Category Archives: Arts & Crafts

An Interview With St James Whitting

This week my blog is heading down under to chat to Australian interior design company, St James Whitting.  In the Southern Hemisphere, spring has descended and there is no better time to revamp and redecorate. Not to be left out, the Northern Hemisphere’s Autumn/Fall season is a great excuse to check out the fabulous rugs and cosy interior ideas. And the artwork is fab too! Welcome…

Catherine on the left; Kate on the right

Who are “St James Whitting”?

Kate St James FDIA and Catherine Whitting AssDIA, are two designers passionate about creating eco-friendly, sustainable interiors and products that are healthy for people and the planet.
London born Kate is the founding editor-in-chief of Grand Designs Australia magazine, Home Design and several additional magazines, a role she held for 16 years before co-founding St James Whitting.  Prior to her editorial role, Kate ran an interior design practice for more than 15 years in Brisbane and Sydney. 
Along with co-founding St James Whitting, Sydney-based Catherine also lectures interior design at The Design Centre, Enmore, Sydney’s pre-eminent college for interior design studies.  Catherine also ran her business Décor Instyle prior to co-founding SJW. The company creates interiors for residential and commercial projects. It also has a range of homewares called The Elementals Collection which includes five designs for Designer Rugs Australia; 147 paint colours across 21 palettes coloured by Resene paints and seven designs for fabrics with Hemp Gallery Australia and a range of products for social enterprise company, Vida.  There is also a fine art collection of limited edition Giclee prints, represented by The Curious Art Bar.

What was it about interior designing that made you want to pursue interior design as a career? What was the motive behind setting up St James Whitting?

Interior design allows us to indulge our creative sides, but it is also a practical skill.  Creating beautiful, well-designed spaces for people to live and work in is an exciting opportunity. We both understand how spaces affect the way people live and work, and how architecture and design can influence our lives in a positive way; and we love finding solutions to problems,and making people happy! St James Whitting came about after we met at an industry function and spent many hours talking about our passion for eco-friendly design and how we would love to design an eco-resort. While the resort is yet to be realised, we have created many beautiful residential and commercial interiors and look forward to continuing to change people’s lives through great design.

Inked Up pure wool rug by St James Whitting for Designer Rugs shown with the Inked Up Palette from the paint range

I love the custom designed rugs that you do. To date, what has been your most popular art work or item?

The most popular rug in the range has to be Alcatraz, although all designs have been well received in the marketplace.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Our favourite piece in the rug collection is Inked Up.  We lovethe swirling pattern and the way in which the design suits both classic and contemporary styles.

When it comes to interior design, I do like pale clean walls (currently favouring pale silver grey and aqua shades of blue) with brightly coloured accessories.  What colours/styles do you tend to favour?

There are no specific colours or schemes we use as each new project comes with its own brief and we use colours that provide the best outcomes. For us colour is under, or poorly used in many situations and it is our mission to bring a greater understanding and use of colour to our projects. We created our own range of paints with Resene paints this year.  There are 147 colours in the range and we love them all!

Walls painted Teal Terrain from the SJW Elementals Collection coloured by Resene. Quilted bed topper in Ripples designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia; cushions designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia including Wildflowers, Ripples, Kindling Sticks and Firespike.

Kate, you’ve written 3 e-books on sustainable design & interiors; Ian is a passionate advocate for sustainability and the creation of low impact, sustainable urban communities. What ideas could a person incorporate when designing their home to make it adequately sustainable?

My top tips for creating a more sustainable home are:

  • Use passive-solar design principles when creating a new home design or renovation
  • Insulate – floors, walls and ceilings
  • Use double glazing to thermally control temperatures
  • Use zero VOC paints, glues and grouts, board and materials for a healthier interior environment
  • Select furniture and furnishings that do not contain or are manufactured with toxic materials
  • Provide good ventilation
  • Use as many natural materials as possible including FSC timber, hemp fabrics, eco paints, pure wool carpets and textiles, linen bedding and products with a clear provenance and chain of custody.

