August 30, 2012 in food, homemade
This natural, fresh lemonade was the drink of our holiday in Croatia this summer and is easy to make. I made a bottle every morning with help from my children who loved squeezing lemons and measuring and mixing, and it was enjoyed by us all. Lemonade is an ever-popular summer drink but I give mine a little twist, the addition of fresh mint, which gives it an extra refreshing taste. I always keep interesting bottles and jars when we’re there, to use as storage jars or as vases, making little displays of fresh herbs and sprigs picked from our garden. This bottle is a well known shape in Croatia and contained Amarena cherry syrup from Maraska, a famous old drinks company from the city of Zadar opposite our island.
To make 1l: Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a glass, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of sugar, a sprig of fresh mint and a dash of cold water. Mx it together, mashing the mint slightly with a spoon to release the flavour. Add some more water and mix to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a 1 litre glass bottle and top up with cold water then place in the fridge to cool.
Serve over ice, straining the mint if necessary, and enjoy.
August 29, 2012 in inspiring places
Swimming daily in the beautiful, clear, Adriatic is one of the favourite parts of my holidays in Croatia. This summer we went on a friend’s little boat for a day trip, stopping in idyllic little bays for swims and snorkelling, the children jumping off the boat and laughing. Throughout the day I found myself simply pointing the camera straight at the ever-changing sea, capturing the amazing colours and textures that appeared as the depth of the water and current changed – from midnight blue to aquamarine, navy to cyan to turquoise.
These were all taken around the beautiful islands of Kornati, a Croatian national park that is a popular tourist destination with day trippers and sailors alike. If you ever visit Croatia then I highly recommend island hopping and taking boat trips to fully enjoy the beauty of the coastline.
August 26, 2012 in inspiring places
Whilst wandering about and exploring with my camera, I ventured down to the harbour walls and jetties in our village, the neighbouring village and the old port of the medieval walled city of Zadar on the mainland opposite. They are areas just off the beaten track, industrial in feeling, and close to but tucked away from all of the beautiful traditional buildings and pretty boats that are the obvious tourist lures.
In these hidden places fishermen make shade to untangle their nets or unload their crates, leaving them on the side overnight. Shapes and colours everywhere that made me think of abstract artworks or the pattern of fabric. Walking around a corner one day I discovered a ram skull and tuna heads and tails tied to posts, mismatched old chairs and painted benches grouped together, and industrial doors with warning signs and beer labels stuck to the wall – a little spot where the fishermen must unwind after a night’s work. All of this was unexpected and felt like I had discovered a secret.
Brightly coloured brush marks on old doors and walls, made over years by boat painters wiping out the remains of paint from their brushes, and sprayed graffiti with a flower growing next to it, as interesting and beautiful to me as the traditional tourist sights. A sprayed cross on the wall, a red circle painted primitively as a warning sign, graphic and expressive. Painted hoardings and temporary structures creating geometric patterns like modern art.
By one harbour wall, at the end of the path, an ancient fire truck had been hand sprayed fluorescent orange with aerosol cans. In the glaring sun it had faded over time, revealing the lines of spray and turning the truck into a three dimensional canvas.
To me these little vignettes are like accidental artworks made by workers, unknowingly decorating their environments in an ever-changing manner.
If you look hard enough you can see art and beauty almost anywhere.
August 24, 2012 in inspiring places
In a neighbouring village called Kali, renowned for its excellent fishermen, the colours of their nets, piled high on the side of the harbour jetty wall near their boats, caught my eye and I had to capture them.
I love the muted palette and different colours and tones found in these weathered, well-used nets as they overlay and combine with the textures and patterns of the crumpled mesh.
August 23, 2012 in inspiring places
Having had a wonderful couple of weeks away with my family, enjoying each others’ company and switching off, I’m back to share some of my Summer inspiration with you. I took lots of photos and thought I would post some over the next week or so, split into a series I have called colours of my summer. The village where my grandfather built our family’s holiday home over 40 years ago is a charming, small and low key fishing village and now holiday spot, where swimming, lunch, siesta, reading and visiting the ice cream parlour in the evening are how the hours are spent.
There are plenty of modernised houses in the village, but it is the ones which wear their character on the outside that I was interested in documenting, capturing some of their charm and history. There are small pedestrian passages running between the old buildings, with skinny cats scurrying through and well-tended vines and olive trees in front of neglected or derelict houses. The cottages in the village are mainly built with stone, left natural or rendered and painted, with wooden shutters, terracotta tiled roofs and dry stone boundary walls.
