Category Archives: Interview

Say It With Songs

A song can conjure up many memories – good, bad and ugly. Many of us have that “special” song and what can be nicer on your anniversary, birthday, special moment than sending a card to that person who has that song connection with you. Song words convey such a lot but to have that song playable in card form is so nice! I came across Ellie’s website, Say It With Words, and immediately hunted for my wedding song – Aerosmith’s “I Don’t WantTo Miss A Thing” to send to my husband on our anniversary! Alas they didn’t feature that song, but a quick email request and Ellie was able to help and thus the card was born! Another email to Ellie requesting an interview…. Hi Ellie!


Hello! My name is Ellie Fitzgerald. I live in Surrey with my husband Paul of 20 years, our 17 year old daughter & our giant Malamute Cherry

What inspired you to set up “Say It With Songs”?

Last February, I searched for a Valentine’s Day card for my Husband, nothing was hitting the mark. At the same time a song came on the radio in the shop – it was ‘our song’ with the words that meant so much and said everything I wanted to say – I wanted to send him that song ….. it was then the idea was born. Having worked in the music industry for 20 years, music is a great passion of mine, so when I was made redundant when lockdown hit, I decided to jump in and give it a go. Say it with Songs – combines the sentiment of a greeting card with the power of a song.

So, how do you access the music part of the card? L

It’s really simple – on front of every card is an instantly recognisable song lyric eg “ I will always love you” On the reverse of the card is a code – you simply open your smartphone camera and scan the code and then you can choose to stream the full song instantly from either YouTube, Spotify or Amazon Music. You can play it as many times as you like & keep it forever.We all have a song that takes us back to a time, person or moment in seconds….whether it’s a ballad, a dance floor classic, a heavy rock anthem or a pop cheese guilty pleasure …in just a few notes we are literally right back there. Everyone has also heard a song with lyrics that speak to the heart, resonate, help us through, give us strength or – simply – make us smile

You have a lovely variety of cards with a great song range too. What song title cards are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We have over 100 titles, our top five titles are ‘Have I told you Lately’ Van Morrison, ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Cant help falling in love with you’ Elvis Presley, ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ Rick Astley and ‘Girls Just wanna have fun’ Cyndi Lauper.

Have you got a favourite card? What is the story behind your favourite song?

So, the song that started it all for me was ‘By Your Side’ By Sade, it literally says everything I want to say to my husband. His song to me is ‘knocks me off my feet’ by Stevie Wonder, a song we have loved since we met. Both songs are now cards.



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

 The cards are shipped internationally and we are just starting to distribute in other countries so its growing fast.

Although you have a great song range, do you cater for bespoke cards eg if the special song you wanted doesn’t feature in your range? 

We try too, I get maybe 10/20 suggestions a week from people and those that I feel will be loved by many are added to the new titles schedule – we add maybe 5 new cards every 2 weeks.

10% of your profit goes to the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.  What does the charity do?

Nordoff Robbins provides vital music therapy to enrich the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses, disabilities and feelings of isolation.

Are your cards made from ethically sourced materials?

Of course – building a brand with a sustainable imprint was fundamental. We use FSC approved 350gsm card, its acid free, with a Heavy Metal Absence & made using vegetable based inks. We use recycled envelopes & wrap in 100% biodegradable cellowrap. Proudly designed and made in the UK.

Have you always wanted to have a musical career or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I always wanted to work in music so followed that path from day 1 . I have worked on both the record label side & managed the careers of  artists, but building music brands has always been my passion and where my creativity sits best.

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

Shoes – At the moment in lockdown life- its trainers and wellies, but fab ones – I have some amazing glitter Nike Air Force 1 & also some cool Veja ones that I virtually live in and so new Hunter wellies (for walking my giant dog) that are knee high and have a slight platform.Prior to lockdown, I have some Isabel Marant boots that have a hidden wedge so although they are flat, they make your legs look great, and for going out, my favourite EVER pair of heels are a Stuart Weitzman for Russell and Bromley pair – I wore them with silk PJs this NYE lockdown.Clothing, pre-lockdown, it’s usually a silk midi skirt from Anthropologie and a funky graphic tee as my go-to.Now its Hush trackies and comfy cool sweats as my work wardrobe.

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

Yes, My go to is hushuk.com and Anthropologie – Literally love everything from these brands.

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

Everything from Anthropologie – in the sale ! Their sales are insane!

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?) 

Right now, it’s actually boots, with working from home and lockdown and walking my huge dog twice a day – The cool new black Hunter boots give me my glam fix (even in a tracksuit) but normally it’s shoes every time.

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

Website www.sayitwithsongs.com

Instagram: @sayitwithsongscards

Facebook: @sayitwithsongs

 Please check us out – and get 15% off with code BOOTSANDSHOES

My thanks to Ellie at Say It With Songs for creating my “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing “ card. The Aerosmith photographs are by Linda Hobden; the other photographs are published with kind permission of Say It With Words.

Linda x

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But First Rumi Book Tour

I’m really excited to be able to interview author Chitra Ramaswami as part of her “But First Rumi Book Tour”. “But First Rumi” is a delightful memoir by Chitra Ramaswami. Rumi is a beautiful stray Omani street cat who took a liking to Chitra and trusted Chitra to help him and in return Rumi helped Chitra. This book is more than a tale of a cat being rescued – the memoir explores how love and trust between cats and people can develop, how attitudes towards street cats develop, and how love develops. The book is written in such a refreshingly honest way and I loved reading the escapades of Rumi & co. I really enjoyed chatting to Chitra about all things cats …. But, before that, here is the official resumé of the book:

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

THE INTERVIEW

Hi! I’m Chitra – author of the memoir  “But First, Rumi” . I was born and brought up in the Middle East to Indian parents and now live in New Jersey. I’ve worked in healthcare as a physician and a health educator and now I’ve turned author. This is my first time publishing and excited to see what this experience brings my way. 

Who or what inspired you to write your memoir, “But First, Rumi!”?

I believe the answer lies in my book title 🙂 My cat Rumi inspired me to share our journey with the world. As someone who’s written most of her life, I believe every story has its own predestined time – from when it gets penned down to when it is on its way to its readers where it finally comes to fruition. 

Your book highlighted the life of an Omani Mau/street cat, and your growing love of Rumi.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  I thought how different were the attitudes towards cats, stray cats in particular, in Oman compared with the UK/ USA. Why do you think the Omani street cats are regarded with such suspicion?

Firstly, thank you for reading our story and am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, attitudes towards stray cats are different in Oman as compared to say a Western country. But what makes it interesting is that Oman is  home to people from all over the world added to its own descendants and  this varied demographic may hold the reasons that have led to the current state of the Omani stray cats. We have collectively failed our felines. I believe suspicion towards anything generally arises from a certain lack of awareness or unfamiliarity or a previous negative experience. And yes, this is only a part of the problem as I explain in the book. Another common issue is abandonment either due to misjudgment of what caring for a cat entails or when people leave for their home countries and haven’t planned well for the transition. Ofcourse, COVID-19  has added additional financial strains to the process as well.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The process of writing the book was enjoyable. I also had a great editor and we worked well together. What amused me the most was the amount of work that went into publishing a book outside of actually writing the book! The time and effort needed to get your book in front of your readers has been eye opening. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months. Maybe I should write about it haha!

What do you enjoy most about having a cat? What did you find most daunting at first?

I’ve come to realize over time that my energy is quite similar to a cat’s. I remember watching a documentary that talked about how cats and humans are actually more alike evolutionarily as compared to say dogs and humans. So it’s not surprising to me that I’m able to just be myself around them rather effortlessly. However, before my experience with Rumi, I  was rather wary of cats and didn’t really know what to make of them. I maintain that I didn’t give them a fair chance and went with the popular notion that dogs were more expressive and loving as companion animals. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing  or did you have other aspirations?

