brrrr, cold and sitting by the fire – ramblings part three – a new chapter

There is nothing nicer than sitting down by the open fire, watching the logs ablaze, flames licking up the chimney and drinking a hot cup of tea and dreaming of spring when the bulbs, plants and trees start to push through the soil !! this time I am dreaming of what vegetables I am going to plant in my new garden and the riot of colours I can paint from the balcony.

Its been a busy day, packing, packing packing, oh how rewarding it is to sort out “stuff” creating a sense of order in our belongings. I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder, however, when one is a “maker” and an abundant one at that, there is so much creative “stuff” amassed that one just cannot throw it away. I bought some large zipped ikea bags and storage boxes and now have the items from my flat stored relatively neatly,, watercolours, gouache, inks, pastels, sketchbooks, paint brushes, print making gear, needle felting wool and tools, piles of old linens, buttons, ribbons and vintage florals. Embroidery threads, canvases and so on. Then there is the sewing patterns, stash of dress and trouser lengths and of course all my quilt making rulers, templates and boxes of fabric stash. Of course this is only about 10% of my “batterie des arts” ! I also have my art studios, two of them down the lane aside my home. Mostly tubes of oil in all sizes, canvases, paper, more brushes, Acrylics in large pots and tubes, glass pallets very large easal and the list goes on………….

Moving is an emotional rollercoaster for sure, pastures new is great, somewhere to spend this new chapter of my life, and it does really feel like a new life is about to begin and I am no spring chicken!. If any of you out there are concerned about getting older, please don’t fret, it is great. Yes there are changes in physiology as we age it goes without saying but I am a person who has embraced this process, accepted it and not made any attempt to alter my outward appearance in anyway and do not intend to ever . Yes I fell into the trap of dying my grey hair that appeared back in my late thirties, but at sixty I realised women didn’t naturally walk around with chestnut hair, the colour I had since a child looked so “blanket brown” and the constant chemicals being put on my hair every three weeks had left my hair lifeless and straw like. So at an amazing “Crone” ceremony I released my youth, let it die and fall away and embraced and stepped into the Wise Woman and I have never looked back. Immediately I stopped dying my hair, it took awhile but it was the best thing I ever did, I have been paid so many compliments and I would never change it nor do I hanker for the past. I might sometimes like a bit more vim and vigour around 4pm when I am flagging but I still have a passion for living, am very curious of everything around me and dare I say it, I have found peace of mind. I am content with myself and my life even though there are challenges in my family and of course in this world of ours but I seem to steer though it ok. So if you find acceptance of life and your surroundings, not hanker for what others have or compare yourself to others then there truly is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for sure !

Yikes this all sounds an amazing amount of art and making materials but I do have a lovely large area in my new home, the room is divided by a staircase coming up from ground floor, so one side is being devoted by sewing type making, fabrics and so on and the other all my painting and sketching stuff, my easals a desk for large screen mac and wonderful big armchair where I can take in the view of the rolling hills and sea in the background. So now my living space will have no art stuff and I only have to go up one flight of stairs into my studio space. The studio also has a balcony large enough for tables and chairs and a space to relax so roll on summer , I shall be taking my easal out there!!

Well , I have drunk my tea, now its back to sorting and packing !!

More soon, and Oh! if you have any packing tips or anything to make moving home go smoothly I would appreciate you letting me know, thanks in advance.

The ramblings of an Ex interior designer

Good morning folks

It’s been a long few months since I posted here.  Mostly my jottings are sporadic and I am always making promises to myself to post regularly, but I don’t.  Partly because I write “morning pages”, something I started after attending workshop at Alternatives many years back, all about the “Artists Way” given by the author of the said book whose name escapes me, and whom I cannot search as I am in the midst of a horrendous storm in the north of Kefalonia.  Usually I can see Ithaca, the home of Ulysses, but today its totally obscured by the rain soaked clouds that have descended.  It is also partly due to my mind being totally preoccupied with moving home, since closing down IDC to pursue this new part of my life with gusto I have been making plans to move away from Tunbridge Wells a place I made home when I married in 1969.  With all this going on The Extraordinairium and my little creatures are sitting happily in my studio and have not ventured any further, although they have grown a little with a couple of additions and the nearer I became to selling them I realised I couldn’t part with them, so selling I am not sure at this juncture.  Although I have always said I would not make to commission, in this instance maybe I shall so that my current family can stay intact.

