Blog, Meet the Maker

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

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.


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?


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.’

Blog, Meet the Maker

• Meet Architect Jane Duncan

This month celebrates The London Festival of Architecture. There is an amazing programme of more than 500 unique events and activities. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Duncan OBE ex president of the RIBA

Jane Duncan is a British chartered architect, with her own practice based in Buckinghamshire. In August 2014 she was voted president elect of the Royal Institute of British Architects, receiving 52% of the vote and became the 75th president of the RIBA on 1 September 2015; her term of office finished on September 1 2017. She is only the third woman to ever have held the post of President.

Did you always want to be an architect and if so why?

I decided at the age of 13 when it became clear during a school art project – my friends were drawing the pots of geraniums and I was drawing the buildings. I was fascinated by buildings, spaces and people. I drew them, read about and visited them, formed pottery buildings rather than ponies, and made crazy balsa wood models all through GCSE and A levels.

Do you come from a family of architects? Yes my father was an architect running his own micro practice. I was taken to the office as a child for a treat occasionally (actually the ‘treat’ was a Chinese meal for lunch) but I was mostly bored there. When a local older friend of mine went off to study architecture, and took me for a trip around his college studio I felt absolutely at home, and knew I had found my future direction.  My father however was not supportive and told me he thought it unsuitable for a woman. I don’t think the concept of reverse psychology was well enough developed at the time! My mother was very pleased with my choice and supportive.

Which architectural college or university did you attend?

My friend had shown me around The Bartlett School at UCL.  I only applied there, and was luckily accepted.  My first degree was Architecture, Town Planning, Building and Environmental Science – quite forward thinking for the 1970s.

It is a long and grueling course do you feel it is a good education and does it equip you for work in an architectural practice once you leave?

It’s not the least bit grueling – it’s really fun, stimulating, challenging and tough. A good architectural education certainly helps you tackle the physical problems and ethics of design, but should mostly just make you curious and come away with an ability to think creatively and laterally, and communicate well.  Those are the two most important skills for an architect.

I question whether some current courses still provide students with those skills, as they now have so few hours of contact time, so little technical content and so much emphasis on clever graphics.

I have concerns too about the costs of the courses. I received a grant, and would probably not have studied architecture if it had cost the same as it does today.  I also had to live at home to reduce the costs, and commute daily from Barnet to Euston.

What made you interested in Architectural politics?

I started in politics early whilst working, prior to qualifying, in a huge international engineering company. I joined the staff in-house union and ended up at the age of 23 representing 3000 architects.  I set up my practice after qualifying, had a family (at pretty much the same time) and dropped politics for a while, although I always did other things such as acting writing and directing for amateur dramatics, running a salsa club and pro bono community work. 

I was ‘spotted’ at an RIBA conference for small practices, where I stood up and spoke my mind on charging properly for our work. I was asked to join the RIBA’s Small Practice group which is where it all started 15 years ago. From that point I was drawn into the maelstrom of architectural politics, and loved it.

Did you enjoy being president of the RIBA and were you able to influence the way the profession works?

I enjoyed every minute of it – even the ‘events dear boy, events’ – the long, long hours (as I was still running the practice so worked 24/7) flying around the globe, creating new initiatives and working with a really super staff team and some great supporters. I ran for office on a triple manifesto pledge of pride (in our work) profit (charging to represent our value) and people (diversity). I think I have influenced all of these, and added a whole heap more including directing a new Vision Strategy for the Institute, making it more global in outlook, and bringing social responsibility and ethical practices back to prominence.

Are you still involved in architectural politics?

After I handed over the presidential reigns the role requires a year as immediate past president, and I took on chairing three major committees to complete work started during my presidency. These were a review of the RIBA Awards, a complete Constitutional review and the Expert Panel on Fire Safety after Grenfell. The latter is probably the most political work I have ever done, and this role will continue. I am also President of the Architects Benevolent Society.

What were the best parts of the job as president RIBA and the worst?

My highlight was meeting, getting to know and putting the Royal Gold Medal around the neck of my architectural hero Zaha Hadid . My low point was being phoned up by the press team 6 weeks later and told that she had died, and I was to be live on BBC World News in 20 minutes.  I had a whole evening of live interviews from around the world, whilst coming to terms with the awful subject matter.

