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, 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 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 email@example.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
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.)
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 at the 100% Design show
Tang Side Table (£355) with oak top and powder coated steel legs in blue; the James Desk Chair in walnut
Lounge Chair with hand knitted cushions and hand turned oak buttons (£1550)
Lounge Chair in leather (£1350) with Oak Side Table (£325)
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:
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:
One of the first adverts for the Mathmos 'Astro' lamp
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".
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
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.
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
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:
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!
After the lovely talk with Susan Doyan I came up to my room and found this:
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...
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):
The rapeseed fields (worst name ever!) create wonderful, bright yellow, massive colourblocks on the landscape.
Pretty painted houses dot the coast of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last town in England before you cross into Scotland.
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
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:
The table and high stool set give this workspace a unique industrial-meets-natural vibe:
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...
Sources linked from photos
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.
If you like vertiginous heels, take a look at Milanoo for their sky-highs in a variety of styles.
I'm a cider girl. I hadn't even tried cider, ever, before moving to the UK over seven years ago, but because of its prominence here - there's a renaissance happening and these days it's as popular as lager, thanks to Somerset's enduring commitment to the tradition of cider making - I was encouraged to give it a go.
As with wine and beer, not all ciders are created equal. There are some that could be served as apple juice and no one would know the difference. But I found my preferences fell somewhere between the super sweet and quite dry and I couldn't really find something my taste buds would stay loyal to. Not being a beer drinker (bar the odd framboise but does that really count?) and my tendency to become narcoleptic on literally a few sips of wine, never mind spirits (I'm fun, eh?), cider's appeal endured because it's crisp and fruity, and I've always liked bubbles.
Last week the family-run, Somerset-based cider producer Brothers sent me two of their new flavours to try: Festival Pear Cider, and Strawberry. The 500ml bottles arrived with their new spring/summer branding featuring vintage-style labels based on a drawing that the wife of one of the founding brothers made nearly 20 years ago. I was really up for trying them because a) as mentioned, cider is my go-to drink, and b) somehow I hadn't crossed paths with Brothers before and c) I love the berry ciders. Or at least I love the idea of them. My last favourite now just seems far too sweet so I found myself in cider limbo.
First, I opened the Festival Pear Cider which is a stronger concoction than their regular pear, and most other ciders, at 7%. I was pleasantly surprised to find after one crude swig straight out of the chilled bottle that its initial sweetness is cut with a drier finish. For me, this is the perfect balance. Next, and on a different day, I tried the Strawberry (4%) which is a pear cider with strawberry juice - Brothers specialty is Perry - and was almost in shock that this bright red liquid beaming from my glass wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. Yes it's sweet of course, you don't buy berry varieties expecting something else, but like the Festival Pear, it's nicely balanced. So thank you, Brothers, you're now my go-to cider. I can actually finish a whole bottle!
A little history on the company: Brothers Drinks Co. Limited was started in 1992 by the four Showering brothers whose family have been making Perry in Somerset since 1658, and whose grandparents were behind the successful Babycham from the 1950s! (I have some of their dainty vintage cocktail glasses with the adorable white deer on them.) Brothers began selling its cider exclusively at Glastonbury back in 1992, and since then, its following has continued to grow, loved as ‘the company that introduced pear cider to the UK.’ (They found that most folks didn't know what perry was and responded more favourably when they were offered 'pear cider'.) For the next 10 years the Brothers Bar became increasingly popular, so five years ago Brothers Cider was launched into the on and off trade, by popular demand, for the first time. Today they are the sixth largest cider company in the UK Off Trade Multiple Grocers, and one of the fastest growing cider brands in the market.
I think the most intriguing art works are those that deliver a message through craft, combining technical skill and statement. Even better is when a pleasing, and seemingly benign, exterior - such as clusters of pretty porcelain flowers - draws us in to confront us with something we didn't expect; to surprise, and possibly even shock. This is the experience British artist Barnaby Barford has created with his new exhibition, The Seven Deadly Sins, currently on show at David Gill Gallery in London's Mayfair.
