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I LOVE everything about flowers! I cannot live without them. I can’t resist photographing them and they are essential in my home.  I have my favourites, big blousy peonies, wild English roses, sweet smelling jasmine, hyacinths that arrive with the spring, glorious gardenias and hydrangeas, reminding me of my childhood and my Nanna.

Flower paintings have always been a favourite too, from the intricate detail of the Dutch masters to the broader strokes of the oversized blooms painted by Georgia O’Keefe.

Today I spoke to Matthew Usmar Lauder about his passion for flowers and his beautiful flower paintings. Matthew’s flower paintings move me, each stroke is passionate.

20171206-IMG_0022 snakedsmall Matthew what is it about flowers?

‘I love flowers, I consider them to be some of nature’s greatest art. I also love their perfume, especially the rose, gardenia, and orange blossom.

What’s a favourite flower?

I adore the hydrangea. I didn’t get it when I was young, I’d see them and think of dull British suburban gardens or clinging to the sterile walls of care homes. But when I looked a little closer I got them.

They are magnificent, ballsy, robust and ever so subtle in their glorious colour. They are a joy to paint their drama and sculptural dynamic is inspiring.

Is your approach to flower painting different to other subject matter?

I paint each subject in a way I instinctively feel is right. I find nature to be everything between chaos and effective balance, with that in mind I throw myself and my paint right in the middle.

You are now producing prints of your fab flowers, what made you decide to do that?

I made that decision based partly upon demand. In the past, I have sold practically every flower painting I’ve painted, (and some individual pieces I could have literally sold two or three times such was their popularity).

Also, I have a love of printmaking which started as child when I was introduced to screen printing. Then later, after completing my Degree in fine art painting, I chose to do a Masters in fine art print making.

The print reproductions I am having made now utilise the best of modern technology, which is thrilling because they are as close to the original as possible.

Follow If you would love one of Matthews beautiful prints on your wall CLICK HERE and take a look. There are a variety available in different sizes.

Follow Matthew on Instagram @offthebrush

 

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The inspiration of a ceramic bowl took me on a journey to Tasmania to meet a complete stranger and photograph his beautiful work.

Last December I found a ceramic bowl in a small gift shop in Sydney’s, Potts Point. There were in fact two, an identical smaller bowl was hidden inside the larger one that had caught my eye. I was drawn to their simplicity. I was also drawn to their perfect proportions and weight. They felt sturdy in my hands, they also felt precious.

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I decided on the smaller one as a gift for a friend and had it wrapped. I thought about the larger bowl for next few days and made the decision that if it was still in the shop on my next visit I would buy it. Thankfully it had waited on the shelf for my return.

The lovely shop assistant remembered me and gave me some written information on the ceramicist Zsolt Faludi. She told me he worked in Tasmania but he did not have a website.

On the way home to my apartment I made two decisions. One, I would be looking for an alternative gift for my friend and two, I would be going to Tasmania to meet the man who made the bowls.

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I found Zsolt’s Facebook page at 5pm on New Year’s Eve and decided to send him a private message telling him how inspired I was by my purchases. I asked him if I could come and meet him and take some photos of him, his work and his studio. I was completely taken aback when he messaged me back within a few hours saying yes, it made my New Year’s evening. I then began preparations for my first trip to Tasmania.

Meeting the man himself was a treat he was so welcoming as was his partner, Nanna Bayer. Their home and studio are set in a beautiful part of Tasmania outside Hobart called Glen Huon. They invited me to eat with, them and we sat around and chatted for some time before Zsolt took me on a tour of studio Zona.

Zsolt is originally from Hungary and moved to Tasmania in 1984, he is a bear of a man with a cheeky sense of humour. The strength of his personality is reflected in the work he creates. The proportions of each piece are perfect and feel solid and purposeful.

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He met Nanna, who is from Finland in 2010 when they were both attending a ceramics conference in Gulgong NSW. Nanna’s ceramics are beautiful, they are more feminine and delicate. Studio Zona is the result of Zsolt and Nanna coming together, a perfect fit.

I am so thrilled to have found the bowls that not only lead me to the man but also to his equally talented partner.

I love the idea that curiosity and being inspired by something small can take you on an adventure. One beautiful object led me to take a trip into the unknown.