Moving home, which I may add when I moved to this home, now over 20 years ago, it was to be my last ever move.  At that time my ex husband and I shared an old fisherman’s/beach hut on a deserted beach at Shellness on the weekends, a great place next to RSPB land, no costa, Starbucks or Pret.  Sharing alternate weekends it was a haven away from the pressures of running my own company, with only a one-ring gas picnic stove, no running water and toilet that needed to be emptied, I loved it.  To go to sleep with sound of the sea lapping up on the beach, waking to an ever changing seascape and walks along the shore to see what flotsam and jetsam had been washed up over night, buying a fresh sea bass from fisherman on the beach and pan frying immediately downed with a chunk of bread and lashings of butter, it was heaven.  Sadly my ex sold it over one winter without telling me or giving me the opportunity to purchase it myself for the family, that was a very sad moment not only for his deceit which I should have known, but no longer would I have an outside space to call my own as I specifically chose a flat without a garden as the beach home was to be a family preserve and given to our children.  Ever since then I have hankered to be close the sea.  At last now I have the opportunity, my thoughts have changed a little with the news of the first small town by the sea in wales to be actually decommissioned, meaning in two years time all the utilities will be cut off and the town will not be included in the councils remit, so it will just go into decline, a ghost town.  How can this be? How can you just stop serving a community of people who have paid their taxes over the years, no compensation is being offered, its beyond callous, its brutal.  So decided with the way our planet is heading I would like an elevated view rolling countryside and a distant sea view.

First I followed the call of the wild, visited north Pembrokeshire, Strumble Head to be precise and fell in love with a farmhouse there.  With holiday cottages as part of the sale which initially attracted me, after coming back to earth I realised all the work involved was something I did not want to take on, at 70 I wanted to spend time developing my own creative pursuits. Now people don’t worry about getting older, I have never been happier and the prospect of this new life of no paid work, new home and freedom just fills me with excitement.    Despite constant searching for “the view” I couldn’t find anything similar unless very badly “modernised” or derelict.  Great idea, I would have thought  20 years ago but I don’t want that large undertaking now.  Also my kids thought it was rather a long way away from everything I have known, in the cold light of day I came to the conclusion that in the last decades of my life I want to be near them and not distance myself from them.  For the last 30 years I have been totally absorbed by my love of interiors, and the building pressure of ever larger projects being undertaken, working with huge construction contractors like Wates and Balfour Beatty it just took every ounce of my energy to keep everything on track.  Now I want to be the person that was lost many years ago, the person who had time “to be”, to find enjoyment in the mundane, the simple pleasure of living with the seasons, growing flowers, fruit and vegetable, preserving, cooking and baking and of course “making”.

My search for home with a view took me all along south coast, I have now found that home with a perfect view and my offer was accepted the day before I journeyed here.

Slowing down from the fast pace life of running my own design business, staff issues and so on, standing back now it makes me realise just how shallow the whole lifestyle design thing has become.  I know I played a role in this “Luxury” for the masses syndrome that has consumed everyone since those early TV programmes from the 90’s, I too was sucked into must have latest colour and trend, went to all the trade fairs, Maison Objet in Paris being my all time favourite.  However, increasingly over the past years I found the whole trend based design to be particularly irksome where absolutely everything in the industry is monetized, not only the so called trend and colour forecasters but the people who feel they must have the latest at whatever cost and just discarding perfectly good kitchens, bathrooms, furniture, lighting just because someone somewhere has said this colour or style is not cool anymore.  Just this morning I was listening to a podcast of two rather “prominent” women in the design world putting across the latest sound bytes of design info whilst there insincere laughter at each others tittle tattle left me cold.  Why is it these people are so popular?  Haven’t we minds of our own, can’t we use our intuition to choose a colour/style that feeds our souls and can bring us joy and not be “told” by someone who is going to make money out of us by vloging, blogging and podcasts and so on.  All on the make, all trying to attract big business to sponsor them, give discounts on sales and so on.  I don’t know about you reading this, but I feel like I am full to the brim, just cannot take all this over consumption anymore.  The world is bloated, oversaturated with “stuff”.  We have been force fed too much in the belief it will make our lives better, what a total lie we have been telling ourselves. 

