Category Archives: Interview

Introducing Alphabetville

I’m pleased to introduce onto my blog this week illustrator Mary-Louise Hussey.  I have followed Mary on Twitter for a while now – her little creature drawings that make up Alphabetville, remind me of illustrations that used to be in my fairytale books as a child.  Her illustrations and the animal characters are delightful –  such a lovely way to introduce ABC.  I caught up with Mary-Louise recently to talk about her illustrations, Alphabetville and  life in the 1970s! Hi Mary-Louise!

Hello, my name is Mary-Louise Hussey and I was brought up in West Sussex in the UK.  I had an unusual childhood living in the wing of a grand old Victorian mansion, a preparatory school for boys.  I don’t remember being lonely, but looking back it was an insular existence to begin with spending long days in the nursery, or playing in the garden under the Old Lime Tree with imaginary friends, mostly of the wildlife kind.

When I left school I was sent off to various ‘courses for young ladies’ in London preparing me for life! One of these was Lucy Clayton modelling school, which taught me how to glide down a ‘cat walk’, and though tall and lanky apparently ‘my neck was too short for modelling’, something I am still self conscious about! Luckily this led me to look down other avenues.  Working in a glamorous fashion shop in Knightsbridge, the ‘heart of smart’ in London, gave me a lust for the latest fashions.  Mary Quant, Biba, miniskirts, hot pants, buckets of makeup and Beatles music were all the rage.  Inspired by this experience and with a small legacy from my grandmother I opened ‘Sheba’, my clothes ‘Boutique’ and fashion mecca in a charming little country village.  The 1970s were dizzy days and my confidence blossomed.

Later married and with two young daughters, we moved away to rural Herefordshire. Glorious countryside and friendly people, I took up painting once again.  With an urge to set up another business I fell into my new career.  Sheba Designs, a mail order catalogue selling ‘Personalised Gifts for Children’, most notably ‘Illustrated Name Pictures’.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Animals at Work’ who live in Alphabetville?

I’m so glad you asked me this as the memories are still quite deep. You remember the Old Lime Tree I was telling you about in our garden – I loved that tree?  Sadly in 1987 there was a hurricane which ravaged the countryside in the South of England.  We went down from Herefordshire to my old home, and I wept when I saw my Old Lime Tree had been whipped up and flung down, broken. Right then and there I determined that the memory of this beautiful old lime tree and the happy times spent under it with my imaginary friends should not be lost. On returning home I immediately set about designing my little animal alphabet ‘Animals at Work’ who now live in Alphabetville.  The design was a huge success in my business and when a Japanese wholesaler asked me at my trade stand at an exhibition if I had written stories around the characters, I crossed all fingers and said ‘YES’.  At home I feverishly created characters for my little animals and gave them the village of Alphabetville to make their home.  And that is where they are to this day making children everywhere happy.

You have written and illustrated 2 children’s picture books based on the antics of the animals of Alphabetville.  Can you describe Alphabetville in a nutshell and how the books can help young children in mastering their alphabet?

I love this question, but how to fit Alphabetville into a nutshell, and how to crack it without shattering the illusion? I’ll do my best.

The village is down in a little dell….not far from you actually!  Tarquin and Tarqueena the slightly eccentric Royals who live in ‘The Royal Oak Palace,’ leave all the essential running of the busy village to ‘The Animals at Work’.  From the School, the thriving Gift Factory and the Railway Station and Farm, to the Corner Shop and Church all is run fairly smoothly.  It’s not always a tight ship, but it’s fairly average really except that it is run by ANIMALS. Oh and did I say that they get into quite a pickle sometimes, well who doesn’t?

Our plan is at this early stage of learning the alphabet, for The ‘Animals at Work’ to become your children’s best friends – simple.  You see each animal’s name cleverly starts with a different letter of the alphabet. Ie.  Albert Mole head teacher of the village school, Boris Bear the chef who loves hot and spicy food,  Clarrie the caring nurse,  ‘Dodge’ Dougal the village policeman etc. So while the child becomes familiar with the characters and their names they soon begin to recognise the accompanying letters…. Here is the first tentative and enjoyable step towards learning their ABC.

I love the Alphabetville animals – my favourite is Gloria Gussey – a stunning lizard who is a super model with brains who hopes to become a doctor!  Have you got a fondness for any particular character?

I just have to say Emmie the talented faMouse artist or she would clobber me – because she is ME and my alto ego.  One major difference being that she has 12 little ‘mouselings’…. and I don’t!  I blame Emmie (Emeraldine) for the painting of all the pictures in my books, which sort of lets me off the hook a bit. Furthermore In a corridor in the Alphabetville village school you can find ‘Rogues Gallery’ where Emmie’s portraits of each of the pupils hang on their leaving.  She is now proud to have over 10,000 followers on her Twitter account. Have a peek @AnimalsatWork

When did you start designing and hand painting illustrated name pictures?

