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.
Tell me about your design background.
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.
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.
Do the ideas for your books originate from you or
from the publisher?
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.
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.
What are your favorite and your least favorite parts
of creating a book.
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.
What and who inspires you?
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
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
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
J.B Do you teach workshops ?
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.
If you hadn’t been a graphic designer what would
you have studied or done as a career?
I think I would have done a craft, been a print
maker or a potter.
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
Annie Sloan has just launched her third Bookazine , The colourist (hard copy, editorial like a magazine, no adverts like a book). Here is the interview I did with in her, in her eclectic studio and headquarters, about her life, passion and rise to fame. Annie Sloan is known for her paint company and in particular her chalk paints. She also produces at least one book a year on different aspects of painting, decorating and up-cycling furniture. Recently she added a limited edition of printed textiles to her products.
JB Did you go to art school originally and if
so where and what did you study?
AS I went to Croydon art school to begin with and
then I finished at reading University, I was at art school for seven years.
Stared off doing a foundation, which I actually did for two years whilst I
tried to figure out what I was going to do. I wanted to do everything!! In the
end I chose Fine Art because Fine Art seems to be the basis of everything.
JB Annie I met you many moons ago when we were
both craft authors. Can you tell us how you made the leap from being an author
to running your international paint company?
AS Yes I remember well!! I wrote books and I was also going out and painting for people who had commissioned pieces. I had a young family and I wanted to be able to have something that I was doing and making but that could be sold whilst I was still raising my children. I was looking for something, I got the idea for paint from other paints that were around at the time. People were beginning to think back to traditional paints such as milk paints. From that idea I started to think about what I could make, and one thing led to another.
JB What made you want to produce your own paint
and was it difficult to find a manufacturer?
AS Once I became keen to make a paint, I happened
to mention it whilst out for dinner in Utrecht. I spoke to a Belgium man who
just happened to know someone who owned a paint factory and made paint.
JB You have to create a range of colours and
obviously some will sell better than others, was it difficult in the beginning
to know which ones would sell best?
AS I wasn’t thinking about selling to be honest, I was thinking about
what colours I would want and need. Money doesn’t come first. I was already painting furniture and I was
after certain traditional colours that weren’t available. It was important to
me that I could mix colours to make other colours, just like an artists paint
JB Can you influence sales of certain colours by presenting a
fabulous upcycled project on your web site or blog?
AS We do know that when we get something printed
in a popular magazine, we often see an influx in sales of that particular
product. I think that’s the same in the shop, if I painted something in
Antibes, people would buy more of that colour.
JB You sell abroad do any of your suppliers hold
how does this work?
AS No we don’t have any franchises at all, the
reason being that we are a creative company and I feel to offer someone a
franchise is too restrictive. Creative people need to be able have there own
style, we just look for wonderful shops to sell the paint, run workshops and be
inspiring. We love passionate people to get involved.
JB Are any members of your family involved in running the business
and if so what roles do they perform?
AS My husband works with me, he is in charge of
the finances. He’s the calm cool one!! My middle son Felix is the Brand
Director and has a Graphic Design background, he’s very much like me but also
completely different. Felix’s partner Lizzy is also involved in the business,
she does the Digital Marketing but at the moment has just had her third baby so
she is on maternity leave.
JB What is a typical working day like for you or is there no such
AS No such thing!! Every day is different, tomorrow I am off to
Venice, we make some of our woven linens , so I am off to do some colour
matching there- it’s important to get these things right! Last week I was at
conference in Rotterdam with our European distributors. I was painting
yesterday, working on some new products which I am excited about. We are
painting furniture for photo shoot in London next week. I am also doing plenty
of events this year. (Handmade Fair in London September and I also do The Country Living Fair). Things are
JB 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. Have you ever had
to deal with either of these of issues and did it impact on your creative life
AS Yes and no, I didn’t really start the business
until my children were a little bit older, I was 42 when I started making the
paint and running the business. I wanted be a around when the kids were small
so I suppose I put it hold for awhile, I always worked but was able to be there
when they were ill and look after them.
JB You run creative workshops at many different
events and venues. Do you enjoy doing them?
AS Yes I do! I love meeting people, I find people
JB You collaborated with Oxfam producing a colour
for them how did this come about?