In essence the whole issue of excessive consumerism can no longer be ignored, its not just about the items being “recyclable” as Hugh FT found out when he researched this issue on his recent TV programme and found our recycled goods rotting in Malaysia. It is about waking up and realising that we must look at the quantity of product we are purchasing, do we really need to discard last years velvet sofa for this years latest, yes we can give to charity shop or resell, but its still purchasing new which is something we all need to look at.  The Patriarchal Capitalist model of year on year profit and keeping shareholders happy is totally destroying our planet.  Everything has “money accumulation” written in and I mean almost everything, you cannot cough without someone making a buck of your likes and dislikes, look at how at much money is being made by data harvesting, how in fact this alone has changed the stability of the world I grew up in.  Its all quite sickening when the onus is put on the consumers alone, what about the companies who manufacture the goods, the companies who rape our planet for the raw materials.  People we must stop buying for trends sake and make wise choices for comfort, durability and longevity.

Well that is my ramble over, the island of Ithaca is still hidden, the rain is still coming down in torrents and the power has just gone down.

Until next time

A path well trodden, but how much longer will it be?

Coming here to the North of Kefalonia  it always felt like I was coming home, arriving at the airport, the warm moist air enveloping me as I take the first step from the air conditioned cabin. The familiar face of Makis greeting me and taking my case to the taxi, the breathtaking views as we climb north driving ever higher.   I have been coming twice a year now for 6 years, a long time for me but for others I have met here this is nothing, Some people have been coming to Kefalonia for 16-20 years or more.    The farmhouse always held me, its wild gardens, olive groves, views across the ionian seas to Ithica, the wildlife,  the chickens and goats, this was a sanctuary away from the deadlines and constant pressure that hounded me  when back in the uk.   Now that the pressure is off  I wondered if returning to Kefalonia this time would feel different as I am no longer fleeing the pressure of trying to spin all the plates in the air, run a home, a business, staff, family issues and so on.  Its doubly hard when there is nobody to share this burden with me.  Designing interiors, mixing colours and textures, choosing original artworks, designing my own furniture pieces it gave me the  best feeling in the world and I was in my element, but the procurement  and installation , working along side architects, and building contractors and the male dominated construction industry who wouldnt know good design if it bit on the bum, all this side of designing took away that feeling completely.  Even though I won awards and various accolades it just wasnt enough to keep me fighting the design battles anymore.

So her  I am and  pleased to say that the feelings, even though the first two weeks have been in the coldest ever apparently, haven’t changed a bit,  I still love the island, well the norther part anyway, south more built up and busier.   Guess the one thing that has changed  is the longing to live here.  For one ,I do not like the fierce summer heat, so July and August would be a definite no no for me and two, I have found the uk version of northern Kefalonia, its wildness, rugged cliffs and coves, forest and quiet windy roads where I feel drawn to make my permanent home.   Still visiting Evreti, Kefalonia for 2-3 months each year I can have the best of both worlds, and still continue to travel and explore the uk and of course spend time manifesting creative objects into the world.

Of course with the advancing years, 70 last January, there is that little conumdrum of how much should I be spending?  how long will my money have to last, how long will I be walking in this world?  Something one never considers when younger, there is always decades to enjoy, thing to try out and if mistakes are made, plenty of time to put it right.  Now though decisions seem more important to make as not time left to rectify anything. Do I say to myself another 15 years, divide it up and spend the said sum each year?  Do I buy a house with an income, (holiday rental cottages} and run it as a small business?  Guess I am lucky that my business was successful and have these kind of issues to contend with.  I am not having the live on a uk state pension, the lowest in the whole of Europe!  Actually there was no luck, I gave my all to my company, blood sweat and tears to make it successful!  All I know is that this is whole new chapter in my life, one where for once I have the total freedom to choose, a real adventure awaits and I am very excited to watch each day unfolds and just where this path will take me

A few pics of the past weeks

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another creature comes to life, no.5

This is a strange journey for me because I am totally drawn in creating these adorable figures, just finished one and straight on to the next and have so many drawings and ideas for future creatures.  However, as I am creating them I am constantly asking myself, why am I doing this? what is the reason behind making what is essentially a doll.  They enchant me, each has a personality and a soul that didn’t exist before I started making them, but as the eyes are created something pulls me in and really touches me emotionally.    Is each one displaying a facet of me?  Painting, sketching and creating on paper  and with paper has always been my passion, so to find myself manifesting in this way is a complete surprise and in some way makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable, in fact some days it is so strong that I am telling myself to go back to painting, but I just cannot pull myself away.  This particular creative path right now will have a gift in it somewhere for sure, I must be doing this for a reason, so for now I shall just sit back and watch it all unfold and see where this journey takes me.

