Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Anne Welsh

Living with an invisible disability is difficult as people and businesses are often unaware of the chronic pain a person may be suffering. Sickle cell anemia sufferer Anne Welsh has written an interesting book about overcoming chronic pain through management, lifestyle and diet choices. This book is an interesting mix – Anne tells her own frank personal story about her life living with sickle cell anemia – warts ‘n’ all. From being a small child, how her parents coped, teenage years, university, work life, boyfriends, married life, pregnancy. Intertwined with the chapters are Anne’s honest look at the decisions made and what she advises to help make the life of someone suffering with chronic pain easier and advice for family and friends too. How to stay positive is her mantra. Although her advice can help all those living with chronic pain, she is adamant to spread the word about sickle cell disease, which is actually the most common genetic disease in the world, but people are not necessarily aware of it. I really enjoyed reading Anne’s book,” Pain-less “- she has a lovely chatty style – and I highly recommend it. You don’t need to suffer chronic pain to understand and devour her book – although she does give invaluable advice! I caught up with Anne recently and asked her a few questions….!! Hi Anne!

Hi! I would say that Anne Welsh is an internationally recognised author, entrepreneur and philanthropist.  Most importantly I am a married mother of two and finds great joy in being close to family and friends.  I have recently launched my memoir, Pain-less to inspire people who, like myself, live with sickle cell and work hard to find a path-way to a gratifying life while living with pain.  It is a book that will motivate the reader to act and overcome challenges in life. 

Through this book I am using my voice to help others by speaking on many radio and television spots, such as the BBC and London live, and in front of decision makers and parliamentary political leaders in the UK or in countries around the world where sickle cell is a serious health issue.   

I have a degree in Accounting and Finance and an MSc in Investment Management and broke barriers as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers, by establishing workplace practices for ethnic minorities and people with disability.   I now run my own consultancy firm based in London, England and is an expert in bringing business opportunities to investors around the globe.

Your book, “Pain-Less” is truly inspirational  – but what made you decide to write “Pain-Less” in the first place? 

I decided to write my book Pain-Less as I felt it was time to finally share my story with the world. It was truly a struggle growing up.   I was constantly in hospital and each time I would lose hope that I would be better or would I just be burden on my family and society for the rest of my life.  

As I broke away from the negativity that surrounded my life, I knew that I could make a positive difference to others with invisible illnesses, who were going through  similar experiences to me.   By sharing my story I could help them to overcome their fears, live life to the fullest and being able to achieve their life long aspirations. 


I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your struggle to overcome chronic pain and your sound advice. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from a chronic complaint but I do know people who do, so it was an eye opening insight for me to understand what it is like living with an invisible disease. I really appreciated the advice you gave in the book to family, friends, peers and employers on how to handle someone with an invisible disability. What changes do you feel that employers/businesses should think about to help those with an invisible disability?

People with an invisible illness are prone to the same emotions as everyone else.   They often don’t ask for special treatment, but they do ask for an understanding of the invisible illness you have.  Sometimes negative reactions from your colleagues are amplified because you don’t look sick or have a visible physical disability that accompanies empathy that is often demonstrated by people you may be working with.  

Therefore, awareness is key.  As a person with an illness you must make your employer aware that you have an invisible disease.  Employers should take the time to put in place suitable infrastructure where necessary to make the lives of those living with an invisible illness can perform without restrictions. I can tell you the moment my employers were able to give me the help I needed; I saw an improvement in my performance  and my contribution to the team was immediately recognised. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in “Pain-less”? 

Overcoming the fact that I was putting myself out to the world to scrutinise.  A memoir is more than just your life highlights – to do it well you must make the point of including those things that make you the person you are at a moment in life.  It creates a personal tension within yourself and forces to analyse your true feelings about many subjects that you had not really considered before.  This can be a very mentally demanding task. 


I had heard about Sickle Cell Anaemia, mostly through a novel I recently read written by a Nigerian author who mentioned it in passing as one of the characters was a mum whose children died of sickle cell at toddler age – but I had no idea of the symptoms of sickle cell, how some people are carriers and some get the full blown disease, and that it doesn’t automatically carry a death sentence.  Neither did I realise that Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world. Being an Ambassador for Raising Awareness Of Sickle Cell Disease, what are your main aims & tasks? What are the main misconceptions about sickle cell?   

My aim is to ensure that proper attention is paid to this disease.  Often it helps to have those difficult conversations with decision makers and influencers, and I will use my network to have as many as I can.  

