Friday, 25 May 2018

Good Sweden Bad Sweden... What is Actually Going On In Sweden???

I moved to Sweden 12 years ago and it is one of the best decisions I ever made. Apart from having a Swedish boyfriend (now husband) I didn't know much about the country before I moved here. Like most people I had a generally non specific positive vibe about it but that's about it. I imagined tanned beauties with long flaxen hair, Birkenstocks, natural wood, saunas, heavy drinking... it's not a million miles away from the reality although I don't see much heavy drinking here... I don't get out much either though, so who knows?

Since coming to live here, I can't really imagine being able to cope with living anywhere else. I've come to see that the progressive egalitarian values of this nation I now call home, are values I also hold very dearly. If I lived back in London now I think I would be in paroxysms of anger at the government, and don't even get me started on Trump... It's all crazy town out there beyond Scandinavia. I'm not saying it's perfect here either and obviously in a nation of 10 million, we have our share of issues, but these have begun to take place with a weirdly intense global scrutiny. Why is the rest of the world so interested in what happened in Sweden and why is there so much fake news about it?

  A few months ago I read this great book called Good Sweden Bad Sweden (The Use & Abuse of Swedish Values in a Post Truth World) by Paul Rapacioli. He is one of the founders of The Local which is Swedish news in English and an absolute life line to ex pats like me, who still can't wrap their heads around the Swedish Language properly.

Anyway, the book is great and very clearly shows how and why little Swedish local news stories get distorted as they migrate out of Sweden and get taken up by big international news sites like Breitbart and The Mail, who have an agenda that runs quite counter to progressive left wing scandi values.
I think it should be on the reading list for all 15 or 16 year old school kids, actually forget that, everyone should read it because fake news is not going away and we all need to understand the mechanisms and agendas behind the headlines.

So when I heard that Paul was going to give a wee talk about his book, I figured I'd go and listen...

Yeah...awful picture...I'm totally channelling my inner twat, you good people shouldn't have to see this kind of silliness ;-)

The fact is that bad news gets shared more then good news and there is something especially savoury about a fall from grace... The once seemingly perfect nation of Sweden has it's halo ripped off and is in for a good righteous kicking, exposed as the evil den of socialist ineptitude and moral decay or some such other utter nonsense. But it's all just a load of rubbish fake news, however,  Paul can explain it far better than I, a humble cushion designer...
                         So go take your face and put it in this book, read it with your eyes and then know it with your mind box... You will find that we all have a job to do, in counteracting the tide of disinformation about Sweden.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Painting, Art & Creativity for the Soul

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently, that is not always a pain free experience and sometimes deep reflection can bring up all sorts of stuff. I'm not sure why, but I felt like I wanted to paint, to help clarify things so I started painting in oils, for the first time in my life, a few weeks ago.

I really wanted to do something for myself, not to sell or to be commercial in any way but just for the pure pleasure of doing it. That's the thing about painting, which makes it so different from designing on the computer, it is so much more physical somehow. I even ended up getting rid of the paint brush and doing a lot with my hands and fingers to really get that connection.

So this is the first thing that I did...

It's not high art and really any monkey could do it, but that's not the point. The whole point was how I felt whilst I was doing it. It was kind of like a meditation, like a giant breath out allowing all the noise in the ole brain box to shut the hell up.

So I thought, yeah, this is fun! I'm going to paint more stuff!

Initially I felt that whilst oil paints were super fun to paint with, they take FOREVER to dry and a bit of hassle with cleaning and what not, so I tried painting in acrylics but I didn't get the same physicality of the paint. I couldn't get it to flow and mix on the canvas in the same way as oils so I painted over the acrylics with oils. I'm gonna stick with the smelly oil paints.

Good thing my husband loves the smell of paint and thinners because that is how the house smells now, like all the time.

I tried combining realistic elements with more suggestive abstract forms to see if I liked how that worked together...

