Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Jay Mullings

Gracing my blog this week is award winning writer/director Jay Mullings. This man is certainly a busy bee – he is the author of The Thought Book series; founder & owner of Written Mirror Ltd – a bespoke content creation business; a fellow blogger; he writes poetry & music; and he has launched his debut feature film, The Jam. Is there simply no end to his awesome talent? Let’s find out… Hi Jay & welcome!

Hi! I’m Jay Mullings, London born Jamaican bred multiple international award winning Writer/Director. On top of that I am an author namely: The Thought Book & The Thought Book 2 and I also founded Written Mirror Ltd which is a content creation company + media publisher.

What was the inspiration behind launching Written Mirror Ltd?

Having something to call my own. A space where no one could tell me what to do and I would be allowed to fully realise my creative potential. In short it was to be a space where I could practice what I preach: Truthful Fearless Creativity…

Have you always enjoyed writing/ being a storyteller as a child? When did you discover you have a talent for writing?

I knew I had a way with words, language and logic from an early age. I could hold my own with adults in a debate, trip up teachers if they were trying to hide that they didn’t know something and I could even prove my innocence if wrongfully accused of things at home/school etc. I knew I was made to tell stories from early. My teachers would often share some of my stories which were either rib tickling comedy or pushing the envelope in terms of what a youngster should be writing about in school. I read a lot as a child and even then I fancied myself to be able to do the same if given half a chance.

Your “The Thought Book” series is a unique self help title. The series encourages the reader to adopt the mindset necessary for realising their goals. Why did you choose to write a self-help series? Was it an easy road to write and publish your books or was it harder than you thought?

Yes… The Thought Book Series, have you read the books? What did you think? I like to think of the books as unhindered self development books. I took out my ego, my bravado or whatever which way you’d like to sum it up and allowed the reader to place themselves in the book. I don’t think too many improvement books allow that to happen. I chose this style to help people in the most uncomplicated manner possible. Anyone who follows my doings knows that the message in both books is exactly what I use to armour myself against doubt, small mindedness and fear… 
It wasn’t hard at all. The books were a piece of cake; it was all the red tape and pirates looking to feast on your flesh that got draining. People have tried to steal my book from under me, overcharge me only to deliver inferior results and worst of all they have tried to pass the buck whenever they could not manipulate me. The books were the best part of it but the processes of working with greedy and unscrupulous people was not rewarding at all…

What genre of books do you tend to read?

I read when I have time to. Sometimes there is a lot of reading taking place and others little to none. That is the life of a content creator unfortunately. When I do read I like books that are very well written; by that I mean I don’t like wasted pages, filler or having to feel anger at just how large the holes in terms of logic are. The main reason for that is whatever, I start reading no matter how bad I have to finish it. I only try to read books that reward my work rate. Any genre any style would interest me so long as it is written well…

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

Centre forward for the mighty Arsenal! I wanted to replace Ian Wright…

Oh Jay, things were going so well !! I’m a Spurs supporter, your rival football fan! 😂… Let’s talk music instead! What were your musical influences growing up?

I was lucky to be born in the sweet spot for music. I had the best of the old and newer school growing up. My music knowledge often surprises people as it is very eclectic. We’re talking Fleetwood Mac to Bob Marley, Bowie to Gladys Knight and so on and so forth. You name it if it sounds good or has complexity to it I’m involved!

Writing poetry or writing songs? Do you have a preference?

Poetry can feed into songs so poetry! 

What genre of music do you personally listen to? What was the last concert you attended?

Dancehall/Reggae/Hip Hop/RnB/Classical and Soundtracks. The last concert I went to was in Brixton I saw Common’s band.

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

Some Bob Marley or Missy Elliott to be honest!

Let’s talk about your debut feature film, The JAM (2019), that has already received 9 official selections since hitting the film festival circuit in April. How exciting! Can you give my readers a little summary of what The JAM is all about? 

The JAM is a feature length documentary that is centred on my life, my creative process, my family and friends’ reaction to my career choice as well as their hopes for my future. It’s the story that my community needs but not the one it has necessarily known it wanted. I wrote, edited and shot it myself. Oh yeah I wrote and recorded the Soundtrack too as Wicked Penman…

Congratulations on your latest award from the East Europe International Film Festival. Does that indicate that in 2020 you have other film plans or will you be concentrating on writing books or your music or will you be juggling all avenues? 😜

I can’t say too much but yes of course more content, more energy and more life.

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

I’m a practical dresser. I like being able to move and feel free. So I normally dress tactical. Joggers/Shorts Tees/Hoodies. Usually Written Mirror specials.

Do you have any favourite websites? (Apart from your own!)

Youtube! No doubt! So much helpful and funny content.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! They’re made for walking! Seriously though I like Chelsea Boots they’re formidable and functional but very stylish simultaneously.

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

www.writtenmirror.com/blog

www.youtube.com/writtenmirror

www.twitter.com/writtenmirror

www.instagram.com/writtenmirror

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4dacYcT36TnsY1CbcPkmTY?si=_E2b2b5fQb6u-YjAY-HcZg

It has been great chatting to you,

Jay – I’m glad I’m not the only one who has to read a book, once started until the very end, regardless of how bad it is! Well, I did break that rule once when I read a book about the solo travels of a guy who trekked the Himalayas …. Anyhow, I’m looking forward to seeing The Jam and I wish you every success in all your ventures.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Jay Mullings.

Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Art London

I do so love art and I do so love my city of London, where I was born & bred, so you can imagine my excitement at being given the privilege of reading a preview of the fantastic book “Art London” – a guide book with a twist. It’s a book every art lover should have on their coffee table – but used like any other well thumbed guide book. It is a guide to places, artists and events – author Hettie Judah has sniffed out some hidden gems in back streets and in otherwise non descript buildings; has given information on the more well known galleries and museums; found some enticing galleries to add a picture or two to your collection; and details on every event to fill your diary. But, the book is so much more. It is jam packed with stories and historical data on everything art, including but not limited to, the artists, galleries, statues, architecture, public artwork as seen in the subways of the London Underground, as well as the general art scene. The book is a little mine of information! It has renewed my enthusiasm to revisit forgotten galleries and discover new places – adventures I hope to write about in future blogposts. Oh, and I mustn’t forget about the innovative photography in the book by Alex Schneideman! Superb! In the meantime though, I caught up with art critic and author of “Art London”, Hettie Judah …. hi Hettie!

Photographer Alex Schneideman

Hi! I’m Hettie. I’m an art critic and writer – chief art critic for the British daily newspaper The I, and a regular contributor to The Guardian, Frieze, Vogue International, Art Quarterly and lots of other publications with ‘art’ in the title. I talk about art at events in galleries and museums.

“Art London” is a guide book extraordinaire – I was enthralled to read the history of some places that I had previously walked past eg the statues of Parliament Square and the building above St James Park Station, and not really taken much notice – and now I have my “tourist goggles” on ! What made you decide to write “Art London” in the first place?

Most Saturdays when I’m in London I spend the afternoon catching up on exhibitions in small commercial galleries clustered around a particular area. I was relying on a few mapping apps to locate the galleries, but realised that I was missing a lot – unbelievably there was no one app, book or website that offered anything close to a definitive list or guide to London’s small galleries. There also wasn’t much information about their history – I walked past the amazing Autograph gallery for years without realising that it was the gallery of the Association of Black Photographers, and that it had a very important history. One thing that’s fascinating about London is that it has such a diverse population and history – it was important to me with the book that I represented that as best I could, offering a set of parallel art histories for the city. I wanted Art London to be a friendly paperback rather than a glossy coffee table book: I’m hoping people will find it approachable, informative and entertaining, and most of all be able to get out there and use it.

