November 22, 2013 in food, interior styling
These images are from my recent work for The Observer that appeared in last Sunday’s publication. They are from Part 1 of a Christmas Celebrations feature in The Observer Food Monthly and sponsored by leading UK high street retailer John Lewis. I selected all the products featured in the shots from the John Lewis Oxford Street store and their extensive online shop and mixed them with bespoke touches and wrapped gifts that I had made beforehand. The images were taken by talented photographer Helen Cathcart who I worked with on location to create the shots.
There were two stories within the feature. The first was “Make & Bake” to showcase the great cook and bakeware at John Lewis. Chrissie Holden who assisted me on the shoot made the mince pies and biscuits so beautifully.
You can read the full Make & Bake article and see other images now over on The Guardian Online. If you want to know what any of the products featured are the click on the main image on that page and you can see the product names and prices.
It was followed by “Dressed to Impress” – ideas on how to style your festive table. I embellished mini napkin holders and wrapped glasses with fabric as candle holders and mixed with their own birch church candles. You can also read this full story on The Guardian Online’s website – have a look, I would love to know what you think.
The dark, rich and moody image above is one of may favourites from the shoot. The image below has plates and dishes piled high as if mid-process of setting the table, the one in the magazine was much more elaborate.
You can read the full John Lewis Cook Christmas feature here – with lots of images, ideas, tips, recipes and a competition to win a cookery class and a set of copper cookware!
Part 2 of this story will be in The Observer on Sunday December 8th so pick up a copy to read more.
I hope you enjoy looking at the images. Have a look at Helen’s fab food, travel and lifetsyle photography in her online portfolio here and Helen also has a food-related blog called Helly Belly.
There is no denying it is the beginning of the festive season and time to start preparing to eat, drink and be merry!
November 19, 2013 in interior styling
Following my last post, I thought I would post some photos I took on the shoot that I thought may be of interest as a little glimpse behind the scenes. During the heatwave in June this Summer, Uli Schade and I were shooting the Christmas catalogue for The Letteroom. We shot in an idyllic setting in the countryside, working in a beautiful historic barn, using the original distressed walls as our backdrops and creating our own crisp, new sets to contrast within the space.
When we had a moment to look out of the doors we saw rabbits hopping and heard birds tweeting, a big difference to the usual London shoots!
The shots above of the team at work are from the The Letteroom’s blog.
November 17, 2013 in interior styling
I was approached in early Summer by The Letteroom to put ideas together for a new look and photographic direction for their first ‘grown-up’ catalogue, a taster of their product range for this Christmas season. The Letteroom sells personalised gifts and products of a typographical nature – homewares, accessories, decorations, prints – all with letters on that you can choose and personalise with bespoke messages. As a fan of all things typographic, photographer Uli Schade and I went with a clean and graphic feel for the images in a monochromatic palette. Some of the images we shot are below.
We were very kindly lent furniture by Simon Jones Studio and Julian Chichester for the shoot. Other pieces were flea market bought and painted to complement the sets we designed.
Flick through below to see the images Uli and I created in a sample of The Letteroom’s new catalogue:
Head over to The Letteroom’s website to order the full catalogue and browse their product range which includes the products in the images shown. There are lots of ideas for great Christmas gifts!
November 4, 2013 in food, interior styling
This little shoot was put together by myself and my friend Chrissie Holden. We first met at our children’s school summer fair two and half years ago. I had just finished lunch with my family and was chatting to my husband on a picnic table as the children had run off to play with their friends. A tall, bubbly mum wearing fab sunglasses asked if she could join us on the table with her family. We started chatting about the school and realised that her son and my daughter would both be starting reception together. She pointed to a banner hanging above the tea stall, appliquéd with fabric strawberries and tea cups and saucers on a natural linen and commented how much she loved it and had photographed it. I smiled and said “I made it!” and so our friendship began.
Chrissie assists me on commercial photo shoots when I need an extra pair of hands and having done this for a while , a natural progession was for us to create a little shoot together just for fun and to post on my blog. I took the pictures, made some of the plate props out of Das modeling clay and we styled it together. We visited a local prop house for extra vessels, plates and boards to add to our own personal selection and spent a few hours one day styling and photographing at Chrissie’s lovely home in between school runs.
Chrissie is a foodie, so it seemed natural to work with this talent of hers and create a food-related story. She also wrote the words below (which did make me blush a little!) especially for this post to give a little insight into the thoughts behind the images. And if you want to say hi then you can find Chrissie over on Instagram.
“Contemporary cookbooks have become photographic tomes in their own right. A paragon of styling, lighting, art direction and photography, some of them really are works of art. The wonders of nature and the alchemy of ingredients lovingly prepared then presented with care and attention to detail make for a very beautiful and engaging narrative.
