Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Postcard Teas

Earlier on in December I went on a mission to buy a friend a birthday present at the beautiful Postcard Teas shop on Dering Street in Central London. She is a lover of tea and so the perfect gift for her was a teapot accompanied by a special tea. The shop is tiny but perfectly formed with a beautiful selection of teapots and teas from around the world.

The shop front has a lovely traditional English feel to it but when you step inside you see the influence of Japanese design in its simplicity and aesthetic.

There is a simple wooden counter to one side and this is where they offer tea tasting classes. Pretty wooden trays adorn the shelves above. They are simple in design but beautifully formed.

I loved the pattern of these indigo Japanese-inspired cushions.

There is a wide selection of teapots and cups to choose from.

Most items are from China, Japan or Korea. My favourite was this lovely black teapot from Japan called Betty - named by the first customer to buy it.

The philosophy at Postcard Teas is provenance and small tea where all of their producers farm less than 15 acres. All of their 60 teas are labelled with the name and location of the tea makers and come in a silver canister with a beautiul label, individual to each tea.

There was also a small selection of other gifts including these pretty vintage-inspired postcards.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas from Cheeky Leopard. Thank you for all your support this year and here's to a wonderful year ahead!

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Tartan Tote

A good friend of mine recently asked for a specific bag commission and I felt very chuffed that she asked me to do it. It involved a tartan kilt that her mum had owned for years. It had been given to her by my friend's dad but, after living in the wardrobe for years, she decided it was time to take it to the charity shop. My friend secretly removed it from the charity shop bag and brought it to me to see if I could make it into something that she could give to her mum as a gift for christmas. The kilt is a gorgeous combination of blues and greens and I knew it would be a joy to work with.

I love a commission and especially something so personal, so we put our thinking hats on and came up with an idea to make a tote bag. Here is the result!

We spent some time deciding on a lining to go with the bag, as well as which straps to use. I have a selection of sturdy canvas straps and this soft green version was a great contrast to the main fabric. For the lining we chose a navy blue and green polka dot fabric.

We thought it would be nice to have a contrasting base to the bag and so I used this lovely grey wool fabric from my collection.

As a little extra, I decided to make a little zipper purse out of the same fabric.

The purse will be great for storing smaller items in her bag such as earphones and mobile phone.

I really enjoyed making these items and love recreating a new gift from something old and cherished. If you have something that you would like to be reimagined, please message me here!

Friday, 20 December 2019

Gauguin Portraits

Last Friday I went to the Gauguin Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery in London. Gauguin is known for his brightly coloured paintings and iconic style and I was interested to see some of his paintings in the flesh and learn more about the artist. This exhibition shows how he painted portraits throughout his career, depicting family, friends and intimates around the world, often in an unconventional style for its time. It also shows how he had a charismatic and forceful personality which at some points sits rather uncomfortably with the viewer.

Gauguin was obviously quite a self-obsessed man and continually depicted himself in paintings, often in different guises and personalities. Below he has depicted himself as Christ in the Garden of Olives. His mask-like face is framed by bright red hair in a dark foreboding landscape.

In his first years as an artist, Gauguin frequently painted his wife and their five children. This early depiction of his Danish wife, Mette, is fairly conventional. It was painted when Gauguin was still working as as stockbroker. She is seated in an evening dress and is surrounded by trinkets - Gauguin uses it to show the wealth of their comfortable life. Rather ironically, soon after it was painted the stock market crash of 1882 meant that he lost his job and they had to move out of Paris for cheaper lodgings.

This painting depicts Gauguin's four year old daughter Aline who is dwarfed by giant oranges. This was a rather unconventional layout as the oranges become the centre of the attention and his daughter is just to the side and looking down. The composition is reminiscent of the paintings of Edgar Degas who also used a similar approach and was a great supporter of Gauguin's work. 

In 1891, Gauguin travelled to Tahiti in search of an unspoilt, non-Western culture. It helped that it was French speaking and he created a life there for several years.

Hi depictions of the local women are beautifully coloured, but there is an underlying uneasiness to them when you get to know his background and relationships with the very young women of the island. He exploited his position as a privileged Westerner and entered into many sexual relations with young girls, 'marrying' two of them and fathering children. When you know this, the paintings take on a different feel and the melancholy of the sitter comes through.The Tahitian woman above sits in a colonial French rocking chair, wearing a bright pink missionary dress.

The painting above is called Woman with a Mango and depicts Teha'amana, his first 'wife'. I love the vibrant yellow background and the knowing smile on her lips.

The painting above is called 'The Flowers of France' and was painted in Tahiti but shows how much France remained in Gauguin's mind. Like the painting of the oranges above, the flowers become the main focus of the composition whilst a Tahitian boy sits anxiously to the side.

More vibrant yellow, this time depicted in the missionary dress of a Breton woman. Here, Gauguin combines the two cultures of France and Westernised Tahiti, which was quite daring for its time. He returned to France, feeling like his time in Tahiti had made him unique among contemporary artists in Paris. He paraded about in exotic clothes and decorated his studio in bright yellow to evoke the atmosphere of the South Seas.

This exhibition continues until 26th January 2020.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Merchant & Mills

When I was down on the East Sussex coast last weekend I paid a little visit to Rye and couldn't resist popping into the lovely Merchant and Mills shop on Tower Street. It's housed in a stunning, light-filled building with a renovated warehouse feel which has been divided up with a mezzanine level above for the office area.

Merchant and Mills was started in 2010 by fashion designer Carolyn Denham and photographer Roderick Field with the intention of bringing style and purpose to the world of sewing.

