Category Archives: Arts & Crafts

An Interview With Pineapple Fibre Art

Art but not exactly as you know it this week – bespoke vintage inspired crochet wall art created by Emma of Pineapple Fibre Art. Using gorgeous hand dyed yarns, these intricate art pieces are certainly pretty and you can see the painstakingly amount of work that has gone into each mandala. And the size of them! I was gifted the Pale Green Penny mandala (thank you Emma) and it amazed me how big it was and how stunning it looks too. I couldn’t wait to ask Emma about her works of art … Hi Emma!

Hello, my name is Emma and I live in Devon halfway between Dartmoor and the sea.

What inspired the setting up of “Pineapple Fibre Art”?  

Pineapple Fibre Art is based on my love of vintage doily patterns and gorgeous hand dyed yarn.  No one really has white doilies under their fruit bowl anymore, but the patterns are so intricate and beautiful that I wanted a way to allow them to be enjoyed in a more contemporary setting.   The ‘pineapple’ in my business name comes from a motif that is frequently found repeated in my work and loosely resembles, you guessed it, a pineapple.  I love to crochet, I love turning a skein of yarn (merino/nylon blend for preference) into something beautiful, the possibilities in that skein of yarn are endless and that is so exciting.

Your crochet mandalas are made using gorgeous hand dyed yarns in a variety of doily patterns. What mandala patterns and colours are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

This season the colours have been more muted, and my most popular pattern has been the Maggie, with her tight central swirl and pineapples around the outside.  This is a 60cm design, a stunning statement piece of art.  I’ve also seen an increase in my pattern sales, which makes sense with the world still partially closed due to Covid-19.

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

I’ll always have a soft spot for the Fran, a graceful 70cm hoop.  She was rather tricky to get right at first, but it was so worth it.  Despite her size she is light and airy and looks beautiful in any colourway.  This one in the soft mint green was the first and I love her!

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Yes of course!  Obviously Brexit has made shipping to the EU more expensive, and prices for shipping have been shifting, but I am happy to set up shipping to anywhere; my parcels are light, but big so courier services are usually required.

When designing the doily patterns to add to your mandala collection, do you base your designs on original vintage pieces or do you prefer to make up your own pattern combinations?

It’s a real combination!  Many of my hoops are based on vintage patterns, tweaked to fit within the perfect circle of my wooden hula hoops.  Over time I may amend the pattern further to suit my tastes and tension, the sizes of hoops available and the size the customer wants.  I have designed from scratch my own 60cm hoop, Patience, named for the time and effort required to get it right!  I also sometimes use motifs from various patterns in tandem to suit the yarn and size I am aiming for.

How long have you been crocheting?  Can you also knit?

Ooo, I’ve been crocheting for around 12 years now I think.  A friend started me off and I got the rest from Youtube.  Knitting however… that’s much more tricky: I have knitted a scarf, and one sock.  I can sort of knit I suppose, but it’s hard going and I’d rather have a crochet hook in my hand!

Growing up, did you always want to be a designer/creative field or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

I think like many people I didn’t come into my creativity until later.  I don’t paint or draw and wouldn’t have called myself artistic or creative when I was younger, despite always making jewellery and, later on, bags. I don’t think I ever had a particularly firm idea what I’d do as an adult after the two weeks work experience in a primary school when I was 15 told me I didn’t want to be a teacher.  I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, and I’m 36 now, I’ll just keep making it up as I go!

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

Dresses!  In winter I love colourful tights especially Snag mustard ones, yellow legs make me happy, in summer some chub rub shorts.  Less worry about what goes with what, and more comfy!  Teals, navy and purple figure predominately.  I’ve worked out what I like and tend to stick to it now, even if I can be a bit predictable!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Folksy and Etsy for beautiful unique hand made things, Seasalt for clothes, but I’ve never been much of a high street shopper and 2020 removed my desire to shop in person even further.  I could do with a couple of more summery dresses though, so I might have to brave the shops soon!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, with crochet socks!  I hate wet feet and boots mean I can walk the dog without my feet freezing off.  And I don’t do heels, I never really learnt to walk in them.  Am I allowed to say that here?!


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

Website https://www.pineapplefibreart.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PineappleFibreArt

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/pineapplefibreart/

Thank you very much for the crochet mandala ( it is very beautiful) and thank you for telling us all about your crochet works of art. My Nan always had lots of crochet doilies scattered around her house and she would have adored your work too.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pineapple Fibre Art (apart from the header photo and the Pinterest photo which were by Linda Hobden).

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An Interview With Sarah Jane Hemsley Upholstery

Talking about upholstery this week with Sarah Jane Hemsley who had a desire for more creativity in her life and this led to an interesting transition from working in hospitality to retraining as an upholsterer. I caught up with Sarah Jane to find out more about her work, her training and her career change desire! Hi Sarah Jane!

Hi, I’m Sarah Jane Bustin, founder of Sarah Jane Hemsley Upholstery – Hemsley is my middle name – based in St Margarets Twickenham, south West London.

I’m originally from Isle of Bute, west coast of Scotland and have been living in the south for 20 plus years now but go back to Bute several times a year.  

What inspired you to become an  Upholsterer?

During my previous working life, I’d always done some kind of evening class in life drawing, sculpture etc.

10 years ago, whilst doing the daily slog into London I decided I needed to try evening classes in something… anything a bit different! Plumping eventually for upholstery as I love interiors and thought of myself as quite hands on. Well within five minutes of the first task of stripping a grotty, smelly drop seat pad I was completely and utterly smitten.

You offer a bespoke service to restore, revive and reupholster antique, mid-century and modern furniture.  What has been your favourite or most challenging piece of furniture you’ve upholstered?

Goodness, well the challenges are often the larger or more complex pieces. There’s always a frisson of excitement when you get a proper antique or mid-century designer piece but probably the most head scratching was an upholstered porthole for a teenager’s bedroom. The client had seen one in a magazine and had a joiner build the ‘porthole’ into the cabinetry in her daughter’s bedroom, it was only then we were contacted to upholster it. It took many hours of working out how to pad and cover (in red velvet) this 1.5 metre circle to make a usable comfy seat!! The cushion elements and backing circle were made in the workshop and then it was assembled on site over a few hours. Think we managed to achieve it pretty much bang on!

You have recently launched a lovely range of fabrics and homewares featuring illustrations by Isle of Bute artist Lyn Bulloch – who also happened to be your art teacher when you were growing up there! What fabric designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

The Waverley design seems to resonate most with people. We can’t believe how many folk have recognised the ship when they see the fabric, even in West London! 