Other than that I loved meeting people – students, architects around the world, construction industry groups, community workers and many MPs and government officers.

It was hard work though to represent the profession after Brexit though with a government who had no idea how to handle the unexpected result of the vote, and with Ministers moving off almost as soon as a relationship had been developed.

I understand that as vice president of the RIBA you were Equality and Diversity Champion. Did you manage to make the changes within the profession that you wanted?

I think I was a good facilitator for change both in the Institute and in the Profession. I had a fantastic support from dedicated staff, and we did many things for the first time: welcomed LGBT group events, created an international women in architecture day, developed role models for the profession from all the 10 protected groups, and then role model practices.  The most important change was to get all parts of the Institute and the Profession thinking – perhaps for the first time about unconscious bias, representation, inclusivity and awareness.

When did you start your own architectural practice? How many people were in the practice to begin with and have you found it difficult to grow?

I set up in practice almost as soon as I qualified. I was working for a lovely young architect and asked for a partnership or I would leave. I left….. and set up in my back bedroom.

The practice grew slowly and steadily based on workload, and a very cautious business attitude. We now have 17 to 20 staff many of whom have been here for decades including interior designers, architects, technicians and students. We have no wish to grow this, but take on projects which we will enjoy. I am sure that our clients don’t realise that we go to interview them!

Your practice specializes in residential projects along with educational, community, commercial and leisure schemes. What kind of work do you most enjoy?

The best project for me is a site for a new house – I can literally build someone’s dreams. It doesn’t get better than that really.

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

Both really.  There’s a lot more knowledge and training in business, but also a lot more in the way of constraint from building and employment legislation, data protection, health and safety etc.

I know this question is hard to answer, but what is a typical day for you?

Early morning workout (if I wake in time), breakfast and then: site meetings/ client meetings/planning meetings/staff meetings/consultant meetings etc. In between hundreds of emails, (ugh) and a little design work. Trouble shooting and administration for the practice, plus writing lectures, minutes, writing articles, judging awards and still travelling a bit for the Institute.

What do you like most about what you do?

Every day is different and there are loads of challenges.

What do you dislike most about what you do?

Not much – I have a ball

What advice would you give to a young woman starting out as an architect today?

Go for it! It’s the best, most challenging, difficult, inspirational, exciting career on the planet. Don’t take no for an answer and have confidence in yourself. If you’ve successfully qualified you are amazing and need to take no nonsense from anyone. Be yourself and make sure you work for a practice which allows that – even if you have to start one yourself. There’s lots of help if you get unstuck – so ask.

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?

Everyone on the planet has to deal with these things – including me and my staff. It’s not an imposition it’s life and that’s as important as your business. People understand and you need to understand that too if you have a business, with staff/clients etc. I have not had a career break to deal with any of them.  I think architecture is in your blood so you have to keep doing it to be happy. If you are happy you can cope with most things.

What are you currently working on?

I am running about 30 projects with various staff – new houses, mixed developments, churches, historic buildings, green belt sites. On my board at the moment (yes we still use drawings boards and pencils to do our initial thinking) is a large shop which we are going to replace with a block of flats.

What is next?

Succession planning, more travel .

Jane Thank you

Blog, Meet the Maker

Meet The Maker Chantal Coady OBE. An award given for her services to chocolate making.

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 Hungarian émigre, 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  Tainl’Hermitage

. 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 house.

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 with Jigsaw.

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?

I 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.

It felt very grand driving into the Palace, and made my taxi driver’s day!

Many thanks Juliet Bawden

Blog, Meet the Maker, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker Jehane Boden Spiers, Textile designer, Art licenser and Consultant

Jehane in her studio surrounded by work

I know you as a textile designer and maker, Can you tell me if you went to art school and if so what did you study?

I was born & bred in Brighton. I studied Textile Design at Winchester School of Art (1994 – BA Hons).

How and when did you become an art consultant?

I have curated my fellow artists’ work since first opening my house for the Brighton Festival in 2002. I discovered that I am skilled at selling other artists work and enjoy talking about the creative process. The next one is every weekend in May starting on the 4th in less than two weeks time . For details of Venues, locations and times look at

I became a licensing agent in 2004 when my children were born. Through my work as an agent, I have received many submissions from artists that I have not been able to represent for one reason or another. Being an art consultant means that my services can be offered more widely. I now offer one-to-one consultancy to emerging and established artists internationally.

