If you are involved in design or any kind of creativity and participate on Instagram you are more likely, than not, to have come across the account @me_and_orla created by Sara Tasker. Sara set up her blog when she was on maternity leave in 2013 and she has become an inspiration to many aspiring bloggers and has in fact built herself a brand new and unexpected career out of social media. She has now written an informative and beautiful book about how she came by her success and how you might too become successful on instagram.
From the secrets of visual storytelling and crafting thumb-stopping instagram photographs, to archiving your day to day life whilst remaining authentic to yourself, this book is both an inspiring manual and an interactive tool for finding your voice online.
As she says ” Connection, communication and community are the underrated secret weapons of social media.”
The book is divided into four main
chapters. Storytelling, Making Pictures, Archiving your life and Sharing your
The making pictures is particularly useful as she goes through what makes a good composition, why symmetry works, using negative space or a pop of colour, the rule of thirds and following your subjects gaze. She gives smart phone tips and talks about what grabs the eye.
“Photographing our everyday lives allows us to zoom in on the details and think about the small things that hold big meaning for us”
She finishes the book with ten commandments,
for a healthy relationship with social media, I think they could equally apply
to a healthy life. 1 Share, don’t brag. 2. Spend more time on other people’s
pages than you do on your own. 3. Be human. 4. Mix it up. 5. Aim to serve
others (instead of being self-serving). 6 Create what makes you really light
up. 7. Follow your enthusiasm. 8. Stay playful and curious and don’t take it
too seriously. 9. Take responsibility for your own boundaries. 10. Don’t
compare yourself to other people.
In a book that is 190 pages long I thought that the book would have lots of repetition, it doesn’t. Sara has managed to cover everything you ever needed or wanted to know about using social media in an amusing and modest way. She is genuine, the real deal, and this with her beautiful images comes across on her instagram account.
Last week the event known as ‘Collect’ the international art fair for modern craft and design, took place at the Saatchi Gallery in London. You may not have the money to be a collector but this exhibition is well worth a visit. It is a visual feast.
Collect grew out of the incredibly innovative, at the time, Chelsea Crafts fair. CCF was the brain child of Lady Phillipa Powell. She chose the designers/makers who were allowed to show and sell their wares to the general public.
It was not a foregone conclusion that you would get in from one year to the next and the standards were very high. Eventually the crafts council took over the show and it outgrew the Chelsea town hall venue.
Collect is still run by the Crafts Council and is much more akin to an an art fair rather than a crafts fair with designer makers being represented by galleries. All crafts are represented textiles, ceramics, jewellery, silver smithing, wood turning, glass blowing etc.
The top floor ‘Collect Open’ shows some of the most innovative and exciting work. It showcases individual makers and collaborations, providing them with a platform to break free from the usual constraints of their practise, creatively experiment and present exceptional new work.
The other great pleasure for me was seeing the work on sale of one of my old tutors, Peter Collingwood. Although originally trained as a Doctor he changed career paths became a weaver and taught woven wall hangings at Camberwell School of Arts.
When this book arrived through my letterbox it caused me to giggle. It seems such a bizarre and bonkers idea to crochet a Cactus. However if you, like me, are fairly hopeless with house plants then why not.
Emma says in her introduction
‘ Succulent plants have grown in popularity in recent years, as our climate gets hotter and hotter and more of us are able to grow these plants outside in pots. I started growing succulents about two years ago and my son loves to collect cacti too. We have attended courses on how to look after our plants and how to propagate them. Then it occurred to me it would be fun to create a crocheted version of our collection.
techniques of crotchet are perfectly suited to creating these cute specimens,
and these versions are immune to the perils of overwatering or drought.’
In some of the patterns Emma has embellished her crocheted succulents with flowers and pompoms to create an exotic look.
She even has an imaginative idea for display and that is to mix them with her living cacti and succulents. The technique is simple it is a wonderful hobby to carry around with you as you travel on the bus or tube on the way to work. A great talking point with strangers perhaps. The book has full colour photography throughout and the contents page is a delight with each plant species captioned with a picture of its crocheted version below the name. With 25 different varieties you could make them all and give a few away as original presents to friends and family.
Emma Varnam is a crochet and knitwear designer and author. Her books , also published by GMC, included How To Crochet, Granny Squares, Granny Squares Home, Cute Crocheted animals. She has collaborated with knitwear designer Debbie Bliss. Her crochet blog is
Fashion and Textile Museum from 8th February to 2nd June If you are interested in post war British design from fashion to furniture and beyond, then this is a ‘must see’ exhibition.
