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The Art of Living with Nature

May 1, 2017

It’s time to show you another fabulous book!

We are rapidly heading towards summer (it’s unbelievable, but we are in the 5th month) and everyone’s striving to spend as much time as possible outside, yet you must admit that there are occasions when something goes wrong and we get stuck indoors. It can start pouring down unexpectedly (has been happening too often lately) or you might not get a day off for that well planned trip to the beach – I’d say this is when “The Art of Living with Nature” would come in hand.

Its author Willow Crossley offers 50 beautiful projects that will help you to bring the outside in and brighten up these unfortunate days.

Willow has always been fond of Nature. She’s neither a florist nor an interior designer, she’s just “flower mad with a serious passion for decorating”. In her hands any foliage, fruit and vegetables and other natural finds become tiny magical worlds that are bound to draw anyone’s attention.

Yes, I did say fruit and even vegetables! And by other natural finds I mean driftwood and shells, feathers, eggs and antlers. Apparently anything you find has the potential to be turned into something beautiful. Willow experiments with her finds and demonstrates “how natural elements (…) bring an affordable and accessible dimension to an interior” and this book is your chance to join her and have a go at creating lovely arrangements yourself.

“The Art of Living with Nature” is split into five chapters – Woodland, Flora, Fauna, Beach and Edibles; this means that there are quite a few great ideas for any taste and any lifestyle.

The book is full of lovely photographs (Emma Mitchell has done a very good job) and well presented so called recipes – you’ll know what ingredients are needed and what steps should be followed to achieve the best results. One more thing I have to mention is… interesting facts. Be prepared to learn something new while flicking through the pages.

For e.g. did you know that…
The language of flowers was popular in the Victorian era, and tulips were generally seen as a symbol of love. If you were given a red tulip as a declaration of love, you could either accept the romantic gesture by taking the tulip with your right hand or decline it with your left.”
Or that…
“The peony is the traditional floral emblem of China, the state flower of Indiana, and one of the symbols to mark a 12th wedding anniversary.”
You’ll also find great advice on keeping your flowers and foliage looking fresh, a brilliant way to water your orchids and information on what bulbs to choose so that they would flower for Christmas. And of course much more!
So, my question is…  Are you ready to let Nature into your homes?
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The Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley, published by CICO Books (£14.99)
Photography by Emma Mitchell © CICO Books

 

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Awake My Soul

April 18, 2017

Slow? Yes! Our spring is extremely slow. It feels like it steps one step forward and then leaps a few backwards… Hats and gloves can’t stay long in the darkest corners of our wardrobes, they have to keep coming out, preferably together with the new best man’s friend – umbrella.

Two weeks ago we were enjoying a very warm spell (this is when the fresh story started to unfold – pretty butterflies and the first serious pollen in the air) yet today it snowed and the weathermen are swearing it’s going to be a cold night once again! On the other hand the storks are back (always a good sign) and when the sun comes out it’s really lovely out there.

It’s so lovely that I do feel much happier and more awake (if you know what I mean). It’s much easier to get up early in the mornings and I don’t mind taking the dog out a few extra times a day; lets not mention the garden – weeding, raking and sowing takes up most of my spare time. I do feel like we are slowly moving ouside and even the totally unexpected snowflakes can’t stop this natural process.

So… anyone who keeps moaning about the cold should remember how the song (“Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons) goes:

“Lend me your eyes I can change what you see”…


I might be taking photographs of the same plants every spring, yet Nature never ceases to amaze me. How can magnolia lock up its beauty in these fluffy buds for winter and then, as if by some misterious command, open them up every April?


Or sedum spectabile – it’s still cold, yet the plant has already formed clumps of sturdy rosettes!


Well, whatever you are busy with these days, I hope you find at least a few minutes to enjoy the emerging beauty around you. This spring might be extremely slow, yet it’s unstoppable – I believe that sooner or later the weather will warm up and coats will be able to have a long looooong break…

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Andrea’s Flowers

March 28, 2017

It’s been a very silent month, but not because I haven’t got anything new to tell you. I’ve been busy observing spring, which isn’t in a hurry to arrive (although this March is pretty warm and cloudless), and sowing seeds, of course (have you got any seedlings on your windowsills?) – anything you can think of!