Funnily, I never thought of writing as a career even though I always wrote. But moving forward, I’ve decided to share my works with the world. I’m curious by nature – always have been, which in turn has led me to pursue many paths. So be it working with people with various ailments, or teaching or riding horses or ice climbing…. the list is diverse. I’m not really a one aspiration person and am eager to see where my life takes me next. 

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

Yes, I’ve loved to read since forever. Favorite genres – Biographies, memoirs, short stories. I’m not into fiction much but am on board with Haruki Murakami’s magical realism. It’s bewitching almost. Love Khaled Hosseini’s works. In poetry – Works of Rumi, Tabrizi, Gibran to name a few. There’s always more than one story that‘s being told in a book and one of them is about the author themselves, their roots,  convictions, motivations – it all comes through. So I tend to consciously seek out authors from various backgrounds for this experience. I find it as good or even better than travel. 

Nothing beats the feel of an actual book but I’m a recent Kindle convert – saves space, easy to bookmark, or look up anything I need to, can even read on my Kindle app on my phone etc 

Is “But First Rumi” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes worldwide – Both ebook and paperback. It’s also available in a bookstore in Oman and managed to sell out and has just been restocked! 

Will there be more tales about Rumi in the future?

Definitely 🙂 There may be a second book in the works as we speak!

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

Hmmm. Depends on the season. I’m a sucker for knee length boots in the winter – I never grew out of my Michael Korrs Preston boots with the golden buckle – love those tiny touches! I also love my riding boots from Dover’s. If I’m going out for dinner or tea I love getting dressed up – A-line skirt and top or a Pakistani embroidered suit( we call it shalwar Kameez), and peep toed heels but overtime I find myself settling for pointed flats – Zara and Rothys always have a lovely line of those. These days, I’m always in my adidas and pumas – thanks to COVID! Not complaining though – I always manage to find something to fall in love with! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Zara, Kate Spade, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Image…the list goes on also love custom shirts I design myself. Etsy’s also a very interesting place – be it for custom clothes, accessories etc 

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

I’ve been looking into vegan fashion lately. It’s a fascinating world and I’m still exploring it. Love the Dharma Store – fun tees and they have vegan phone grips too! I also have my eye on the Catalina tote from lo and sons – super functional and love the shoe compartment at the bottom. So yes, I won’t be surprised if my fashion choices will be completely different five years down the line. I’m learning and growing every day. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Website: https://cramaswami.com/Instagram: @rumionamission2017


My thanks goes to Chitra for agreeing to be interviewed, for inviting me to join in her book tour and for a copy of her delightful memoir.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chitra Ramaswami

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An Interview With Breast Dressed

With Mothers Day approaching this weekend in the UK, it seems to me entirely appropriate to introduce “Breast Dressed” – a brand of sustainable maternity and breast feeding clothing to cover all stages of modern mum-hood. The company was launched in June 2020 by Hester who has worked in the fashion industry for over 12 years. I caught up with Hester recently to find out more. Hi Hester & welcome…

Hi! I’m Hester and I’m the founder and designer of breast dressed. I currently live in London after a 6 year stint of living in Hong Kong. I live with my husband and my cat Stu who we fostered in Hong Kong and brought back with us so he could experience the outdoors, and he loves it! I am a fashion designer and have been in the industry for 12+ years. I enjoy HIIT classes, going to the theatre and ice skating – although I am pretty terrible at it!

What inspired the launch of Breast Dressed?

I have always known that one day I wanted to have my own brand I just wasn’t sure what that brand would be. When I moved to London I started to feel unfulfilled so it was then that I really started to pin down what I wanted to do. A lot of my friends had started to become pregnant and have babies and they kept saying how little choice of maternity clothing was out there, and then how even less choice of breast feeding friendly clothing was out there. I did some market research and found everything looked the same, it was all frumpy, mostly striped jersey dresses and it just was all a bit ‘mumsy’. So I thought right, let’s do this! It took me a long time to take the plunge from the safety of my full time job, but I now work part time and do freelance work to help support my dream of growing breast dressed.

Have you always had an interest in fashion  designing or did you have other career plans whilst growing up? 

My mother and father both worked in the fashion industry, they actually met whilst they were both working at Speedo. My mum was a swimwear designer and then had her own business designing ice skating dresses and my father was a marketing director and then became a wholesale distributer. So I have always grown up surrounded by the industry. As kids we used to attend trade shows, have boxes of samples lying around the house, help with sample sales etc. My mum’s studio was at home so I remember when I was poorly and off school I would lie under her cutting table on all her piles of fabric and fall asleep to the sound of her cutting scissors clanging against the table and the rumble of her sewing machines, a noise I still find super comforting. So I feel it was a given I would go in to the industry, I always loved art and textiles at school, so after A-levels I did my art foundation and then went on to study fashion design at Uni.

What are the sort of things you have to consider when designing maternity clothes as opposed to designing clothes for the non pregnant woman?  

I guess the main thing is comfort, it’s so important that my customers feel comfortable wearing my garments. I strive to make my styles as versatile as possible so I actually design them to be suitable for all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding and for before and after pregnancy too so that they have longevity. Sustainability is key to my brand so I want my styles to be able to be worn for a long time and to want to be worn for a long time. Each style supports your growing bump, up to full term, and they all have easy breast feeding access which is subtle enough that these styles can then be worn and loved long after pregnancy and not look like they are your typical maternity dress. 

I love the Ada Jumpsuit from your collection. It is just the sort of garment I would have wanted to wear when I was pregnant (many moons ago!)  What products/designs are most popular at the moment? 

The Ada is definitely one our most popular styles as is the Lucy dress. I think they are both so easy to wear and style up or down and the suit all body shapes. We just launched the Margot Mummy Collars too which are made from our scrap fabrics and they are proving to be a popular accessory.

 Do you have a favourite style from your collection? 

My favourite is the Ada Jumpsuit – I have it in a few different colours. It’s just so comfortable and easy to wear and I feel really stylish in it too. I wear with my Dr Martens in the winter and my sandals in the summer. Eek, I also love the Airi dress, I feel so feminine in it and our deadstock navy gingham fabric is fab, it’s a printed gingham so feels really unique and its so easy to wash and requires very little ironing so its really practical, a really good throw on style when you don’t know what to wear but want to feel a bit glam.

When designing items to go into your collection, do you go for popular trendy styles and colours, customer requests, personal favourites or do you take all 3 into account?

I take all 3 into account, I think it’s really important to listen to your customers but also mix it with my knowledge of design to try and create something unique and new that’s not already out there. Before I began designing I did a big questionnaire asking peoples favourite kind of styles, colours, prints etc and I still refer back to that when looking at designing new pieces. As I want my styles to have longevity and be trans-seasonal I do try to make them classic shapes that will never go out of style but bring in an element of trend. Collars are a hot trend at the moment so we created out Margot Mummy Collars using our scrap fabrics and designed them to fit in to a mummy life style. 

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

Yes we ship worldwide through our website www.breastdressed.co.uk. So far I have sold styles to Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and Canada, It’s super exciting knowing that breast dressed is out in the world!

You have a Re:Loved collection – I have heard of preloved clothing, so what is re:loved? 