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Thank you Zsolt for answering my message last New Year’s Eve and thank you and Nanna for being so welcoming. To see more work by Zsolt and Nanna go to their Facebook by clicking HERE. 

Follow what inspires you for it can take you everywhere.

I have been privileged to work with a lot of incredibly talented people over the years. These people have been instrumental in the expansion of my own creativity.

I am constantly inspired by my women friends. There seems to be no end to their creativity and warmth of their friendship, I look upon them as my family.

One of these fabulous woman is Isabel Ettedgui.

Isabel and I go back a long way. We first worked together on ‘The World of Interiors’ magazine. After moving on from the magazine we continued working together on various projects including CONNOLLY 

In the late 1980’s Isabel became involved with the Connolly family. She worked with them to design a chair for Joseph. JOSEPH ETTEDGUI was London’s most influential fashion retailer. Isabel and Joseph made a brilliant creative team, not only did they continue to work together on Connolly but they went on to marry. Sadly in 2010 after 20 years of marriage Joseph died and Isabel put Connolly on hold for a while.

Last November Isabel re launched the Connolly brand, a brand she has known for the last 30 years. She found a house in Mayfair’s Clifford street and put every ounce of herself into creating an amazing shop with a home on top, a massive undertaking. She pulled together a team, developed new products and designed an exciting luxury retail space that feels like a home.

What she has created is more than impressive. Everything about the shop and the merchandise in it is pure quality. Her attention to detail is exceptional and her and her staff are like a small family.

The experience is like shopping in someone’s home, it could not be any better.

To say I am proud of my friend is an understatement.

I have loved photographing the Connolly products, I am drawn to the detail and quality of every piece.

Read below what Isabel says when I asked her some questions about her new project CONNOLLY

connolly layout My favourite knits

connolly layout2 The softest leather

connolly layout3 I love this cuff detail

connolly layout4 Babette the company mascot fits in perfectly with brand Connolly

When and how did you become aware of the brand Connolly?

It was in late 1980s when I worked with the Connolly family on designing a chair for Joseph.

Can you give us a bit of info on the company and how you were inspired to become involved?

Established in 1878. I think I fell in love with the Soul of Connolly and the idea of a fourth-generation family business. And a great family. The essence of Connolly is the classic motor racing and touring dream, coupled with a strong sense of British know how and craft in the production of the finished leather that graced the seats of the first Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, Aston Martin and is still found by special request, on Ferrari Jaguar Alfa Romeo and the top classic cars. As well as amongst other notable institutions and icons like the seats of the Houses of Parliament, the desks of the British Library, the Eames chair, Concorde, the Coronation coaches of the Royal Family, to Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and the limited-edition Jaguar E type.
What has been your biggest challenge in relaunching the brand and developing its new premises?
Apart from planners and finance it has been trusting my instinct and having faith that we could make it happen.

You have a real talent in surrounding yourself with a great team. You clearly understand the importance of those people who to me feel like family. Can you tell me a little about how you go about it?

I like working with people who I have worked with before and who I trust and then add new blood in younger members who bring new ideas and different disciplines – it’s a bit like a wardrobe – strong staples and some new looks and accents. I also think women entrepreneurs prefer to create a work team family – with the same dynamics and obviously, the same problems – but it just seems to lend itself to a stronger sense of commitment and loyalty.

What has been the brands biggest achievement to date?

Opening!

You certainly know about luxury; how do you see your luxury brand developing in the next 5 years?

Honestly, I know about quality and value not luxury and I hope our customers can feel that – it’s important that customers are coming back showing their Connolly pieces from twenty years ago with pride and love. I am building the brand the old-fashioned way—relying on a close network of friends, focusing on consistent design language, high-quality products, and a strong, cohesive narrative, which takes time and deep pockets and patience. I think another two stand-alone shops maybe in Japan and somewhere by the sea… and find brilliant retail partners that know their own clientele extremely well and can and want to introduce them to Connolly in their stores.

