Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Topaz Luxe

2021, along with 2020, haven’t been great years as far as travel and exotic beach holidays are concerned. As Autumn approaches the Northern Hemisphere, and the gradual easing of travel rules, have made the prospect of catching some winter sun very enticing indeed. Those in the Southern Hemisphere have got long summer days to look forward to. So, now is a great time to introduce a young emerging talent in the field of swimwear – Natasha Griggs, founder of Topaz Luxe and talented designer of swimwear. Hi Natasha and welcome!

Hi! My names Natasha Rose Griggs, I am the Creative Director and Founder of Topaz Swim. I am 29 years old living in Cheltenham. Below is a little bit of background behind my career:

 I graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a degree in Fashion Knitwear Design. During my 4 year degree I was lucky to land myself at high end designer Alexander Mcqueen for 10 months followed by a few smaller internships. After graduating I struggled to find a paid design job, so I spent the next 18months working unpaid for a number of fashion houses including, All Saints & Julien Macdonald, where I hand crafted 2 floor length gowns that were featured on Kourtney Kardashian & Eva Longoria Parker. One of my proudest moments. I continued to work at a number of suppliers and learnt a lot about the fashion supplier industry. It wasn’t until I landed my first paid job in the industry at Superdry where I was taken on as the Junior Swimwear designer. It wasn’t long before I noticed a huge gap in the market for a boutique brand that represents high quality, luxury and individuality at a competitive price. This is where Topaz really began. Within a year of registering the business I took it upon myself to leave Superdry and focus more on business plans and development of the product. I then went on to become Womenswear Designer at Holland Cooper Clothing for the last 3 years.

What inspired the launch of Topaz Luxe?

It wasn’t until I landed my first paid job in the industry at Superdry where I was taken on as the Junior Swimwear designer. It wasn’t long before I noticed a huge gap in the market for a boutique brand that represents high quality, luxury and individuality at a competitive price. This is where Topaz really began. Within a year of registering the business I took it upon myself to leave Superdry and focus more on business plans and development of the product. This was something I dreamed about, I honestly was very scared and backed the brand after many many pitches to investors and banks with a large amount of investment to go all in on the brand.


I’m interested in your brand name – Topaz Luxe – why did you specifically pick that name? Were there any other contenders?

The brand, which takes its name from the crystal of love, good fortune and attainment of goals, is made up of the finest aqua marine colours which all reflect the beautiful array of the colours of the ocean. I spent years collecting precious stones and crystals, which is what inspired me for brand. Something I loved and was passionate about. 
Topaz is also my birth stone, a stone of which I have many of.


I love the Lana Bikini in Ink Marble from your collection. Simply gorgeous. What designs are most popular amongst your customers at the moment?

The Lana bikini in Ink Marble print design, was purchased from an Australian Print house, which is unique to Topaz Swim. I would say the best selling style currently is Our Sienna Luxe Swimsuit in White and Black and Our Lana in Sparkle and Ink Marble follow closely second.

Do you have a favourite item from your collection?

The Lana Bikini in Ink Marble is my favourite too, The print is so beautiful and Vibrant. I am also obsessed with all my hardware details which are completely bespoke to the brand. These signature details make us really unique and luxurious. Completely designed by myself. I also absolutely love the Sienna Swimsuits, I think they are personally the perfect fit and so flattering. 

When designing swimwear 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 don’t really like to follow trends, I designed the brand based on what my customer would like, the customer really being myself. Aimed at a 29 year old, with a steady income, loves fashion and style, and appreciates slow luxury fashion. Enjoys Yoga and health and fitness and wants to look their best in a swimsuit.  I liked to design what is right for the brand and the customer I am targeting. When I first started Topaz Swim, I found it very hard to find a brand  in the UK that not only was stylish but had high end quality and was luxurious. Finding styles that suited both Smaller chests and Larger chests was also always a challenge. 


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

Our Collection is  currently available to be purchased online, and we ship to internationally. I would like to expand into Resort Hotels abroad, these plans have been in my business plan from day one and am already looking at making the connections to make this possible at the moment. I would love to stock in the leading Resort Hotels around the world. 

For every swimsuit sold, you donate to the Marine Conservation Society. What is special to you about that particular charity?

Yes  correct, for every swimsuit sold we donate £1 to Marine Conservation Society. I chose Marine Conservation Society because I loved how heavily involved they are with beach clean ups. They work with alot of companies that do charity events to help clean our beaches and protect our oceans. This is something I would love to be involved in in the next couple of years as a company to bring together a community of people that love the brand and want to support the charity and host an event. I also was drawn into the below 3 goals MCS have set out to achieve by 2030:-

A third of our seas to be truly protected, so nature can recover

Ocean pollution levels to show a clear downward trend

Our fish stocks to be at sustainable level.

