Chelsea Flower Show

I was lucky enough to attend The Royal Horticultural’s Chelsea Flower show this week. I got there at 8am, opening time and headed for my favourite section The Artisan gardens. I am not going to write about the large corporate sponsored gardens as so much has been written by others about them. Instead I am going to talk ARTISAN

Three gardens particularly stood out, The Finnish Summer Garden that was inspired by the biodiversity of Finnish Meadows and Woodland. The garden was designed by Taina Suonio a Finnish landscape designer, horticulturalist, environmental biologist and researcher in the Fifth Dimension- Green Roofs in Urban Areas research group.

The garden comprises clear Nordic lines and includes a 100 year old weather beaten barn wall made of granite. The cascading water feature reminds visitors to the garden about the relationship the Finns have with their roots in the country and the much-cherished respite by their countless lake-side, riverside and seaside cottages. The garden included many Finnish forest flowers and herbs.

The Donkey Sanctuary Garden celebrated the 50 years of transforming the lives of Donkeys. The designers were Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams.” We have a real fondness and appreciation for these hard The working animals, so were delighted to be asked by The Donkey Sanctury to design an Artisan Garden to explain ‘why donkeys matter’ The garden demonstrates how owning a donkey means access to clean, fresh water for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Set in an arid location a shelter near a well provides some shade. A dripping bucket hangs above the well and colourful planting surrounds it. The planting in the garden includes plants typical of dry regions, including Eryngium bourgatii, Iris germanica and Lavendula angustfolia. The colour palette is claret, purple and silver

The Camfed Campaign for Female Education won the Artisan Garden Gold Medal.

The designer of the garden is Jilayne Rickards

‘ I wanted the garden to reflect CAMFED’s strong commitment to supporting girls in eduction and the vibrancy of rural communities in Zimbabwe. It is a powerful message of how, by educating girls, we can tackle gender inequality and poverty, and break the cycle of poverty for good.’

At the heart of the garden is a classroom which is surrounded by plants and trees and edible fruit, leaves and roots that provide vital nutrition, particularly for mothers and school children.

The crops, which have been developed by scientists backed by UK aid, are also enriched with key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and iron, to tackle “hidden hunger” in developing countries. 

The plants include bio fortified varieties of maize, beans and sweet potatoes and are in a garden which, unusually for Chelsea, evokes a rural Zimbabwean school yard – complete with dusty red earth, a black chalkboard and orange trees. 

If like me you are interested in craft and design there are some first class designers showing in the artisan section of the show. There is a Dyers Studio set up by ex RCA student Lola Lely. She uses plants and natural materials to create dyes, pigments and paints.

Lola Laly setting up the studio

Charlie Whinney Wood & Steam celebrates what is possible using locally sourced green wood and eco-friendly steam-bending processes to create beautiful works that enrich your life.

Ceramic artist Corrie Bain is a British ceramicist based in Barcelona . she studied ceramics at Edinburgh college of Art. Her ceramics are inspired by microscopic imagery of seed pods, pollen and fractals. They are made from hand built porcelain clay.

From the Seed Pod collection

Botanicla, Applique Artist Natasha Hulse creates handmade fabric artworks for interior products such as bedheads lamps and cushions. She celebrates the beauty and phenomena of Flora found in British Woodlands, English gardens and the effect that nature has on us in our home.

Part of a head board by Natasha Hulse Design
Alitex Green House styled by Selina Lake

As well as the artisan sections, one of the other visual joys of the show was the Alitex green house styled by Selina Lake. She always designs her spaces to feel like somewhere you want to spend time.

My all time favourite, innovative and very comfortable seats in a variety of designs by Cacoon are on sale. Every season their chief designer Nick McDonald comes up with new designs, so watch this space.

As I finish writing this piece, I must not forget the Chelsea Pensioners who are still very much in evidence in their smart red uniforms.

The show is still on and the weather is good. so if you can get in, do go and visit.

Clerkenwell Design Week 2019

Clerkenwell design week is one of the most anticipated design events of the year. It is a bit of a misnomer as ‘the week’ only lasts for three days.

Each year the design practices, interior companies and product designers open their doors for visitors to enjoy what is new and engaging in the design industry. Every year Clerkenwell Design Week presents new design projects and street spectacles, commissioned specially for the festival and featured prominently around Clerkenwell. Inviting some of the leading pioneers in the creative industry, these projects aim to push the boundaries of design, in terms of concepts, process and material capabilities. They are created to challenge visitors’ perception of design application, as well as to inspire and entertain them. Previous participants include Cousins + Cousins architects, Studio Weave, Gruppe, Assemble, Monotype, OKAY Studio, Johnson Tiles, Grimshaw Architects, Sebastian Cox and more.