The beautiful fabrics that they sell in the shop have been sourced from around the world, and there are dress patterns on sale (below) that work well with the linens and cottons on offer.

There is an amazing array of haberdashery and sewing items on offer and they are all packaged in the Merchant and Mills iconic packaging using simple design inspired by Victorian illustration and typeface.

In many cases I wasn't even sure what some of the times were, but the packaging still made me want to buy them! There was also a wonderful selection of scissors and cutting implements.

Merchant and Mills' purpose is to supply patterns, fabrics and tools that allow the creation of a desirable, functioning wardrobe whilst offering an alternative to the often undistinguishable options of the high street. There beautiful shop is well worth a visit for any fabric-lover.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Gallivant Hotel

At the weekend we headed down to the East Sussex coast to soak up some winter sun. After a mooch around Hastings Old Town, we headed to Camber sands and to the Gallivant Hotel, an unassuming building from the outside - in fact so unassuming, we drove straight past it! But step inside and it envelopes you in a warmth, inspired by Scandinavian design.

The cosy snug invites you to curl up and hang out for a few hours, perusing the selection of beach-inspired coffee table books on offer whilst sipping a cocktail. 

The main guest area has been divided into zones and there are many areas to sit and relax. You can then step from your cosy seat in the lounge area, to the warm environment of the restaurant where they serve a delicious selection of locally sourced dishes.

The bedrooms have been beautify designed with not too much pretention, but a lot of attention to detail. I loved the window seat with its navy and orange colour combo and big soft cushions to sink into.

The bed was so comfortable!

Breakfast was served in the airy main restaurant, with a selection of cereals and fruit etc on offer as well as cooked options.

I loved the addition of framed vintage swimwear that decorated the walls of the restaurant as well as the bedrooms and the public bathrooms.

I especially liked these funky high-waisted trunks!

After a hearty breakfast, we trotted across the road and though the sand dunes to go for a wonderfully bracing walk along the windswept beach of Camber Sands. Heaven!

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Lightship Print Shop

On Friday I had the pleasure of going to the Lightship Print Shop, a design studio based on board a converted lightship in the heart of the creative Trinity Buoy Wharf in East London. The studio is in one half of the lightship, with the other half used as living quarters and a recording studio. Lightship Print Shop was founded by Vicky Philips and in her beautiful, airy space she creates surface pattern and illustrations for apparel and products. We came away with some fabulous prints!

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Zandra Rhodes - 50 Years of Fabulous

Zandra Rhodes' fashion career has survived for 50 years and she is one of the few fashion designers who also creates all her own textile prints. She has kept to her distinctive style throughout her career and the Fashion and Textile Museum now has an exhibition, showcasing her work from the very beginning. I went down there on Friday to check it out and really enjoyed it. The exhibition space is small, but they have packed it with an eclectic mix of garments, with at least one garment from each year of her career.

Zandra's own look matches her fashion style, with her bright pink hair and dramatic makeup.

Seeing the garments displayed like this shows the many styles, eras and cultures that Zandra was inspired by. Just in this photo, you can see Indian influences and 1930s influences.

This pink silk chiffon dress is hand-beaded and comes from the 'Fairy' collection. The dress has been screen printed with buttons and bows and a troupe l'oeil bow decoration. The collection was inspired by the Flower Fairy illustrations of Cicely Mary Barker.

This pretty padded evening jacket is from the 'Shell' collection where the shape of the jacket was dictated by the shape of the print. The base of the jacket is gathered into a padded quilted pink border.

This silk chiffon evening dress is from Zandra's Mexican collections. The deep V-neckline is edged with a pleated and frilled collar and is held closed with lacing and enamelled flower beads. The full length of the skirt is printed with a Mexican banana leaf pattern.

Most of Zandra's designs are bright and colourful, but this stunning dress is all black and includes an embellishment of peacock feathers carefully placed on very sheer black chiffon.

This short satin purple dress was digitally printed with her 'Jungle Trail' print. Rhodes is known for her hand screen-printed designs, but has also explored new processes and techniques, enjoying the challenges involved.

This dress is printed with her 'Giant Fantastic Flowers' print. The neckline is a circle shape that has been created by cutting out the centre of one of the flower motifs. The dress was created in 1988 but uses a 1960s sensibility. Flowers are a recurring motif in Rhodes's work and they are always bold and bright, often inspired by the artist Henri Matisse.

This raw silk mini dress is from the 1991 'Flower Power' collection and is embellished with decorative stitching and appliqué flowers, made from ribbon, rope and wooden beads.

The upstairs area of the exhibition had a wonderful selection of Rhodes's hanging prints. I especially loved this chiffon pink piece.

One of the keys to Zandra's designs is her knowledge of the processes of printing and designing and she makes it all look effortless, even though each garment is carefully thought out and takes months of planning. Above you can see her at work in her studio. Once the design has been decided, it is painted onto a frosted acetate film, called a kodatrace - below.

That design is then exposed onto silk screens (below) - one screen for each colour.

The design is first tested on paper to make sure the design registers and that the screen works well.

It was great to be able to look up close and see her annotations.

Below is the finished item printed onto a stunning pink chiffon panel.

The finished garment is stunning, using a pink print for the bodice.

The skirt of the dress is cut in layers and uses the shape of the curved print to create the curve of the design of the dress with a resulting ethereal feel.

Up close you can see beading and embellishment that has been added.

This lovely exhibition is on at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 26th January 2020.

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