AS Well it was just one of those magical things. Oxfam are based in
Oxford, hence the name Oxford and Famine, and they were looking for a paint
company to work with. The discovered that we were also in Oxford, it was a
marriage made in heaven. They asked us if we were keen to collaborate and I
didn’t even think twice about it.
JB What did it involve and did you enjoy the
experience? AS It was one of the
most excellent experiences of my life, so impactful. I went to Ethiopia and
made a colour inspired by my travels. It makes you realise that people are
people, for me it confirmed that money is not what it’s about- it’s about other
things. The people there are just amazing, they do need things but they are
still vibrant and positive.
JB What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?
AS Collaborating with some amazing people and
groups, it’s just so incredibly special to work with some wonderful people and
places. It’s open up so many worlds for me, such as Oxfam. Worst part endless
days were there are just so many meetings and I can’t get any painting done.
JB Who or what inspires you?
AS The Punk approach to life is absolutely
fabulous- anyone can do anything!! You don’t have to be posh, you just have to
be interesting. People inspire me, I talk to everybody and want to find out as
much as I can about others.
JB How long have you been working as a
AS I suppose since 1975, so guess over 40 years…oh
JB What advice would you give to any designer
starting out today?
AS Don’t give up, practice and keep at it. Trust
your gut. It doesn’t happen overnight. Someone once criticized me in Art school
and it really had an effect on me, don’t let criticism put you off!!
Many thanks Juliet. Photography by Antonia Attwood RCA
Kerstin Neumuller is a tailor who loves sewing with tiny stitches. With her partner Douglas Luhanko she runs a shop in Stockholm called Second Sunrise. In it they sell jeans, run craft workshops and have a repair studio.
This, her second book, is a practical handbook, and is perfect for anyone who wants to sharpen their mending skills, and lead a more sustainable life style.
Packed with advice on how to combat wears and tears, the book shows the basics for mending jeans and button holes, how to repair pockets and seams, how to darn a hole in your best knitted jumper, and how to work with different materials, including denim, cotton and wool.
Techniques for showing mends and making a design statement are given, as are the techniques for making hidden mends.
You are shown how to use a sewing machine to mend, how to add pockets and reinforcing using thick threads. The mends for knits, especially Swiss Darning are amazing and there is even a section on mending leather.
This is a really useful and lovely book
Published by Pavilion at £12.99 All photographs by Hampus Andersson.
May 6th 2019 is the 300th Anniversary of King George I granting permission for the residents and landowners of Chelsea to use his private road, King’s Rd in Chelsea. One of the current residents is Rococo Chocolates owned by Chantal Coady
How long have you been a chocolatier?
I don’t really consider myself to be a chocolatier in the traditional sense. I would call myself more a chocolate designer or a curator of chocolate experiences. My love of chocolate goes back to my early childhood, so at least half a century since I made my first Easter Egg. It was an unbridled disaster, probably why I can still remember it.
You began your creative career studying Textile design at Camberwell School of Art, now part of University of the Arts London. After obtaining your degree did you ever work in textile design?
I have never designed any
actual textiles since Graduating from Camberwell. In fact as a student at
Camberwell, I split my time between the Printmaking, Photography and Printed
Textiles departments, and my final show was my photographic images on silk
squares. It was a bit radical at the time. I suppose you could say that my
Rococo designs are a reflection of four years studying, so I have put the
experience to good use.
What made you change direction entirely and start your own chocolate business ?
The moment of truth was when I went to meet my friend Nicky Cousins at Harrods (who was studying at Chelsea Art School), she was working in the Chocolate department on Saturdays. That job was like a dream come true, especially when I was offered a place on the team, I jumped at it. I could hardly believe that I was being paid to sell chocolates. My very first customer was Michael Caine, though I failed to recognise him.
Today there are many independent chocolate companies but you were one of the first, when you started did you do your own making or did you buy in?
When I started Rococo, NO-ONE was making their own chocolates in
store. Most chocolate businesses had factories outside London who made their
chocolate and many companies bought chocolate in from Belgium, or France. A
famous exception that I have been asked about is Floris Chocolates, in Soho’s
Brewer St, founded by a Hungarianémigre, although they had been closed for many years
before I opened.
