Category Archives: Arts & Crafts

An Interview With Shyrdakjurte

This week I’m focusing on the beautiful rugs produced by the nomadic people of Kyrgyzstan, known as Shyrdaks. Shyrdaks have been listed since 2012 as part of UNESCO world heritage status. I had heard of Persian carpets but not Shyrdaks until I spoke to Henning Stirner, a documentary film cameraman who got to know Kyrgyzstan through working on a documentary film project. Shyrdakjurte is an idea born out of a desire to help the local people of Kyrgyzstan. I’ll let Henning explain…. Welcome to the blog, Henning…

Hello. I am Henning Stirner, 58yo, and since 1997 I have been working as a cameraman/DoP, based in Berlin, Germany. For exactly 10 years I have also been the owner of Shyrdakjurte. 2023 is our 10th anniversary! Notice, get 10% off on the whole stock! Code: Anniversary-10%

What inspired the creation of “Shyrdakjurte”?

I did a documentary film which let me get to know the beautiful country of Kyrgyzstan, the great people living there AND the gorgeous Shyrdak rugs. Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countrys in the world and we try to help families to get some income.

The beautiful rugs, known as Shyrdak, are made by the nomad people of Kyrgyzstan. What makes the Shyrdak special?

The Shyrdak carpets are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. The production has been made for centuries, made by hand with material growing just in front of the Kyrgyz people’s doors. The thick felt carpets protect the nomadic people in their traditional yurts and while staying with their cattle in the mountains. The fascinating thing about producing these rugs is, that the women gather together working in circles on one piece. Actually two pieces, because the rugs are made by placing two different coloured felt sheets in layers one on top of the other, cutting them in one step and stitching them on a rougher bottom layer. This leads to two identical carpets, one negative & the other one positive.

You have a lovely wide range of rugs (and felt slippers) on your website. What rug designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far ?

That`s really hard to tell. Last few years it turned out that maný people love the natural tones (grey, beige, brown) BUT there are also many customers choosing the very colourful & bright designs. Customers’ wishes are wonderfully surprising, diverse and difficult to predict.

Do you have a particular favourite design?

I love the ORSLON BIP style, unfortunately sold out. But like all the designs, it could be tailor-made & produced in individally desired colours and sizes.

As you are based in Germany, and obviously the rugs are made in Kyrgyzstan, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Yes sure, we`re selling worldwide! We do have costumers in the United States from the east to the west coast. We have sold some pieces to Australia. The most customers abroad we do have are in Switzerland. A lot people in Germany and in the EU order at or for the slippers in our shop on ETSY.

Apart from buying standard sizes etc, your company offer a customised service too. How long, on average, does it take for a single rug to be made?

An individually tailor-made Shyrdak needs about two months until it`s delivered at the customer’s home.

What’s the best way to take care of the Shyrdak?

Carefully vacuum. Stains can be carefully dabbed off. If you do have snow in winter, do as the Kyrgyz do: Place the carpet with the good side down in the freshly fallen snow and pat it out. Expose your Shyrdak rug from time to time to direct sunlight.

Having visited Kyrgyzstan many times whilst making your documentaries, and since your Shyrdak enterprise… what are the things about Kyrgyzstan you adore or would recommend to a visitor?

The friendly people, the great landscape with huge mountains. Various peaks with a height of 5, 6 and 7 thousand metres. Wonderful green plains with the healthiest, happiest and most beautiful horses I have ever seen. The beautiful, huge mountain lake Issik-Kul, the largest after Lake Titicaca.

You are a cameraman for feature films and documentaries- since launching Shyrdakjurte, how have you managed to balance your time on both jobs?

Since Shyrdakjurte is an online shop, that’s no problem at all. If I’m abroad for a longer period of time, my son takes care of shipping and orders.

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

Jeans, shirts or polo shirts and sneakers, leather jacket or goretex protection. Since my hair is decreasing, I wear hats in the summer to protect myself from the sun’s rays and in the winter from the cold.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? ;;;

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

Shoes, dufflecoat & cap.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, I don’t want to be restricted, my ankle must remain freely movable

For pinning later

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

Such beautiful designs and colours! Thanks Henning for the introduction 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Henning Stirner.

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Crochet Vibe

The rejection of fast fashion and the heightened awareness of sustainable clothing makes it no surprise that in 2023 crochet clothing has featured heavily on catwalks and in clothing brand collections. Handmade crochet clothing is the only handicraft that cannot be made on a machine, unlike knitting. There was a crochet boom in the 1960s too – the “granny square” came into vogue, as well as a huge trend for crocheted home ware. Sound familiar?

