Blog, Makes

Make your own Christmas Crackers

I originally designed and made these crackers for Coast magazine.

Crackers date back to the 1840’s. They were supposed to have been invented by a sweet manufacturer, Tom Smith, who came up with the idea as a way of promoting his bon-bon sweets, that were having a bit of a slump at the time.

My crackers have been designed with a coastal Christmas theme in mind, but you could create crackers for different events, such as a wedding, christening or birthday. For these designs I took photos of fabrics and sweet wrappers and enlarged them to create the scale I wanted. You could do this too, of even draw your own design on paper. There are lots of copyright free images to be found on the internet. You will need the design to fit onto an A4 piece of paper. I bought the cracker snaps on line, but everything else should be very easy to find. You can make paper hats from tissue paper and of course write your own jokes. The jokes can be created for different members of your family or particular friends. I put some tiny old fashioned Christmas decorations in my crackers. You could do the same or add balloons and sweets.

You will need

Piece of A4 Card for each cracker, Piece of A4 paper printed with a design, Cutting mat, Scalpel, Paper scissors, Clear tape, Double sided tape, Ruler, Pencil, Cracker snaps, Sweets, paper hats and tiny toys and decorations

Step 1

Cut a strip off the card so that it measures 16cm x 29.7cm.

Lay the card horizontally, starting from the right hand side measure in from the edge 6cm both top and bottom of the card. Draw a line between the pencil dots. Repeat at 8cm and 10 cm in from the edge. Repeat on the left hand side of the card. Score and fold as shown in image.

Step 2

Where the narrow folded edges are, mark out evenly spaced triangles. Make sure that there is a bridge between each triangle. Using the paper scissor cut out the triangles. Open out the card and you will have two rows of diamonds.

Step 3

Roll the card horizontally to form a long narrow cracker shaped tube. Using sticky tape, attach one side onto the other. Cut the A4 paper into three strips 2 x 6cms wide and 1 x 9.5cm wide. Using double sided tape stick the paper onto the three sections of the card tube.

Step 4

Push the cracker snap into the cracker, and secure it with a bit of tape to stop it falling out. Tie string or twine round one end of the cracker and then fill the cracker with sweets decorations toys etc or even your own jokes. Tie up the other end of the cracker.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

GLOBAL BOHEMIAN How to Satisfy your Wanderlust at Home

Bohemianism has long been associated with artists, musicians, writers, and designers. Affectionately referred to as boho, this layered, vibrant, and organic aesthetic is clearly thriving. This may be because we are much more environmentally aware than we were even two decades ago. Buying second hand is very much in vogue and if you can’t do the travelling yourself many of the items found in a Bohemian home can be acquired from in charity shops, brocantes and the like. If you revel in freedom from conventions and rules, love a home that reflects individuality, spontaneity, a fondness for a fusion of global goods and a distinctive convergence of cultures, bohemian style is the book for you.

From minimal boho touches to relaxed, natural, eclectic, and romantic design elements make the global bohemian home a thing of beauty. With their blend of styles, the homes featured in this book boast a uniquely enchanting atmosphere, often reflected in the variety of treasures they showcase––from personal collections to inspired use of color and pattern, these wildly differing living spaces show signs of humanity and the patina of life.

Whether you want to transform an understated room by adding whimsical elements or create an exotic oasis in your bedroom, unconventional boho artistry is easy to achieve by incorporating a few basics such as jewel-toned items, metallic touches, alluring prints, and layers of textures, to name but a few. Mismatched pieces from various origins and eras, delicious colours, exquisite textiles, and imaginative displays give spaces an undeniable energy. This book celebrates the decorating tenets of freethinking, world traveling, and nomadic ideals, and the beauty of self-expression. The book is divided into different chapters including Colour. The author points out  

‘whether your taste leans to cheerful hues or softer ones. While there is no prescribed color palette for this iconic style, it is often hallmarked by warm hues like deep blue, hot pink, and sunny yellow, which, when combined, bring visual intensity. And for those who like it hot, jewel tones and metallic accents rule.’