Was it difficult to source delicious chocolates?
It’s helpful to remember that
Britain in the 1980s was in the grip of a two hundred year old industrial food
tradition: so chocolate meant either “Belgian” or Cadburys.
I discovered a great trade
show in Cologne, it’s still running although its decades since I visited. Big
& small chocolate companies exhibit there, so it was easy to find lots of
very good suppliers under one roof.
Where did you go to learn about chocolate manufacturing?
Manufacturing is not
the word I would use for it. I spent time in Yorkshire with Alan and Nicola
Porter, together we had started the Chocolate Society, so I needed to get up to
speed on all the basic techniques of chocolate making. I learned about tempering chocolate and
making the perfect ganache on a trip to
Varhona’s Chocolate School at
. That was an eye opener. I
learnt about using really top ingredients and understanding the skills needed
to create simple and delicious fresh chocolates. After that it was practice,
and more practice, and then training a good small team to help.
Had you ever had any experience in running a business and had you been taught anything about business whilst at art school?
At art school they really
look down at anything remotely commercial, in fact I was more or less punished
because I had a Saturday job, which I needed for the money, instead of
attending Saturday sketching outings, so definitely no business classes. I did
attend a mini business course that was run by the Manpower Services Commission: a Margaret Thatcher
initiative to encourage entrepreneurs. We had three weeks in the classroom, and
six weeks to create your own business plan. It was enough to get me my first
bank loan, although the bank manager asked for it to be secured with the family
How did you find your first premises and why did you choose Chelsea, which even in the nineteen eighties was expensive?
I got a map of London, marked
all the locations where there were existing chocolate shops, and looked for a
gap in an area that I believed had the right type of demographics for my
customers. In fact that bit of the King’s Road was populated by punks, and was pretty rundown although it had a great
vibe. I paid for the end of a lease, which with hindsight was probably a
mistake, but at the time seemed to only way to get a shop.
I know you design your own packaging has that always been the case? What made you decide to
expand and open other shops?
There have been three main
design periods at Rococo – the first was cherubs and candy floss pink that
matched the decor, the next was a more classical Rococo period design, in black
and white with Ho Ho birds at the time of the “Creative Salvage” period,
and the enduring one is based on the antique French chocolate mould catalogue,
again using my art school training in how to create a random repeating
design. That has formed the corner stone of the brand design and other
insprirations have been Maroccan encaustic tile designs, as well as my hand
paint designs like the Neroli orange blossom
Also my own handwriting is very much a part of the character, and
features on almost all the labels.
What made you decide to expand and open other shops?
We have shops in Chelsea, Belgravia, Seven Dials, Marylebone and Notting Hill.
Apart from selling in your own shops and on line do you also supply other chains or outlets?
We are in Liberty, Harvey
Nichols and Selfridges, also in John Lewis, and we are planning more pop-ups
How many people do you employ?
The business is tiny in real terms, but it feels big. We have quite a complicated infrastructure, so between the shops and chocolate kitchen we employ around 60-70 people.
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. Have you ever had to deal with either of these of issues and did it impact on your creative life or business?
I chose my path to be self-employed
in business, and at the time I had my children I was not even eligible for
maternity leave other than the statutory 6 weeks (at about £60 a week if I
remember correctly). I did not have a choice, but to go straight back to work
after about 2 weeks, and James was very supportive coming to help whenever he
could. We shared the childcare in the early months and then got some help, in
fact James pretty put his acupuncture career on hold while he came into the
business. That was a huge sacrifice for him, and if he had not done that I dont
suppose Rococo would have survived those early childhood years. Clearly this
makes a huge impact on life in general, and finances were extremely tight. I
have a clear memory of my son, aged two weeks, asleep in his car seat among the
Easter boxes in the basement of the King’s Road shop and also of having my
daughter strapped to me in a papouse aged about 1 week, as we stacked the shelves
in a new shop in Bluewater in 1999, that did not last long!
You run events and workshops from some of your shops how long have you been doing this and do you enjoy it?