Your brand has now become a Zero Waste Company – so how did you achieve that aim?   

I have a very good relationship with my suppliers and I really wanted to build into my brand from the beginning of my first collection other ways to make the brand sustainable. I worked closely with them to save all left off fabrics/ scraps to recycle and produce matching scrunchies. None of our leftover fabrics are sent to landfill. This is something I am really proud of. 

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

Personal faves : I love a skinny jean, boxy tee with a oversized blazer and white trainer;  Ribbed cycling shorts with an oversized shirt or tee and longline denim jacket; High waisted mom jeans with a cropped cami and blazer; or I am a heels, jeans, cami and leather biker kind of girl. Or a blazer. I love a blazer.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Thanks Lavish Alice – Dresses – I usually buy Occasional Dresses from here; Zara & H&M – two of my go to faves; Ella Palm Jewellery – my favourite gold jewellery brand;  Gymshark or Nike for Sportswear; TKMAXX – always get some great bag bargains in TK MAXX; Silk Fred is great for summery dresses; Holland Cooper Clothing – Most of my wardrobe is Holland Cooper.

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

I am looking for summer clothing right now, I love a cute ditsy flower wrap dress. I am also currently looking for some nice summer sandals and high waisted mom jeans with rips. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots and shoes but with heels. I feel like a heel scream “Take Charge, Boss Mode” and I always feel like my outfit is complete with a heel of any kind. I also do love a white trainer with anything 🙂

For Pinning Later

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

Please find below links:www.topazluxe.com
https://www.facebook.com/topazboutiqueswim
www.instagram.com/topaz.swimwear
Also Topaz swim can be purchased for boutique Retailers at the below address, https://www.faire.com/brand/b_986w2nr2cu

Are you dreaming of that white sand beach yet????! My thanks to Natasha for joining me on the blog for this interview and for sharing her beautiful designs with us.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Topaz Luxe

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Spotlight On Glamorous Gifts – Football Memorabilia

Football season has started in the UK – soccer for my US friends – and if you are or you have a football fan or two in your life, football memorabilia such as a mug, print, book, is an ideal solution for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries or “Just Because”. Official football merchandiser, Glamorous Gifts, have a fabulous range of gifts from all the teams in all the Leagues … and I’m chatting to David, founder of Glamorous Gifts, about his business and his love of football. Hi David!

Hi, I’m David and I live in Leyland, Lancashire (unfortunately) with my wife and my two sons, aged 11 and 8.

What inspired the founding of your company, Glamorous Gifts?

I was inspired into setting up Glamorous Gifts as I really wanted to run my own business. I also felt that I hadn’t really used my knowledge in computing that I’d gained at university so it was a chance to put those skills to use in building and maintaining a website. It’s also nice to be self-employed, though I do miss a regular salary and I hardly ever get a day off!

Although you sell a variety of gifts, you are also an approved retailer of Official Licenced Football Club memorabilia.  What is currently the most popular type of football memorabilia and/or, dare I ask, the most popular football team?

We do sell a variety of gifts, but our speciality is that we are an approved retailer for Official Licenced Football Club memorabilia.  This means that we are one of only a small number of retailers that have products featuring the official club badges and photos. Our mugs are the most popular product and there are many different designs. But we also see that our framed prints are popular as they make such unique presents for the recipient. We have all the top football clubs, though of course the big names such as Manchester United, Liverpool etc are the most sought after.

I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan, my husband & youngest sons support Ipswich. What’s your favourite football team?

I’m a Liverpool fan, so I’m used to suffering and pain! It was a difficult slog for the most part of the last 30 years until things got much better last year with several trophies. Sadly, this season has seen a return to a more familiar pattern. 

Can the football products be customised like your other gifts?

All our personalised football products can be customised. Most can have a name added of course, but we also have many products where the recipient’s name and a chosen number appears on the teams’ shirt alongside the other real players in the dressing room or being held up by the teams’ manager. We also have a large range of non-personalised official merchandise.

Do you cover other sporting memorabilia apart from football?

We have a small range of rugby league clubs merchandise but we are hoping to expand this and other sports in the future.

When deciding gifts to add to your  collections, do you select by what has proved popular with other gift outlets, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

We occasionally add new product designs, based on trends and events, such as when a team has just won a trophy (so no new Liverpool FC products recently sadly!)