For Pinning Later. Copyright ©Linda Hobden

My husband’s gran was a big knitter and she also crocheted granny squares to make enormous throws for our family. They are treasured heirlooms now as unfortunately she died in May this year aged 97. The latest recipient of a “granny square” item lovingly created by gran was my grandson who had a blanket made, but I think it was more appreciated by my daughter in law. Our family throw has been with us a number of years and has featured in many blog photographs over the past 10 years …

Copyright © Linda Hobden

Crochet clothing though. I had a crocheted top that I adored in the 1990s and it remained in my wardrobe until around 2007 when it snagged and unravelled and I decided to get rid. It was a camel colour and it was one of those tops that went with everything – an ideal wardrobe capsule item. The current dresses featured in stores at the moment are a mixture of plain crocheted styles alongside those in your face granny square numbers that look like gran’s throws!

The advantages of wearing crochet dresses are that they will keep you cool and comfortable. They are also sustainable – especially if made using organic cotton. The disadvantages – well, they are bulkier than usual summer dresses and crochet uses more yarn than the equivalent knitted fabric.

Joe Brown’s catalogue

So what underwear should you wear under a crochet dress? Well , wearing underwear that matches your skintone will give you a seamless look. Or you can opt for a camisole style slip dress either in skintone or the same colour as the crochet dress. A slip dress not only gives a streamlined look but is also lightweight and you shouldn’t feel overheated. If you are using your crochet dress as a beach cover up , then it really up to you if you want to wear a colour co ordinated swimsuit or not underneath. A crochet cover up dress will enable you to look smart enough to go from beach areas to your hotel room – especially with the new Spanish rules banning the wearing beachwear in public in areas away from beaches and pools.

Crochet dresses, pouffes, bags and accessories I like …. but I’m not quite sure if I like crochet “square” trousers….. however, on Etsy I did spot a digital crochet pattern to crochet some extremely cute black & white skull pattern trousers… they would look fab with a white bikini top – you’ll just need the talent to crochet them in the first place!

Copyright © HomescapesOnline

Lastly, I can’t let a crochet post go past without giving a quick mention of this adorable crochet animals wallpaper by Anne-Claire Petit, featuring crocheted animals on a cream crocheted background….

Copyright © Lime Lace

Linda x

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Review: Inkifi Classic Photo Frame

Disclaimer Alert: The Inkifi Classic Photo Frame has been supplied by Inkifi for the purpose of this review, however, all opinions expressed are 100% mine.


Inkifi is a photo printing company, founded in 2012, and based in Manchester, UK. Making the most of the digital age, Inkifi prints photographs direct from your instagram site or from your phone – and you can personalise your photo displays using the digital tool on the website. I placed my order via the company’s UK website using photographs from my iphone to create my photo frame images using the website tool. There is also a website for customers in the USA and an iPhone app which displays some but not all products.


Inkifi sell a wide range of photo products from photo frames through to photo books. I ordered the Classic Frame 16 x 16” in Black ( ). The Classic Frame comes in a choice of colours for the framework to match your decor – white, black, natural; it comes in 3 sizes: 12 x 12” , 16 x 16” or 20 x 20” . You can also pick the number of photographs to feature into your frame: 1,4,9,16,or 25 (I chose 9). The photo frame itself is sturdy and well made.

The digital tool on the website is relatively easy to use with plenty of helpful tips if you need it. Downloading my photos went very smoothly. It was easy to move the photos around on the screen so that you can envisage what the end result will be like. If I have one little criticism, it is that there should be more guidance on the margins we have to play with, especially at the tops of the photos. On screen, the photos look well aligned but upon receiving the finished photo frame, there isn’t much of a gap and the heads are very closely cropped! A minor issue though.


I was extremely impressed with the packaging! My photo frame was well secured with cardboard on both ends and well wrapped with oodles of bubble wrap. Delivery time was just as impressive too. The photo frame takes on average 2 – 3 business days to produce. The photo frame comes ready to hang, which is really useful.


I was pleasantly surprised how reasonable the prices for the Classic Photo Frame. There are a couple of add on prices to the basic one – if you wanted a natural wood frame rather than black or white; number of photos; and delivery is speedy anyway but if you really can’t wait then a faster option is available. After briefly looking at the USA site too, prices seem pretty comparable. For under £50 you can own a quality gift that is pretty special.


