Tuesday, 9 September 2014

I Never Promised you a Rose Garden

I am a lucky bunny - I've had commissions from some of the countries most amazing places and the latest client, was Kew Gardens.

The inspiration was not the stunning flora or majestic trees but a little known remedy garden new Kew Palace. The garden was a wealth of inspiration with old English sayings by each plant. I will say one of my favourites was "Welsh Onion; to increase thy sperme" but we decided to leave that one ....

Lychis Coronra 
 Hyssopus Officnals is 
 Allum Lily

The end result? a beautiful (even if I do say so myself) and original set of fine bone china and tea towel.

available from Kew Gardens and online here

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Disney (bad) Dreams

I love Disneyland but please, please stop using images like these. The reality is you queue up at certain points to see chosen character and some queues are over an hour; there are no chance meetings, random hugs etc it's not fair for kids to think this is what its like.
Two years ago I jabbered on about the first time we went to Disneyland Paris, how it lived up to the hype, the magic, the shimmers... blah blah blah well we've just come back from visit #3 not quite the same.

I won't lie this has nothing to do with the parks themselves this is to do with Disney Hotels. The thing is that 'Disney' should be the icing on the donut, no excuses they make enough money out of (mainly) kids and nostalgia and to staying in the land, staying in 'THE' hotel - the one at the park entrance, the one that looks like a sugar coated doll house, the one that costs an absolute fortune - that one.

When we went before we stayed in the Sequoia Lodge, lovely - 10 mins walk from the entrance and priced really well, next to a big lake, swimming pool, felt like you were in the cabin that the hunter that shot Bambi lived but still. We had no plans to go anywhere, well no money but decided that Toby really deserved it; he's been more like a stressed middle aged man and needed to start acting like a six year old so where better. Using his (ahem, yes his) savings we blew it all on less time, so only two nights staying at the Disneyland Hotel. What we imagined/were told/believed the hype was that you felt like a blinkin' Princess there, but after she met the Prince so you know - happy n all (birds changing the bed linen, mice doing the cleaning that sort of thing) no, not that sort of thing more characters in the hotel, stealing your breakfast, staff bending over backwards to make your child feel like they were special and not just one of billions and for this it costed £1000 more than the hotel we stayed in before.

The staff:
Disneyland Hotel: well they seemed to think that it was ok to ignore you while they jabbered on with their own conversation (3 times I got bored of being ignored in the end)
Sequoia Lodge: ok you had to wait a bit but crikey they were nice and helpful.

The lobby:
DH: yes, amazing - made you feel like you were in a very special place
SL: fine, trees, chip 'n' dale, Rockies sort of thing going - but not crazy special.

The room:
DH: I thought I'd gone into Secret Cinema version of some bad 80's film, you could take it for that in a bad/good way, but bathrooms that you thought a tramp had gone to first and showers that spray everywhere because they're rusty and loose - that ain't 5*.
SL: nice, fine - it was clean what I expected!

The breakfast:
DH: queue outside the restaurant, character with photographer in the lobby bit.
SL: queue outside the restaurant, character with photographer in the lobby bit.

Toby said at breakfast "I thought this was a fancy hotel? this is just a hotel, fancy would be characters coming around like the picture shows (one in the lift that said characters at breakfast) I give this 2 and a half stars, I give the other hotel (SL) 4 stars." THAT'S FROM A 6 YEAR OLD! was he happy, no more than he would be at home at that point no.

So I decided to leave it, he was ok when we got to the park but he started saying how he thought the special hotel was meant to be better and he preferred the Sequoia, after a bad shower and staring at the mould in the bathroom I thought I'd sneak off and moan to reception. After being ignored - twice I was at simmering point thinking how much it was and that all we wanted was for Toby to have an artificially happy time at Disney. I finally got to speak to someone, the reaction was bluntly "this is a 5* hotel" - "no, it really isn't its the same as the 3* over there"
"that is miles away this is just 'ere"
"no, that's 10 mins away at most"
"this is a five star hotel"
"yes you said that, (then I decided that maybe every fresh faced person checking in needed to hear this) IT'S THE SAME AS THE OTHER HOTELS ONLY DOUBLE THE PRICE!" 
The manager came out to shut me up
"what can I do madame?"
"well we're checking out in an hour so not much I suppose"
"how about I extend your checking out time till 4pm and have a surprise for your son, whats his favourite character?"
- he made it about making Toby happy, fine ok this could all be rescued. 
"right I'll arrange a present and balloons - and watch his face he will love it! if you make sure your out of the room between 1-2 I'll get it sorted"

I went away thinking just how surprised the boy will look and was happy.
Dave wasn't happy because lunch had to be paid for despite the travel agents saying we had vouchers for one main meal a day. So, after the £140 was spent in their restaurant I had the camera ready, we opened the door to... NOTHING not even our beds had been made.
I stormed downstairs to speak to Patrick the manager who didn't seem to know any Disney characters for a start, he apologised and said he'd get it ready for 3-4 well we were checking out at 4 so he'd have to. So we went off and came back at 3.50, same thing camera ready, the door was on the latch we were excited..... THE BEDS WERE BEING MADE!
Boiling and ranting point had reached - "oh yes I have his present here madame" - THIS ISN'T ABOUT PRESENTS THIS IS ABOUT WISHES AND SURPRISES! I shall not bore you with my very loud rant his answer was "this is a 5* hotel" for most of it. He gave Toby his present (a small Frozen doll set that I picked out for him, I should have picked the £100 castle) and said he had a bunch of balloons, well Toby liked a good balloon who doesn't - you'd think he'd get this...