But I didn't really feel for that so much. It took some of the mystery of imagination away. I love how the mind interprets the unknowable, how we see patterns in chaos, how we find meaning and connectivity in mysterious shapes and shades. That is what really interests me. Pure creativity not bound by reality in any way, just emotion and feeling. Only poetry, not prose, so I decided that for now I would keep it completely abstract.

My next big discovery was the palette knife and I really love the way it can drag and sculpt and blur the paint..

And once I'd found the palette knife, there was no going back from that!

And this is my latest painting which is my favourite so far..

The really funny thing is, you know when the universe is saying 'YES' to you because last night, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to take a bunch of unused canvases and a couple of easels off Please!!

If you are looking for a new hobby then I totally recommend painting, especially abstract painting because it comes 100% from within which means you need to open up and dive into your inner landscape and that can be a very rewarding experience, plus you might get some nice bits and pieces to pop up on the walls ;-)

I'm already planning my next experiment in painting my inner reality, and now I'll be able to do it on a huge canvas, thanks to my very generous mate! 

My final word on painting is that is should be completely for you that does it, unless you are a commercial artist, but I don't know anything about that. I just know that if you don't care what anyone thinks about what you do and forget about being judged, the actual process of creation is very liberating...

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Tattoos...and Toys!

So, as you might know, I was at the Svenska Tatueringsmässan last weekend, that's the Swedish tattoo convention in Norrköping. It was a wonderful combination of hanging out with my hilarious sister, watching fascinating people and being situated next to a stand selling adult toys... The combination was highly entertaining, hilarious actually!
 I knew it was going to be bizarre right from the first day setting up, when my neighbour stand holder knocked one of her dildo thingies onto the floor and a little 8 year old girl picked it up, very helpfully and innocently asked what it was. Various adults swapped utterly horrified looks and someone managed to babble something about these being toys for adults, put it back and keep moving. Quite cringey really, but also pretty funny if I'm honest. And of course I got to over hear some quite eye opening conversations coming from that stand... There was much stifled tittering and guffawing from my direction...and yes, I know that is very juvenile ;-D

I love doing events with the public because I met all sorts of lovely people and this event was no exception. So many characters and amazing tattoos of course.

Also met this lovely lady who bought a pair of flares and some bags and things. Not many people can rock a canary yellow turban, she could.

I didn't get to walk about much but I did get distracted by the site of a bloke whipping his top off to show his award winning back piece. This won him the Colour award for 2018 ...what a crap looking trophy! It's not very rock & Roll! Looks more like like a 'Vacuum Cleaner Salesman of the Year' award... anyway, apparently it took something like 120 hours over a 10 year period to complete... That is commitment right there!

I don't actually like it that much myself, not really my sort of thing, but I can see it is very well done.

I was also hanging out quite a bit with Zsa Zsa who is the owner of Z Tattoo magazine and yes, I'm going to be in the July issue! So watch this space!

So that was the weekend that was. Big thanks to my sister for helping me and all my new customers and instagram followers. Ya'll rock!

Monday, 23 April 2018

Norrköping Tattoo Convention & My Current Fave Tattoo Artist...

So, I missed doing my blog last Friday because I was home with a cold... feeling a bit better now, thanks for asking ;-) And I won't be blogging this coming Friday either because I will be at the Norrköping Tatueringsmässan (tattoo convention)

I'm having a stand there selling my wares and having an excuse to hang out with my lovely sister who has flown over from UK to do it with me.... This is kind of like a fun working holiday sort of thing.

I promise that I'll take lots of pictures and report back with all the interesting things I see there, so for now,  a picture of my leg. That sounds weirder than it is...

and here is my work in progress by Tracy D... I really must get the colour done!

And my current fave tattoo artist Jenna Kerr, I would love to have something from her...

If you want to see more of my top tattoo picks then see my Pinterest board:
and maybe see you down the convention next weekend!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Birds in Design & Interiors: Trends & Predictions

As a designer myself, I can't help but notice trends as they swell and die. Some design ideas hang about for ages, others are a one season wonder and some cycle decade in and decade out. But one thing I notice, season after season is our eternal fascination with birds. The species change with tastes and time but the admiration for our beautiful feathered friends is timeless.

