Category Archives: Arts & Crafts

An Interview With Concrete & Wax

Suffolk duo, Mr Concrete & Mrs Wax (aka Alex and Laura) are gracing my blog this week – Mr Concrete makes modular, stackable candle holders from hand poured concrete; and Mrs Wax makes the most delightful scented soy wax candles …or non scented beeswax candles (with a slight natural aroma of honey) to match. Coming actually from a fashion background, they decided to launch Concrete & Wax In November 2018. I caught up with them recently to find out more about their delightful products ….

Hi! We are married design duo Alex Sommer and Laura Keller. We live in a sixteenth century cottage with our 6 year old Marley and slobber-dog Boadiin the Suffolk countryside. We worked for over two decades in the fashion industry, the last 15 of which through our creative consultancy 2Som Studio, designing and providing trend forecasts to many casual and sportswear brands. In 2018 we decided to combine our creativity with a new focus and, after many months of development, launched CONCRETE & WAX, a collection of concrete holders and natural wax pillar candles, all hand poured in our Suffolk workshop.

After a background in fashion including the running of a trend and forecast magazine – what inspired you to start your company, CONCRETE & WAX?

After Marley was born we knew that we needed a shift in career so that we travelled less. We batted around a few ideas over the years but never both felt equally passionate about one in particular. A close family illness at the start of 2018 meant Laura was away for long periods of time and in the evenings Alex distracted himself by tinkering with concrete. This inspired Laura, when at home, to experiment with wax, believing that the two contrasting materials would work beautifully together. It was like a ‘POW’ moment for us – we knew this was what we wanted to do. Alex suddenly became Mr Concrete and Laura became Mrs Wax! Alex’s love for modular, intelligent design in clothing transferred easily into the stackable, interchangeable collection of holders and candles that we have today. We love to think that our customers can put together their candle arrangement depending on their mood, in the same way they might pull together an outfit from their wardrobe.

I am amazed at the colour versatility of the modular, stackable concrete candle holders – and the Wax candle essence range, especially the unusual “tobacco & oak”. To date, what has been the most popular colour candle holder & popular wax candle fragrance?

Our customers seem to love the monochrome colours the best: Grey, white, black and, for the more adventurous, a little snocam camouflage paired with our white soy wax candles. Lime, Basil and Mandarin is the number one fragrance for women and Tobacco and Oak for men. It always amazes us to see how our customers style the products they’ve chosen to light there space.

What’s your most favourite item(s) in your collection?

It’s hard to pick favourites really, because they all have such unique personalities even though they really are very simple in design. But, our favourite thing by far is the fact they are modular and so can be stacked in many different ways. During the design process it was critical that we created product that would stand the test of time. Knowing the concrete would outlast the candles, and not wanting our customers eternally restricted to buying candles from us, the fact each holder has been designed to fit any standard tealight is a design element we are very proud of. 

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

It’s absolutely been about personal preferences. I’ve worn Lime, Basil and Mandarin perfume for most of my adult life so naturally this was my first development. The other fragrances I’ve added for the simple reason that I like them. There is nothing too sweet or overpowering because I don’t like to walk into a room and feel overwhelmed by a fragrance. 

We’re not quite at the personal request stage just yet in terms of our customers contacting me to ask, but I am completely open to that idea, so if anyone has a favourite they’d like me to look into then please get in touch.

I love that you are bringing to life candle holders using hand poured concrete – I love the smooth texture, the colours, the sheen & the fact that no two holders will ever look the same!  – they all look fantastic! Mr Concrete, how long does it take on average to make a concrete candle holder? Which part of the process gives you the most satisfaction?