I once again have BIG plans for my new garden – I’d love to turn it into a real flower farm. I can already see tall and bushy cosmos, bright yellow sunflowers, colourful foxgloves and royal delphiniums… there’ll also be blue cornflowers and loads of fluffy calendulas and zinnias. Have you heard of Floret Flower Farm? Have a look at their blog and you’ll get a glimpse into my dream.

Gardening is very time consuming, so I doubt I will have time to paint my lovely blooms, but I promise to take heaps of photographs. By the way, for the curious ones, here’s what the new garden looked like last year:

My new garden, summer 2016 – 1st year

Anyway, talking about painting… I have a new favourite – Dutch artist Andrea Letterie. Her flowers are just as pretty as I imagine mine will be this coming summer.

Have a look at these lovely colourful paintings – it’s amazing how simple objects can become so inspiring. Bright colours, flowers, birds and doggies are so very me, if you know what I mean.

For more paintings please head to Artacasa online gallery, this is were I found the ones pictured above. I didn’t manage to find much information about Andrea Letterie herself, but here are a few lines I came across while looking for her paintings:

Born in 1970, Andrea Letterie lives and works in Holland. Andrea developed her colourful and naïve style while studying Painting and Illustration at an Art Academy. Andrea finds inspiration in her pet dog, tea cups, nature, flowers, and vintage patterns which she combines into playful compositions that contrast realism and fantasy. Dogs with dresses or necklaces are no rarity! Painting fills her with a Joy that is apparent in her art.

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I hope you liked this virtual trip to a magical Andrea Letterie’s world… and please wish me luck with my will be flower farm!

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Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and Platters

March 1, 2017

If you are a keen crafter you might have already heard of Hester van Overbeek who is always coming up with fresh ideas how to make ones houses and outdoor spaces prettier and comfier. She shares them on her website and occasionally publishes brilliant books. Well, her latest interest is concrete. (Yes, I do mean that hard boring grey stuff that could be described as cold and industrial.)

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Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and Platters is already the third Hester’s book. I was very fond of her Furniture Hacks (you can find its review here) and I must admit I’m already looking forward to trying out some of the suggested concrete casting and molding crafts.

As you might have already noticed I’ll have 35 stylish and simple projects to choose from. I think that’s plenty. I guess it will be hard to decide what to start with though – should I create something for my home or for the garden? I’d better show you what I liked the most first.

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I fell in love with these concrete pots. I think they are mega cute.

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And what do you think to this one? A bit of bronze paint and that mentioned industrial image evaporates!

 

Hester has used a variety of molds for the projects in this book. She has “built her own wooden ones, used her silicon baking pans, raided the recycling bin for juice cartons and yogurt pots, and even tried some free casting on sand”. Now that’s something I’ve never heard of before. Apparently all you need is a pile of sand and some metal wire that would strengthen your concrete shape. (There’s a step by step photo guide in the book.) Using your imagination you could create a myriad of wonderful things.

 

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I like the fact that this book provides all the information you will need before you start playing with concrete – for eg. how to choose and mix concrete, what molds to use, how to create patterns, how to colour and seal your creations. It’s a real manual with many more details and tips that you’ll learn once you decide to take on a particular project.

 

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Fancy having a go? I think you should. As Hester has pointed out “concrete will take any shape you pour it in and will even pick up all the texture inside your molds, so you can get very creative”.
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Making Concrete Pots, Bowls, & Platters by Hester van Overbeek, published by CICO Books. Photography by James Gardiner © CICO Books



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Would You Call this Cheating?

February 26, 2017

The good new is that… after a long gap I’m back at my so called studio! I’ve already had a few attempts this year, but these resulted in loads of stuff and probably good ideas IN – THE – BIN.

Somehow nothing worked, I got upset and took my time before returning back to where I’ve started. It seems this was a good decision. Quoting American writer Anne Lamott “almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you”. Well, minutes turned into weeks, but I’m really glad there’s finally something to show you. Monotypes.