Known for his controversial re-modelling of traditional ceramic figurines, Barford describes his latest ceramic subversion as ‘love gone wrong’. He has made a series of mirrors which reflect the viewer and convey elements of the ‘sin’ they represent: Pride, Avarice, Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Sloth and Wrath. Human in scale, they reflect the viewer in full length, challenging perception in terms of form and message. The initial response is to marvel at their beauty and delight in the intricate detail which has gone into the construction of the sculptures. Then, the surprise, or shocking twist, plays its part when closer inspection of the frame's porcelain filigree flowers and foliage reveals images loaded with emotional, and sometimes distasteful, messages. For example, Gluttony carries images of fast food and takeaway menus, Envy uses photographs of the London riots in the summer of 2011, and Lust shows clusters of flowers bearing the faces of porn stars.
According to the artist's statement, Barford explores the nature of sin through these seven works, posing the question: Are sins a plague upon the social order or the grease that turns its wheels? At what point does desire turn into obsession or an unhealthy intensification of a perfectly understandable impulse? Barford has spent the last twelve months considering the way society measures and values extreme sensations. “We are all hard-wired to desire power, love, possessions. That’s probably the way all humans have been like,” he says. “It’s not fundamentally bad to desire things but what interests me is the way these ‘sins’ can motivate people. How does the idea of ‘sin’ affect people these days when we live in a largely secular society? What are the consequences?”
In confronting what he sees as uncomfortable truths about contemporary society, Barford decided that the viewers of his work should find themselves not just reflecting on the ideas he has presented to them but also, literally, reflected within the mirror. “You see the piece and you see yourself within it,” he says. (I am dying to know how many people fix their hair when standing in front of these mirrors, especially Pride.)
Pride. Barford has created a mirror which demands that the viewer sees themselves in entirety, portrayed like a god, within the curved portal of an icon. This mirror is surrounded by a multitude of flowers in golden clusters which frame the viewer, giving the reflected figure an heroic status. Barford’s interpretation of Pride is his take on the familiar phrase, “If it makes you happy…”, expanding on the notion that pride can be defined by arrogance, defiance, desire for self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction, no matter what impact your desire might have on other people. He was inspired by Henry Fairlie, British political journalist and social critic, who said: “Pride excites us to take too much pleasure in ourselves, but not to take pleasure in our humanity… it causes us to ignore others.”
Sloth. Barford has created a mirror which resembles a lazy loop, a bulging shape, weighted at the base with the easy, swelling lines of a bag filled with cushions. “I wanted to use just plain white flowers for Sloth,” said Barford, “because it’s about not caring. It’s represented by a shape full of nothingness and the sense of an emotion which is too inert to love or hate anything or anyone.” He adds another quote from Henry Fairlie, “Sloth is a sin which believes in nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”
Gluttony. An obsession with food is clear to see within this mirror. Resembling the bloated gut of the digestive system, the flowers carry Barford’s witty take on the availability of food and a human inability to resist temptation when it is presented so frequently, and universally. The flowers which adorn the puffy shapes of this piece are patterned with fragments of takeaway food menus and fast food advertisements. “From fatty kebabs to extreme fine dining, humans can’t stop thinking about food,” says Barford. He adds, “For a dieter the idea of food is negatively all-consuming and for the greedy person it’s a constant urge.” The pale tints of the fast food menus are seductively pretty and appealing, just as they are intended to be in their real purpose.
Wrath. The sharp shape of a mirrored star sits at the centre of this intense piece. Using the hot, flame colours of red and yellow, the impression of a bomb-blast is immediately apparent. Barford has taken the intensity of anger, when it spills into violence, and has represented it in a cacophony of colour loaded with exploding emotion. “The bomb is a master motif of our time,” says Barford. “A British viewer might see this and think of terrorism but an Iraqi might think of NATO bombs and a Japanese person might think of Hiroshima. At first glance this piece may seem cartoon-like but Barford deliberately uses this style to evoke an emotional distance from the reality of violence. He sees the piece as an example of the way vengeance can be carefully planned, designed to inflict maximum damage and pain but ensuring that the impact is well removed from the person who has planned it.
Lust. Barford confronts the extremes of contemporary sex in this piece. The flowers are beautiful, as with all the other mirrors, but they each bear the image of a porn star’s face, eyes closed, as they act out their roles for other people’s enjoyment. “I wanted to concentrate on the actors’ faces,” said Barford. “These films are impersonal, in the sense that it’s not the faces that the viewer’s want to see.” Yet the viewer of this piece will see themselves reflected within a splattered border of fleshy faces in varying states of ecstasy, disengaged, doing their job for the lust of others.