Next comes Furnishings, an inspiring mix of old and new, and serious and fanciful, all topped with a big dose of personality. Eclectic is an accurate adjective to define a décor that comprises the heterogeneous elements particular to the global bohemian. There is a fine line, however, between a beautifully diverse design and one that is merely chaotic.

Furniture collected over time and secondhand and vintage items are right at home here. For an exotic mood, you can feed your wanderlust for exquisite objects from around the world ––from Africa to India, Uzbekistan to Latin America and more with just a click. It has never been easier or more exciting to pack personality and global style into every space in your home. Conformity and uniformity aren’t in the boho vocabulary, but individuality is!

_The chapter on Accessories draws inspiration from many sources. The aesthetic is rooted not only in cultural artifacts but also in pieces that reflect one’s personal journey. Weaving together items from a variety of locations for a worldly look is as vital as focusing on gathering unique pieces. It’s all about mystery, charm, and the appeal of the unexpected.

Display colourful candle lanterns and include items with metallic gold or silver finishes for a crowning touch to the eclectic décor. Don’t forget nature! Vines, succulents, and other houseplants are indispensable for conjuring up the free-spirited, wanderlust feeling of bohemian design.

Fabrics, Patterns and Textures come next. Textiles from various parts of the world, like Africa, Asia, and South America reflect a well-traveled vibe and produce distinctive, culturally influenced aesthetics. Much like a good piece of artwork, fabrics can make a room. This book is filled with Inspiring homes from all over the world that show the reader how to create their own Boho vibe. A book as beautiful as this, should grace your coffee table and, will make a wonderful Christmas present for a dear friend.

Global Bohemian by Fifi O’Neill, published by CICO Books (£19.99)

Photography by Mark Lohman © CICO Books

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Embroidery Now

Contemporary projects for you and your home

As we are in the dark dank days of November, at least here in the UK, I felt it was time to review a craft book that is a contemporary take on a a very old technique. A craft that you can easily practise with very little in the way of materials and equipment. Embroidery Now is a stylish hand-embroidery guide for the modern maker. The author, Jennifer Riggs, known on Instagram as @Threadhoney, walks you through the embroidery process.

Jennifer is a graphic designer and textile designer. She was taught to embroider by her grandmother when she was eight years old. It was after college that she took up embroidery again and started developing her own products and patterns. She has also collaborated with companies such as Coast, Focus Features and Comcast.

         From this book you’ll learn about the materials included in the practice, nine different stitch techniques with illustrated step-by-step instructions, and 30 individual projects designed for you to use in your home and wardrobe.

         Embroidery has a long and rich history that can be dated back to 30,000 BC, but there is now an entire movement of young people who have picked up their needles. Carrying on the tradition of their ancesters this time they’re doing it in a way that reflects modern times and their individuality.

         This book shows how to meld the old tradition of embroidery with new design concepts. Jennifer creates projects that have humour, don’t take themselves too seriously and reflect personal interests.

         Embroidery is a great way to repurpose, reuse and up-cycle old stuff and personalise treasures. It is also the perfect craft to carry around with you, as it takes up very little space.

         This book is a delight and perfect for both new and experiences embroiders alike. Included are a boho stitched lamp shade, embroidered accent pillow, constellation tablecloth, minimalist canvas wall art, starry stitched dresses, and much more. Buy it now and embroider some gifts to give away this Christmas.

Embroidery Now by Jennifer Cardenas Riggs (Hardie Grant £14.99) Photography ©Nassima Rothacker

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet Lennie Ware, mother of Jessie, and one half of the very successful pod cast Table Manners

In her sixties, Lennie has, almost fallen, into a new exciting and creative career. She is the mother of Jessie Ware the English singer-songwriter. In late 2017, together they launched their podcast Table Manners, now in its eighth series they have broadcast over 80 podcasts and been listened to more than 8 million times.

Table manners is about ‘family, food and the art of good old chit-chat.