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being interior designers or did you have other career plans?

Kate: In my teens  I studied classical music and wanted to be an opera singer. However, a move to Australia halted those aspirations. I pursued a career in journalism in the early 1970s but after meeting husband to be, Ian who was studying architecture, I turned my sights to interior design.

Catherine: I studied art and painting; my  lifelong passion.  After teaching art, I moved into design and now I teach interior design when not designing for clients.

Nantucket Sunrise I & II by Kate St James and Catherine Whitting. Limited Edition fine art giclee prints of original mixed media

As St James Whitting is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

The rugs, fabrics and artworks can be shipped worldwide. We do not yet have any overseas stockists, but we’re working on that!

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new interior design collection or artwork collection, where would you go and why?

Catherine and I have been talking about Avignon of late, and we are also planning a trip to Italy next year. Both places would provide lots of inspiration.  But there’s nothing like the Australian landscape with its diversity of flora, fauna and topography, not to mention light and colour, to provide inspiration for our designs.

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

Kate: We both have a penchant for natural fibres including hemp and linen.  I love red and Catherine loves shades of green. My shoes  are flat and heels for Catherine.  We both wear black and love to dress this up with scarves from our collection with Vida, and jewellery by MisSMash.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

We both try to shop locally, in small boutiques where quality fabrics and local designers are represented. We rarely buy clothes online.

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

Kate: With summer on the horizon, more linen and casual pieces in soft colours and neutrals.  I love espadrilles as I live near the beach.  Catherine: I love hats – so perhaps one or two summer ones may find their way into my wardrobe. We are both very conscious of not buying too many clothes and prefer to buy quality over quantity and recycle them wherever possible or give them to charities.

 Boots or Shoes? 

Kate: Boots in winter, shoes and sandals in summer, for practical reasons.  I like tailored styles.

Catherine: I have a penchant for Victoriana; with laces!

For Pinning Later.
Elementals Collection coloured by Resene colour chart

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebooketc so that readers can find out more about St James Whitting

www.stjameswhitting.com

www.facebook.com/stjameswhitting

www.facebook.com/stjameswhittingart

www.instagram.com/stjameswhitting

Thank you for chatting to me ladies and I do so love your artwork and vision! I share Catherine’s love of Victoriana lace up boots too! Something very elegant about those boots… 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate & Catherine (St James Whitting).

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A Visit To The Orla Kiely Exhibition

Earlier this week, fellow blogger Carol Cassara and I met up in Bermondsey, London to visit, among other things, the current Orla Kiely exhibition “A Life In Pattern” being held at the Fashion & Textile Museum.

The Fashion & Textile Museum was founded in 2003 by the zany, iconic British designer Zandra Rhodes – who happens to be one of my favourite designers ever! I was very tempted to knock on her studio door just a few yards away – perhaps another day as this particular day Dublin -born designer Orla Kiely was the focus of my attention.

Orla Kiely’s career really started when she was commissioned by Harrods to design wool felted hats – but she very quickly expanded into bags.  And what lovely bags! As soon as Carol & I entered into the museum foyer, there was on display of the most gorgeous private collection of big, bold Orla Kiely bags. I loved them all. Carol headed straight to the gift shop to purchase a bag or two… disappointingly for her, no bags were available to purchase at the shop.  As Orla Kiely products are available in over 33 countries, we quickly googled & found an outlet to ensure we get our “bag fix” another day! 

Orla Kiely’s textile patterns are very distinctive – she is recognised globally as the designer of the iconic “stem” pattern…as well as various flower designs.  Not only are the patterns replicated onto bags but on a range of other items including scarves, shoes, pumps, flower pots, notebooks, and even a birdhouse ( which Carol took a liking to).  