Honestly I couldn't give a flying flock about trends in fashion and design... I like what I like, but I'm still fascinated how these things come and go, how they flux into relevancy and are then banished to the uncool outer reaches of the 'has beens'. I like to watch it, as if it were a giant avant garde dance performance but I've no wish to jump onstage and try to take part.

I guess it's a manifestation of our herd mentality and our biological makeup, as social creatures. It's a natural expression of the desire to belong, to identify with the group, to feel part  of 'it' so it's no wonder.

Designers seem to conspire to favour a certain bird species this year and then there are...let's say Flamingoes...everywhere. Does anyone remember, years ago now, you couldn't move for them. They were everywhere, on everything. 

This went on for years....

We all got a bit sick of seeing them and that tide of birdyness went out...(only for a while)

Then all heil the rise of the mighty Parrot! I did a whole blog about Parrots and Botanicals in 2016 (oh and also boobs) so I'll skip going into detail, suffice to say that the parrot has been quite a tenacious little bugger and still seems to be everywhere, but I can feel it's on the outs now.

Pic from Graham and Green

Wallpaper by Matthew Williamson at Osborne & Little
Then there was the crane rising through the ranks over the last couple of years and is very much 'in' right now (whatever that means) Just look at all the clothes in H&M right's crane city. Ok, maybe that was a few months ago, I don't know, I don't go in there much...
I think that part of the reason that designs featuring cranes are so popular right now is that there is a huge rich oriental design history that a lot of westerners are unfamiliar with and seeing these incredibly sophisticated textile designs and art for the first time is very fresh and compelling.

Another bird on it's way up is the Swan but it hasn't reached it's fullest possibilities yet... definitely more to see here...

This is 'Firebird' by Lisa Bengtsson but it looks more like a swan to me...

Birds are found in all the obvious design places, wallpapers, textiles etc - but even on naked metallic lady lamps...yes, that's a thing...and it's got parrots on too! Because a naked silver lady with a lamp on her head is just not enough! Clearly it is crying out to be covered in parrots too!   Well done Jimmie Martin for all your bonkerness, don't ever change!                                                                                                                                    I don't buy stuff because it is trendy right now but I really like to see the patterns of life,  I'm fascinated by beautiful things and generally like to know what's going on...                                      I've just looked around my livingroom and wouldn't you know it! I've got a picture of parrots on one wall, a cushion with parrots on the sofa and a giant gold fan with cranes on it, on another wall! Well, I'm accidentally bang on trend then! 

If you want to see more feathered fabulousness then check out my Pinterest board...

Friday, 23 March 2018

Love, Sacred Hearts, Tattoo Style

I just had delivery of my brand new organic cotton cushion covers and shopper bags last week and I'm super happy to finally see them in the flesh, so-to-speak... Especially the Sacred Eye ones because these designs have been a long time in the making...

In fact it has taken almost a year to get these done and that is because the process to make the heart was so long. I know what I wanted to do but it took a fair bit of organising ... all started about 10 months ago...

I needed to gather all the elements together so I started with a visit to the Kings Castle in Stockholm. I took a photo of a eye in one of the old paintings. Next step, I got some concrete wings from my friend Concrete By Noni and I painted them a rather horrible reddish dark brown and then very gently, with a stiff brush, painted metallic gold paint over, to give depth and an aged effect.

Next step was to make the heart. I found a wooden heart about the right size in a junk shop out in the countryside so I used that as my base and built up a heart in 3D with papier maché

Once I had the basic form, I used self drying hobby clay to give a nice smooth finish, leaving a hole in the middle so I could rest these ceramic hands that I've had laying around for ever.

I wanted to get a nice shimmer on the heart so I painted it with a dark red colour then went over it with a red metallic spray, to get the depth and the shimmer.

Once it was all dry I very carefully glued Swarovski crystals on and I have a great tip if you ever need to glue tiny jewels...use a paint brush, non brush end and put a tiny bit of blu-tack on. Use that slightly sticky end to pick up the gems. The Blu-tack is less sticky than glue so the gems transfer over nicely.