For the most divine shopping experience visit Connolly England 4 Clifford Street London, W1S 2LG website HERE

Photography Claire Lloyd 

connolly layout6 Chunky rugged knits

connolly layout7 Wrap up in the softest cashmere

connolly layout8 Connolly shows us not just quality but also a sophisticated colour palette

connolly layout9 Perfect stripes

connolly layout10 Beautifully finished products

 

 

As I sit at my local limani I am thinking how lucky I am to be here in spring on the island of Lesvos. Above me are piercing blue skies, all around me wildflowers carpet the surrounding fields and the Aegean Sea with its crystal waters stretches before me.

There is no better place to contemplate the months ahead. I am excited to think about where I will go, what I will learn and the new experiences I will have.

Last year I chose to do something I had never done before, something exciting and a little bit scary. I booked a photographic workshop, Intrepid Naples, hosted by my lovely friend Carla Coulson.  This was a very new experience for me and it left me feeling elated and more knowledgeable not just about photography but also about myself. Check out what I experienced and some of the photos I took HERE.

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This year I am once again tempted.  Carla’s 2017 workshop is in Puglia and is a story telling workshop. To see more about the workshop click HERE. Carla is a great teacher and just loves sharing her knowledge which she does generously and with huge enthusiasm. The opportunity to capture images in such a beautiful place whilst learning would be magical.

So, I suggest you give yourself the greatest gift of all, time to tap into your creativity and improve your photography in beautiful Puglia with Carla.

I will leave you with these tempting photographs by Carla Coulson whilst you consider if her workshop is the place for you this European summer.

Enjoy!

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Carla Coulson Puglia

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All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson

In September, I took my first trip to the glorious city of Naples. My beautiful friend Carla Coulson, photographer and creative coach encouraged me to sign up to a photography workshop she was hosting there. The thought of visiting Naples for the first time and taking beautiful photographs excited me.

Photography has been something I’ve been involved in for years. I started at the early age of 18 as a junior art director and later I moved on to become a creative director and then began taking photos and filming for various clients, magazines and for my own personal projects. I loved photographing my second book My Greek Island Home, a documentation of life on the Greek Island of Lesvos.

I have never been very interested in the technical side of photography, working by instinct seems to suit me best which is probably why I waited until the digital age to throw myself into using a camera. My partner Matthew’s encouragement came in the form of my first grown up Cannon camera, the best birthday present ever and one that started me on my photographic journey.

I love to capture beautiful, simple, intimate images and I hope that if I can capture a moment that moves me that image may also be appreciated by someone else.

When I arrived in Naples I fell completely in love with the city. There was a grittiness to this historic city of many layers. The local people I met through the lens of my camera were open and friendly and didn’t mind having their photos taken, they honestly seemed to enjoy it.

Carla’s course was to be an education to me in shutters speeds and f stops, two things that I quite honestly found scary. On the first day, we were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves, giving a bit of our personal history. Standing up in front of people and speaking about myself I find completely challenging. It makes me feel like I’m a child again, I become self-conscious, I feel shaky, my stomach churns and I hear my words ringing back at me. I’m a perfectionist and with that comes a whole load of insecurities. By day two I realised that this wonderful course I’d signed myself up for was pushing me into an emotional meltdown. It was nothing to do with Carla or the way she taught it was my past, the uncomfortable years I spent at school where I found it difficult to learn in a conventional way, where I was made to feel stupid and inadequate on many occasions. While I was great at sport and at art when put me in a classroom situation where I was asked questions or given lots of information to remember I floundered. Now every cell in my body was being reminded of primary school.

This was a great realisation and as painful as it was, was what I needed for me to start to try and break these old patterns. Breaking old patterns cannot be done overnight but just by being aware I was taking first step. It took me a few days to find my equilibrium. I learnt new things not just about f stops and shutter speeds but about me. I discovered that only by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations do you grow and learn.

It was a different week to what I had imagined but it was a wonderful week. I am truly grateful to Carla for encouraging me to come along for the ride, she is a great teacher and a great inspiration.

I would like to share with you some of the images from my week in Naples. I would also like to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone in 2017 try something new, be creative, love and never forget to remain true to your unique self. Happy New Year!

A big thank you to the people of Naples.

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carlas book

police

crowd scene in church

nun

hey you

red beret

local man

boy

local dog

local naples

chapel Procida nun

serious

proud of Naples

friendly local naples

 

easy riders

kids

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bird

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smiling nun

window shopping

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produce

bakery girl

fish shop

street life

man on a mission

 

In the spring our village priest very proudly presided over the wedding service of his only daughter, Ismini. Everyone in the village, young and old were invited to this splendid event. Our Papa was not the only clergyman in attendance, there were several more, differing in age and draped in finery according to their importance. It was a spectacular service, a visual feast.