Envy. This, his most political piece, is about desire for other people’s possessions and the notion that, if they can’t have them then this festering resentment can result in wilful destruction and theft of other people’s property. Barford has used the urban disturbances in London and other UK cities in the summer of 2011 to illustrate this extreme sensation. “What happened during those riots was appalling,” he says, “but you can understand how a sense of injustice, coupled with violent opportunity, can catapult people into a situation when they take what they can, because they can.” He adds, “There’s this idea that people feel an entitlement to enjoy what others have and an irritation that others should enjoy what they don’t have. We are sold the idea of society as being equal,” he says, “and everyone having equal opportunities. But sadly we are simply not equal.” This large oblong mirror is covered with a filigree of creeper, like a lascivious weed which threatens to engulf the entire piece. Each of the leaves bears an image of the riots; hooded youths throwing stones, breaking windows, rampaging in the city streets and confronting the police. The piece’s beauty belies the depressing violence which envy can promote so suddenly in people who believe they can justify criminal behaviour as an aspect of their ‘right’ to possess other people’s goods.
Avarice. The desire for money is plainly seen in this handsome piece. Florets of porcelain blooms each bear the fragmentary image of some of the world’s great currencies. Greenback dollars for the leaves, pink Euros and Sterling pound notes as well as Yuan, Rupees, Turkish lira for the flowers. Avarice confronts the viewer with their basic desire for wealth, depicted as the wreaths twist and turn across the mirror’s organic shape. “The obsession for wealth can be seen both reflexively and reflectively, demonstrating desire and seeing the truth,” says Barford.
The Seven Deadly Sins can be viewed at David Gill Gallery at 2-4 King Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 6QP until Friday, 12 April. Concurrently, an exhibition of his earlier work will be shown from February 9 – March 17 at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, California, USA.
The history, the culture and the fashion, not to mention the instantly recognisable sights; it’s hard not to think about London without getting a little bit romantic about it. From the Victorian London of Dickens to the Swinging London of the sixties, the city has seen it all and yet never fails to surprise.
Yet, as big as the sights are, and as fantastic as the museums and the galleries are, it’s the small delights that make it for me. The city is brimming with hidden gems channelling the various eras it has witnessed. London’s past is never far away so it’s no surprise that some call it the vintage capital of the world. Vintage cafés and retro boutiques adorn most corners of the city, filling in the gaps between established flagship stores and long-standing culinary institutions; both of which make the most perfect way to take a moment to soak up London’s vintage side.
Style-wise, London has seen it all and been at the centre of it all: flappers, mods, the austere chic of the forties, fifties pin-up, cool Britannia in the nineties to name just a handful. Needless to say it doesn’t disappoint.
Flagship must: Established in 1879, Oxford Street’s House of Fraser has been there since Queen Victoria ruled the throne. Now a British staple, the Oxford Street store houses exclusive collaborations and myriad concessions such as Links of London and the re-launched iconic brand Biba.
Hidden gem: Vintage shops of all sizes and descriptions can be found all across London, but for a more curated offering head to House of Vintage. Found just off Brick Lane, their collection ranges from the 20s to the 80s with top-quality vintage pieces from YSL, Givenchy and Burberry amongst others.
Top tip: Eschew the tacky souvenir shops in favour of a more timeless memento.
Not just a London tradition, but quintessentially English, afternoon tea has been a ritual since the 1840s. Originating from the need to bridge the gap between breakfast and dinner back when two meals was the norm, it is the perfect way to take some time out mid-afternoon. Afternoon tea isn’t just about tea of course – expect freshly baked scones with clotted cream, delicate finger sandwiches and scrumptious cakes. For the more extravagant, many places have the option of an accompanying glass of prosecco or champagne.
Flagship must: The Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair has won awards for its afternoon tea, including the prestigious Tea Guild Award which is the equivalent of an ‘Oscar’ for tea!
Hidden gem: The Soho Secret Tearoom is indeed quite hidden. Occupying the space above a pub, this is a truly vintage experience with music provided by a gramophone and delicate chinaware.
Top tip: A full afternoon tea is serious business and it’s usually required that you book in advance.
A stroll in the park
Flagship must: Hyde Park is probably London’s most famous park for a reason. Open to the public since 1637 and spanning three-hundred and fifty acres, it has monuments, a lake, an ornamental garden and all kinds of activities from horse riding to swimming. Surely the greatest form of entertainment here though is soaking up the atmosphere and indulging in some people watching.