A huge misconception about sickle cell is that it is a life sentence that and those who suffer from it cannot lead a truly fulfilling life.  True it drastically reduces the life span of individuals in areas where basic pain management and health care is not readily available; however, this capacity for care continues to improve worldwide. 

Finally, the struggle is as much a mental struggle as a physical one. The disease’s negative impact on a person must be viewed in its totality.  Depression, loneliness, difficulty in securing a job are all issues that need to be addressed by the individual and society in general.  

In your book you describe your ways of helping to manage your pain via lifestyle choices, diet and medication.  I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way as you tried to make your way as a schoolgirl, as a teenager, as a university student, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother too.  As an adult, it is easier to make sensible choices re lifestyle & diet; how was it trying to stay positive and manage your disease as a youngster? 

As a youngster, I could not fully comprehend why I was different other than the pain was terrible, and I could not do the things my sisters and friends could do.  I felt isolated and I truly relied on my parents to survive.  I just knew I had to survive.  It is not more complex than that. 

As a mum myself, I know how stressful it is going through pregnancy and eventual childbirth.  Knowing that you also had the added risk of passing on the genetic disease to your unborn child; the pain of giving birth on top of your chronic pain; yet your desire for children  – must have made it a tough decision for you and your husband to make!  What worried you most whilst pregnant? 

Actually, passing on the genetic disease was luckily not an issue.  My husband was Caucasian with European  lineage so the passing on of the disease on was not a worry. 

Everything else on the journey to motherhood was stress filled. Getting to the finish line and having a healthy child pop out was always in my thoughts.  Both children were born five weeks and the care regime I was placed under helped me reduce the anxiety greatly. I cannot thank the team of doctors and nurses that helped me along the way.

Being stressed doesn’t help anybody, let alone somebody with sickle cell anemia – so what do you do to relax and de-stress? 

I constantly monitor the health of my body.  I realise when I need to rest and when I need to reduce the work-load I am under.  I just enjoy hanging out with my family, sisters and their families and friends.  

Following the correct eating plan and doing exercise plays a very important role in achieving the relaxation and a I less stressed environment. 

Is “Pain-Less” available to purchase worldwide?

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher SilverWood Books or it  an be found on Amazon. https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781329047/pain-less-hardback

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

I love the classic mixed with modern look. Now we are in autumn you will find me wearing lots of sweaters dresses, ankle length boots in a variety of colours, always accented by the appropriate sunglasses.  

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Zara and Net-a-porter

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

A new Trench coat from Burberry and the Jimmy Choo white boots. 

Boots or Shoes?

When it is cold and raining,  definitely boots.   Boots, keep me warm and this prevents a sickle cell crisis from  coming on quickly. 

For Pinning Later


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

www.annewelsh.com

Instagram: @ladyannewelsh

Facebook: ladyannewelsh

Twitter: @ladyannewelsh

YouTube: annewelsh

It has been a real pleasure chatting to you Anne and I wish your book every success. Your tips are truly invaluable and I am sure that many readers will appreciate your honest advice.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Anne Welsh.

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An Interview With Concrete & Wax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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


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

L: Something glamorous for the Christmas season.  

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

For Pinning Later


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

www.concreteandwax.com

Facebook & Instagram: @concreteandwax

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Koket

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

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

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

What inspired the founding of the brand, Koket?

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

Mandy Sofa

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

The Chandra Chair.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

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

The Divine Armoire

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

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

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

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

Tabu Cocktail Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leather, fur and show-stopping shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Love Net-a-Porter.

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

For Pinning Later

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

www.bykoket.com

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

@janetlakoket

@bykoket

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Village Leathers

Established in 1974 by Tony & Angie, Village Leathers is a small family-based business based in London that specialises in a wide range of belts, bags and accessories for both men and women. They began as street traders, growing to stores in Covent Garden, now online too. Although a lot of their styles are classics, their latest accessory ranges are very colourful and very much on trend. I caught up with Verity, part of “Team Village Leathers” to find out more about the very swish bags that she and the team make! Hi Verity!

Hi! I’m Verity from Village Leathers, I’ve been working here for years and I’m part of the team who hand make our leather goods. Village Leathers is a family owned business which started out by selling handmade leather belts from a suitcase on the streets of London in 1974. Since then we’ve grown to have two small shops in Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market and more recently set up a website too. We’re still a small team with just 10 of us in total split between the shops and the studio where we produce leathers belts and accessories in small batches by hand.