Lyn’s illustrations are technically brilliant resulting in the ink drawings being so representative of the landscape in and around Bute. 

The pretty colours of Dunagoil & Shore Road also appeal but my favourite is the bold linear horizon of mountains and fields of the Sleeping Warrior.

As you are based in Twickenham, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Currently the products are sent within the UK only.  I would love to send overseas and will be looking into that over the next few months. 

How long does it take to train as an upholsterer?   

I trained in intensive chunks of time – 1, 2 and 3 weeks at a time – over a few years to gain my certificate and advanced certificate through the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers. My training took placed in the most beautiful setting of a converted barn in Cornwall with fantastic Master Upholsterer Richard Hooper Home | Tresithick Upholstery Training (tresithickrestorations.co.uk)

There are many evening and part time courses all over the country and the AMUSF website is a great place to start looking The Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers – Upholding the past – furnishing the future 

Have you always wanted to be an upholsterer or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

Becoming an upholsterer was a total career change. Previously I worked in Facilities and Operational Management for universities and hostel accommodation. It was very business focused with lots of people management and customer driven. Certainly nothing like the creative area that I now work in.

What aspect of being an upholsterer do you enjoy the most?  Any downsides?

Being an upholsterer ticks so many boxes for me. It’s creative, requiring continuous problem solving and interpretation, it’s keeping alive traditional craft skills and ensures furniture continues to be useful and loved and not discarded.

Running your own business means you’re in control of everything which I relish! I find I have ideas bursting out of me and just not enough time in the day. On the downside it does mean I work long hours and can get a bit over consumed in what I do.  I need to stand back and put perspective on things every now and then. 

Do you ever get a chance to advise, select or suggest ideas of materials, patterns, styles to customers? 

I love fabrics and have developed a wide knowledge of designs, suppliers and trends which allows me to advise my clients. Technology has moved on so much that there are amazing stain resistant fabrics suitable for family life and of course I like to seek out the smaller design companies for something special. 

I can offer advice on colour schemes, practicality of cloth and pattern scale. I particularly like sourcing fabric for clients’ one-off statement chairs in period houses… that can really get the creative juices flowing! Oh, and there’s my own Bulloch Collection of course!!!

Several times a year we have stalls at fairs and markets locally where I sell restored pieces such as the ‘Bliss’ chair.

When you are not upholstering, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

Well, this last year has been an odd one for all of us and I’ve found myself working longer hours than usual. When I do get time away from work I love walking in the countryside – the New Forest and Surrey Hills especially. I’m also desperate to get back to galleries and museums and perusing antique fairs and car boot sales.

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

I’m usually dressed for work… all comfort and practicality! But I’ve really missed dressing up over the last few months. I adore dresses!! It was my birthday the other day and I wore a vintage dress made from a 1940’s housecoat to the pub beer garden for a boozy lunch! Super long earrings and knee-high suede boots and it felt great.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love vintage clothes and regularly trawl vintage and charity shops. During lockdown I found a great British sock maker Pittch. I’m also determined to shop more local and independent where I can. Instagram has been an eye-opener for what’s out there.

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

Always on the lookout for the next perfect dress. I’ve also got several skirts that I’m planning to alter… bespoking my wardrobe!

Boots or Shoes? 

Always, always boots of all varieties (both for work and leisure) and then Fitflops in the summer. Arch support is essential as I’m on my feet most of the day – it’s definitely worth spending on looking after your feet.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Sarah Jane Hemsley Upholstery

More information and insights about Sarah Jane’s work and the Bulloch Collection ….

www.sjhupholstery.com

https://www.facebook.com/sarahjanehemsleyupholstery/

https://www.instagram.com/sarahjanehemsleyupholstery/

Such beautiful work from both yourself and Lyn Bulloch – thank you for sharing your experience with us!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Jane Hemsley Upholstery

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An Interview With Driftwood Designs

Inspired by Wales – its beautiful scenery, language and culture – my guest this week is Lizzie Spikes, artist and illustrator based in Aberystwyth in West Wales. Lizzie founded her company, Driftwood Designs, in 2005, which she runs along with her friend Becky who apparently has a passion for spreadsheets! I caught up with Lizzie to find out more… Hi Lizzie!


Hi! My name is Lizzie Spikes and I’m the arty part of the partnership that runs Driftwood Designs.  I live and work on the West coast of Wales, near Aberystwyth, in a cave-like Welsh cottage with my two sons, our two hounds, two cats and our mildly grumpy goat.

What inspired you to set up “Driftwood Designs” ?

Becky Barratt and I have known each other since school,and we found ourselves as new mothers with complementary skills and the need to make a living around our children.  Driftwood Designs was conceived and created at Becky’s kitchen table with a handful of cards and a couple of poster prints run off for us by the friendly printer up the road.

I am always curious to know the origins of brand names, so why did you choose “Driftwood Designs”? Did you consider other names?

I came up with Driftwood Designs as a company name.  It was my second choice – I had my heart set on Flotsam and Jetsam Designs but it wasn’t available as a domain name and with hindsight would have been a bit of a mouthful.  Driftwood Designs was next on my list and it’s served us well.

You have a lovely wide range of illustrated products including posters, greeting cards, lampshades, cushions, tea towels, mugs and so on. What products and designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

Our cards are still our biggest seller and the pandemic has definitely increased sales as people strive to keep in touch.  Alongside this Becky and I both love the product development aspect of our work and like to dream up new designs and creations – hence the ever-increasing array of designs.  We try to put our imagery onto homewares that are both practical and beautiful.  

I particularly like the Colonnog Hearty design in the velvet cushion and tea towel.  Do you have a particular favourite design? 

I also love the hearty designs and now that we’ve found a British company who can make our textile products as bright and beautiful as we want them to be I would like to make more! Our china mugs bring me joy every day and I love my ‘Seasons’ lampshade.


As you are based in Wales, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

We’re happy to send things overseas and our website is fully stocked with our many products.

What inspires your illustrations? Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

I find lots of things inspiring – nature, the changing seasons, quotes I hear or read, places and people. And I’m lucky that our customers send me ideas and things they think I’ll like.  I always have a working notebook on the go which is full of scrawls of the things I don’t want to forget.


I hear that you like to work with pieces of flotsam and jetsam driftwood that you collect from your walks on your local pebbly beaches. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of artwork you’ve created so far out of driftwood?  Favourite piece?  