Food styling and photography has since come on in leaps and bounds in the past two decades. There is the seminal work of Donna Hay, whose clean and crisp styling has been hugely influential. The moody and emotive work of Katie Quinn Davies on her ‘What Katie Ate’ blog and cookbook; and the phenomenal catalogue of work by Ditte Isager, whose earthy tones and calming greys make for incredible still lives, as seen in the NOMA cook book and Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘It’s all good’.”
“Lately I’ve been enjoying a very pure food aesthetic. It’s borne out of wanting to eat cleanly and a desire to live a less cluttered life. It also conforms to Sania and my mutual love of all things Scandi-nese. So, when Sania suggested we work on a food shoot together I was delighted. It is incredible to observe her eye in action and the way her brain works never ceases to amaze me. As regular readers of her blog, you will be no strangers to her creativity, flair and general styling wowness, but to see it in action is something special.
We decided to work with breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, after all. We kept things simple, offering the ingredients to you in their purest forms. We kept the colour palette neutral, layering tactile linens and ceramics. This is what we came up with.”
Now… what’s for breakfast tomorrow?
October 16, 2013 in diy craft projects
With Halloween only two weeks away, the Marie-Chantal team asked me to write this little project for their blog on how to make one of the props I created for their autumn/winter photo shoot. The photos are by Julia Bostock.
This friendly pumpkin mask is the perfect Halloween accessory that can be used again year after year. It is easy to make and can be used as a costume mask, a shadow puppet or simply as a decoration for a Halloween party. They are especially good for children who don’t enjoy having their face painted.
A4 size card about 1mm thick (around 400gsm) – it needs to be stiff, but if the card is too thick it can be difficult to cut through.
Cutting mat or board
Scalpel or craft knife
> Download the template PDF
Step 1: Print out the template at A4 size and trace the shape of the pumpkin onto the back of the card in pencil.
Step 2: Using a sharp scalpel or craft knife, cut out the shape of the pumpkin, the eyes, nose and mouth.
Step 3: Paint both sides of the card and leave to dry. I painted them dark grey as shadow puppets for the shoot, but you could paint them the traditional orange or whatever colour you like. It may require 2-3 coats each side. Leave them plain or let your children decorate them further if they wish.
Step 4: Attach dowling rod to the back of the pumpkin with gaffer tape or wide masking tape as a handle. Ensure the rod is long enough to hold comfortably with the mask in front of your or your child’s face. If you want it double-sided, cut out and paint a second pumpkin and glue or double-sided tape it to the other one, sandwiching the rod between them.
Step 5: Have fun at your Halloween party!
You can read the original post and more about Marie-Chantal over on the Marie-Chantal blog.
My children are already getting excited about dressing up and going trick or treating. It’s time to stock up on sweets I think.
October 11, 2013 in interior styling
Earlier on in the year I had the pleasure of working on a location shoot for the Autumn/Winter 2013 collection from Marie-Chantal, the children’s fashion brand that was founded in 2001 by Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece.
The creative team was headed up by the talented photographer Julia Bostock. As well as Julia and myself, the crew also consisted of a hair and make up artist, a fashion stylist, a set builder and a film crew who documented the shoot and worked with Julia on the promotional film that runs alongside the campaign.
My role in the team was to style the interiors and sets, source the props needed and, prior to the shoot, make bespoke props that fitted the theme and could be used within the images.
Julia and I designed the stage set prop and it was made for us and placed outside in the wilderness and then brought inside to the grandeur of the stately location house. The clothing was chosen to match this idea, with casual wear outside and smart occasion wear inside.
Inside there are two different scenes: a dramatic night sky backdrop that I made and a much simpler white back drop to show the series of hand-held shadow puppets I also made. These consisted of the Marie-Chantal crown, castles, stars, a dragon and a Halloween pumpkin.
The film, art directed by Julia, is really sweet. I hope you enjoy it, it tells the story behind the shoot with a lovely narrative.
The clothes are just beautiful and the different settings perfect to show them off. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I enjoyed working on them. These are some of my favourites.
You can see lots more photos from the shoot and the Autumn/Winter collection look book and on the Marie-Chantal website.
I’ll be posting a how-to from this shoot too so do pop back soon. x
September 29, 2013 in food
They grow in abundance in our garden in Croatia. There are several trees hanging with so many fruit that we eat them straight from the trees everyday, as soon as they become ripe. My children have fun looking for the oozing honey drop that says “I’m ripe, eat me quickly!” We always make the most of them while we’re there as they don’t travel home well, and they taste completely different to the supermarket ones here in London. So fresh, sweet and juicy.
A branch of them brought inside added a lush splash of colour in a corner of our holiday house. Placed on an old stool purchased in an antique market in Zadar and an old bucket used through the generations, it made a happy little scene.
I bought the homemade fig cake from a stall at the fruit and vegetable market in Zadar, where each little stall sells things they have grown themselves or made, like olive oil and local honey. I have brought it home with me to remind me of the delicious fruit. I’m saving it for the right occasion and think it would taste perfect with cheese and crackers after dinner, as an alternative to quince jelly.
