Archive for November 2011

off to amsterdam

November 30, 2011  in news

I’m off to Amsterdam for a few days with my husband for our 10th wedding anniversary. I haven’t been there since I went inter-railing around Europe when I was 18 and am really looking forward to it.

I’ll be back next week but in the meantime don’t forget to enter the Natural Beauty book giveaway which ends tonight! (click here)

I will do the prize draw next week and let the winner know by email and follow up with a post. Thanks to all those who have entered so far, the comments have been great.

See you next week.

PS The drawing is by my little boy!


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sugar and spice and all things…

November 25, 2011  in diy craft projects, food, homemade


I first worked with Uli Schade on a story for Elle Decoration magazine and we just clicked straight away and went on to shoot some of my favourite photo stories. We got together again recently to shoot this little homemade edible gifts story. Food is a little bit of a departure for me but combining it with decoration as gifts and ideas for your table was fun, especially with Christmas not too far away.

When my graphic designer husband saw the photos he thought it was perfect to try something different to make the most of their high quality. He had been wanting to try out for a while and suggested we try them as a little digital magazine booklet rather than a normal blog post. So we gave it a go, jotted down the recipes and some words and let him design it.


If you’re on iPhone/iPad and can’t see it click here

It’s a bit of fun but hopefully it will inspire you to try making some edible gifts for your friends and family this Christmas.

Who knows, if you like it we may do it again. What do you think? We would love to hear. And if you like it please share the link!


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winter blues

November 23, 2011  in flowers

After the lovely comments on my Fluro Flora post I thought I would post a couple more images that I took while I was in the mood for experimenting with paint. As a contrast to the fluorescent I had also tried a powder blue, just a tester pot of emulsion I had in the shed. I picked a dead head of a climbing Hydrangea that grows up the fence in my garden and thought the blues would go well against the neutral browns of the dried flowers.

I played with scale again, using a miniature dolls house place setting with an old recipe book cover as a table. The book belonged to my husband’s grandmother and is called ‘Radiation Cooking’ which sounds rather worrying but it was first published in 1927 and is just recipes for oven cookers with automatic heat controllers which were the new fangled technology of the time.


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a wintry walk

November 20, 2011  in inspiring places


There is nothing quite like a walk by the sea, even on a cold and cloudy day. The fresh sea air, inhaled deeply, is just a wonderful change of scene for a city dweller like me. The blustering wind making our noses run and blowing away cobwebs, cheeks glowing and fingers tingling. Seagulls soaring and clouds threatening to rain, laden with grey precipitation. Dungeness nuclear power station was on the edge of our view and a reminder that Derek Jarman‘s Prospect Cottage was not so far away. I must visit his little coastal retreat one day, a good reason to return.


So our little family visited the coastal town of Rye in Sussex one grey, moody day last month. It is a very sweet town with cobbled streets, antique shops for browsing, steeped in history and stories of pirates and pistols, smuggling and shipwrecks. We felt like we were part of an Enid Blyton adventure.

We returned to London that evening, blown away by the wind, saying good bye with our pockets heavy, laden with found loot; pebbles, shells and dried seaweed, to be treasured and admired as mementoes at home.

sania pell found treasures

I photographed our finds rather like a Victorian collector cataloguing their discoveries, layering papers and using graphic stamps as a detail. Little nothings to display on shelves and evoke lovely memories.


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natural beauty : book review and giveaway

November 17, 2011  in homemade, news

natural beauty

I’m very excited today to bring you my first book giveaway courtesy of CICO Books! This is the new book by Karen Gilbert and is called A Green Guide to Natural Beauty. It contains 35 step-by-step projects for homemade beauty and if you love making then this is a great book to add to your collection.

I had the pleasure of styling all of the images in this book earlier this year to help create the look for it, working with the wonderful photographer Stuart West in his studio. It was a really fun and informative few days and with Karen making the projects in front of us, it was like receiving our own private tutorials.

natural beauty

There are so many projects in the book that I would definitely make myself, even as a total beauty product-making novice. Many require no heat, but for the ones that do you simply follow the steps like a recipe and it is just like cooking, but you end up with beauty products at a fraction of the price of the high street. As Karen says: “making your own beauty products is so simple once you know how – it really is no different to cooking. In most cases it’s actually easier – if you can make a sauce, you can make a lotion”

natural beauty

Karen is a natural skincare and fragrance expert and runs artisan perfumery and natural beauty workshops. She originally trained as a make-up artist and cosmetic scientist at The London College of Fashion and went on to work as a fragrance evaluator for one of the world’s largest perfume manufacturers. After many years she decided to pursue her lifelong passion for natural health and beauty by training in aromatherapy and joining the product development team at Neal’s Yard Remedies, helping to create many of their award-winning products. A Green Guide to Natural Beauty was published in August and is her first book. If you have a moment pop by Karen’s website.

natural beauty

We also spent a few days in different beautiful locations photographing the finished projects in charming surroundings and it was great to style the book from cover to cover. Stuart is a fantastic food photographer and regularly works for clients including Waitrose, John Lewis, Costa Coffee, Delicious Magazine and many more.