I like Driftwood as a canvas – the pieces that wash up have always had a previous use and a history that makes them inspiring.  My favourite piece of driftwood treasure thus far is a wooden guitar that I found on a local beach one rainy April which I turned into a scene.

Have you always wanted to be an artist/illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I have always painted and drawn and it feels wrong to go a day without doing so.  I studied Drama and Fine Art at university – I specialised in sceneography and costume design because it was another way in which to interpret, illustrate and communicate literature.  One day I’d like to revisit set design but for now I’m happy to illustrate things on my kitchen table on a smaller scale!

When you are not illustrating, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

In my spare time I can be found out walking with my hounds and a flask of coffee or in the sea – swimming or trying to master standing up on my surfboard.  I like to be outside in all weathers.  I also like cooking, and eating, and my perfect weekend would be a hike somewhere new with good friends followed by a big meal, a glass of red wine and a warm fire.

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

I love clothes and have frocks in all colours, shapes and sizes but mostly end up wearing paint splattered jeans which are worn on the knees, jumpers and wellies!  On the days when I wash the paint off and head into town for work or meetings I like to wear less practical attire and can even be found in heels.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

My favourite online shops are a local coffee vendor called Teifi Coffee who delivers my favourite brew, an art materials supplier, ebay for new and old dresses and I hate trailing around supermarkets so I try to buy most of my groceries online too.  The boys and I get the occasional Gousto food box delivered – it means that we try different things and the boys are getting adept at cooking by following the instructions so it counts as a home schooling task.  Locally we’re very lucky to have some wonderful independent shops and if you ever venture to Aberystwyth, Medina is definitely worth a visit for food and supplies.

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

I definitely, absolutely need a new pair of Saltwater Sandals.  I had a gold  pair for years and they finally gave up at the end of last summer.

Boots or Shoes? 

I wear boots in winter and sandals in summer… I rarely wear shoes and have never really considered why not- they were a part of school uniform that I was happy to leave behind.

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

We can be found on the web at www.driftwooddesigns.co.uk or on Facebook as Lizziespikes-DriftwoodDesigns and Instagram as @drifteddesigns or in real life we have a shiny new shop on Pier Street in Aberystwyth and in Castle Arcade in Cardiff.  

Absolutely beautiful prints and illustrations, Lizzie, they definitely conjure up the spirit of Wales!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Lizzie Spikes/ Driftwood Designs

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An Interview With gtGDollwear

As a young girl I loved playing with my Barbies and Sindy Dolls – my father made suitcases for a living and had made me a vanity case which I filled with dolls clothes. I was never interested in the bigger baby dolls. Maybe it was the fashions that attracted me, I don’t know. My love of dolls hasn’t faded – and it was with great excitement that I was able to interview the delightful Dasha who, in my eyes has a dream job, as a fashion designer designing luxury doll clothing. Hi Dasha!

Hi, I am Dasha. And I think I have a dream job – I am a fashion designer and a founder of luxury doll clothing brand gtGdollwear – so effectively I spend all my time living my childhood dream – playing with the dolls 😊

What inspired the setting up of your luxury brand “gtGdollwear”?

I have been working in the City for a number of years, but I always felt I was missing something. At some point I started to feel that I needed to find my true calling. It was a long journey….

Through hours of Bible reading, repentance and spending time with God, I knew I would be able to discover my true calling, my talents – my “wells” in the desert of life, which would give me freedom, wealth and independence. 

I was particularly touched by the story of Abraham in Genesis: the wells he dug in the desert were a real blessing for him, but they were filled with earth by Philistines and his son Isaac had to work hard to clear them. This is a perfect analogy with our human life: we are born with talents, but sin made us bury our talents. We are afraid to acknowledge that there is a perfect plan for our life in Jesus. Instead we are giving the devil the ground that belongs to us.

One day I took my seven-year-old son to a birthday party for one of my friend’s daughters. There were Barbie dolls everywhere! The minute I saw a big box of barbies, I realised my prayers were answered as I remembered how much I enjoyed making dresses for dolls.

I’m interested in the origins of brand names – so what does GTG stand for?

Can you guess now? It means Glory to God. I am ever so grateful to Him for saving me!

As a young girl I had many Barbie/Sindy dolls and cases full of dolls clothes and accessories – my love of dolls hasn’t wained , I realised that fact whilst looking at the range of doll clothing on your website.  I love every set in your collection and the miniature bags are just adorable. What sets are most popular amongst your customers?

Thank you! You might be surprised to know that my customers are adult doll collectors. And they love everything! They love to see new things coming in my online store. I recently launched a sleepwear – tiny cute satin and lace pyjamas and nighties, with eye masks and gowns and those were sold out so quickly. I have none left in pink! I guess in lockdown loads of doll collectors are living their life through dolls and pyjamas are a big hit!

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

My favourite is Chanel inspired suit made of boucle fabric which is very challenging to work with as it frays into ribbons when cut. But the finished outfit was fabulous. As a general rule of thumb – the harder it is – the more satisfaction I get from the final result. The details that go into creating my outfits are insane, everything is so miniature!


As you are based in London, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, I am based in South London, but gtGdollwear is an online destination that serves clients worldwide. I love to look at the map to track the geography of my clients – Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Europe. It’s mind blowing to realise that there are so many places I have never visited but my designs made their way to those destinations.

When designing dolls wear  to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional styles, current trends, runway items or bits of all those?

It’s a bit of all those but most of all is what I would wear myself. So, I am not surprise when 90% of my clients keep saying to me: “I’d wear that!”. And of course I am very tuned into my customers feedback, I just want to solve their doll wardrobe dilemmas!

How long on average does it take to make a set from scratch?

It depends on a number of items in the set, but on average about a week as I do like to take my time. In my previous job in the City I used to work to very tight deadlines, so I just feel so blessed being able to set my pace now. My moto is “luxury in every stitch” and I take time to deliver that to my customers.

Do you take on bespoke requests?  If so, what was the most unusual or extravagant request? 

No, you see I am not a seamstress, so I would be unable to work on a request basis. When I design I rarely know what would be the final result, I make decisions along the way – my friends call me “a raw talent” 😀 So my customers are only those who love my creations!

If you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I’d go back to Paris to see my family but this time I would just sit in the café in the street and watch Parisians walking by (preferably without their face masks).