You contributed a chapter to the very successful book ‘House of Cards’ did you enjoy the writing process and have you ever written a book of your own.

I loved it! I would love to do a book of my own. It’s on my bucket list.

Can you give us a brief history of how you started out.

I first licensed my own designs in 1992 as a student at Winchester School of Art. I worked as a textile designer in Vienna when I graduated. I set up as a freelance designer back in Brighton in 1996 under the name of Cloth of Gold.

I designed for industry (mainly paper products), made one-off embroidered pieces for private clients, and created hand-made items for small batch production sold to galleries and retail outlets nationally.

My designs have sold for textiles, gift-wrap, greeting cards & more. Licensees of my designs include Stewo, Jung Design, Gallery Five, Sanderson Fabrics, Baumann, Penny Black, Collage, Medici, Zoewie, Boots Plc, and The Paper House Group. 

My designs have featured on London Underground posters. My retail clients have included Liberty of London, English Heritage, the RSC, and Vienna & Sydney Opera Houses. My one-off embroideries have sold in galleries nationally. I have given many talks about her artwork including at the V & A.

I also had a variety of agents before I set up on my own as an Artists’ Agent. I was always very pro-active, exhibiting at trade fairs and contacting shops/ licensing clients directly.

What is a typical day for you?

Work by Ken Eardley

Everyday starts with catching up on my Instagram and planning the day’s social media. I will walk down to my workspace at Studio Eleven where I have been for 7 years. I have my own room in a shared studio space of creatives. It’s a great atmosphere and very focused. I currently spend all of my time at a computer although I have started planning a new range of products for my Open House in May. A typical day I would be designing and writing new marketing campaigns, liaising on existing licenses, contacting new clients, and giving creative direction to the artists that I work with.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love being immersed in another artists’ work. I enjoy the wide variety of client responses to artwork and the fun of trying to predict who might like what. Most of all I love combining my love of the visual world with conversations

What do you dislike most about what you do?

Being solely defined and seen as an agent. Being a designer is at the source of everything I do.

Examples of Jehane’s work

What made you want to start your own creative business? I knew it would be the thing I would most regret not doing.

Your business seems to have really grown over the last few years how has this happened?

I have always worked hard. I have never taken time out. More recently, I have spent a lot of time asking myself difficult questions and challenging myself. What is really important to me? I realised that working in an inter-disciplinary manner is hugely important to me. It has guided me to expand my offer. I have been able to promote hard as a result because I am very sure of my vision. This has really helped me to grow my business.

Cressida Bell

Can you describe your creative process?

It always starts with a response to either pattern, colour, or words. I often need to make associations and connections between things.

What are your biggest challenges?

So much to do, so little time.

I also find it hard to send short emails!

Focusing on the bigger picture when there are so many details pulling me the other way.

Speaking in public – I have lots to say but I get incredibly nervous.

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

Work hard. Ask questions, Don’t be scared to put yourself in front of people. Think about your own intent, what is important to you, really important to you? This will be invaluable in guiding your decision-making. Present everything visually and beautifully. Attention to detail.

Nancy Nicholson

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

I think it is easier. There are more resources and the creative industries are booming. Even though they are marginalized in schools, they are more recognized by the government (and people at large) as being crucial to the economy. 35% of the UK’s income is from the creative industries. Websites and social media make it much easier to be seen and to connect with clients.

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 if so how did it impact on your creative life or business?

I decided to license work by other artists was when I had my children. I was scared that if I took a seven year break from my designing, to have my two children, that I would lose confidence and be unable to get back into the industry. Having children can be isolating as can be working on your own. Working as an agent meant I still had lots of contact with people even though I was working at home. I worked virtually full time when my children were young in order to develop my business but I decided against having a nanny or an au pair. It is a constant juggle!

Have you exhibited? If so, where?

Yes – all over the country, mainly in group exhibitions but all over 15 years ago.

Liberty of London

Grace Barrand Design Centre

Ferrers Gallery

Manchester City Exchange

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art etc

How do you find clients?

