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FRED BUTLER MENTORS FOR SOMEWHERE_TO

If I had to nominate an inspirational creative to motivate aspiring British fashion designers, Fred Butler would be at the top of my list. Somewhereto_ saw the magic, too, and chose the colour-loving designer READ MORE...
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NET-A-SPORTER LAUNCHES 7-DAY BODY REBOOT

NET-A-PORTER has gone sporty with their 7-Day Body Reboot, a daily fitness and healthy diet program presented as a video series. I think this is brilliant for two reasons. First, it's a smart way to promote READ MORE...
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WeSC & ALTEWAI SAOME LAUNCH HIGH END STREETWEAR

Following the wrap-up of Stockholm Fashion Week is the launch of a new collaboration between two Swedish fashion greats, skate/street brand WeSC and design duo Altewai Saome READ MORE...
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MADE LONDON RETURNS TO MARYLEBONE

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
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SEA LIFE COMES TO TORONTO AT RIPLEY'S AQUARIUM

It's called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (as opposed to Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto which would follow the format for their US locations), which is not helping the general READ MORE...
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BOOK REVIEW: LAND/SEA VOL.1

I opened the cover of a new landscape photography periodical I had just received called Land/Sea and began browsing the photos and words as I walked into my kitchen READ MORE...
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LC:M BACKSTAGE AT MATTHEW MILLER WITH TONI & GUY

Yes, this is a men's fashion post. And it feels right. This season's London Collections: Men was my first ever thanks to an invitation from long-term London Fashion Week sponsor Toni & Guy READ MORE...
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February 05, 2014

Fashion Film: Erdem SS14

Erdem has always been a favourite of mine for his ethereal aesthetic and seasonal (or rather season-less) reinterpretations of florals. Trevor Undi has made a film that presents an enchanted look at the designer's Spring/Summer 2014 collection, and like Erdem's clothes, it's really beautiful. 

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December 09, 2013

North East Photographer Launches The Sill Photography Competition

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As the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” draws to a close to be replaced by the stunning sights of an English winter, North East photographer and film maker Cain Scrimgeour asks members of the public to enter a competition celebrating all things bright and beautiful about Northumberland National Park.

Cain, 23, from Whitley Bay, is supporting a photography competition in partnership with Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales), the organisations behind The Sill, a proposed £11.2m national landscape discovery centre in the heart of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.

The Sill will replace the current visitor centre and YHA youth hostel at the Once Brewed site with a state-of-the-art building that is both “inspired by the landscape and of the landscape” and which, as its centrepiece, will feature a fully accessible green roof made from unique Northumbrian Whin vegetation that visitors can actually walk onto.

The Sill will inspire and transform how people understand, access and enjoy the natural and cultural landscapes of Northumberland National Park including the Hadrian’s Wall area as well as other outstanding areas in the region like the Cheviots, North Pennines and Northumberland Coast. These beautiful and dramatic areas, rugged landscapes and fantastic wildlife provide perfect scenery for budding photographers.

Cain ScrimgeourCain, who recently provided time lapse footage and wildlife imagery for Robson Green’s new ITV1 series Tales from Northumberland, hopes to inspire local people and visitors of all ages to capture the quintessential beauty of the entire Northumberland National Park area and beyond on camera. He said: “I’ve spent a lot of time photographing and filming various parts of Northumberland National Park and the wider North East region and the opportunities to capture breath-taking images are truly staggering. The Sill will introduce so many people to this rare beauty and I’m very excited to be involved with the project from the outset.

“I hope people of all ages and walks of life will get out and about with their cameras, whether they are highly technical pieces of kit or just their smart phones, and capture for themselves what the area has to offer. The colours and tones available at the end of autumn are absolutely gorgeous but it’s a really diverse landscape and genuinely looks amazing in every season; particularly the winter.

“In return for entering photos into the competition, you’ll have the chance to be part of something really special from its very beginning – the images will be used to promote The Sill far and wide and may even be incorporated into the new building somehow."