Both my daughters had started school and I took up painting again in earnest.  But one day trying something new, I illustrated a name picture with wildflowers for my goddaughter Amanda. It seemed to be a hit with those who saw it and I capitalised on that by taking a few orders from friends, then from coffee mornings, charity fairs, school functions and so on until I brought out my Mail Order catalogue and started advertising and even ventured into the wholesale market.

I can tell you are an animal lover – but are you scared or wary of any particular animal in real life? (I’m wary of cows and ants)

Yes, I love animals but I have to admit to being nervous of horses.  I was ‘plonked’ on a pony at the age of about 7 years and told to hold on tight.  The novice teacher led four of us off across a field at a trot.  Soon out of control I tumbled off and was promptly ‘plonked’ on again, whereupon the pony took off back to the stables with me hanging on for dear life. I love them but I have never trusted a horse since.

Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with art or were your dreams directed elsewhere?

I rather fancied myself as a pop star when I was in my teens.  I used to strum along on my guitar with friends and we spent hours recording ourselves on a big old fashioned recording machine, we were pretty awful but had lots of fun. I will soon be recording the songs I have composed for The Animals at Work.

Where do you prefer to read – in bed, in a comfy chair, in a library surrounded by books or elsewhere?  Do you prefer hardback, paperback or Kindle? Favourite genre?

In a deckchair in the garden with the sound of birds singing in the trees, however that’s nearly impossible unless on holiday.  So as my husband goes to bed before me I crawl in to my side of the bed with my Kindle under the bedclothes and read till my eyes close. One of my historical novels will keep me awake like this for a short time but I usually find the Kindle still there when I wake up early the next morning.

Where can people purchase your Illustrated Name Pictures and books?  Is there worldwide availability?

Both through my website www.alphabetville.net                                                                                                                              The books and (eBook to come) –  self publishing at  https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/862c                                                                                                   Twitter @AnimalsatWork                                                                                              Facebook  –  Alphabetville

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

With long legs but rather thick ankles I normally wear trousers to flatter/hide my shape.  Colour is my thing, so my tops are many and varied.  Well cut shirts for style in linen or cotton, or silk skimming the hips, printed over tops, often with a matching scarf. Casual but neat flat shoes mainly or boots in the winter.  I’d be more wacky if I could find fun clothes for my age group.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

That’s a bit difficult really because I pick up clothes wherever I find them.  I used to be very fussy having had my own shop in days gone by, but now I seem to find clothes are all too classical for me and not adventurous enough.  It’s not fun anymore and after shopping in shops or online I seem to end up with the same dull old things.

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

I am now a blond haired person in a previously dark haired person’s clothing!  So I need to reassess my wardrobe completely really and go for subtle colours and soft flowing materials with drapes to hide unwanted lumps and bumps.  Flattering warm brown and light caramel colours with splashes of burnt coral. Short donkey brown boots and a large cashmere shawl to dashingly fling round your neck.  That doesn’t sound at all like ‘old me’, but then I’m not the ‘old me’ any more.

Boots or Shoes?

A good pair of stylish boots… or two, will take you anywhere and hide the thick ankles.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc. so that readers can find out more about you and the Animals at Work in Alphabetville.

Website: www.alphabetville.net

Facebook: Alphabetville

Twitter: @AnimalsatWork

Books:  1.  Animals at Work in Alphabetville,  2. Albert’s Birthday Surprise

Ahh…the hurricane of 1987..I remember it well as I had moved to my first house away from my parents who lived in London, to a small village in coastal Essex that very day the hurricane struck. We had a tree hang precariously over the bungalow but it was safely removed and thankfully, no other lasting damage! Sorry to hear of the demise of the Old Lime Tree, though.

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us about your beautiful illustrations and  Alphabetville – it has been a real treat! 🙂

Linda x

All illustrations/photos have been published with the very kind permission of Mary-Louise Hussey

 

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Max Lemari

Using the finest Italian leather, Italian shoe makers Max Lemari, have added to their collection of the classic Italian male staple shoe, the driving moccasin,  and are now offering customised driving loafers.   These shoes are extremely stylish  – all hand constructed, hand stitched and hand painted.  I was lucky enough to interview the brand CEO Max Guidi about his brand, his obsession with shoes and to ask, if there was going to be a female version of the driving loafer …. Hi Max!

Hello. My name is Max Guidi. I’m CEO of Max Lemari. I’ve been working all my life in the fashion industry.  I was chief product and development officer for Gucci, Armani, Burberry, Dior and collaborated with many more high-end brands. Max Lemari is the union of two names: Max is mine and Donato Lovito Lemari is the artisan responsible for the shoes’ manufacture.