I was extremely impressed with the photo frame quality and with my display of pictures as a whole. My frame is a great way to show off my family pictures from my daughter’s recent wedding. But any occasion could be featured – the Classic Photo Frame would be a great gift for Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays, holidays… the list is endless. My verdict: 9.5/10

For pinning later

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

My thanks go to Inkifi for supplying the Classic Photo Frame for this review.

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An Interview With Do Us A Ditty

My guest this week is Ben Harvell, chief wordsmith & founder of a writing service called “Do Us A Ditty”. Covering everything from poems, written wedding favours, invitation poems to custom song lyrics and advertising jingles; Ben’s job sounds fun indeed. I caught up with Ben recently to find out more….welcome Ben 😊

Hi there. I’m Ben, Do Us A Ditty’s founder and chief word wrangler.

What inspired you to set up “Do Us A Ditty”?

My wedding. As a professional writer, I decided it would be fun to write little poems as wedding favours for each of our guests. We hand-wrote the poems and used them as place cards for the big day. People loved them so much that I decided to create a business writing fun little personalised ditties people could buy as gifts.

You seem to have the ability to write poems for all occasions from personalised special occasion ditties to wedding place card poems; poems for readings & speeches to advertising jingles. What poem styles are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

Birthdays and wedding speeches are definitely the most popular, but we do our fair share of anniversary poems too. I’ve also been really surprised at how many people trust us to write really special poems for major events. We’ve written rhyming eulogies for funerals, corporate speeches and even a wedding proposal. The information our customers provide is amazing.

Have you got a favourite “poem” style occasion that you love to write for?

Wedding speeches are always fun. There’s a delicate balance of comedy roasting and sentiment and usually a bunch of hilarious stories to weave in.

What is the ordering process to get one of your personalised poems?

Super easy. You pick the poem you want and fill out a form to provide information about your subject (or we can send you one), make a payment and we get writing. Our personalised poems are delivered digitally via email and our framed customisable poems are shipped directly to you. On average, our personalised poems take around 1-2weeks to complete.

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

They are indeed. We have a lot of American customers in addition to those in the UK.

What inspires your poems? Do you look for something specific on the questionnaire?

It’s a funny thing. When someone is buying a poem like this they tend to really think about what it is they love about their subject. We provide customers with prompts as they fill out their information but, most of the time, what we receive is great and they already have a good idea of what they want to say. It’s then our job to build the poem around the information they provide, taking into consideration their preference in terms of tone and style.

What was the hardest or most unusual piece of poetry you’ve created so far? Most memorable?

There have been a few odd ones. We wrote a memorial poem for a dog once… They’re not normally hard to write, but we spend a lot of time tweaking and perfecting them. People want a special gift and we work hard to make sure each poem is perfect.

Have you always wanted to be a poet or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I’ve always been a writer since my school days. It became a profession via journalism and marketing and somehow morphed into poetry too.

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

Two kids under two keeps us pretty busy but, if I do get a minute free, you’ll find me barbecuing (in all weather) or watching sport.

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

I fit the writer and work-from-home stereotype – the more comfortable the better. It’s certainly not high fashion but my preferred outfit is shorts, t-shirt and flip flops.

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

Abercrombie & Fitch is my go-to but, having grown up by the sea, I also wear a lot of surf brands, primarily Salt Rock.

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

My dream is to find some smart yet comfortable trainers that I could wear to the office or a restaurant without looking like I haven’t made an effort.

Boots or Shoes?

Always shoes. Boots just don’t seem to work for me. I look like a cowboy.

For Pinning Later

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

If anyone is interested in ordering a poem, head over to to check out what’s on offer. We’ve recently launched our framed, customisable poems which are definitely worth a look for a quick gift. You can use the code BSF15 for a 15% discount on any poem or follow this link:

Thank you for the chat Ben!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ben Harvell

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Review: Original People


My mug has been supplied by Original People for the purpose of this review, however all the opinions expressed are 100% mine.


Original People is an online shop where people can design their own unique and personalised gifts. Founded by Fredrick and Mia Svensson , who spotted an array of family stickers adorning trailers, cars , boats etc whilst on a road trip in USA and decided to bring the concept to Europe. Their 3 key goals are personalisation, sustainability, and to make people happy.