Hidden gem: Tucked away amongst the Georgian terraces of Greenwich, Greenwich Park Orchard is certainly a hidden treasure. Bearded keystone figures hug the surrounding walls of a park rich with wildlife and features that date back to the 18th century.
Top tip: Hyde Park and many others often host events, both big and small, so it’s always worth checking if anything is going on.
Yet another reason London is so great: The Regent Street Cocktail Safari will be launching in April at restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels along Regent Street, London W1, created as an extension of the internationally renowned Regent Street Food Safari. Shoppers will be able to enjoy multiple venues in one evening, tasting the signature cocktails and small plates each venue has developed for the occasion.
Taking part in the 2013 Regent Street Cocktail Safari are MASH, Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel, aqua, Gaucho, The Living Room W1, Sartoria, Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton, Le Meridien Piccadilly, Dirty Martini and Inamo.
To experience the Regent Street Cocktail Safari, visit Regent Street Online, plan your route, reserve a time at your chosen venues, gather your party and enjoy.
Here are some suggested itineraries to get you started:
Start at MASH on Brewer Street to try their movie themed cocktails, the American Psycho and the American Beauty. Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel will be serving Salt Beef Bagels, Hot Dogs and Slider Sandwiches alongside their signature Chrysler Cocktail, with a Cognac base. Go to aqua for their Iron Lotus and Guatemalan Spirit cocktails to complement their Spanish tapas.
Gaucho have created their own Regent Street Cocktail including Smirnoff black with Aperol and a saffron infusion. The Living Room, W1 are launching their brand new Bar Sliders menu, a new concept, with their Regent Street punch. Sartoria have designed 3 cocktails to embrace the West End spirit including a RegentStreet special, made with lychee juice, whereas Courthouse Double Tree by Hilton have created the Regent Street Cosmojito.
At Le Méridien Piccadilly (a personal favourite of mine for these reasons) you can try the mini tasting menu with three mini food plates and three tasting cocktails. If you’re a sushi fan, Inamo is offering a sushi selection with their signature spicy cocktail the Inamo, with chilli syrup. If you’re looking for a martini, head to the experts at Dirty Martini to try their Tropical Pear Martini, Mango & Chilli Martini, or signature Dirty Martini.
And here's what's in those delicous cocktails along with all of the other details:
Le Méridien Piccadilly
020 7734 8000
Cocktail: Bloody Mary Fizz. Twist on Red Snapper, Citadelle Gin, Mix Of Spices, Clarified Tomato Juice with a foam top. £14.50
Mini tasting menu: 3 mini portions of food, including Pork Belly & Hock Brawn, Liver Parfait, Prawn & Crab Cocktail & 3 tasting cocktails: Just Like That (Crystal Head Vodka infused with Rosemary, Mandarine Napoleon Liqueur, Homemade Limoncello, Fresh Lime ), Noble Swizzle (Tanqueray No.10 Gin, Pierre Ferrand Premier Cru Cognac, Swiss Absinthe, Almond Butter, Fresh Lemon, Lemon Bitters), Bees Knees (Appleton 8yo Rum, Drambuie, Honey and Lemon Juice). £20 - one tasting selection.
Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel
20 Sherwood Street
020 7734 4888
Cocktail: The Chrysler Cocktail. Cognac, Chambord, Port, Campari, Orange Curacao, Bitters. £9.75
Small Plates: Salt Beef Bagels, Hot Dogs, Slider Sandwiches. £3.95 each.
Courthouse Double Tree by Hilton
19–21 Great Marlborough Street
020 7297 5555
Cocktail: Cosmojito. Fresh mint, lime, sugar, orange bitters, Grey Goose Citron Vodka, Cointreau and a splash of cranberry juice built over crushed ice. £9.50
Small Plates: Light Bite - Bocconcini and Cherry Tomato. £5.95 Spanish tapas platter - Stuffed olives, Spanish chorizo, chilli garlic chicken with tomato, garlic bread fingers. £17.95
10c Hanover Square
0844 371 2550
Cocktails: Dirty Martini - made with Ketel One Vodka or PlymouthGin, Dry Vermouth and garnished with Kalamata Olives and a sprig of Thyme. Mango & Chilli Martini - muddle a small slice of chilli and absolut mandarin, mango liqueur, mango juice, sugar syrup, lemon juice and garnish with a red birds eye chilli. Tropical Pear Martini - Absolut Pear Vodka with Amaretto, orange Curaçao, Creme de Banane, pineapple juice, lime juice and garnished with an edible flower.