One all the elements were built and painted it was time to assemble it. I used some weird green florists sponge under the heart, so it would sit above the wings and I could put the antique butter knives in like a crown, and flowers and stuff...

And this is the end result of it all put together...

I photographed it, cut it out in photoshop, added some flames and made these lovelies...
And I even made on in a black and white vibe...
I kept the eye bit separate, not glued down so I could do different things with it and that was used in this Eye see You design..

It feels so great to have gotten this particular design out of my system and into reality...but is is not the last you will be seeing of sacred hearts in my work. I've used lots of hearts before and I will use them again because I'm just obsessed with them!
You can see my Hearts Pinterest board for more inspo...

Friday, 16 March 2018

How Environmentally Friendly is Your Cotton Tote Bag Really?

Since the launch in 2007 of the famous 'I'm not a plastic bag' tote bag by designer Anya Hindmarch, the abundance of fabric shopper bags has rocketed.
The idea that a cotton shopping bag should be better for the environment than a plastic one seems pretty straight forward, but it is just not that simple.

In terms of the resources used to make various different types of bag the humble plastic bag actually needs less energy and resources than paper or fabric bags per use. The numbers are wildly different depending on what studies you look at, but you need to use a paper bag about 11 times to equal the plastic bag and you would need to use a fabric bag between 100 – 400 times depending on the fabric and what statistics you read.

But the flip side is that cotton bags break down harmlessly and don't end up for hundreds of years floating around the giant ocean garbage gyres, strangling turtles and other wildlife. It's estimated that 1 million birds and thousands of turtles and other sea animals die each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags, and more than 10% of the debris that washes up on US coasts lines is plastic bags*. 

So there are additional negative environmental aspects to plastic bags, above and beyond the energy needed to create them.

But what about fabric bags? Well not all fabric bags are created equal...
If it's fabric then it better be organic. Non organic cotton uses lots of pesticides which are both toxic to the environment and specifically linked with the decline in the bee population. That might not sound very serious, but as our main pollinators, their decline is potentially catastrophic for agriculture, food production and biodiversity.

I design cotton bags amongst other things, because I want people to stop using single use plastic bags entirely.
People often say to me, 'but what will I use as bin liners?' Use recycled plastic bags for the bin or bags not made from petrochemicals (compostable green plastic). At the very least use your plastic bags many times for shopping before turning them into bin liners.

And don't say yes to every free tote that comes your way, there is no point having 20 crappy fabric bags laying around the house, have few, have good quality that won't break after a few uses, and use them often. Take all the ones you don't use and recycle them at a clothing bank. If you use them to carry your food shopping in then machine wash them to make sure they stay clean, especially after transporting meat, chicken etc, to reduce the possibility of contamination from Salmonella or E. Coli.

                                You can check out my new range of organic cotton shopper bags here...     

The other very positive thing about fabric or reusable bags is that they send out a clear message that we are starting to think more seriously about the environment and our impact on it as consumers. As social creatures, we notice what goes on around us, a lot of it on a subconcious level. So the reusable bags we carry are subtly influencing all the people out there that haven't started thinking about the environment yet. Gently giving the message that we can't continue the throw away culture anymore and we all need to reduce our waste and get the most out of the things we have. So we better make sure we really love the things we use because we are going to use them a lot.

Transitioning from an old way of doing things to a new way can often be a fraught experience, as we have to reassess ourselves and our choices. I feel like we are slowly waking up to the fact that there is some serious room for improvement in the world, and most people want to be part of the solution, but there is so much conflicting info, it's hard to know what to do sometimes... I know this personally, I had no idea about environmental things a few years ago, just no clue. Doesn't make me a bad person, I just didn't know that I didn't know. Then I started to hear things, read things, I looked into stuff and I started to see that there were big problems. I decided I wanted to be part of the solution and I am full of optimism that innovation, necessity and the desire that everyone has, to make things better will get us there.