Yes so we source pre-loved garments from Ebay etc and we unpick them and mix them together to create new pieces that can then be re-loved by our customers. I love denim so I wanted to incorporate denim in to the breast dressed collection. But it can be costly to produce as you need special machinery for the heavy washes and I didn’t want to use raw denim as it can be quite stiff and I want all my garments to be soft to touch. So this was the perfect sustainable way to be able to incorporate denim in to our brand. We re-invent, re-wear and re-love. The other positive of this collection is that all profits go to charity. Giving back to the community is a long term goal and one we want to keep building on as a brand.

Your brand is striving to become a no waste company – so how are you achieving that aim?  

We use all of our scrap/waste fabrics left over from the pattern cutting of the main garments to create scrunchies, our Margot Mummy collars and brand labels so that our waste is very little. All of our packaging is sustainable and/or biodegradeable. We source fabrics and trims from deadstock suppliers in the U.K, so one man’s waste is our treasure. And we work on a made to order basis so we are only making stock that has been sold. We manufacture in the U.K which is also helping reduce our carbon footprint as the seamstress I work with is local to me so I don’t need to travel far to collect the garments. This will be an ever evolving mission and we are always learning of new things we can do to keep being as sustainable as possible.

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

Oooh, I’m a sucker for some high waist Levi’s, a boxy tee and high tops or Teva sandals! I do enjoy dressing up too but that feels like a distant memory during these current times!

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

Since launching breast dressed I’ve learnt what it’s like to be a small brand so I’m trying to explore new brands and shop from them. I love Paynter, their business model is really refreshing and their approach and customer interaction is brilliant. I also love Gung Ho London who raise awareness of global issues through their clothing.

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

My Paynter jacket! I am so excited, it was my main investment in 2020 and I know it will last a lifetime. I get a weekly update from the brand, last week it was being sewn!

Boots or Shoes?

Hmmm, can I break the mould and choose sandals? I hate wearing socks so yeh a pair of comfy sandals are winners for me!

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

www.breastdressed.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/breast.dressed/

https://www.facebook.com/breastdressedlondon

Fabulous chatting to you Hester! Your designs are so wearable and desirable, pregnant or not!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Hester/ Breast Dressed

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An Interview With Una Organic

On my blog this week I am featuring an exciting up and coming mattress brand, Una Organic. This mattress company uses only 100% certified organic materials, each mattress is Fair & Social certified and they are one of only a few mattress brands that have a negative carbon footprint helping to fight climate change …. and some are adjustable to adjust the firmness on each side of the mattress! I caught up with founder Roger van der Matten to find out more. Welcome Roger!

Hello! My name is Roger van der Matten. I am  Dutch, 46 and married with 3 children and the founder of Una Organic. For my sanity I love spending time with my wife and kids and to be out in nature jogging and walking and I also do yoga.

What inspired the founding of Una Organic?

I noticed that mattresses are the single largest home product that is made of non-recyclable fossil fuel foam, glues and (poly) micro plastic shedding fabrics and 7 million of them end up in landfill in the UK every single year. I also noticed that the one-mattress-suits-all concept of current (internet) mattress brands wasn’t really designed with the customer in mind.

What is the most popular mattress/product in your range? 

The Una Organic Delux adjustable mattress and our Organic adjustable pillow are the two most popular items in our range. Although the Organic Essential mattress, kids mattress and extra soft topper are not far off.

Your mattresses are made of 100% certified organic materials – including using strictly organic certified latex.  What are the advantages of using organic mattresses?

The advantage for our customer is knowing guaranteed through independent certification) you are sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t contain and off-gas VOC’s, fire retardant chemicals and other nasties that you end up breathing in. The advantage for our planet is that organic certified materials are renewable, biodegradable and sustainably grown without the use of biodiversity killing pesticides

Your mattresses can be adjusted for firmness – including on each side of the mattress. Was it difficult to design a mattress to suit everybody’s preferences? What made you decide to make an adjustable mattress?

There are many internet mattress brands that claim their mattress suits everyone but in reality this is not the case. With Una I set out to create an adjustable mattress which solves two issues. The first issue is that partners sharing a mattress often have different preferences and needs. With Una they don’t have to compromise and each can have their own firmness within one seamless mattress. The 2nd issue is that our needs change. We may need a different firmness during pregnancy or with a (sports) injury or back pain. With Una you have an incredibly long lasting mattress (lasts as long as 3-4 cheap synthetic foam mattresses) that allows you to easily change the firmness at any time.

Firm or soft – do you have a personal preference for your own mattress?  

My Una has the medium firmness on top, soft in the middle and firm on the bottom.

Each Una Mattress is also “Fair & Social Certified”.  What does this mean? 

Being certified by CU Fair Choice is a guarantee that companies are committed to sustainable development and the improvement of social conditions, meeting the demands of a growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.

As Una Organic is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

Una Organic is based in the UK and Germany and available across the UK and Europe.

Have you always wanted a career in mattress making/designing, or did you have ambitions elsewhere?

My passion is to grow a company that has a positive impact on its staff, customers and the planet which is why Una is a member of 1% for the Planet, pending B Corporation certified, Climate Neutral certified as well as Fair Choice certified.

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

Casual clothing. I like Esprit who offers many clothing items made from more sustainable organic cotton. I just bought a pair of vegan leather boots from them too.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Esprit, Able & Cole.

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

A new ski/snow jacket and trousers 🙂

Boots or Shoes?

Boots in winter nice and dry and warm. Flip flops in the summer.

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

For EU readers www.una-organic.com for UK readers www.unamattress.co.uk on FB and Insta @unaorganic.

Fabulous to chat to you Roger! I never realised what a difference there was health wise between a synthetic mattress and a natural one!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Roger van der Matten ( apart from the Pinterest photo, which was taken by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Jungle Culture

On the blog this week is Jungle Culture whose philosophy is to inspire people to see the beauty and purpose in nature. Having spent a few years living in Vietnam, Jamie, co founder of Jungle Culture, is determined to show people the beauty of Vietnam and its beautiful craftsmanship when it comes to making products from bamboo and bowls made from upcycled reclaimed coconuts. I caught up with Jamie to find out more. Hi Jamie!

Jamie (on the left) & co-founder Chris at a bamboo farm in Vietnam


Hi, my name is Jamie and I am a co-founder of Jungle Culture! We work with small farms, craft workshops and ethical factories to produce a range of handicrafts and plastic alternatives that encourage a healthy, waste-free lifestyle.

What inspired the setting up of your company, Jungle Culture?

We were inspired after watching the David Attenborough documentary which highlighted the effects that single-use plastics were having on our oceans. At the time, my business partner Chris was based in Vietnam and saw that local restaurants used bamboo straws. We decided to do our bit and bamboo straws became our first product!

You have a great variety of eco products – bamboo straws, safety razors, coconut bowls, bamboo cutlery.  What are your most popular sellers?

Thanks! All of our products sell really well and people are generally so enthusiastic about swapping to a plastic-free alternative. We started our company life as a straw company and this remains our best-selling product! We currently sell more than a million straws a year and it’s nice to think that each one prevented multiple pieces of plastic from entering the ocean.


Have you got a favourite item from your collection?

I have lots of favourites and I use most of our products on a daily basis, but safety razors are definitely one product that I would recommend to absolutely everyone, with no exceptions. I always hated using disposable razors because of the environmental impact and the cost is quite frankly outrageous…. Prior to starting Jungle Culture I actually learned to use a cut throat razor and it was okay, but occasionally I would cut myself fairly badly. Safety razors don’t really have this problem. They are insanely easy for anyone to use, they last a lifetime and there’s little to no environmental impact. On top of that, at £0.30 a blade (lasts 16 shaves) everyone could be saving a ton of money!

Your bamboo straws and cutlery hail from Northern Vietnam.  What are the benefits of using bamboo?