As Glamorous Gifts is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase & ship worldwide? 

Glamorous Gifts is based in the UK, where all the products are shipped from. At the current time we are not shipping abroad due to brexit uncertainties and delays caused by the current global situation. We will be looking to do this again once things have settled down.

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

For me personally, I find I’m starting to settle into a typical middle aged fashion sense where I basically live in jeans the whole time and wear something as comfy as possible. No skin-tight clothing for me thank you!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I typically shop at the likes of Next, Topman, Burton etc

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

The next thing on my clothes wish list, is probably yet another pair of jeans!

Boots or Shoes?

I wear my trusty brown or black shoes pretty much everywhere, though summer gives me a chance to break out the Converse’s !

For Pinning Later

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

The range of products I’ve mentioned can be seen at: https://glamorous-gifts.co.uk/collections/personalised-football . 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Glamorous Gifts – apart from the Pinterest/Featured Photo which is by Linda Hobden ©

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An Interview With Sussex Special Candles

Have you ever wanted to capture the unique scent blend of your favourite place ? To bottle up that essence of the sea, the spices, the woods, the flora? My guest this week is Maria Hallas, founder of Sussex Special Candles, and she has made some highly scented candles inspired by the English county of Sussex and also her personal experiences of her travels around the world….from Brighton beach to the smells of the Orient. I was sent the Brighton Essence and the Dark Nights candles to review (read my thoughts later in the post) and needless to say I was looking forward to chatting to Maria about her delightful products. Hi Maria….

Hello 😊 My name is Maria Hallas. I’m the founder and the owner of Sussex Special Candles, an entrepreneur and pastry chef by profession. 

What inspired the founding of your company, Sussex Special Candles?

The company was inspired by my family, as a stay-at-home mother with a young toddler I wanted to do something to support my family, that at the same time allows me to continue to be creative and artsy. 

You have 5 distinct collections: Sussex Special; Boutique; Limited Edition;Treasures; Charisma.  What are the main characteristics that set each collection apart from each other?

Sussex Special collection is inspired by iconic places around Sussex with the desire to experience the spirit and to bring this great outdoors inside in the comfort of our homes. 
Boutique collection is a collection with our first signature bestsellers with scents which are mirroring emotions and occasions. 
Limited Edition collection is for experimental and seasonal candles. For limited time we release some of the candles, in this collection you might also find our holiday themed candles. 
Treasures is a collection inspired by personal journeys around the world. 
Charisma is a collection created with the idea to bring charm and beauty through the fragrance of the candles. 

What is currently the most popular candle fragrance and/or collection?

The most popular collection naturally is The Sussex Special collection as the most purchased candles are the Brighton Essence and Enchanted Forest candles. 

What’s your most favourite candle fragrance or collection?

My most favourite collection is the Sussex Special collection, this is the collection that so far is the result of our longest labour and is the most intertwined with memories, emotions and experiences. As my most favourite candle fragrances are the floral River Adur, the citrusy Elegant Touch, the fruity Lucious Gem and the musky Golden Rush. 

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?

I believe that a successful candle business is original and unique and must craft products that are different from what’s already available on the market. That been said Sussex Special is a customer orientated company and we do listen to our customers, for instance the Hurst Meadow candle is inspired from a customer who was looking for a freshly cut grass candle. 

What do you like most about using soy wax for your candles? Do you find candle making therapeutic? 

As a consumer I do enjoy the clean and the long burn of a soy candle and as a candle maker I appreciate the lack of any odour in the soy wax that might eventually interfere with the fragrance oil and affect the finished product. Candle making as a hobby might be therapeutic, but as a business owner, the therapy of making candles is somewhere lost along the lines. 

As Sussex Special is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase & ship worldwide? 

Our online shop is hosted on Shopify, we do also have Etsy and Amazon shops and our candles are available for purchase worldwide. 

Hypothetically speaking, if you could travel to any place to inspire a new candle collection, where would you go and why?

I loved this question, thank you for asking! As a matter of fact, I have already been inspired and I’m currently working on a new collection that will be ready in the next couple of months. So if I were to be newly inspired, I would love to travel to Asia to experience a burst of spices, flavours, smells, colours, and textures. I’m absolutely fascinated by the Asian culture and so far, we have 2 Asian influenced candles Oriental Delight and Dragon Heart. 