Once Upon a Time draws on the rich and sometimes dark historical tales of EC1. Working in collaboration with UAL Chelsea College of Arts, BA Graphic Design Communication students, stories from 6 locations were brought to life by a series of graphical installations. Below are three of them.



Passing Alley – By Rory Brown

This modern memorial honours the 66 Martyrs who were burned alive at the stake for having protestant beliefs. Displaying the names of all 66 Martyrs killed in the Smithfield this design echoes the geometric style of the church’s stained glass windows.

St James’s Church Garden – By Alistair Ramage

The House of Detention has a very rich history with tales of failed escapes and destruction. In 1867 an attempted escape went tragically wrong as a bomb ruptured a nearby gas main killing 12 people. Known as the ‘Clerkenwell Outrage’ this design uses geometric illustrations to represent the explosion in a modern way.


 
House of Detention – By Natasha Lopez

The winning concept for St John’s Gate responded to the theme of history and heritage by proposing a new structure that subtly draws on the historic form of the St John’s Gate arch whilst bringing in materials and geometries that reference the design culture of Clerkenwell today.

The concept plays with the idea of space and enclosure, by inserting a densely built timber structure within the void of the archway.  This is then carved away to allow a route through and to frame the historic features of the site.  The timber frame is filled with moments of colour that intensify towards the top of the arch, drawing visitors’ gaze upwards towards the historic architecture.  This colour is created by using recycled materials and fabrics, that reference the design identity of the area.

While on the site, the pavilion highlights details of the archway and draw parallels to the 10 year anniversary of Clerkenwell Design Week.  When moved to a new location, the pavilion will take with it the geometry of the archway to act as a casting of the original site.

Another inventive, and close to my heart, installation was Bottle House. Designed and constructed by WSP Design studio, BottleHouse is made from disregarded plastic bottles and applies skills in architectural design, engineering and construction to transform an empty bottle into a building block-forming a unique shelter.

Herman Millar presented Aeron Hockey – a fun, fast paced sport played on Aeron Chairs. Not sure your boss will be too delighted if you decide to play this in your office.

The House of Detention housed some of the artisan  designer makers and start up companies. These included BLWM by Nia Rist prints, a collection of monochrome hand printed home wares celebrating all things pattern.

A new innovative company is Spitfire they have a range of very nice felt covered lamp shades and furniture.

Turbine
Turbine detail

My conclusion, a great show yet again, and I have only touched on a fraction of what was there. If you missed it this year make sure to put it in your diary for next, it is well worth a visit.

Shibori For Textile Artists

By Janice Gunner published by Batsford. Photographs by Michael Wicks.

Techniques and projects for using Shibori dyeing in textile art.

Shibori is the Japanese term (from the word ‘to squeeze or wring”) for the dye-resist technique of binding, clamping or gathering the cloth so that the dye cannot reach certain parts.


Stitched rings on a single layer of cotton cloth, Procion MX dye.
 

Shibori is one of the world’s richest textile traditions. Commonly associated with Japan, it is in fact a technique also long used in Africa, India and South America. In this practical guide textile artist Janice Gunner shows how to combine the different traditions from each of these countries alongside contemporary techniques to create fabulous textiles that are bursting with rich intricate patterns and bold colour.


Traditional kanoko shibori cloths using tied resist. The two kimono wraps (obi age) are ‘linked dot’ shibori, the brown and blue cloths are ‘square ring dots’; silk, Japan.

Janice Gunner is an award winning textile artist particularly known for her Shibori and quilt art. As she has been teaching stitched textile techniques, including Shibori, patchwork and quilting, for the last thirty years, we know we are in the hands of an expert communicator.



Stitched rings on a single layer of cotton cloth, Procion MX dye.
 

         Various techniques are covered from tied and stitched designs to ideas for wrapping, folding, clamping, pleating and binding. Simple and safe instructions for a range of dyeing techniques are also included.

         Indigo is the dye most widely used to create Shibori. It is not a predictable dye and Janice doesn’t pretend otherwise. She encourages her readers to experiment with colour, dipping in and out of the dye vat.



Ripples II (detail) by Sue Hickman shows the arashi shibori technique with machine and hand quilting using contrast thread.

         Practical information is given throughout accompanied by clear instructions and diagrams, aimed at quilters, embroiderers and textile artists of all abilities.