 In Northern Vietnam bamboo is seen as a weed. It grows so quickly and so plentifully that supply of bamboo in Vietnam far outstrips the demand. Using bamboo to make something useful and waste-free allows farmers in impoverished regions to earn an income and start a business, whilst at the same time it gives consumers a viable alternative to single-use plastics in their homes and while they’re out and about. Just to clarify, there are no pandas in Vietnam, their habitats are unaffected! (We get asked a lot).


As your HQ is  based in the UK, are your products available to purchase internationally?

Yes, absolutely. You can buy from our website and Etsy store from anywhere in the world or if you send us a message, we’ll send you the location of our nearest stockist. 

Your coconut bowls are very user friendly and have been upcycled from reclaimed coconuts.  What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for your bowls?

Do use them as motivation to eat healthier and improve your diet. Do nourish them from time to time with an oil… coconut oil, linseed oil etc. Do keep sending us wonderful pics of your creations on instagram. We’ll throw you a shoutout! Definitely do treat them with love and care. Natural products are a bit more fragile than man-made products and try as we might, we cannot always prevent faults. But if anything happens to any products that you buy from us, send us a message and we’ll replace them free of charge. Don’t microwave, dishwash or refrigerate/freeze. Treat your bowl like the piece of wood that it is…. when wood is exposed to high temperatures, low temperatures or dramatic shifts in temperature it can expand. 

Your coconut bowls have created a stir on social media with your customers posting recipe/foodie ideas using your bowls?  What has been the most unusual recipes/uses that you have come across?

I am always impressed with recipes that are more art than food. It’s incredible how people are able to create a beach scene, jungle or mountain range using blended fruit and seeds.

As a brand, Jungle Culture, is a member of the 1% for the Planet Foundation. What does that membership entail?

It means that for everything that is purchased from our business we give 1% to a charity that aims to replenish the Earth. We are nearing the end of our first year as 1% members and we’re just getting ready to pick our charity for the year, so stay tuned for updates on who we choose!

Although you are based in the UK,  you have spent a couple of years in Vietnam. What 5 must see places would you recommend a tourist visit whilst in Vietnam? Any advice for first time visitors?

Vietnam has become like a second home to us. Over the course of 2 years, we were lucky enough to visit pretty much every region, visit small farms, taste local delicacies and sleep in bamboo houses under the stars! It was awesome! 5 places to visit = The North (by motorbike if possible), Hanoi (for big city life, street food and madness), Ninh Binh (for stunning scenery), Hue (for incredible Vietnamese food), Hoi An (for the only preserved ancient town in Vietnam and our home for 2 years). Advice = Rent a motorbike…. it’s terrifying, but it’s the best way to travel in Vietnam. Go slow and be prepared for people driving the wrong way on highways, cows crossing the roads unattended, people carrying fridges on the backs of bikes and everything in between. 

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

When I am in a cold country like the UK, I normally wear some red/purpley Doc Martens, black Levi’s jeans and my Jungle Culture black hoodie! In hot countries like Vietnam, I have a few good long-lasting pairs of jean shorts and linen shirts with a comfy pair of flip flops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I try to buy from small businesses for every day items because I know what a big impact it has in the owner’s lives. For everyday items I typically buy from a local shop and for fashion items I buy from a select few brands that I know represent quality, long-lasting products. I hate fast fashion and don’t buy anything that lasts less than a few years.

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

I have always wanted to own one of those old style Barbour jackets. They sell second hand ones all the time at the vintage markets in Brick Lane, London. They are quite iconic in the UK and nowadays they are pretty expensive too. I’ll pick one up next winter maybe!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots 100%. I haven’t owned a pair of shoes for 5+ years. I am all about the boot life. I don’t know why though… it’s just me!

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

 www.jungleculture.eco – Our website. Check it out if you want to learn more about how we source ethically, how we give back and how you can join the fight against waste.https://www.instagram.com/jungleculture.eco/ – Connect with us and if our products have helped you, let us know. We read every message and they really do make our day!

Fabulous chatting to you Jamie – your bowls are gorgeous and I am totally bemused by the bamboo razor!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jungle Culture

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An Interview With Author Chad T Douglas

If you like fantasy with a touch of unlikely romance, along with a dose of adventure fiction featuring pirates, vampires, werewolves, mystical sea creatures and magic; then you’ll love this trilogy. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the 1st book in the Lore Trilogy, “A Pirate’s Charm” by author Chad T Douglas and found it was the perfect light escapism during the recent lockdown. Let’s face it, we all need some escapism at times! I caught up with Chad virtually to find out what gave him his ideas … but before I welcome Chad onto the blog, here’s a quick summary of the Lore Series…

A Pirate’s Charm (Book 1)

When she flees Barbados in the late 1780s, the last thing Molly Bishop expects is to begin life anew with a criminal—much less the infamous Captain Thomas Crowe. On the high seas, far from her old life and even farther from England and her Uncle Samuel’s farm, Molly learns more than just the way of outcasts. Captain Crowe keeps secrets—many secrets—and possesses an extraordinary ring crafted by Molly’s father—a man she thought to be long gone.

East and Eight (Book 2)

Thomas Crowe and Molly Bishop walk into trouble’s open arms once again when an Atlantean sorceress, the mermaid Oi’alli, comes to Tom looking for a stolen talisman. When Tom refuses to return it, the consequences are dire. Plagued by two new foes, a demon and a mysterious octet of immortal-hunters known simply as “The Eight”, the future is looking dark for Tom. Molly Bishop is his only hope. Armed with new strength and magical powers, Molly lights the way as she and Tom make a treacherous journey east, to the heart of Romania.

The Old World (book 3)

Thomas Crowe is gone. The maniacal Captain Jack Darcy and the Order of the Blood Moon have taken the crew of the Roatán Butterfly prisoner; The Eight, a secretive band of immortal-killers, are quickly seizing control of the British Empire, and Molly Bishop is sailing against her will into faraway waters. Molly must now overcome tragedy and despair to keep a promise she made to Tom. Driven only by hope and a prophecy, she will fight to reclaim her life and her freedom.

Hi Chad & welcome!

Hi! My name is Chad T. Douglas (just “Chad” everywhere except my book covers lol) and I’m the author of both the Lore trilogy and the in-development Earthshine series. I started writing works of fiction when I was about 17 and still in high school. I’ve always loved stories—especially legends, mythologies, and folklore from all across the world—and all manner of imaginative media. That, in combination for a natural attraction to writing, visual arts, and music, as well as some traveling in my early 20s, set me on the path to authorship. I’m a two-time graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville and currently work as a content developer and general creative in the field of digital marketing.

Who or what inspired you to write the Lore trilogy?

This is a question I’m asked frequently and one of my favorites to answer because it’s also the story of how I began writing in general…

The Lore series was really a product of two things—a lifelong love for fantasy fiction, myths, and legends and a specificfrustration with what pop culture was producing when I was about 17 years old (around 2007-2008). I grew up reading everything from Harry Potter to Dracula, watching everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to An American Werewolf in London, and playing video games that delved every aspect of sci-fi and fantasy within those realms and in between. I also had a “thing” for writing. I just hadn’t really embraced it yet.

I was a sophomore or junior in high school when I co-founded an afternoon club for creatives—students who wanted or needed an extra block of time in the day to write their stories, sketch their comics and graphic novels, or just have a space to talk about their fandoms with others who loved stories and storytelling. One afternoon, as things were wrapping up and we were all waiting on our rides home, I overheard a few of the other club members talking about Twilight (this was before it had become a huge sensation), and I wondered, “When is someone going to realize we need a story that brings things like magic, werewolves and vampires, pirates, folk legends, and every other cool fantasy-fiction trope together in one faithful, imaginative, and memorable super-story?” No kidding—it was moments later that I decided that I wasn’t going to wait for that story to come along on its own time. I decided that I might as well write that story myself. I knew what I wanted and I was confident that I could write it, so why not, right?

