Book Review: Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo
I've had my eye on this book for a while & when Anna Potter from 'Swallows & Damsons' highlighted it in her recent Flower School evening it clinched the deal & it finally became mine! This book is a celebration of the seasons in flowers, with stunning photography & styling to accompany what is a beautiful & practical guide to making seasonal, natural floral arrangements. There's a really useful calendar in the back listing the seasons & the flowers characteristic to each, perfect if you are planning a wedding or like me, just love a bit of creative floristry & appreciate a bloody good bloom!
Secret 7, Somerset House April '15
I stumbled across this exhibition while at Somerset House & really glad I did. Secret 7" is an annual event that selects 7 tracks from 7 well-known, often iconic Musicians & presses each of these tracks 100 times on to 7" vinyl. Creatives are then invited to create the sleeve artwork, then the 700 sleeves are sold to admirers at the exhibition for £50.00, with the secret being that they don't know who the Artist/Designer of the artwork is until they make the purchase. In the past Artist/Designers have included Paul Smith, Peter Blake, Gilbert & George & Yoko Ono so who knows you might purchase a little real little treasure by one of the greats...regardless you buy it without pretence, so it's all about the art! Have a sneaky suspicion that middle bottom one might be McQ by McQueen as the oil & flower combo was used in their SS15 collection. Proceeds go towards an annually nominated charity, this year's being the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. Exhibition runs until 3rd May '15 so get your skates on. Fantastic concept & exhibition, check out some of my picks below:
Pick Me Up exhibition, Somerset House, Apr '15
I was in London again last Friday & it happily coincided with the annual 'Pick Me Up: Graphic Design festival' held at Somerset House. I've always followed it when it's been on but this was my first visit & it was a great little showcase for new Illustrator & Graphic talent & a programme of talks & interactive workshops run alongside making it a brilliant resource for anyone interested or studying Illustration, print-making or Graphic Design.
My faves pictured above, feature (from top left to right) Luke Evans who is showcasing his final year BA project 'Xero' where he has created prints from the hidden patterns generated as a result of static electricity made from a Van de Graaff generator. I thought they were charcoal drawings of eyes on first glance but fascinating to watch the video that accompanies the piece & see how Luke's process-led prints are created, really experimental & different. Laura Jouan's work took me back to the print room at uni, with her purposeful investigation of layering using text, grids & image -Couldn't agree more, print-making is all about the layers! The clean, minimalist, Pop Art-style work of Sara Andreasson very effectively communicated her messages surrounding issues of feminine/masculine, ideals of beauty & fashion. Similarly, but with more of a playful mentality was the work of Yuki Bang. I liked the veined marble patterning created by Jennifer Argo's studies of Icelandic topography & finally the bright risograph printing of Glasgow based print-makers Risotto Studio
All the prints were available to buy as limited edition prints there & then on the day & their was a host of graphic adorned stationary to accompany the exhibition from various pop-up studio's on-site on the day & various illustrators working with giftware collective Oh Deer. Great place to buy some unique work by some emerging Illustrators & support up & coming talent, let alone bag some lovely printed notebooks & gift cards.

Swallows & Damsons' Flower School, April '15
A massive THANK-YOU to Anna Potter of 'Swallows & Damsons' Flower Shop in Sheffield for a fantastic evening's floral creativity on Wednesday night. Seven of us joined Anna for a 2 hour evening 'Flower School' to get a glimpse into how she creates her beautiful signature natural, hand-tied arrangements.
Anna belongs to the 'back to nature' school of flower arranging, where choice picks of seasonal blooms are creatively selected for their colour, shape & texture & combined into informal arrangements that would be just as fitting in a Palace as they would be in a dimly light cellar space. The focus is drawn back to the flowers themselves rather than a set arrangement style. 
Each of us made our own selection of 'head flowers'(the primary, accent blooms in the bouquet), 'second in commands' (secondary blooms to compliment the head flowers, generally smaller in size), 'fillers'(to add variation of height & texture) & foliage from the shop's seasonal picks. We then played Florist & individually arranged & tied our bouquets to fit our chosen vase & viola! Each person's bouquet was different & had a personality of it's own, non of the sterile-looking posies you see in so many florists, they were wildy natural & much more about the creativity & eye of the arranger.
All helped along by the lovely company, vintage ephemera adorned surrounds of the shop's workspace, some vino & amazing Portuguese custard tarts from The Forge Bakehouse just down the road. Bit of a dream come true for me to play florist for the night & looking forward to practising a bit more next time I have the chance! Anna advertises her flower schools on her Facebook page & plans on holding a larger scale wreath making course in Sheffield on the run up to Christmas, so keep your eye out & sign up quick to avoid disappointment. 
Mill Visit, April '15
On Friday I drove over to my print mill in Lancaster to check out my latest 'Swoon Editions' order that is currently in work for their lovely chairs! Really interesting to get a bit of a tour around the mill & take part in the checking process. These photos show the first stage of fabric checking following the digital printing & finishing processes. The fabric is run through the various rollers & the Controller stands on a viewing platform where they can look over the fabric as it comes through the machine & tags any imperfections or marks. At second stage checking the tagged areas are looked at more closely & if a dot of colour hasn't printed it's hand-touched up & any removable marks are dusted off or remedied at this stage. Any seriously marked sections are cut away as with any printing process, there always have to be tolerances due to the sensitivity of the inks, fabric & Digital Printers being utilised in the process. If one variable is altered slightly it can lead to issues such as mis-registration, ink blots, oil spots from the machines dropping on to the fabric or snags/laddering in the fabric. Luckily this print run was looking really good!