African Odyssey III shows the pleated and bound indigo and kola nut dyed fabric; and hand machine quilted.
 

         The book is chock full with images of quilts and embroideries that demonstrate the full potential of the techniques along side practical advice on turning Shibori textiles into beautiful quilts, hangings and textile art.

This is a very good source book for textile artists and designers. £14.99  Batsford    www.pavillionbooks.com

The Art of Pressed Flowers and Leaves

By Jennie Ashmore Published by Batsford £16.99 Artworks by Jennie Ashmore, photographs by Euan Adamson.

This is the most unusual and beautiful pressed flower book I have ever seen. It is full of amazing compositions that are reminiscent of traditional American Quilts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Early leafwork (1998) using sycamore leaves and fennel seed heads. 15 x 15cm (6 x 6in)

As the publisher describes it, this is a contemporary twist on a traditional craft. It is a must-have guide to pressing flowers and leaves packed with exciting ideas and practical information for creating beautiful botanical works of art.



Kirklea Garden (2017). Rich summer colours using iris and poppy petals with small leaves and flowers. 30 x 30cm (12 x 12in)
 

         Jennie Ashmore, flower artist, breathes new life into traditional flower-pressing techniques with a unique and spectacular kaleidoscope of floral and plant designs, using everything from flower petals and leaves to seaweed and lichen.

 Jennie studied painting and printmaking at Exeter College of Art and for many years taught in art schools and worked in environmental education, conservation and gardening. Her work has always concerned the natural world and she has a strong interest in surface texture, pattern and geometry, which are key to her designs. She teaches workshops and sells her work.


Threave Garden Quilt (2016). This intricate design features plants collected in Threave Garden, a National Trust property in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. 40 x 40cm (16 x 16in)

         The leaf works, guide and inspire through every stage of the process, from working seasonally and selecting the right plants for a vibrant colour, to experimenting with interesting texture and pattern. There are also tips for incorporating watercolour, gouache and other exciting materials into beautiful botanical creations.


Simple landscape using variegated balsam poplar leaves (1998).
13 x 18cm (5 x 7in)
 
 

The art of pressed flowers and leaves will inspire readers to celebrate the beauty of their local landscape, a favourite walk or garden, or even capture special memories through eternalizing wedding bouquets or plants collected on a holiday.

Make a recycled Appliquéd picnic blanket.

This project was originally in Coast magazine.

Those who live on the Coast are probably more aware than most, of the changing seasons. The skies are overcast and dark, the sea becomes rough and the sea gulls soar and wheel on the updrafts. With this image in mind I have designed an appliqued blanket. I have kept with the dark almost monochrome, but with suggestions of seasonal colours. The method of making is very easy and the end result has a Hygge Scandinavian feel.

Finished blanket

         I made this blanket out of two old woolen blankets purchased in a charity shop. They are easy to come by and often thin enough to use as a double thickness. If you don’t want to use old woolen blankets buy 160 cm woolen fabric that is 160cm wide. You will need two pieces in two different colours.

         If using old blankets, clean by washing on a wool wash. You can dye them, as I did one of ours, in a washing machine. We dyed it Jeans blue. The blanket must be made out of wool or another natural fiber for the dye to take. If you dye a blanket in the machine it will felt a little. Once the blankets are washed dyed and dry, then cut them so they are the same size as one another.

What you need

Tracing paper or baking parchment

Pencil

Dressmaking pins

Dressmaking scissors

Paper scissors

2 x woolen blankets or 2 pieces of 160 x 160cm woolen fabric

Dylon Jeans Blue machine dye (optional)

Tapestry yarn or an odd ball of wool (we used pale blue)

Tapestry needle

How to make

Step 1

Find some copyright free images of flying seagulls on the internet, scan to enlarge and print them out. Draw onto tracing paper and cut out using paper scissors. Or just copy the bird shapes shown here.

Pin the paper seagull onto the darker blanket. Being very careful to keep the shape, cut out the gull. You will need to repeat this with the other gulls depending on how many you want.

Pin the darker blanket on top of the lighter one. Round each edge, pin one blanket onto the other. Pin round the gull shape holes.  Using running stitch, sew round the edge of each gull.

Make sure the blankets haven’t stretched. If they have cut away any overlaps. Using blanket stitch, 1cm deep x 1cm wide, sew one blanket onto the other all the way round the edge.