Growing up, did you always want to be a fashion designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I was a little girl, my friends played with their dolls – but I much preferred making clothes for my dolls. However, for some reason I thought that you need to be an artist to be able to draw your designs on paper – a huge misconception! My parents encouraged me to find a career that was more practical. I have two degrees, one Master of Arts but I somehow managed to work in finance for the majority of my career, which was a great experience that helps me with my business now.

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

Ha ha – now when we are restricted by lockdown it is mostly UGG slippers 😊I am a jeans and trainers girl – a comfy pair of skinny GAP jeans and my favourite Armani trainers is all I need to get me out of the house!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!) 

Yeah, I wish someone could make a human size of gtGdollwear

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

Oh, I have accumulated so much that my next thing on the to do list is actually to get rid of some stuff!

Boots or Shoes? 

 Trainers!

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

Instagram and facebook @gtGdollwear

Website: http://www.gtGdollwear.com

Are not the mini fashions simply gorgeous? Thank you Dasha for letting me see a glimpse of your dream job !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of gtGdollwear.

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Say It With Songs

A song can conjure up many memories – good, bad and ugly. Many of us have that “special” song and what can be nicer on your anniversary, birthday, special moment than sending a card to that person who has that song connection with you. Song words convey such a lot but to have that song playable in card form is so nice! I came across Ellie’s website, Say It With Words, and immediately hunted for my wedding song – Aerosmith’s “I Don’t WantTo Miss A Thing” to send to my husband on our anniversary! Alas they didn’t feature that song, but a quick email request and Ellie was able to help and thus the card was born! Another email to Ellie requesting an interview…. Hi Ellie!


Hello! My name is Ellie Fitzgerald. I live in Surrey with my husband Paul of 20 years, our 17 year old daughter & our giant Malamute Cherry

What inspired you to set up “Say It With Songs”?

Last February, I searched for a Valentine’s Day card for my Husband, nothing was hitting the mark. At the same time a song came on the radio in the shop – it was ‘our song’ with the words that meant so much and said everything I wanted to say – I wanted to send him that song ….. it was then the idea was born. Having worked in the music industry for 20 years, music is a great passion of mine, so when I was made redundant when lockdown hit, I decided to jump in and give it a go. Say it with Songs – combines the sentiment of a greeting card with the power of a song.

So, how do you access the music part of the card? L

It’s really simple – on front of every card is an instantly recognisable song lyric eg “ I will always love you” On the reverse of the card is a code – you simply open your smartphone camera and scan the code and then you can choose to stream the full song instantly from either YouTube, Spotify or Amazon Music. You can play it as many times as you like & keep it forever.We all have a song that takes us back to a time, person or moment in seconds….whether it’s a ballad, a dance floor classic, a heavy rock anthem or a pop cheese guilty pleasure …in just a few notes we are literally right back there. Everyone has also heard a song with lyrics that speak to the heart, resonate, help us through, give us strength or – simply – make us smile

You have a lovely variety of cards with a great song range too. What song title cards are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We have over 100 titles, our top five titles are ‘Have I told you Lately’ Van Morrison, ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Cant help falling in love with you’ Elvis Presley, ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ Rick Astley and ‘Girls Just wanna have fun’ Cyndi Lauper.

Have you got a favourite card? What is the story behind your favourite song?

So, the song that started it all for me was ‘By Your Side’ By Sade, it literally says everything I want to say to my husband. His song to me is ‘knocks me off my feet’ by Stevie Wonder, a song we have loved since we met. Both songs are now cards.



As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

 The cards are shipped internationally and we are just starting to distribute in other countries so its growing fast.

Although you have a great song range, do you cater for bespoke cards eg if the special song you wanted doesn’t feature in your range? 

We try too, I get maybe 10/20 suggestions a week from people and those that I feel will be loved by many are added to the new titles schedule – we add maybe 5 new cards every 2 weeks.

10% of your profit goes to the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.  What does the charity do?

Nordoff Robbins provides vital music therapy to enrich the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses, disabilities and feelings of isolation.

Are your cards made from ethically sourced materials?

Of course – building a brand with a sustainable imprint was fundamental. We use FSC approved 350gsm card, its acid free, with a Heavy Metal Absence & made using vegetable based inks. We use recycled envelopes & wrap in 100% biodegradable cellowrap. Proudly designed and made in the UK.

Have you always wanted to have a musical career or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I always wanted to work in music so followed that path from day 1 . I have worked on both the record label side & managed the careers of  artists, but building music brands has always been my passion and where my creativity sits best.

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

Shoes – At the moment in lockdown life- its trainers and wellies, but fab ones – I have some amazing glitter Nike Air Force 1 & also some cool Veja ones that I virtually live in and so new Hunter wellies (for walking my giant dog) that are knee high and have a slight platform.Prior to lockdown, I have some Isabel Marant boots that have a hidden wedge so although they are flat, they make your legs look great, and for going out, my favourite EVER pair of heels are a Stuart Weitzman for Russell and Bromley pair – I wore them with silk PJs this NYE lockdown.Clothing, pre-lockdown, it’s usually a silk midi skirt from Anthropologie and a funky graphic tee as my go-to.Now its Hush trackies and comfy cool sweats as my work wardrobe.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Yes, My go to is hushuk.com and Anthropologie – Literally love everything from these brands.

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

Everything from Anthropologie – in the sale ! Their sales are insane!

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?) 

Right now, it’s actually boots, with working from home and lockdown and walking my huge dog twice a day – The cool new black Hunter boots give me my glam fix (even in a tracksuit) but normally it’s shoes every time.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Say It With Songs

Website www.sayitwithsongs.com

Instagram: @sayitwithsongscards

Facebook: @sayitwithsongs

 Please check us out – and get 15% off with code BOOTSANDSHOES

My thanks to Ellie at Say It With Songs for creating my “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing “ card. The Aerosmith photographs are by Linda Hobden; the other photographs are published with kind permission of Say It With Words.

Linda x

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An Interview With Jungle Culture

On the blog this week is Jungle Culture whose philosophy is to inspire people to see the beauty and purpose in nature. Having spent a few years living in Vietnam, Jamie, co founder of Jungle Culture, is determined to show people the beauty of Vietnam and its beautiful craftsmanship when it comes to making products from bamboo and bowls made from upcycled reclaimed coconuts. I caught up with Jamie to find out more. Hi Jamie!