White Cube, Bermondsey; Tracey Emin, A Fortnight of Tears (2019), photographed by Alex Schneideman, 2019 and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

I liked how you wrote the book – I enjoyed reading about the established galleries I visited as a child – such as William Morris Gallery and the V & A Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green;  I can’t wait to explore the new modern art galleries and hidden gems; I was fascinated to read the mini biographies of artists of old and new – the book is packed to the rafters – how long did the book take you to write? What was the hardest part(s) to write about ?

Thank you! I’m guessing you must be a North East Londoner? I really enjoyed researching Art London – there was a lot of reading, and exploration – I hope that comes through in the writing. The book has taken about a year from start to finish, though I was drawing on knowledge that I have built up over a long career writing about art: there are stories such as the Tradescants’ Ark, or the husband and wife team behind Kelpra, that I have had in mind for years. The hardest part was knowing when to stop – the book could have been ten times the length – there are no end of fascinating stories. Every few days now I come across something or someone that I wish I’d had space to include – in June I interviewed Penny Slinger, who is a wonderful artist who was active in London in the 1960s. She is an ardent feminist, very sexually liberated: some of the stories she told would have been wonderful for Art London. Who knows, maybe I’ll do an expanded edition in a few years?

Whitechapel Gallery; Is This Tomorrow? exhibition (2019) photographed by Alex Schneideman and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

Oh you guessed right Hettie! I was born in Stratford & brought up in the Leyton/Leytonstone area of East London; I went to college in Tottenham in North London – so yes, the north east corner of London was definitely my childhood “stomping ground” 😊 Have you got a favourite art gallery or museum?  Whilst researching your book, what were the hidden gems that surprised you the most? 

There are some very special art spaces in London – I love Dilston Grove in Southwark Park, an atmospheric space in an old church building. I’m great fans of 6A Architects who converted the new South London Gallery building in an old fire station: their buildings always feel airy and welcoming, full of natural light and a sense of the space beyond the walls. I’m ashamed to say that didn’t know about the Jean Cocteau murals in Notre Dame de France before I started researching the book: they really are hidden gems. We all move so fast in this city: sometimes we need to be reminded to look up and pause. I don’t think I’d taken in the Henry Moore carvings on the Time Life building until a curator friend posted them on Instagram – I’d been walking past the building on Bond Street for years without looking at them properly.

Work by Anish Kapoor in the gallery at Pitzhanger Manor, photographed by Alex Schneideman, 2019 and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

I loved discovering new artists and learning about their historical background, such as Mary Beale, Britain’s first female professional portraitist. Have you got any favourite artists?

So many! Hogarth has a special place in my heart. He was a great observer of raw human nature – drunk, lusty, ambitious, destitute – but I think he appreciated simple everyday pleasures around him too. Gwen John’s paintings are exquisite – there are a couple in Tate Britain’s collection that are definitely on my ‘would steal’ list (sorry Tate…) ditto sculptures by the Geometry of Fear generation: Lynn Chadwick and Bernard Meadows. I don’t think I’d fit Phyllida Barlow’s work into my house, but her recent show at the Royal Academy was glorious. And our cover star Gillian Wearing has done so much great work – and with such wit.

 “Art London” isn’t your first book – and you have written about art in many top name publications.Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

I’m afraid I was that cliché as a kid: a bookworm and a daydreamer. I’ve not changed much. I enjoy research, and I don’t have a natural flair for plots, so non fiction is probably my natural home. I have written all kinds of things in the past, from poetry to scripts for short films. Even comedy sketches. And like most writers I have an unfinished novel lurking in a bottom drawer…

Graffiti, East London, Photographed by Alex Schneideman and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Funny you should ask! I’m just back from a research trip in Mexico City for a short biography of Frida Kahlo – unknotting biographical fact from fiction has been fascinating, she was a great teller of tall tales. Frida will be coming out this time next year with Laurence King.

Knowing you’re a bookworm … what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I buy a huge number of second hand books – I get through hundreds and hundreds in my line of work. As a result  I don’t get much chance to indulge in fiction – perhaps only one or two books a year, depending on whether I get the chance to take a holiday. If I do manage to squeeze in some holiday reading I try to reset my brain with something totally different, usually science fiction: China Miéville, Stanislav Lem, Ursula K Le Guin ….

Is “Art London” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! And please order it through local bookshops if you can, they need our support.

4Cose, Bethnal Green. Photographed by Alex Schneideman and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

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

Always flat shoes – Converse or Supergas – art critics spend a lot of time on their feet. I’m usually in a dress: my frocks start life as evening wear and slowly filter down into my everyday wardrobe and then my dog walking and gardening outfits over the course of a decade or so. Like many in the art world I struggle with an unshakeable attraction to black clothing.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Vintage costume jewellery from eBay.

Boots or Shoes?

A solid pair of boots – I’m on my feet for hours every day.

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

My personal Instagram account it @hettiejudah – artworks from the exhibitions I visit, and very occasionally a picture of my dog.I started a separate Instagram account for Art London. For practical reasons we couldn’t show all the artworks and artists mentioned in the book – it would have been thousands of pages long – so @artlondon_book is a picture gallery for curious readers.

Thank you Hettie – it has been such a pleasure chatting to you and it was such a privilege to read and thumb through the preview of “Art London”. I’m so excited to check out some new venues! I’m also looking forward to reading your biography of Frida Kahlo – sounds really interesting.

Linda x

Photos: All photos (apart from the last one for Pinterest) are by Alex Schneideman and have been published with kind permission from Hettie Judah and photographer Alex Schneideman. The Pinterest photo was taken by myself, Linda Hobden – Street Art at a Market in Shoreditch, close to Liverpool Street Station.

“Art London” was published by ACC Art Books.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Wilde Ones

This week I’m featuring on my blog one of the oldest independent stores in the heart of Chelsea, London – Wilde Ones. This store houses the largest collection of Native American jewellery and interiors in the UK – sourcing directly from Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Yaquima, Apache and Sioux artists. A store that is unique indeed and I caught up recently with founder Greg to find out more… Hi Greg and welcome 😊

Hello! I’m Greg Ohanian, founder and owner of Wilde Ones, Chelsea, London, UK.

What inspired the setting up of Wilde Ones?

Having just come out of fashion college, I had an idea which took off. The idea was to create a range of hats with feather trim and without. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the world music and ethnic fashion scenes were just emerging, yet there were no such accessories to fit the look. We introduced a silk embroidered skullcap which we sold from Browns, Liberties and Harrods, to shops in Europe and department stores in the USA. That’s how Wilde Ones started in 1987. Eventually we sold all the way to Top Shop. We also did trade shows like The London based British Designer Show. Originally we started off at the famous Blue Bird Fashion Market on The Kings Road, then we moved to our present premises and expanded into crystals, gemstone jewellery and Native American artefacts and jewellery.

I’m always interested in the origins of brand names, so why did you settle for “Wilde Ones” and were there other name considerations?

The name started off simply because one of the owners’ surname was Wilde but we also liked the fact that we were in Chelsea, the home of Oscar Wilde. It was really a combination of things which brought about the name.

Your company has the largest UK collection of Native American jewellery and interiors. Are there differences in style, subtle or otherwise, between the artists of different Native American groups? 

Indeed, each tribe and region distinguishes itself with its own style and design. We’re lucky to have established strong relationships with amazing artists from the Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Sioux, Apache, Acoma, Santo Domingo, Taos Pueblo, Yaquima and Huichol People. For example, Zuni artists specialise in inlay work, Santa Domingo in graded bead necklaces, Yaquima in feather earrings, etc.