I spent every free afternoon and evening for the rest of high school writing what would eventually comprise A Pirate’s Charm and East and Eight (Lore “1” and “2,” respectively). I’d finish The Old World as a college student, having ditched my first degree in Architecture for one in English Language and Literature (no regrets).

© LindaHobden


I really enjoyed reading your book, the first in the Lore trilogy, “A Pirate’s Charm”. It was the ideal escapism book featuring a mash up of pirates, romance, magic, vampires, werewolves and mythical sea creatures. Was there any character that you particularly endeared yourself to? Which character was the hardest to develop?

It won’t come as a shock that most of my attention and personal interest was split equally between the series’s two protagonists, Molly and Thomas. Especially while revising the series, I went back over everything to make sure, more than anything, that readers would know that the books had not one but two true “main” characters. I hadn’t set out to write a story that gave only one character the spotlight because, personally, I love stories that emphasize how characters with compelling tales can influence one another so heavily and because I really wanted to highlight the protagonists’ unique and powerful bond. Allowing them to grow together and inspire one another and have one another’s backs felt more natural and relatable, the way a great partnership or romance should be. Consequently, this made Thomas and Molly the most difficult characters to write. They share many long scenes and dialogues, but each has a particular disposition, particular desires, specific quirks, and so on, making it exhausting to switch back and forth between them while keeping them true to their character.

One of my two favorite characters, conceptually, however, is Oi’alli. She first appears in the second installment of the trilogy and is extremely important to me. I had to get her just right. Not only is she a key influencer in the plot from her entrance in the series to its ultimate conclusion, she was also the character whom I needed to be the “quintessential mermaid” in the Lore universe. Merfolk are among the primary mythological players in the series, alongside werewolves and vampires, and I made it a very personal mission to “make mermaids cooler” than anyone else ever had. Pirates, werewolves, vampires—those have been done well, and many times over. I felt it was time for the merfolk to shine, so that became a key goal in Lore 2 and 3. Despite not getting the “pagetime” Molly and Tom get, I spent much, much more time on Oi’alli—her look, her origins, her significance in regard to the series’s mythological foundations and history, and more.

My other personal favorite character is Corvessa. Without giving too much away, she’s a key villain, and the things she does to warp and manipulate other characters (and the plot itself) was just too much fun to write. I loved designing her look, her demeanor, and the scenes she hijacks. What made her most interesting to me, though, was the fact that she actually won the affection of some of my audience. The first time I met a reader who was sincerely rooting for Corvessa was the most unexpected delight. 

Apart from Lore, you have published other novels and are currently writing another science fiction/trilogy.  Do you prefer writing trilogies rather than stand alone novels?

There are things I love about writing both kinds of stories, but I have to say that writing series is what I prefer. Every time I finish a standalone novel, all I want to do is extend the story with another installment lol. I just can’t resist continuously developing another character, another arc, another chapter that builds on everything that’s already happened.

Your books are mostly science fiction or fantasy based, but  when you read a book, what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Here’s where I’m a bit weird. Because I’m a writer, you may expect that I’d prefer reading over any other medium (most of my readers assume I’m as big a reader as they are), but that’s never been the case. My love for sci-fi and fantasy stems from being a big consumer of TV, movies, and video games. Additionally, rather than reading to get inspired, I spend a lot of time listening to music. I tend to build playlists when I’m outlining stories, because I match key scenes to certain moods I find in songs or genres that I like. When I do read, I tend to read about history, about concepts, or about people whom I find interesting (biographies/autobiographies).

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I didn’t commit to being a writer until about 19 or 20 years old. Even after having written 2 of the 3 novels that would become the Lore trilogy, I was entering college with the intention of becoming an architect. Before then, I’d considered some kind of a career in psychology, which never materialized. The more work experience I got, the more it became clear that I needed to do creative things. I loved writing, I loved visual design and photomanipulation, and I loved “building” in a broad sense, and those things led me to digital marketing.

Have you got other novels or plans in the pipeline for 2021 that you can tell us about? 

I do! I’ve spent the last few years outlining a series that will continue a story where Big Blue 10,022 left off (2018). I have big plans for it, so it’s hard to say whether the writing starts in early or late 2021, but my mind is set on it and I would like to be able to bring the first installment to the next book festival I attend.

Is the Lore trilogy available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, you can find both digital and hard copy editions in essentially all the online marketplaces, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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

I know for sure that I would want to see the town of Jiufen (Taiwan), parts of Nepal, and some coastal parts of Scandinavia. There are locations in the upcoming series that were inspired by those locations’ characteristics. Being able to see them in person would help to capture the local mood in addition to the look. 

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

I love colder weather and the clothes that pair with it, so my favorite outfit right now is a pair of dark jeans (the kind that flex; I won’t go back to traditional), my Dan Post western boots (or white Nike sneakers), my black denim Levi trucker jacket, a TruWood Hawk wooden watch, and various other wooden jewelry (ring, bracelet, etc).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m pretty choosy when it comes to clothing, so I normally buy things I didn’t expect right on the spot. Consequently, I don’t have any real loyalties to certain shops or brands at the moment. I’ll have an idea of what I’m looking for and then do some marathon Googling until a particular shop woos me with something.

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

I’ve been eyeing a new scally cap (flat cap) recently. I own one that I never wear because it’s too big. I can’t quite pin down the color I want at the moment.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. There’s just something timeless about them. I also think the right pair can do more for an outfit’s character than an otherwise equally good pair of shoes.

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Thanks very much for chatting with us today and I wish you great success with your book plans later in the year. Thanks also to Chad and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of the book “A Pirate’s Charm”. The views expressed by myself are 100% my own and thanks to Ben Cameron for the round up review of the trilogy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chad T Douglas; apart from the header photo , Pinterest photo and one marked ©LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Foxes & Angels

At this time of year we are all looking for cards …. Valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Congratulations, Happy Birthday or just a note to say, “I’m thinking about you”. It is even lovelier when you come across cards that have been thoughtfully illustrated and Besheer, who runs card company Foxes & Angels alongside Clare, is a very talented illustrator indeed. I caught up with Besheer and Clare to celebrate their first year as “Foxes & Angels” … Hi & welcome!

Hi! We’re Besheer and Clare. We run a fledgling greeting card and gift wrap company called Foxes & Angels that we started back in January 2020. We’re almost at our first anniversary!

What inspired you to set up “Foxes & Angels”?

Besheer: I’ve worked as an illustrator for over 15 years for magazines, national newspapers and book covers before turning to teaching and illustrating for greeting card companies. I realised that if I started a company for myself I could really design my dream cards and work to my own schedule.

I am always curious to know the origins of brand names, so why did you choose “Foxes & Angels”? Did you consider other names?

B: Hmmm… yes  we considered loads of names! Words using orange (one of my favourite colours, paper mill and card foundry, Hullabaloo. My first card collection had a strong theme of Foxes and Angels and so the name was born.

You have a lovely variety of card and gift wrap designs. What card designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We recently held our first ‘virtual’ Christmas Fair and our ‘Christmas Outdoors’ premium card back sold out out in a matter of hours. The cards were inspired by people striving to get outdoors and appreciation for our London parks, more than ever, during this very unusual year we’ve had.

You use a variety of methods to illustrate and create your cards – Lino prints, drawing and painting.  Have you got a favourite medium though to use? Favourite card? 