Orla shares my love of the colour green – she uses every shade of green known to man (!) from moss green to seaweed.  The colours she uses reflect her Irish background – the greys, browns, and mustard yellow represent the Irish skies, the rolling hills and the gorse & wild flowers of the roadside verges. I did wonder about the splashes of orange, though. I then read in the book that accompanies the exhibition, that her colour preferences were also influenced by her family kitchen that had olive green worktops and  units …and a vivid orange shiny ceiling. Mmm… not creating a delightful picture to me but I can understand where the orange colour fits in! I wonder if she had an avocado green bath too?!

 

The main room of the exhibition that really stood out was the “Alice In Wonderland” room. Hanging from the ceiling were enormous dresses and coats, made of fabric. Along the walls were dolls wearing the same outfits but miniature versions of them.  Really well thought out and fascinating.  The outfits themselves were very much of the late 1960s/early 1970s era – very Mary Quant – I remember my mum wearing similar styled dresses when I was very young.  Carol & I both preferred the colourful trench coat – the  colours & pattern were eye catching – great to wear over a black polo neck top,  black drainpipe jeans and black knee high boots! 

The museum had a cafe (delicious cappuccino) and a small gift shop  which sold lots of knick-knacks (sadly no Orla Kiely bags) – but they did have a superb collection of fashion coffee books  including the book published to accompany this  exhibition – “A Life In Pattern” by Orla Kiely, published by Conran Octopus Publishing.

The Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey was a little gem. The museum receives no public funding – it holds exhibitions such as this one, and hosts some fabulous workshops instead. The museum was founded by Zandra Rhodes, but is owned by Newham College London (one of Europe’s largest further education colleges).  It is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to showcasing developments in contemporary fashion. It also provides inspiration, support and training to those working in the industry.  Lying south of the River Thames, close to the Shard and between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, it is definitely worth checking out next time you are in London.

The Orla Kiely exhibition runs until 23 September 2018. The Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday from 11am.  The next exhibition will be “Night And Day: 1930s Fashion And Photographs” from 12 October 2018 – 20 January 2019. 

For more details check out the website: www.ftmlondon.org

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

 

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An Interview With Questlog

When I was younger, I used to collect pamphlets, tickets, postcards and all other paraphernalia, along with photographs, to stick in a photo album/scrapbook – memories of a holiday.  Nowadays, the urge to collect memories is still there … but the time to lovingly make up a photo album is not.  That is why I’m thrilled to welcome onto my blog, Frederic… he makes innovative storage memory boxes to keep your travel trip memorabilia in one place and they look more stylish than a row of photo albums taking up space in the loft! Hi Frederic!…

Hi, I’m Frederic,  I’m 29 and originally from the beautiful Black Forest in southwest Germany, where I am also producing the Questlogs. Some days of the week however, I live, study and work in Munich where I also got my business degree.

What exactly is a Questlog?

Functionally speaking, Questlogs are storage boxes for keepsakes collected while travelling. All those tickets, bottlecaps, leaflets, seashells and other souvenirs can find a place in a Questlog. However, on another level, Questlogs are instruments for preserving, enriching and sharing intercultural travel experience. They direct attention on the connection of geography, culture, experience as well as their anchors and manifestationsin the physical world.

What inspired you to start your company, Questlog?

Before I went to Taiwan for an exchange semester in 2013, I was looking for a good gift to bring that had some connection to Germany. Unfortunately, most stuff I could find were products that represented shallow stereotypes or were plain ugly souvenirs. Speaking of, many times when I came back from a trip and wanted to bring some gifts for friends, family and myself, I was staggered by the amounts of plasticky-miniature-landmark-keychain-scrap on display in tourist locations and airports. At the same time, I realized that “the best” souvenirs by definition were all those small items like tickets, bottlecaps etc. and that there was a lack of some attractive way to present them.  Combine those thoughts with the observation that people (me included) seemed to like collecting Starbucks cups, Hard-Rock Café shirts and similar universally designed object with local variations and voilà the basic idea for Questlog was born.