Pale-leaved olive trees are everywhere, as are figs which we eat straight from the trees in our garden. Flowers and grasses spring up along paths giving little touches of colour amongst the walkways. Exotic insects, butterflies and bees buzzing around the oasis of nectar. Swallows swoop low and the heat is so intense that by 11 am all you want to do is swim or hide in the shade.
In this first post I have shown some of the buildings and flora to help set the scene and there will be more posts to follow.
I hope you have had a lovely summer too.
August 2, 2012 in news
Over the next couple of weeks I will be on summer holiday with my husband and children in Croatia, in our family’s little holiday home by the sea. It is a special place that I love and have been to since I was a child. We have spent the last couple of years putting our stamp on it with a lick of paint and a few small home improvements and it is now a joy to visit (you can see and read about it on a previous post here). I am looking forward to the sea, beautiful weather (fingers crossed), delicious food, reading books and relaxing with my family. There is minimal phone reception and no internet connection at the house so checking email means a half day trip to the ice cream parlour in the town, so I will switch off and relax. I’m sure things will inspire me while I am away, as they always do, which I will share with you on my return.
I hope the sun is shining where you are too. Happy holidays.
July 31, 2012 in flowers, homemade
This is a continuation of my floral photographic sketches that I posted about recently. I had a fun couple of hours a few weeks ago playing with my camera and documenting ideas. Sometimes an idea comes along that leads to another and needs to be snapped quickly and captured before it is forgotten.
When I designed textile patterns for a design studio we would always use reference books and quite often real flowers to draw from and use as inspiration, but these were quite often open to interpretation. A drawn flower would be given a different, more appealing leaf to the stem, or would be painted flat to the page with more flower heads than would occur in nature. Some of my drawn flowers would have leaves made from patterns or other textures and they would evolve and become unique, designed interpretations of flowers rather than true-to-life, accurate floral studies.
Freehand, machine-stitching is a technique I used in textile design many years ago and still use regularly. With a little practice it you can get great results and if you want to have a go at home a couple of the projects in my first book The Homemade Home explain it with step-by-step instructions.
In the case of this photo experiment with flora from my garden, I picked apart several flowers and placed different heads, stems and leaves together. I also added fabric and lace leaves and real elements to my machine-stitched stems, creating my own hybrids and fantasy flowers.
I like to contrast real with illustrated, man made with natural in combinations that really shouldn’t exist together. The speed of capturing an idea on camera at home means that later I will be able to develop this further into something more, but for now these ideas have been documented and are reminders to myself, my own visual notes and a little play with nature.
July 30, 2012 in handmade goodness, new finds
I love to visit the annual New Designers show in Islington, North London every year and it is a show I try not to miss. It doesn’t seem long ago that I was exhibiting there as a graduating student myself. The raw talent of the year’s graduates is always exciting to see, their futures not yet mapped out. It is a joy to see them showcasing their work. Their enthusiasm and excitement is infectious and you can feel their anticipation of what their future creative careers may hold.
At the end of last month I popped along to part one of the show which includes textiles, fashion and accessories, contemporary applied arts, ceramics, glass and jewellery and precious metalwork. I like to catch up with the tutors from Edinburgh College of Art where I studied and spend a couple of hours wandering around the show, looking at work, chatting with the graduates and supporting them by buying some work.
This year work of ceramicist Alison Rees caught my eye and I bought a few of her pieces. She had completed her studies a year ago and was exhibiting in the One Year On section of the show, where a select few designers from the previous year’s show are invited to exhibit again and are given a space to showcase their latest work. It was the graphic quality and small scale of Alison’s ceramics that I loved and drew me in. They work beautifully as a group and can be arranged in all sorts of configurations. I thought I would share these simple photos I took of them displayed in my home.
After we had been chatting for ten minutes, I gave her my business card and she looked at it and said, “I read your blog!!” It was quite a coincidence and I went rather red as it doesn’t happen very often!
Alison’s little pots now sit proudly on a shelf in my kitchen where I see them every time I pass by and give me such pleasure. You can get a sense of scale of them in the photo below, they’re about an inch and a half high. She is continuing her studies next year at the Royal College of Art and I wish her every success and will definitely be popping along to the RCA shows in the future.
You can see more of Alison’s work on her website here.