Starting life as street traders, progressing to shops in London’s Covent Garden (one of my favourite London spots) and now online – what challenges have you had to face (business or personal) in each selling arena, eg adapting to selling from a market stall to a shop environment or adapting to online technology etc?

When we started selling online it was a big learning curve for us. We do all the photography and website maintenance in house so we had to learn a whole new skillset as well as keep up with the production of goods. It was challenging but such a brilliant experience. The other issue we face, which I know many small independent business’ struggle with, is online exposure. We’re a small fish in a big pond so competing with bigger brands was a little tricky at first, luckily our customers soon found us and valued our ethos. They recognise the craftsmanship and quality of materials we’ve sourced for our range of handmade goods. This means our customers can buy better products, fewer times, supporting the growing number of people trying to reign in overconsuming tendencies.

As for our shops we’re having lots of fun at the moment redesigning the layout ready for a refit next year. As we are based in small shops offering a wide range of products and colourways showcasing all our designs is really important for us but can look a bit overwhelming to shop visitors. To make it a pleasure to shop with us we’ll be implementing sections and adding much more signage throughout the shop that communicates everything you’ll need to know about our leathers, sizing and collections. It’s quite an undertaking but it will make such a difference as I think it’s been about 15 years since the last one!

I love the brightly coloured Leather Belt Bag – a sophisticated version of the bumbag/fanny pack! Your latest ranges, Chroma and Roam collections, are available in a stunning range of bright colours- Yellow, Red, Green, Sky Blue, Tangerine Orange – they are all simply gorgeous! However, what bags are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season? Is there a difference between the popularity stakes of items purchased from your shop and those purchased online?

I’m so glad you like the Belt Bag, it’s new territory for us as we haven’t entered that market before but it was so nice to design such a contemporary product and the response so far has been really positive. Over this season we’ve definitely seen customers both instore and online being drawn to the more fruity and vibrant colours like the sunny yellow of the Chroma Shoulder Bag, zesty Orange Roam Clutch Bag and now that we’re entering Autumn we’re seeing the Tan, Olive and Grey colourways come into their own. In terms of bag design I think the Chroma Shoulder Bag has pipped it this season, it’s such a nifty little bag, ideal for days out and it looks stunning. With a simple silhouette and secure turnlock it means you can pair it with every outfit effortlessly. 

In the shops we have a lot of people come in looking for a special gift to take back from London for their friends and family at home, that usually takes the form of something like a Roam Clutch Bag and matching zip purse. It’s so nice to see people really thinking about which colour or design their loved one will treasure the most. It’s only right they treat themselves to something as well for being so considerate! 

Have you got any personal favourites?

So, one of my favourite products we make sounds so basic but I get really excited telling people about it so here goes. It’s our Classic Black 1 1/4 Belt, the reason I love it is because it is the epitome of a wardrobe staple. I think everyone should own one. It’s made from delicious, thick Italian vegetable tanned leather. This kind of leather is made in the most eco friendly and natural ways by using tannins found in some plants and bark. It’s a very old artisanal process and only a small percentage of leather goods produced worldwide use veg tanned leather because it is slow to produce, therefore more expensive per foot. But, the quality of the leather is so high, rich in colour, supple and ages beautifully. We actually guarantee our Classic belts for 25 years, that’s how good it is, and what’s more is that at the end of it’s like the leather is biodegradable! The other great thing about this belt is that you can swap the buckles really easily to suit your outfit. And yes I have a favourite buckle – Westend Silver, its solid brass!

Your company also offers a bespoke service. Have you had any bizarre bespoke requests?

That’s such a great question! We’re often asked to tweak designs or emboss a meaningful date or name onto pieces to make them extra special. We once individually monogrammed some belts for a group of Groomsmen and one of their nicknames was ‘Snake’, I didn’t ask how he got that!

We work closely with the theatre a lot too and we once had a project that required us to make a bumbag which could hold a cabbage…

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

Yes! Absolutely, we send our goods worldwide. It’s amazing to think there are people all over the world enjoying our products that were made in our little workshop. Recently we had a customer send us a picture of a Bag she’d picked up from us in Covent Garden in 1988, she’s been using it daily in Australia since then!

