Educating Lily

25 October 2012


In my eyes my daughter is a lucky girl: her middle name is Biba. It isn't a middle name that she is at all comfortable with at seven. Her middle name isn't something she tells her friends at school. She prefers to blend in, rather than stand out. Lucky for her it didn't become her first name - left to me alone it probably would have done. I not worried though, I'm pretty confident it will grow on her and over time she will come to love it and what it stands for.

So today, I took her to Brighton Museum to introduce her to her name sake. Biba and Beyond is an exhibition currently showing at the museum. Three interconnecting rooms do well capturing the essence of Biba. With loans from major collectors and private individuals the exhibition tells the amazing story through illustrations, film, fashion, music, photography, ephemera and the memories and reminiscences of those who shared the experience. I could spend hours in there, really I could. 

Lily, on the other hand took it all in her stride. She liked it and really liked some of the dresses. At her tender age she is too young to totally get it, but on the comments board at the exit, she wrote without any prompting from me 'I ♥ Biba - it's my middle name'. 

Needless to say it made me smile.

Tent London: Part Three

16 October 2012

Hot on the heels of my last post, here are the rest of my picks from Tent London ...

Tamasyn Gambell has designed a series stunning graphic interior fabrics that have a vintage and art-deco feel to them. She has teamed up with with Førest London, who import mid-century Scandinavian furniture, to re-upholster some key pieces of furniture with her fabrics. For Tent London, Tamasyn  was commissioned by Ercol to create a bespoke contemporary fabric for the iconic 203 Windsor armchair. Needless to say it was a much admired piece of the exhibition.

I had to do a double take when I saw 'George' on an exhibitors stand. George, for those who don't know, is a bit of a favourite in our household. He is a rather loveable children's book character from the book 'Oh No, George' by Chris Haughton. I know it's probably rather shallow to judge a book by its cover, but when I bought this book some time ago for Arthur that is just what I did. The illustrations use such a great colour palette and that sold it to me. Of course, the story is great too and it is one of Arthurs all time favourite bedtime reads. If you're looking to buy a great kids book, you can't go wrong with this. Anyway... so there was George at Tent, amongst some rather stunning rugs. It turned out that Chris Haughton is also a rug designer too. 

Before he became involved in books Chris was active in fair trade and has been a supporter and designer for the fair trade company People Tree for many years. In 2010 he took 8 months off to to re-connect to fair trade and find ways his design could work more directly with the fair trade groups in Nepal. Images of his rug designs became popular on the web and were featured in many blogs. Designers were emailing to ask if they could design their own rugs and buyers were emailing to ask if they could buy them. Node was set up to help facilitate this. Node works with some of today's leading designers and illustrators, converting their images into the highest quality hand-made fair trade carpets. 

One of the highlights at Tent was 100% Norway: a showcase of the countries best contemporary design. As a huge fan of Scandinavian design, it's always an exhibition I'm keen to see. There were several pieces that more than appealed to me this year, but these little wooden birds by Lars Beller Fjetland for Italian company Discipline won me over. Each one is made from old table or chair leg. Now that really is taking recycled products to an altogether more stylish level, don't you agree?

Tent London: Part Two

I can get a bit overwhelmed at Tent London, much like a kid in a sweet shop. I see so much product that I love, want, or am just in awe of. There is some real talent out there. Our press office was really busy but I'd take in various products as I walked through the exhibition en route to grab a coffee or run an errand of some sort. I'm sure I missed so much, but here are some of the products that really appealed to me: a 'Buttercup days Pick of Tent London' if you like ...

We've known Zoe Murphy since she first launched her designs at one of the very early editions of Tent London. Since then she has gone from strength to strength. Zoe creates imagery inspired by her seaside home town of Margate and uses it to print onto and restore recycled interior product. I love her use of colour and retro pattern. In her designs Zoe references the unspoilt retro charm of Margate which I can recognise having spent many occasions there myself as a child. My uncle and aunt owned a wonderful imposing Edwardian guest house along the front. At key times of the year, namely Christmas, all the family would go down and stay; uncles, aunts, cousins and my grandparents. Though I haven't been back for probably near on twenty years, I do get a wistful nostalgic feeling when I see Zoe's designs.

