Blog, Makes

During Oxfam’s month of buying only second hand, why not up cycle an old jumper to create a new cushion? Here I show how I re-loved a giddy goat sweater to create a cushion.

Goat Jumper

I loved this “Joseph” sweater, I bought it second hand  when my daughter was a baby. I had worn it to death and washed and washed it. In the end it was so felted I got a very talented lady to knit me a new one and I made a cushion out of the original.

You will need

1 Sweater

Sewing machine

Thread

Scissors

Seam unpicker

needle and wool

Old cushion pad

Instructions

  1. Using the seam un-picker, open up the side seams.
    4 unstitch side seams.JPG
  2. Cut two rectangles from the front and the back of the sweater, and with right sides facing,  pin and then using a 1 cm seam allowance , sew them together round 3 sides. Leave what was the bottom of the sweater open, as they are neat edges.
    6 sew sides seams together .jpg
  3. Turn the cover through, insert the cushion pad, close with an over sew stitch.
    8 Put cushion pad  inside and sew open seam .jpg

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Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet Kate Watson-Smyth from ‘Mad about the House’ and podcast companion of Sophie Robinson on ‘The Great Indoors podcast’

Kate Watson-Smyth is a journalist with over 15 years experience writing about interiors for publications including the Financial Times, The Independent, and the Daily Mail.

However it is her interiors blog ‘Mad about the House’ that has turned her into a very well known interiors expert. She was awarded the Vuelio number-one UK interiors blog award in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Have you always been a journalist? Or did you have a different career previously?

I have been a journalist since I started working – but it took me a long time to start working. I dropped out of university – I was doing French at Nottingham – and had to spend the third year in a French-speaking country. I went to Senegal and never went back for my finals. I moved instead to Paris where I stayed for three years. On returning my mother said I needed some training and insisted I go to secretarial college. While I was there someone came from the regional Oxfam office looking for volunteers to stuff envelopes and help out during its 50th anniversary year. I ended up running the press office and styling fashion shows and it was then I decided I wanted to be a journalist.

Did you study journalism or design originally and if so where and what did you study?

I went to Darlington to train on the NCTJ course for a year – it was one of the best years of my life and we recently all met up again for our 25th reunion. Then I returned to Birmingham, where I had done my newspaper work experience and they offered me a traineeship if I went to journalism college. Again. They sent me to the Westminster press training course in St Leonards on Sea, near Hastings.

I have never studied design.

Do you work as a journalist both on-line as well as for newsprint?

I started in print – because online didn’t exist – and have always been commissioned for print which is now shared online as well. Since I became so busy with the blog I tend to write only for myself online rather than newsprint any more although I often give quotes and contribute to articles.

Have you always been passionate about interiors or do you also write on other topics?

I began as a general news reporter but I always wanted to write features. I have always loved the writing part of the information gathering. When I had my first son I went freelance and it so happened they needed someone in the property section at The Independent – in the days when it was a 24 page weekly pull out… As soon as I started writing about houses and property I knew I had found my thing.

I have always loved decorating and styling. It began with my bedroom as a child and I graduated to other people’s houses – not always when they asked me to. I have been known to move and restyle a coffee table while someone nips to the loo!

Did you embrace social media from the start? If so which platforms were you using to start with and why?

I took to Twitter fairly fast as words are my thing. I loved it for ages and I think it’s brilliant for people who work from home as it gives you that chatting round the water cooler thing that you miss in office life. But it has changed over the years and can be a nasty place as well as a wonderful one. I’m on there less now as I have found Instagram. I was late to that particular party but I love it. I have found the interiors community to be very supportive and who doesn’t love looking at gorgeous pictures? I have also really enjoyed improving my photography skills, which I wasn’t expecting. Last year I bought my first camera although I still tend to use my phone more.

How and why did you start the web site ‘Mad About The House’?

In desperation! Newspapers were struggling and my freelance career was dwindling. At the time it seemed like everyone had, or was starting, a blog and I thought I would have a go to see if it would generate any work as a journalist. I thought it would work as a kind of online CV and portfolio. I had no idea it would go this far.