Thank you. After pouring the concrete, it sits in its mould for 2-3 days, before I remove it – which is the best moment because it’s only at this point that I can see the unique characteristics of each piece, due to tiny air bubbles forming during the initial drying process. The concrete is then left to cure for two weeks before I add our branded cork foot to the base and apply a natural waxed oil protective coating. It goes back on the shelf for another week. Then it’s good to go. The camouflage concrete is always the most fun to pour because Mrs Wax helps me with this, as it is a two-person job. As there is no exact science to our pouring technique, no two pieces are ever the same and we love that fact.

Mrs Wax, can you tell us more about the different types of wax candles you make? What are the properties of the different type of waxes used?

I use only natural wax for our candles. The fragranced white candles are a blend I developed combining soy wax with a sprinkling of beeswax. The beeswax is important to add strength to the pillar candles because soy wax is a much softer wax, hence the reason it is usually used for container candles. And the yellow candles are natural beeswax. I just love the subtle honey aroma they throw out.

As CONCRETE & WAX is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes – we ship internationally, but as we make concrete, it is a heavy product to ship and some countries are absolutely weight dependent in terms of shipping costs. This has an impact on the price we have to charge for shipping and we fully appreciate that many customers are not prepared to pay for that. All we can say is, as we get bigger and ship bigger quantities we’ll have more negotiating power with the shipping companies and then the costs will come down.

Are there any new products or candle fragrances in the pipeline for 2019/2020?

Yes, we have three new colours in concrete in a tranquil, calming palette. They are lovely. And we’re also working on a couple of new candle fragrances. It’s a little early to specify exactly what yet because many are still in early testing phase, but Mediterranean fragrances are the inspiration, such as fig, orange, rosemary and basil.

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

L: Jeans, a casual top and easy footwear. As I’m a working Mum to a 6 year old it’s mostly about throwing it on in the morning to get breakfast, hair style and tooth brushing sorted in time for the school run (all of those things for her by the way, not me). Once that’s done I’d love to say I come home and glam up, but I usually jump straight on to the computer or into candle making.

A: A rather more masculine version of what Laura wears! Or camouflage overalls when I’m in the workshop.


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

L: When I have an hour or two to spare I love a good hunt through the rails at TK Maxx as invariably you can find something special at a great price. 

A: Goodhood or End Clothing are my go-to sites.


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

L: Something glamorous for the Christmas season.  

A: I’m on the hunt for a vintage quilted leather jacket. 

Boots or Shoes?

We hate to admit it, but usually trainers. After working for so many years in the sportswear industry, it’s a tough style choice to shift because there are just so many great ones out there – and you just can’t beat the comfort. 

L: Although saying that I have been wearing a cute pair of pale grey suede Chelsea boots quite a lot recently.

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

www.concreteandwax.com

Facebook & Instagram: @concreteandwax

I hope your business continues to burn brightly – I really am amazed at the colour variations available for concrete!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of CONCRETE & WAX

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An Interview With Koket

Luxury with a capital “L” this week on my blog as I am pleased to welcome the delightful Janet Morais, founder of luxury bespoke furniture brand KOKET. Each piece is lovingly handmade and to order – sumptuous velvets, luxury metallics, vibrant jewel colours, exotic peacock feathers, sensual shapes – every design caters for fulfilling the wildest desires for the home. Janet is comfortable with taking risks and turning heads, like her pieces of furniture and she has uniqueness down to an art form. I caught up with Janet recently to find out more… Hi Janet!

Hello! My name is Janet Morais and I am the founder and CEO of the luxury decor brand KOKET, along with a luxury lifestyle magazine called Love Happens and the brand agency DeMorais International.

KOKET’s designs are empowering statement pieces that are handcrafted by master artisans in Portugal. Our collections consist of dramatic case goods, luscious upholstery, exquisite lighting, and decadent furs. Our pieces often incorporate exotic and bold materials such as gemstones, metallics, and natural feathers. Each piece is meant to lure in the viewer and seduce with its beauty.

What inspired the founding of the brand, Koket?