I love the range of jewellery, obviously, but my personal favourites are the Native American Acoma Pottery. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Those Acoma pots are truly stunning. Interiors have their ebbs and flows like all the other myriad items in the shop. This season it’s the handmade tie-dye clothing which we has been selling from day one. All the major designers are onto it but they have a hard time copying our designs because we have an artist designer friend in San Francisco, CA, who has been supplying us exclusively for the past 28 years and his skill is second to none. He produces a wide range of t-shirts, shirts, dresses, camisoles, trousers, sarongs, socks, in silk and cotton. This year the tie-dye hats are proving especially popular as they’re a new item as well as the silk velvet capes. We are also introducing a new line of hemp t-shirts because we feel hemp is a much more sustainable fabric and want to promote its use. 

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

That would be like picking your favourite child! We love them all equally. Personally, I’m a Navajo rug addict and they’re one of my favourite things. We currently have around 200 unique antique pieces, carded, spun, woven and dyed by hand between 1880 and 1950. They’re very special.

As you are based in the heart of Chelsea in London, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, our products are available on our website www.wildeones.com and we ship worldwide.

When choosing jewellery/pottery/clothing to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

It’s definitely a combination of those. When I’m buying I choose for our long time loyal customers to add to their extensive collections. People often come in and say over time they’ve filled their homes with our products. Or that they have most of our jewellery and that I need to go get some more.

Looking ahead, are you looking at adding any new designs or products to your current collections?

I’m always looking to add to our collections and so I keep having to travel further and deeper into uncharted territories. You never know what you’ll find next. Lately I’ve been going to the Huichol tribe in Mexico. They create the most beautiful animal sculptures with incredibly intricate beadwork.

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

Aside from our own tie-dye clothing I’m very happy wearing Element clothing from California and Clarke’s Originals shoes. I also love to wear and collect vintage clothing.

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

The Cloth Shop in Soho and The Vintage Shop in Covent Garden.

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

I want hemp clothes and hemp shoes and all items made of hemp. Hemp products are the future so we should encourage the use of this wonder plant.

Boots or Shoes?

Clarkes Originals. In between boots and shoes and just very comfortable.

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

Official website: www.wildeones.com
Facebook page: Wilde Ones Shop  
https://www.facebook.com/wildeonesshop/ Instagram: @wildeoneslondon https://www.instagram.com/ Twitter: @wildeoneslondon = https://twitter.com/wildeoneslondon

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Thank you Greg for giving us a virtual tour of the “Wilde Ones”. I must say that the Mexican animal sculptures sound like an interesting addition to your already impressive range. Are you ready to delve into the wild side and check out this store, dear reader?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Wilde Ones.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.


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Agnes In Bloom

“Agnes In Bloom – A Memoir” is a very touching memoir of a gutsy lady, Agnes, and her life in Birmingham at the latter end of the Second World War and beyond. Lovingly written by her daughter, Karen, this memoir is extremely frank, and has rollercoaster moments where you could almost feel yourself in Agnes’s shoes….BUT not quite, as Agnes and her mother Rose, both had guts, inner strength and are both totally inspirational.

MY REVIEW

The story begins when Agnes is evacuated to the countryside and discovers her love of being on a farm and being embraced into the family of Mr & Mrs Johnson and their daughter Lily. Unfortunately, her sister Margie was evacuated elsewhere and her experience was the complete opposite -an experience which only came to light years later. Returning back home from the farm, as a young teenager, finding her feet in life with her more worldly wise friend as company, Agnes goes to a party where things didn’t go so well. Finding herself pregnant, Agnes gets her dream job as an usherette … until her pregnancy started to show. Agnes harboured a dream of meeting her own Mr Right … her own Mr Johnson…. and that’s when her dream man materialised in the form of Bob. Agnes and Bob were happy together, despite working hours to make ends meet, and each babe born was loved and welcomed. Agnes became closer, I feel, to her mother, Rose, who was supportive as the family grew. Tragedy strikes though … Agnes strives to help her sister Margie after her marriage collapse and breakdown; Agnes finds out love secrets between her mother and her real father; husband Bob takes on extra work to carry on providing for his large family but alas becomes ill and is taken to hospital for a routine operation; her mother Rose is discovered to have cancer and is in hospital at the same time as Bob; being pregnant with her 7th child, Agnes has to face life as a young single mum as Bob unexpectedly dies before being operated on; Agnes, in her grief, becomes anorexic …. but this is an inspirational story, about overcoming adversity and death. The story does have a happier ending…. the main thing is that 7th baby was Karen , the author. Delightfully written memoir, well recommended.

So, after reading the memoir, I couldn’t wait to chat to Karen, daughter of Agnes and author of Agnes In Bloom. Hi Karen!

Hi ! I’m Karen. I was born into the inner-city slums of Birmingham. The seventh child of a humble and loving family. I’m a mother of two amazing young women. Both work in the fashion industry. I have been an entrepreneur since the age of twenty-three when I established my own company. I’ve since lived and worked in Dubai, San Diego, Bali, Koh Samui and currently I reside in Marbella. I love to travel and live in sunny climates. I have travelled and sailed the world, writing my memoirs.

Your mother’s story is truly inspirational – an amazing woman indeed – but what made you decide to write “Agnes In Bloom” in the first place?

After years of listening to my mother’s life and how she triumphed over adversity. I decided to write it, initially as a family legacy,  but I soon discovered that it’s an amazing inspirational story and others would enjoy it too. I asked 65 ladies from random groups to read my draft manuscript and offer their feedback. They all loved it and agreed with me that I should offer it to the world. 

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – I smiled at the part where Agnes was evacuated to a farm, and how much she loved the countryside; I was angry inside at the different experience her sister Margie had had; I cried when Agnes was raped at 17 , but was full of love and admiration for your father who accepted your mum and your eldest brother, and his overall love for all his family; my heart ached when Rose was ill, when Margie was unwell and when your father died whilst your mother was pregnant with you; I admired your mother’s coping mechanism and ability to learn to focus again when life dealt her a cruel blow;  I was in awe that despite everything, your steadfastness Karen, in hanging on and being born; I smiled when she was able to find happiness again.  Oh, and what fab siblings you have! The book is packed with plenty of antidotes that must have accumulated over the years – how long did the book take you to write? 

It took me 12 years to write it. I was running my recruiting business and travelling and sailing the world writing it. Writing for me is very therapeutic. A great relief from business. The main reason is that it’s a very emotional story for my mother. She sat with me to go over each event. It often made her tearful, which in turn made me cry too. 
 Once I had the story structure in place. I began to learn how to set scenes and write in omniscient and add dialogue. I wanted my mother’s story to be a perfect enjoyable, easy read. So that women of this era and their struggles are never forgotten. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in the memoir? 

As I’m writing this I’m in tears again. Just remembering those difficult parts. The chapter where my father dies is unbearable for me to think about and more so to write it in exact detail. The struggle that my auntie had was almost not added in the story, as my sisters didn’t want it in there. They were embarrassed by it. However, I think it’s extremely important that the abuse that Margie suffered, should be told. Especially because this horror, eventually gave her a nervous breakdown. We are all more aware of child abuse in society today. It should not be pushed under the carpet. It added so much more tragedy to my mother and grandmother. It’s part of their lives and I wanted my Auntie Margie to be remembered for her triumph over adversity too. My grandmother Rose had a hard life herself. How she coped with her own child abuse was incredible. It was as if no one cared about abuse back then and many children just got on with life, not realising that they are very effected by it. 
My grandmother was like a rock for my mother and her daughter Margie, through all their life’s tragedies. She also triumphed over adversity. 

Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

Yes I absolutely love writing stories. I’ve learned so much more by self publishing this first book. I have previously attended a creative writing course and joined various authors groups to keep learning updates on the benefits of self publishing. I would like to write more about female heroism. More current to our times. Before this book, I have written and published travel articles and training manuals for my recruiting business. I always received top marks at school in Literature. My teacher was very inspiring and told me to pursue a writing career, but back then it wasn’t possible for me to experiment with my career. I needed to earn a lot of money to buy my mom a house and pay her bills for the rest of her life and bring her out of poverty for good. I’m proud that I have accomplished this goal. 
I guess I wasn’t very confident as a teenager to become an author.

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Definitely, I am currently writing my own memoir to highlight the extreme differences between one generation of working class women. It’s a comedy. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a book worm yes. I have a kindle because I travel a lot and can’t take my books everywhere with me. I do like the feel of a good book though. I’ve been reading biographies of famous people for years. Now I like to read stories about ordinary women who triumphed over adversity. I love true crime related stories too. I’m a glutton for a memoir and biographies as I like that they’re real stories. Gets me hooked. 

Is “Agnes In Bloom” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes my debut memoir is available to purchase globally from Amazon. I have entered their story teller UK 2019 competition. This means I cannot go wide on all platforms until the competition ends in October. I plan to go open on all of them afterwards. 


Having 7 siblings, what do you or did you like most about being part of a large family? 

Being part of a large family is priceless. As I’m the 7th child I have been given access to various musical genres and books. Not to mention the continuous support, love, affection and inspiration from my singings. I can’t imagine not having my large wonderful family. Now at 79 and more to be born. 

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

As I have lived in the sun for the last 12 years. I like to wear vests and shorts. Summer dresses and loose clothes. I wear a lot of bikinis. I love Autumn fashion but only buy a few outfits for when I go home to England.I love to wear heels 👠 when I have business meetings and always wear smart suits. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?

I have worn a lot of designer clothes in the past and still have some designer items. Prada and Gucci. Some French fashion that no longer exists. But now I only buy clothes from high street stores like Zara and Mango and Top shop. I have purchased clothes online from ASOS UK. Bikinis from Bravisimo and a clothing line in Dubai. 

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

I don’t have a wish list as I buy when I need new. I have become aware of throw away fashion and the awful foot print that clothing leaves on our planet. I find that I can make do with clothes for longer now. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes and sandals I have to wear in the heat, but I love boots for winter back home. I’ve always loved wearing boots. They are extremely attractive and comfortable. 

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

My Amazon link 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07SZ3K9BM
My Facebook page 
https://www.facebook.com/karenbradyauthor/

Thank you so much for chatting with me about your book, Karen. My own father was the youngest of 10 and as a young child he wasn’t evacuated – he stayed in the Leyton area of East London (born in West Ham/Stratford area as my grandparents, myself and my sister (in Leyton)). My mother on the otherhand, was born just outside Cirencester in Gloucestershire in a farmhouse, because my grandmother was pregnant with my mum and she was evacuated along with my mum’s older brothers. They stayed together and returned to London when my mum was a toddler. It is great that these memoirs exist – I wish I had asked my dad’s mum a lot more questions about life at the beginning of the 20th century but she was very Victorian in her ways (she was born in 1895) and as a young girl I was slightly scared of her! She died just before my 16th birthday.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Karen Brady

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Revisiting Liat Hughes Joshi

Back in February 2015 I interviewed on my blog author Liat Hughes Joshi (read the original interview HERE). Since then, I have spotted Liat on TV ; she has written a couple more parenting books and her child has become a teenager! It seems a great time, therefore, to have a catch up!

Welcome back onto the blog, Liat! Could you please reintroduce yourself !

Hi! I’m Liat Hughes Joshi, a parenting author, journalist and broadcaster. Also a mum. I’ve written five parenting books and have just signed up for a sixth.  I live in London but grew up by the seaside in a place called Lytham St.Annes in Lancashire. Most people who have heard of it have an elderly relative who lives/ lived there because it has traditionally been a retirement town but it’s really changing and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit for the independent shops and restaurants in Lytham centre in particular.    

What truly inspired you to become a writer/ journalist in the first place? 

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine years as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.I do sometimes make forays back into the corporate world, giving talks on parenting and family life for companies and working with brands on their campaigns.

Since we last spoke way back in February 2015, you have since published 2 more books “How To Unplug Your Child” (May 2015) & “5-Minute Parenting Fixes” (February 2018).Was your book “5 Minute Parenting Fixes” inspired by your own parenting journey?

Yes and no. I’ve been writing about parenting for 14 years and it does come from a lot more than my own experiences as a mum. The idea for 5-Minute Parenting Fixes came because I realised there was SO much information on parenting out there now and it’s easy to get bogged down after a simple search on the internet with overload and confusion. At the same time we all seem to have busier lives than ever. Or it feels that way anyway. So I thought mums and dads might welcome a single, reliable and sensible source of information, and something that can be read very quickly – picked up for five minutes to check out solutions to a specific problem. Just as the book’s title suggests! It covers all sorts of common problems for parents of 5 to 16 year-olds, from dealing with bullying to getting them off screens more, or doing their homework or chores with less fuss.

Apart from your writing, you have appeared on TV daytime [and news] show debates on various parenting issues. Do you get nervous appearing on TV? Any memorable or embarrassing TV moments?

I have no idea why but I really don’t feel nervous at all with TV interviews. I just go in and chat  and debate with the people who are there and don’t think about or worry about the audience watching on TV at home. Pretty much all the presenters and newsreaders do a great job of making guests feel at ease though. There has been one TV project recently that pushed me out of my comfort zone…but I’m not allowed to talk about it until it airs which won’t be for a couple of months (sorry!). It involves comedy but luckily I wasn’t expected to be funny, or else people would want their money back. And they weren’t even paying. Most memorable…probably that one and when I had a spat with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain.

Although non -fiction/parenting advice books are your writing genre, are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet? 

I’d actually love to write a sitcom but see above I’m not sure I am funny enough. Perhaps more realistically, I’m keen to explore ideas for radio. I absolutely adore Radio 4 and it’d be a dream to write and present documentaries on there.

Are there any new books or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes! I am just sorting out the contract for a sixth parenting book. This will be my fourth with Summersdale. They are fantastic to work with and it’ll be interesting to see how much is different or the same now that they are part of Octopus, which is in turn part of Hachette.

What book are you currently reading?  What book is on your kindle wishlist?

I’m reading Nutshell by Ian McEwan, one of my favourite authors. It’s narrated by an foetus and quite unusual but entertaining and clever. I have given up on Kindles and reverted to reading print books so I haven’t got a wish list. I wrote a feature about switching back to analogue in various aspects of our lives [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/life/happened-gave-tech-went-analogue-month/] and definitely find material I read in print sinks in better.

For Pinning Later

Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

YES! Both the original UK published editions are sold via international bookshops online but also in various local versions and translations. Off the top of my head there have been editions of one or other of my books published in the US, Vietnam, Romania, Italy, India, Portugal and Slovakia, with Saudi Arabia and Germany coming soon.

Family holidays – which place is a particular favourite family holiday location?

In the UK, my heart belongs to the Lake District. I had so many childhood trips there, both with family and my school (which had an outward bound centre near Ullswater). Luckily my teenage son and I share similar ideas, at the moment at least, about what we like to do on a holiday. It would involve days spent hiking, with perhaps a run or a bit of kayaking, then a lovely, hearty dinner in a gastropub. Repeat for a few days!

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’ve recently agreed to join the charity Kidscape as an Ambassador and I’m really excited about being involved with them. I was bullied as a child and it sounds like a cliché but it’s a subject close to my heart.  