What made your company decide to concentrate on driving loafers?

Because it’s the shoe category that exalt our expertise. Lemari has been manufacturing loafers for over 40 years for some of the most expensive brands in the world. When we handcraft loafers, we are sure that we have the best quality on earth.

In your latest collection, I like the look of the Capri in yellow & blue  What styles and colours are most popular amongst your customers?

During last summer our best seller was the Ischia Taupe & Yellow

https://maxlemari.com/product/ischia-taupe-yellow/

Have you got a favourite style & colour from your collection?

Yes, I love the exclusive silk calf leather and I wear the Salina Mucchina

https://maxlemari.com/product/salina-mucchina/

How can a customer get his loafers customised?

From our website product pages, you can automatically put your initials in our drivers and we will engrave it for you. If you want a total customization, a special number or something else, you can contact us and we will do our best to make it happen.

https://maxlemari.com/contact-us/

Hypothetically speaking, which famous male, dead or alive, would you love to see as the “ambassador” for Max Lemari?

Giorgio Armani – I’ve been working with him and I remember that he was always very elegant yet casual. I think he would have loved our mocs.

Growing up, have you always been obsessed with shoes and been interested in a shoemaking/ designing career?

Actually, my first dream was to be a pilot. Maybe that’s another reason why we are making drivers 😀

At the moment you are only manufacturing driving loafers for men. Have you got plans in the future to design similar footwear for women?

Yes, we want to launch a women driver as well. We are already developing the first prototypes, but for now we’re keeping them secret.

You are based in Italy – are your shoes available to order overseas?

Yes, we want to be global. Customers will have to wait a couple more days for the shoes to arrive, but we are doing our best to ship everywhere.

 

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

During the week I usually wear high end sneakers. They are really comfortable.

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

I like Hermes very much.

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

It’s the Dior jacket with the bee sewn on the heart.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes. Italian weather is not so cold and I’m happy wearing shoes all year long.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Max Lemari and your range of driving loafers for men.

The best place is to visit our website:  http://www.maxlemari.com/

Thank you Max.  My youngest son has ambitions of being a pilot and he does like looking his best… perhaps his future lies in the shoe industry too!  I look forward to those driving shoes for ladies – the men’s styles are fabulous and such gorgeous colourways!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Max Guidi  (Max Lemari)

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Melissa D

Described as having “the style of Karen Carpenter with the whispering of Melissa Etheridge”, my guest on the blog this week is singer/songwriter/recording artist and down to earth nature girl Melissa D from the New England state of Vermont.  Hi Melissa & welcome….

Hey, My name is Melissa D and I am a recording artist and singer/songwriter. I do Americana Folk Rock.

What made you decide to pursue a solo musical career as an independent singer/songwriter?

I have been in bands for years and have always written songs on my own but never had the courage to perform/record them.  As I got older, I realized that my worst fear was that I would die with my music inside me so I started taking steps to make these dreams come true.  I live in a rural area and I am an independent artist so I cannot do it in the conventional way (big tours and major record deals), but I am finding my own way in a grassroots/on the ground kind of way that feels so empowering and enjoyable! The internet has made it possible for independent artists to have a voice and get themselves out there. I am so grateful for this!

Your single – “Love Of My Life” – was written for your husband, Alan.  You kept the single a secret until your wedding day, when you surprised him by having the recording played at your wedding. How romantic! Obviously your husband was the inspiration behind this particular song – but your your other tunes, where do you most often find inspiration?

My inspiration comes mostly from being out in nature.  I love the quiet and calm of sitting by a river or smelling the night air and looking at the stars. It helps me to think and process things.   I also get inspired by road trips and doing mundane household tasks like dishes or cleaning.  I like to write about life experiences and other people’s experiences.  I have had a lot of relationships gone bad before my husband Alan, so this gives me lots of material to work with…lol

You are currently a solo artist, but in the past you were a former rock front-woman for The Alley Katz and a previous member of CHILL, an acoustic act.  What are the main advantages & disadvantages of being a solo artist?  Do you miss not being part of a group?

Being solo is cool in that I don’t have to run my ideas by a bunch of people. I can do what I want.   I tend to be a people pleaser (I am working on curing that….lol) and I would do songs or stuff I didn’t want to do to make bandmates/band leaders happy.  Also, it is challenging as a woman being in a male dominated industry when you are in a group. Often your ideas can get dismissed or you are seen as “just the singer” or you get hit on.  But on the flip side of that there is a challenge when you are solo in that as a woman you feel more vulnerable plus I am an introvert (which means I tend to be more reserved and quiet and I need alone time to “recharge my batteries”) so that heightens that sense of vulnerability.  This has been a challenge but the immense freedom and excitement that I feel being solo is amazing.  I have a wonderful network of musician colleagues that I continue to work with in terms of gigs, recording and jamming so I still get to grow professionally but at the end of the day, I feel more empowered than I have ever felt with my music.