JB Tell me a bit about yourself, and your background?

LW I studied social science at University in the 1970’s. I then

worked as a social worker, and  later trained at the Tavistock Institute  to become a psychiatric social worker. Since 1989 I have worked as an independent social worker and a children’s guardian, often representing the case of the child in court cases.

JB How did the idea for“Table Manners” come about?

LW It was initially Jessie’s idea. She had thought of doing a pod cast based round food and entertaining. She asked if I would cook and I said yes, as I’d do anything to help her.  From when the children were quite young, we would have Friday evening dinners. We had friends round to eat and talk, it often ended up with us dancing and singing. Jessie loved the Friday night get together and the good positive memories.

JB It sounds like fun. Do you have a large family?

LW Jessie is the middle of three children. My eldest daughter Hannah is an actress in America and is currently filming a new Net Flix series. Jessie has a younger brother Alex, who is a Doctor working in a London Hospital. They are all good cooks and love entertaining.

JB How did the pod cast evolve?

LW Well initially Jessie opened up her address book and invited friends, people she knew in the entertainment business. Ed Sheeran, Daniel Kaluuya, Sam Smith, So it started by asking people if they’d like to be involved. The idea was that I would be in the kitchen cooking, sometimes with Alex. In the event it wasn’t like that, I just couldn’t keep quiet. I wanted to join in with the conversation. We then discovered having an intergenerational podcast worked really well. People identify with the mother and daughter dynamic- the bickering, the laughing and I hope, my good one-liners. People often say ‘that is just how I talk to my mum’

JB Who does most of the cooking?

LW I have always done most of the cooking and if Alex isn’t working, he helps too. When we used to record in Jessie’s house she did some of the cooking. I am a good cook but I would say that Jessie is a more creative cook. John Lewis and Waitrose have sponsored a few of our episodes in this latest series.

JB I hear you have a cookbook Table Manners coming out next March how did that come about?

LW We were getting feed back from the podcast with people saying ‘that sounds lovely I’d like to make it ” and similar comments, so when we were approached by Ebury about a book, we agreed.

JB How do you find your guests now?

LW Some people approach us and in other cases it is people that we’d like to meet.

I really wanted to meet Tim Dowling, Guardian Columnist, and Sandi Toksvig who Jessie already knew. Neither of us knew, but really wanted to have Alan Carr on the podcast. We have had Haim and Stacey Dooley, Cheryl Cole and many more, just too many to mention all of them.

JB Have any of your guests ever tried to join in the cooking?

LW We had Loyle Carner, the rapper on. He runs a cookery school called Chilli Con Carner for children with ADHD.

JB Have you had other cooks on the programme?

LW We have had Antoni Porowski the cook from Queer Eye. When Ottolenghi came he cooked me a turbot.

We entertained Raymond Blanc. I was cooking Halibut with garlic fume. Raymond came and took over.

He said to me’ I can tell you are a really good cook’

I replied ‘Do you think there might be a little opening for me at Le Manoir’

His answer “I can also tell you don’t take orders easily”

We entertained Nigella, and she is gorgeous, really generous, polite, and has fantastic manners and she brought a present. We served lamb with a pistachio crust. Alex did most of the preparation that day including custard tart with big blackberries on top. He made two, to be sure, as that’s the sort of man he is. Nigella left him a little note saying how delicious it was. She also sent us thank you cards.

JB How many pod casts do you record a week?

LW We usually do 1, but we once did 4 in one week and that was exhausting. Currently Jessie and family are living with me whilst their house is being done up. So living and working together has its challenges. Last week we interviewed Nicole Scherzinger, and that was fun.

JB What next?

LW We did three live shows at the last Edinburgh Festival, each in front of an audience of 200 people. It went down very well, and so we are considering doing more live events.

JB Thank you.

Blog, Exhibitions

Lucian Freud The Self Portraits

This small but packed exhibition is on from 27th October 2019 until 26th January 2020 in the Sackler Wing at The Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House Piccadilly London W1J 0BD https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/

Ok let’s start with the biographical bit, Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved to the UK in 1933 to escape Nazi Germany. In the late 1940’s he chose to make portraiture his primary focus of practice.