Tucked away in Bermondsey Street not far from London Bridge Station is The Fashion and Textile Museum. The brainchild of textile designer, Zandra Rhodes. It is small purpose built and for anyone with an interest in textiles and fashion it is a Must See. You can’t miss it, a bright orange and pink building designed by the Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreh
I have been to most of their exhibitions since the museum opened in 2003 and this particular exhibition is their best yet, and the very clever Fashion and Textile Museum have stolen a march on the much larger V&A museum who have a Mary Quant exhibition starting in April.
We often think of Swinging London having started in the late nineteen sixties but it was between the late nineteen forties and the mid nineteen sixties that the real changes took place. It was the young who, in the aftermath of the destruction and devastation caused by WWII, were determined to bring about a new, fairer and certainly more fun approach to life than had previously existed.
Britain the ‘Pop” revolution was led by the ‘Chelsea set’ a loosely connected
group of young designers, artists, musicians, fashion models and intellectuals.
Their social activities were centred on the Kings Road, at the time, a somewhat
shabby street in Chelsea. The people who made up this set, are featured in this
exhibition. Mary Quant the fashion designer who opened her first boutique, in
Quant asked Terence Conran to design her second boutique, Bazaar. Much of the design was influenced by the style of Italian designers such as Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti. In 1963 Quant went mass market and the fashion brand ‘Ginger Group’ was born. She also worked for J.C.Penny in the USA; and designed dress patterns for Butterick.
Mary Quant is credited with
inventing the mini skirt although variations of it had been around before, though
perhaps not as short as hers. What happened was, when she looked for clothes
she wanted to wear she couldn’t find any so she designed her own, and the rest
they say is History. Mary Quant did invent tights to wear under the mini
skirts. This was a great improvement on stockings and suspenders that were worn
by every woman up until this point.
Terence Conran was designing
furniture and fabrics from the early 1950’s. He was interested in modernist
ideas and the architecture of Mies Van Der Rohe.
He was heavily influenced by the
food and lifestyle of the continent, particularly France. He promoted the work
of food writer Elizabeth David, who was bringing the best of continental
cooking to Britain. He opened his lifestyle store Habitat in 1964.
There are small room sets, featuring Conran designed furniture, fabrics and home accessories. A special section of the exhibition features the work of textile designer Natalie Gibson.
A treat is to see the early work of Bernard and Laura Ashley who from 1953 -1960’s produced furnishing ‘art’ textiles from their kitchen table in Pimlico. Yes this is the same Laura Ashley who had us all dressed as Victorian Milk Maids in the early nineteen seventies.
Don’t miss this exhibition. It is
fun, informative and you are bound to find something you have either worn, sat
on, or used in your own or your mother’s kitchen.
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm
Thursdays until 8pm
Last admission 45 minutes before closing
£9.90 adults / £8.80 concessions / £7 students
Children under 12 are free
I was lucky enough to find a couple of mid century modern dining chairs
on ebay, but the covers were dull as ditchwater and needed replacing. I found a
great upholstery fabric at https://www.craftysewer.com/
that gives more than a nod to mid century. I loved the colours on the underside
of the fabric so I have used it reverse side up.
You will need
Unscrew the seat from the frame.
Place seat on fabric, and cut out the fabric including a 4in overlap.
Staple on the fabric at each of the 4 corners, as shown in the picture.
Fold and turn the edge fabric over each side of the chair and staple
into position. Screw the newly covered seat back onto the chair.
Top Drawer is the place where retailers
view, inwardly digest, and then order for next season from the wholesalers and
small independent companies. Due to its scale—11 curated sectors spreading
across the entirety of Olympia London—and mix of brands across the lifestyle
spectrum, Top Drawer attracts a range
of retailers; from concept stores, museums shops, boutiques and
independents to multiple retailers, garden centres and supermarkets.
The show lasts three days and can be
exhausting, and just how many scented candles does a woman want?
This season they have called the show ‘Out
of the Ordinary’, a great strap line and there is much to be seen that is out
of the ordinary.
Talks and trails are included in the show
and its diversity is such that I bumped into two friends of mine, the first a
retailer on the look out for her shop, and the other a museum shop curator with
a different clientele.