You are a classically trained vocalist – but, what were your musical influences growing up?

Oh so many! John Denver, Stevie Nicks, Karen Carpenter, Amy Grant, Linda Ronstadt, hymns and Christian music that I would sing in church, Pretty much most 80’s pop.  James Taylor and Melissa Etheridge songs were the anthems of my young adult years!

Have you always wanted to be a musician or did you have any other career in mind?

Music is a calling  and I have always done it at some level. Its just what I do.  For my “day job” I have a master’s degree in counseling and I work in the helping profession, which I feel is another calling for me.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to perform a duet with any singer, dead or alive, who would you sing with and what song would you pick?

Wow, tough one to pick….I would say, John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane.

What genre of music do you personally listen to?

I pretty much listen to and am open to all genres except for hardcore rap, but tend to gravitate mostly towards 80’s rock, Americana, folk rock, blues, blue grass, meditation, ambient music.  I also love instrumental piano and guitar, gospel and Gregorian chant (accepela music).

What was the last concert you attended?

Enerjazz, my brother’s jazz band.

Imagine you are driving through your country lanes of southern Vermont – what song would be top of your list to croon to whilst playing car karaoke?

“You got a friend” – James Taylor

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

I love jeans and t-shirts and hanging out clothes like cozy flannel shirts, but I also love anything with bling and bright colors and lace like when I am dressing up.  I think my favorite outfit is a well broken in pair of jeans with a cool, funky shirt with a bit of bling.  For shoes, I love hiking boots, pretty little flats and of course cowboy boots! I am not one for heels, never have been but admire them but more like a piece of art…lol

Do you have any favourite designers?

Not really, I just buy what is comfortable and looks cool!

Boots or Shoes?

hmmmmm, well living in Vermont, you have to have boots, that’s how you survive the long winters, but I do have quite a few shoes.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more you & follow your career.

I am giving away a “care package” of 4 songs plus access to my Kindred community @ vermontmadesongs.net  My website is melissadmusic.com.  All the links to my SM are on there.  I also have a facebook group for Introverts and Empaths called “Innies who love music & stories”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1984956098449512/?source_id=563170250437106

Great talking to you Melissa – fabulous choice for car karaoke – “You’ve Got A Friend” is one of those tunes I belt out (badly) in the car too!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Melissa D

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Turban Designer Veronique Salagean

I’m privileged this week to introduce onto the blog the world’s first turban designer – Veronique Salagean.  VS Turbans is an exclusive London based label founded by Veronique in 2015.  Veronique aims to dispel the controversy that surrounds turbans – the origins of turbans relate actually to royalty and not religion.  The earliest evidence of a turban dates back to the 1st century BC in Persia. Enjoying a brief renaissance amongst jet setters in the 1960s, turbans are becoming trendy again with celebrities such as Beyoncé and Eva Mendes recently rocking the look.  Finding the subject of turbans fascinating, I couldn’t wait to ask Veronique about her love for turbans…. Hi  Veronique….

 

Hi! I am Veroniqué Salagean, the world’s first Turban Designer.

What inspired the passion for turbans?

My style, creativity and uniqueness.

Have you always had an interest in fashion?

As a child I’ve been always dressed up to appear on stage – my mother was a seamstress – and at 6 years old I fell in love with textures. At 7 years old I had my very first tailor that I remember visiting for fittings. Even my casual hat at that time was made of the same cotton as my whole outfit. Afterwards I received clothes item gifts from my grandmother every weekend. From then to now I have had bespoke made clothes. 

What made you decide to turn your passion into a career and launch your brand, VS Turbans?

First of all,  I turned it into a brand because I walked into a room selling the turban I was wearing and that was the moment that gave me the realisation I was made for it. But personally speaking, my insane love for creating and wanting many babies, so many babies and now I have hundreds, made the actual empire. This is the way I see it and my creations (turbans) are my babies. This love of turbans backs up any loneliness, frustration or hurt I experience.

Your turbans range from simple drapes to drapes in silk, raffia and leather. Have you got a favourite from the range?

I do love working with anything based on 100% silk fibres but my actual choice that I truly love, is beaded fabric. It’s a very heavy material, but lush and alluring.

This season’s colour palette include latex silver, basis cream, lobster red, emerald, light calico, basis kaffee and gold.What colours is most popular amongst your customers at the moment? 

Basis kaffee and gold. 

Each turban is individually handmade to fit the client like a crown. What has been the most extravagant turban you’ve designed?

