I was recently given some enormous, if somewhat bruised, windfall quinces. So as a great lover of cheese I decided to make some quince jelly, sometimes known as quince cheese. Suffice to say as soon as I wanted to make the jelly I couldn’t find a recipe. Then I found buried amongst all my other cookery books a slim volume called WI Book of Jams and other preserves written by Pat Hesketh and published in 1984. It has over 100 recipes tried and tested by the women’s institute.
So I turn to the page for Quince Cheese, on the same and facing page were recipes for cumberland rum butter, apple butter, marrow orange cream and bramble cheese. Fruit butters are a softer consistency than cheeses and are usually spiced and should be hermetically sealed. They are usually served as a spread. Cheeses are cooked to a stiff consistency and set in small moulds so that they can be turned out for serving and cut into wedges.
500g quinces chopped into roughly 1cm pieces
Wash the quinces and cut up into pieces
Place in a pan and barely cover with water.
Cover and cook until reduced to a pulp.
Pour through a sieve and weigh the liquid. (discard what is left in the sieve).To each 500g of liquid add 500g of sugar.
Cook over a low heat to dissolve the sugar.
Continue cooking until a thick consistency is obtained.
When a spoon is drawn across the base of the pan, it should leave a clean line.
Pour into prepared moulds. I used small glass pots used for ‘Gu’.
Make some fabric tops by cutting out circles with pinking shears.
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
needle and wool
Old cushion pad
Using the seam un-picker, open up the side seams.
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.
Turn the cover through, insert the cushion pad, close with an over sew stitch.
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.
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?
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?
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.
never studied design.
Do you work as a journalist both on-line as
well as for newsprint?
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?
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.
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?
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’?
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
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?
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
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?
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
to do only do one platform at a time and at the moment that’s Instagram.
Have you found Instagram a useful platform?
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?
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
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?
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.
Here comes my how long is a piece of string
question. What is a typical working day like for you?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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
admin and the invoicing – always have to spend time chasing those – it’s
Who or what inspires you?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
JB.What are your biggest challenges?
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.
DH.A very tricky Summer Pudding Headpiece for submission for the London Hat Show early 2018.
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.
JB.What is next?
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The work of the artist shown above is about plastic pollution and its environmental impact.