Jamie (on the left) & co-founder Chris at a bamboo farm in Vietnam


Hi, my name is Jamie and I am a co-founder of Jungle Culture! We work with small farms, craft workshops and ethical factories to produce a range of handicrafts and plastic alternatives that encourage a healthy, waste-free lifestyle.

What inspired the setting up of your company, Jungle Culture?

We were inspired after watching the David Attenborough documentary which highlighted the effects that single-use plastics were having on our oceans. At the time, my business partner Chris was based in Vietnam and saw that local restaurants used bamboo straws. We decided to do our bit and bamboo straws became our first product!

You have a great variety of eco products – bamboo straws, safety razors, coconut bowls, bamboo cutlery.  What are your most popular sellers?

Thanks! All of our products sell really well and people are generally so enthusiastic about swapping to a plastic-free alternative. We started our company life as a straw company and this remains our best-selling product! We currently sell more than a million straws a year and it’s nice to think that each one prevented multiple pieces of plastic from entering the ocean.


Have you got a favourite item from your collection?

I have lots of favourites and I use most of our products on a daily basis, but safety razors are definitely one product that I would recommend to absolutely everyone, with no exceptions. I always hated using disposable razors because of the environmental impact and the cost is quite frankly outrageous…. Prior to starting Jungle Culture I actually learned to use a cut throat razor and it was okay, but occasionally I would cut myself fairly badly. Safety razors don’t really have this problem. They are insanely easy for anyone to use, they last a lifetime and there’s little to no environmental impact. On top of that, at £0.30 a blade (lasts 16 shaves) everyone could be saving a ton of money!

Your bamboo straws and cutlery hail from Northern Vietnam.  What are the benefits of using bamboo?

 In Northern Vietnam bamboo is seen as a weed. It grows so quickly and so plentifully that supply of bamboo in Vietnam far outstrips the demand. Using bamboo to make something useful and waste-free allows farmers in impoverished regions to earn an income and start a business, whilst at the same time it gives consumers a viable alternative to single-use plastics in their homes and while they’re out and about. Just to clarify, there are no pandas in Vietnam, their habitats are unaffected! (We get asked a lot).


As your HQ is  based in the UK, are your products available to purchase internationally?

Yes, absolutely. You can buy from our website and Etsy store from anywhere in the world or if you send us a message, we’ll send you the location of our nearest stockist. 

Your coconut bowls are very user friendly and have been upcycled from reclaimed coconuts.  What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for your bowls?

Do use them as motivation to eat healthier and improve your diet. Do nourish them from time to time with an oil… coconut oil, linseed oil etc. Do keep sending us wonderful pics of your creations on instagram. We’ll throw you a shoutout! Definitely do treat them with love and care. Natural products are a bit more fragile than man-made products and try as we might, we cannot always prevent faults. But if anything happens to any products that you buy from us, send us a message and we’ll replace them free of charge. Don’t microwave, dishwash or refrigerate/freeze. Treat your bowl like the piece of wood that it is…. when wood is exposed to high temperatures, low temperatures or dramatic shifts in temperature it can expand. 

Your coconut bowls have created a stir on social media with your customers posting recipe/foodie ideas using your bowls?  What has been the most unusual recipes/uses that you have come across?

I am always impressed with recipes that are more art than food. It’s incredible how people are able to create a beach scene, jungle or mountain range using blended fruit and seeds.

As a brand, Jungle Culture, is a member of the 1% for the Planet Foundation. What does that membership entail?

It means that for everything that is purchased from our business we give 1% to a charity that aims to replenish the Earth. We are nearing the end of our first year as 1% members and we’re just getting ready to pick our charity for the year, so stay tuned for updates on who we choose!

Although you are based in the UK,  you have spent a couple of years in Vietnam. What 5 must see places would you recommend a tourist visit whilst in Vietnam? Any advice for first time visitors?

Vietnam has become like a second home to us. Over the course of 2 years, we were lucky enough to visit pretty much every region, visit small farms, taste local delicacies and sleep in bamboo houses under the stars! It was awesome! 5 places to visit = The North (by motorbike if possible), Hanoi (for big city life, street food and madness), Ninh Binh (for stunning scenery), Hue (for incredible Vietnamese food), Hoi An (for the only preserved ancient town in Vietnam and our home for 2 years). Advice = Rent a motorbike…. it’s terrifying, but it’s the best way to travel in Vietnam. Go slow and be prepared for people driving the wrong way on highways, cows crossing the roads unattended, people carrying fridges on the backs of bikes and everything in between. 

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

When I am in a cold country like the UK, I normally wear some red/purpley Doc Martens, black Levi’s jeans and my Jungle Culture black hoodie! In hot countries like Vietnam, I have a few good long-lasting pairs of jean shorts and linen shirts with a comfy pair of flip flops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I try to buy from small businesses for every day items because I know what a big impact it has in the owner’s lives. For everyday items I typically buy from a local shop and for fashion items I buy from a select few brands that I know represent quality, long-lasting products. I hate fast fashion and don’t buy anything that lasts less than a few years.

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

I have always wanted to own one of those old style Barbour jackets. They sell second hand ones all the time at the vintage markets in Brick Lane, London. They are quite iconic in the UK and nowadays they are pretty expensive too. I’ll pick one up next winter maybe!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots 100%. I haven’t owned a pair of shoes for 5+ years. I am all about the boot life. I don’t know why though… it’s just me!

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

 www.jungleculture.eco – Our website. Check it out if you want to learn more about how we source ethically, how we give back and how you can join the fight against waste.https://www.instagram.com/jungleculture.eco/ – Connect with us and if our products have helped you, let us know. We read every message and they really do make our day!

Fabulous chatting to you Jamie – your bowls are gorgeous and I am totally bemused by the bamboo razor!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jungle Culture

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An Interview With Foxes & Angels

At this time of year we are all looking for cards …. Valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Congratulations, Happy Birthday or just a note to say, “I’m thinking about you”. It is even lovelier when you come across cards that have been thoughtfully illustrated and Besheer, who runs card company Foxes & Angels alongside Clare, is a very talented illustrator indeed. I caught up with Besheer and Clare to celebrate their first year as “Foxes & Angels” … Hi & welcome!

Hi! We’re Besheer and Clare. We run a fledgling greeting card and gift wrap company called Foxes & Angels that we started back in January 2020. We’re almost at our first anniversary!

What inspired you to set up “Foxes & Angels”?