Creatively extravagant has been The Snake Ground designed for myself. It has got 21 rows of 1 and a half metres of black pearls hanging – an absolute artwork. The 1 Million turban was extravagant in terms of wealth.

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

Absolutely. My turbans travel worldwide.

Previously the look of jet setters in the 1960s, Turbans have become back on trend with stars such as Beyoncé and Eva Mendes rocking the look. Hypothetically speaking, which famous lady would you love to be the “face” of VS Turbans?

It’s a very good question and I must admit I’ve always seen myself until 120 years old posing and being the face of VS Turbans. But if I have to choose a person that will be Sheikha Moza bint Nasser only because I discovered her when I was 14 years old and pinned her image as I was fascinated by her beauty. Another person would be Rihanna as she is an unique, confident woman.

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

My daily appearance is an elegant casual approach that feels comfortable. I go for trousers and shoes with low heel when working in the studio making turbans.

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

I do shop from matchesfashion but favourite shops in particular I haven’t got. I tend to have bespoke made clothes.

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

I am sharing with you my actual new autumn/winter look and I hope you can imagine it.  It will be black latex high rise boots with jodhpurs and short fur jacket accessorised with an extravagant version of The Snake Ground (made of leather in warm colour with gold crystal necklaces hanging on the back to the floor level – about 21 rows). This look is for afternoon time towards early evening worn on public appearance, short meetings or shopping time.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots if it’s autumn or winter or on a changeable day in the summer time. My shoes are mainly with a low heel. I love comfort when working as I need no pain. However my wardrobe is dominated by heels!

For pinning later

Fancy a Turban?

Visit the VS Turban collection – http://www.vsturbans.com

VS Turbans collection range from £400 to £2,000

By appointment at Wellbeck Street, London, W1G 8DY

Web:http://www.vsturbans.com

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

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

I really love the sound of your Autumn/Winter look, Veronique! Your designs are very elegant and lush – you are extremely talented and it’s great that from a young age your love of textiles has shone through to shape your career! Thanks for sharing your creations and thoughts with us.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Veronique Salagean.

 

Share This!
Pin It

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).

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Shoes By Shaherazad

It’s been far too long since I’ve featured footwear and so I’ve decided to remedy that situation by introducing onto the blog the lovely Shaherazad and her sparkling shoes.  Inspired by flamingos, designed with love and pzazz, these heeled shoes epitomise both comfort and elegance – ideal for weddings, parties, barmitzvahs and whatever other social occasion you may want to flaunt your footwear! And you will definitely want to flaunt these shoes! The brand is all about empowered women of today supporting empowered women of the future…. Hi Shaherazad!

Hi! Im Shaherazad.  A self-confessed shoe addict; business addict and flamingo enthusiast.  I work for fun and have fun when I work.  Geeky I know but thats exactly who I am!

What was it about flamingos that inspired you to design your luxury heels?

I had always marvelled at how flamingos are able to stand for hours on end on one leg.  I was intrigued to find out their secret as to how they find this comfortable and what it is that makes this a universal trait on flamingos.  And so I set about to find the answer.  I wanted to discover how they live with such poise, grace and elegance.  And so, Shoes by Shaherazad were created inspired by the mathematics of how a flamingo stands.

My favourite style in your latest collection is the Blush Pink Time To Bloomheels.  What styles are most popular?

The best seller by far is Stand Tall Sister.  It was a hit as soon as it was launched as it can be worn stylishly strapless to elongate the visual length of the leg or with a strap for a pretty boardroom to bar look.

Have you got a favourite style from your collection?

Ah yes.  Mine is Dream then Doin Gold.  It is the first one I designed which I put in to production and so it will always have a special place in my heart.  The name of shoe was inspired by Deborah Rodriguez who wrote The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.  Her book inspired me to take action on my idea.  In fact, if you check out this design on line you will see a quote from the book alongside it.

Your brand, Shoes By Shaherazad, is all about empowered women of today empowering women of the future. Every purchase of Shoes By Shaherazad heels directly supports the wellbeing of a woman or girl living in poverty through the Solidarity By Shaherazad programme.  What projects has the programme covered so far?

Oh so many!  But the main ones are based in Pakistan, Palestine, Kenya and Peru.  Ive picked projects which support females who are living in extreme poverty to gain an education.  This means that they can gain the skills they need to lift themselves, and often their entire families out of poverty.  As a woman, I believe that I have a societal duty to help negate the gender equality imbalance in the world.  Through my company www.shaherazad.com a woman who can afford luxury shoes empowers a woman who cant to gain an education.  To me, thats true shoe romance!

Many celebrities have been advocates for your heels – Charlotte Tilbury & Alexa Chung to name a few.  Hypothetically speaking, which famous person would you love to see as the faceof Shoes By Shaherazad?

