Thursday, 29 August 2013

from the vaults: the glens of antrim, 2010

Three years ago this September, we visited a friend's aunt at her home in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. We spent three or four rainy days walking through fields, eating figs, leeks and sweet beetroot from the garden and foraging in forests for berries and mushrooms. In the evenings we played board games by the fireside, roasted potatoes and drank pints of dark, velvety Guinness - I mean, when in Rome...

palm tree cushion

I'm making new things at the moment, with a focus on fabrics and objects for the home. I'm starting with cushions... To make this one, I had some soft pink Swedish linen embroidered with a palm tree (developed from the original sketch of mine below), which I then turned into a cushion cover. Pink and green: my ultimate colour combination - raspberries and pistachios; broad beans and candyfloss (ok maybe not so much). I plan to experiment with different motifs and colour combinations, so please do watch this space...

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


One warm evening last week, I paid a visit to a charming, light-filled garden studio in Bloomsbury. The space is home to LARKE optics - an exciting new eyewear label, launched a matter of weeks ago by Laura Nicholson. Larke's frames, made from Italian acetate, are handcrafted by a small, family run workshop here in the UK, where skilled artisans expertly combine age-old production methods with the finest modern technology. Rich colours, elegant shapes and subtle details are all in abundance in the label's first collection. Find Larke's frames at Darkroom on Lamb's Conduit Street. Personally, I'm after Gill in horn. Now that's a striking pair of glasses.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

wish list: kitsuné autumn/winter 2013

The entire collection is very good, that blazer and cardigan (what a brilliant shade of blue - a sort of petrol?) in particular.

A good varsity jacket and another good blazer. Gold buttons! Shop Kitsuné here.

country mile

Multitalented actor/poet/songwriter/troubadour Johnny Flynn’s forthcoming third record Country Mile will be released on 30th September. I can't wait.

a belated birthday present

A Fornasetti metal tray given to me by D., depicting a Grecian style chariot racer. It's excellent. Too good to place anything on I reckon - it's bound for a wall.

Friday, 23 August 2013

to hay-on-wye

I travelled to Wales for work on Monday, catching an early morning train from Paddington to Abergavenny, a market town at the foot of the Brecon Beacons. After spending a good part of the day on a narrow boat interviewing Keith, a charming man who spends his time crafting leather goods entirely by hand (find them here), I went on a bit of an unexpected adventure. After admitting to not having seen much of Wales, Keith offered to drive me to Hay-on-Wye - the famous town of books - a place I've wanted to visit for some time. We chose the scenic route, taking the Gospel Pass (Wales' highest road pass, reaching 549m above sea level) through the majestic Black Mountains and gently down into the little town. I took the above picture from the car window. When you live in the south of England as I do (it's pretty flat here), big green hills and mountains really do become fascinating things to behold.

Hay-on-Wye was wonderful. The place is literally bursting with books. This is part of a mural that we came across, painted onto a wall next door to a bookshop. It depicts a strange man running up a flight of stairs laden with books. Good colours.

The exterior of another bookshop, the largest and most famous of them all, Richard Booth's, is made up of lots of wonderful glazed tiles like this one.

I obviously couldn't leave the town without a book or two. I bought this. I try not to judge by cover, but... what a lovely, striking cover.

I bought this too. Another perfect cover, and what an excellent shade of green, wouldn't you agree? Books books books. Oh, and that's a new rug. I'm utterly in love with it (it's Welsh, coincidentally). More on that to come.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

wish list: the new craftsmen

The New Craftsmen was founded in 2012 by Mark Henderson, Catherine Lock and Natalie Melton. Since 2010 the trio have toured the British Isles meeting and documenting makers of traditional craft and innovators using skills, honed over centuries, in a contemporary way. The result is The New Craftsmen: a network of makers who collaborate with Henderson, Lock and Melton to showcase the finest materials, skills and craft products of the British Isles. They seek out makers and iconic objects that are deeply connected to culture and place.

The gang have popped up in a few central London locations over the past year - they took over a large gallery and shop space opposite The Connaught before Christmas and recently hauled themselves up, chairs and plates and all, in a beautiful little garage on a Mayfair mews. I'm longing to get my hands on a piece or two from the collection; below are my top picks. Visit the online shop here, where you can shop by maker or product. Why not pick up an espresso cup or milk jug? Both are well priced, hand-thrown and so much nicer than most things you'll find on the high street...