The website is comprehensive without being cluttered. I chose to review a mug that I wanted to personalise with a collage of 3 of my photos (my happy places – the village where I live, Calheta in Madeira, and Tuscany, Italy). On the website you can upload a photo or a drawing or you can do your own cartoon design using the online design tool. There is a 3D tool to check the result before you place an order. The design tool is fairly easy to use, especially if you are used to online design tools in general – if you are technically challenged it might take a bit longer to figure out. I used the 3D tool to check my order but having since received the mug, I think I could’ve lined up my photos a lot better so they look totally seamless – rookie error! Although Original People is based in Sitges, Spain, the website is in English with prices corresponding to your relevant country.

When it comes to stickers, the website features step by step instructions on how to apply the stickers and other such guides.


Every product is custom made and unique. All graphical elements are sublimated to keep the design intact. Original People has an impressive variety of products available and at very attractive affordable prices too: personalised mugs (my option); coffee mug; coffee tumbler with lid; wine tumbler with lid; stainless steel water bottle; kids bottles; straw cups; custom car stickers; and camper vinyl stickers.


The brand claims that all their products are sustainable – their products are BPA – free, they use eco friendly packaging, recycle all material and reuse everything they can in the production process. They support projects that fight the climate crisis and those who give children in developing countries an education. They regularly collaborate with NGO collaborators (SeaSaveOrg; Greenpeace; The Orang Utan Project).


It takes 1 – 2 work days to make your custom product. During this process I received emails tracking the development of my mug and I had up to 12 hours to edit,if necessary,my order. Delivery takes 5 – 9 working days via DHL global mail; Express Delivery is 24-48 hours. Despatch is from the factory/HQ of Original People in Sitges, Spain. My mug took roughly 8/9 days to be delivered to my home in England.


I am really impressed – it was fun deciding which product I wanted to review and I liked the idea of having a mug. I was undecided on what photo to use and in the end I decided a collage of my 3 happy places would be lovely. The process of using the online tool was fairly easy although I think I should have paid more attention to lining up the photos properly – however, I am pleased with the outcome! The colours in the photos on the mugs seem to be a little saturated – that might be due to the sublimation process to keep the design intact. Again though, it is a minor issue. I’m chuffed. It’s a great idea for gifts and the prices are really reasonable. I didn’t get to review the stickers but I am sure they are of a high standard too. 9/10


For Pinning Later

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Original People – the Personalised Mug Photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Paper Starlights

Creating magic since 1996, my guest this week is Andy from Paper Starlights – think cool camping lanterns, wedding lights, lampshades, parties, Christmas and Diwali decorations- these starlights are hand screen printed using artisan techniques. I caught up with Andy to find out more about his magical brand… Hi Andy and welcome!

Hello 😊 My name is Andy Jupp. I spend my time mainly in the UK and India, have a small brown dog called Darcy, like to drink rum and coke, and am rarely able to watch a movie all the way through.

What inspired the creation of “Paper Starlights”?

Finding a means through which I could do something in life that might make people feel good. I think inspiration is inherent, you just need the spark sometimes. For me it was seeing for the first time the impact traditional bamboo star lanterns had on a social environment.

I understand that “Paper Starlights” is a collaboration of 2 family businesses from India & UK with a story that spans 2 generations & 3 decades of friendship. How did that collaboration come about?

The friendship came about through sheer determination – identifying that we had a mutual interest, then working hard over many years to develop it. For all of us, the maintenance of our relationships, and a focus on quality of relations comes first.  The first time we met we ate together, and this is something we make sure we do as often as possible.

You have a lovely wide range of starlights  – I particularly like your Bohemian range, especially the Fantasia Tropic. What starlights and designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

One of our USPs as a company is to produce across styles and applications – for domestic use, for location décor, for events and hospitality. So it could be a scandi style shop window display, a colourful kids bedroom, or a venue like Kings Cross Station with large 2 metre stars – the popularity seems to derive from the vibe and atmosphere the stars create  – We’ve been producing stars since 1996, and have a portfolio of over 180 styles. So there’s a high possibility we have something for most people.

Do you have a particular favourite design?

The next one . Always.

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

We have stockists around the world, and retail and wholesale through digital channels too.

How are the starlights made? What makes Paper Starlights special?

They are made with love, care, experience, and attention to detail. The focus is on effect : how to best achieve a certain effect upon a person / location. Because our stars are lanterns, luminosity is key. So materials, design, and process are massively important.  Every part of the process is performed by hand, including, crucially, the printing and punching.  