Gifts, hospitality, jewellery, accessories,
well being, craft, cards food and home accessories are all on show and within
these groups are sub sections:
is a showcase of accessories, jewellery, design- led life style brands for the
Robin James founder of Men’s Lifestyle blog
‘ Man for himself’ said
“MR is such a great addition to
Top Drawer London. I was really impressed by the brands and think
that it can only get bigger and next season.”
Spotted: Is curated by Charlotte Abrahams a
freelance writer author and curator specializing in design and applied arts. Think
new; think market ready, original, hot talent, across all lifestyle sectors.
One of my favourites spied in ‘Spotted’ is a
collection of fun textile products designed by Lorraine Ireland. Her company is
called Oh Sew Home. Based around
her love of mischievous and cheeky seagulls. www.ohsohome.com
Many companies are homing in on the need to
be more sustainable and ethical, whether it is finding replacements for, or the
reuse of plastic. The aptly named
Another bees wax wrap company, who take
their mission so seriously they don’t even produce business cards but put all
their details on a chalk board so that you could photo them. www.GoodToBee.co.uk
owner Madeleine says
GoodToBee I had the chance to create something from start to finish. Not just
the wraps but a commitment to myself, and everyone else. Everything I now do
and in every way I can, I will be as sustainable, ethical and low impact as I
can be. Our fabric is Global Organic Textile Standard. The beeswax is
sourced from sustainable local hives just a few miles away, and we use only
organic jojoba oil. Our packaging is 100% recycled post-consumer waste and my
beautiful stamp is made from sustainably managed oak with a sapling being
planted for each one the company makes. And we never use plastic in anything we
Eliminating plastic can be a daunting prospect but my
hope is that family, friends and customers will feel able to make the swap to
GoodToBee beeswax wraps and feel empowered that their efforts ‘ are a third Bees Wax wrap company they also sell cushion covers made from luxurious silky feel recycled polyester and organic cotton, all their thread is made from recycled bottles, all cotton is organic, their mailing bags are recyclable, they have a range of reusable products designed to divert waste from landfill or the oceans, their waste is donated to charity and non recyclables put into eco bricks. Their packaging is recyclable and they always try to support local suppliers.
Bamboo is being used to make many products
including fabrics, socks, bowls and cutlery, one of these products is Bamboo
Cup designed to reduce the 2.5 billion plastic lined single use cups that go to
landfill each year. Made mainly from sustainable, fast growing bamboo fiber and
tested to the highest standards by TUV Rheinland, these cups feel lovely to
hold. There are over 50 contemporary designs in the collection
Lola and Mawa is
décor and lifestyle brand based in the UK selling beautiful products sourced in
Africa. The baskets and the indigo fabrics are particularly fine. They also
produce a range of baskets made from recycled waste.
They say ‘We
value traditional skills and will do everything we can to help artisanal
communities to thrive. Every purchase at Lola & Mawu generates meaningful
income for the makers and their families. We believe that diversity, the
blending of traditions and the partnership between peoples of different
cultures is the way to a better world.
Our name is a symbol
of that partnership between Lola, the Founder, and Mawu, the African goddess of
creation, embodied by the incredibly talented artisans we work with.
Their products are made from recycled
materials including leather, inner tubes, wood. As they reclaim, reimagine and
reinvent they produce jewelry.
My choices are not all up cycled. There are
lots of people with new twists on old techniques or ideas. For example Michelle
Harvey from Melbourne creates under the name www.crayonchick.com.au
Chick has designed and made a range of covetable original products including wall
hangings, weave bowls and knot necklaces.
nice to see the much loved company Thornback and Peel designers of tea towels,
coaster, trays, cosmetic bags and cushion covers. They tend to use one or at
most 2 colours and produce very desirable sophisticated designs. www.thornbackandpeel.co.uk
what you are looking for is a simple natural skincare, bath and beauty range
then look no further than the new company Divine and Handmade.
food front it was a real treat to find Isle of Wight based company called
pinks. Their logo looks like a flying snitch. They make butters, jellies and
curds all of which are suitable for vegetarians and are delicious.
by Juliet Bawden photo by Antonia Attwood Styling assistant Elsa Collier
I have devised a simple heart shaped wreath for Valentines day. This is a one off for the day. If you want the wreath to last longer use fake flowers and leaves, or use a heart shaped florists oasis for the foundation and use fresh leaves and flowers as we have here.
1.You will need
15cm Polystyrene heart from £2.20 from