This particular doll is cloth, its arms and legs are jointed and his head is needle felted  from Welsh hill’s sheep wool.  The clothes are all hand stitched and hand knitted with vintage and found fabrics and hand dyed wool yarn.  It was a joy to make,  seeing it come to life in my hands was quite magical as it was if my little   Persian cats Lilly and Ferdy had been reincarnated.  Ferdy was a chinchilla and Lily Sealpoint,   Long gone now though, I miss them.

 

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now with ears!!

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A lot has happened since my last post

the last months since November have been packed full with all manner of things,  visit to Wales.  Fabulous lunch at The Greenhouse.   London museums and gallery visits, the Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy being one of the most inspirational I have seen in a long while.  Firle church and an evening of music, words, dance and ceremony with Carolyn Hilllyer to see in the solstiice, and on the solstice a wonderful evening organised by a good friend Ali, journeying to sounds of a Mongolian throat singer and gong bath.   Then of course Christmas and the handmade presents I usually do, this year it was books, hand made and hand bound.  A new skill learnt which I love the precision of the bindings themselves.  Sourdough breadmaking course at the Bicycle Bakery, which I made many tasty loaves   Then it was needle felting families of dreaming mice, each one had a prayer for manifesting peace and serenity in all areas of life and then a fabulous sleepy dreaming bunny, this has now grown into a rabbit figure which has conjured up clothes, characters and a book.  A fabulous christmas lunch of Haunch of Venison cooked to perfection by my daughter and an illuminated walk at Bedgebury which was quite spectacular All the while though there has been my daily practice, patterns and watercolour and collage.

Oh and of course it was my 70th birthday last Friday.  I had a fabulous couple of days, so many lovely cards, flowers and messages.  A gift from daughter and her partner, one for  for each decade, so seven beautiful gifts including a poem that bought tears to my eyes.  I also spent a lovely evening and breakfast walk along the seafront at Hastings after a night at The Laindons which I thoroughly recommend.

What it is like being 70?  the best feeling in the world, freedom to do and be who you like, fabulous.

Here are a few glimpses of the past weeks

Hopefully a more consistent approach from now on

I am now on a new journey, a journey where I can devote my time to a creative daily practice of my own.

My days of designing interiors are now over, cannot believe I ran my own successful company for so long.  My only sadness it that my mother died just weeks before it all began, she never saw me put my creative skills to good use,  I know she would have been so very happy for me.   There are many challenges in starting a business and the first few years were extremely tough, many times I was close to giving up but thankfully that strong will of  mine saw me through. My mums words “where there is a will there is way” constantly rang through my head.  I also also lived through the dawning of the digital age, apple mac was my first computer in the early 90’s with my first mobile phone and over the years the working practice of a designer became totally computer driven.  Out went the drawing boards  and the source library an in came drawing packages, illustrator, Cad and so on.  Together with a great team we have designed, procured and installed projects the length and breadth of the country.

Will I miss it all?  Right in this moment in time, I would say no definitely not, interior design sounds great but it comes with massive pressure, constant deadlines and right now I am so happy to leave it al behind.  Will I miss it in the future, who knows, possibly, but I know that my own creative skills have taken a back seat for so long thats its time now for this to be the main part of my day.

just a few of the ways I have been expressing myself of late.