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

Normally I wear smart-casual with outweigh on jeans, t-shirts, and trainers. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

In our family we mainly shop online, from a variety of online stores. My latest obsessions are the home décor items, which I’m using for props, since at the moment I’m the photographer and the content creator of Sussex Special. We also do quite a bit of Amazon and eBay shopping purely because of the convenience. 


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

Dresses and jackets are always on my wish list, I just love a nice, feminine, and elegant dress combined with a chic jacket. 

Boots or Shoes?

To be honest, before I dived into the motherhood, I had a shoe addiction, I was the type of woman who bought shoes for the sake of buying shoes, as most of them has never been worn and were still packed in their boxes. But since motherhood creates substantial lifestyle changes, I would now answer boots to this question, mostly because of the weather in the UK. 

For pinning later


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

Our website is: https://www.sussexspecial.co.uk/ 
As you might also follow us on the social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sussexcandles/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sussexspecial/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sussexcandles

MY REVIEW

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The candles have been supplied by Sussex Special Candles for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

Hmmm…. Candles! These are certainly one of a kind. Smartly presented in glass jars – I particularly liked the fragrance notes that come with each fragrance. A bit like a wine connoisseur- you can read the fragrance notes, take a good sniff, light the wick and then take your bath luxuriating in your bubbles and the heady aroma. Out of the two candles I tried, Brighton Essence was a favourite with both myself and my daughter. You can definitely smell the jasmine, sea salt, and other fruity aromas …. I just love the smell of jasmine! I can’t decide which fragrance to try next … possibly the Mountain Dream limited edition 😊. Thanks to Sussex Special Candles.

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the featured /header/Pinterest photo of Brighton Essence/Dark Skies – that was taken by Linda Hobden) have been published with kind permission of Sussex Special Candles.

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Spotlight On GO2 Essential Oil Sticks

The benefits of essential oils and their ability to support mental health and well being has been known for over 6000 years. After the last couple of years, enduring the pandemic, essential oil products have definitely been needed and appreciated. I think the essential oil sticks are the bees knees! There is one for every situation – to calm, to boost energy, to support sleep quality, and to aid concentration. I caught up with Marc Shipman, MD of GO2, to find out more about his well being business. Hi Marc…

Hi, my name is Marc Shipman and I am the Co-founder of The GO2 Brand. We produce on the GO common sense wellness products resulting in a better you!

What inspired you to set up “GO2”?

The idea came to me in my time of need, due to a very hectic lifestyle in running various businesses, 3 small children and at the time Free Style Wrestling for Wales, I guess like so many others life just caught up with me despite not wanting to accept the doctor telling me after 4 visits that I was suffering from anxiety.

Looking back, it now explains the terrible chest pressure I was experiencing. Having had tests it was confirmed – Gastritis that was brought on by stress.  I found myself at a crossroad and had to decide whether to take the medication that for me had longer lasting adverse effects or look for an alternative.  After all, stress starts with the information we process in our minds and if I could control my state of mind, slow it and calm it down, then I knew the rest will follow.

After many months of trial and error I found essential oils and so the journey began.  Bottles of essential oil blends in my pocket or bag was not ideal and I remember my light bulb moment when I thought, surely essential oil blends in a device like an inhaler stick made more sense!

Having more Energy, Focus, Calm etc on the GO in the most convenient and practical way is what I needed and that is quite simply when the brand was born! We worked with a very experienced and knowledgeable aromatherapy consultant to produce what we have today, 4 amazing 100% natural blends that are now helping people all over the world. 

What are the benefits of essential oils?

We have used essential oils for the last 6500 years for all their benefits. When inhaling the GO2 stick the odour molecules are released. The olfactory receptors in our nose are activated and send electrical signals to the higher region of our brain, the neocortex and limbic system which is the part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses. 

The limbic system then sends messages to our hypothalamus, the area of the brain which through the pituitary gland sends messages to the other parts of our body, different odour molecules will result in different messages being sent. 

Out of the 4 essential oil sticks (Calm, Energy, Sleep, Focus), which sticks are the most popular at the moment?

I would have to say B.Calm and Sleep which under the current COVID situation and mood of the nation, we are not surprised. 

What are the ingredients in each of the 4 essential oil sticks? 

We have used tried and tested but most importantly much researched essential oils. 

ENERGY – Eucalyptus – Peppermint – Lemongrass

FOCUS – Rosemary – Peppermint – Lime 

B.CALM – Cardamom – Lavender – Bergamot – Sweet Orange 

SLEEP – Lavender – Red Mandarin – Frankincense 

When I have been anxious in the past I have used the B.CALM stick & it did help.  What is your favourite stick to use?