I began my career in the design world as an interior designer and have always had a passion for beautiful home décor products. Working as a designer I found I was constantly challenged in finding décor pieces that truly spoke to me. So in 2010 as I sat in a New York City lounge a chair sketch came about and I instantly wanted to bring it to life. This moment and desire to possess that chair and create more pieces with the same empowerment began my journey.

Mandy Sofa

I am particularly fond of your furniture pieces  – the Mandy Sofa is gorgeous.To date, what has been the most popular furniture item or product from your range?

The Chandra Chair.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

The Divine Armoire – I love everything about this piece, from the pull inspired by a little girl’s ribbon, to the exotic feathers and the antique mirror interior!

The Divine Armoire

When picking items to add to your collections, do you select by what has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

KOKET’s designs are rooted in my love for taking risks and turning heads. Our designs are not about trends or fulfilling design voids. They are rather a highly edited curation of décor inspired by experiences, simple pleasures, passions and life events that have shaped me.

I love that you are using textures, such as velvet, as well as using vibrant colours, pattern & shapes – and using materials such as exotic peacock feathers. As all your pieces are made to order, what was the hardest or the most unusual bespoke item to create? 

The hardest piece for us to create was our Tabu cocktail table. It needed to match the curves of the client who had accentuated hips and a very distinct derriere.

Tabu Cocktail Table

Can you tell us more about the more unusual materials you have sourced and used?

I love finding unusual materials! The more unusual the better. The natural feathers have been one of my favorites. But I love our use of mother of pearl on the Camila and the agate stones in our Vivre and Brlliance lighting.

As Koket is based in the USA, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

Yes, our HQ’s are in the USA, however, our products are made in Portugal and we ship all over the world.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new design collection, where would you go and why?

India, for the exceptional details in the jewelry, metalwork, and architecture.

Have you always wanted to be a furniture designer, or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

I have always loved beautiful things and in particular the world of furniture and interior design. However, in college, I studied foreign languages. I always loved fashion so I worked as a personal shopper for some time. I then decided to follow my passion for interior design and furniture, returning to school and working in the profession. I quickly learned sourcing for truly unique designs was hard, so this is when I began to imagine having my own furniture line. Once I began this venture I fell in love with it!

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

Leather, fur and show-stopping shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Love Net-a-Porter.

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

100% as many shoes as I can get from Luis Onofre’s FW2019 collection.

Boots or Shoes?

Over-the-knee boots. Love the look and that they keep my legs warm.

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

www.bykoket.com

www.lovehappensmag.com (This is KOKET’s publication)

@janetlakoket

@bykoket

Thanks for talking to us Janet – I adore your exquisite designs especially the colours and the sumptuous velvets. The Tabu table is amazing and I do need the Divine Armoire in my life too….

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Janet Morais/KOKET.

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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.

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?

photographed by Alex Schneideman

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.

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…

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.

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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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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An Interview With Made With Respect

I’m heading down under to New Zealand this week to chat to Susan Stevens, founder & CEO of “Made With Respect”. Made With Respect’s mission is to support sustainable brands from around the world in the areas of fashion, self care, home and outdoor products; as well as educating and informing consumers of the importance of making conscious choices and living more sustainably. Sounds very impressive! Hi Susan & welcome….

Hello! My name is Susan Stevens, I live in NZ with my husband and 3 children (2 girls and a boy) aged 6, 9 and 12. I travelled extensively in my 20s with my husband, experiencing many vibrant cultures and appreciating contrasting landscapes.  I have always loved spending time outdoors and at the beach and now with our children we spend almost all our free time in the water surfing. I have a huge appreciation for nature and what it provides us. I am passionate about protecting the amazing natural resources that we have been blessed with, particularly the ocean and the wildlife that we share this planet with.  

What was behind the inspiration for Made With Respect?