What is the Questlog made of?

Questlogs are laser cut from FSC certified Finnish birch plywood. Sanding, gluing, treatment with linseed oil and final touches are all done by hand.

When you buy a Questlog what do you get in the package?

Each Questlog comes with a small notebook that features some background texts on traveling, collecting souvenirs and reflecting on travel experience. Also included is a nail for hanging the Questlog on a wall and some information about the campaign we are doing in cooperation with Experiment e.V. to foster intercultural exchange of students.

What sort of “keepsakes” can you keep in a Questlog? Have you heard of any unusual items collected?

Questlogs are big enough for common formats of city maps and flyers. You can put printouts of pictures, handwritten notes, postcards, leftover cash or basically anything that would go in a photo album into your Questlog. On top of that, they provide that extra bit of space, which allows you to put more three-dimensional objects inside.  The most unusual collection I have heard of so far was from an old man at a market I went to. With gleaming eyes, he held a Questlog of Bavaria and said this would be the perfect box for collecting live beetles because they would get enough air in it.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

I definitively spent many hours looking at maps and spinning globes, amazed about the size of it all compared to the tininess of the area that I had set foot on and seen with my own eyes. I remember virtually “flying” from city to city on google maps when it was first released. My dad travelled a lot for business and would always bring back seemingly mundane things like chewing gum and I was fascinated by the differences even in those everyday objects.

What was the first country you visited?

Growing up just ten minutes from the border to France and Switzerland, one of those was probably the first country I went to. The first long distance trip I have somewhat of memories of was to the US in 1995 when I was 7. My parents made amazing photo albums from our trips, which are some of the most precious items to me.  

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Taiwan is for sure one of my favorite places, maybe because I was able to spend almost a year in Taipei as an exchange student. The country has a unique mix of bustling cities, beautiful nature and an extraordinary mix of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous culture. People are extremely friendly, and the food is beyond description. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t been there to go and bring plenty of appetite.

What place is your least favourite and why?

In every place there are some areas and aspects I find more likeable than others, but so far, I haven’t been anywhere that I wouldn’t love to return to and spend more time at. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time to do the exploration in every place that it deserves.

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

The biggest surprise was probably also Taiwan. Biased by the “Made in Taiwan” image of cheaply produced electronics, I had put it in a bucket with China, Vietnam and the like. When I arrived at the airport, I expected busy street merchants and taxi drivers trying to rip off tourists. I was instantly blown away by the friendliness, discipline and modernity of the country and people.

What place are you looking forward to visiting the most & cross it off your bucket list?

The UK is definitively in my top five. I have been to London twice and next time I really want to see and explore the countryside and other cities that are laced with monuments of the country’s rich history and epic myths that were some of the first stories I heard as a kid.

As Questlog is based in Germany, are your products available to order worldwide?

Questlogs are shipped to all European countries and also worldwide although the shipping gets quite expensive. However, I am planning to set up manufacturing in other big markets in order to reduce shipping distances.

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

I wish I had some fancy answer to this question, but truth is that I have never been the most fashionable person and usually resort to jeans, sneakers and whatever the weather dictates to keep my torso at working temperature.

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

A comfy pair of shoes is the obvious essential but beyond that I have learned to love the benefits of light fabric shorts. And by shorts I mean shorts of a length I would probably not wear in Germany. Especially in humid climates I now feel miserable without them. An accessory I have learned to appreciate is a small foldable extra backpack for short overnight trips out of a major city, so I don’t need to carry my entire gear with me.

Boots or Shoes?