One of the things I love about living in a Greek village is the way the community all come together for these special occasions. Everyone dresses in their Sunday best even if it is a Saturday, and there is a real sense of community love.

Our village church is something to be proud of.  Although the outside is somewhat austere the inside shines with its ornate fixtures and fittings, glitzy chandeliers and wealth of icons. The locals flooded into the church, every square inch was occupied. In the middle of it all was the bride, Ismini who shone like a jewel.

Although these occasions are full of pomp there is still a sense of Greek fun which make them all the more enjoyable.

ismini-1435 The beautiful bride

two girls Anticipation

ismini-1354 The ceremony

chandeliers, and gold and red ornamentation inside church The church

guests seated at church watching wedding

The bride and groom Bride and groom

detail of icon pendant worn by priest

Father of the bride

Bride and groom Bride and groom

Mother of the bride Mother of the bride

portrait of priest

Brother of the bride Brother of the bride

Happiness Happiness

ismini-1464 Off they go

The first time I saw a photo of Gin Head I was completely blown away and so it seems was Scottish photographer Albert Watson. His first spotted it 20 years ago, when he was photographing at Tantallon Castle. He was intrigued by the way the then active research centre sat on its own promontory. It’s hard not only drawn to the 1943 buildings, significant survivors of the Admiralty base but also to the dramatic landscape that surrounds it.

Gin Head was a 1940’s radar station, a culturally significant landmark which sits in the wild and wonderful landscape of a cliff edged promontory. It is situated 30 miles from Edinburgh in North Berwick and has rare heritage, history and sweeping views over the Firth of Fourth. It provides a sea front view of East Lothian’s most stirring landscapes. Gin Head’s nearest neighbour is the magnificent Tantallon Castle, perched on the cliff top to the east just 300 meters away. Directly in front of Gin Head is the Bass Rock, an enormous barnacled knuckle of rock that thrusts a hundred meters up from the sea, it’s a world nature reserve and home to the largest colony of gannets in the world.

albert watson, christie turlington, clint eastwood,sade Albert WatsonChristy Turlington photographed by Albert Watson for Harpers Bazaar, fashion editor, Joanna Hillman.

GIN HEAD 7 TANTALLON CASTLE 2b crop snaked Gin Head 

albert watson, christie turlington, clint eastwood,sade2 Clint Eastwood and Sade photographed by Albert Watson

Through recent marketing of Gin Head, we have connected with four serious buyers, all of whom have marveled at the awe-inspiring landscape of natural forces. They each have their own take on the best way to use and adapt the approved plans and are busy completing their pre-purchase investigations.

Among the potential purchasers – a Scot who has known and coveted Gin Head for many years – is one of the world’s pre-eminent fine art, fashion and commercial photographers.  His photographs have always inspired me. Albert Watson’s images of Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood and Steve Jobs are defining images from a four-decade career containing a wealth of distinctive work. Watson spotted the potential of Gin Head more than 20 years ago and has visionary ideas for establishing a photographic foundation incorporating gallery, workshop, archive and residential components.  The creative brilliance of a globally renowned photographer combined with the elemental natural forces of the East Lothian surroundings is a delectable prospect. Whoever succeeds in acquiring Gin Head and applying their vision to such a wild and wonderful environment, will take their place in Scotland’s rich architectural heritage.

THE BASS ROCK snaked The Bass Rock

How did I come to own part of Scottish heritage?

About 10 years ago I was at a friend’s dinner party in Scotland where I was introduced to a hearty Scot named Robin. He and his wife arrived late to the dinner dressed head to toe in insect costumes. I can’t remember now exactly why they were dressed this way but I do remember enjoying the madness of it all. At the time I had no idea that our meeting would lead me to Gin Head.

Not long after the dinner party and meeting, Robin contacted me, he was eager to hear more about my new apartment, a large project I had recently completed in London. I love building projects and designing beautiful, light living spaces. My new home was constructed on the rooftop of an old printing factory in Clerkenwell, in London’s East End. I had bought the air space and created one large lateral living space. Robin was impressed by my London home and asked me if I would be interested in doing something similar in Scotland.