Did winning the Vuelio awards have a major impact on your work?

Winning recognition for your work is always lovely. I think perhaps it makes brands take you more seriously and widens your audience. Certainly the Vuelio awards, which selects a shortlist based on reach and engagement and content – tracking stats – and then calls in a panel of judges who are all experts in their fields. That definitely gives weight to the results as there is no campaigning for votes which can skew the results.

When did you set up your design consultancy?

When I started the blog in 2012 I began a new notebook so I could keep a record of what I was writing and doing. I wrote on the first page: Blog, Book, Business. I have done all three now – the books twice! The business came in about 2014 when people kept asking me for help with their houses.

Did you go on any courses when you set up your blog?

No! I figured as a trained journalist who had been writing for the national press for over 20 years I knew as much about writing as a course would teach me. I still don’t know about the tech side but I pay someone to do that for me. My brain is too full for that side of things and I can’t read an SEO document without falling asleep. My growth has been completely organic. I could probably grow more if I knew how to work the backroom details but I don’t.

I love the look of your blog/web site. Did you have it professionally designed?

Yes. It was done by Odysseas Constantine of Art & Hue. I saw his work on the beautiful Copperline site and then met him at the Amara Blog Awards in 2015. I asked him to do my site then.

Have you found Pinterest of use to your business? If so in what way?

I was a featured user on Pinterest when they first came to the UK. As a result I have 190K followers and it does bring traffic to the site but I have to say that I don’t go there very often. It’s partly a time thing and partly that I don’t need to use it for my own schemes so I have been ignoring it for a while. I wrote a chapter in my book about Pinterest being your frenemy. It’s so vast that I think it can be unwieldy and also unhelpful if you don’t use it in a very disciplined way. You fall down a rabbit hole of pretty pictures and completely forget what you went in for. I also think there’s a real tendency to pin pictures you like rather than ideas for things that will actually work in your own home.

I tend to do only do one platform at a time and at the moment that’s Instagram.

Floor boards transformed into a bathroom sliding door

Have you found Instagram a useful platform?

Yes. It’s inspirational. I love looking at great images, the community is lovely and I have enjoyed developing my own photography skills.

What do you think that the courses being offered to bloggers?

I don’t know about them so it wouldn’t be fair to offer an opinion. I’m sure, as with everything, that there are good ones and bad ones.

As a journalist how do you feel about ‘influencers’?

It’s one of those terms that everyone seems to hate but then again, I’m not that keen on the word blogger either! It is what it is – there are people who influence others rightly or wrongly. I wouldn’t use it of myself but then I have other words to choose from journalist/author/writer/whatever…. Makes a change from model/actress/whatever although I’d take it!

I love your ‘365 Objects of Design’. Has this been a popular section on your blog?

I began it when I launched the blog as a way of making sure I blogged every single day. I had read pieces about about how many people give up between three and six months in and I was determined that wouldn’t happen to me. I came up with that idea and numbered them to make sure I didn’t miss a day. For three years I blogged seven days a week, now it’s five and while I don’t number them anymore it’s still a popular post. I think of it like a postcard among the letters. I write about design events and trends and advice and every now and then I drop in a short piece about a cool thing I have found.

Tiny Replica of Kate’s sitting room made by a fan of her blog

Here comes my how long is a piece of string question. What is a typical working day like for you?

As long as string…. It’s enormously varied and I’m very lucky as I love it all. No two days are ever the same. Yesterday I spent the morning with a client helping her choose colours and furniture for her flat and talking about the layout, then I went to a book signing at Clerkenwell Design week. Today I am writing, doing a photoshoot with you and taking my son to his piano lesson. Tomorrow another book signing and a talk to prepare for in the evening as well as gathering ideas for my next book. Between that I try to find time to go to the gym, wrangle my teenage children and see my husband over dinner.

How much time do you spend on your blog and how much writing features for papers and magazines?