Yes, it’s monotypes once again… One might find this technique boring, especially as the images you receive aren’t colourful and might appear smudged, yet I keep returning to this form of simple art. The process is a bit messy, but once you know what you’re doing you can easily get carried away. But lets move on to my main question – would you call this cheating?

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What I have in mind is the whole printing process. Printing monotyes you’re supposed to end up with one unique image (mono stands for one). You place a sheet of paper on the even surface that’s been covered in paint and draw on the backside with a pencil or a pen. Once you’re finished you lift the paper and can enjoy a mirror drawing of your sketch. Simple, right? And here’s the problem with my printing process – I’ve become lazy and developed a method that allows me to create more than one very similar monotypes.

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I start with quite a few sketches. I like to build up a set of images I am going to print that day before I applying paint onto the glass sheet I use for creating my monotypes. Usually I take ordinary white paper and draw whatever comes to my mind. Sometimes I develop a theme for the day – as you can see I’ve been playing with ships lately. Once I’m ready, i.e. have a few drawings that so to say light my fire, I start printing. I use watercolour paper and place my sketch on top of it so that I could trace the lines. I can repeat this a few times using different coloured pencils.

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There’s no spontaneity and no accidental mistakes that could sometimes result in interesting effects, but this way I end up with two or three versions of the same drawing and then I can choose whathever looks best.

So would you call this cheating?

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Even if it is I’m afraid I’m not going to give up this method soon. I like to be in control and I am scared of accidental mistakes. There’s also the fear of white sheet of paper, tracing lines is much easier. So many complexes…

I guess I will have to try creating REAL monotypes if only for a laugh, meanwhile I’m off to choose the most successful copies.

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Oldfashioned Landscapes

February 12, 2017

Regular readers must have already noticed my love for Polaroid photographs. I like their subtle colours that can very quickly somehow transform normal bright images so that they are turned into old memories. I’d say that Polaroid effect gives the minus twenty years feel; anything it touches becomes oldfashioned and reminds me of my childhood. And everything was better back then…

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We’ve just had a wonderfully sunny weekend. The weather was so nice that I didn’t mind walking several kilometers along the coast! It was cold, but also very exciting, as everything reminded me of summer that will sooner or later visit our shores.

Here are a few of the perfect moments; they were so good that they could have easily happened in my childhood.

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Insta(nt) Theraphy (or #Artists to Follow on Instagram)

February 6, 2017

February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s also the most frustrating one. On the one hand it’s nearly spring (in the last few days I’ve seen so many photographs of snowdrops and daffodils that it would be hard to convince me any different) yet on the other – it’s still too cold to believe we’ve seen the worst of this winter (by the way, over here it’s getting colder by the minute; the temperature’s supposed to drop to at least -10C tonight…).

Well, while we are getting anxious, still waiting for the first signs of spring, one can do a few things: the obvious activity would be to enjoy winter (I got my skates out last Saturday) and the one that would calm one’s nerves – to look for colours somewhere other than outdoors. When bleak landscapes pull your saddest strings (happens more often than you’d think) grab your phone and head for Instagram.

I’m not a social media freak (I’m actually rebelling against Facebook), yet I haven’t failed to notice how much social media sites have changed our lives. For e.g. blogging; my blog has become an online diary where I register pretty things, meet interesting like minded people and learn new stuff every time I decide to cover a topic I’m not that familiar with. Before we continue a little deviation – you should see the list of social networking websites! If you ever felt bored or lonely joining some of them could easily guarantee disappearing time and endless virtual friendships. But lets get back to Instagram – a photo and video sharing site. I’d say it’s relatively safe in terms of loosing precious hours of the day, of course if you don’t follow too many users…

Anyway, if you decide to instagram, here’s who I recommend to follow:

@rachel_grant_art

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@erinspencerart

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@vanessabowmanartist

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@_charlotte_hardy_

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@tkjustinng

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I love their work and I find these people very inspiring. Their photo feeds can always make one’s day brighter, so if you already are on Instagram press that “Follow” button.

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P.S. You can find me on Instagram here: @decorartuk. Please let me know where I can find YOU 🙂

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