About a year after our initial conversation Robin contacted me to say a property he had been interested in for years had become available and wanted to run it by me. That property was Gin Head and when I saw the photos I immediately understood his enthusiasm for it. This visually compelling and breathtaking site hooked me too and I joined forces with Robin and his partner Peter to acquired it. I was now, part owner of 5 acres of great natural beauty and a custodian of Scottish history.

TANTALLON CASTLE b snaked Tantallon Castle

We chose architects Lazzarini Pickering from Rome for their international reputation as cutting-edge world class practitioners and their ethos of sensitivity towards the landscape. Carl and Claudio are also dear friends so I knew they would appreciate the site and love the brief. The brief was ‘Tracy Island meets James Bond’

With Lazzarini Pickering superb scheme we now have full planning permission for the conversion of the existing buildings to a spectacular modern fortress. Carl and Claudio’s extraordinary vision, has created a building of grand spaces, expansive staircases, magnificent reception rooms, massive skylights, great sheets of glass that look out on internal courtyards offering wrap-around transparency. This is idealized 3rd millennium living, with reference to Inigo Jones, Palladio. The approved plans are spectacular – 26,000 sq. ft. of beautiful, flexible real estate set in five acres of rugged coastal landscape.  Simply breathtaking.

Since my first meeting with Robin much time has passed and our lives have changed. I sold my London penthouse to Dame Zaha Hadid, who lived in it until her recent death. I now live between Sydney, London and the Greek island of Lesvos. Robin too has moved on discarding his insect costume and thrown himself into something Scots are very keen on, golf. He was Captain at Muirfield from 2013 until 2015 and in his own words ‘now in glorious retirement.’

There is one thing however that has not changed, that is the culturally significant landmark, Gin Head. For more information on Gin Head click HERE

GIN HEAD &THE BASS ROCK bsnaked Gin Head and The Bass Rock

GIN HEAD & TANTALLON CASTLE CROP bsnaked Gin Head and Tantallon Castle

 

In October I received an email from Mikela, founder of Yoga Satya and the words that jumped off the page and captured my immediate attention were ‘paradise awaits’.

These words accompanied by some enticing images and Mikela, of course, were all it took for me to change my already confirmed travel plans. This in itself was no mean feat but one I considered worthwhile. My trusty assistant Amy and Penny, my new travel co-ordinator were wonderful rearranging and booking everything.

I first attended Mikela’s classes some years ago when she taught at the Boy Charlton in Sydney. Her classes combined traditional philosophy with great instruction. Those two things along with Mikela’s knowledge and genuine care for her pupils made her classes a stand out.

Mikela held the retreat on the island of Koh Tao, a magical island in the Gulf of Thailand, a two hour boat trip from the island of Koh Samui. When I stepped off the crowded boat on to the noisy pier I was immediately surrounded by confusion but was quickly scooped up by our calm teacher and a trusty driver and transported up into the hills and beyond to Baan Talay, a blissful hideaway retreat.

Baan Talay consists of several Thai style bungalows set in natural tropical landscape and is perched above the crystal clear waters of Ao Leuk Bay. It’s a magical spot.

I just fell in love with the view from my simple room. I kept the doors that led on to my small balcony open so that the sound of the ocean was first thing I heard when I woke and last thing I heard before my eyes closed at night. The sea is one of my favourite sounds. There were other sounds too, sounds of the cicadas’ and geckos, birdsong and the rustling of local creatures in the surrounding bush.

Dev the owner and his staff were all lovely and attentive and provided us with fresh delicious meals each day and there was also transport available for trips around the island.

The Sharla, where we practiced our daily yoga was a large open hut nestled in the natural tropical landscape with magnificent sweeping views over the sea. It was the perfect place to witness the beginning and the end of each day.

We practiced for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. The classes were calm but for me they came with some challenges. At times it was tough and I have to admit to having the urge during one morning class of running from the Sharla screaming. However, thankfully, I pulled myself together and breathed through it. The result was worth it.

For me my time was to short, I would have been happy to retreat from the outside world for much longer but I know from experience it’s better to leave wanting more.