I don’t really write for papers and magazines any more as I don’t have time. As I post five times a week I either spend a couple of hours a day on the blog or blitz it for two days straight. The rest of the time is meetings, clients, book writing or dealing with email and working on styling and brand jobs.

One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and/or aged parents or illness or had to follow a spouse abroad for work reasons. Have you ever had to deal with any of these issues and did it impact on your working life?

Before I had children I always assumed I would go back to work full time after one and stop after two. In the event I went freelance after the first and never stopped working. It was hard at the start. One year I spent nearly everything I earned on childcare and couldn’t really afford the tax bill. As they spent more time at school I could work more and I regarded it as an investment in my future. I basically worked solidly from 9-3 every day and only left the house to go on the school run – no meetings, lunches or events – or very rarely. I was glued to the phone and the computer during the school day. As they got older it got easier and now they are nearly 15 and 17 I have much more time. I’m still around to cook their tea most days and it’s fine when I’m not. I can go on press trips and they can get their own breakfast.

We have also had those episodes of life that get in the way of best laid plans. My younger son, now 15, was born at 25 weeks (three months premature). He was in hospital for three months and fragile for the first couple of years after that. He is completely fine now – we were very lucky. In 2014 I was diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. My type was chemo-resistant and I had surgery followed by 35 sessions of daily radiotherapy – about six-and-a-half weeks of five sessions a week. I carried on blogging for the first few weeks and then uploaded archive posts so that the blog never missed a beat while I was in treatment. I finished on 23 December 2014 and went back to work on 4 January when the boys went back to school after the Christmas holiday. I was approached about writing my first book the following day when I had just stopping taking Morphine and was still a bit high I think.

I didn’t carry on for any macho reasons but rather that it gave me something to focus on while I was well enough to do so. By the end of the treatment I was lying on the sofa under a blanket watching episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Do you run any workshops or give talks other than when promoting your books?

I have a plan for workshops but haven’t had time to work out how to do it yet. I think online will be the answer as I already tend to work on Sunday afternoons – the week invariably ends before I’ve had time to write Monday’s post so I’m not keen to add Saturdays into the working week as well. I’m currently developing an online course which will be a mix of written advice and video. I have taken part in panel discussions which aren’t book-related but recently that has tended to be the focus.

What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?

When I get an email from someone who says the blog or the book has really helped them make their home how they truly wanted it that is wonderful and makes it all worthwhile.

The admin and the invoicing – always have to spend time chasing those – it’s irritating.

Who or what inspires you?

Mad about the house

Always a tough one. What? Restaurant loos and hotel rooms – often. Good design in a small space with clever ideas and bold colours. Who? The person who finds their passion, and follows their dream to make it work without compromising their ideals. My Instagram account is full of women like that and I admire them all. The woman with the disabled kids who decorates her home so beautifully, the dentist who started her own interiors events business, the mothers who get on with it all every day without complaining. They inspire me.

What advice would you give to any journalist starting out today?

Find your passion and write about it. Spellcheck. Oh and think laterally. You need to be a problem solver when you’re a journalist. On my first day at The Independent at Canary Wharf I was told to go to Kew Gardens to monitor a plant that only flowers every ten years. There was a tube strike and I was told I couldn’t take a taxi that far as the company wouldn’t pay. And there was a deadline to meet. I got there (bus, overland train, walking). You have to be able to think around problems.

What is next for your work?

I have just launched A directory  that lists companies who reduce their impact on the planet called DO LESS HARM

Many thanks Juliet Bawden

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet the Maker: Deirdre Hawken currently exhibiting at Metropolitan Museum, New York

Deidre
radish salad toms opener

Deidre Hawken makes what might loosely be called hats or head pieces. However that description does not do justice to the exquisite intricate pieces of work created by this multi talented designer. I and my photographer went to interview her recently in her studio.

JB.I know you as a hat designer and maker, but I understand  that you also design and make jewelry. Can you tell us which discipline you trained in and how you came to practice both?

DH I trained in theater design, sets and costume, at the Central School of Art and Design, now Central St Martins.