That’s an easy one, I love them all but B.Calm is my baby and the one that started our wonderful journey. 

Have you any other new products to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021?

We have a few new amazing products coming in the second half of 2021 so watch this space!

Have you always been interested in aromatherapy? 

Before being told that it was anxiety causing my issues, no. I had not used essential oils prior to this and now I we want to tell the whole world about the amazing benefits of essential oils.

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

We pride ourselves that we are “Made in the UK” this was so important to us that we sourced and produced from UK supply. 

Growing up, did you have career aspirations in the medical field or something entirely different?

Definitely something entirely, as a kid I was always fascinated by the Wild West and thought one day I’d become a rancher and you know what, I made that dream come true…For a while, anyways, I lived in Montana USA where each day I rode the vast wild plains, herding cattle and chasing down wild horses.  I always had a deep connection towards the wilderness and the great outdoors. However, I fell in love with a wonderful woman and moved back to the UK. 

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

Oh no, OK, as my wife always tells me, sometimes it’s OK to look a little less comfortable!!!!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I do like Next and ASOS

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

Sorry, not the answer you really want to hear, but a good pair of dog walking boots

Boots or Shoes?

Dog Walking Boots!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about GO2.

www.thego2brand.com 

@thego2brand

Thanks for the chat Marc – is has been fascinating learning about your essential oil sticks ….. and your life as a rancher in Montana!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Marc Shipman

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Spotlight On FYX

FYX is a delicious new collagen infused spring water drink – one designed for giving a beauty boost ; the other a general body boost. A healthy way to be healthy and hydrated! I was fortunate to interview founders Theresa and Andy about their products and how they managed to get hydrolysed fish collagen to taste good. Also intrigued? Then read on….

Hello, we’re Theresa, Founder & Managing Director FYX, and


Andy – Operations & Marketing Director FYX

What inspired you to develop your new collagen drink, FYX? 

T: I have always been interested in health and beauty, and there are many brands of collagen products that I’ve tried over the years. Unfortunately, I never found one that I would enjoy and stick to, whether it came in a powder, tablet or gel form. It either smelled and / or tasted unpleasant or the texture wasn’t great. It was also time-consuming, especially when having to mix the powder that sometimes became lumpy. After many years of research and looking what was currently available on the market, I wanted to create a healthy, feel-good drink for men and women which would have collagen and added functional benefits. A drink which required no mixing or measuring, that tasted great and had the consistency of water,which could be consumed anytime during the day or night. The most important thing what l wanted to achieve was to bring a premium collagen drink to the market that everyone would enjoy and could actually feel the benefits of at an affordable price. With Andy’s wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise in marketing and brand development we are both very excited to share FYX with the world.

FYX comes in two varieties – BODY and BEAUTY. Which variety is the most popular?

They are both equally popular.

What is collagen? What are the main benefits to drinking FYX? 

Collagen is known as the glue that holds your body together.  Collagen is one of the main structural proteins that forms the connective tissue throughout your system, making up 30% of your body and 70% of your skin’s natural protein. Collagen is found in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as skin, hair and nails.

There are many benefits to drinking FYX but here a few key ones: • Hydrating as mixed with spring water, plus it has the consistency of water.• FYX BEAUTY has 2500mg of Marine Collagen and a blend of antioxidant ingredients to replenish your body from the inside out and enhance your skin, hair and nails.• FYX BODY has 2500mg of Marine Collagen and is designed to help replenish your body’s recovery pre and post exercise, as well as helping to repair any damaged ligaments, plus improve joint health.• Sugar free to prevent sugar crashes.• Less than 31 calories per bottle.

Was it a challenge to put together suitable recipes for your both FYX varieties that lived up to your standards? 

Yes, very much so. Anything is a challenge if you want to do something different. There is so much competition and there are so many brands to choose from in today’s market. You have to think outside the box and create something that will have an impact and stand out from the rest, whilst considering what consumers would like. For many years l had the vision and l knew what l wanted to create. Trying to get the recipe and ingredients, flavours, taste and texture spot on takes a lot of time and patience.

As you are currently based in the UK, is “FYX” available to purchase worldwide?

FYX is available to purchase at www.fyxme.co.uk and from the 10th of May we will be shipping globally.

Is FYX suitable for everyone ( eg vegan, gluten free, sugar content etc) or are there any exceptions/recommendation

FYX is gluten and sugar free and is suitable for men and woman of all ages and for young adults. It isn’t suitable for vegans as it contains fish (marine collagen). 