Besheer: I’ve worked as an illustrator for over 15 years for magazines, national newspapers and book covers before turning to teaching and illustrating for greeting card companies. I realised that if I started a company for myself I could really design my dream cards and work to my own schedule.

I am always curious to know the origins of brand names, so why did you choose “Foxes & Angels”? Did you consider other names?

B: Hmmm… yes  we considered loads of names! Words using orange (one of my favourite colours, paper mill and card foundry, Hullabaloo. My first card collection had a strong theme of Foxes and Angels and so the name was born.

You have a lovely variety of card and gift wrap designs. What card designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We recently held our first ‘virtual’ Christmas Fair and our ‘Christmas Outdoors’ premium card back sold out out in a matter of hours. The cards were inspired by people striving to get outdoors and appreciation for our London parks, more than ever, during this very unusual year we’ve had.

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your cards – Lino prints, drawing and painting.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite card? 

B:I love the process of linocut printing. Cutting the soft lino blocks, rolling the ink and the magic of pulling off your first print after hours of planning and cutting is an absolute pleasure. 

My favourite card at the moment is our Meadow Fox card that came out this summer and did very well. I’ve been obsessed with warm dusty pink colours juxtaposed with greys and whites.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Our products will be available overseas in 2021 and we have been approached by an American distributor which is very exciting. 

What inspires your illustrations? Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

B: I’m inspired by going for walks in nature and I absolutely love mid century art and design, particularly the Grosvenor School of printmakers. I also get inspiration by looking at old children’s illustrated books.

Besheer, being an illustrator, some things must be easier to draw and create than others. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of illustration you’ve created so far?  

B:I was asked to do a book cover illustration a few years ago for a collection of 18th Century Irish poems. It was a large panoramic beach scene. After doing lots of research and drawings I completed the illustration which featured a woman carrying an umbrella on a rainy beach. It was quite a detailed piece. Greeting cards are both easier and harder as you are working with such a small space.

I was asked to digitally erase the umbrella as it turns out that only the very wealthy people in society carried umbrellas until the 19th Century!

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

B: I was always going to be an artist or musician. My parents and grandparents were all one or the other so it’s in the blood! Going to art school just felt like a natural progression from school.

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

B: As it’s mid winter I’m usually wearing old denim jeans and my dad’s old cream Arran double knit collar neck. The jumper is older than me and in better condition than some clothes I bought in the last year!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

B: I love  Adolfo Dominguez for clothes (when I can afford them) and stationery shops like ‘Choosing Keeping’, it’s one of those shops that just looks enticing in the early evening. Clare loves White Stuff, Fatface and charity shops.

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

B: I’m trying to find the perfect hat.

Boots or Shoes?

B: Do Desert boots counts as boots? Definitely boots for me. They’re more cosy.  

Clare: Boots for me too. Besheer bought me a lovely pair last year from Josef Seibel in Covent Garden.

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

www.foxesandangels.com

@foxesandangels

Thanks so much Besheer & Clare for chatting to me! Congratulations on reaching your 1st Foxes & Angels Birthday and although 2020 was the strangest of years, well done in sticking with your dream and I wish you all the best in the future.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Besheer & Clare.

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Create Your Own Calm

2020 has been quite a year, to say the least! All the more reason why my guest’s latest book, “Create Your Own Calm” is creating quite a stir. Author Becky Goddard-Hill has written this book that is simply bursting at the seams with simple, practical ideas and fun activities to stave off boredom and, more importantly, to manage feelings of stress, anger and anxiety. Although it is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, adults would still benefit from Becky’s words of wisdom. I caught up with Becky to find out more… Hi Becky!

Hi! I am Becky Goddard-Hill,  a children’s therapist and a wellbeing author. I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes. I have 2 teenage kids and I live in Nottingham. My background is in  Social Work. My latest book, Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and came out in September 2020.

As a former social worker & child development trainer, what inspired you to write “Create Your Own Calm”  and the other books you have written?  

I strongly believe emotional health and wellbeing to be as important to life as physical health and intellectual pursuits. If not more important. But how often do we actually focus on teaching them the kinds of skills they need to manage their mental health? Rarely. I wanted to give kids a tool kit of coping skills to help them be robust and resilient and I wanted to introduce these in fun and light hearted ways  and that’s the focus and purpose of my books. They each contain loads of activities that teach kids great emotional health skills whilst having fun. 

I admire the fact that you run 6 blogs, all highly ranked within the UK, predominantly focused on family life, emotional well-being & being active/creative. How do you find writing books compared to writing blogposts?

Because my books are activity books I find each activity a big like a blog post to write. I love, love, love that my books are illustrated though and interactive.

What do you like most about blogging?

My blogging community is awesome and my various blogs are diverse and interesting. I  have to do quite a lot of social media to promote my blog – I don’t love that quite so much.

copyright © Linda Hobden

“Create Your Own Calm” is aimed at children aged 7 – 12, and yet looking through the book, I think the tips and activities to create calmness in these stressful times could also help adults. Learning the science behind emotions was especially good. Do you have a “favourite” tip to help when you are particularly stressed?

Yes. My favourite tip is to do something mindful, eg colour a mandala, bake bread, gardening. When you are focused you cannot worry about the past or the future and your brain clears making problems much easier to solve. 

The activities suggested in the book are really fun & quite innovative – such as growing a pizza garden & cloud watching (my favourite). What inspired the thoughtful activities? Any favourites? Any activities that you tried that didn’t quite work out?

Oh, I tried to make a lava lamp to show how people  are like oil and water – that they could coexist even though they could be very different. I ended up with about 20 lava lamp attempts all sitting round my house, none of which had worked!  My favourite activity in my teen book, Be Happy Be You, is that they have to befriend an apple for the day, name it, really get to know it and spend time with it. It’s to show them that whilst you might just think all apples are the same they aren’t at all, they are all individuals and deserving of your time in getting to know them. Appreciating diversity and inclusion are so important to instil.

copyright © LindaHobden

I noticed a lot of reviews for the book (and I am in agreement) commented that the language you used got the point across to young people without talking down to them or being patronising. That is a great skill to have. Is it a lot harder to write a book/ article aimed at a young person?

I don’t think so. My language is never formal when I write and I have teens myself. The publisher has a reader to check the language is just right too.

Your career background has been in the field of social work/child development; was that the career you aspired to have as a youngster or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I want to save the world! I don’t know how to, but that was my grand plan. I’ve since realised that might be a tad ambitious but I do still desperately want to help people and make a difference. 