Paper Starlights are not just for parties/Christmas/Diwali – they make good lampshades too. What’s the best way to take care of them?

One of the unique things about our stars is that they fold flat, and can be used, re-used, and used again. Sustainability is built into the fabric of the design, aswell as the materials. Many of our customers have been using their stars for 10 years or more, either continuously or as seasonal decorations. The best way to care for them –  just leave them be.

How big are the starlights?  Do you cater for large scale decorations for events etc?

Our stars range from 42 cm diameter up to 2 metres, although for domestic use the norm is 60cm – 87 cm. We provide packages for events, weddings, hospitality etc. We also design and build installations for large public buildings.

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

I can’t really distinguish between the artistic and non-artistic, career, or otherwise. I think I understand it all just as life. I have another company called Charity Shop DJ which could be said to be 100% artistic – and its focus is on highlighting how we are all creative people, no matter what we “do”. Most important thing for me is that whatever we do, whoever we are, we can effect things, and have effects on others. We have the authority, all of us, to choose whether to be a good person or not.

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

I have a tailor in India who every year makes me a new safari suit. My favourite is a black pin striped safari suit with a pair of white trainers. Although I may look like I’ve just stumbled out of the bookies in 1970.

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

I’d like to wear a love-child of Skechers and Dr Martens, with a touch of Crocs thrown in. A kind of urban slipper for men of a certain age with gout.  

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. Every time. I love the feel of lacing them right up, knowing that they are gonna be staying on for at least the next 48 hours whilst we go out partying.

For Pinning Later

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

Insta, facebook, pinterest, youtube, twitter, linked in, tiktok     @paperstarlights

Thank you for shedding the light on your company Andy and for agreeing to be in the spotlight! Such lovely, magical products 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Andy Jupp. (Paper Starlights).

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Review: Paint By Numbers UK Kit

Did you ever do painting by numbers as a child? I did, with colouring pencils, felt tips and paints. I loved it! So, when the lovely people at Paint By Numbers UK asked me if I would like to review their custom Paint by Numbers kit, I jumped at the chance. In fact, I thought it might be good for my artistic teenage son to try but when it arrived, I decided actually I am going to give it a whirl myself!


The Paint By Numbers Custom Photo Kit were supplied by Paint By Numbers UK for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

The Kit


Paint By Numbers UK have hundreds of pre made Paint by Numbers kits to choose from, there are some free download designs or you can choose to get a custom Paint By Number kit. Whichever kit you choose, they all come with a numbered sheet, a pre printed canvas, paint and brushes. Clean website with easy navigation and instructions to download your photo if you choose a custom kit , are clear and precise.

At the start….


My kit came in a long tube like parcel with the numbered sheet, canvas sheet, paint and paintbrushes rolled up securely inside.
Delivery times depend on what you choose. I assume that a ready made print kit would be with you around 5 – 7 days. A custom Paint By Numbers kit takes a while so allow extra time if you are thinking of purchasing a kit for as a present. For a custom kit, it takes 2 working days to assess and process the photo; 5 – 7 days to create the custom image into a paint by numbers kit; 3 – 5 working days for shipping. After payment is received, a total delivery time is estimated. Free shipping in the UK too.


Original photo

For custom kits, the company advises to pick a photo to download with a variety of colours, so with this in mind I decided to download my picture of a fruit stall in Funchal fruit market in Madeira. It is certainly colourful and had a lot of scope. I had 35 paints in my kit, 2 thin brushes and a slightly thicker one.

My finished painting


According to the website, creating art relieves stress, encourages creative thinking, increases brain plasticity and imparts other mental health benefits. All I know is, that after a busy few weeks at work it was nice to come home and spend an hour or so in the evening, doing a bit of painting – it was very therapeutic and enjoyable. Some of the numbers I found hard to read as they were so small, so I may have put the wrong shade in places! Also, I found I am not very neat with a paintbrush as I would be with a pencil or felt tip pen – but I like the idea of the paint being daubed on, like an abstract painting! At the end of the day, I have a painting I’m proud of and that’s all that matters. Would I purchase again? Oh yes, most definitely. It was a great activity to do away from my phone/computer/TV . Highly recommended 10/10.