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Layers and patterns

I started a painting last week, creating a layer each day, no particular idea in mind just something to reflect my day.  Its interesting to see how the layers created started of fairly dark. cool colours and as each day went by the layers became brighter and warmer.   I felt today the painting complete, feeling red I started something else

Red ink, paint brush, calligraphy pen, scalpel, steel rule and matt medium.  Making various stripes of different thickness and angles I then cut into strips and repasted back in my sketch book.  Wished I had waterproof ink as they mat medium smudged the ted lines, but hey ho, I like the way it turned out.  Can see more experiments on the horizonLove the patterns that emerged

 

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colour at the jerwood

Friday a really sunny day and took myself of to Hastings and my usual ritual of brunch at the Jerwood Gallery.  Sitting outside on the terrace looking out to sea, the sun streaming down felt relaxed and far away from work related issues.    Great food, great view and of course the paintings which I always come away from feeling energised with all kinds of inspired thoughts and feelings

This time I came back with a fish, a fresh caught  sole for my dinner, amazing price of £2, together with some asparagus, home made hollandaise, plenty of lemon, delicious !!

Here are some colours I especially like, one of the them by Duncan Grant, all have some association with the local area and all the colour combination will have been absorbed like a sponge and then squeezed out into my next project.

 

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Klimt, Kaffe und Kuchen

Klimt, Kaffe und Kuchen in that order.  This is how my long weekend in Vienna panned out.  The city made a great impact on my senses, although very humid and hot my daughter and I walked to all the shrines to the master painter Gustav Klimt.  I have seen many of his works ten years ago at the Tate Liverpool exhibition, but seeing the Beethoven frieze in situ within the Secession building in Vienna gave me goosebumps.  I think it’s not only the works of art, it’s the history, the art nouveau period, the lifestyle, the history of some of the paintings belonging to wealthy jewish families and then stolen by the Nazis.

The Kiss, or at least a copy of it was bought for me on the occasion of my second wedding anniversary, I fell in love it as did thousands of others at the time 1971.  I vowed then that one day I would visit Vienna, but I never though it would take me this long !!!  Seeing the Kiss in the flesh, I cannot say it was a disappointment far from it, but because I have seen it everywhere for years it had slightly lost its allure, it still was amazing to see his mark making up close, it was not as fine as I had imagined but standing back from it, exquisite, they all were, including some landscapes, especially those at the Leopold Museum.  This museum had a wondrous collection that we walked around for a long time, Picasso, Richter, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Munch and a small amount of Klimt’s sketches.  From what I understand a lot of them are being prepared for and exhibition in london later this year.

The Vienna Riding school and the amazing arena setting, tall ceilings, huge tall columns and chandeliers.  Horse and riders are so elegant.  The large parks and squares, large wide streets along with interesting winding lanes, the winter palace with its splendid arches and sculptures, this is a city to remember, I would love to go back

After all the walking, 1300 steps each day I felt I deserved a treat so it was a trip to a Viennese coffee-house for Kaffe und Kuchen and it didn’t fail to delight

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Feline jewel at the British Museum

Came across this ring on Pintarest, (housed in the British Museum)  what gem !  Beautifully carved red cornelian depicting a crouching cat within a gold setting.  An ancient egyptian piece dating back to around 1070-712 BCE.  Its the period known as the third intermediate age, that lasted around 350 years, starting at the death of Ramses XI.

The cat was revered in ancient egypt, the Goddess of cats Bastet, women especially gave offerings to, it was said that if you carried around an amulet of a cat with kittens, that eventually you would have as many children as would appear in your amulet.  As cats were sacred to Bastet, cats were mummified along with their owners, and people were put to death if they accidentally killed one !

This precious ring was acquired by the Bristish museum in 1947 on the death of Gayer Anderson, famous collector of egyptian artefacts,

Maj Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson (military/naval; collector; British; Male; 1881 – 1945)

British army surgeon, administrator and collector, given the title of Pasha by King Farouk in 1942 after giving his home Beit el-Kiridliya to the people of Egypt.

On the underside of the cat there is a carved Wadjet eye or the Eye of Horus, used as a protective amulet, and initially offered to Osirus by Horus.  So powerful was its use that it restored him back to life !  these Wadjet eye amulets are found in vast quantities wrapped in the folds of the egyptian mummies.

Gratitude

 

With the last two weeks sitting around with my foot up ideas pop up and I record them, either stored in the mental filing cupboard or links and images put in the relevant files on my laptop, its never ending.  So today instead of sitting in the window watching the world go by, I will use my crutches to get to the office and start organising our very hectic schedule for the coming months, first thing is to search for a new employee. Anyone out there with a good sense of spatial awareness, colour sense, good computer skills and above all can take on respsonsibillity with confidence and a will to succeed, please contact me.