Trade fairs, social media, trade magazines, look at the underneath of products

What are you currently working on?

Planning new products with my designs for my open house

New newsletters for Jehane Ltd

A bespoke licensed range with British Airways i360 and Cressida Bell

Talking to New artists for representation

Planning my open house; getting flyers ready to print

& more!

What is next?

An online shop on

Has social media impacted on your business and if so in what way?  Yes, hugely. It has been the launching pad for my new business Jehane Ltd and has been the main reason that I have attracted the new artists I represent and the new clients I am talking to.

Many thanks Juliet

Meet the Maker, Uncategorized

Meet the maker Martine Camillieri

Martine Camillieri is a French installation artist, author and teacher. Her own work takes precedence over all her other activities. It is based round waste and the fact we make, and own too much stuff.

use portrait

She lives with her Dutch husband in what was, at one time, their art gallery. It is a large industrial space with big windows metal beams and wide oak floorboards. It is built round a courtyard with a metal spiral staircase at its center. Everything is of an industrial scale.

spiral stair

When I went to interview her she was creating some very stylish lamps. Asked about them, she said they are made from very tacky old lamps that are taken apart and the components reassembled with other items such as bamboo steamers. The lamps are all ‘one offs’

lamps on


Did you go to art school and if so what did you study?

Yes I went to the decorative arts school in Nice and studied advertising. I was top of my year.

What did you do after art school?

I worked in advertising for twenty years but I always wanted to be an artist.


What made you change direction ?

In the year 2000 I was 50. I wanted a life change. I left advertising and set up the gallery with my husband. We were victims of its success. It took over our lives so that neither of us had enough time to practice our own work.

whole room

My husband works with wood, creating bespoke pieces. Eventually we closed the gallery and I worked full time on what is my life’s passion. To stop waste and to stop filling the planet with objects.


 Describe your work


My work is created out of found objects, rubbish,the flotsam and jetsam of everyday living. I hate waste of any kind. I take the tacky and put it with other items to make it pleasing. I use what is there and I do not change the final destination of the item. For example if I am using a bucket, in an installation, I will not put a hole in it. If I do that it can no longer be used as a bucket.

eiffle tower close ups
Eiffel Towers created from waste

I make installations that are exhibited all over the world. I had work in Expo 2004 and at Creative Lab in Milan. My work has been exhibited in shop windows such as Bon Marche.

floral lamp in kitchen
Lamp made from discarded bits and pieces


Tell me about your books

I have had over fifteen books published. I do all the work on them from original concept, photography, art direction lay out and typography. My first book was on making tables from ephemera. It was a huge success and so I wrote more books based round the same topic of not wasting and re-using resources.



You also produce children’s books

Yes I take toys from childhood and mix and match them give them a new life. I have written and created a series of traditional fairy tales using found objects and old toys to make the pictures.ready to shoot 1


Do you run workshops?

I work with children in schools. I will work with a class for a whole year. One of the projects we are currently working on is taking the waste from vegetables. For example we grow the tops cut off carrots and create something new. For example the fronds from the carrot may become trees in a forest scene. We also use grow from pips and seeds.


Who or what inspires you?

I am militant about a no waste agenda and that we should stop filling the planet with objects. My motto : Do not waste, do not throw away, give new life to things and stop producing.


What advice would you give to a designer or artist starting out today?

Make things. Don’t worry if you are copied. Just keep doing. If you are copied it doesn’t matter as if you are truly original you will come up with more and new ideas.

hands and her book 

You have written a book called ‘Never without my Van’ which is about Frugal traveling. Tell me about it.

Each year  we  leave France in September and travel in our van for about two months around various European countries. We have a particular fondness for Greek islands.

We live very frugally and simply, in a van we converted ourselves. The book gives inventive ideas of how to transform a van to live in as simply as possible. We eat food we find growing by the roadside and attempt to have as small a carbon footprint as is possible.

What are you working on next?

I have been asked to do a 3D project based on my children’s books. They are going to be a TV program and I am art directing it.


Meet the Maker, Uncategorized

Meet the maker Tracy Kendall designer of extraordinary original wallpapers.