If you're in London, you'd be mad not to go!
Despite the instantaneous nature of television competitions, a successful dance career is not built in a moment. It can start as early as five years old when parents buy their child's first discount dancewear and sign up for dance classes, hoping at least that their daughter or son will have fun, and at best display a talent for the art.
The story of Lukas McFarlane, a contemporary dancer who has just won the UK’s most popular television dance competition Got To Dance 2013, began something like that. The 19-year-old Lukas - so proud he's a Canadian, too, from Calgary, Alberta - has been training for 14 years to win this life-changing award and its massive £250,000 prize. He packed up and moved to London alone after finishing high school to pursue his dance career, and it's clear it was well worth the sacrifice of leaving his supportive and close family behind.
The astonishing performance
The live final took place at London’s Olympia in front of an audience of 6,000. Lukas stole the hearts of the teary-eyed judges and audience with his extraordinary one-of-a-kind performance to Alex Clare’s Too Close, and elicited a rare standing ovation from the judges Kimberley Wyatt, Ashley Banjo and the usually stone-faced Aston Merrygold, who practically convulsed with giddiness when Lukas completed a series of energetic, momentum-building pirouettes.
Ashley Banjo had this to say: “Normally I find it quite easy to put what I want to say in to words, but with you I can’t. I have never, ever been so inspired by a dancer in my life. Honestly you have changed my entire outlook on this competition and what to expect of people in this competition. You’ve raised the bar of Got To Dance”.
In the past, contemporary solo dancers didn't have much of a chance at winning Got to Dance. The criticism was consistently that they were good technically, but they weren't giving anything beyond that. It's Lukas' incredible passion combined with a flawless technical ability that makes him outstanding; he's so perfect in motion that he can dance instinctively and ignore the academics of his routine and that allows him to give 100% emotionally while he's performing, and it's that engagement that touches his audience and reduces 6'4" street dancers to tears.
The judges thought that Lukas at least deserved a place in the top three, but the dancer’s huge fan base - it's the viewers who vote for the winner - helped him leave his fellow competitors behind. McFarlane’s family made the trip from Canada to support their son during the live final.
His father, Stan McFarlane, admitted that the TV show “turned out to be something quite bigger than they first thought it would be”. He added, “He started dancing when he was five. He’s really enjoyed it. We tried to get him into other things – soccer, skiing, gymnastics, but he’s always preferred to just dance”.
Surely, many children are going to recognise Lukas as an inspiring role model and start dancing, and maybe even find that special dancer in themselves.
Here's Lukas in action (get ready to gush):
I just realised who he reminds me of: If Henry Rollins was an amazing dancer, he'd be Lukas McFarlane
Look beyond the no-pants, high top trainer, face-eating-muff styling by Katie Grand and you'll see some very gorgeous knits from this sister line of the knitwear house Sibling, appropriately named Sister by Sibling. (Sometimes I feel the need to explain why catwalk presentation can be odd, for the non-fashion readers. Like my Dad. "Why isn't she wearing pants? Who goes out without pants?" "No one, dad. But you notice the sweater, right? And the hat?" "No, I'm wondering why she's not wearing pants." "Never mind, Dad.") Anyway, massive scarves in a gorgeous slubby texture are appealing in a primal way - don't we all seek that kind of assured comfort in the cold? The short sleeves of the fair isle and rosette sweaters balance their chunkiness and make for a cute shape. And they may even look good with pants.
I love the sporty look of Clements Riberio's striped cashmere sweater with the floral mini, and the slightly punky hair that keeps it from looking too preppy. These outfits stood out from the earthier muted tones that dominated the second half of the line up.
Michael van der Ham's usual choppy asymmetry was only to be found in the zig zag of the models' hairstyle this season. The patchwork mashups were (mostly) gone, with the outfits more finished and refined. And if the models look to be even more miserable than usual (actually, with the exception of one, these were the least sour looking of the bunch) it's because van der Ham's inspiration was a 'tough girl - moody and dark.' Ok. But some actually looked like they were in pain.