I worked as a Theater Designer for some time and I was an Art Director for a couple of design companies, but I have always loved the design and making process. I have made costume accessories for The Royal Opera House, English National Ballet and the BBC, I also designed a run of windows for Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and made props for Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Asprey Ltd and I had an exhibition in Fortnum and Mason among others, and I created collections of jewellery with my sculptor husband for various fashion designers.

three hats

JB.What is a typical day for you?

DH. There is no typical day! I could be designing hats or jewellery or researching new work, seeing a client or dealing with boring administration.

into studio

 JB. What do you love most, about what you do?

DH.I love researching ideas, it is now so easy on the internet, and as I said I love everything about the making process, especially dyeing fabrics.

working pages with fabrics dyed

 JB.What do you dislike most about what you do?

DH Any kind of administration.

JB.Have you ever worked for anyone else? Or done any collaborations ? If so with whom?

DH.When you are a designer for the theater you’re basically working with and for the director, but I have been a freelance designer most of my life. I did collaborate with a jeweler, we were asked to make a joint piece, but I did not really enjoy the experience. I have also made jewellery with my husband.

mushroom onions etc

 JB.What made you want to start your own creative business?

DH. I love working for myself, although I sometimes have an assistant on a really big job, such as when I made jewellery for Saks 5th Avenue.

 JB.Have you had any training recently? If so where and why?

DH.Not recently, but in 1998 I won a scholarship to study couture millinery. This was through QEST, Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust. There are no age limits and but you do have to fill in a very difficult application form. I trained with Rose Cory in Couture Millinery and had an internship with Stephen Jones. I also went to America and studied at the Met.

JB.Can you describe your creative process?

DH.First I have an idea, then I research, choose the materials. I only work with a few materials, leather, silk taffeta, silk velvet silk organza and organdie. I dye all the fabrics myself using Dylon dyes. I then decide how to make the headpiece or perhaps a collection of jewellery. Most of my headpieces are one off designs. I never make another piece exactly the same.

cigar making in progress

JB.What are your biggest challenges?

DH.Selling work.

cigars

JB. What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field today?

DH.It has always been difficult to be self-employed, especially in the Creative Sector, I believe good training is essential, also you must have self belief.

JB.Compared with when you started, do you think it is easier for designers to set up on their own nowadays or more difficult?

DH.I think it is harder, as everyone thinks they can be an artist or a designer.

JB.Have you exhibited? If so, where?

DH. I have had so many exhibitions it is hard to choose which ones to talk about. I have work in the following Public Collections: Victoria and Albert Museum – London, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute – New York, Kyoto Institute of Costume – Tokyo, Graves Art Gallery– Sheffield, Museum of Costume –Bath, Philadelphia Museum of Art-USA, Hat Museum- Stockport.

 JB.How do you find clients?

DH. Clients come to me and I sell at exhibitions.

JB. What are you currently working on?

DH.A very tricky Summer Pudding Headpiece for submission for the London Hat Show early 2018.

summer pudding

 JB.Do you teach or run workshops? If so where?

DH. Not now! I have taught at various Art colleges and was an assessor for the BA Jewellery course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and design, Dundee for three years. I have given many talks including one at the V &A and many workshops all over the country.

lemons leather

 JB.What is next?

salad

DH. I am developing a range of headpieces which can be displayed as Still Life’s in acrylic cases, which I am finding very exciting.

JB. That is a great idea, your work is far too lovely to store out of site, in a hat box.

Many thanks Juliet

I did this interview over a year ago, however this week I had the email below and this image. So I wanted to share it with you.

‘I just wanted to let you know that a Cauliflower headpiece of mine  has been included in the latest exhibition at the Costume Institute, part of the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
I was so thrilled it was included! I am attaching an image of it in situ, the exhibition is called ‘Camp’ Notes on Fashion.’

http://www.deirdrehawken.com/

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Blog, Makes

Reuse old plastic bags to make Pom-poms

Photographs by Antonia Attwood

Being very aware of all the plastic and rubbish that lands up on many of our beaches, and in our parks and roadsides, I thought I would come up with a project that could put some of that plastic to good use. The result is pom-poms created from plastic bags. I suggest you use and reuse the bags until they start to get holes. When they are finally  of no further use, make pom-poms out of them.