Wallpaper is barely an adequate word to describe the designs and constructions of Tracy Kendal. They range from paper manipulations, pleating and stitching  to the use of fringing, buttons, jig saw pieces to the reconfiguration of  everyday objects. She is always ahead of the pack with her ideas. She designed a fringed wallpaper in 2004. The design is  still  going strong particularly as fringing is this year’s interior must have. The giant cutlery design still sells twenty years after Tracy printed her first one.

Did you go to art school originally and if so where and what did you study?

I went to art school in Manchester – Manchester Polytechnic between 1977 -1980 graduating with a Fine Art Printmaking Degree. MA in mixed media textiles from the RCA 1997-2001

3 whole lace

When we first met, you were working in the print studio at the Royal college of Art and doing your own work as well. The print I remember was the giant knife fork and spoon, that you screen printed onto fabric as well as paper.No one was doing anything half as imaginative as you were.


What made you want to produce your own wallpaper and was it difficult to find a manufacturer?

It’s a fairly typical answer to this, I wanted some wallpaper for myself at home in the kitchen and everything I saw that I liked I couldn’t afford so I made my own…the cutlery set. I had printed some wallpaper for myself again for my house a few years previous to this – the newsprint design. I silkscreen print myself so I am my own manufacturer. My fine art printmaking degree and a MA in mixed media textiles from the RCA and decades of teaching print in art schools gives me the skills to do this myself.

knife wallpaper

Why wall paper?


It is the perfect mix of all my training and interests and family background. My family on my father’s side are Russian Jewish cabinet makers so lots of hand skills and measuring, lots of measuring. I like that by limiting myself to wallpaper I can do anything with it, I can explore it fully rather than trying to put my designs on fabrics, plates, trays or whatever I fully embrace just one medium.

screen yes

Are any members of your family involved in running the business and if so what roles do they perform?

My partner works for me doing all of my administration. Without him we would not be paid or have such good communications between the interior designers and suppliers that we work with. My son does my website and some visual technical support.

sequins pleats


Your work looks very complex, labour intensive and expensive to produce. Is all your work bespoke?

All of my work is made to order and can be changed and adapted for the clients interior. Some is very simple and in the scheme of how things are made not that expensive. Other designs are expensive, complex and very time consuming but then true bespoke work is.

Feather wall paper

To whom do you mainly sell? How do you find your clients or do they find you?

I mainly sell to interior designers and a lot are from the US. I have shown there quite a lot and the Americans seem to understand and embrace modern design.


Are the papers produced in the UK?

All my production is in the UK.

2scrrens side on

Are you there when the making process is taking place?

For most of the work yes, it happens in my studio so we over see it from start to finish. Some of the designs are produced by other manufacturers all of whom we have worked very closely with for a long time to ensure the quality is of the highest standard. Everything is checked in the studio before shipping to clients.


Do you have more conventional papers that you sell to wholesale or retail clients?

We do sell wholesale and retail and any of the designs can be made for those markets.more conventional


What is a typical working day like for you ?

I don’t have a typical working day but my day starts with clearing my thoughts walking the dog on the beach. Then its working on whatever project I need to. We usually have a number of projects going through the studio at any one time with varying deadlines and work requirements. At points in the day I check with my partner any suppliers issues or if we need to order in anything for a job. There is always a great deal of measuring with all the projects so I am often permanently attached to a ruler of one form or another!


You have moved from London to Margate what are the benefits and the drawback of this move?

The move to Margate has only had benefits no draw backs at all. It helps to give some sense of a work/life balance and also a indication of life after work.


Do you run creative workshops or give talks?

We are about to run some workshops after much nagging by friends who want to learn to screen print and yes I do give talks at some colleges and universities.


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

I love a new challenge, when a designers wants to try something different or unexpected with my work. The worst doesn’t really happen for me, I get to do what I enjoy everyday as a living and that’s something most people want to do.

button wallpaper

Who or what inspires you?

My answer has been the same for many years to this question, Ingo Maurer the German lighting designer. He manages to combine beauty, technology and humour within his work so effortlessly.


How long have you been working as a professional designer?

15 years

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

Do whatever it is with passion, don’t copy, get your hands dirty and enjoy being outside your comfort zone.

What is next for your work?