Freud had two obsessions painting and sex. Author John Richardson once remarked ‘ He turns sex into art and art into sex- there is no differentiation; the two aspects of his senses came together in the act of painting”.

Because Freud was renowned for his works of startling intensity, and for frank, often disquieting nudes, he often required his models to sustain uncomfortable poses for long periods of time. Freud stated that it was only fair that he should subject himself to the same process.

The exhibition shows his work from his early years, including his painting Man with a feather (self portrait 1943) It was exhibited in the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1944.

The first portraits are in pencil and or ink. Encouraged by his mother, Freud had drawn obsessively since childhood. His approach to painting at this time was marked by a preoccupation with line, combining expressive force with a quality of draughtsmanship that led the critic Herbert Read to describe him as the ‘Ingres of Existentialism”

From around the mid 1950’s Freud turned his attention away from drawing to painting, and for a period of about seven years stopped drawing altogether. In order to free up his painting he stopped painting sitting down and from then on painted standing up. His last painting made sitting down is Hotel Bedroom 1954 and is a double portrait of himself and his second wife Lady Caroline Blackwood.

Between the 1950’s and the mid 1960’s Freud’s painting gradually freed up. In 1961 he took up using watercolours, replacing the linearity of pen and pencil with loose painterly washes.

From the mid 1960’s Freud used Mirrors to help him paint his own likeness. He didn’t use photographs and only kept mirrors in his studio not in the rest of his house. He liked the way that a mirror could suggest a new and unexpected angle or perspective.

Freud said of himself ‘ My work is purely autobiographical. It’s about myself and my surroundings…I work from the people that interest me and that I care about in rooms that i live in and know.”

Throughout his career Freud held a succession of London Studios, in Holland Park, Paddington and Notting Hill. They provided the stage for his encounters with sitters- each an intimate environment that was erotically charged.

A series of exhibitions in the late 1980’s and 1990’s cemented Freuds reputation internationally. From then on he held an exhibition every year for the rest of his life. He continued to paint self portraits that display his self- possession and extraordinary mastery of colour, form, light and shade.

Freuds late self-portraits become increasingly built up with thick layers of paint sometimes smoothed at others scratched as though responding to the changes in his physical appearance. He almost disappears into the surface. there is a narrowing of the space between the painter and his work. This is a very popular exciting exhibition and you will need to book to see it.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Nudinits by Sarah Simi

A Naughty Knitted Noel published by Collins and Brown at £9.99

Have yourself a very merry Christmas with the bare bottomed inhabitants of woolly bush.

When this book landed on my desk I felt that I’d journeyed back in time to the land of Benny Hill, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, where innuendo was the norm and political correctness didn’t exist.

Sarah Simi, the author, is the creator of the acclaimed ‘nudits’  Tickled Pink the world’s first all knitted animation. She is also the author of nudist: Bare bottomed fun from the village of Woolly Bush.

A long time ago a publisher told me, that the only way to make money from nonfiction books was to write on sex, knitting or food. Sarah seems to have done all three in one book.

 A Naughty Knitted Noel follows the nude knitted villagers as they go about their celebrations. Nuts are cracked, Bernard sugars his plums, Barbara gets her hands around a hot toddy and of course the vicar takes great pleasure in pounding away on his organ.

         It’s a festive fun time in the village of Woolley Bush: the twinkling lights are on, a big bird is in the oven and a couple of plum puddings are steaming away- time to sit down and have a quick stiff one with a copy of the Radio Twines – only with no clothes on.

         Included are over 25 exclusive knitting patterns from the world of nudinits. There’s a large fairy for the Christmas tree. Naughty baubles, an excited Ballinger champagne, gherkins, a lavish roast turkey platter a giant cheeky gingerbread man and woman are all included.