Mikela generously shared with us pearls of wisdom for which I will be forever grateful and I think it’s fair to say we all as her students benefitted from her big heart.

Once again I am grateful for another beautiful life experience and the chance to have shared it with new like minded souls.

I hope you enjoy some of the snaps below of my time at Baan Yalay and if you ever feel like retreating with Mikela just click on the link HERE

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Last Friday evening I sat with eleven other like minded creative women and one lone divine man, in Saskia Havekes Sydney shop Grandiflora, to celebrate the end of an era.This was a very special evening a tribute and thank you to the very talented Julie Gibbs. The evening was hosted by Saskia Havekes and Megan Morton and I felt privileged to be included. Julie Gibbs has been the publishing director of Penguin Lantern for the last eleven years and in that time she has given many authors the opportunity to produce some of the best illustrated books in the world.

I was introduced to Julie by a friend several years ago. At our first meeting Julie told me she had been a fan of my previous book, Sensual Living published by Conran Octopus many years before in the UK. She then went on to say she would love to publish a book by me which completely took me by surprise. At the time I had no idea of what that book would be. As I was leaving Julie’s office she said words to me that were magic ‘write about something you love’. That was all I needed to hear. I knew immediately what I was going to write about, my new love which was living in a village community on a Greek Island. That is how My Greek Island Home was born. I come from a visual background and have never felt confident writing. When I was art directing magazines I spent much of my time trying to get the editors to cut the words to enable me to fill spreads with large photographs. So when Julie suggested I write the book myself I felt overwhelmed and terrified. She said it’s your story and you are the only one who can tell it. She had such confidence in me that I could not refuse I just had to get on with it. Whilst I had nearly all the images I needed for the book it took me a while to put pen to paper. I have many friends who are authors and journalists and felt uncomfortable asking them for help. I did discuss my fear with a few friends and they offered some suggestions based on what worked for them. One of my friends suggested a I use a dictaphone to record my thoughts whilst walking my rescue dogs. This however ended in disaster with me being distracted by their bad behaviour and screeching their names (TRIXE…… BERTIE…..HECTOR……MAVRO) at the top of my voice whilst they headed off in the direction of their choice chasing some poor creature into the countryside for sport. Another suggestion was to go to my computer everyday at a set time put on my favourite music and type and type until I came up with something I was happy with. As I find typing a very slow process and have never been one for routine this was also highly unsatisfactory.

I did finally manage to find my own way, armed with a pile of fresh clean sheets of white paper and a very pleasing felt tipped pen I sat under the rays of the Greek sun on my terrace or in a taverna by the sea with a cold glass of wine and some fresh calamari and poured my heart out. I had two great editor friends take a look at it before I had the nerve to hand it in, it was like homework. I will never forget emailing the text to Julie who was on a shoot somewhere in Europe. She was excited to receive my words and said she was looking forward to reading them on the very long train journey she was about to embark on.  She said she would then report back. Whilst I waited anxiously for her call I tried to distract myself from the what if she hates it thought that kept swirling around in my head. When Julie called me she was so enthusiastic I wanted to weep. Julie understood me, she has a knack for understanding her authors, we are all different and approach our books in very different ways. She understood I needed complete freedom to go off and shoot, to edit my own shots and to lay the pages out. She knew I came with a lot of experience in these areas and respected that. She also knew who to team me up with in the Lantern art department. Her choice of Evi O was perfect and Evi brilliantly designed the cover of my book. We sat together until every page had been laid out perfectly.

I want to thank Julie Gibbs for giving me the opportunity to write about something I love, for her pride and passion in the books she produces and for her friendship. I am excited for her as she embarks on a new chapter in her life. Thank you so, so much Julie xx

PS thank you too, Saskia and Megan

Untitled-1 The woman of the evening Julie

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Untitled-13 Amanda, Megan, Julie and Christine

Untitled-14 Saskia, David and Collette

Untitled-15 The divine table thanks to Saskia and Megan

Untitled-16 Besties, Julie and Saskia

 

One of my favourite flowers is the peonie. I love the way they open from the very tightest bud into soft paper like petals. I love alliums too, they burst out from their protective pods, unlike the yellow kernels of corn which remain hidden inside a thick husk. Photography by Claire Lloyd.

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