Image 1

You need very little in the way of materials, just scissors, plastic bags, cardboard and string or twine. You will also need something to draw round to make a large circle with a smaller one in the centre.

Image 2

Draw round a small saucer or a large roll of tape onto the card to create a circle. Use something like an eggcup and draw round it to make a circle in the center. Cut out the two cardboard shapes, with a hole in the centre. Cut the plastic bags into a long strip about 1cm wide.

Image 3

Place one cardboard circle on top of the other and then start to wind the plastic strips round the two circles as in the picture. Carry on until the whole of the cardboard is covered. The more strips you add the fluffier the pom pom will be.

Image 4

Cut a piece of string or cord and put to one side. Holding the plastic covered discs, insert the scissors between the two outer circles and start to cut. This is the tricky bit as you don’t want to end up with a load of plastic on the floor. When you have cut all the way round the outer ring insert the cord and pull the two ends together, drawing together the pom pom at the same time. Tie the string ends together.

We used our Pom poms to decorate a basket, but you could use them to decorate anything. Have fun creating crafting and recycling.

Blog, book review, Book Reviews

Print Play

Screen printing inspiration for your life and home

Jessie Wright & Lara Davies

Published by Hardie Grant

Published by Hardie Grant

Print Play is the perfect description of this book. It is about printing and and at the same time playful and fresh.

The authors Jess Wright and Lara Davies are “Home-Work” – two textile designers and screen printers from Melbourne, Australia. The creative duo have worked together for the past 7 years teaching screen printing and design, as well as bringing their own colourful textile designs to life! Jess and Lara’s obsession with colour and pattern is tangible and is evident in everything they create! Enthusiastically converting ideas from their imagination to reality (usually with music playing in the background), the pair produce screen printed textile prints that are thoughtful and fun.

Adding a little objet d’art to the simplest everyday items, these textiles become functional and are turned into tote bags, make up bags, cushions and even wallpaper. The book opens with a really great contents page, a real appetite wetter, with small images of some of the projects you can make.

The instructions for printing are very clear and easy to follow. There is a section on different kinds of inks, things to consider when choosing colours, and both the authors describe their own preferences when it comes to colour and design and they also show their own design processes.

You are told about creating an inspiration board and then you start on the projects that on the whole are easy and incredibly effective.

This is hand holding at its best. A really great book especially if you are new or inexperienced when it comes to printing.

Blog, Exhibitions

The Royal College Art graduate shows 2019

Last week the RCA opened their doors for the public to view the degree shows. As one would expect it was a mixed bag of styles, standards and end results. It was all fascinating. Here are some of the offerings from students studying in many different disciplines including, print, painting, photography and video, ceramics and glass, and contemporary art practise.

What do you feel is the purpose of art ?

Coming to a show such as this it raises many questions.

Is the purpose of art to hold up a mirror to society?

To open people’s eyes?

To add beauty to a dying world?

To give a new perspective on what exists?

To show skill and craftsmanship?

Here are just a few examples of the work that was on show.

MA Photography Antonia Attwood

The first artist shown above has developed her practise to show in visual terms what poor mental health looks like. She has made insightful video’s of people on the edge. Her work informs, enlightens and and educates the viewer.

MA Photography Mirielle Chambre

Having lost her partner to a freak accident, and already embarked on her MA, Mirielle’s work explores grief in its various forms and and attempts to to embody a sense of a personal and universal loss. The work considers clouds as feelings and a metaphor for grief.

MA Painting KonstantinosSkiavenitis
MA painting Jhonatan Pulido
MA Print Aoife Scott

The work of the artist shown above is about plastic pollution and its environmental impact.

MA Print Ying Yu
MA Contemporary Art practise Ao Jing
This art work is both a thing of beauty and a musical instrument
MA Ceramic Art
Anne Lykke

MA Painting Soaking in her sacred Waters by Kate Bickmore

Blog, Press Show Picks

MINTED

On the 4TH July The Royal Mint launched its first jewellery collection ever, designed and made by in-house experts in silversmithing techniques at The Royal Mint .  