In 2018 we launched Made With Respect, but my journey really started when I left behind a successful corporate career after experiencing a suppressive work environment and learning the importance of empowering and enabling others.  In 2014 when I launched my first business working with artisan brands and overseas suppliers, I saw first hand the transparency (or lack of) in supply chains. Through my work over the past few years I’ve become gravely aware of the negative impact we as consumers have on our planet, it stirred a passion within me to create a business that made a difference whilst supporting and enabling others with a shared vision.  

The stats are quite scary.  If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050 (currently 7.5 billion and projected to increase by 1 billion in the next 12 years), the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain our current lifestyles.  Given we’ve only got one planet, that is quite a concern. Add to that the WWF 2018 Living Planet report which shows evidence that nature is dying with 60% decline in the animal population across the planet, 83% decline in freshwater species and 90% of seabirds consuming plastic. Alarmingly, if we continue with the current rate of plastic waste there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.  We have to stop burying our heads and being ignorant of our behaviour because unless we change, our future looks bleak. I created Made With Respect to not only be a platform that champions sustainable brands who give a damn, but through MWR Movement, we are educating and informing consumers of the crucial role we play in the problems our planet face and through taking consistent conscious actions we can start to be part of the solution.  

Your company is a proud member of “1% For The Planet” – what does that entail?

As a member of 1% for the Planet, MWR donates a minimum of 1% total revenue to approved nonprofit partners who do essential work across six core focus areas; climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife.  So that means that every dollar Made With Respect generates gives back to the health of our planet.

Your website features brands from all around the world – from  France, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Italy, USA, Ireland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, Lithuania. What criteria have you have set for brands to qualify to partner with MWR?

Brands who we partner with that design and manufacture sustainable products in self-care, fashion, home and outdoor must fall within the following 4 pillars;

  1. Devoted to craftsmanship; making quality products that last and can be passed down through the generations.
  2. Transparent supply chain; good working conditions, no child labour
  3. Natural materials & natural ingredients; no chemicals or toxins (organic where possible), recycling, upcycling, regeneration and reduction of waste, embracing renewable resources and preserving the environment
  4. Contributing to make the world a better place; supporting local or disadvantaged communities, being more than a profit driven operation

We have amazing brands who are giving back on so many fronts, not only are they operating in a circular economy, minimising waste and making the most of resources but many are contributing part of their profits to worthy causes or supporting disadvantaged communities.  

We absolutely have to embrace these brands, we have to shine the spotlight on them and make them the example.

From clothing to bed linen, and lots of categories inbetween, your website caters for many. To date, what has been the most popular items/products/brands ?

Skin care, followed by children’s & women’s fashion, has been the most popular categories so far.  But ideally we want to be known as a place where consumers can conveniently shop (and support) sustainable brands across categories.  There are amazing sustainable brands in the market, but often they’re not easy to find as they don’t have the marketing budgets or distribution networks of the multi-nationals that are purely profit driven.

In a world where people tend to be time poor, if we can’t find what we want then we’ll resort to the easiest and most convenient option – the problem with this is often the quickest and easiest is also the most damaging and destructive.  One of MWR’s goal, through our partnerships with sustainable brands, is to make it easier for consumers to find, buy and support those brands that are making a positive difference.

What’s your favourite item?

I’ve got so many favourite items and brands that I can’t name just one!

This southern summer I’ve loved wearing my NZ & Brazilian Aurai swimwear top made from bio-degradable and regenerated materials.  You’ll also find in my wardrobe my Wolven leggings made from a fabric that is regenerated from recycled plastic bottles, along with my Atode Skater Navy Lace Dress and Atode Audrey Orange Silk Dress.  My daughters favourite fashion label is Feather Drum in Australia, they have a selection of timeless, gorgeous organic cotton pieces hanging in their wardrobes too!

In my bathroom you’ll find certified organic skincare products from The Divine Company in Australia, Soley in Iceland and Icelandic brand Hannes Dottir.  You’ll also find my husband’s all natural male grooming products from Hunter Lab in Australia, 66°30 in France and C3 in the USA. And I accessorise with my gorgeous Tamara Salman Cherry Red Mini Tote

As Made With Respect is based in New Zealand, are the products on the website available to purchase worldwide?