Angelie Jolie.  And not because of her Hollywood fame, but because of the wonderful work she has done in raising the profile of refugees and people living in poverty.  Her book Notes from my travelsis truly inspiring and when Im feeling sad about the inequality and poverty in the world I often use Angelinas ambassador work to inspire me to action.  Angelina, if youre reading this I would love to meet you.

Any pair of your heels can be worn plain or sparkly through your unique shoellery(shoe jewellery) concept.  Can you explain a bit more about the shoe jewellery concept?

I wanted to create a pair of shoes that was not only comfortable from boardroom to bar, but stylish as well.  Thats where the shoellery concept comes in.  The shoes can be worn plain by day and then by night a shoellery strap is added to add crystal shine to any outfit.  The shoellery can be carried in a little luxury pouch which is supplied in your handbag throughout the day so theres no need to store extra heels at the office.  It also means that a woman can buy one pair of heels and any number of shoellery designs to transform her look – no need to keep buying lots of new heels.  The heels become kind of a forever shoe, especially because theyre very classically designed.

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

Absolutely.  I deliver worldwide and won an award earlier this month for being Exporter of the Yearas recognised by the National SME Awards in Britain.  It was a hug honour and I currently export to over 21 countries.

When thinking about designing footwear, do you consider popular styles, current trends, customer feedback/suggestions or bits of all those?

For me, its always about style over fashion.  Shoes have to look good and stand the test of time.  Fashion comes and goes so its less of an imperative for me.  I design from the heart.

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

I love wearing printed suits – trousers and jackets make dressing so easy and yet so smart.  I also absolutely love photo print dresses.  And of course, both of these outfit styles can be teamed well with my 18 hour heels.

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

Im a big fan of Folli Follie jewellery.  Its so pretty, especially the rose gold designs.  I also love Valentino as their dresses are so fairy tale like.  And of course, there has to be Gucci!

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

A feministslogan T shirt I can wear to work, days out and drinks with friends.  I also love yellow so perhaps a bright canary yellow dress; Im not a fan of the mustard colour thats everywhere this year.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes – theyre chic-er!

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

www.shaherazad.com

@18hourheels (twitter, instagram)

ShoesbyShaherazad (Facebook, Pinterest)

Ooh … I loved the book “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul”! I also loved the fact that you, Shaherazad, had studied flamingos enough to try and recreate a comfortable heel that still epitomises elegance. Wishing your venture every success!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Shoes By Shaherazad.

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Vartan Melkonian

I am privileged this week to talk on my blog with renowned composer, musician & conductor, Vartan Melkonian, who also happens to be UN Ambassador for Street Children.  Vartan’s life story is one of courage – he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, orphaned soon after, became a street child in Beirut, fled to the UK in the 1970s – but even on the streets of Beirut his musical abilities began to emerge… Hi Vartan!

Hello. I am Vartan Melkonian. I am a composer and musician and I work as the UN Ambassador to Street Children.

You are an UN Ambassador for Street Children. What does being an ambassador entail?

My work involves certain countries – developing countries – who ask the UN to give them advice on street children. The UN takes a team of experts to those countries. As I am a key-note speaker – I open and close the conference about life on the streets. I encourage the developing countries to adopt the programmes the UN suggests.

You were born in a refugee camp in Lebanon – your parents died when you were very young- you then lived in the Birds Nest Orphanage until you were 8 years old. You must have felt very lonely & anxious being an orphan in a strange country.  When you were 8 years old, did you flee the orphanage or was care only provided until you were 8?

I was 8 years old when I left the orphanage, to live on the streets. I was there till I was eight because boys had to go to the army compound to make room for new children. I chose not to work for the Lebanese army and took a cattle-train to Beirut. That’s where I started my life.

After leaving the orphanage, you then lived rough in the slums of Beirut. What was the worst thing about living on the streets?

People take moments of pleasure by looking at the sunset. For us, for me, it was the worst time of the day, there was nowhere to go. I had to find any alcove to sleep in. We, the children of the streets, were often chased away with sticks and stones (even by the police) so we were not seen on the streets, as if we were some sort of living plague.

 

Teaching your fellow street children how to hum in harmony so as you could all make some money by busking… how did you discover you had a musical talent? What other jobs did you do in order to survive? 

At the orphanage, I was chosen to be a member of the choir. I had a severe speech impediment but when I sang there was no problem. My musical skills must have been in-born – the gift of music.

I did many jobs to survive from shoe shining, selling chewing gum and shovelling sand onto lorries to illegal fishing and being a mechanic.

When civil war came to Lebanon in 1972 you fled to the UK and began to work as a singer, at the beginning on the Northern Clubs circuit – eventually at West End nightspots.  What sort of music genre did you sing?  What influenced your song choices?