Have you always wanted a career in the health food/beverage sector or were your career aspirations elsewhere?

Andy and I have been close friends for over 20 years and we’ve always been interested in food and health. We both love to cook and lead a healthy lifestyle. During one of our many conversations we discussed several opportunities and we have spoken about opening a spa or restaurant overseas one day. 

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

Theresa – l prefer casual clothes whether it’s a pair of jeans and boots or sports loungewear with a good pair of trainers. 

Andy – I prefer casual and colourful clothes generally. You need to feel comfortable in everything you do.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Theresa – Las Vegas is like my second home. l love shopping there. You are spoilt for choice – there’s too many to mention!

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

I haven’t really thought about it! 

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Boots – I go for comfort these days.

For Pinning Later

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

https://www.facebook.com/fyxhealth/

https://www.instagram.com/fyxhealth/

Thank you Theresa (and Andy) for the chat about FYX . The drink looks good, tastes good and does you good – so it is a win win! I will point out though, that if you are pregnant or breast feeding then consult your doctor for advice before taking marine collagen. Recommendations change regularly so always best to check! During each of my 7 pregnancies, there was always a different new food or drink or practice to avoid!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of FYX.

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An Interview With Pineapple Fibre Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

Boots or Shoes?

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


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

Website https://www.pineapplefibreart.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PineappleFibreArt

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/pineapplefibreart/

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Hill & Ellis

Encouraging people to get on their bikes, cycle bag brand Hill & Ellis have designed and manufactured a wide range of colourful and stylish cycle bags to keep your iPads, mobiles, paperwork, books, sandwiches etc safe whilst you are cycling to work, to a picnic or just cycling for pleasure. Although Tour de France in full swing, for those who prefer a more sedate cycling pace, I caught up with Catherine Ellis to find out more. Hi Catherine!

Hello. I am Catherine and I am the founder of Hill & Ellis, a cycle bag brand who manufacture stylish cycle bags and baskets. 

What inspired you to set up your brand, Hill & Ellis?

Cycling! I cycled to work every day as a TV producer but couldn’t find a bag that would fit to my bike but that wasn’t really ugly! After years of fruitless searching I decided to set about designing my own. I was stopped at traffic lights by cyclists asking where the sample bags were from, and I knew then I was onto something.

Your panniers are a modern-day twist on the classic school satchels, designed for bikes and ooze sophistication.  What was it about the classic school satchel that made you plump for that design for your bike? 

I’ve always loved the school satchel style, it’s quite classically British which also appealed, but I wanted to put our own twist on the design so that it was more original. We also have a range of other bags styles, including cotton tote panniers, scooter bags and wicker bicycle baskets.

The panniers come in a funky range of colours – I particularly like the yellow/grey combo. What colours/styles are proving popular so far?

The yellow grey is really popular and has been since we launched it as a limited edition 6 years ago. It was so popular it stayed! As well as the yellow, the burgundy, black and tan are our most popular and in our totes it’s the black and the leopard print. 

As you are based in England, are your products available to purchase internationally? 

Yes, we are based in England, we manufacture in London and Portugal and we ship internationally. 

When designing the panniers and deciding the colours, are you influenced by current trends, old favourites, customer requests, personal tastes or bits of all those?

A bit of all really. We don’t really feed into fashion fast trends as we aren’t a fast fashion brand, we want to make bags which can be used for years. But we do get inspired by prints and colours from trends.

 Can the panniers be personalised? 

All our leather bags can be personalised, as we have inhouse embossing. They look great with initials on, the perfect gift! 

Have you both always been into textiles or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I have always loved textiles and I studied design at Central St Martins (a few years ago) which helped with the bag design and pattern cutting. Much of the inspiration comes from cycling, married with inspiration from prints, colours and classic designs. 

As a brand, Hill & Ellis, with every bag sold ensures that a tree is planted in its place.  Which other projects have you been passionate about so far? 

As well as planting a tree for every bag, we also carbon offset our workforce. As we have done this over the last year we have supported a range of projects.

We have also run various donation weeks  – where profits are given to charity and these donations have gone to FareShare – who support food banks and the Bicycle Charity who re-fit old bikes in the UK and send them to people that need bikes in parts of Africa.

What do you personally enjoy about cycling? 

The freedom. In the days when you went to the office you could pedal home and after just 20 minutes you would have left the day behind you and find yourself so much more relaxed. Even now, just going for a ride calms the mind. I also love the way it’s a really easy way to get some exercise into the day and you get to explore where you live. 