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

I’ve turned into something of a ‘uniform dresser’ in the last couple of years. I almost always wear blue, especially navy. If you were to open my wardrobe, you would not find an array of colours and tons of pattern in there that’s for sure.  It means everything goes with everything and I can throw set combinations on without thinking too much. That’s not to say I don’t care about how I look. I absolutely do! It’s always a treat if there’s ‘hair and make up’ on offer at the studios before TV interviews. My default outfit most days certainly involves skinny dark denim jeans (Levis Mile High Super-skinnies are top of my list currently). Fashionable or not, I’m too short to carry off those wider leg trousers everyone is wearing at the moment. I have noticed far fewer women in London seem to wear heels nowadays but I’m really quite short (5ft1) so do like a bit of a height boost, either via my flatform white Superga, some long boots, or espadrille wedges. When I do TV interviews, I have a favourite Reiss TV jacket. I’ve tried to diversify and find others that I like as much but it is just so perfect. It’s fitted, single-breasted and so flattering. And it’s navy (obviously).

Liat’s adorable dog!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As I’m short, I do struggle with finding things that fit. The majority of clothing ‘drowns’ me. Wandering round most clothing shops on a high street is a waste of time for me, as I’d simply end up frustrated in the changing rooms. Reiss and Boden are favourites because they do size 6 and the latter has a petite range that I’ve got a fair few things from.

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

I’ve got really quite minimalist so actually…I can’t think of anything! I often reorder the same favourites, such as the Levi’s skinny jeans, Jigsaw’s t-shirts and a fresh pair of white Superga trainers now and again. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots…for daily walks with my dog and hiking! 

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

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @liathughesjoshi. My books are available on Amazon.  

It was great to catch up with you Liat! I’m loving the fact that you champion the colour navy – I wear black for work as part of my “uniform”, so navy is always the colour of choice for me when I want the smart and classic look. That goes for shoes too – I love my navy slingback kitten heels! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of it Hughes Joshi.

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An Interview With Olbrish

I know that many of my readers love a good handbag (me included) and I have showcased many bag makers over the years on this blog – rabbit shapes, those inspired by buildings, and so on. So I’m thrilled to introduce onto my blog a company from Germany, Olbrish, whose distinctive designs have not only won my heart but have won some prestigious awards too. I caught up with the founder, Wolfgang Olbrish, recently to find out more about his impressive bag collections….

Hi Wolfgang, please introduce yourself and Olbrish….

Hello. We have been producing our handbags in Berlin since 1981. Over the years the company has changed a lot, both inside and, probably more, from the outside. What has stayed the same is the clear expression of form in our designs. For me and the factory Olbrish, it all started on the Kurfürstendamm where I offered  the Berlin wall & city tourists my first hand-made hippie belts and hand-dyed hair clips. With the new collaboration with Bernd Goebel 1981, we started our own protest against the throw-away culture – our bags were mostly made of leather remnants. Today, our principle has remained the same:  custom-made, bags for money, whatever the male or female customer wanted. In the early 90s, we hired the first professional seamstresses. I studied painting at the “Akademie der Künste” (University of Arts in Berlin) and things became more serious. The shapes of our bags became more geometrical and less playful; we moved to a bigger workshop in the heart of Berlin Kreuzberg. In 2003 the circle closed itself and we moved our store and were are back at the Kurfürstendamm, where it all started. Today we still produce everything by hand in our factory in Berlin Kreuzberg.  We experiment with new materials like horsehair and our newest project, fish-leather from a small fish farm in Austria. 

What inspires the distinctive designs of Olbrish bags?

Everyday objects like bowls, bathrobes or the human body itself. Both curves and edges are also beautiful in handbags.

Olbrish bags, briefcases, wallets and belts are made from genuine leather, woven horsehair & recycled materials. What are the main attributes towards working with leather?

Leather is a beautiful material. On the one hand it is very forgiving and easy to apply on our recycled carrier material, on the other hand extremely durable. The thing is, it is only forgiving if you know how to work with it and if you have the right machinery. We have special sewing machines for leather and the carrier material. Normal machines would break after a few stitches. The horsehair is a completely different story, although being even more durable than leather, it is not forgiving nor is it easy to work with in any way. It was a long process until we found out how to use it for our handbags.

I love the “Wave” bag – timeless chic!  What bags are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Our Wave handbag always works, usually in the classic black and red colour combination. But also the Torii in both sizes is a good selling bag. Normally the brand new bags sell well in the beginning, then after a year or so it shows if the bag has the potential to stay with us or if it will be stowed away to be rediscovered at the right time. Also the Arcade shoulderbag is very popular. It is also the one for which we got the “Red Dot Design Award – Best of the best”

The company also offers custom made bags. Have you had any bizarre requests?

Usually it is odd colour combinations like a bag in purple, orange and white. 

Once a guy (seriously) asked if we could make him a bulletproof briefcase, when I asked him “but why?” he answered that he wanted to protect himself. I didn’t ask again and had to turn down his request. 

Hypothetically speaking, which famous person would you love to see as the “face” of Olbrish?

Michelle Obama: she is great, beautiful, always looks energetic and has great sense for fashion.

Have you any other new products/accessories in the pipeline for 2019?

We have one new bag, which is not registered yet and no one has seen it so far. Only us in the factory have seen it and  everyone in the company loves it so far which almost never happens. The last time this happened was 10 years ago when we won the red-dot design award. So we are really excited.

The company has won a few accolades over the years – congratulations- what award are you most proud of? 

The “Red-Dot design Award- Best of the best” was probably the highlight.

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

Yes, we ship worldwide but our main markets are Germany and the US. We would love to find new customers in the UK. 

When designing bags to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, vintage quality or bits of all those?

I definitely take into account my own tastes, I listen to our customers and colleagues and try to design the bag with as little compromise as possible. If I listen to requests too much, the outcome of the bag is usually not as interesting. Trends are not really important to us. They change too often and are often outdated after only a few months. So even if we wanted to, we can’t design a whole new collection for only a few months, which has to be replaced by a new one in the next season. Also our bags are made to last and want to be worn for more than one season.

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

Rainjacket- dark grey, striped shirt under a sweatshirt- in case a customer comes to visit and  I have to look respectable, blue jeans- 501, dark grey sneakers.

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

Schrauben24.de

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

A snake skin jacket, so I can feel 20 again.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes, I don’t have boots.

For pinning later


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

https://www.olbrish.de/browse/olbrish/,0,5334,0,0.html

https://www.instagram.com/olbrish/

https://facebook.com/olbrishtaschen/

Many thanks Wolfgang! I must say that I find the idea of using fish leather very intriguing and I am on tenterhooks to see your latest bag design – looking at your other styles, I am sure it is just as exquisite!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Wolfgang Olbrish.

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An Interview With Author Isabeau Kelm

Every now and then you come across an author whose writing just blows you away … and I have been fortunate to have read debut novels from a couple of authors this month whose talent for writing have been beyond excellence. This week I want to introduce you to Isabeau Kelm , author of “At The Blue Hour”, an historical novel set in Moldavia in 1583. It is a genre of book that I enjoy on occasions and this had not only history, but it was based in a part of Europe whose history is rich & vibrant and I hadn’t read many books based in that area. I love Isabeau’s style of writing. It is a classical literature style, full of description and clever use of words to set the mood of the day. “At The Blue Hour” isn’t an “easy reading “ style novel … the book slowly reels you in to the shadowy world of medieval Moldavia ….for me it got me hook, line & sinker by chapter 3 or 4. This book is English language/literature at its finest and would appeal to those readers who enjoy reading the classics. I was fortunate enough to have been sent a copy of the book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing, and my views on the book are my genuine reactions. I loved it so much I’m looking forward to reading the follow ups…

After reading the book I just had to chat to the author! Hi Isabeau & welcome!