I used to impersonate Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones!

You wrote a symphony that was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – and later you came to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, and many other world-class orchestras in London’s most famous halls and around the world. When you started to busk as a young lad on the streets of Beirut, did you harbour musical ambitions? 

When I was in Lebanon I used to play the guitar, and I thought I was really good. Arriving in the UK in the early 70s, I went to Kings Cross Station and I saw a busker playing the guitar and my eyes widened. I thought ‘I know nothing!’ It was like being born again at the age of 26.

Looking back over your incredible life story so far, what do you think helped you to survive the conditions you faced? 

When you don’t have things, your imagination flourishes and when you achieve something, you’ve already lived it. If you want to, you will finish a race, not necessarily first, but you will get there if you aim for it.

Being a refugee is hard, I know.  What are the toughest things you face being a refugee? 

I was happy to leave Lebanon because it was the 1970s and the conflict was starting. I went from sunny Beirut to Skegness. The UK is a wonderful place. I am a guest in the UK. And I feel very welcome.

When you give speeches worldwide about street children, what are the main messages that street children would like to convey to the public in general?

The children of the street are not the problem, they are the assets of the country. Invest in them and they grow up to become someone like me who provides good things for the community.

Links you would like to share:

http://vartan-melkonian.com

Untold Stories – Animation of life of Vartan Melkonian

Thank you so much Vartan for taking the time to talk to me today about your life and your mission as ambassador. 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Vartan Melkonian.

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Incredibly Cool Events

Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too!  I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.

What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?

After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.

ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?

They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.

When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?

I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.

What are the benefits of cheerleading?

Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.

Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?

Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.

Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?

Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.

Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?

Yes of course we welcome everyone.

What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?

We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :

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

At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest  meal.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.

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

I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncrediblyCoolEvents/
Website: www.incrediblycoolevents.co.uk
Twitter: @ICE_Events1
Intsagram: incrediblycoolevents

I wish you the very best for both your impending nappy event and your programme of events, Kimberley. I think the name of your company is incredibly cool too….

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Kimberley Mason (Incredibly Cool Events).

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Tesalate

Ahh …Summer Sun! In the Northern Hemisphere the summer season has begun in earnest with the UK, USA, Canada and Europe warming up nicely with an impromptu heatwave …. and there is no better time than now to introduce Australian brand, Tesalate, to the blog.  Tesalate towels are not only beautifully designed but they are super absorbent and, most impressive of all, they are totally sand free. Co founder Jacky was lovely enough to answer my questions about her vibrant and eye catching designs. Hi Jacky!

This is Volkan – Jacky was too shy!

Hi! I’m Jacky, co-founder, designer and beach bum (tester). Volkan is my business partner.

What inspired the launch of Tesalate towels?

Volkan and I were hiking to a remote beach in the Royal National Park near Sydney. On the hike back, our towel was heavy, smelly, and filled our backpack with sand. So, we figured we can make something much better.

I love the eye-catching designs of the towels – my favourite is the Phoenix design. To date, what has been your most popular design?

In every country, a different one is popular. What we love seeing is that people are often adventurous. They will buy something really colorful and out there. 

What’s your most favourite design in your collection?

To Tuscany, but then again I’m a sucker for turquoise. 

I’m often interested about origins of some brand names – and Tesalate is one brand name I’m intrigued about. What is the reasoning behind the name?

Our original designs were all tessellations (repeating patterns).

Apart from being beautifully designed the towels are compact, super absorbent, lightweight … and astonishingly are totally sand-free!  What are the towels made of? How do you care for them to help maintain their absorbency?

We spent a year developing our own fabric called AbsorbLite. It’s made of a form of microfiber, which means it has a lot of performance features. Our finish and processing allow it to be completely sand-free. 

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being a designer or did you have other career plans?

I always knew I wanted to create something. Design for us is more than the towel. It’s how we interact with customers and it’s the environment we create for our employees.

As Tesalate is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

We ship worldwide for free. In fact, we have shipped to over 100 countries since we’ve launched.

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

Sydney! Luckily we live here. There are a hundred different nationalities, and every area has its own subculture. I’ve been to a lot of amazing places, but I have never been to a place where it is a mix of so many cultures. Plus, we have a world city, we have amazing beaches, and we are surrounded by national parks. Can you tell I love Sydney?

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

Beachwear or anything that is comfortable. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

There are too many to mention. But generally, I like to shop at sites selling beachwear.

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

Nothing definite comes to mind right now. But quality should matter most when it comes to choosing any product. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Neither. I like going barefoot since I love going to the beach.