The photography competition is open to all ages and experience levels, with a category for under 18s and a category for over 18s and a winner will be chosen at the end of each season. Photographs are welcomed that capture the essence of Northumberland National Park and other special Northumbrian landscapes in relation to one of three themes; environments (including lakes and rivers, crags, hills, iron age hillforts and traditional buildings etc), flora and fauna (all forms of wildlife from cattle to forests) and activities (including everything from people working on the land, children’s bike rides to rock climbing and astrology).

Stuart Evans, The Sill Project Director, said: “The Sill will be a hub to inspire people to visit and learn about Northumberland National Park and beyond. Those who live in and work this land are well aware of the fantastic views the Northumbrian landscapes offer and we’d love more people to experience and discover this for themselves and help us share the sights with many others. 

“We’re thrilled that Cain is supporting the campaign, he has produced some awe-inspiring work in the park and will be a very welcome addition to our judging team when we make some very difficult decisions regarding our winners! We’ll be awarding some fantastic money can’t buy prizes, including a photography workshop with Cain.

The Sill photography competition 1Photo © Cain Scrimgeour

“The bank of images we generate will be used to promote The Sill and we hope that contributors will feel immense pride in helping us bring our striking landscapes to life. We’re currently trying to raise £3.7m of funding to match what we’re set to receive from the Heritage Lottery Fund to bring our ambitious plans to fruition and these photographs will certainly help to demonstrate the wealth of opportunities on offer to potential funders.”

Northumberland National Park provides an abundance of extremely photogenic subjects, from the Cheviot Hills to Steel Rigg and red grouse to salmon, but anyone hoping to capture more adventurous activities should keep checking the events page of The Sill’s website for details of other photographic opportunities.

The best entries will be uploaded to The Sill’s social media profiles so anyone interested in seeing contributions from budding photographers of the North East should search ‘The Sill’ on Facebook and follow the project on Twitter @thesillproject.

Entries can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter or submitted by email to thesillproject@gmail.com. Images need to be at least 300 dpi and a maximum file size of 10MB.

In entering the competition, entrants agree that copyright of the images belongs to The Sill and can therefore be used by them in any way they see fit, although attempts will always be made to credit the photographer.

The competition is ongoing and a judging panel including Cain Scrimgeour will determine winners on a quarterly basis.

For more information about The Sill and the upcoming events, visit www.thesill.org.uk , find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject

November 20, 2013

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!

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Starting today, Somerset House, in partnership with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins, presents Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, a major fashion exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life and wardrobe of the late British patron of fashion and art. Tickets can be purchased from the Somerset House website.

For more about the exhibiton and Isabella Blow's fascinating life in fashion, visit Not Just a Label and Daphne Guiness' Guide to the exhibition on Vogue.co.uk. (Daphne owns her late friend Isabella Blow's entire fashion collection, purchased after her death to stop it from being sold at auction and dispersed.)

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November 13, 2013

Best of British Design: Tom Vousden

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The James Desk (£1500) and James Desk chair (£675) in Walnut, with tweed upholstery. Also available in oak.

The 100% Design exhibition showcased some great British design talent, and my favourite part of attending was discovering new names. Welsh designer/maker Tom Vousden caught my eye with his uniquely elegant desk and chair frames in walnut and oak, and I loved how he combined the woods with other materials. Powder coated steel made up the legs of the side table and the shutter-like panels on the sideboard, and an armchair featured hand-knitted cushions in warm tones. I really wanted to sit in it. I should have. 

A bit about Tom Vousden: After finishing a Three Dimensional Design course at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2011, he returned to North Wales to make high-end, bespoke furniture for a variety of clients. Tom uses modern technology and techniques along with hand making to create authentic furniture of quality and longevity. 