Hello. My name is Isabeau Kelm and I live in Madrid, Spain, with my fiancé and our daughter. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree programme in Art History at the University of Glasgow and later earned an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University, Middlesbrough. I derive my ideas from my numerous travels and my personal interest in my own biographical roots. You can find my creative non-fiction works that explore my family history and my collection of poems under my pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’.

Your degrees in Art History & Creative Writing obviously helped to set the ball rolling towards a career as a writer, but what truly inspired you to become writer in the first place? 

I honestly think I was born with the desire to write. Whatever I see or hear inspires images and conversations in my mind that I often express in poems or stories. Like many other authors, I am prone to daydreaming and have been writing since I learned how to write, but it was actually my mother who encouraged me to write professionally and I am forever grateful to her for believing in my writing abilities.

“At The Blue Hour” is your latest novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was an interesting historical novel, inspired by true events, set in Moldavia in 1583. The young gypsy slave, Irina, who catches the eye of the Prince, had me mesmerised with her positivity; the Prince, who happened to be the great grandson of Vlad Dracula, annoyed me slightly with his possessiveness; Cornelius, the magician/advisor/teacher, what a character – I didn’t know whether to pity him or tell him to reveal his true feelings (never mentioned but I sensed the feelings!); the monks who enslaved Irina & her mother; the absent father; the villagers who were scared of Irina & her ilk, abusing them…. Which character/s did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

“At the Blue Hour” is actually my very first novel that I have written in German and published in 2015. It has been translated into English by my sister Eugenia Zilke, a certified translator, and edited by two professional editors. A Russian translation of the novel is available for purchase as well thanks to my mother Ida Zilke who has translated it. 

Since then I have published the sequel of “At the Blue Hour” which is called “At the Golden Hour” (there will be soon an English and a Russian translation for sale), and two creative non-fiction books and a collection of poems under my other pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’ which I have written in English. Two of these works contain illustrations created by my fiancé whose artistic name is ‘Enjolras’.

Right now I am working on the third book of the many adventures of Irina Botezata, the protagonist of “At the Blue Hour”

Before I answer your questions, I would like to thank you for reading my book. I am very happy that you found the story interesting.

Now to your questions. Honestly I enjoyed writing about all of my characters as each of them has very different morals and beliefs. This made the creation of them challenging but interesting at the same time as I had to tap into all the different elements of my subconscious. 

However, I enjoyed writing about Radu the most, Irina’s childhood companion and friend, because he is a rather mysterious and yet down-to-earth character.

The hardest character to write about was actually Irina because I constantly tried my best to portray her in a realistic manner, with flaws and all, in order to refrain from creating a stereotypical “Mary Sue”-protagonist. To me it was important to show that we as humans are all morally ambiguous to a certain degree, i.e. nobody is perfect. Additionally, she has experienced many traumatic events in her life, so I also had to envision what these experiences do to a person, how the personality of such a person evolves etc.

What is it about the turbulent history of Eastern & South Eastern Europe that inspires you?  

I was born in Soviet Russia, in Siberia to be precise. However, I was a toddler when my entire family moved to Germany. Since then I have visited Russia only twice. It is a vast, unexplored land in my mind which has been created by the many stories my parents and grandfather told me. I guess it is the exploration of my roots that fascinates me so much about Eastern European history.

As far as South Eastern Europe is concerned, not much is known about their history in the West. As soon as you start reading about the complex historical events that took place in this part of the world over the centuries, I am surprised that not more Western authors are inspired to make use of the vastness of inspiration South Eastern European history offers.

Although historical novels are your writing genre, do you enjoy writing other genres? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

First of all, I would like to stress that although “At the Blue Hour” is seet in the past, I rather consider it to be a Bildungsroman with a touch of Magical Realism. The main theme of the novel is really the learning process of Irina and the exploration of what freedom really means. Nevertheless, my readers will learn a lot about the history of 16th Century Moldavia and of the Ottoman Empire as I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, so the novel can be considered a historical novel.

As mentioned before, I also write creative non-fiction books and poetry under my pen name ‘I.W. Zilke’. 

But there is one genre that I would really like to have a go at – Science Fiction! My fiancé and I were thinking of a joint collaboration, that is he (a cyber security engineer)will help me by updating me with the newest and future advances in technology, and I will write the story. We would like to create a book that explores the many ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence that are sure to follow with the unstoppable advances in that field.

 Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes, right now I am conducting historical research for the third book about the adventures of Irina Botezata and have actually written some scenes already. In the near future I would also like to finish my book about my family history, spanning four generations, that I have begun writing as part of my MA dissertation. And of course my very first Science Fiction novel.

 Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a bookworm, although now it is getting increasingly difficult for me to find time to read as I have a toddler at home to take care of as well. Usually I read when riding the subway. That is why I almost always carry a book in my purse.

My favourite author of all time is the French writer Marguerite Duras. I have read almost all of her books and each of them speaks to my heart and lets my soul sing and weep. She was able to write about her life in such a poetic and at the same time brutally honest way that I consider her to be one of the bravest writers in history.

To be honest, I love reading the classics – Maxim Gorky, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Vladimir Nabokov…

I prefer reading actual books, but I can definitely see the advantage of reading on an e-book reader. My fiancé gave me one as a Christmas present and it is really amazing how many books can fit in one of these devices. However, nothing tops the smell of old books or the ability to make notes on the pages or underline some lines that I find particularly beautiful.

 Is “At The Blue Hour” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it is available to purchase worldwide.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I have already visited almost all the places that I will mention or have already mentioned in my books. However, I have been obsessed to travel to the Congolese jungle since I have read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I think this is one of the few places on earth that harbours exciting secrets in many senses. Although I am not planning to write about Congo (maybe in the future?), I am still certain that this travel experience would give me writing inspiration for decades.

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

I do not shop often, although I love fashion! I don’t follow every trend though. 

You would normally find me wearing a plain-coloured dress in pastel or navy blue, and high-heeled shoes. Recently I have discovered mom jeans. They are surprisingly comfortable!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As far as designers are concerned, I love almost all the dresses created by Karen Millen. In order to find exclusive wedding gifts, the Ralph Lauren online shop is my go-to place. Zara is my number one high-street choice. Regarding personal care, I am obsessed with L’Occitane and Guerlain products. As a matter of fact, my signature perfume is called “L’Heure Bleue” by Guerlain, which means The Blue Hour. Talking about taking your own books to the next level!

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

Block heel sandals! No matter the brand, my only requirement is that they should be comfortable enough to walk around in them in the Spanish Summer heat for more than one hour. Next on my shoe wish list are white Christian Louboutin shoes for my wedding that we plan for next year.

Boots or Shoes?

Both because boots are useful in the winter and shoes are for having fun in Spring and Summer.

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

Yes, I would like to share some links where you can find out more about my works and me:

WEBSITES: https://www.iw-zilke.com/ & https://www.isabeaukelm.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/isabeaukelm/ & https://www.facebook.com/AuthorIWZilke/

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.es/kelmisabeau/ & https://www.pinterest.es/iwzilke/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/isabeaukelm_iwzilke_author/

YOUTUBE: http://bit.do/AUTHOR-Kelm_Zilke

For Pinning Later

Thank you Isabeau – I’m so looking forward to reading about more of Irina’s adventures! Also I am so glad to meet a fellow kreader who not only enjoys reading the “heavy” classics but has also read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness”. It was this book that urged me to visit darkest Africa … although I have yet to experience Congo but I have visited the continent in the North, West & East so far…

And “At The Blue Hour “ has now added the countries in East & South Europe to my never ending bucket list…..

