Friday, 12 October 2018

Butlers Emporium

I've been meaning to mention a lovely shop I went to a while ago whilst visiting the south coast. It's based in the Old Town area of Hastings, which includes a lovely pedestrianised street full of independent shops and cafes. You could almost miss this street if you didn't know it was there as it is tucked away from the main road and makes a nice change from the regular seaside promenade. My favourite shop on this street was Butlers Emporium, run by Rose Ratcliffe.

It's situated in a charming building dating back to 1832 and has been a hardware store and iron mongers before Rose took it on and beautifully curated it with elegant homewares and lifestyle items displayed across the shop's old furniture and cabinets.

Rose has always sold products that she loves and she finds joy in combining the old and the new. Modern, stylish crockery items sit next to chipped enamel ware and old teddies.

Every corner of the shop has a surprise element to it, but nearly everything in the shop made me want to buy it! I could have quite happily taken home a pair of these lovely silver Moroccan slippers.

The wall below shows a montage of random items, some found, some made by the owner, all brought together by colour and against the wonderful peeling wall behind.

Needless to say, I made some purchases! I chose these two items below for their packaging. Coco chocolates are so tasty and always have interesting prints on their packaging, which makes for a lovely gift. The goats milk soap has a patchwork of indigo blue Japanese-inspired papers, all wrapped up with a simple piece of string which just works so well!

Whilst I was at the counter, I was admiring these beautiful little bottles of scent. I loved the whole design of them, the bright colours, but especially the brightly coloured tassels.

The shop assistant saw me admiring the tassels and offered to sell me some! So I came home with these four fab colours which I'm going to try using on some of my bags.

I also came home with a lovely selection of pom pom ribbon which I am going to attach to some of my bags. I'm going to have fun working with this, I can tell!

While talking to the shop assistant, I also found out that Rose organises shopping trips to Morocco and my eyes lit up. How amazing would that be?! Rose has been travelling to Morocco for over thirty years and knows the best places to shop. It's definitely on my list for the future....

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Fay McCaul

I recently had the pleasure of doing a wonderful jewellery workshop with textile designer Fay McCaul. It was run from her home in South East London, a lovely double-fronted house with views over the city of London. Her studio is in the front room of her home and she taught us how to make stunning jewellery pieces using perspex. She started off by showing us examples of what we could do. I loved the combination of shapes and designs, and the possibilities seemed endless.

After explaining to us what we could do, we got to play with paints, creating shapes and designs onto paper in a variety of colours.

I chose to try geometric shapes in shades of blue and green.

She also had a selection of wonderful foils to play with.

Once you have decided on your designs, you use a heat press to bond the design or foil onto the perspex. I found that it took me a while to figure out what worked for me but once I had figured it out, there was no stopping me! I gravitated towards the foils and the more crumpled they were, the nicer the effect. Below is a selection of what I made. Now I just need to piece them together to make a selection of necklaces.

Whilst we we at her home, Fay showed us her collection of interior designs where she uses traditional knitting techniques combined with modern materials. They really are stunning and one of my favourite pieces was this geometric sample. It uses copper triangles which are knitted together to create a geometric design using an industrial knitting machine.

This can be custom-made into wallhangings, room dividers or screens, like the one below.

Check out more of Fay's designs on her website or you can see her in person at Decorex in Syon Park, London. Although you'll have to be quick as it finishes today! Alternatively, sign up for one of her wonderful classes at Airbnb Experiences.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Cutie cacti

I'm loving the array of cactus designs that are around at the mo. You can decorate your whole life with a variety of fun prickly cacti. This wallpaper by Betapet goes to the extreme but how fab to use it on a statement wall in a bathroom.

Another statement is this cute cactus rug by Sass and Belle where they have turned spiky into soft and given it a happy smile.

Cheeky Leopard naturally loves the cactus motif and I've used a rather lovely cactus print that I designed for Makower UK. I designed each cactus in a brightly coloured pot and put it on a light green background. For the lining I've used a fun pink and white polka dot. This coin purse is the perfect size for carrying small change or for storing headphones in.

 For correspondence or birthday wishes with a difference, this lovely card set by Heleen van den Thillart is perfect with its watercolour effect.

Or you can get creative with this fabulous downloadable cacti clipart at The Ink Nest and apply it to all sorts of items from notebooks to wall art.

There are many lovely cactus items for the home. I love these glass cactus vases by Heaven's Gate Home and Garden. I'm a bit partial to green and blue glass vases anyway, but how fab to have a selection in cactus form too?!