Some more designing as I want to expand on some of the designs I already have either in scale or colour or via a different production technique or all of the above.

Tracy Kendall Continue reading “Meet the maker Tracy Kendall designer of extraordinary original wallpapers.”


Meet the makers: Rex London

This ‘meet the maker’ post is a little different from usual as it is more about the work of a company rather than one designer. Although my questions are directed at the main buyer for Rex London, the company  employ six designers who are  all involved in the creative process.  Dot com gift shop is re-branding in April 2018 and from then the company will be called Rex London. It started life trading as a market stall on Portobello road in London, selling candles and Ponchos. The business behind dot com gift shop, Rex International Ltd (wholesale) has been trading successfully for 35 years, supplying gifts and home ware to over 20,000 retailers in more than 70 countries worldwide. It now has in excess of 70 employees working from its West London headquarters in Acton, and an impressive turnover – last year exceeding £10 million. Chances are even if you do not know the name you will know the products.

Candy Smith is head buyer and oversees development of hundreds of new lines to market each year and is always on the look out for the latest trends. She has a passion for design and an uncompromising eye for detail. But she tells me that she works very much as part of a team and the evolution of each product is very much a collaborative process between her and Les Whiteman, Rex London’s Design Director, and his team of designers.

Les head of design
Les Whiteman  head of the design team

Why is the company rebranding and what difference will it make?

 Since 2005, we have been designing and sourcing our own unique product range. We felt that people perceived dot com gift shop as merely an online marketplace – whereas we see ourselves as a design brand…and rebranding was the best way to affirm our own unique brand identity.

New range


How many collections do you oversee each year?

The number of collections vary season on season, year on year – but on average we create 1000 new products every year.

Jan Konopka
Jan Konopka

How large is your design team and do different people work on different parts of the collections?

Our Design Director, Les Whiteman, has a team of 5 designers who all work from our West London office. We don’t have a system where one designer necessarily works on a specific category of product – our designers are very versatile and can be at any time working on an idea for men, ladies or children.

Ashley Le Quere
Ashley Le Quere


Where do you get most of your designs made?

 All of our designs originate here in our West London office and studio. Manufacture is mostly in China, although we have producers in other countries, such as India & Thailand.

Nadia Taylor
Nadia Taylor


Are you essentially a wholesalers or an internet retailer?


Wholesale is, business-wise, the largest part of the operation – we sell in 70 countries to over 20000 retailers – but we see ourselves as a design company. Without amazing design, we wouldn’t have any customers. We are essentially a gift company although we do a few home wares.

Louise Head of Marketing
Louise Head of Marketing

What is your best selling line?

This season our bestselling range is our new eco-friendly bamboo fibre collection for children and adults. This is a new collection of sustainable bamboo dinnerware and food storage, including lunch boxes, serving trays, plates, bowls, cups and cutlery – all in a selection of our designs.

Apple range


What is a typical day for you?

Work is very varied, so I am fortunate to avoid monotony and routine. When I’m not working on new products with the team, I’m researching current trends – I’m always on the lookout for inspiration…whether that be in magazines, online or on the high street.


…and on top of these duties, I also style and merchandising our Rex London wholesale exhibition stands, retail shows and pop-up shops.

Asa Wikman
Asa Wikman


What do you love most about what you do?

When a product finally arrives, one I’ve been involved in and nurtured from the very beginning throughout the whole length of the process – which can be months, or even years in some cases – and it exceed even our high expectations. That’s very special.


What do you dislike most about what you do?

Having to tell a designer that their design isn’t commercial enough for our customers – even if it’s something I absolutely love.


Has Rex done any collaborations? If so with whom?


We’re actually working on our very first collaboration – we’ve asked children’s author/illustrator Neal Layton to create a world exclusive design for one of our recycled jumbo storage bags. This will be a strictly limited edition, with all profits going to children’s charity Make-A-Wish.


What are your biggest challenges?

The responsibility of choosing which product designs to put into production.

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

 Understand who your customer is, and listen to what they’re telling you.

Pineapple and icecream paper decorations and Jumbo bags

What are you currently working on?

Today I’m collating new ideas to take to our manufacturers on our next visit. Watch this space

Many thanks Juliet Bawden