Being an author of 7 books already, are you a bookworm yourself?  If so, what genre(s) do you usually read?

 I am a huge sucker for a gorgeous romance and I love David Nicholls.

copyright © Adam Hobden


Looking towards the future – have you got other books in the pipeline?

Yes,  Create Your Own Kindness will be published in Feb 2021. It teaches kids to be kind to themselves, other people and, in fact, to the whole world! 

As you are based in England, is “Create Your Own Calm” available overseas?

Yes, on Amazon – pretty much everywhere.

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

Ah, I’m a very comfy dresser. At the moment, it’s oversized cosy jumpers and jeans/joggers with my trusty silver Superga. I also love a pair of dunagrees.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like FatFace and Hush.

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

I am desperate for a cosy coat and some new tall boots as mine are battered!

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. I have about 15 pairs of converse and rather a lot of other lace up pumps too. They are my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about You & “Create Your Own Calm”

 I blog at Emotionally Healthy Kids  and Simple Parenting and my podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids can be found on ITunes.

Create Your Own Calm is published by Harper Collins and is available on Amazon and in all good book shops 

I have also co-written a  happiness boosting book for teens Be Happy Be You which was published earlier this year 

You can find me on Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/beckygoddardhill

Thank you so much for the chat, Becky. I love the idea of befriending an apple! Highly original!

Linda x

The author & book photographs were published with kind permission of Becky Goddard-Hill. Other photographs are by Linda Hobden & Adam Hobden.

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An Interview With Aubrey Bay

I’m talking about candles this week with Amy, founder of the luxury soy candle company Aubrey Bay. Candles are so popular at the moment and I particularly like the modern elegant minimalistic packaging of Aubrey Bay. The fragrances are divine, too. Hi Amy…

Hi, my name’s Amy Crossland and I’m the founder of Aubrey Bay. We make and sell handmade soy candles in the UK.

What inspired you to start your company, Aubrey Bay?

The inspiration for launching Aubrey Bay came from my love of candles. I always have candles burning in my home. I’ve tried many high-end candles from high street brands. Some I found better than others. I was always on the search for a candle that really would perform on all fronts. This led me to try handmade candles by small independent artisans. I remember the first candle I ordered in my quest for the right candle for my home- it did not get delivered and I had to ask for a refund. The second had little, to no scent throw. The third came wrapped in single-use plastic and didn’t burn very well. I then had a light bulb moment. I thought that if I wanted a candle that smelled divine, burned perfectly and was eco-friendly, I should give it a go myself.  And after months of testing, experimenting, learning and many sleepless nights Aubrey Bay was born. It’s this passion for the perfect candle that I infuse in all of our candles.

I’m always interested to know the origins of brand names – so why “Aubrey Bay”?

The origin of the brand name, Aubrey Bay, comes from two distinct sources. Aubrey has roots on my side of the family and is a nod to strong females in my family. Bay, on the other hand, comes from one of our favourite family places in the world – the beautiful Druridge Bay in Northumberland, UK. It’s a place with gorgeous, sandy beaches and rolling dunes. It’s actually the inspiration behind one of our popular scents, Wood Sage & Sea Salt.

To date, what has been the most popular soy wax candle fragrance?

Our most popular candles currently are Lychee Peony and Coconut Lime. The former for the beautiful soft, floral notes of peony and the latter for the punchy, holiday vibes. We specifically designed our range so there’s a fragrance for everybody – no matter what your signature scents are.

What’s your most favourite candle fragrance in your collection?

My favourite candle in the collection changes with the mood I’m in. If I’m looking for a relaxing atmosphere while reading a book, I may go for Black Amber & Lavender because of the relaxing vanilla notes. If it’s a scent to fill a living room or kitchen, then any of our range will work beautifully. Each candle will appeal to different customers and, I guess, that’s an enchanting aspect to individual taste.

When deciding fragrances to add to your soy wax candle collections, do you select by what has proved popular with other candle makers , current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

Our choice of scents is in informed primarily by what we like. If we aren’t willing to burn that particular candle in our home, then it wouldn’t be successful in the selection process. When we conducted our product development, there were many fragrances, from many different suppliers, that didn’t make it through our quality assurance processes. In the end, we chose scents that had that extra bit of quality, excitement and if we have to pay a little more for it that’s fine – our customers tell us so.

What do you like most about using soy wax for your candles? Do you find candle making therapeutic?

We love working with soy wax. It can be a somewhat demanding wax and takes artistry to get the best performance from it. We also believe that the health benefits from melting soy wax over that of paraffin is really important for healthy homes. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum, which is a nonrenewable source that contains carcinogenic substances. These substances may be released into the air while burning. Organic waxes, such as soy wax, are an easy way to avoid risking exposure to such chemicals. This really fits our ethical company values. We don’t skimp on the important things.


As Aubrey Bay is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase worldwide?

Currently, our products are only available for UK buyers. We have a strong demand and we prefer to service our core market as best as we can. In the future, however, we may expand and our companies’ development is always at the forefront of our minds.

Are there any new candle fragrances in the pipeline for 2020/2021?

Yes! We are investigating new ranges of candles to expand our product suite. We are now in the testing stage and once we are satisfied that we have exactly the candles we want then we’ll introduce them into our store. We would also really like to grow into other areas such as organic soaps. We are starting small, but with the support of lovely customers, we have exciting plans. 

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

That’s a great question. Like all girls, I like to go glam, but most of the time you’ll catch me in comfy jeans and a pair of Converse trainers. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

As a huge fan of online shopping, I buy from several retailers both high-street and independent. If I like the piece, then I’m going to go for it.

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

There’s a fabulous online store called Silk Fred and I’ve got my eye on a beautiful willow high neck maxi dress with a frill helm and tie waist. It’s lovely!

Boots or Shoes?

I’ll go for boots. This is because I like the combination of cosiness and really beautiful styles that are available on the market. My boot collection is quite impressive, but there’s always room for improvement.

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Discover Aubrey Bay here:

www.aubreybay.co.uk

Beautiful candles, beautiful fragrances. Organic soaps sound like a nice idea for the future too. And the fact you have a boot collection, Amy, has certainly made a good impression with me! Thanks for the interview 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Aubrey Bay (Amy Crossland)

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An Interview With Enchanted England

Inspired by the glorious English countryside – and who can blame her – my guest this week is illustrator/writer/painter Sarah Keen. All her designs are firmly rooted in the natural world and her prints/artwork are delightful. Being a lover of the English countryside myself, it was a pleasure to welcome Sarah onto the blog…. Hi Sarah!

