterns. I like shoes with small  heels. I can’t wear very high heels but I’ve always loved the grandeur of Victorian fashion and so the shorter, curvier heels make me feel part of that!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love raiding the charity shops and then tweaking what I find at home. I also find treasures in vintage shops. I do visit Zanjoo.com every now and again as they have some fantastic skirts and often match colours successfully that really shouldn’t work but always do. As I go to Kenya every year, I always find stunning fabrics and I have a tailor who makes beautiful clothes so I go with a wishlist. Otherwise I buy basics on the high street.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Now we’re heading for winter, it’s time for my annual boot splurge. I would love to own good quality boots in a vibrant red but they are hard to find! I sometimes find incredible boots for my 9 year old that I want in my size!

Boots or Shoes?

Flat boots for everyday comfort and lovely shoes or high heeled boots when I’m trying to impress:)

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Afrika Presents.

Visit the website at www.afrikapresents.com and we’re at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikapresents

Thank you Mara for introducing your fab company! I have always been fascinated with the continent of Africa and my youngest son has the continent in the number one slot of his bucket travel list – he loves animals and the vast outdoors.  Like you I grew up with the stories of Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton; I read the National Geographic Magazine from cover to cover – and my children have grown up surrounded by the same … along with modern technology.  One African story I liked was about the baobab tree that I heard whilst in Kenya – it is known as the upside down tree as its branches don’t have leaves and they look like tree roots!  Dear readers, are you fascinated by Africa? Would you like to visit? Or have you travelled there already? Do you have an African story to tell? As always, do share – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mara Menzies.

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Spotlight On Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel

Snow has already descended on parts of Canada, USA, Scotland and Northern England, heralding the start of the winter ski season in the Northern Hemisphere.  It seems most fitting, therefore, to introduce onto my blog one of the finest, if not the finest (in my opinion), alpine designer fashion  & ready-to-wear ski wear shop in the world – Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel.  Founded in 1975 in Courchevel, Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel  was named after the famous alpine skier.  Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel is more than just a shop, as I found out…..

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Why did you pick Courchevel as the location for your shop?

Courchevel is a luxurious ski resort located in the French Alps, with one of the largest ski areas in the world: 3 Valleys.  The ski resort hosts the most prestigious international clientele.  This ski paradise is also one of the most luxurious places in the world with a high concentration of 5 star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and unique boutiques.

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What are your most popular products?

Just like every year since forever, Moon Boots are very popular.  The most popular shoe brand is Jimmy Choo, so it stands to reason that their moon boots are a great hit.

What’s new for the 2016 winter season?

Chiara Ferragni  Moonboots, some exclusive Fendi Sportswear, and the launch of Balmain Man at Bernard Orcel.

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What makes Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel special?

Maison Bernard Orcel offers customers the chance to unwind and relax by being surrounded by beauty and quality.  Florence, the Head of House for 25 years, knows and recognises the very dear Bernard Orcel clientele. Like a real concierge, the whole Bernard Orcel team supports our customers during their stay in Courchevel for any of their requests. We offer our customers a shopping service at home. The collections (ready-to-wear or skiwear) are presented by a personal shopper from our team. Our seamstress is also at the disposal of our customers throughout the season to adjust and retouch their purchases.

Although you are in France, do you deliver worldwide?

According to the client’s wishes, we offer the possibility of a delivery service any time in Courchevel, and all over the world.

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What brands do you stock (ready-to-wear)?

Balmain, Brioni, Brunello Cucinelli, Chiara Ferragni, Dsquared, Fabiana Filippi, Faubourg 32, Jacob Cohen, Maison Ullens, Sartorial Tramarossa, Simonetta Ravizza, Stefano Ricci…..

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….And Skiwear?

AZ Atelier, Bogner, Dsquared Ski Capsule, Fendi Ski Collection, Jet Set, Kru, Toni Sailer, Zai, Zero Ski.   We also provide sales services and ski rental delivery directly into the hotel or chalet in Courchevel.    This service also includes the possibility to try and buy our skiwear collections. A full service from the ski outfit to the technical equipment!

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….And Shoes?

Buscemi, Emma Salimova & Ugg, Guiseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Ludwig Reiter, Santoni, Tod’s.

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Fashion & Art

Bernard Orcel has invited the famous artist Leo Caillard to exhibit his work as a tribute to the classic sculpture. The exhibition, entitled “Hipster In Store”, offers an unique alliance of fashion and art through sculptures of antiquity. Dressed in a contemporary way, the gods Zeus, Hercules and the goddess Diana enter our era wearing shirt, jeans and a little dress.