Pringle of Scotland has pared down their knitwear range to focus on their signature styles, the loveliest of the bunch being the pure white gilet and skirt in an ottoman rib knit that makes you want to run your fingers over and over just as much as wear.
I always look forward to the Orla Kiely presentation in what has been her fashion week home away from home for the past several seasons, the Portico Rooms at Somerset House which she would transform into her preferred fantasyland at the time, and always on the Friday. Sometimes there would be live models (which of course I loved, they pose for you), sometimes there would be cardboard cutouts, and other times it was superimposed paper girls on the walls. I've skipped the past two seasons because fashion week takes a heck of a lot of energy, and I just haven't had it for the past year. So I was surprised to find out that Orla moved out of Somerset House and instead set up office, literally, for her fashionable, anachronistic secretaries to show off their new knit dresses, embroidered cardigans and smart handbags between typing and taking phone calls.
Click the image to watch the video of the girls at work (at fashion156.com):
Another reason I love the presentation format:
I so look forward to inspecting the intricate details of Bora Aksu's clothes up close in the exhibition hall, post-show. The Turkish designer's signature approach involves techniques with the textiles to create all kinds of interesting textures, and mixing knitted elements with both delicate and rigid materials, like chiffons and lace, and hard leather. You can see some details from a past season here.
And undoubtedly the most joyful of presentations come from Fred Butler where you instantly feel validated for your enduring childhood attachment to colour and your desire to celebrate it now in a big way. Which Fred does every day. This season Fred took a more commercial approach and set up a pop-up shop (complete with Fred Butler-esque cupcakes by Pomp de Franc) to allow guests to interact with the goods.
Fred does a film each season and I use them for a little daydreamy escape whenever things are too gloomy in this world of ours:
Photos from Style.com unless otherwise credited
Following the success of last year’s Spring Festival, the British Library will again host a star-studded five day celebration of the creative industries from March 1st - 5th. Aiming to inspire creative practitioners from all over the country, this year’s Festival invites industry experts, from Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ magazine, to leading fashion illustrator and artist Julie Verhoeven, whose portfolio includes Louis Vuitton, Versace and Mulberry, to speak about their sources of inspiration.
From Russian propaganda to rainforest recordings, the treasures from the British Library’s archives have inspired up-and-coming creatives as well as established artists. This year the Library will reveal a brand new piece of art from Verhoeven to celebrate the Festival and, as a tribute to the Library's incredible collections, a series of postcards from some of the most influential figures in the fashion world, including Gareth Pugh, Alex Fury, Adam Selman and Christopher Kane, telling of their favourite item in the Library will be on display as part of a one-night pop-up exhibition. Also featuring that night will be the Library’s historic issues of fashion magazines, from Vogue to I-D, all part of Late at the Library: Fashion Flashback, an evening of music and fashion co-curated by the Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory degree students. The evening will also see GQ's Jones and fashion illustrator Tanya Ling give a special ‘In conversation with…’ talk, an exclusive ‘paper fashion show’ of specially commissioned designs by the Central Saint Martins Print Design course, a styling area where guests can receive makeovers with Chantecaille inspired by iconic looks taken from the Library’s Cecil Beaton archives, live costume drawing and sets by iconic British DJs, Princess Julia and Jeffrey Hinton.
‘My favourite book is Tokyo Lucky Hole, by Araki Nobuyoshi’ – Christopher Kane
Celebrating new work from budding filmmakers in the UK, the Library and IdeasTap launched an exciting debut film competition during London Film Festival. Filmmakers were asked to produce a new short film using sounds from the Library’s unique wildlife recordings, from haddock to bats. The winning film will be shown during the Festival alongside award-winning shorts from the Future Shorts Festival including the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at 2012 Sundance Film Festival ‘Fishing without nets’.
Designers from all over the country have once again been invited to host a stall at this year’s Spring Market on the Library’s piazza, selling products inspired by the Library’s collections and nurtured to market by its Business & IP Centre. The list of designers can be viewed here, and to watch a video of last year’s market on the piazza see here.
For more information about attending the festival and for a listing of events, you can visit The British Library website
For no good reason at all, I've neglected to do a Painted Houses post in longer than I'd care to admit (so don't go checking, eh?). Since the last, I've had some great reader submissions that absolutely must be shared, and so I'm getting back into the colourful houses and buildings theme starting with Portmeirion in North Wales, thanks to reader Pixie who introduced me to this vivid, fantastical place.