It takes a particular skill
set to run events, and a very good support team. When that is in place it’s a
real pleasure to do workshops. My favourites are ones off site in places like
Castello di Potentino in Tuscany. It’s even more complicated when you have to
take everything with you but lovely to be inspired by completely new surroundings
and ingredients. I have also done a master class on a cruise ship in the
Caribbean where the air-conditioning failed and room temperature was nearly
40C; that was majorly stressful, although I managed to get my chocolate
tempered with some help from the sous chefs and the fridges. Its good to get
out of your comfort zone, but probably not necessarily under such
circumstances! I do have a great team who do the day to day events, so the
responsibility does get shared.
Were you surprised when you were awarded an OBE?
could not have more surprised to receive an official brown envelope, that
looked like a parking ticket, which announced the nomination for the OBE – I
actually thought it was a spoof, and refused to even look at it properly. Finally
I was persuaded by my husband James to read it and return the paperwork. This
bit all takes place months before the actual list is published, so you have to
keep very quiet. I was really delighted when it was announced and especially to
receive the very first in the category of “Services to Chocolate Making”. I am
aware that without the help and support of my long suffering husband, family,
and good chocolate people I have met along the way, the OBE would never have
happened, so I am humbly grateful to all of them.
The trip to Buckingham Palace was a magical day, and following the advice of fellow honourees, I made sure that it was properly celebrated, with small parties at both lunch & dinner. Prince William was the Royal on duty at my investiture, and I managed to make him burst into laughter over my answer to his question “How did you get into chocolate?”. I can’t actually remember what I said.
felt very grand driving into the Palace, and made my taxi driver’s day!
Yes it is a strange term, but a clever way
to create knitted fabrics with the use of a single, cord strung hook. The
author says she came to knooking via both knitting and crotchet but claims that
even a complete novice can pick up the technique easily.
Apart from the fact it is slightly easier to transport that knitting, having only one implement, that is a crotchet hook with the eye of a large needle at its end, I was not sure of the benefit of this new craft.
However what it allows the maker to do is to create cloth that looks like it has been knitted rather than crotched. In the book five different fabrics have been created including stocking stitch, garter stitch, double rib, single rib, moss stitch. As well as the knitted fabrics you can also create crotched fabrics.
There are small easy projects to tackle first.
These include a zipped purse, a headband and arm warmers. The intermediate
projects include a very nice block-colour cushion a nautical rope handled bag
and knitted storage boxes. The larger projects are more challenging such as a
slouch blanket cardigan and a beautiful infinity scarf.
Designer, Jehane is having her first open house in five years but in a new location as part of the fiveways Artist group . Each weekend in May, artists open up their homes and studios to the public, to show and sell their own and other people’s work.
Jehane’s 2018 Open House delivers her signature style, of contemporary artists in her friendly recently refurbished home. At the bottom of her small garden stands a shed with an installation by Phillipa Stanton. As well as running open house Jehane also licences the work of a number of different artists and designers. See the piece I wrote on her on Meet the Maker Below are a few examples of the work on show.
Artists open houses run weekends from 5th -28th May in Brighton Hove Coast and Ditchling. To find out more about Brighton open houses go to aoh.org.uk
If you are a designer, or just love creative people and enjoy seeing how and where they work, then this is must have book.
It is full of inspiration. The author, Sally Coulthard, lives on a farm where she rents out barns to artists. As she says ‘it’s a scruffy space, but the people who work there have transformed the building into something truly special. Not only have the artists organized their studios into useful spaces, they’ve also created rooms that express who they are and inform the work they produce. Each space reflects the personality of the person who works there –studios are like fingerprints, totally unique.’
The first part of the book has inspirational pictures and descriptions of different kinds of studio’s. Included are brights, mono, natural, industrial and collected.
The second part of the book is divided into different kinds of artists and designers and includes crafters, fashion and textile designers. Fine art, graphics and illustrators studios are featured as are the work shops of bloggers writers and photographers and last but not least are workshops and up-cyclers.
Different kinds of buildings are as unique as the artists and designers themselves. One artist works in a shepherds hut another in a barn others in industrial warehouses and lofts. Some work together others by themselves.
The final section of the book deals with practicalities of how to plan your studio, getting organized, desks, lighting and storage are all explored. As are work tops and drying spaces. If you want to set up your own studio you need look no further than here. The book is truly international showcasing designers and artists from many different countries.