B:I love the process of linocut printing. Cutting the soft lino blocks, rolling the ink and the magic of pulling off your first print after hours of planning and cutting is an absolute pleasure. 

My favourite card at the moment is our Meadow Fox card that came out this summer and did very well. I’ve been obsessed with warm dusty pink colours juxtaposed with greys and whites.

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

Our products will be available overseas in 2021 and we have been approached by an American distributor which is very exciting. 

What inspires your illustrations? Do you go out with an idea to look for something specific to draw? Do you draw in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there? 

B: I’m inspired by going for walks in nature and I absolutely love mid century art and design, particularly the Grosvenor School of printmakers. I also get inspiration by looking at old children’s illustrated books.

Besheer, being an illustrator, some things must be easier to draw and create than others. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of illustration you’ve created so far?  

B:I was asked to do a book cover illustration a few years ago for a collection of 18th Century Irish poems. It was a large panoramic beach scene. After doing lots of research and drawings I completed the illustration which featured a woman carrying an umbrella on a rainy beach. It was quite a detailed piece. Greeting cards are both easier and harder as you are working with such a small space.

I was asked to digitally erase the umbrella as it turns out that only the very wealthy people in society carried umbrellas until the 19th Century!

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

B: I was always going to be an artist or musician. My parents and grandparents were all one or the other so it’s in the blood! Going to art school just felt like a natural progression from school.

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

B: As it’s mid winter I’m usually wearing old denim jeans and my dad’s old cream Arran double knit collar neck. The jumper is older than me and in better condition than some clothes I bought in the last year!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

B: I love  Adolfo Dominguez for clothes (when I can afford them) and stationery shops like ‘Choosing Keeping’, it’s one of those shops that just looks enticing in the early evening. Clare loves White Stuff, Fatface and charity shops.

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

B: I’m trying to find the perfect hat.

Boots or Shoes?

B: Do Desert boots counts as boots? Definitely boots for me. They’re more cosy.  

Clare: Boots for me too. Besheer bought me a lovely pair last year from Josef Seibel in Covent Garden.

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

www.foxesandangels.com

@foxesandangels

Thanks so much Besheer & Clare for chatting to me! Congratulations on reaching your 1st Foxes & Angels Birthday and although 2020 was the strangest of years, well done in sticking with your dream and I wish you all the best in the future.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Besheer & Clare.

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An Interview With Factory Floor Jewels

An unusual obsession with factories led my guest, Kate Stewart (founder, designer & maker of Factory Floor Jewels) to establish her funky jewellery brand using many repurposed objects that can be found on the floors of trade suppliers, manufacturers, instrument technicians! I chat to Kate to find out more…. Hi Kate!

Hi I’m Kate and I’m the designer maker behind the Factory Floor Jewels brand.  I’m 54 and I live in Liverpool with my husband Steve and we look after my 90 year old mum and her friend.  I have a grown up son who is a musician, sound engineer and carpenter.  Just before Christmas we adopted Ella an 8 year old greyhound, after losing our beloved Ruby in November.

My part-time day job is as CEO of a social enterprise in Liverpool and as I have an autoimmune disease which needs regular treatment I’m classed as clinically vulnerable so I’ve been working from home since March 2020.  Thankfully I had already set up my jewellery studio in a spare room at home, although I do also have a shared space in town and I have been sneaking in very early on Saturday mornings recently whilst no one else is in.


What inspired the setting up of “Factory Floor Jewels”?

Friends and family would probably tell you I have always been creative, although I haven’talways found it a comfortable label to accept.   I guess I’ve always been quite a distinctive dresser, I was a rockabilly in the 80’s and lots of people would now describe me as having a punk aesthetic.  If I had the money I’d wear Vivienne Westward all the time, so I guess I have always had an interest in putting looks together and accessories are part of that. 

I have always been fascinated with metal and industrial shapes and buildings.  I went to a girls grammar school and I wanted to do technical drawing, but they didn’t offer it.  I suggested they let me go next door to the boys grammar to do tech drawing but they didn’t like that idea!  So I just used to take in parts of cars to draw in art. 

I often say if I’d had a different education I would probably have been an architect. I actually went to work in the theatre straight from school and then in 1998 I formed an interior design practice with my husband.  

My Dad was a packaging engineer and was very proud of his tools – many he had made himself.  As a child I often went into the factory with him on a Saturday morning and his drawing office was above the factory floor with huge windows looking out on it.  I was fascinated!  

Running an interiors company, we would often go and visit manufacturers and whilst colleagues were fawning over the latest chair or desk design in the 1st floor showrooms I was looking out of those windows onto the factory floor, watching the machines, and looking at the materials used. 

When I set up Factory Floor Jewels in 2014 as a small craft business it was my way of experimenting with the materials and waste that is used in the worlds of engineering and the port in my home city of Liverpool. 

Now that I’ve established the brand and I sell to a number of retailers and galleries I am making less one-off pieces and some of the ranges still have reclaimed materials but others were inspired by found items to begin with are now made with new industrial components.

I love the mix of materials I work with such as copper, silver, steel and aluminium.

I’m really passionate about independent retail and I get such a buzz from working with my stockists to help promote both our businesses.

Specialising in jewellery crafted from objects found on the floors of factories – I have since found myself looking more closely at the warehouse floors I visit on a daily basis when I am wearing my retail merchandiser hat! I do love the tactile feel of your jewellery -especially the Brass & Steel Necklace and the Art Deco Statement Neckcuff. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Well you have excellent taste!  The Brass & Steel ‘Nuts’ Necklace is one of my most popular items when people are buying a gift.  I always comment how it works with everyone’s skin and hair tones and is a really easy one to wear. 

The Art Deco one is more my kind of piece – I love to wear bigger pieces. 

One of my most consistent best sellers is the Swarf range which uses brass scraps that are discarded by the milling machines in many metal workshops.  I personally have never wornanything with gold tones, but even I love this mix of the silver and brass and how big and sparkly the adjustable ring is.   This range was stocked by Tate Modern and Tate Britain last year and was one of their fastest selling ranges. 

It inspired me to develop a similar range recently when I discovered a new material to work with – bronze filings which are actually scrap from a foundry that makes huge piece of public art for cities all over the world.   I’m using sterling silver for this collection as I feel some customers prefer this.  

I recognise that some people are more price driven and others are less so, so I’m trying to offer items for both markets, although I am moving more towards sterling silver for earrings in my new collections and trying to keep the prices competitive.  I have a new range using aluminium pieces and the hoop earrings are sterling silver and the pendant is steel. 

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

I guess there’s two questions there – I love making the Swarf range, but I am really enjoying wearing the new pieces with Aluminium tube.  


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

I don’t currently have any overseas retailers but it’s possible to buy from my website from most countries. 

I’d love to find some retailers in other countries though.

When designing jewellery to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional pieces, what you have salvaged  orbits of all those?

Oh, it’s definitely a mix of all of those yes, but the first thing is the materials and components.  I always consider what is emerging from my bench in the context of my customers, the price point I need to reach for them, the season and also sometimes what I have seen on the catwalk.  I guess it must also be influenced by my own taste, however this is more likely around the materials and sometimes the challenge of new processes; I have made really popular pieces that I wouldn’t wear because they don’t suit my style.   I also consider how it sits with other items in my collection

I’m not interested in fast fashion and I think my pieces are quite timeless, but I do tend to look at a couple of brands that I feel my customers shop at for their clothing.

Your collections encompass ready to wear pieces, couture pieces, limited editions and one-offs; what was the hardest to make or most unusual request you have had? 