Purchasing work from new graduates means that not only do you have the most wonderful original art in your home but it shows support for them as they move in to the next stage of their creative lives. We have bought work from graduates almost every year since about 1996 which was when we had our first apartment with empty walls to fill. And now with the web it is much easier to keep in touch and see how they are getting on which is great.
We have work from textile artists like Debbie Smyth whose work you may now be familiar with, and Marion Parola who recently set up Bespoke Atelier textile design studio in Glasgow and also runs textile design workshops. Last year we bought a piece of work by Lesley Elliott which I posted about here. She is now studying film and recently travelled to Iceland to make a short film about their horses which has since won an award. You can see the film here.
If there is an art college near you it is worth finding out when the shows are on and going along if you can.
My very best wishes to all of this year’s design graduates for your future careers.
July 24, 2012 in news
Phew, it’s been busy! Work seems to have taken over my life over the past few months so I thought I would share a little update of what I have been up to. It has been a case of head down, work hard and any free time spent with my family. I feel my blog, emails, twitter and facebook have all had to take a back seat as there just aren’t enough hours in the day. My apologies to those of you I haven’t responded to, it has been on my conscience. The children are now on their school holidays though and so am I! I made a decision not to take on commercial shoots during school holidays while they are young so we can enjoy being a family.
So what has been keeping me busy? Prepping and styling for lots of projects and new clients. Being a stylist means preparation is key – sourcing, selecting, calling in, location finding, drafting image layouts and making bespoke elements which I like to do to add a personal touch, can take much more time than the shoot days themselves. It all began in February when I went in to see the Elle Decoration team to come up with a new six page story for the magazine. We shot it in March and last week I saw the draft page layouts which look wonderful. I’ll be able to share this with you in September when the October issue hits the stores.
At the same time I worked with an award-winning architectural practice as an interior styling and design consultant on a large member’s club and spa in a very smart part of London, sourcing and selecting furniture choices and putting together the overall colour schemes and fabric choices for this exciting project. It is due to open at the end of the Summer and I hope we will have some images to share.
I have also worked on several different shoots for the lovely team at not on the high street.com, including their father’s day catalogue, and also an eight day shoot for Waitrose, styling the images for their autumn/winter flower and plant range which was a joy to work on. I slipped in the little shoot at home with Remodelista and recently took Decor8‘s Blogging Your Way 2.0 online course which had great tutorials and advice, although with everything else going on I wasn’t able to participate like I would have liked (I will have to do the next one too!)
The biggest project has been working with interiors mail order company Cox & Cox, where between us we have come up with a new look for the imagery in the autumn/winter catalogue. This was three weeks of shooting spread out over three months including the last eight days away on location, and involved a large amount of preparation and making for the shoots and then styling with the photographer and art director to help give it its new look. We have lots of gorgeous images which I will share when they are released.
I almost forgot that amongst all of these projects my new book was released, I held the launch event at Liberty, which was such a special day, and made a video of how to make the floral headband with the Liberty team. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy so far and those who have reviewed and blogged about it, it is really appreciated. A big thank you also goes to Mollie Makes magazine who featured the fish bowl mobile project from my new book in issue 15.
It has been so busy and I am always appreciative of the wonderful creative work that I am involved with, but for now I am loving seeing my children properly again, catching up online and am really looking forward to my annual summer trip to Croatia next month. I can’t wait.
I have a few blog posts planned before I go away which I am looking forward to sharing with you. Thank you for stopping by.
July 21, 2012 in handmade goodness, inspiring places
A couple of weekends ago I popped over to jeweller Emma Cassi‘s home with my family in tow to catch up with her, have a chat and buy some new jewellery. We first met several years ago and I always enjoy visiting her home and chatting with her and her husband, and all of our little ones playing together. Twice a year Emma opens up her London home as an informal shop for friends and clients. The drawers in her living room display her work, each one filled with collections of exquisite jewellery leaving me in the wonderful conundrum of which necklace, bracelet or hair grip to buy.
Emma’s lovely home changes subtly with each visit, another layer of interest has been added, new beautiful items placed in front of others, or maybe I just didn’t notice them the last time I was there and they caught my attention that day.
I always have friends in mind when I visit… who has a birthday soon? a new baby? a child’s treat? It’s extra fun buying for others as well as yourself. A little set will be travelling to the other side of the world to a friend who deserves a treat and has just had a new baby. It is wrapped so beautifully too in music paper with string, elegant and simple.