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

Often jeans or tea dresses. Always something that I can pedal in. I have learnt from experience to test the outfit before getting on the bike. 

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, mainly because I have many more of them to choose from. Boots in Winter, though.

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

For Pinning Later

www.hillandellis.com

I/T/P: @hillandellis

F: @hillellis

Thank you very much Catherine for chatting with me about your gorgeous cycle bags.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Catherine Ellis

Linda x

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An Interview With Sarah Jane Hemsley Upholstery

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

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

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

What inspired you to become an  Upholsterer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long does it take to train as an upholsterer?   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes? 

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

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

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

www.sjhupholstery.com

https://www.facebook.com/sarahjanehemsleyupholstery/

https://www.instagram.com/sarahjanehemsleyupholstery/

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

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Simply Soaperior

Bath bombs, wax melts and shampoo bars …. this week I am interviewing Vicky from Simply Soaperior who makes the most delightful artisanal bath products! My teenage son adores the bath bombs, my niece is a Mrs Hinch fanatic so she uses the Mrs Hinch style wax melts and me? Well, I adore the shampoo bars that are specially formulated for different hair types. Hello Vicky and welcome…

Hi! My name is Vicky. I’m 36 with one daughter, who is 11 and called Ella. I moved to Newquay Cornwall from Cheshire 12 years ago, and that was the start of a completely new life for me and a new adventure. 

What inspired you to launch Simply Soaperior?

Probably not what you would expect.. Once moving to Cornwall, I began cleaning holiday homes (something I never thought I would do after being a hairdresser in the past) I wanted to do something a little special and add handmade soap for guests, but I thought to my self, I could do that. It became an addiction to making new items and wanting to try new things. I was fortunate that people loved what I made, so it became a completely different business, and 10 years on, I’m still doing something I love, and it is still an addiction. I can’t say I ever have the dread to work!

 I love the Mermaids Glamour Bath Bomb & the Yippy Hippy Bath Bomb! What products are proving most popular amongst your customers this year?

The two most popular products are the Shark Attack Bath Bomb, and the Mrs Hinch Inspired Wax Melt Selection, I would say the mermaid’s Glamour is 3rd in line though. 
 

Have you got a personal favourite from your range?

I love a bubble Bar! I’m all about bubbles and feeling all soft after the bath and that is exactly how they make you feel. I’m also a solid shampoo lover, it was my love for them that made me start to make them, I spent nearly 2 years formulation them till they were exactly how I wanted them. so many benefits from zero waste – they have a lower PH to work with hair and scalp unlike soap and a lot of bottle shampoos. 

Apart from bath products, you also produce “wax melts”.  What are wax melts?  

Wax melts are scented, pieces of wax that when gently melted by a wax warmer will  fill the surrounding area with a delightful aroma, a scent  as pleasant as any candle but without a naked flame (if using an electric warmer)

Have you any other new products in the pipeline to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021/2022?

We are making new bath bombs all time, but our big launch was the solid shampoo bars that went live at the end of May. Living by the sea and trying to do my bit on plastic everyone must try I’m sure you will make the swap!! 

Have you always been interested in cosmetics, or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I have always been crafty and loved making things, as a child I use to spend hours in lush and body shop, but I never would have thought it would be what I did for a job but once I started I just couldn’t stop! There’s a lot of science behind making cosmetics so its not as simple as some people think. 


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

It’s something I will offer soon hopefully but after leaving the EU it’s not quite as simple as it was.

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

In the winter I would be ugg boots, jeans and normally a t-shirt or jumper. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m an Abercrombie jean lover, and I love scrolling through Etsy, its great for inspiration and to buy unique things.

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

Sandals and flip flops, one thing you must have when living by the beach.  

Boots or Shoes?

Boots ,trainers or sandals, because I’m all about comfort.    

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Simply Soaperior
www.simplysoaperior.co.uk
www.instagram.com/simply_soaperior
www.facebook.com/simplysoaperior

After this interview took place, Vicky kindly sent me a couple of bath bombs, wax melts and shampoo bar. They are wonderful – I was especially impressed with the bath bombs ! Thank you very much Vicky.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Soaperior apart from the header photo and Pinterest photo which are by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Driftwood Designs

Inspired by Wales – its beautiful scenery, language and culture – my guest this week is Lizzie Spikes, artist and illustrator based in Aberystwyth in West Wales. Lizzie founded her company, Driftwood Designs, in 2005, which she runs along with her friend Becky who apparently has a passion for spreadsheets! I caught up with Lizzie to find out more… Hi Lizzie!