Mending Matters Stitch, Patch, and Repair Your Favourite Denim and More

By Katrina Rodabaugh

Photographed by Karen Pearson

Published by Abrams, New York

Dear reader you may find it strange that I am reviewing a second book on what is ostensibly mending or even another book on blue mending. Okay I admit it, as always it is the blue that draws me in, as do the beautiful worn denims. However this book is about much more than just mending. It comes out of the Slow Fashion movement that is very strong in America and growing in momentum on this side of the pond. 

         Included are the practical elements, you are shown the basic techniques, exterior and interior patches, hand stitches improvised darning and weaving. It is also interwoven with the philosophy and stories behind the Slow Fashion movement.

         It was in 2013 that Katrina, a fibre artist, started an art project called Make Thrift and Mend- where she vowed not to buy any new clothes for an entire year. It grew out of three influences: the first being the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed 1100 workers and injured another 2500. The second an interview with Elizabeth Cline author of Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. The third was a blog written by slow fashion designer Natalie Chanin, in which she advocated slow design.

As Katrina launched her new project she researched everything she could on sustainable fashion and the people who practice it. During that first year Katrina fell in love with mending, which she transformed into an art form as she realized the opportunities to consider patches and stitches as design elements. Katrina approaches mending with the same design considerations she uses in her art work- line, shape, scale, texture and colour. –she fuses embroidery and basic stitches to create strangely beautiful and eco friendly  garments that have been well- worn and are still well-loved.

The book has quotes from artists and designers who work using textiles in an ethical and eco friendly manner.

         “I’m excited for Mending Matters and for Katrina’s work that offers new directions within the sustainable fashion community. It creates solutions, draws on handcraft heritage, and widens opportunities to connect Slow Fashion through simple stitchings “

Foreward by Natalie Chanin founder and creative director of Alabama Chanin.

 What I wear : by Samantha Hoyt Lindgren  from A Gathering of Stitches

“Making my own clothing makes me happy. This is not to say that I am always successful in my makes. But more often than not, and with greater regularity these days, I make items of clothing that I wear and cherish. In a changeable world this gives me great satisfaction and some peace.”

         From Jessica Lewis Stevens from Sugar Workshop On using natural dyes. 

          “When we dye our wool and cotton and linen with plants, we can mark the way the goldenrod covered everything in sight this year or the good health of the tall oaks that dropped basketful of tannin-rich acorns. We can put colour by for winter, wear medicine on our backs. We can harvest the colours around us and in  making them part of our wardrobes they can hold our stories and come back to us.”

         I am writing this during Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and one of the biggest opportunities in Slow Fashion is mindfulness.

As Katrina says ‘Most women are oversaturated by a fashion industry telling us how to look, dress, eat, diet, hide, reveal, boost, or otherwise mute our bodies. By being more mindful, time can be taken out to think what it is you really want. The confidence in your personal style is actually counterculture to fashion trends.

 I try to remind my students that the point is not to have a perfect closet filled with perfect garments, but to cultivate mindfulness- mendfullness –and make deliberate choices, focus on what you can do to make a positive impact, and gain a deeper understanding of your true preference and style.’

         Mendfulness is ultimately about healing. It’s about healing what we intuit to be broken in the fast-fashion industry but also in our individual experiences of clothing. We can learn to create antidotes to the damages of scrutinizing body image, low self-esteem, and general scarcity that comes with the never ending never ending need to ‘fix’ something in ourselves through our wardrobes”

After describing how when she was a child, her family spent Sunday evenings darning, by India Flint prophet of bloom

“ My darning is still from perfect…it’s now loud and proud, big patches that glow happily from leaf prints, as every time I mend , I re-dye the garment. Refreshing in a eucalyptus bath reinforces the cloth with a layer of colour, sanitizes and gives things a lovely fragrance. It’s a practice that connects me firmly to the land where I live and it makes me very happy”

This book is a joy to read and to hold. Buy it.

Quick and easy chair transformation.

The made over chair in Annie Sloan Antibes green
The before shot looks quite nice, but believe me, the chair was not in a good state.

Recently a friend was throwing out a very old wooden child’s chair. It had been left in a shed for the last fifteen years and the seat was lifting up from the frame and the paint was peeling.

To restore the situation and to make a suitable chair for my grandson, first of all we tacked the seat back onto the frame. 

Always wear a mask when sanding

Then my grandson and I sanded the chair.

Next we painted it with Annie Sloan pure chalk white , and once it was dry we painted it with Annie Sloan Antibes green paint. To finish off and give it a smooth finish, we gave it a coat of Annie Sloan chalk paint wax clear.

A happy boy sitting on his new chair