well he got this...

not exactly 5* balloons eh? non.
Disneyland is a fantastic magical place that every child should get the chance to go to (I got to go age 30 the first time and felt like I was 5)  but unless you've stayed in another Disney hotel you think the overpriced Disneyland Hotel Paris is amazing but YOU GET THE SAME DEAL IN THE OTHER DISNEY HOTELS!
My tip would be to stay in either the Newport Bay or Sequoia Lodge and have a meal at Inventions which is the restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel, go see the lobby, the shop those bits are fancy BUT DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY STAYING THERE!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

10 x 10 Drawing the City of London

This is the second year that I've been invited to take part in Article 25's 10 x 10 auction. Article 25 globally provides shelter and housing. (25th article of the universal declaration of human rights housing and shelter is a basic human right - see)
This year the grid stretched from St Paul's down to the New Kent Road - my section was around Cannon Street (D2)

At every corner I had something completely different, Georgian house next door to modern curves, building, cranes.... so it made for one heck of a challenge.

To start with I decided to embroider on paper, but that just didn't work - then I did this...
the reaction from the husband was pretty silent so I knew that wasn't working then I cut both pieces up to create this...

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Summer in the City

The summer holidays are upon us and so is the need to find as many free things to do as possible, this weeks spot was Archikids Festival more than anything its not that easy to say but what a find! Dotted around London (main spots being 30 St Mary's Axe, Broadgate, St Paul's and Leadenhall were fantastic creative activities for kids (half the adults were getting in on the act!). It was like Open House but for children.

Our first stop was the top of One New Change where drawing the skyline on transparent was the aim... hmmm I think I know this one.....!

(no, not like this!)

More like this

Next stop was the Gherkin, they had a Lego Gherkin being built and a sculpture to create! For the sculpture, the kids each had a windowed piece of card with slots and acetate to draw on, there were no pens when we got there so Toby decided to draw with the blue tape they had - genius! He did it all by himself and it stood out over the sea of faint drawn ones.

Yes, he was impressed!

It's like "Say Anything" (can't you just hear Peter Gabriel playing)

It's the Gherkin, see?

We also got a chance to spot the book benches with a cry of "where's the Harry Potter one?" each time and "What?! there isn't one!" I know I witter on about London a lot but they do so much for families (to be honest you really didn't need a kid to enjoy this one) how could I not?! Too many parents harp on about going to the coast and the country but they're missing so much that's happening half the time. Thank you London, you are rather marvellous and so much more entertaining than than pebbles! 

Friday, 11 July 2014


Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to meet Clem from Save Britain's Heritage she explained how their rather small but dedicated charity fought to - well ... what it says! One of the missions was trying to rescue London's Smithfield market from a (hideous) redevelopment. This beautiful but neglected Victorian building is one so many pass by but when you look at the details, the windows the shapes - it's just stunning and I was only to honoured to design a mug as a fundraiser for them.

(photo urban space management)

I look forward to the sympathetic evolution of this glorious building. To read all the details have a look at the SAVE site.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Big Red Bus A Big Red Bus....

And you thought it was the year of the horse, nope - more wheels than hooves - its the year of the bus. 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the London Routemaster. I salute Tatty Devine yet again for a marvellous collaboration with the LTM and this stunning collection but here be some other red goodies you might want to get on the bus for....

above: all Tatty Devine

baby grow from: Scamp

wooden bus from: the Little White Company

Robots on Bus canvas bag from: Tobyboo 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Dress you up

Ok so Im a creature of habit when it comes to clothes shopping and tend a) never to buy online unless I've tried it and b) never to buy a dress that's new and under £50 because without a doubt it will fall apart, which leads on to c) make sure it lasts so if you do get bored you can ebay it.

On the hunt for yet another 50's style dress I was lead to of all places Amazon, and found some real pretties most of which were from Lindy Bop so obviously went straight to their site - I loved pretty much all of dresses on the site but the most expensive being £38 I figured, cheap fabric, badly made blah blah blah but it was pretty and well I really didn't have the debt available for the Bernie Dexter dress that I loved....

Two days later my parcel arrived - the dress! heavy fabric, really well sewn this was not guilt ridden disposable fashion. That evening by sheer coincidence I was wearing it and met the designer for Lindy Bop he told me that they're looking to have a premium made in the UK range but the prices will be affordable and the quality high. I'm now slightly hooked, the petite range is perfect for the Hobbit that I am too.

I've seen so many bad cheap reproduction dresses or 50's style it's depressing - but I've now happily met a brand that to be honest the site does not do the the products justice.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Spoonful of Sugar

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins and some of you might have noticed it couldn't help but play a part in my latest designs for St Paul's Cathedral. Yes, yes I know the 'Feed The Birds' tableware is out there already but they now stock an exclusive PVC print in book bags and make up bags (or general purse if your me).

Look see - an umbrella and yes two smaller people! 

The full range is available at the St Paul's Cathedral shop, just don't feed any birds on the way.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

South Bank Holiday

This Bank Holiday Monday was a bit of weather treat and yes we spent it on the beach - Thames Beach but the beach all the same.

Couldn't resist mixing a bit of work with fun so first stop the Globe to see the Shakespeare mugs on show.

Next - one of my favourite places, St Paul's Cathedral....

was a bit over the moon to see the new tea towels in ...

'Feed the Birds' collection at St Paul's practically perfect I say.