Shop Details

Bernard Orcel, Rue du Rocher Courchevel 1850, 73120 Saint Bon Tarentaise.

www.bernard-orcel.com 

Instagram:  Bernard Orcel

FB: Bernard Orcel Courchevel

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So, when you next go skiing in the French Alps check out Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel  and have a browse amongst the rails and enjoy the unique art exhibitions too! What a shopping experience!  Dear readers, do you enjoy partaking in winter sports? Do you have a favourite skiing location?  

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel.

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Meet The Wedgies

Taking inspiration from the modern, retro, cool, not so cool, famous, not so famous, stereotypes, etc … my guest this week is Hayley from  Wedgie, the independent wooden doorstep company and their merry group of funky doorstops. Come on in and meet the wedgies…….

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Hi, I’m Hayley, the co-founder of Wedgie.

What inspired you to launch your business, Wedgie?

My husband and I were fortunate to live in Sri Lanka for a prolonged period, moving away only 2 years ago. Working in the textile and creative industries, we were fortunate enough to meet and work with many creative individuals and small start-up companies on the island. When we moved back West, we we wanted to keep our relationship with Sri Lanka going and started to explore ways in which we could keep working and supporting some of the people we knew and the industries they worked in. And that’s how Wedgie was born. It has an East meets West philosophy; the ideas, designs, inspirations and character references come from the West, with the handmade crafted and painted side coming from the East.

I do so love “Sid” and “Spyros” makes me laugh out loud. What wedgies have proved popular with customers so far this season?

We don’t really have a best-selling Wedgie. We find that each Wedgie character resonates with different people in different ways. If you love Disco, you’ve got Brutus, if you love cycling then you’ve got Brad, our motorist hating cyclist! That said, I’d say Spyros has probably received the most attention; I think it’s the thick chest rug and slinky speedos that just draw people inI

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Out of all the wedgies, do you have a particular favourite?

Probably “Major Dave” our nod to the legendary David Bowie. I am a big, big Bowie fan, so there was a lot of pressure on getting the character description and design right. We went through a lot of trials and rejections along the way but I am pleased to say Major Dave has answered the call from ground control and has now joined the Wedgie family!

What has been the most unusual Wedgie you’ve created? Have any been really difficult to reproduce?

Not yet finalised, but our most difficult Wedgie design so far has been the Yoga inspired Wedgie. I have a vision of a hippy / yoga Wedgie in some crazy position with limbs all out of sorts but have found this really hard to recreate using a fixed template of a basic doorstop. Its an ongoing process so watch this space. Our most difficult, but hopefully rewarding Wedgie to date! Namaste.

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Your collection of Wedgies takes inspiration from the cool, not so cool, modern, retro, famous, not so famous, stereotypes… Were your ideas influenced by customer requests?

A lot of the character ideas come from my husband and I’s personal interests or experiences. That said we are always open to ideas and listening to customers’ requests on social media. So yes, get involved! Who would you like to see join the family? The most important thing to bear in mind is that the character has distinguished features otherwise it is really difficult to portray them on a door wedge!

Have you any new Wedgies or Wedgie collections in the pipeline yet for 2017?

We have a few more characters in the pipeline: Wonder Wendy – our super hero doorstop, Tasty T – our alarm clock wearing gansta rapper wedge, and many more. We cannot give away too much at this stage!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe/accessory wish list?

My next wish list purchase is …..a pair of Doc Martens. Not the most glamorous choice of clothing I admit, and call it a midlife crisis, but it’s taken me 32 years to build up the courage to buy my first pair and I’m determined to do so before the year’s out.

Boots or Shoes?

In Sri Lanka,  the weather was perpetually hot all year round, so wearing boots is still a novelty for us. In just two years I have managed to purchase a lifetime’s worth of boots!

All website and social media links :

E: hello@meetthewedgies.com
W: meetthewedgies.com
F: facebook.com/meetthewedgies
T: twitter.com/meetthewedgies

Oh Hayley, I’m a big Bowie & Boots fan too! Doc Martens can be pretty glam too – a friend of mine seems to collect Doc Martens like they are a hobby – she has them in all sorts of colours and designs!  It was lovely to meet the Wedgie family and I look forward to seeing all the new additions!  So dear readers,  what fun figure do you think would be a good addition to the Wedgie family?  And, what’s your view on Doc Martens too?As always, drop me a line and let me know!

STOP PRESS:   15% discount off your entire order for my dear blog readers until 30 November 2016.  Quote promo code: BOOTSSHOESANDWEDGIES

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Wedgie.

 

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