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.

Blog, Exhibitions

Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy

Antony Gormley is an internationally renowned sculptor. Known mainly for his huge sculptures such as Angel of the North. This exhibition covers his work from his early beginnings in the late 1970’s to his latest works.

            The human body is at the core of his practice, but he is not interested in realistic likenesses, or depicting an ideal form. For Antony Gormley the body is a vessel for feeling. It is both the unique site of our individual journeys, and the one thing we all share.

This exhibition has work I had not seen before, including works on paper, fabric and other media. I loved his sketch-books full of workings for his often very complex sculptures.

            There is one particularly unusual wall hanging made from white pieces of bread hung together in a grid with a cut out human form made by biting into them. Called Mothers pride !

            Another fabulous wall hanging is made from clay and blankets and is from 1983 and is called Blanket Drawing.

            As you enter the courtyard of the RA curled up on the floor is a tiny figure, which were it not for people around taking photo’s, it  would be very easy to miss. The life size cast iron form is of his daughter when she was six days old.

            One of the first rooms you enter is full of slab works, they are dense hard, edged and look like enormous bronze versions of Lego bricks. They are extreme geometric abstractions of the human form. I persuaded a friend to sit next tone of them.

            In one of the smaller galleries is a single life-size body form, with head bent, contemplating the ground on which he stands. He is formed of tightly packed vertical and horizontal steel bars that map the internal space of the body.

            Clearing VII 2019 is an amazing space the artist calls it ‘drawing in space. In this interactive sculpture the viewer climbs in and out and walks round the room that consists of 8 kilometers of square section aluminium tube, coiled and then allowed to expand and uncoil until restricted by the walls and the ceiling.

            Lost Horizon 2008

Inside the gallery, gravity appears to be defied and space folds in on itself as bodies project from all sides, floor and ceiling all at odds with one another. The works are perpendicular to the rectangular architecture of the room, the effect as you move between them is disorienting.

            A more recent work is Cave, it is a sculpture on an architectural scale. The work can be walked into or you can walk round it. Inside it is dark and the viewer or participant has to feel their way through relying on senses other than sight.

            Another 2019 work is Host. A room filled with an expanse of clay and seawater. Described by Gormley as ‘an invasion of the inside by the outside’, the work provides a stark contrast to the gilded ceiling of the nineteenth-century gallery

This is a breath taking awe inspiring exhibition well worth a visit.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

The Mindful Maker

35 creative Fabric Projects to Focus the Mind and soothe the soul

by Clare Youngs

Published by Cico Books £12.99

With Mindfulness being so much of the current zeitgeist and crafting snapping, close behind, on its heels, this book is both brilliantly timed in its publication date and at the same time utterly engaging.

Squeezy Kitty

Having interviewed Clare for my Meet the Makers series I knew this book would be a treat to read and to use. Clare is a ‘one off’ an original, her ideas are fun, her designs good and she comes up with items you actually want to create.

Indigo woven mat

         As Clare says in her introduction

‘Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. There has been much talk about slowing down, enjoying the moment, and leading a less stressful life. Let’s face it life can be pretty hectic. The day to day whirlwind of work, families, household chores, and keeping up a social life while rushing around needing to do things and be places can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. At the same time, we are being bombarded by constant imagery, messages and content from our digital devices-we need time out. Taking up a craft can be one way of relieving that stress and tension.‘

Latch hook pillow

         When you make something your mind is focused, and often the action you are doing is repetitive, which is soothing –almost meditative-pushing out any negative thoughts you may have. It is all about getting the flow. This is the perfect state between concentration and action. When you are there in the zone, the everyday world drops away and any stress and worries along with it.

         Clare is a believer in making new things from old, using what you have and adapting old fabrics to counteract a throwaway society, and all her designs have a Scandinavian-inspired, modern aesthetic.

         The book includes machine sewing, punch needling, embroidery, weaving, macramé, printing and much more. Many of the projects can be carried with you when you are travelling. This is a great way to keep calm when all around you are less so.

Embroidered Shirt

There is a chapter on the Mindful home that includes a throw, a mat, bowls, a lamp and a quilt. There are thoughtful gifts and tactile gifts for children and some wonderful inventive wall art. The book is beautifully illustrated by Clare’s husband, Ian and shot by Joanna Henderson. As I was about to review this book and my daughter saw it on my desk she said she wanted it. So my advice is buy 2 copies one for you, and one for your daughter!

The Mindful Maker by Clare Youngs, published by CICO Books (£12.99)

Photography by Joanna Henderson © CICO Books

Blog, Makes

Need somewhere to stack the Christmas presents? Make a coffee table from a wooden pallet.

This is such an inexpensive, quick and easy project to make. It would make a great Christmas present too.

All you need is a wooden pallet, sandpaper, 4 castors, screw driver, paint brush, white primer/undercoat, top colour in emulsion or satinwood.

Step 1 Sand off any rough bits from the pallet.

Step 2 Paint onto the bare wood using an undercoat/primer .

Step 3 Once the paint is dry, go over it with the top coat. We chose a pale scandi inspired blue.

Step 4 Screw the castors onto the underside of the four corners of your new table.