In the seven years I've lived in England I've never been to Wales - the closest I've gotten is Bristol and Bath - but it is on our list of UK places to visit, and now that I've had a peek, Portmeiron has become a must-see. Pixie provided a link to their tourism site and I noticed this: "Portmeirion is open every day of the year from 9.30am to 7.30pm." And you need tickets. I was very confused until I read this:
"This unique village is set on its own private peninsula on the southern shores of Snowdonia. It was created by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978) to demonstrate how a naturally beautiful place could be developed without spoiling it. Portmeirion is made up of about 50 buildings, most of which are used as hotel or self-catering accommodation and surrounded by 70 acres of sub-tropical woodland gardens. On the main driveway is Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian mansion recently restored as a brasserie style restaurant and hotel."
And the late 1960s TV series The Prisoner was filmed there. (I wonder if they got kicked out at 7:30?)
Here are Pixie's photos from her visit, followed by some screencaps from the incredible 360° panoramic views of the village which I had great fun playing with.
These two images (above and below) are taken from a panoramic view of Portmeirion's Battery Park, by Ralph Ames
The panoramic angles and the vivid colours remind me of the slides I used to look at as a child through my View-master!
There seems to be a religious theme in this part of Battery Square of the Christian persuasion. I can't see the detail of the painting on the arch of the white building on the left, above, but it appears to be in the style of the Mannerist era. And below, I think that's Jesus saying hello on the balcony! Shot by Billy Hepburn
The Portmeirion Beach, Traeth Sands. By Billy Hepburn:
The Bristol Colonnade is...making me want to book train tickets!
A magical name for a magical house - Unicorn Cottage:
And we'll end with the Village Green before I explode with enthusiasm:
What would it be like to live in a house that follows the sun throughout the day? And folds into different configurations to take on up to eight shapes? (And here I thought I was doing well to have deep window sills for my plants.) Actually, no one knows what it's like to live in that house, the Dynamic D*Haus is still in the concept stage. According to Dezeen, The D*Haus Company originally planned this home with Lapland residents in mind, to deal with extreme temperatures - hot in summer, freezing in winter. (Sounds just like Ontario.)
See Dezeen for more views of this house with rooms that would, theoretically, fold out on rails so that interior partitions become exterior walls during warmer seasons. The UK-based designers are still trying to figure out how it will work in reality (that's the tough part).
This is the fourth installment of the LM Series, documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London.
The starting point of Le Méridien at Frieze was an intriguing panel discussion amongst influential art world leaders, part of the Outset Le Méridien Talk Series which took place in the ballroom at Le Méridien Piccadilly. The question of the day was articulated by Outset co-founder Candida Gertler who asked, "Does size matter? Is it right to keep going? And how do we resist the next big step? Will we be able to sustain it or will we self-destruct in a spiral of ambition? And so the debate began. Le Méridien's Global Cultural Curator Jérôme Sans moderated Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp, Tate Modern's Curator of International Art, Mark Godfrey, Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones and Gagosian managing director of Europe Gary Waterston. In response, each panelist drew upon their own unique circumstances they face in moving their respective gallery or event forward, sometimes at odds with another's view, illustrating how subjective and contextual the topic of whether size matters really is. And that's what made it fascinating. The video above shows highlights from the discussion. (And beyond the compelling topic the film is very well done so I definitely recommend taking a look!)
I wanted to add, that at the dinner that evening at Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill (a five-course masterpiece by chef Michael Dutnall with inventive cocktail matchings by master mixologist Boris Ivan - and yes, I kept up, it would be a sin not to), I had the pleasure of sitting across from Jérôme Sans. We had a chat about the topic of the day, and I was so delighted to see right there in front of me how fired up (still) M. Sans felt about the very point of art becoming lost in the quest for growth simply for the sake of it, that someone as accomplished in the art world as he, had not lost sight of what really matters. Art is meant to move people in some way, and if it succeeds, why send it out the door a minute later to make room for something else? And why are we pushing for so much art to be produced? Which made me gush with admiration, even moreso, for what Le Méridien is doing for art, not as a commodity but as an enrichment of culture and ultimately, the individual. It's not all about what happens at Sotheby's.