For pinning later

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

Official website – www.tesalate.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/tesalate

Instagram – www.instagram.com/tesalate

Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/tesalate

Wow, dear readers, what do you think about those towel designs? I love each and every one of those designs and I still think that being totally sand free is just amazing!  Thank you Jacky for taking the time to chat on the blog about your fantastic product. 

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Tesalate.

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With DJ China L’One

Today would have been my dad’s birthday and as my dad was a great music fan, I think he would have loved reading about my guest on the blog this week.  The utterly gorgeous DJ China L’One is gracing my blog – she is a top international female DJ as well as being CEO/Founder of London’s 1st All Female DJ agency.  Did I mention she is drop dead gorgeous too?! I couldn’t wait to ask the stylish diva some questions…. Hi China !

Hi! My name is DJ China L’One, I am an International Female DJ, and the Founder and CEO of London based No1 all female dj agency “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”.

What inspired you to become a DJ and also, what inspired you to start London’s first all female DJ agency, “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”?

It all began when I was unexpectedly invited to take the DJ position at a friend’s birthday party in 2000. The crowd just loved the music and the vibe my presence gave that I was inspired to take DJing up as a way of earning money. Since then my profile became more public but I soon realised there was not an agency that catered for solely female DJ’s like myself. And so I began to build up my own agency, independent  and hard-working as I am!

The music you play includes funk, R & B, hip hop, house, remixes, classic commercial sounds –  but do you have a favourite music genre?

I grew up listening to POP music, so I don’t have a favourite music genre per se. If the music is “popping” it’s a big tune! Hehehe.

You have performed at many of London’s top clubs such as the Ministry of Sound, Pacha, No 5 Cavendish Square – to name a few – do you stick rigidly to a set playlist or are you able to ascertain the mood of an audience and adapt accordingly? 

I never set a playlist, I play accordingly to the crowd and audience.  I read the crowd, based on their age, and the type of event.

What are the highs and lows about being a DJ?

The highs are getting to DJ for super cool brands, events, venues and travelling to different locations in the world. The lows have been when business is quiet and you are just waiting for gigs. .

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a DJ or did you have other aspirations?

Growing up, I wanted to become a singer, actress or dancer. I want to the famous Itali Conti Theatre school when I was 16 years old. I have recorded a few songs and have featured on other artist songs in the past. I did go to acting school as a teenager.

You have DJ’d in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Ibiza, Italy, India & on luxury cruise ships! Do you have a favourite party destination?  Is there any place in the world where you’d love to DJ but haven’t done yet?

I would  love to Dj in Las Vegas one day.

We all have our favourites…but what music genre are you not so keen on? 

I am not so keen on Trance music.

Apart from being a DJ, you published an e-book called “You Are What You Think” – a book about the importance of confidence and going after your dreams. You have certainly had the confidence to go after your dreams. What advice would you give to young aspiring female DJs?

Be single minded.

There are no rules to the game. Do it your way and with your own style.

Understand that some people will like and love you and others will not, and that is fine.

Do not change who you are as a person, your personality is very important as a whole.

Know your music. Knowing your music is more important then being able to beat-match a song to keep your guests dancing.

Don’t try to be like any other DJ, just be you!

Work hard and the right people will find you!

Although you are based in London, do you and your agency accept jobs worldwide? 

We are based in London, but work with clients worldwide, hence why we are named, “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”  hahaha!

Tell us a bit more about your clothing line. What inspired you to launch your own brand?

I wanted to create something where people can be confident about what they are about. For example, my t-shirts bear quotations that portray power-thinking messages. It was a venture that led me to sell products on-line.

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

I am super feminine so you will always catch me wearing a colourful dress, skirt or event shorts. I love wearing bright colours like red, yellow, and orange. I also love wearing different types of hats, together with jewellery and fashion accessories.

I love wearing heels, got to have a bit of heels at least, and of-course colourful shoes. I try to get away from wearing black if I can help it.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I do love Boohoo online, they do have some amazing colourful clothes and super cool accessories. You can also catch me at charity shops. You would be amazed at some of the coolest hats or bags, that you’d never see elsewhere. .

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

Errmm, I want to buy some pink, and orange open toes shoes, and a white hand-bag. I do like wearing white but its hard to find really pretty white shoes or a stylish white bag – you have to look hard to find them.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes!  Shoes makes me feel sexy and slightly taller ha ha!

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.femaledjagency.com

https://www.facebook.com/Djchinalone/

https://www.instagram.com/djchinalone/

https://twitter.com/djchinalone

Thanks for sharing an insight into your DJ life and I love that you adore wearing bright coloured clothes too! I try to avoid black although I have to wear black for work.  I prefer navy blue if I have to wear a dark colour.  Keep on spinning those discs China! 🙂

Linda x

All photos are published with kind permission from China L’One.

Share This!
Pin It