Linda x

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for a copy of the book “At The Blue Hour “.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Isabeau Kelm.

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An Interview With Harmonia Lily

Springtime. New beginnings, flowers, spring cleaning & sprucing of old items, Easter rabbits. What has Spring got to do with my guest this week? My guest is Aphrodite, who hails from New York and her company has just been launched in 2019 (New Beginnings); her company name, Harmonia Lily, is very florally (Flowers); her business is concentrating on making vintage accessories modern & accessible (Sprucing up of old items); and rabbits…. well her first limited edition vintage reproduction handbag “Freya” is a delightful bunny shape!

Hi Aphrodite and welcome! What inspired you to set up “Harmonia Lily”?

I have always been fascinated with vintage wicker handbags.  The craftsmanship in them is unlike anything else.  They are each handcrafted, and the details of each piece is remarkable.  From the simple square bags, to the animal shapes, each one has a story to tell and it all started with one person sitting down and picking up materials to start weaving them. 

You have spent years collecting vintage, so what is it about vintage fashions that you feel warranted a special modern makeover? 

I don’t feel that anything deserves a modern makeover really.  The thing about many vintage pieces is that with age it has been through many homes, hands, and simply can’t stand the test of time. Sometimes you pick up a piece and its meant to be admired and not adorned because of its age, and I want to be able to share it with the world. I want to recreate pieces that make people happy and will last them a lifetime so they can pass to down for generations to come.  

I love the “Freya” – the first limited edition vintage rabbit design bag – so cute! What colours of the bag are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Funny thing is that I thought pink and black would be the most popular colors, but it looks like purple and blue are proving me wrong!  I even have a natural color bunny that I thought for certain people would love because colors scare people sometimes.  Color takes people out of their comfort zone.  But it is the least selected color out of the 5 of them so far! 

Where did you get the inspiration from to design “Freya”?

Several years ago I saw a vintage bunny bag at a flea market that was in the worst shape imaginable and the price tag on it was even more ridiculous than the shape it was in.  When I finally sat down to decide that this was what I wanted to do, I wrote out a list of items I’d want to carry under Harmonia Lily and handwoven handbags was on the top of the list.  Then I had to figure out how to get the handwoven bags into animal shapes and that has not been an easy task!  

Hypothetically speaking, which famous person would you love to see as the “face” of Harmonia Lily?

Someone like Dita Von Teese or Debi Mazaar.  Both of them not only have style and grace, but they have such confidence that doesn’t say ‘I’m wearing this because I have to and it’s my job, I’m wearing this because it’s who I am and this is my style’  

Have you any other new products/accessories in the pipeline for 2019?

Future designs of handbags will include a unicorn, a flying pig, dinosaur, and a few secret ones too! I have vintage inspired belt buckles, necklaces and bracelets coming towards the end of the year.  If you keep a look out on @HarmoniaLily instagram, you might end up being able to win some of those accessories in a few weeks 😉  

I love knowing how brands decide their company names – so what is the story behind the name “Harmonia Lily”?

Well my name is Aphrodite Rose.  Aphrodite was such a strong woman in greek mythology, and in some stories her daughter’s name is Harmonia.  I wanted to keep with the greek name line and name the company since this is now my pride and joy, my child.  Roses and lilies also happen to be my favorite flowers, so wanted to keep the names just right.   You’ll see as time goes on, that many of my bags will be named after gods/goddeses.  Such as Freya, my bunny bag.   

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

You can purchase my products from anywhere in the world. 

When designing bags to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, vintage quality or bits of all those?

A combination of all of the above.  

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

There is not a ‘normal’ day in my world.  I can go anywhere from highwaisted wide leg pants and flats, to a dress and heels and flowers in my hair.  Every day is a mix up. 

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

There are so many to mention! I follow most of them on instagram, so if you wanted to find out you could stalk me there. 

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

For me personally, I love styles that are unique, bold, stand out from the crowd.  I am a fan of Trashy Diva because they use vintage patterns and use modern patterns and prints for their clothing line.  And they also happen to carry lingerie and shoes that are vintage style as well. 

Boots or Shoes?

Depends on the outfit, and the season.  I live in New York, so depending on the season, boots are necessary.  

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

You can find Harmonia Lily at www.harmonialily.com

www.facebook.com/harmonialily

www.twitter.com/harmonialily

www.instagram.com/harmonialily

Thank you very much Aphrodite for sharing your passion and future plans with us! I wish your brand continued success and I, for one, will be looking forward to seeing your new products as the year unfolds!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Harmonia Lily.

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An Interview With City Dance Parties

It might have been the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing or it might have been the heady days of the 1970s/1980s with the emergence of films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Fame…but one thing is for sure is that on the whole the UK seems to be “dance- mad”. I’m sure the other world nations are the same, though. Since launching in January 2017, City Dance Parties have gained in popularity, and they were winners of the “Best Hen and Stag Provider” category at the 2019 British Wedding Awards. The dance parties are not just for hen nights, as I found out when I chatted with founder, Jenny Haynes. Hi Jenny!

Hello! My name’s Jenny Haynes, and I’m the founder of City Dance Parties, a nation-wide dance party company that specialises in dance classes for hen parties, birthdays and corporate events. 

Congratulations on being the winner of “Best Hen And Stag Provider” at the 2019 British Wedding Awards  – so, what triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, City Dance Parties? 

Thank you! What a bonkers surprise, I’m absolutely over the moon still. I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and to earn a bit of extra money to help with living expenses, started teaching hen party dance classes on a Saturday afternoon (we were in school Monday-Friday from 8am -7pm). It was after my partner pointed out that he always really enjoyed hanging out with me after I’d finished teaching the classes as I was in such a good mood that  I realised how much I really enjoyed the work, and thought this was something I might want to take more seriously.  After I graduated from Bristol, I started putting things into action, so I could try to forge a side hustle that would work in tandem with auditions, and acting……we’ve grown step by step from there really! 

Have you always wanted a career in dance or did your aspirations lie elsewhere? 

I’ve always loved dance/movement, and always wanted to work in the physical theatre and movement side of acting – discovering how much I enjoyed teaching hen parties dancing took things on a slightly off piste path (a path I’m very grateful for), into a career that is a mixture of event planning, dancing and teaching!  

You offer a vast range of dance classes, including Burlesque, Beyoncé, Bollywood, Dirty Dancing, 80s & 90s dance classes, salsa ….What would you say are the most popular dance masterclasses?

The most popular last year was definitely Beyonce! Everyone is loving Queen B (and with good reason in my opinion) – we once had a booking for a Beyonce class for a 70th Birthday, which I thought was absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.  This year (for obvious reasons), Spice Girls have been making a big resurgence, and 90s dance is always super popular, as 90’s Children/Teens are all starting to get married now! Disney, which we added last year,  has been a really popular choice, and, Dirty Dancing continues to be a firm favourite! 

Which dance masterclass is your personal favourite? 

I have to say I love a bit of Roaring 20’s…..it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up, and get really into the feel of the class (we’ve had some fabulously dressed groups for our 20’s classes over the past few years!). 90s Dance, Beyonce and Belly Dance are also solid favourites of mine to teach! 

What does a typical Hen Party Dance Class include?

The exact details of the class can vary slightly depending on what length of class you choose, and what style, but you can expect lots of laughs, all the basics of your chosen style, taught to you by a professional choreographer, dance-offs, and a fun-filled group routine (we sometimes even crack out a MegaMix routine depending on the style of dance!) that everyone can perform together, and video, so that you’ve got a long lasting memory of your special day. 