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

All our designs must first meet our values; affordability and handcrafted quality married with classic and practical design. We have a core range of products which have remained practically unchanged for years and years. The idea is they are classic wardrobe staples that can be paired with lots of outfits, the perfect balance between form and function. We make them using highly efficient, time-tested leather crafting techniques so they can last and build patina as they are worn and used, this means the designs are  timeless, reasonably priced and of unparalleled quality. 

Having this core range of classic products allows us to flex our creativity by designing small batches of seasonal products that consider customer needs and micro trends. A good example of this would be our Belt Bag or Hair on Hide Leopard Bag strap, as we manufacture the products ourselves we can make near instant tweaks based on customer feedback such as swapping a popper closure for a push lock on the Belt Bag. This means the customer gets exactly what they need and the design process is more collaborative. 

When you are not making & selling bags and belts, what do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?

Well, as you can imagine we love to make stuff in our spare time but not always from leather. At the moment two of us are making patterns for some dungarees we’re hoping to have done by next summer if we can find the time. If we’re not working on craft projects we like to ride our bikes or enjoy some of the amazing exhibitions that are always going on in London. We love organising staff outings too as an excuse to enjoy some of the great restaurants around Covent Garden, most recently we went to Padella in London Bridge where we ordered two rounds of food.

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

I opt for practical shoes that will protect my toes from any dropped tools or hammers in the workshop, that being said I want to feel chic and stylish at the same time so I’m usually rocking a pair of 1461 Doc Martens. We’re all big fans of Luck and Yak trousers and dungarees which are so comfy to wear at home or work and made in an ethical way. Outside the workshop, when we’re not going to get filthy and covered in thread or leather we really like to dress up and wear our own creations. I go for minimal, comfortable silhouettes made from organic cotton and linen. At the moment my favourite colours are rust and cobalt blue, I’m lusting after a lot of L.F Markey designs at the moment. Obviously all our outfits are accessorised with Village Leathers bags and belts.

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

As a fan of timeless designs I really love having a look around Labour and Wait in London. They offer amazingly curated homewares, I don’t know how they’ve found them but they stock loads of independent makers from all over who make beautiful and functional items that bring me joy. When I’m thinking of adventuring I like to browse Patagonia, I really relate to their brand values and the latest “Black Hole’ collection of bags is amazing as its made from recycled bottles. Online I love looking at Cool Machine Shop for their brilliantly fun, contemporary  and colourful offerings. Locally to me in Crystal Palace you’ll always find me in Lowie or Elkins for their gorgeous womenswear, books and homeware. 

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

I’m saving up for a Rust corduroy Boilersuit I’ve got my eye on. Effortless, chic and functional, what more do you need? 

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – simply because I’m too impatient to bother undoing the laces on boots and nearly cause myself an injury pulling them on and off.

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

https://www.villageleathers.com

@villageleathers on Instagram 

http://instagram.com/villageleathers

https://facebook.com/villageleathers

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Thank you Verity for your fabulous insight into the company you work for. I love the quality of your products and your small Aladdin’s Cave of a shop in Covent Garden is certainly worth checking out!

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Village Leathers.

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An Interview With Jay Mullings

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

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

What was the inspiration behind launching Written Mirror Ltd?

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

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

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

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

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

What genre of books do you tend to read?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poetry can feed into songs so poetry! 

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

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

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

Some Bob Marley or Missy Elliott to be honest!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

www.writtenmirror.com/blog

www.youtube.com/writtenmirror

www.twitter.com/writtenmirror

www.instagram.com/writtenmirror

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

It has been great chatting to you,

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

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Jay Mullings.

Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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Art London

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

Photographer Alex Schneideman

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

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

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

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

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

photographed by Alex Schneideman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

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

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

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

Is “Art London” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Vintage costume jewellery from eBay.

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

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

Linda x

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

“Art London” was published by ACC Art Books.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Wilde Ones

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

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

What inspired the setting up of Wilde Ones?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

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

Linda x

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

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.


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Agnes In Bloom

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

MY REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

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

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

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

Is “Agnes In Bloom” available to purchase worldwide?

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


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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

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

For Pinning Later

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

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

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

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Karen Brady

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Revisiting Liat Hughes Joshi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

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

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

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

Liat’s adorable dog!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

Boots…for daily walks with my dog and hiking! 

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

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

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Olbrish

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

Hi Wolfgang, please introduce yourself and Olbrish….

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

What inspires the distinctive designs of Olbrish bags?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schrauben24.de

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes, I don’t have boots.

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

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

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

https://facebook.com/olbrishtaschen/

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

Linda x

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

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