Up early, first day back at work for two weeks.  Since moving my offices I now only have about 100yds to get to work, what a blessing,  not being able to drive my car at least until Feb 4th! its a godsend.  Beside my home is a mews where the stables, blacksmith, and gardner’s cottage are located.  These were there uses back in the 1800’s but now the gardner’s cottage is my office and design studio, the blacksmiths is now my own personal art studio and the area where there would have been greenhouses along the kitchen garden wall is now where I sit and have coffee when I need to take a break from the hectic schedule.  It faces south and even in winter there are still days when the sky is blue and there are no clouds for the sun to hide behind,  that I can sit out there, wrapped in scarves and gloves and hold a steaming hot cup of coffee and feel  the sun warming my face……………..  just what is needed to calm the soul.

Being a designer can be very hectic in the “head” so much goes on in there !! and at times it never stops, the office day finishes around 6pm but my designing head never stops, always absorbing ideas, gaining inspiration from the world around me.   I love getting up around 6am and just sitting there in the peace and stillness of the morning and watching the sun rise, although on these winter mornings it takes a long while for the sun to come up, today around 7.30. Meditation, writing my “morning pages” is a must, its how I achieve “internal space” for each new day to unfold in.

It is so exciting to have so many wonderful projects to be working on and I feel such gratitude to have  abundance in this difficult climate.

 

 

Forced relaxation

Another day of relaxing,  I have a broken foot and the hospital “total rest” !!  So am sitting here, feet up on my chaise and gazing out across the common.  Have been spending time researching the projects I am doing at work, so many beautiful buildings with such a wealth of history that I am trying to unravel and hoping it will give me inspiration for the artwork that I will need to commission and purchase.

In doing all this research, going down the road of gothic revival and the aesthetic movement I have sparked off a real fondness again for turquoise and blues and the rich patterns of the arts crafts movement.

William de Morgan and his wife Evelyn created wonderful ceramics and paintings and it was researching his works that I came across these wonderful rich lustre red designs which would add real zing to the turquoise.  I want to create a very pared down  interior with them, using pattern more minimally, perhaps even in a monochromatic colour scheme, using decortive ornate shaped furniture in plain red with dashes of unexpected pattern, perhaps a bespoke woven carpet maybe……………..

Food for thought

Incubation

That creative flow is flowing !!
I have been sketching in my little book, a lttle black book which I like the texture of the pages, but the colour of the pages I dislike intensely, there a buttery yellow and they just dont appeal to me at all.  Yesterday I doodled away and today came to an end…….  Its a kind of incubation process…………  the seeds are sown, you can see the bean like pods swelling on the vines, above each is a kind of canopy that imparts the life fore, the breath of life into each one……..

A pencil sketch

Ornamented Columns

Wow, these columns are just amazing………

The project “grew out of a previous project, the ‘Platonic Solids’, that also used subdivision processes to generate complex forms,” he explains. However, while the Platonic Solids remained just a computer project, the Ornamented columns “were designed from the start with a full-scale fabrication in mind”.  For Michael Hansmeyer, the use of groundbreaking technology is an important part of his work he says. Merging technology and algorithms and by using just a simple input like the Doric column he produces columns made out of 16 million facets whose texture is exquisite and which resemble sculptural objects. In explaining why he chose the Doric column as an input he says that he chose so since its order arguably contains less geometric information than the other orders. “As an input, it contains significant information about the form to be generated without over-specifying and thus restricting the output.”

Ornamented Columns by Michael Hansmeyer | Yatzer™.

felted with Kashmir shawls

I have just purchased a wonderful felted woollen blanket, fabulously rich colours.  Vintage kashmir paisley felted together with stripes of woollen felt in delicous fruity colours.  Found in a wonderful little shop in Woodbridge that was just oozing with colour.    Chatted away with Julie Phipps , a lovely lady who is most passionate about her products, we found that we both frequented Maison Objet in Paris and just how inspirational this exhibitions is, it puts our UK trade shows to shame………..

I found my way here because I was spending a long weekend in Suffolk, at a wonderful “dolls house” like cottage.  The owners were so attentive,  when we arrived the table was all laid up for tea with a delicous handmade victoria sponge taking pride of place on pretty cakestand.  Cosy pub lunches, walks by the sea, reading books by the fire, what more could one wish for………