A lot of parties like to dress up or at least have a few accessories to jazz up the weekend – what clothing guidelines do you recommend? What dressing up outfits are most popular? What has been the most unusual/unique dance party outfit you have seen?

We tend to say that as long as you can move comfortably, that’s the main thing! Some groups love to dress up, others wear dance/gym gear, and some wear slightly more relaxed clothes they’re wearing out later on. It’s all about finding what you’re comfortable in, and what will make the session most enjoyable for you. We’ve had some fantastic fancy dress, and some absolutely bonkers costumes….some of my highlights are: a group we had come in dressed as archaeologists and dinosaurs, a group that came dressed as various iconic artists from the 90’s (YES to the lady who came in a power rangers morph suit!!), and a group who donned the most stunning vintage outfits for a 20’s masterclass. One that always sticks in my memory though, is one from a few years ago, when a group of ladies came to a burlesque class slightly later on in the day (I think a few glasses of bubbly had been had by that point!), and within 5 minutes of the class, one lady had stripped completely naked, and was stood covering her modesty with two strategically placed feather fans!!  (NOT compulsory for Burlesque Classes I might add!) 

You currently operate in Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York. Any new places on the horizon for 2019?

We actually added Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Chester to the list last year! I’m always keen to keep expanding and branching out into new cities. Sheffield is one that’s definitely being added to the list, and we’re slowly taking over the UK! I never want to rush things and try and grow too quickly, as I want to really establish a good quality base in each city we offer. We do have our first international booking in May this year, so just watch this space!! 

Would the dance classes take into account those who may be uncoordinated, unfit or not as agile?  

Absolutely. With an event like a hen do, or a birthday, there’s often going to be a big range in abilities, ages, and often co-ordination, so I try to cater the sessions so they’re really suitable for all abilities, and they’re fast paced enough for those experienced in dance, but also really accommodating and fun for those who have never donned their dancing shoes before! We’ve had groups of ex professional dancers in before, and ladies who have never taken a dance class in their life; whatever the ability, our main focus is creating a class that’s fun for you, and will ensure you have the best time possible.  
Often the idea of dance can be a bit nerve-racking,  especially if you haven’t got much experience, or haven’t danced in a while, so we try to make the sessions focused around having fun, creating some special memories and building confidence. It’s actually one of my favourite things about the work….having ladies come in who aren’t confident at all, and are perhaps a little resistant about the idea of dancing leaving with big smiles on their faces, new skills, and the realisation that dance can be great fun! 

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Which dance style do you enjoy watching?  Is there any dance style that you would like to try that you haven’t attempted before? 

I LOVED watching So You Think You Can Dance when I was a teenager – it’s an American reality dance show, that showcases some incredible choreographers and dancers of all different styles. I personally love a bit of jazz and commercial….the sassier the better! I’ve never been particularly good at tumbling or flips, so I’d say the ‘Acro’ or ‘Gymnastics’ side of dance is something I’d love to really master one day.  

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear for a dance class?

Now…I’m a sucker for a lace leotard. I have some customised City Dance Parties leotards I wear for classes I teach (I mostly work on the admin side of things now, but always try and jump in and teach on quieter weekends!) , and my absolute favourite is a backless black lace number. Combine it with some bright, funky leggings (my wardrobe is 99% lycra so I need to make sure I’m kitted out properly!) and some bright trainers and you are good to go! A brand I’ve been LOVING recently is KYODAN, which I buy through TK Maxx; they’re really gorgeous designs, fab fitting, and won’t break the bank. 

Boots Or Shoes?

I have to say shoes…..in particular trainers!! I grew up wearing high heels on any occasion (Geordie Girl born and bred!)  but after a back injury in my early 20’s switched over to trainers pretty much full time, and I’m now a convert to trainers for pretty much whatever occasion I can get away with wearing them! 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about City Dance Parties

City Dance Parties – www.citydanceparties.co.uk Facebook – www.facebook.com/citydancepartiesTwitter: @CityDance_UK Instagram: www.instagram.com/citydanceparties

Thanks Jenny! Those classes sound a lot of fun! Talking about loving lace leotards – in the 1980s one of my favourite “disco” outfits was a bright yellow lace leotard/bodysuit which I wore with black satiny leggings and a bright yellow/black kimono style shirt/jacket held together with a wide black patent belt! And black patent court shoes with a high thin metal stiletto heel! 🙂 Couldn’t dance in heels like that nowadays though!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from City Dance Parties; apart from the Pinterest photo which is by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Lana KK

Abstract canvas paintings and gigantic world or country maps can help when designing your perfect interior. With basic pastel walls in rooms, which is the current trend, the splash of bright co ordinating colour from a large canvas painting adds not only colour but interest and character. I was lucky enough recently to catch up with Kathleen Kolibius-Konig, graphic designer, artist and owner of Lana KK ….Hi Kathleen..

Hello, I am Kathleen. I am a very creative but still goal oriented person. Besides my life as an artist and company owner, I love nature and animals. I enjoy spending time with my husband, our chicken, dogs and cockatoos. For people who do not know me perceive me as a reserved person, but if people get to know me better the find out that I am a very happy and warm person.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of your company, Lana KK?

I always loved art and design. I always wanted to inspire people to surround themselves with beautiful things.

I love the World Maps and the Wonderland Green Wall Picture particularly caught my eye! To date, what has been your most popular art work or item?

The world maps are our most successful products, closely followed by the abstract designs. 

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

I really love our world maps. Apart from the fact that the world maps are one of our most successful products, they represent a lot what Lana KK is about. Our goal was to create something new out of the ordinary world map. We thought that a world map could be great piece of art and design that people would love to have in their homes and offices. Picking a real favorite is hard for me as every picture represents a part of my own development.

I’m a bit of a map geek and your world maps are really gorgeous.  What do you like about maps and why do you think they are popular? 

I think we have found a really good balance between excellent design themes and geographic information. Our goal was to combine a piece of art with the benefits of a world map. Besides visuals, I think our customers love the cork magnetic variants of our world maps as this allows them to interact with the map and keep track of holiday dreams and memories. 

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being an artist or did you have other career plans?

I did not plan to be an artist. Although I always loved drawing, I imagined myself being an assistant or manager in a company. I love organizing things and building processes. Having my own company gives me the opportunity to do creative work and organize things. Win win.

As Lana KK  is based in Germany, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

At the moment, we deliver all over Europe regularly. We also deliver worldwide on request. As you can imagine, especially the shipment of large products, needs some extra planning, but we try to make everything possible for our customers.

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

I love places that are as natural as possible. I really enjoy to be astonished by nature in all of its beauty. For me there is no such thing as one single place for inspiration. Most of my inspiration I can draw from small details. I believe nature has always been the greatest inspiration for humans.

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

I love showy and sporty outfits and shoes with a tendency towards elegance. I am always looking for special pieces with a great design. Sometimes I buy high heels just for the design. I do not wear them very often, but if I wear them I do them with pride 🙂

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I have no real favourites. Generally, I love sites with well curated offers.

Boots or Shoes?

Both 🙂 In everyday life I often prefer shoes. They are simple and comfortable. My husband and I enjoy walking with our dogs, that often requires the more practical choice. Sometimes I prefer boots, because I just think boots are more elegant and just look better on me.

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

https://www.lanakk.com/uk/

https://www.lanakk.com/uk/magazin.html

https://www.facebook.com/lanakkart/

https://www.instagram.com/lanakk_art/

https://www.pinterest.de/lanakkart/

Thank you Kathleen for fabulous abstract designs and for taking the humble world map to a new dimension. Dear reader, would you consider having a world map on your wall or do the abstract paintings strike more of a chord with you?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kathleen (Lana KK)

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