Hi! My name is Lizzie Spikes and I’m the arty part of the partnership that runs Driftwood Designs.  I live and work on the West coast of Wales, near Aberystwyth, in a cave-like Welsh cottage with my two sons, our two hounds, two cats and our mildly grumpy goat.

What inspired you to set up “Driftwood Designs” ?

Becky Barratt and I have known each other since school,and we found ourselves as new mothers with complementary skills and the need to make a living around our children.  Driftwood Designs was conceived and created at Becky’s kitchen table with a handful of cards and a couple of poster prints run off for us by the friendly printer up the road.

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

I came up with Driftwood Designs as a company name.  It was my second choice – I had my heart set on Flotsam and Jetsam Designs but it wasn’t available as a domain name and with hindsight would have been a bit of a mouthful.  Driftwood Designs was next on my list and it’s served us well.

You have a lovely wide range of illustrated products including posters, greeting cards, lampshades, cushions, tea towels, mugs and so on. What products and designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

Our cards are still our biggest seller and the pandemic has definitely increased sales as people strive to keep in touch.  Alongside this Becky and I both love the product development aspect of our work and like to dream up new designs and creations – hence the ever-increasing array of designs.  We try to put our imagery onto homewares that are both practical and beautiful.  

I particularly like the Colonnog Hearty design in the velvet cushion and tea towel.  Do you have a particular favourite design? 

I also love the hearty designs and now that we’ve found a British company who can make our textile products as bright and beautiful as we want them to be I would like to make more! Our china mugs bring me joy every day and I love my ‘Seasons’ lampshade.


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

We’re happy to send things overseas and our website is fully stocked with our many products.

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? 

I find lots of things inspiring – nature, the changing seasons, quotes I hear or read, places and people. And I’m lucky that our customers send me ideas and things they think I’ll like.  I always have a working notebook on the go which is full of scrawls of the things I don’t want to forget.


I hear that you like to work with pieces of flotsam and jetsam driftwood that you collect from your walks on your local pebbly beaches. What was the hardest or most unusual piece of artwork you’ve created so far out of driftwood?  Favourite piece?  

I like Driftwood as a canvas – the pieces that wash up have always had a previous use and a history that makes them inspiring.  My favourite piece of driftwood treasure thus far is a wooden guitar that I found on a local beach one rainy April which I turned into a scene.

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

I have always painted and drawn and it feels wrong to go a day without doing so.  I studied Drama and Fine Art at university – I specialised in sceneography and costume design because it was another way in which to interpret, illustrate and communicate literature.  One day I’d like to revisit set design but for now I’m happy to illustrate things on my kitchen table on a smaller scale!

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

In my spare time I can be found out walking with my hounds and a flask of coffee or in the sea – swimming or trying to master standing up on my surfboard.  I like to be outside in all weathers.  I also like cooking, and eating, and my perfect weekend would be a hike somewhere new with good friends followed by a big meal, a glass of red wine and a warm fire.

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

I love clothes and have frocks in all colours, shapes and sizes but mostly end up wearing paint splattered jeans which are worn on the knees, jumpers and wellies!  On the days when I wash the paint off and head into town for work or meetings I like to wear less practical attire and can even be found in heels.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

My favourite online shops are a local coffee vendor called Teifi Coffee who delivers my favourite brew, an art materials supplier, ebay for new and old dresses and I hate trailing around supermarkets so I try to buy most of my groceries online too.  The boys and I get the occasional Gousto food box delivered – it means that we try different things and the boys are getting adept at cooking by following the instructions so it counts as a home schooling task.  Locally we’re very lucky to have some wonderful independent shops and if you ever venture to Aberystwyth, Medina is definitely worth a visit for food and supplies.

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

I definitely, absolutely need a new pair of Saltwater Sandals.  I had a gold  pair for years and they finally gave up at the end of last summer.

Boots or Shoes? 

I wear boots in winter and sandals in summer… I rarely wear shoes and have never really considered why not- they were a part of school uniform that I was happy to leave behind.

For Pinning Later



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

We can be found on the web at www.driftwooddesigns.co.uk or on Facebook as Lizziespikes-DriftwoodDesigns and Instagram as @drifteddesigns or in real life we have a shiny new shop on Pier Street in Aberystwyth and in Castle Arcade in Cardiff.  

Absolutely beautiful prints and illustrations, Lizzie, they definitely conjure up the spirit of Wales!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Lizzie Spikes/ Driftwood Designs

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