Thursday, 20 December 2018

A Huge Thank You to All My Customers!

I haven't done a blog in ages, been too busy learning how to do upholstery and painting like a crazy person, not to mention everything that goes along with running Van Asch... But I just wanted to take a moment and say a massive 'Thank You to everyone you bought something through my Van Asch webshop this year. Together with Framtidsjorden we have managed to generate nearly 20 000:- this year (nearly €2000) in donations for the charity CIRHEP in India... and that was possible because of all my lovely customers.

Through the orders that you make, we take 5% and we give that money to CIRHEP who invest in women's empowerment programs and financing for starting organic farming businesses.

You can read more about what CIRHEP do here...

But just to give you an idea how far that money has gone... €2000 is enough to start 40 women up in business... or buy 3 solar panels with batteries or 3 computers and printers and office supplies.... or 8 water purifying systems.

And it wouldn't have been possible all my lovely customers!

Monday, 12 November 2018

Learning Upholstery

You might've noticed that I have started to learn how to renovate old furniture, I'm always posting pictures up on Facebook and instagram and stuff, but if you missed it, then let me tell you what I've been up to...

I started about 6 weeks ago learning from  the pros at BVN Design...
On my first day, my teacher was showing me how to cover an armchair, kind of a difficult one, not least because it was supposed to be covered in white fabric which can get grubby very easily. Well my teacher cut herself, bled on a bit and so I asked if I could be her hands and she could tell me what to do. I ended up doing it all, and not half bad for a first attempt even if I say so myself...

My next project was to learn how to do another kind of armchair, I used one of my cushion covers and a bag to cover it. It's a bit rough up close...

I wanted to get better at that kind of chair so I did another one and it came out much better.

I also wanted to learn about painting different kinds of cupboards and cabinets so I got this huge cupboard, was in a right state, really needed some love...
So I painted it in alternate stripes of mat and glossy black paint. Painted the interior a bright coral pink and finished it with gold leaf edges and new handles

I'm having so much fun breathing life into these old bits of furniture, there is so much quality craftsmanship in the original pieces and all they need it a bit of a freshen up and they can go on being useful for decades more to come... It's particularly satisfying to me because I'm very into sustainability and I love the idea of working with what we already have. If you want to learn how to do this sort of thing then join one of BVN Designs weekend courses and learn how to give old furniture the appreciation they deserve.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Street Libraries...Loaning Out Good Vibes

I love the idea of street libraries. They are little good vibe stations just giving out happiness, learning, fun and good vibes. What's not to love?

I got thinking about these recently when I was visiting a local town of cuteness called Sigtuna and they had a lovely old street library...

Sometimes they can be political like this art installation by John Locke, repurposing phone booths ...but they didn't last. Probably because they were illegal and put over working telephones...hmmm might be an artistic statement but as a solid concept for a street library...useless.

But I think they work best in residential neighbourhoods where access to municipal libraries is not so available. Plus such a cute way to repurpose old crap. Check these up cycled newspaper vending boxes..

Sometimes street libraries can be huge, repurposing things like bus shelters..

And sometimes they can be tiny weeny...

Is your street crying out for a cute little street library?

Friday, 22 June 2018

Artist Lars Lerin at Liljevalchs Gallery & Midsommar

Yesterday I had a lovely afternoon looking at art with my mum and my girls. It's summer holidays now so we have to fill up the days with fun things to see and do...and cake..there is always a lot of cake during the holidays. But the cake is quite necessary to have the energy to traipse around the galleries and museums that I drag my family to,  I assure you ;-)

We went to Liljevalchs Gallery to see the Lars Lerin exhibition and I really loved it... Each room had a different theme, very varied in subject matter but all done with his beautiful moody painting style, where it is as much about what details he chooses to leave out as what he puts in.

Some of the paintings were epicly huge, with so much going on...only a very observant, obsessive  and meticulous type of character would have the patience to paint these types of works.

I was particularly wowed by the library room, where he has painted life sized libraries of books and folders. It's a statement about the digitisation of things I guess but what I love is that whilst the books look totally real at a glance, you can't actually read one single word on the spines. They are all like incomprehensible meta books...bizarre but cool.

And I also found the room of interiors paintings kind of funny, to paint such banal things seems so strange...
This is what accompanied these paintings...

And it kind of made me smile inwardly because I do find this type of decor very common here in Sweden, and so totally boring. Lars absolutely captures this sense on sameness and tedious conformity.

The paintings of ornate architecture were also beautiful...

There is so much more to see and it's quite fascinating... I also highly recommend the cakes and pastries in the cafe. I sampled several different things and all were delightful!