For more information about these pieces or to enquire about bespoke designs you can contact Tom through his website

Tom_Vousden_100%DesignTom Vousden at the 100% Design show

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Tang Side Table (£355) with oak top and powder coated steel legs in blue; the James Desk Chair in walnut

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The James Desk in walnut

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 Lounge Chair with hand knitted cushions and hand turned oak buttons (£1550)  

Tom_Vousden_WalnutDeskWalnut Office Desk, Chair and Cabinet

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Lounge Chair in leather (£1350) with Oak Side Table (£325)

November 01, 2013

A Look at 50 Years of the Mathmos Lava Lamp

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I had a lava lamp in university. I bought it during the revival of the trippy 1960s ornament when they seemed to be everywhere. A lot of the styles were kind of big and clunky, and then I saw one that seemed more 'me', a slimmer model with a brushed silver base and top and the coolest colour of purple lava, a soft hue that looked gorgeous when the light was on. It was a Mathmos 'Astro' lamp and I got compliments on it all the time because it was different from the others. I loved that thing. It became kind of a night light because I'd fall asleep staring at it on my desk. 

Mathmos is celebrating 50 years of the lava lamp this autumn , and in reading over the history of the company I've learned some things about this iconic piece of pop culture. It's a British product, invented by Edward Craven-Walker who went on to found Mathmos in 1963. And all of the compoments are made in Britain, even today. Mathmos has committed to keeping the manufacturing of their classic on home turf and the company continues to be entirely British owned and run.

Here's a charmingly retro video (love the 'Barbarella' soundtrack) - showing us how each part is made - the bottle production in Yorkshire, metal spinning by hand and robot in Devon, and the formulation and final assembly in Poole, Dorset where it all began - with some lovely scenery shots from each location:

 

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To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Mathmos have launched a limited edition Astro with commemorative certificate signed by Christine Craven-Walker, the wife and business partner of the inventor. Alongside the limited edition is the new Heritage collection inspired by vintage colours and finishes in celebration of Mathmos’ long history:

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Here's a look at some vintage images from the early days of Mathmos:

Craven-Walker traveled the country selling from the back of an ex-postal van known as 'Smokey' - how neat! I wonder if it still exists?
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One of the first adverts for the Mathmos 'Astro' lamp

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Inventor of the lava lamp, Edward Craven-Walker. He is quoted as saying, "If you buy my lamp, you won't need drugs... I think it will always be popular. It's like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again".  

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The prototype of the 1960s Astro, created by the founder of Mathmos. It was inspired by a design for an egg timer that Mr. Craven-Walker saw in a Dorset pub!

I'm feeling nostalgic now, are you?

All Mathmos lava lamps are available to buy direct Europe-wide from www.mathmos.com

October 16, 2013

The #UnlockArt Film Series Experience Begins...

TheSwelleLife_3D (1 of 1)Upon arrival I was given 3D glasses so I could find my room which had my name encoded on the door - a new way of seeing things? This set the tone for what was to follow....

Here I am again at one of my most favourite places, Le Méridien Piccadilly in London, this time for their UNLOCK ART film series experience. It's only mid-afternoon as I'm writing this and already we've had a day packed with all kinds of wonderful delights ('we' is me and six other lucky bloggers), and we've been told there's a surprise to come before our "immersive" five course dinner experience with A Taste Full Space this evening. We've received instructions to be in our rooms at 6pm for the first surprise and I can't wait to find out what they have cooked up - if I know Le Méridien, it will be out of this world. 

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Click the image to watch the film at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site

This morning at the hotel we were treated to the Unlock Art debut screening of Bringing Performance Art to Life, the first of a series of eight exclusive films created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien. It was brilliantly presented by Frank Skinner who delivered the most clever of scripts, written by Jessica Lack (with a bit of improv we've been told). The objective of the films is to make art inclusive and accessible to everyone, taking it from 'high brow to street level', to Unlock Art for those who may not otherwise have paid attention for whatever reason, be it they don't understand the art, or think it's not meant for them. Delivered with the perfect dose of respectful humour, this historical survey of this provocative genre was entertaining, engaging and educational, and I wasn't bothered about whether I understood at that moment exactly what performance art is - yes even as an art student I struggled to get my head around it - I just wanted to keep watching. For me, it opened the mind and bridged the gap between 'us' and 'them', and hopefully it will do the same for many others as well. This afternoon we had the opportunity to chat with Susan Doyan who directed and produced the series, and she was lovely. What a talent. This easily digestible tour of the arts, from Surrealism to Pop Art, will continue to roll out monthly at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site. In addition, The Guardian will also be posting the videos. 