Absolutely, our brands are located from all around the world and their products are shipped to customers around the world.

At Made With Respect we are conscious of our own carbon footprint.  To ensure we operate sustainably and in order to reduce our own impact on the environment, rather than holding our brand’s products in a central warehouse, instead the brand ships directly from their workshop to our customers.  There is no double handling of product and no additional packaging wastage.

I noticed on your website you have The MWR 31 Days Of Sustainable Habits Challenge – can you explain this challenge?  What habit did you find was the hardest to change?

The objective of MWR 31 Days of Sustainable Habits Challenge is to show consumers we don’t need to go to extreme measures, we simply have to make more conscious choices in our everyday life to make a positive impact, we want to reinforce that small changes ultimately make a difference. I see this as being the crucial place to start, because it’s often the starting that is the hard part, once started it’s much easier to build momentum and once you start something you become more aware and more educated, education is key.  

I think people can become overwhelmed when they don’t know what to do and where to start, the mentality then becomes `how can one person possibly make a difference’.  What our Sustainable Habits Challenge does, is it shows consumers there are simple things they can easily implement into their lifestyle that will make a difference. For instance;

  • Place lint in the trash rather than wash it down the drain.  Why? Because microfibres, which are too small to be caught by waste treatment plants, are responsible for 85% of shoreline pollution across the globe.
  • Buy natural fibres instead of synthetics materials.  Why? Because they are by-products of petroleum and are non-biodegradable plus during the wash cycle these micro plastic fibres are released into our waterwaste and end up on the shoreline, eaten by wildlife and fish and polluting our foodchain.
  • Carry a reusable drink bottle.  Why? Because 50 billion plastic drink bottles are consumed every year, for every 10 bottles, only 2 end up recycled the rest end up in landfills and polluting our oceans and beaches.

The Sustainable Habits Challenge isn’t just about telling people what to do but also educating and informing them why they need to do it.

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

I generally wear very neutral colours; white, grey, beige, navy blue and in particular black.  I’ve always felt that colour dates and may only be ‘on-trend’ for that particular season whereas neutral colours, especially black is very versatile, timeless and can be dressed up or down.

In summer you’ll mostly find me in shorts & a camisole or a little black floaty summer dress with sandals.  In winter I love wearing jeans or black pants, a tee, jacket or blazer and a pair of casual white sneakers or ankle boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yes, Made With Respect!  

I’m a very conscious shopper (I always have been), I prefer to buy less but buy quality pieces that last and look great for years.

With MWR I always support our brands first.  If I do find myself browsing in clothing shops and I see something I like I always check the label first, if it’s made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, linen, tencel then I’ll try it on.  Once you become aware, it’s amazing how easy it is to spot synthetic materials.

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

At the moment I’ve got AmaElla lingerie on my wish list.

I don’t buy a new wardrobe every season. I have pieces that I’ve worn, both clothes and shoes (that get reheeled) year after year, because they are made from quality materials that wear well, wash well and last.  They are designed to be timeless so they transcend fashion trends and for any pieces I do chose to take out of my wardrobe, they are always in great condition to recycle at op shops, or loved all over again when passed on to girlfriends, my mum & more recently my daughter.

Boots or Shoes?

I love ankle boots in cooler weather.  A good quality & timeless style will last you years, they are so versatile with pants, jeans, dresses and skirts, you can dress them up or down.   

For Pinning Later

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

Our website: https://www.madewithrespect.com/
The MWR blog: https://www.madewithrespect.com/blogs/the-mwr-blog

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/MWR.movement

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MWR.movement

Thank you for your interview Susan. So many important points to ponder over and the sustainable habits challenge is a start and doable. Your website features some beautiful products too – thank you for introducing us to some quality and sustainable brands.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Susan Stevens (MWR).