I will have to make some fig jam while we’re there next year so we can bring home the taste of holiday once again.
September 23, 2013 in handmade goodness, vintage finds
Having worked as a textile designer, one of my great loves is embroidery, either by hand or on the machine. It was when my mother was renovating her little house by the sea on the Dalmatian coast that we discovered these beautiful embroideries. We were looking for interesting decorative elements to add character to the holiday house and at the local antique bazaar in Zadar we found two of these hand-stitched embroideries and a bright rug amongst a pile of folded old fabrics.
They have so much Slavic character and charm in a simple, understated way. I am not sure what they were used for, (we use them as hangings between doors) but we bought one each. I rarely see them for sale in the markets or in piles of vintage fabrics and embroideries, so I count myself very lucky to have one. My mother’s hanging has embroidered writing on both sides and mine is plain at the top. The script translates as “Look, my darling, at these red roses, they’ll be yours when you come to fetch me.”
The colours are bright and bold, the traditional Croatian deep red and white combined with interesting combinations like peach and turquoise. The burgundy colour acts as a neutral to the other brighter colours.
The other side translates as “Long live the joyful Anica Speht” (a lady’s name). Perhaps it was made as a gift for a loved one or she is simply congratulating herself on her accomplishment at finishing the embroidery.
I photographed them alongside the simple furniture I had available, flowers from the garden and fruit bought from the village market to give a cacophony of pattern and colour.
September 13, 2013 in inspiring places
We visit our little holiday house by the sea that my grandfather built every year. It is part of my childhood memory and now is part of my children’s too. The old walled city of Zadar on mainland Croatia has many beautiful buildings in different states of repair and is laced with Roman and Venetian history.
On the one rainy day of our holiday we visited the city and popped in to see an art exhibition, where the entrance fees contribute to the on-going restoration. They are in the process of returning it to its former glory but I just loved the faded colours, the grand stairways and the layers of paint and textures of different building materials that had been revealed – and by chance my daughter’s clothes were of a similar tone. Elsewhere there are beautiful un-restored stone balconies and carved stonework amid the modernity, that bring joy to everyday life.
Ancient Catholic churches and towers remain, and one of my favourite things – the flagstone-paved streets, polished smooth over time by thousands of local feet.
We will have to revisit next year and see how much progress they have made.
August 9, 2013 in interior styling
Here’s a little teaser of one of the art direction and styling projects I’ve been working on over the last few months, a new look for a new client. Very exciting! I will share more soon…
August 8, 2013 in food, inspiring places
Going through my photographic archives I discovered these images that I took last year on holiday. One of the most wonderful things about our Summer time in Croatia is the fresh simple delicious food. This fish came direct from the local fishing boats to the village market the morning they were photographed. They were barbecued for our lunch accompanied with salads and fresh bread. What especially caught my eye was the beautiful silvery tone of their skin.
These shells with a pearlescent interior are known locally as Peter’s ears and can be found in the bay we swim in if you snorkel for long enough. I dived for them like treasure as a child, much like my children do now too, their silvery inside catching the light under the water.
Mussels can be bought in the village market if you are lucky and early enough and I just loved their deep, inky colour; another delicious lunch.
We are travelling to our little house on the bay this week to dive for treasures and swim in the deep blue sea.
I have been using Instagram over the last few months and will try to post a few photos while I’m away and when we have access to wifi in cafés. If you would like to see what I’m up to you can follow me at instagram.com/saniapell.
I’ll be back soon with lots of exciting news of what I’ve been up to over the last few months. It’s all been hush, hush but I will be able to tell all soon. x
August 1, 2013 in homemade
A few weeks ago, with a spare sunny weekend at home, I had fun dip-dying fabric to create an ombré throw. It had been on my to-do list for a while and I had some plain white linen ready, a sachet of hand wash Dylon dye and a packet of salt to fix it. I used Black to give a deeper intensity of colour and in the fade has a blueish tint to it. To begin I hand washed the fabric. Then I mixed the dye as per the instructions on the packet and dipped about half the fabric into the bucket of diluted dye, swishing it around carefully, so it did not splash the white linen above.
After about half an hour I rinsed the dyed section. There were a few splatters on the white section of the fabric, so straight after hanging the fabric onto the washing line outside, I used a wide paint brush to paint more dye on gradually and this gave the gradient, ombré effect I wanted. After a while I rinsed the fabric again and left it to dry naturally. The shadows from the foliage in the garden added a fleeting pattern whilst the fabric was drying.
I also painted stripes directly onto other pieces of fabric for an alternative look. Wet the fabric first and the dye spreads when you paint it on and repeat several times to get a more intense colour.
To make the most of the mixed dye, afterwards I dyed a pair of my favourite black jeans that had faded over time from washing and are now refreshed! You can see the colours available on the Dylon website.
My finished length of ombré fabric is now folded over an arm of the sofa, giving the corner of the living room another visual layer and a reminder of an afternoon creating in the sun.