I vouch for shoes because they are just the lighter option but maybe that’s just my practicality and lack of sense for fashion.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog find out more about Questlog.

www.questlog.eu – For information and the shop.

https://www.instagram.com/qulog/ – For pictures of how Questlogs are made and used

Fabulous Frederic – thank you for joining me on my blog!  I am honoured that the British countryside is on your travel bucket list.  I think it is beautiful – but then, I am biased!  I was enthralled by the Black Forest & Lake Titisee when I visited a few years ago – the stories by the Brothers Grimm really came to life 🙂 Travel memories are so precious – and I think your Questlogs really help preserve them.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Frederic (Questlog)

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An Interview With Artist Ben Riley

Over the years I have interviewed people who have made bags out of old books, old vinyl records …. and I have interviewed musicians, music producers…. and I have interviewed sculptors, painters, doodlers…. AND this week it gives me great pleasure to interview somebody that is a combination of all 3.  A bit cryptic I know, but my guest is the accomplished British artist Ben Riley, whose art features icons of music throughout the ages using the medium of broken and ground down pieces of vinyl records on canvas.  Intrigued?  Hi Ben & welcome…

Hi, I’m international artist, Ben Riley.

What inspired you to specialise in artwork out of broken & ground down pieces of vinyl on canvas? Why vinyl?

It is easy to fade into the background and do what everyone else is doing. I believe as an artist, you should strive to create your own methods, styles and diversity. I have a huge love of music and art so I bridge the two. The idea behind my work is creating portraits of music icons of the past and present using the music itself, eliminating the use of conventional mediums such as paint, pencils and charcoals, thus creating my own method.

Your pictures feature icons of music throughout the ages – do you have a favourite?

My favourite icon that I have created is Jimi Hendrix as his music and fashion style was very unique and unconventional like my work. I feel that it’s the perfect match.

Do you have any other favourite artwork mediums?

I love pencil and pen studies, particularly shading between light and dark. That’s what I also like most about my work, creating complete darkness, extreme highlights and all the gradients in between, it’s very dramatic.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an artist or did you have other aspirations?

At one point I wanted to be a photographer, I have had a few different career paths, I can’t quite remember many of them :/ I think I was put here to create art, it’s not by any means an easy or stable career, but it’s the path that I’ve been put on by fate.

As your artwork features music icons, I gather you are a big music fan yourself. What genre do you enjoy? Any favourites?

Yes, I’m also a singer/songwriter. I have a big love for bands from the 60’s including The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience to The Rolling Stones, and more recent artists including Amy Winehouse, I believe that she was ‘the’ icon of this generation.

Your artwork is full of detail & expression? Do you work from photos, sketches or from sitting studio sessions?

I start by doing a sketch, roughly get it drawn on the canvas then start building it up with large pieces of broken records, then I work on the details from dark to light. As I work with them flat on a table, it’s not until it’s finished that I get the chance to step back and look at the piece.

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 artwork do you find hardest to recreate?

I’d say landscapes, they just aren’t my thing.

Your work has been exhibited throughout the world – have you got a favourite venue or exhibition?

I love exhibiting in London, it’s one of my favourite cities. Some of my favourite shows have been in the US, I particularly like LA.

Although you are based in Staffordshire, do accept commissions worldwide?

Yes, I think it’s important not to be restricted to the UK.

What music icon pictures will you be working on in 2018?

I mainly work on a commission basis, so it’s whoever comes in I guess..

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

I love vintage clothes, they are generally better made, more individual and your less likely to pass someone on the street with the same thing. Shoes, I like brogues, and Chelsea Boots. Also love vintage hats!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

eBay is pretty good, if you have an idea what your after, you can find some hidden gems on there.

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

No idea.. Erm a nice pair of jeans maybe..

Boots or Shoes?

Ankle boots, I don’t know why, I just prefer them, maybe just less formal.

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.

www.benrileyart.com
www.facebook.com/benrileyart
Insta @benrileyart

I love all your artwork Ben, but I think my favourite out of the photos I’ve published is the one of Mick Jagger – I love the facial expression and how you’ve captured it to a T.  Dear readers, What do you think of this art medium? Which of Ben’s artwork do you like best & why?  Do share your views!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Ben Riley. Photographer: Ben Riley.

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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 and  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.

For pinning later

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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