All the photos above are shown courtesy of CICO Books – check out all of their craft books on their website. The photos below are mine that I took for this post.

natural beauty

The book is fab with 35 recipe projects, 144 pages and 200 colour photos. It includes a chapter on getting started and then projects falling into three categories: ‘for the face’, ‘for the body’ and ‘bath and shower’. Karen shows you how to make your own beauty products in your kitchen at home, using easy-to-obtain, natural ingredients and easy-to-follow methods. For the face, there are moisturisers, face masks and cleansers; for the body there are scrubs and shower gels, soaps and body lotions. And when you need some extra-special pampering, there are recipes for lip balms, massage bars, bath oils and eye gels.

You can try your hand at making a neroli hydrating spritz or a jojoba and aloe vera moisturiser, mango and lime body butter or lemon and tea tree foot balm, bergamot and grapefruit wake-up wash or cocoa butter lip balm – the hardest part is choosing which project to try first! Each recipe has clear step-by-step photographs to guide you, and there are numerous variations.

I was naturally drawn to the bath chapter of the book, the chocolate bath melts smelled divine whilst we were making them and would be wonderful gifts to give away too, as would many of the other projects in this chapter. This book would make a great gift, perhaps accompanied with some beautiful empty bottles and raw ingredients for the recipient to start making their own beauty products straight away. Or just keep it all for yourself and make lots of things to give away as gifts.

And here is the good news, CICO Books have let me have one copy worth £14.99/$19.95 to give away to one of you and it’s open to everyone, worldwide!

All you need to do is leave a comment on this post and simply tell me – what do you like making?

The closing date for entries is midnight 1st December 2011 and I will enter everyone’s name in a draw and select a winner by random. The winner will be notified by email.

Great, hey? So you could be getting an extra Christmas present this year if you’re the lucky one!

If you can’t wait that long then the book is available to buy now on and which also has a ‘look inside’.

Please comment now to enter. One entry per person. I won’t pass your email addresses to anybody else.



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a rose to remember

November 13, 2011  in flowers, my london


This morning we hopped in the car and headed over to East London to one of my favourite places, Columbia Road, for the weekly flower market. I don’t think I’ve been since my daughter was born so it was a treat to visit. It was a beautifully crisp, sunny November morning perfect for wandering with the family, bantering with the market traders and looking in all the arty, handmade and vintage shops and stalls that line the road and the streets around it.


There are so many independent, creative, quirky shops over there it’s always a pleasure to visit. I bumped into lovely Emily Chalmers of Caravan, popped into Rob Ryan‘s shop, nipped round the corner to Ally Capellino, Luna & Curious and Leila’s Shop then on to SCP on Curtain Road.


Among my fresh, floral purchases I couldn’t resist a bunch of my favourite roses – Amnesia. I love its delicate, dusky pink with tones of green and brown coming through. Just gorgeous with a vintage but stylish feel.

Columbia Road flower market is every Sunday from 8am to 3pm, though get there early as it gets very busy.

I couldn’t resist taking a few photos when I got home. A perfect Sunday outing.


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sophie and the tate

November 12, 2011  in handmade goodness, inspiring places

I managed to catch the end of Sophie Smallhorn’s show Notes on colour at Westbourne Studios in Notting Hill recently. I am a huge fan of Sophie’s work and I love her colour use, graphic style and how she experiments with their relationships in her screenprints and 3D artworks. I wake up to one of her images every morning as it sits on a shelf in my bedroom (see my previous post here) and it was a joy to see so many of her prints together. I also saw some of her work earlier this year as part of a collaboration at the Craft Council’s Collect, the international art fair for contemporary objects, at the Saatchi Gallery.

Sophie says:

Notes on colour

Having been involved in a number of long-term projects recently, I wanted to work with a process that would allow me to move through ideas quickly and instinctively. ‘Notes on colour’ started some months ago as two hundred sheets of paper, a basic screen printing set-up and a desire to play. The project has been a fascinating time and for me, an essential back-to-basics way to sketch out thoughts on colour, form and composition without becoming preoccupied by ideas of perfection. Mistakes were made and then made something of, one print informed the next and no single print has taken longer than a day to complete. ‘Notes on colour’ is in a sense a thought process illustrated over one hundred screen prints. Collectively it is a story, a story about colour.

To see more of her work visit Sophie’s website

The day after we went for another big dose of artistic inspiration…

Tate Modern

With a young family it’s all about finding a balance at the weekend and doing something we all love, and luckily my children love art. So we made a family trip to Tate Modern on Bankside. A quick walk around the amazing turbine hall and then first stop was the fab Tate shop for some Moleskine note pads and Tate pencils to keep the children occupied, drawing their favourite paintings and sculptures.