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An Interview With Bright Corner

Messages to cut down on packaging, reduce the use of plastics and to help halt the severity of global warning, among others, are repeated every day on our news. I’m pleased, therefore, to interview a company that is totally eco friendly – even down to the packaging.  Bright Corner is a company that specialises in pretty interior wooden LED lights for the home that brighten up even the dullest corner. Good lighting in your home is important emotionally for making you, your family and your abode happy.  I caught up with founder Chloe Harrison to find out more… Hi Chloe!

Hello, I am Chloe,  founder and owner of Bright Corner, where I design and make wooden LED lights to create and inspire a happy, cosy home.

Your company designs and makes simple wooden LED lights. What inspired you to start your company?
I left my job in London a few years ago, to start something myself that gave me a better work / life balance. I spent a while volunteering and doing some courses but before I had figured out what I wanted to do, I became pregnant. This obviously took over for a while, but I knew I wanted to start a small creative business. Bright Corner came to me when I couldn’t find a simple wooden light for my little girl’s bedroom. So, I decided to design one and it grew from there.
Bringing a little bit of nature indoors, it makes a refreshing change to use natural wood. When it comes to packaging etc though, does your company maintain its eco friendly ethos by avoiding plastic?   
Yes definitely, I aim to be as environmentally friendly as possible. My products are packaged with no plastic, in simple brown boxes, protected with loose fill paper packaging – all recyclable. My parcel bags are Eco friendly made from Coex, a 100% natural product.
There are 3 designs to choose from: Star Tent, Townhouse & Woodland; as well as a choice of 3 fabric cable colours: natural jute, olive green, mustard yellow – which design and colour cable seems to be the most popular amongst your customers? Do you have a favourite design?
It is still early days, and all designs have been well received but the Star Tent seems to be the most popular for children’s rooms and the Townhouse, Woodland for adults. The cable colour favourite is mustard but I think that’s a top colour this winter. My personal favourite is the Townhouse with mustard but ask me in 6 months and I would have probably changed my mind.
Are there any new additions to your range of lights in the pipeline for 2019?
Yes I am working on a few new designs for the Spring / Summer and maybe even some new products, but they will have the same simple, wooden feel to them as my lights do.
As you are based in the UK, are your products available to customers abroad?
At the moment I only supply a UK plug but also send to Europe. I am hoping as my company grows, I can offer different plugs and expand to America / Canada.
Have you always had an interest in design or did you have other aspirations growing up? 
My sister was the creative one growing up and I was obsessed with films. I ended up working in the film industry, so still a creative world but I wasn’t creative myself. I felt a gap in my life for creativity, so I started to paint and had that as my outlet until I decided to leave my career and start a new adventure.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I prefer winter clothes to summer, I love tights with skirts / dresses, boots and jumpers, cosy clothes.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

I love a charity shop bargain, I once bought a COS T-shirt for £3 and wear it all the time. I am trying to buy more independent and recently got an amazing moon/ star jumper from Alphabet Sweats. For a treat I love Finisterre and Toast –  gorgeous brands, beautiful clothes.

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

I have always wanted a pair of Swedish Clogs, maybe I will treat myself for the Spring.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they are much more practical and there are better designs out there. I am a mum, so love a slip-on boot, so much easier when you are carrying a little one in and out of the house.

For pinning later

 

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

https://www.brightcorner-shop.com/

https://www.instagram.com/brightcornershop/

https://www.facebook.com/brightcornershop/

Lovely designs Chloe!  Although I do so love the minimalist interior home designs that are trending –  your lights are simply stylish and versatile – looking good in a new build or in a rustic old style country cottage.  I look forward to seeing your new creative designs in 2019.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chloe Harrison of Bright Corner.

 

 

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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

 

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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

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

Linda x

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

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A Visit To The Orla Kiely Exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

 

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