Update: The BBC has also featured the story and video which you can see here

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And what better to follow than actual performance art? Pil & Galia Kollectiv's 'A Guide to Office Clerical Time Standards' is an instructional piece based on a corporate manual from 1960. The pamphlet is focused on the time necessary for the accomplishment of minute labour procedures in the office, from the depressing and releasing of typewriter keys to the opening and closing of file cabinet drawers. In the performance, seven costumed performers represent the different levels of management and employment while performing the actions described in the guide, accompanied by a live musical score. It was a very rhythmic performance that captured and held the attention of the audience throughout its repetitive acts. 

Now let's talk about the food. Jumping back to my arrival, I found a treat in my room after I entered be-spectacled in 3D. A trio of fortune cookies were waiting to be opened, and in them were these messages:

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I ate them up and was so excited to see what art was going to be unlocked for us. 

After the performance, a unique array of tiny cocktails and food, both savoury and sweet, were served. Never passing up an opportunity to make a moment special, they presented chocolate covered strawberries hanging from umbrellas which was just so neat!

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After the lovely talk with Susan Doyan I came up to my room and found this:

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Being a three-time (and counting I hope!) veteran of these Le Méridien experiences I knew what was in that teapot: an infused gin, one of the hotel's specialties, and tonic to mix for a totally unique G&T. (See more here.) I was so full after my Caligula-like ravaging of the mini foods (and drinks) but there was no way I was letting that pot sit idle and I poured a delicious cup (and kept going until it was all gone). And I ate more than that one bite missing from the macaron. As you can see, I really had no choice. 

Next up: Our immersive dinner. Hint: Hackney, locked cages, dancing zombie girls...

June 23, 2013

Case Study: J.W. Anderson x Nikon 1

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I love my Nikon D7000, but I'm a tiny bit jealous of the Nikon 1 owners at the moment for they now have a 1940s-style leather case, created in collaboration with of-the-moment (and deservedly well beyond) British fashion designer J.W. Anderson, made just for them and their snappy little sidekicks. The 400 bag limited collection is available in black, white, orange and blue colourways and reflects J.W. Anderson's unisex approach to design. The bags can now be pre-ordered at the Nikon Store and are priced at £85.

I love this case, carrying it would make me feel like a mid-century sailor with impeccable taste in accessories. How 'about a bigger one for us Nikon users with chunkier cargo? Please?

Below, Jonathan Anderson speaks from his studio not only about his collaboration with Nikon, but why London is "the epi-centre of new", how he approaches design for his womenswear and menswear collections and why a designer should never compromise. If you've been following fashion recently you'll know that these aren't empty words, the man is pushing boundaries. (Bonus: his Northern Irish accent):

 
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Photos courtesy of Nikon

June 11, 2013

Glasgow: On the Train Through Northumberland

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Last weekend I went to Glasgow. This post really has nothing to do with Glasgow except for the fact that this is what I saw out the train window on the way! But I have too many photos of Glasgow to post at once, so we'll start the tour here. Northumberland, the county that borders Scotland in the east, is absolutely stunning country - you can see other trips to various sites here - and is the reason that when people invariably say to me, on a weekly basis for the past nearly 8 years, "Canada is beautiful, what are you doing here?" I reply, "Have you SEEN your country?!" Yes, Canada is beautiful, but it's massive and therefore not beautiful everywhere. And the UK pretty much is, you're never very far from breathtaking scenery. One of the first observations my husband made when we took our first trip through Northumberland when we moved here, is how all of the land is used for something, and so you don't have the wastelands you see in North America. All of this land has been owned for hundreds of years by someone, taken care of and given purpose, and it's easy to see why it inspired so many landscape painters over the centuries. You can be so tired your eyes are burning in their sockets but it's almost impossible to look away when travelling through areas like this. And if you like sheep, you'll get your fill and then some. Somehow none of my pictures have any. But I swear they are everywhere up here. Really.

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The rapeseed fields (worst name ever!) create wonderful, bright yellow, massive colourblocks on the landscape. 

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Pretty painted houses dot the coast of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last town in England before you cross into Scotland. 