          The collection, envisioned by luxury jewellery designer Philippe Cogoli, has been made at The Royal Mint from start to finish, using traditional coin pressing techniques that pay homage to the heritage and expertise gained from over one thousand years of coin minting expertise.  The designer, took inspiration from the design of the first ever £2 coin which was minted in 1997, and has deconstructed details of the design to create a truly unique collection that references the original coin. The range includes elements that capture and reflect the evolution of technology, with individual geometric designs. 

The Motto collection is named after the “motto” that is stamped into the original £2 coin and attributed to Sir Isaac Newton’s famous saying “Standing on the shoulders of giants”. The geometrically designed range is made from sterling silver and includes unique items ranging from cufflinks and tie pins to earrings and bangles, along with other stylish silver gifts. The collection is a beautiful handcrafted range made in-house, a new and exciting step for The Royal Mint. 

Helen Cooper, Director of Gifting at The Royal Mint, commented: “We are thrilled to be working with Phillippe Cogoli, a talented designer who has built on the heritage of The Royal Mint and the silversmith craft to create this beautiful new collection. The Motto collection is the first range of jewellery to be created by The Royal Mint’s experienced team and is an exciting development for The Royal Mint brand.”

Philippe Cogoli, designer of the Motto collection, added: “The main inspiration behind the Motto range was the fantastic design of the original 1997 £2 coin.  When we saw the potential of the geometric pattern which is stamped onto the coin face, we realised that it reflects an evolution of technology. The idea was to transform the motifs, and design them in a way that is unique but also aligns with The Royal Mint heritage. It was a fantastic collaboration with The Royal Mint team and I feel privileged to have been chosen to work with them. 

In contrast to Motto is the feminine, yet contemporary ‘Sprig’ collection is a first for The Royal Mint and marks an exciting development in their gifting range. The collaboration with Sarah Jordan was designed and made in the UK with the oak and acorn motif featured on many coins throughout history proved vital.

Taken from the original 1936 design of the silver Sixpence, the acorn design appealed to Sarah due to her childhood spent in the Derbyshire countryside. However, the motif was updated to create a sleek, unique theme which formed the basis of the Sprig range, from stud earrings through to a choker necklace.

Sarah Jordan has been designing and manufacturing jewellery for 30 years having won a number of prestigious awards including UK Jewellery Designer of the Year. Sarah set the trend of the organic, fluid style seen in the jewellery industry today which has been beautifully transferred into the Sprig collection.

The new collections are  now on sale, available from www.royalmint.com/gifts

With the art of silversmithing having first emerged in Britain in approximately 300 A.D, both collections build on the amazing heritage of craftsmanship that is still alive in the UK today. 

 Silver has long been an important part of human lives. Having once been available only to the incredibly rich, imports from South America resulted in the precious metal becoming more widely available and the desire for fine jewellery increased. Silversmithing is an age-old tradition that has stood the test of time, innovating as technology has changed, ensuring the craft is still maintained to this day. 

Pieces start from £80 and are available from www.royalmint.com/gifts  

About The Royal Mint

The Royal Mint has an unbroken history of minting British coinage dating back over 1,100 years. Based in the Tower of London for over 500 years, by 1812 The Royal Mint had moved out of the Tower to premises on London’s Tower Hill. In 1967 the building of a new Royal Mint began on its current site in South Wales, UK, to accommodate the minting of UK decimal coinage. 

Today, The Royal Mint is the world’s largest export mint, supplying coins to the UK and overseas countries.

The Royal Mint has also diversified into a number of other complementary businesses, building on the values that have been at the heart of the organisation throughout its history – authenticity, security, precious metals, craftsmanship and design:

  I was lucky enough to attend their press launch and see for myself the elegant, classic and timeless designs. As well as the jewellery, later in the year, they will also  be selling a fine china money box, a beautiful teddy bear and Sterling silver  Christmas tree decorations.