Hello great to be here. My name is Sarah Keen. I am in my fifties and following a career change, I design prints, fabrics and gifts based on the natural history and folklore of the English countryside.

The Enchanted England range of products is aimed for people like myself who don’t really enjoy shopping in endless malls that all sell essentially the same product. All my designs are rooted firmly in the natural world and beliefs that are associated with them. 

I am inspired by the English countryside. As a child, I grew up in Buckinghamshire and spent much of my childhood roaming the chalk based hills and fields that surrounded my family’s home.

After living in Southampton for many years, in 2004 I moved to a nearby village set in Hampshire’s beautiful countryside and nearby shimmering seascapes. I never really saw things the same way again. 

Hampshire’s chalky, flinty fields and gentle countryside unlocked memories of my childhood growing up in the Chilterns where I had been surrounded by books and artists. The change of scene persuaded me into signing up for an M.A in Creative & Critical Writing with the University of Winchester and this gave me the confidence to write and illustrate.

On completing my M.A I was asked to illustrate a most magical book about the Hampshire Countryside. It was written by a herbalist who walked each day to collect herbs for her treatments. Her charming accounts of her walks became a seasonal diary that contained seasonal recipes and remedies.  Originally published as a blog, it had such encouraging feedback, I developed a range of cards and gifts based on the paintings for her book. The Enchanted England range has grown organically from this project.


What inspired you to set up Enchanted England website?

I needed a website to showcase the range of goods and services available from Enchanted England. In my past life I was an I.T contractor and web contents editor so I was fortunate to be able to draw on that skill set to design the site.

Sarah wearing the Enchanted England Bluebell Dress and holding an Enchanted England porcelain mug.

You have a lovely variety of gifts and your prints are very beautiful indeed. I like the “Garden of Love” satin tie – the print on it is exquisite. What gifts/prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Thank you, Linda, that’s really lovely to hear. Immediately following the lockdown the shop had surge of interest in bird illustrations and cards.  I am not sure if that was connected with the glorious sounds of birdsong that surrounded us at the time, but it was a noticeable spike in demand.  So, my bird cards flew away.

Now, the new range ‘The Garden of Love’ is sparking a lot of interest – particularly for bridal and marriage services. I plan to offer a comprehensive wedding stationary and fabric package for 2021 The Garden of Love design was for my engagement and wedding this summer so it’s very close to my heart. Our wedding was postponed but we hope the new date in September will go ahead!

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your prints – silk, paper, pen, ink, natural textures & watercolours.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite print? 

I am a huge fan of watercolour and waterproof pens on textured paper. I love the way watercolour allows you layer translucent washes. It is also a dangerous medium. If you make a mistake there is very little chance of rescuing your design. You can’t overpaint with watercolour as you can with oil or acrylic.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, they are. The website offers shipping to most of the world and I would be happy to quote to send any item overseas.

Sarah, wearing an Enchanted England face mask

Living in rural Hampshire, you must have come across some interesting finds whilst beachcombing and countryside walking that have inspired your illustrations. Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

It’s been inspiring to live in this part of Hampshire, as there are so many walks and beaches to explore. Recently I visited a holy well on a local estate in a near village. This would have been passed by St Wilfred as he walked through the Meon Valley hoping to convert the pagans. This was one of the last areas to convert to Christianity. I find landscapes linked to religion and practice inspiring and spark my imagination.  I take photos and notes while walking. Then I use them for a starting point in my studio. 

Being an illustrator, some things must be easier to draw and create than others. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of illustration you’ve created so far?  

I could always draw animals and I love to use them in my illustrations. Recently I completed a set of illustrations based on the writing of Alice Gillington. She wrote about the lives of the Gypsies who lived and worked in the New Forest in the early 20 century.  I created some sunsets and technically these were very difficult but made spectacular backdrops for the gypsy caravans.

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I have always painted and drawn animals but I never thought to become an illustrator. In the 1980s when I graduated I would have chosen to go into publishing. It was a time of high graduate unemployment however, so in the end I found work as an IT contractor, setting up networks, getting involved in the fledgling internet and website content and design. It gave me the technical skills to publish books and understand how to format photos and illustrations with software such as Adobe and Gimp, so I don’t regret my years with the INTEL chip but wouldn’t want to return to it.

Apart from illustrating, you have had some books published. Can you tell us about them? 

I have worked on three books and always looking to work with authors. The first book that was the inspiration to Enchanted England was ‘Blessed Be – an illustrated walk through a year in the English Countryside’ This is a beautiful and gentle book. It is packed full of recipes and remedies for each month of the year. I also designed the front cover for the ‘Hare and the Sword,’ an amazing autobiography of a white witch who lives in the New Forest. Finally, I illustrated the biography of Alice Gillington who wrote about the wildlife and people of the New Forest.  I am currently working on two new book projects.

When you are not illustrating or writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I enjoy walking, cycling and gardening and spending time with my friends and family.

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

I love vintage clothing and am always on the lookout for dresses in various second hand shops near me. I enjoy wearing dresses and not often found in leggings or jeans unless decorating or working in the garden.  I love quirky, colourful shoes that make me smile.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Yes! I have two vintage high street shops – one is Labels in Bishops Waltham and the other is The Clothes Line in Winchester. They are not currently open alas – so I also keep an eye on the Vestiaireapp that sells ‘preloved fashion items’ and the online shop, Wolf and Badger who support independent and ethical brands across the world. For amazing shoes as art, I enjoy looking at Freya Rose designs in Southsea,

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

Well as my summer wedding was postponed I need a warmer wrap or bolero jacket for September and change from shoes to boots. So looking for a pair of slightly 18th Century style pair of boots, festooned with ribbons!

Boots or Shoes?

I love boots and often can be found in London Fly footwear as they make me feel confident, stylish and that I can walk miles in them.

For pinning later. © Linda Hobden

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

Please visit facebook.com/enchantedengland or email Enchanted England and sign up for a newsletter. It would be great to see you in Enchanted England.

Thank you Sarah – I wish you all the best with your forthcoming wedding ❤️ I think Victorian style gothic boots would look gorgeous!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Keen of Enchanted England; apart from the Pinterest photo and the header photo of trees which was taken by myself. Header pic was taken in Thetford Forest, Norfolk & Pinterest photo was taken in Holland-on-Sea, Essex.

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