I think the hardest to make pieces come from my head…… I have a collection called ‘swept’ which has been ‘on the bench’ for a while now.  I was given some skeins of bristles from a brush factory that closed.  I knew instantly what I wanted to make, but I wasn’t sure how to.  I set myself quite a challenge there!  I’ve made some prototypes and love them, but currently they are too complex to replicate in any volume.  They will need some refining to get there…… maybe 2021 is the year of Swept!

I’ve recently worked on a commission for two sisters who’s father is an engineer – they’d seen my Swarf range in a local shop and it made them reminisce about their Dad always treading swarf into the house.  He’s 90 and still working as an engineer in his home workshop, using a variety of different metals.  Swarf comes in all sorts of colours and shapes, depending on the metal and the process it has been part of.  Heat changes the colours of the original metal, it’s all about chemistry.  I’m making a couple of pieces for each of them and we are playing with the textures and materials, it’s great fun!

As I’ve focused on producing collections that appeal to the retail market in the last few years, I have recently begun to miss creating one off pieces.  I’ve come up with a plan which I’m going to launch in February – I’ll be releasing a number of one offs or limited editions and won’t be selling them wholesale.  So to buy you will need to join the Factory Floor Jewels VIP Club (www.factoryfloorjewels.com/subscribe) to get 48 hours exclusive access each month . Follow me on Instagram (www.instagram.com/factoryfloorjewels) for more info.  I’m really excited to see people’s reactions.

A couple of hypothetical questions now!  Firstly, if you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I’m so blessed to have travelled a lot in the last 6 years with my day job and I’m constantly taking inspiration from the places and the industry I see.   I guess one place still on the list is Detroit, and New York is always such a rich place of inspiration. 

Secondly, which famous lady would you pick to be the “Face” Of Factory Floor Jewels and why?

I think that Judi Dench looks astonishing and has such a sense of style.  I’d love to see her wearing my pieces. 

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

I realised in hindsight that I would have loved to have been an architect!  As a kid I wanted to be a vet (same length of training for both of those) but in reality I ran away and joined the theatre at 17

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

Black leggings about 90% of the year – black cycling shorts in the summer 

And although I do wear a lot of black, I have started to wear grey more in recent years and I’ve often got an accent of something bright, like a turquoise cardi 

I’ve become more confident in my clothes in recent years.  I think that’s probably quite common for women.  I was very ‘out there’ in my clothing in my teens and twenty’s then motherhood affect my body and my self image.  I would say in the last 10 years or so I’vebecome more comfortable with understanding what works and what doesn’t for me. 

Everyone is constantly astonished at my age and I think that’s significantly down to how I dress – and my quite distinctive haircut. (I have shaved the sides of my head and have a flat-top, which pre lockdown used to change colour from scarlet to bleached blonde to turquoise.  Now it’s just dark brown and grey.  I can’t wait to be all grey tbh).

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

Well clothing wise, I’ve got very good at Ebay for brands I know work for me, like Vivienne Westward, Bench, Cos, All Saints and Lurdes Bergada.

I’m a big shop local or shop handmade girl and I’d much rather pay for something unique and quality than mass produced. As an example I bought a purse off Camille at Dasprez and loved the material and workmanship so much I asked her to make a pencil case and since then have commissioned a bag from her too.  I had a bag I loved the shape and colour of but it was high street and so badly made.  I knew that someone with skill could make it so much better and it will last forever. 

I’m also a little obsessed with clothes for Greyhounds!  They don’t really have much fur or fat and so they really feel the cold.  Our last girl Ruby couldn’t sleep through the night October to May without PJs on.  And she did wear clothes really well!  Again, these tended to be from artisan makers rather than pet shops.   We adopted our current greyhound Ella just before Christmas and  I’ve already bought her a new waterproof and even though we were told she didn’t really need indoor clothes, she did keep waking up in the middle of the night so we put a jumper on her for bedtime.

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

I’ve got my eye on a pair of Lurdes Bergada trousers, I think their shapes are very flattering and I  have an ebay alert on for my next Vivienne Westwood piece!

Boots or Shoes? 

Easy one for me – I’m a boot wearer for LOTS of the year!  Although I adore shoes.  I really love Clarks and at the complete opposite end of the spectrum I have a slight addiction to United Nude.

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

www.factoryfloorjewels.com

www.instagram.com/factoryfloorjewels

Subscribe to my newsletter to join the VIP Club and get discounts and early bird shopping on new pieces at www.factoryfloorjewels.com/subscribe

Fabulous chatting to you Kate and I think your designs are fabulous!

Linda x


All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate Stewart.

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Interview With Relationship Expert Mig Bennett

Happy New Year!

2020 ended up as being an extremely stressful year, to say the least. The Covid-19 pandemic really didn’t help as apart from the physical aspects of the virus taking its toll, it has left us grieving those who succumbed to the disease; it has heightened fears; it has laid people low with a range of mental health issues; it has brought together family units and broken others down. Problems have always existed prior to the pandemic but the awareness has been more pronounced. There is hope on the horizon and help is on hand to help guide those who need it, non judgemental advice. I interviewed relationship & sex addiction counsellor Mig Bennett about her career as a counsellor specialising in relationship problems…. Hi Mig & welcome…

Hello. I’m Mig Bennett. I’m a counsellor with a specialised focus on relationships and, in more recent years, in sexual compulsivity. This is more commonly known as sex addiction, and, contrary to common misconception, it’s not about having a high sex drive! 

What made you decide to launch your career as a relationship and sex addiction counsellor?

I became involved in counselling completely unexpectedly about 30 years ago. I suffered postnatal depression, set up a support group as I recovered and, as it took off I realised I needed more skills. So I took a basic counsellingskills evening class and the tutor was a Relate counsellor.  He persuaded me to apply to train with Relate for whom I still work some hours.  Now I also have a Private Practice specifically for relationship work and sexual addiction. 

The sex addiction interest came from a colleague who trained in the area and to whom I went for help when I worked with a couple where a long history of visiting sex workers emerged. That learning, and my colleague’s encouragement led me to take a diploma in that specific area.  It is very prevalent in our society but hasn’t really been acknowledged or addressed until the recent 20 or so years whereas gambling, drug, alcohol, eating compulsive behaviours have. 

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s problems are not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons do people come to you for help? 

Strangely, over the years, and I think other counsellors will agree, the problems presenting at my door come in swathes. I may have a period of seeing many affairs, for example.  But, aside from sexually compulsive issues, the common relationship themes are:

loss of connection or relationship neglect (“we’re like flat mates”), 

split agendas, often stemming from the above (one says it’s over, one is desperate to save it)

arguments and poor communication patterns (“we love each other but we end up having these same destructive rows”), 

sex, (although this really comes into all scenarios it can be brought as the primary reason for seeking help)

differing attitudes to parenting children and step children

affairs, including emotional infidelity 

When it comes to relationship/marriage/couples counselling, what approach do you tend to use?

I use mainly three therapeutic models in my work.• psycho-dynamic (looking at how significant figures from the past can influence us today)• systemic (focusing on how changing one partner’s behaviour will change the other’s)• transactional analysis (enabling us to look at our ineffective communication patterns and create better ones).

My clients don’t know that, of course.  What I think my clients would say they SEE is that I listen and really try to understand each of them, by playing back and asking questions, and that I gradually encourage the other to do the same using these skills. I help them use different words and tones, and it can be quite lighthearted learning!  

I look at why their pasts will be at play in their relationship today, which enables them to understand their reactions to situations and to each other. When we understand why we feel something we can spot our automatic reactions and change them. 

I use a lot of visual diagrams, mnemonics and little tricks, like post-it notes which I find, as with school children, all help understanding and memory. 