This Cheeky Leopard cactus card case is a fab way to carry credit cards, business cards or travel cards and has a fun pink and white polka dot lining.

Cacti are one of the easiest plants to keep in the home and great for someone who is not so good at remembering to water them! I love creating a little arrangement of three or four of them in differing shapes and sizes and these wooden pots by Minimum Design are a fab simple and modern way of presenting them.

You can even go minuscule and have this pet cactus keyring from Rock n Rose. You can choose from two cactus plants that are super hardy and you only have to water the plant once a week by sitting the base of the capsule in a little water for a few minutes. Simple!

This Cheeky Leopard glasses case is the ultimate summery accessory and perfect for storing oversized sunnies in. It also has a pink and white polka dot lining that matches the pink of the pots on the cactus print.

Friday, 31 August 2018


I came across the aptly-named Pearpod recently during a trip to Frome to visit my dear friend Roz. We went out for dinner at the lovely Rye Bakery which is situated in an old church with high ceilings and a warm atmosphere. Next to our table was a magnificent woven structure which created a fabulous nest-like space to sit in. It turns out that the artist who created this is Ellen Mulcrone, a Frome-based artist who began building these structures on her art foundation degree at Falmouth.

The structure was commissioned by Rye Bakery as a space for mothers to breast feed their babies in public, hence its name, Breast Nest. As well as being used as a space for breast feeding, it has also been used for holding classes in such as ukulele-playing and story telling.

Ellen's pod-making stems from a desire to celebrate our introverted nature and feels that weaving creates space, allowing her thoughts to wander and her hands and body to dance as she sculpts. She is drawn to to the use of willow due to its flexibility, richness of colour and abundant qualities. She also creates this fabulous pear pod which can be hanging or free-standing, indoors or out.

For something smaller and more manageable, check out these beautiful copper placements inspired by traditional tea mats found in Japan. In these, Ellen wanted to capture the essence of delicacy in woven form and apply it to a modern material.

Check out Ellen's website to see more works as well as see images of her design process as well as a fabulous film of her creating her pieces in her studio.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Tenegui toes

When I lived in Japan I developed a bit of a tenegui addiction and I built up a rather impressive collection of them. A tenegui is a piece of cotton fabric that can be used as a tea towel, headscarf, gift wrapping fabric or used as a piece of art. In Japan, many tenegui are printed with pretty designs and they often depict images relating to the season of the moment.

My friend Michiko came over from Japan recently and stayed with me for a few days. One of the lovely gifts she gave me was this fabulous red tenegui. It depicts a woman's leg and foot with a black comb. This was seen as a very provocative image in days gone by and may well have been the leg of a male kabuki actor who portrayed women in kabuki theatre.

I love the use of negative space which is seen as just as important as the main image in Japanese design. Red is also my favourite colour! Now I just need to find the perfect place to hang it in my apartment.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018


I recently went on a holiday to Malta and was interested to check out Valletta which has been voted one of the European capitals of culture for 2018. It's situated high on a peninsula surrounded by the blue Mediterranean sea and we started our trip by parking the car down in the harbour and taking the new modern lift up the cliff side to the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

The gardens give you a stunning view over the Grand Harbour and a feel for your surroundings. The harbour was one of the world's great maritime sanctuaries and is at the heart of Maltese history.

With no agenda, we spent our time wandering round the narrow streets (many of which are car-free) and taking in the atmosphere. There are many lovely restaurants to dip into for a drink break!

I loved the blonde limestone buildings that glow in the afternoon sun. Nearly every building has painted wooden balconies which adds colour and character to the outside of the buildings and also adds a little extra space to each home.

I loved the purpose-built parliament building, designed by the architect Renzo Piano who also designed the London Shard. It's modern and interesting yet fits perfectly with the traditional Baroque architecture of its surroundings.

We also went on a boat ride around the bay surrounding Valetta and the Three Cities. It was great to be out on the water and to take in the surroundings, as well as learn a bit more about the rich history of Valletta.

The Three Cities are situated across the harbour from Valletta and are quite magnificent with their marinas and beautiful yachts moored up. On our last day we drove there to see them up close, and had a drink on the waterside.

The Malta at War museum, situated in Birgu, was actually very interesting. Malta was really bombarded for a few years during the war and it was interesting to see how resilient the locals were. We even got to do a tour of the underground air raid shelters which were intriguing, if a tad claustrophobic!