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We saw rainbows along the way for about 20 minutes, and when I exclaimed, dumbfounded, that we kept seeing them I was made fun of for not understanding how rainbows work. I have now reminded myself by reading about it (it's been a long time since grade 7 science class!). I still think it's a little bit of magic happening there. 

More to come on actual Glasgow...

Photos © The Swelle Life

May 08, 2013

Standout Stools: How to Make Them Work in Your Space

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I've been thinking a lot about stools lately, you know, as you do! We looked at beautiful breakfast bars last week and saw a variety of great looking bar stools, and then I found myself in Harrogate drooling over a high back stool of exquisitely woven hot pink polyurethane (trust me) in a contemporary furniture shop, saying "if only..." Sound familiar? A (good) stool is one of those furniture items that is universally appealing, but actually found in very few homes. It's probably for the same reason as why I don't have one in our home: we don't think we have the space. I lamented this 'fact' to the owner of the shop I was visiting and he stated quite confidently, "You always have room for a stool." He wasn't a hard-selling kind of guy, he was simply stating a truth which has trickled through; I've since realised after coming home and scrutinising every room of ours for potential places to put such a stool, that it's not about shoe-horning it in to your existing decor for the sake of it, but rather seeing it as a replacement for an existing piece, or even as a foundation piece to build your space around and create a vibe that works for you. If a particular item excites us that much, it can be worth mixing up our traditional approaches and coming at our spaces from a fresh - and sometimes scary! - perspective.

Here's an exercise to try: Use your coveted stool (or any wish list item you have an enduring lust for) as a starting point for a particular room and think about what you can move, or get rid of - chances are you'll have at least one major thing that you live with that doesn't thrill you anymore (there's a joke in there I'm not going to touch). I'll use my living room as an example: I have a large sideboard that was once my pride and joy and now I see it as an eyesore, and also I'm bored with how I've decorated it on top; it served me well for a time but I've moved past the style altogether. Replacing it with another sideboard that's more my taste now is one option. But, what if I were to abandon the idea that a large, decorated, storage piece needs to anchor the view into my living room? And the armchair that looks nice but isn't sat in all that much? What else could I do with that space? This is where the scary and exciting makes an entrance - oh, the possibilities! But a clear focus is important. The ultimate goal here is to achieve a balance of function and flow; your space needs to be harmonious and comfortable to be useful and enjoyable.

Here are some ways you can create a stool feature in your home, starting with a living room in which the stool doubles as a table (above, notice how the odd proportions of the higher stool with the low sofa are balanced by the articulated desk lamp), and a secondary dining area in a contemporary style:

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The table and high stool set give this workspace a unique industrial-meets-natural vibe:

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I really love this alternative to the home office (below). Yes, having skyscraper ceilings and gigantic windows with a great city view makes this space magical, but you can create something similar in your own home - it's just a matter of priority! In fact, it has me thinking about how I work (I refuse to be stuck in our little office upstairs all day). That armchair I mentioned earlier that doesn't get a lot of action happens to be in front of our bay windows, and I'll bet that the stool that has me preoccupied would fit just perfectly in front of a charming table...

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Sources linked from photos

April 19, 2013

Erdem's Spring Stunner

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Just when I thought I was leaning toward more minimal designs in fashion (because my interior/decor tastes are definitely less fussy these days), I get a blast of sunshine in the face at first glimpse of this dress. I guess I will always get an adrenaline rush from layers of transparency, cheery colours, and the special details like embroidery (why would I fight that?!). This is Erdem's latest masterpriece which jumped out at me in an email newsletter and I had to investigate. It's a very pricey one, so this is just for daydreaming, though I have no idea where I'd wear it should the dress fairy grant me a wish. And those shoes!! I've always loved a t-bar, and I'm a slave to pretty blues. They're Nicholas Kirkwood for Erdem which is given away by the floral lace upper. The metallic platform, heel and trim give the shoe a bit of an edge and offset the delicateness of the dress, if the excessive chunkiness and cut-out in the heel didn't already do the job. 

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If you like vertiginous heels, take a look at Milanoo for their sky-highs in a variety of styles.

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