Great to finally meet all the members of the team that I talk to & email on a regular basis, such a lovely lot & has brought the whole process to life for me. Also amazing to check out their shop, where, with permission from the various designers, any mis-printed or excess meterage is sold off to non-commercial customers for their various craft & home projects. Check out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/clearancefabrics. My home will soon be clad in Christian Lacroix darling!!!
Hermès Wanderland, Saatchi Gallery April '15
I Can't recommend the current 'Hermès Wanderland' exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery enough! If you are a lover of anything whimsical, Alice in Wonderland, fantastical & just creatively brilliant, you'll LOVE IT!
The concept behind the exhibition is "Flânerie", the art of urban wandering...capturing the day dreaming, intrigue & creativity that the brand embody in their concepts & visual merchandising in a story-tellers journey around Paris. 

The exhibition uses a series of room sets to exhibit Hermès pieces from their archive in amazingly creative & thought provoking ways. A room full of floating walking sticks beautifully captured in the illustrated wallpaper of Ugo Gattoni & my personal favourite, a Parisian park bench scene with a white umbrella propped up & the clever projection of dripping rain-drops slowly trickling down the umbrella & into a projected sky reflected puddle on the floor, complete with ripples from landing rain drops-beautiful! A storm in the saucer of your Hermès tea-cup, a spinning ballerina in the bottom, jewellery & keep-sakes trapped in bottles on the counter of a Parisian cafe bar & exquisite envelope Hermès purses displayed amongst hand written envelopes in a traditional 'La Poste' box on the wall.
The use of projections was so effective creating 3D, tromp l'oeil arches out of original Hermès scarf artworks
& expanding the imagination of the viewer with sounds & music to accompany your wanderings.
The room set (top left) was fascinating, as if poltergeists had taken control of it, spinning the Hermès glassware adorned chandelier, raising the tea-set on the table into the air & moving the characters in the picture above the fireplace.  All exhibiting the unique concept & creativity behind the brand & showcasing their luxury products in thought-provoking, intriguingly clever ways. Everyone needs a bit of fantasy & escapism from time to time, so get yourself down to The Kings Rd to check it out for yourselves & even better it's totally FREE! 
Butterfly's at The Natural History Museum, April '15
I went along to take some close-up photos at the 'Butterfly Tent' that's currently open on the lawn outside the Natural History Museum at the moment in London. 
You can see from the top right photo that they are actively hatching out of their chrysalises as you watch in the man-made tropical conditions created in the tent. Great to take kids along or to get some close-up snaps of all sorts of tropical variations & species. The transparent one (top left) was pretty special.
Chatsworth House visit, Mar '15
Chatsworth House, just up the road from me in Derbyshire re-opened it's doors for the season this weekend & I think it's fair to say it totally blew me away. I grew up on regular visits to Chatsworth; to the Adventure Playground, Farmyard & for walks on the Estate but was too young to be interested in the house & gardens. So now, quite a bit older & wiser I went along for a nosey & wasn't disappointed. 
I knew the gardens were famous for their fountains but hadn't expected a tropical glasshouse which was crammed full of the most beautiful Camellias, one was patterned like raspberry ripple ice cream which particularly took my fancy & I'm sure will crop up in a print soon! 
Inside the house itself it is just SO opulent! Look at these amazing frescos on the ceiling of the Great Hall, such detail & not a surface left unadorned, just incredible. The violin on the photo below is a tromp l'oeil painting on to a flat surfaced door, even up close I had to double take. Nice surprise to see a special commission with one of my fave wallpaper designers Deborah Bowness for the "Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth"exhibition that was running in the interior of the house, showcasing stand-out contemporary chair design that encourages you to sit & 'experience' the various designs. Bowness' commission used photos of original chairs & back-drops from various rooms of the house but re-worked into her beautifully subtle hued, characteristic tromp l'oeil style.
The various wall coverings were fascinating, see below a close-up of the leather stamped & guilded 'wallpaper' that adorned one room & then there were the bedrooms....
Chinoiserie wallpapers like I've never seen floor to ceiling amongst the richest velvet bed canopies edged in beautifully detailed & lush tassels & trims. The rose devorè patterned fabric shown below (bottom right) was originally used as a wall covering & later re-worked into these curtains. Whole landscape scenes in printed fabric filled the walls of another room creating serious drama behind the gallery of pictures exhibited on top. Love the use of fabrics as wallcoverings, it makes an interior instantly tactile & ooze extravagance!
There were some beautiful collections of minerals around the house & intricately in-laid furniture using the patterning of various marbles & stone strata's. Loved the single, vertical row display method for these plates below against wood panelled walls, really statement & something I'll definitely try & imitate when my antique plate collection grows a bit more & some more tassels, because you gotta love a tassel! 
I used to whinge that the admission fee seemed a bit steep at £20.00 (that's the Yorkshire in me) for the Gardens & House, but worth every penny & I can't wait to return to see how it looks in the Summer & then again with the house all decorated for Christmas. They don't make or decorate like this anymore, it's total Maximalism with no expense spared, all about impressing the visiting gentry & playing Peacock. Downton eat your heart out!