'Harbour' Light by glass blower Michael Ruh and textile artist Aimee Betts.

Linen and Wool Throw by hand-weaver Catarina Riccabona.

Ceramic Bowl with Floral Illustration by ceramicist and illustrator Laura Carlin.

Coventry Chair by furniture designer-maker Chris Eckersley.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

cherchbi haversack

I've been carrying my Cherchbi Haversack around town for a month or so now, and I've come to the firm conclusion that I've never had a better rucksack. No surprises there, when one considers what goes into making a piece of Cherchbi craftsmanship. My Haversack has quickly become a most trusted friend - a friend I can rely on, day after day, to take care of precious possessions, work efficiently and look superb. It's strong and sturdy and beautiful, all at the same time. I foresee plenty of shared adventures - I want to stomp along London streets with this rucksack and trek across hills, in spring, summer, autumn and winter. Long may our friendship last.

I've wanted one of Cherchbi's tweed and leather bags ever since I came across the brand a year or two ago. Their story is a fascinating one. Cherchbi's bags and accessories are entirely designed and made in Britain using the best natural, locally sourced raw materials, including vegetable-tanned English saddle leather and Cherchbi's own Herdwyck No.10 wool tweed.

Established by Adam Atkinson in 2007, Cherchbi began with a simple idea: to make bags using the discarded wool of the ancient Herdwick breed of sheep. Over four years and nine weave trials, the animal's low value fleece was transformed into a high quality cloth. The result is Herdwyck No.10 - a pure wool, it’s colour and texture derived from the distinctive Herdwick fleece. The cloth is spun, woven and finished entirely in the British Isles.

Cherchbi's leathers are tanned by Joseph Clayton of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, established in 1840. Northern Irish cowhide is pit-tanned over a period of several weeks. This ancient tanning process has remained essentially unchanged for millennia. Cherchbi use English-cast brass buckles and metalware where possible; cotton lining is sourced from a mill in Manchester. The bags are put together by hand in a twelve-person workshop in the West Midlands.

Every single part of the process is overseen with care by Adam. It's a labour of love, and this very much shows in the final product.

My Haversack having a rest at home. (I apologise for the dying lavender.)

Discover more about Cherchbi here. Read my most recent blog entry for Cherchbi, The Country House Springtime Hit List, here.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

wish list: college loafer

Keeble 3 Tassel College Loafer from Russell & Bromley. Clearly, I'll have to get these. I've been after a pair of good quality, classic tassel loafers for quite some time and these could be perfect, worn with a crisp white shirt, and ideal for the impending change of seasons. I'm still enjoying the good weather, don't get me wrong, but I'm starting to secretly long for autumn: chilly, misty mornings, bronze leaves scattered across grey pavements. It is my favourite time of year, after all...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

24th birthday

It was my 24th Birthday last Tuesday. I got up very early and watched Brideshead Revisited (all-time favourite) in bed (the perfect way to start the day), before heading up the road to Hampstead. We ate lunch at The Holly Bush and afterwards ambled around the village, a little drunk, picking out our favourite houses.

We went to The Wolseley for dinner and ate oysters, artichokes, quails eggs and crab. Oh, and a marvellous toasted brioche chocolate sandwich for pudding.

My friend Haeni gave me this. It smells of juniper berries, black pepper, carraway, incense, hyacinth, leather, papyrus, patchouli and black amber. Delicious.

Another friend, Rachel, gave me this fabulous card. The future me, I predict...

Thursday, 15 August 2013


So, Wilderness Festival was a blast! We decamped to the Cotswolds late on Friday afternoon, after a slightly traumatic journey which involved us breaking down on a busy roundabout near Oxford. (The AA guy came, turned the key and started the engine first time, naturally. We just sort of stared at our feet and muttered something about the temperamental nature of our badly behaved car... Err, yeah...) We arrived at Cornbury Park as the sun was setting, bathing endless fields and forests in soft golden light. We found our tent nestled in the shadows of the mighty house (belonging to Lord and Lady Rotherwick) - all gorgeous Cotswold stone and enormous, shimmering windows. We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the many delights of the festival. We danced late at night in a tiny tent in a secret copse and swam in the freezing lakes at dawn (I say swam, it was more of an anxious flap - too concerned about nipping crayfish). We ate lots of delicious street food (haloumi, chorizo, meatballs, churros) and watched gymnasts, performers, musicians, poets and writers do, sing and say wonderful things. I even bought a wand (handmade from willow - obviously couldn't have been happier about that). My phone's battery kept repeatedly giving up, so I'm lacking in lots of good pictures, but here's D. in front of our tent and a few others...