A vintage beaded top hangs over a door in Emma’s living room, popping with neon inspiration.
So after a couple of hours of catching up and cups of tea, I returned home with treasure to wear and and a package of gorgeousness to mail across continents. A perfect afternoon.
You can see Emma’s new collection on her website and lots more on her blog here.
If you like Emma’s work you may also like this post.
June 30, 2012 in food, interior styling
A few Saturdays ago I had the pleasure of top interior design blog Remodelista, the sourcebook for contemporary living, as guests at my home for afternoon tea and a photo shoot. London Editor Christine asked if I could create a tablescape for them to feature, and with casual family summer lunches in mind I decided to create a look that was simple, colourful, informal and relaxed and based around growing vegetables and having raw ingredients on your kitchen table to make your own sandwiches as you sit. These are some of the photos from the afternoon, taken by talented photographer Rahel Weiss.
As it was a Saturday my children were at home and involved too and one of their favourites is egg and cress sandwiches. I chose a selection of eggs from my local Waitrose – quails’ eggs, lovely soft blue eggs and white eggs – which I grouped in pastel bowls. I hard boiled them all, so they could be peeled and sliced to make DIY egg sandwiches. The children grew watercress from seed the week before in pretty pastel egg cups. I sliced the farmhouse batch bread, buttered it and let the children peel the eggs and crumble and slice them onto the bread. They snipped and added the cress and sprinkled a few grains of sea salt on top and them devoured the crusty sandwiches with crumbs all around.
To decorate the table I painted terracotta pots from my local garden centre with emulsion paint in shades of grey, and used them as bowls to display radishes with their foliage still attached. I did the same went with organic carrots as they look so lush with the long stem and leaves still attached, adding to the display. I only have herbs growing in my little London garden at the moment so I bought growing lettuce still in soil in my local Sainsbury’s and replanted them in the painted terracotta pots, washing the leaves first and leaving scissors on the table nearby to snip the required amount off. The idea was you could harvest your own salad right there at the table. A painted wooden fruit box from my local market was used as a tray to contain some of the pots. It is one of the projects from my book The Homemade Home for Children.
Fizzy drinks were bought in old fashioned looking glass bottles, which I bought from Marks and Spencers. Striped straws add fun but in grey and white matched my kitchen decor. Fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, and mint leaves too, were added to ice cubes creating a sweet little detail to our drinks.
I made the centrepiece simply with water-filled glass milk bottles (yes, we have a milkman!) with garden flowers and vegetables pushed down into the water, their foliage acting as greenery.
A Victoria sponge cake with whipped double cream spread over and strawberries generously piled on top is an easy pudding that looks and tastes delicious. The three little letter pebbles spell the word EAT and are from another project in my book.
A big thank you to Remodelista for popping by, (you can see the original post here), to Rahel Weiss for the great photos (see her folio here), to my friend Chrissie Holden for helping out and her culinary skills and to my children for gobbling it all up.
This informal lunchtime meal had a sprinkle of creativity, a dollop of fun and plenty of crumbs and was enjoyed by all.
June 15, 2012 in flowers
I took these photos after picking a few flowers from my garden. It is a small space, a city garden where a little bit of nature can be seen from the kitchen through the modern grey-framed glass doors. A camelia already existed when we moved in but the rest I had great delight in selecting and planting after we remodelled the kitchen and garden about five years ago. I ordered the bulk of my initial planting through the online company Crocus, choosing plants that flower with white or pale blooms like climbing hydrangea, clematis, jasmine, black elder, white lavender and more. Each season I look forward to the bursts of flowers and am always pleasantly surprised at the bulbs that come up that I had forgotten I had planted.
The beautiful textured pages of old books add a nostalgic feel to the images and make lovely backdrops. They remind me of pressing flowers in old books when I was a little girl, something I always did whilst staying with my grandparents on holiday.
Photographing flowers in this way always gives me great pleasure and sparks off new ideas as I play and change the displays. I automatically tend to shoot these floral patterns from directly overhead. I think it is an ingrained way of seeing having worked as a textile designer for so many years.
I drew simple, fine lines in pencil creating fantasy stalks for the delicate tiny flowers of the black elder that I had dissected, capturing it in time with a little photo sketch.
This is really part one of this story as these images led on to lots more ideas that I photographed. I will post part two of my fun with flowers another time, so do pop back soon.