With the flight being only three hours away from the UK and with the sun shining for more than 300 days of the year, this is a year-round destination and great for a little city break.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Club Tropicana

Summer is well and truly here and I've recently been working on some summer designs to get me in the mood. I've also been creating some fun items for my store. I'm so inspired by the tropical references that are out there at the mo - from flamingos and pineapples to toucans and tropical leaves. The colour palette of the design reference below is nice and fresh. I love the peach and mint combination with a touch of acid green to funk it up.

And if you're looking for something a bit brighter, the colour palette below delivers! I love the funky combinations of purple and pink with orange and yellow thrown in.

Cheeky Leopard has been busy creating some fun summer items and my favourite one at the mo is this fab pineapple cosmetic bag in shades of yellow and turquoise.

The bag has a turquoise gingham lining and I decided to add a bright yellow zipper as a contrasting pop of colour. This is a great size for carrying smaller items in your travel bag.

For more pineapples you can find this little selection in my store.

The most recent item to be added to my store is this fun flamingo glasses case. It has been printed onto a beige background which makes it slightly more sophisticated! The pink and white polka dot lining ties in with the pink of the flamingos.

Toucans are still a popular tropical reference and these little guys are so sweet. The toucan coin purse is big enough for small change, notes and credit cards and has a black and white spotty lining.

The toucan tissue holder is a fun way to carry tissues for this summer sniffles.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Amazing Alaia

The other day I made a pilgrimage to the Design Museum in Kensington to visit the exhibition of Tunisian-born Azzedine Alaia. He was a designer well known for his beautifully structured haute couture collections and was someone who generated excitement and respect throughout his life.

Alaia was best-known for his sensuous, body-hugging forms and he loved to experiment with the latest stretch materials and tailored leathers. On entering the exhibition you are greeted by this stunning collection, named 'Sculptural Tension'. Alaia originally trained as a sculptor and he always considered his clothing in sculptural terms.

Up close, you can see how he has used silver studs to embellish the inside of the pleats to this animal skin print outfit.

Chainmail links are like chiffon on the dress below, created in 2017 in the last months of Alaia's life.

Alaia used leather constantly throughout his career and his use of it was ground breaking. The 'Revolutionary Skins' section of the exhibition shows one of the first leather garments to gain attention in the fashion world. It's a leather coat from 1981, where steel eyelets were used as the only embellishment, and the powerful style of the coat was to define the style of the coming decade.

The dress below shows how Alaia could use leather in a way that it emulated other lighter fabrics such as chiffon and silk. The ruffle at the shoulder and the beautiful darts at the waist make it hard to believe that this is made from leather.

The 'Exploring Volume' section of the exhibition looks at Alaia's fascination with fashion history and the influences he took from the 17th and 18th centuries. He has re-imagined them using contemporary technologies and attitudes to the body.

As well as having an interest in creating form-fitting shapes, Alaia was also interested in volume and creating sculptural shapes that could redefine a woman's body and he pushed the idea to the extreme. Look up close at the bottom of this dress and you see the amount of fabric that has been expertly inserted into the seam, with an air of lightness and ease.

The dress below has a wonderful form-fitting bodice.

See how each pleat is perfectly uniform. The mirrored plinths make it easier to see the detail.

Black was Alaia's favourite colour and he would often use it on its own, combining a number of fabrics in a single garment to explore their different textural qualities. The section called 'Black Silhouettes' highlights this. I loved the leather dress below where pleats have been created in leather and edged with gold beads.

The simple use of black often meant that the dress became a graphic silhouette and you had to look up close to appreciate the workmanship that has gone into it.

Alaia gave his ideas form by draping, cutting and pinning fabric directly onto the statuesque models he worked with. He combined rigorous technical skills with an understanding of how women want to feel. This is beautifully shown in the red dress below which was in the 'Fragility and Strength' section of the exhibition.

Alaia was obsessed with testing the properties of materials. He gave soft fluidity to leather, and here he gives chiffon strength. These dresses are as powerful as a tailored suit, showing Alaia's technical ability in his use of the fabric. Chiffon is a very delicate fabric and can be difficult to work with but he makes it look effortless.

The final and most dramatic section to the exhibition is the 'Wrapped Forms' section that focuses on his use of stretch fabrics.

These dresses seem simple but each band of fabric is precisely engineered and cut to specific dimensions. The dresses were inspired by Egyptian mummification and join Western and Eastern traditions.

This wonderful exhibition is open until 7th October 2018. I highly recommend a visit.

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