The lakeside spa, curated by Toast. Here we swam in the mornings and napped in the afternoons, whilst people drifted around in little boats.


Saturday evening wildfire sunset.

Friday, 9 August 2013

to the lighthouse: 2013

My trip to the West Country that began last Saturday and ended on Wednesday went by in a flash of thunderous rain and ice cream. When the weather was good (Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday), it was really good - we lounged on the harbour beach and ate fish & chips, but when it was bad (Sunday, Monday), it was really bad - we had no choice but to haul ourselves up indoors, where we played Trivial Pursuit and ate biscuits topped with clotted cream. I stayed with my family in a little pink house, overlooking the harbour at Ilfracombe (the view above was from my bedroom window).

In October last year, Damien Hirst installed his 66 foot bronze-clad sculpture Verity at the end of Ilfracombe's pier. The statue of a pregnant female holding a sword aloft and standing on a base of legal books is meant to be a modern allegory of truth and justice. Before our holiday, and after a lot of reading about Verity's recent arrival, I really wasn't sure how I would react to her, but by the end of our stay, I had grown to like the statue very much. It's certainly a very impressive sight.

Seagulls, seagulls, everywhere.

I spent a morning walking along one of the nearby beaches (in a regrettable choice of footwear), exploring rock pools and clumsily clambering over jagged, slippery rocks.

Raging seas. The tides reach incredibly high around this part of the coast.

In front of our house. I love this shade of pink.

On Tuesday we drove twenty miles down the road, through Exmoor National Park, to Lynmouth. Thomas Gainsborough, who honeymooned here, described Lynmouth as 'the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast'.

Lynmouth sits in a gorge, 700 feet below the town of Lynton, to which it is connected by a water powered cliff railway.

I travelled up to Lynton via the railway with the aim of visiting a little antique shop that resides down one of the town's perfectly formed side streets. Strangely, I dreamt about buying a blue glass vase from a junk shop a night or two before, but alas, no blue glass vases were to be found here. I did however pick up this black & white picture history book for a couple of pounds - it documents house building in England from the Mediaeval period through to the 60s. In the afternoon, I sat on a deckchair by the sea, Cornish pasty in one hand, book in the other, and read through it, historical period by historical period. (I love the simple cover design.)

A final shot of the sea. The skies were about to open; the depths looked ominous.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

in youth is pleasure

I've come to spend a few days in Devon with my family, as I do every year (see last year's post here). Unfortunately the weather is being rather temperamental - yesterday the sun was shining and the skies were bright, but today has been just awful. Rain has poured and poured and poured. In a way it's been quite wonderful - I've spent the day indoors reading, windows flung open, listening to the endless showers and rumbling waves as they crash around the little Victorian harbour. In Youth is Pleasure by Denton Welch was recommended to me not so long ago by someone I've never met in person. I was intrigued by the title and spent months trying to locate a copy, always forgetting to order online, and then last week, there it was in Foyles. I cannot express just how much I'm enjoying this book so far. It's a coming-of-age story, told from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Orvil Pym. The detail is incredible - Orvil's observations of his feelings and surroundings are touching and at times hilarious. See the passage above, for example. I was chuckling to myself for hours afterwards at the thought of this childhood game Orvil describes.

Friday, 2 August 2013

emily, courgette, thunder, sweet william

Emily podding broad beans in preparation for our risotto on Wednesday evening. She made us supper and did a really great job - mixing in thin, delicate, delicious strips of yellow courgette. I did a bit of the stirring, which I always enjoy partly because it feels very relaxing and therapeutic, but mostly because you can get away with eating big chunks of parmesan when your dinner guests aren't looking.

The next morning Emily had replaced the pots and pans with these little glasses, stuffed with sweet william. Oh how I love sweet william. So sort of brilliantly old-fashioned and wonderfully English. It was thundering outside but it felt still and calm indoors, thanks to Emily and these sweet little flowers.

a hawk and a hacksaw

I currently can't get enough of A Hawk and a Hacksaw. The band, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, consists of accordionist Jeremy Barnes and violinist Heather Trost. The pair create mostly instrumental music inspired by Eastern European, Turkish and Balkan traditions. Utterly curious, totally enchanting, re-imagined gypsy folk... Listen to one of my favourite songs of theirs below.