         Stuffed full of British eccentricity bare bottoms and some rather large double enténdrés, this is a perfect gift for a knitter with a good sense of humour, or you can knit the scenes yourself ready for a little Christmas merriment.

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet the Maker Craft author and Illustrator Clare Youngs

I went to meet Clare Youngs with my photographer Antonia Attwood to interview and photograph her in her Thanet home. Clare writes craft books for the publishers Cico, and whatever the subject, they are always of the highest standard, beautifully styled and informative. I was curious how Clare had got into the business of being a craft author. She works from a studio at the bottom of her garden.

J.B. Tell me about your design background.

C.Y. I did an art foundation course in London and then I went to Canterbury to do a degree in graphics and packaging design. It was a great course very creative we covered lots of skills as well as graphic design, including styling and art direction.

After art school I worked mainly for small design groups designing packaging.

J.B. How did you get into writing books?

C.Y. My husband, Ian bought me a book on vintage style and I was flicking through it when I had a light bulb moment. I have always made things including curtains cushions and blinds. I had an idea for a book on making things for the house out of paper. I went to Hamlyn and my first book was published by them. Then Cindy Richards the M.D. of Cico books got hold of me and asked if I would like to write a book for them. The first book I did was on making bags out of recycled materials.

J.B. Do the ideas for your books originate from you or from the publisher?

C.Y. It is half and half, sometimes I come up with proposals and sometimes they do.

J.B. How long does it take to produce a book.

C.Y From start to finish probably 4-5 months, but that is working full time on it. From the concept to publication is usually a year.

J.B. Who does the photography and styling?

C.Y.  I do the styling and Jo Henderson does the photography and my husband Ian does the illustrations.

J.B. What are your favorite and your least favorite parts of creating a book.

C.Y. I love making things, so the designing and making is what I enjoy doing best.

When I started, I found writing step -by -step instructions challenging. The secret is to write them as you go along.

J.B. What and who inspires you?

C.Y. Vintage Children’s books,particularly those published in the 60’s and 70’s. I like the work of Brian Wildsmith, and Eric Carle, Alice and Martin Provensen an American couple who illustrated more than 40 children’s books together. Mostly between the late 1940’s and the 1960’s.

J.B. Are there any modern illustrators you like?

C.Y. I enjoy the work of Joohee Yoon

J.B. What other things or people inspire you?

C.Y. I like old bannisters. I love humour in design. I like the textile designer Marimeko. Scandanavian design and Japanese crafts both interest me. I like the work of the following painters and designers. Howard Hodgkin, Ben Nicholson, Robert Tavener, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious and Charlie Harper.

J.B. Are you a collector ?

C.Y. Yes I am a collector I have 23,000 czechoslovakian matchbox lables that I bought on line. I will probably sell some as many are duplicates.

J.B. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working from home?

C.Y. It is great to have a purpose built space that is just at the bottom of my garden. So I don’t waste time travelling. My husband who is also a designer works in the house so we often meet up for lunch. However the down side of working from home is it is sometimes isolating as you don’t have feed back from other designers. As a result of this, last year I took an on line course called ‘Make Art that Sells’ . I wanted to study illustration as my craft projects have become more illustrative, for example I produce designs to embroider or collage. The boot camps that the web site runs are excellent and give you prompts rather than teaching as such. They have a face book group so that you can get feed back from like minded designers.

J.B. Apart from the boot camp do you use other social media?

C.Y. I do instagram and find that is a very useful way of making contacts in the design world. Last year I participated in the 100 day project.

J.B Do you teach workshops ?

C.Y. When we first moved out of London, our kids were young and we thought it would be nice to move to the Kent coast. At this time I ran a few family craft workshops at the Turner Gallery.

J.B. If you hadn’t been a graphic designer what would you have studied or done as a career?

C.Y. I think I would have done a craft, been a print maker or a potter.

J.B. What are you doing next?

C.Y My latest book by Cico came out in October it is called The Mindful Maker

J.B. Clare thank you very much for letting us have a glimpse into your working life.