A trip to any of the Tates is a wonderful day out, enjoyable and educational and if you are able to visit regularly then the annual membership is brilliant, allowing access to the paying exhibitions too. The current Gerhard Richter exhibition was a fantastic show, enjoyed by us all. One of the other benefits of membership is is the view from the members’ rooms balcony on the 6th floor, I snapped the view across the river in the reflection of the famous glass windows.

Tate Kid

We also took a browse around a couple of the permanent collections and my daughter loved the fact that by coincidence her outfit matched one of my favourite paintings there, an abstract from 1914 by Vanessa Bell – one of the Bloomsbury group and Virginia Woolf’s sister.

There’s no doubt we’ll be popping back soon for more artistic inspiration!


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my new book: the homemade home for children

November 8, 2011  in homemade, news

the homemade home for children

I thought I would post a little update to tell you about my new book today. It popped up on Amazon recently and my lovely friend Holly Becker mentioned it in a very sweet post about my work over on decor8.

It is a follow up to The Homemade Home and the working title is “The Homemade Home for Children: 50 thrifty and chic projects for creative parents“. It features in-depth handmade projects with full step-by-step, illustrated projects as well as quick ideas – all with beautiful colour photography.

If you liked my previous book and have young children, are planning a family, have nieces or nephews or even grandchildren then I hope you will like this one too. And although I’ve made the projects for adults to do for and with children, I’ve made them stylish rather than overtly childish so you can create things you can cherish forever and pass on to new generations.

There are plenty of projects that would look great in a house without children and many ideas can be translated or used as inspiration for more grown up versions.

I’m afraid I can’t show you anything from it yet apart from the draft cover, so I photographed it above, along with a few other things that were lying on my craft table.

But if you liked the child-orientated projects in The Homemade Home, such as the China Transfers, Cowboy-collage Chest of Drawers, Creepy Crawly Lamp, Stitched Portraits, Sock Toys and Ribboned Skirt then this book will appeal.

If you don’t have a copy of The Homemade Home then here is a flick-through video we made on my son’s little Flip video camera when the book came out (a year before I started this blog) to give you an idea of what my last book is like (select the 720pHD setting for better quality):

I had a meeting with my publisher Cico Books last week and saw the proper proofs for the first time and it is looking really lovely. I’ll try not to go on too much about it as I know it’s a while until it is released but after five months hard work it’s very exciting to see it all coming to fruition.

It will be published on 8th April next year retailing at £16.99/$24.95 but you can pre-order it on Amazon now (thrifty tip – it’s already less than retail!)

You can pre-order it now by going to: or

I will share more as and when I can. Happy making!


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craft project: clay christmas decorations

November 4, 2011  in diy craft projects, homemade

I don’t normally like to use the C word before December as it feels like I’m wishing the year away, but if you want to make things for Christmas, whether it’s decorations or gifts, then it’s a good idea to plan and start early.

By coincidence the lovely team at Brigitte, Germany’s biggest women’s magazine, asked if I would be one of their Christmas ‘Bloggerei’, their list of the most creative bloggers! It’s quite an honour as I still feel very new to the blog world. It seemed the perfect opportunity to have some fun with clay and make some tree decorations.

For anyone with the German version of my book LieblingsDeko you can read the post here.

These stylish and simple Christmas decorations are easy to make, cost very little and will look great hanging against the dark green of your Christmas tree or on a branch sprayed white.

The decorations are made with air-drying clay and are a variation of a project in my book. If you would like to know how to make them see page 14 of The Homemade Home which has step-by-step instructions. As they are handmade each one is individual and unique and they can be personalized with festive messages and family names.

I found the little branch in a pile of cuttings on the floor of my local park whilst on a walk with my family. I chose one from the pile with an interesting shape and simply sprayed it white when I got home along with some dried Oak leaves we had also collected from the floor of the wood.

I used snowflake stamps to press into the clay when it was wet (I bought my stamps from Muji). I stamped words in black ink onto some when they had dried, others I left plain. Use thin scraps of fabric, ribbon or string in festive colours to make the loops to hang them on the tree. I used strips of Liberty print fabric, red and white baker’s twine and ribbon from VV Rouleaux.

A 500g block of air-drying clay like Das will make approximately 50 decorations (depending on size, mine are about 9cms x 3cms).

I made a whole batch that I’m donating to my children’s primary school to sell at the school’s Christmas fair.

I help with the gifts stall every year and last night some of the other mums from my son’s class came over to my house for a ‘making night’ to make things to sell on the stall – an evening of crafting and chatting over nibbles and a glass of wine. It’s a lot of fun, a great way to build friendships, get involved in the local community and raise money for the school.

Are you planning to make anything for Christmas?


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commercial work : harrods

November 2, 2011  in news

After finishing writing my new book I jumped straight back into some commercial advertising work for Harrods of London. Styling the children’s fashion on this studio shoot was fun and it was great to work with the lovely team there.

The images are for the front cover and chapter openers of the Harrods Christmas 2011 toy catalogue that’s in the store now.

Photos by the super talented Julia Bostock (see her portfolio on the link) and a big thank you to One Photographic.


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