Rachel Powell's retro Woodstock print really appealed to me. In the lead up to the exhibition all the exhibitors fill out questionnaires for us so we can learn about them and their products for the purpose of writing the press releases and relaying the show content to the press. In Rachel's questionnaire she wrote of how one of her many design influences were Lundby Dollhouses. Intrigued I googled 'Lundby Dollhouses'. Wow! How did I bypass them during my childhood? Needless to say, thanks to Rachel, I now find myself frequently searching Ebay for cute little retro Lundy kitchen units, bathroom suites and suchlike as I'm thinking of making a Lundby style dollhouse for Lily one day soon. 

Ahh, the wonderful Mini Moderns: where to start? Well, they are a client of ours and have been for sometime now and during that time more and more of their fantastic products have made their way into our home (the wallpaper above is in Lily's bedroom). If ever two people totally get my style, Mark and Keith are them. We have a mutual appreciation of Biba, 70's Habitat, Kate Bush, old Crown paint catalogues, retro biscuits, the graphics on 60's penguin book covers, Manhattan Transfer, the pleasing effect of multi tonal blues placed together and cake. They're the sort of people I could take away on holiday with me. Very good company. They've just created a range of coloured paints in that contains 90% recycled content, made up from waste paint that has been diverted from landfill or incineration. How amazing is that?

Tent London: Part One

8 October 2012

Regular readers of the blog will know that a couple of weeks ago I had a spell up in London with my 'proper job' hat on. Every year, at the end of September, David and I decamp to London to run our pop-up press office from Tent London, the UK design event we have been working with for the last six years. It's an event we spend a huge chunk of our working year on. This year we did the PR for two shows; Tent London and its sister show Super Brands London. We tirelessly worked in the run up to the show with the organisers and exhibitors to get valuable press coverage, which pays a huge part in getting people through the door. At the event itself we worked from our press office meeting new press contacts, forging new relationships and catching up with old industry friends. It's hard work, but wonderfully social.

Every year we have a different creative team design our press office space. It is always a surprise to see the results. This year was the best year yet: drawing inspiration from the De Stijl movement, Memphis design and contemporary street art, CurtisMcEvoy, the London-based creative stylist duo bought a mix of high impact colour and pattern to our onsite Press Office. It made for a very happy place to live over those five busy days.
I did find a few spare minutes to nip round some the exhibition (it was vast!) and take a few snaps of some of my personal highlights which I shall share with you in another post. So watch this space ....

My World's Biggest Coffee Morning

1 October 2012

On Friday I took part in the World's Biggest Coffee Morning to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. It was the first year I had ever done it. In previous years the date, 28th September, often fell during our time at Tent London. But this year it didn't so I had no excuse and signed up for it. Macmillan's is a worthy charity so close to many people's hearts. I did my part in memory of my father-in-law who we lost to cancer nine years ago. He loved cake, so it seemed very fitting indeed.

I held the coffee morning in my home and invited a real mix of people; friends, school mum's, neighbours, even our company accountant. The turn out was amazing and everyone was so very supportive. A local catering hire company provided me with china cups and saucers, cake forks and plates free of charge and my local florist made up three beautiful jugs of fresh flowers for the table. So very lovely.

Of course I did all the baking: Chocolate & Beetroot, Orange & Almond, Courgette Cake, Lemon Drizzle, Toffee Apple Cake and Chocolate Brownies. Thanks to everyone's generosity and appetite for cake I raised £235.00, and that isn't including a few yet-to-come text donations.

Thank you to everyone who supported me - I'll be doing it again I'm sure.