On the wall in the cafe are hundreds of photos of stray cats and dogs which was quite sad really... sweet and sad. As a massive animal lover, I find it a bit upsetting to see the look in some of their wee faces. Only the unspeakable deliciousness of the pastry goods took the edge off ;-)

Well it is midsommar weekend here in Sweden, which is quite a big deal here and we have appalling weather for it. So I won't be going out and dancing around no pagan totems this weekend but rather staying in and baking naughty treats with my daughters... YUM

Friday, 15 June 2018

Letting Go of Ego Without Becoming a Gigantic Bore

The last few months have been a bit of a trial for interesting time, a challenging time with many dark hours and many bright moments of insight...

At my age, it might be called a mid-life crisis but that is too much hyperbole and sounds more dramatic than it really has been, although it does feel momentous for me.

I've always had a problem with naming myself... I sang in a band for 10 years but I've never considered myself a 'singer'. I've been making art in one way or another all my life but I never called myself an 'Artist'. I think it is some kind of lack of self belief or doubt in my abilities or something like that, but that has undergone a radical shakeup in the last few months and I'm finally ready to step up and own it. Now I call myself an Artist. It might not seem like a big deal, I mean what's in a name right? But it feels like a big deal to me and that is because I've finally found my voice.

Part of the issue  is definitely to do with ego and that is what I've been contemplating recently.

There were too many things in the way before..fear of not being good enough, fear of being judged and the ego getting a right kicking and also not having a direct line of communication to my creative centre...
I've been slowly but surely letting go of the ego and then the fear of being judged abates and the fear of not being good enough doesn't exist anymore... no status, no arrogance, no bullshit, no walls, no defences, no ego.... well it's a  journey and I'm not there yet but I'm on my way baby!

But I don't want to drag you into the multi faceted epiphanies I've undergone in the last few months because I don't want to be a gigantic bore.

Everyones journey of discovery is a personal thing with twists and turns in the road but I realise now, everything can be worked through once you have the courage to turn the gaze within and really ask yourself who you are now, what makes you happy and what is holding you back, what are the fears that stop you moving forward and what do you keep doing in your life that doesn't serve you.

Whilst all that sounds very self involved and selfish even, it's marvellous to understand yourself and be at ease with who you are because then you are much nicer company... I like the sound of that.

So that is it for me today...have a lovely weekend

Friday, 8 June 2018

Smoothie Buddha Bowls From Surprising Sources

More often than not you'll hear me banging on about how I hate the internet, social media is a ball and chain of obligation and fakery, and things were better 'before' or something like that. But there is a thing that is happening, quite surprisingly, that I'm rather impressed by...

I'm the proud owner/wrangler/parent to a couple of girls, one is a teenager and did you know, they are obsessed with healthy eating? Well ok, maybe not all of them, but a surprisingly large number of them!

My daughter comes home every day from school and spends an hour in the kitchen making smoothie bowls of unspeakable deliciousness and beauty.

Ok, this is not a picture from her, it's just a random one I found on the internet that looks like what she does, and she is not alone in this...the internet is full of such yummy wonderment!

I would've pulled a picture from her instagram but she doesn't put the pictures up there, she actually just loves doing it and eating them, so I'm happy to report, it isn't just 'look at my perfect healthy life' showoff social media bollocks.

 I'm so proud.

And I bet lots of other mums and dads are too, because my daughter is just one of very many health obsessed teens these days and that is thanks to the internet and social media.

Sometimes the evil internet can actually be an it's not all rubbish then ;-)

Well, that is it for me today, I'm off home... I'm going to eat things my daughter has made...

She makes healthier food than I do now.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Van Asch Goes All 'Biker Chick'

I dipped my toe into the world of bikers last weekend, when I did a little event local to where I live, a biker meet up part swap type thing. I didn't even know such things existed, but there were loads of leather clad folk and also a rather fetching pink car... I want it!

So if that was just dipping my toe into Biker world... Tomorrow I'll be diving in the deep end! Because I'm going to have a stand at the Custom Bike Show...

The reason I'm doing all this biker related stuff is because of my mate Emma...

Who happens to have the most beautiful looking bike (not that I would know anything about bikes, but it looks kickass to me!) anyway, she suggested that bikers would love my stuff and so I'd be depriving them of wondrous Van Aschery if I didn't have a stand at this upcoming event...
                                       ...There she is, resplendent in one of my T-shirt designs, as living proof, that biker chicks do indeed love my stuff... So I'm all packed up for tomorrow and if you're coming down that way, find me and say 'hello'... I'm not going to tell anyone that I have never ever even sat on a bike, much less driven one! or do you say 'ridden' one? I don't even know the basics! Shameful!

Well, I'll tell you how it went next week... In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend!

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...