For Pinning Later. Halfway through…

 – Official Website – Official Tiktok account – Official Instgram Account

My thanks goes to Paint By Numbers UK for sending me my custom kit to review. I had a blast!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

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Interview: Brit Punk Artist Mark Sloper

My guest on the blog this week is Brit Punk Artist, Mark Sloper, whose artwork is collected by celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Sting, Boy George and Sex Pistol drummer Paul Cook, to name but a few. Probably most famous for his image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with blue hair, nose ring and tattoo; Mark’s new collection is based on antique flags of the world that played a part in military history. The new launch has been dedicated to the people of Ukraine facing the horrors of war with a warning that history can so easily repeat itself. I caught up with Mark to find out about his new art collection and about his love with punk too…. Hi Mark!

I’m Mark, illuminati, I’m a punk artist that uses fine art techniques. I like to use neon to finish my pieces. I’m Cornish by birth, from a long line of artists, I’m now based in Shepherds Bush, where the almighty Sex Pistols hail from.

After a career as a cameraman, director of photography for bands, documentary maker; what inspired you to become a Brit Punk artist at the age of 45?

I was always good at art – I went to art school in Sheffield, but having grown up skint in a council house, I thought that art would continue my life of nothingness, so I did extra studies in TV and fell into the BBC in my 20s and never really left. When I got to my 40s, I thought is that it?? So I learnt to fly a helicopter and took up art seriously overnight. I overload everything!

You celebrate the punk era & lifestyle  – what is it about punk that inspires you?

I got into punk at 12 years old and ran away from home with the then punk band Adam and the Ants. I still wear Westwood clothes, still see bands live and have never changed. I still have a questioning punk attitude which many find aggressive, but we grew up angry. I’ve had to kick down a lot of doors to keep a roof over my head

Your latest art collection is based on antique flags of the world that played a part in military history. What is the history and inspiration behind this collection?

I didn’t have parents as a kid, my grandad dragged me up. He incessantly rattled on about the war, jumping out of planes and killing the enemy with his bare hands. He was a champion bare knuckle prize fighter and a huge bear of a man. He would get out all his flags on royal occasions and the damp smell and raggedy feel of them has stayed with me. In my new flag collection, I’ve sourced flags from the Dunkirk rescue, French partisan freedom fighter flags, Italian fascist flags, WW1 German trench flags and some Victorian suffragettes flags. A whole load of history brought back to life.

You are probably most famous for the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with a nose ring, blue hair and a tattoo! But do you have a particular favourite image that you have created?

I love “queen in residence”. I have one at home, they’re really special 1900s royal palace flags that are up when queenie is at home.

Your paintings are collected by many famous celebrities, and I am sure you have met many famous celebrities through your work as a cameraman, band photographer and documentary maker. Have you ever been starstruck or in awe of a celebrity?  If so, who?

Frank Sinatra. I spent a week backstage with him at the Albert Hall. He said I was a stupid punk and over the week tried to change me into a worldly gentleman. Didn’t work!

Do you paint in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there?

Everything is from my imagination.

There are obviously topics that you can paint very well but is there anything that you find really difficult to depict?

Nope, there’s a technique to cover all aspects of art, however, you won’t find me painting animals, landscapes or the flipping sea!

Mark with Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook

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

Its always been in the back of my mind, but you need a lifetime of experience to get out what’s in your head, to translate it into art.

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

I love Soho, I love good restaurants and great wines. I’m lucky to have a beach shack in Spain so you’ll find me there a lot. I’m a mad keen biker so I love tearing around on my Triumph.

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

I’m head to toe in Vivienne Westwood and have been since I was 12! I also wear Lewis Leathers jackets and for special occasions I wear bespoke Mark Powell suits – he calls me the punk soho mp

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Yes, Mark Powell on Carnaby St, and Lewis Leathers on Goodge Street.

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

Anything from Westwood new collections, the clothes fit me perfectly and make me look smart.

Boots or Shoes?

Always boots, just bought a third pair of Grensons, really comfy and hardwearing. Everything I own doesn’t last long as it gets covered in paint.

For Pinning Later

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

@mark_illuminati.  Insta

Brill to talk to you Mark – my personal favourite is the Sid Vicious painting ( the one I used as the Pinterest photo). 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mark Sloper.

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An Interview With Pineapple Fibre Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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




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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Sarah Jane Hemsley Upholstery

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

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

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

What inspired you to become an  Upholsterer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long does it take to train as an upholsterer?   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

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

For Pinning Later

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

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

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

Linda x

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

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