But maybe the most important thing I offer is the presence of a calm, warm, experienced third party in what can be a very heated, or very emotional, or very cold, or very tense meeting. I’m like a sort of stable scaffolding they can use to negotiate the difficulties.

As you have had over 25 years experience in this field, running your own private practice as well as with Relate, what is it about your job do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

It’s a great privilege to be trusted and have intimate elements of lives shared with one.  That sense of privilege never leaves me.  When people ask, “ how can you do that job?” that’s what I say. 

The downside? Yes a couple of thoughts on that.

It’s such a concentrated hour, working online. I am exhausted and have to take care to create gaps in my day and know when I cannot take on more clients. Face to face work is less concentrated and I can be quite energisedafter a session. I use tennis as a mental and physical counterbalance to my work. 

I also wonder, and in fact it’s been said, that friends think I’m silently seeing things in their relationships and wonder if I’m ‘analysing’ them! 

Do you offer face-to-face counselling or do you operate online?

Both. With Covid my work has all been online. It was difficult for some to see how it would work, as a couple, but no one has bailed out! Sometimes a couple use one screen and sit together, sometimes they are in different locations, even different parts of the country.

Growing up, did you always want a  “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

I always wanted to be a teacher and I was for some years, teaching children in the middle years, 8-12. Perhaps that’s why I love my flip chart, it’s my blackboard.

What are the common “problems” that new parents ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Counselling isn’t about giving advice. The health visitor will give advice on sleep or feeding. When clients ask what to do, I suggest we try to work that out, together.

A lot of couple’s problems, especially sexually or with regard to feeling the relationship has shifted to ‘flat mates or siblings,” trace back to the arrival of children. It’s a life stage for couples.  I get  them to identify what they miss, what they would like to change and help them work out how that can be achieved.  It’s usually about not having expressed their needs, not having understood that his, her or their angry comments are coming from a vulnerable feeling of sadness, loneliness or powerlessness. But the big one is often about finding TIME to be us.  

As you are based in East Sussex, England, are your services available just locally or UK/ worldwide too?

Online I can be anywhere.  Worldwide depends on that country’s counsellingstandards and I have to check I am qualified and covered to work with foreign clients. I have done so though.

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

I’m very casual. My clothes wardrobe is always half empty. I wear a small range and cull what isn’t worn. Jeans and a simple top of varying degrees of warmth. 

I dress outfits up with earrings, necklaces and a statement handbag. My current favourite is a bright red bag with diamanté studs from Steinmart in America. I’ve another Steinmart bag for winter, of an unusual geometric black and beige design; I have a mini version in red for evenings.  

Shoes? Slip on coloured pumps in summer or fit flops. Boots in winter. I spend most on shoes and boots, bags and accessories. Aside from those, my attire may have cost under £20.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All charity shops. Marks and Spencer. Sainsbury’s. I spend a few weeks in Autumn in Palm Springs, California, and love Steinmart stores for accessories.  When shopping, I head straight for footwear, handbags and accessories, then lingerie, then coats, then clothes. 

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

Flat, simple, knee high boots.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots and have many pairs. All inexpensive (under £70), kitten heels, flat heels, over the knee, ankle.   I have many red pairs, some fabric, flowery ones, animal print ones, silver lurex ones! When I LOVE a pair I buy two.  Why boots? Maybe because I can look down and see and touch them and they are a bit ‘out there’ and sexy. 

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

http://www.migbennettrelationshipcounselling.co.uk/

Thank you Mig for an interesting insight into your life as a relationship expert. As you probably noticed, most of the photos in this post are of two delightful cats, my beloved pets Leo & Bounty, who have a love-hate relationship! Bounty the kitten is very playful and adores Leo, who doesn’t always reciprocate those feelings – but they do have their moments! All the photographs are by Linda Hobden apart from the one of Mig, which I have published with kind permission of Mig Bennett.

Linda x


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In At The Deep End

With the seasonal holidays approaching and, depending where you live, lockdowns might be the case for January/February, then you might need a good book to read and I have a great book for you that I read during the previous lockdown! It is called “In At The Deep End” by Alexander Gunz. The story, in a nutshell, is about 6 very different men whose lives intersect one morning at a London public swimming pool. I love how each chapter concentrates on each man and their journey to the pool one particular morning. As you read each individual story, their story builds until the chapter when they are all in the pool’s changing room. It is at that point when you suddenly realise how their lives have been joined together. It is a book all about relationships – how people interact, how loneliness can be felt even if you are surrounded by others, how fathers & children react to each other, dementia, how swimming was the release they had in common, how quick we are to judge others…. so much can be taken away from this novel yet it is still a delightful read! Cleverly written, easy to read yet thoughtful. Give the book a whirl!

It is with great pleasure to welcome onto the blog Alexander Gunz…..hi, Alexander…

Hi! I’m Alex. I am London-born and bred, having lived in the Edgware Road area all my adult life. I have two degrees (Philosophy, Politics & Economics, and English Literature). I work in finance by day, where I write all the external content for my firm. I am an avid reader and freelance restaurant reviewer in my spare time. I am married with two children.

Who or what inspired you to write “In At The Deep End”? 

My Father has always inspired a love of reading in me (and the novel is dedicated to him). I have always wanted to write a novel, it was much more a matter of arriving at the right topic or theme. Walking around the Edgware Road area and visiting regularly the local pool gave me the idea.   

I really enjoyed reading your book, “In At The Deep End”.  I loved reading about the individual lives of the 6 very different men who used swimming as their release from their every day existence, and how their lives entwined one morning! I related to the man with the start of dementia- he reminded me of my father who had dementia for 12 years and how he was at the beginning as he tried to cling onto normality and stick to a routine. Was there any character that you particularly endeared yourself to?

The dementia inclusion was very deliberate and while I fortunately do not know anyone who has experienced dementia, I worked as a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society in 2006-7 and was very moved by my experiences there. In terms of the characters in the novel, the cliché about all fiction is autobiography and all autobiography is fiction springs somewhat to mind. There is a little bit of me in each of the characters. It would be unfair to say that I have a favourite.

As you are an avid reader, averaging at least 50 novels a year over the last 20 years, were any aspects of writing of novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

It was a wonderful experience to write a novel and to put myself metaphorically in the shoes of what it must be like to be an author. The idea-generation and the writing were relatively easy; the redrafting, editing and finessing was much more of a challenge.

What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Contemporary literary fiction and high modernism would be my favourite periods. Authors whom I rate highly would include Joseph Conrad and JG Ballard. Among more contemporary authors, Margaret Atwood would be a clear favourite. Always actual books; I love their tangibility.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations? 

My earliest childhood desire was to be an astronaut and go to the moon! More seriously, I have always loved writing and to have the opportunity to write fiction as well as the work I do in finance (for my main job) has been massively satisfying.

Have you got other novels or plans in the pipeline for 2021 that you can tell us about?

I have written a number of short stories and may look to compile these in a volume.

Is “In At The Deep End” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon 

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

Two countries I have visited in the past and whose cultures continue to fascinate me – in a very different ways – are Japan and Mexico. There are multiple stories and myths from both countries which could provide useful material.

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

Jeans and T-shirt if at home/ tailored suit and plain shirt if at work.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Apologies, no.

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

Would prefer to spend my money on books!

Boots or Shoes?

Am most likely to be found in a pair of old-school Adidas trainers; best for walking the streets around the Edgware Road and beyond

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

 My restaurant Blog is as follows: www.gourmandgunno.com

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Thank you Alex for chatting to us today ! Thank you (and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing) for the copy of your book In At The Deep End to review.

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the header picture © LindaHobden) have been published with kind permission of Alexander Gunz.

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