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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.

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Our rescue dog Nellie being adored by refugee children who have just arrived on Lesvos, by rubber boat. Nellie is such a sweet girl and so gentle and the children are immediately drawn to her. 

Last week I returned to Sydney. It took around thirty-three hours’ door to door. I travelled from My Greek Island Home by car to the airport and then took three planes before being chauffeured to my final destination, my apartment in Potts Point. I was fed along the way, watched a couple of movies and slept comfortably. On arrival I was greeted by my Mum, Dad and my best friend friend Mary Lou. My apartment was clean and warm and there was a scented candle burning and white roses had been placed beside my bed. We drank wine, nibbled on some delicious, cheeses and chattered.

I felt safe and loved.

So why am I telling you this? Because I have been trying to process a situation that has been unfolding daily, an enormous human crisis.

My journey began on The Greek Island of Lesvos, the third largest of the Greek Islands. My partner, artist, Matthew Usmar Lauder and I have had a house there for the last ten years. Lesvos is a beautiful island situated in the Northern Aegean and up until recently an island that most people had never heard of.

Now not a day goes by without it being mentioned on the news as thousands of refugees flee their homes, from countries where they are longer safe. They risk their lives travelling across the Aegean in over crowded and unsafe rubber and wooden boats in the hope of finding a safe place in Europe for themselves and their families.

On a late spring morning two years ago Matthew and I were walking our rescue dogs along the dirt track which winds out of our village for five kilometres to the Aegean Sea. It was a beautiful day and we were enjoying our walk in the sunshine. The sky was clear and we could see Turkey. On this particular day we saw something unfamiliar, a group of people in the distance, usually we only see a few of the local farmers. At first I thought it was an organised group of walkers but on closer inspection we realized they were refugees. We were shocked, really shocked. There were about thirty of them and the group included woman and children. It was so out of the blue and so out of context. We stopped and spoke with them, a couple of the males spoke English. They were Kurds and Somalian and they did not no where they were, let alone that they were on an island. They wanted to get to the nearest police station. This was our first encounter with refugees and we had no idea at that time of the avalanche that was to come.

Every day is a challenge, a struggle an emotional roller coaster. There are between two thousand and five thousand people arriving daily and there is no end to it, it’s like ground hog day.

The world is aware that Greece has its own problems, the economy is in shreds and there is little infrastructure. But despite this people on the island have been remarkable and generous beyond belief, meeting the boats, cooking food, collecting clothing, doing everything they possibly can to make the refugees safe and comfortable. The Greek people have always been welcoming and generous and the foreigners living on the island are doing remarkable work too.

Since February men, women, children, old people and disabled people have walked in the rain, wind and searing heat for four days to the islands capital, Mytilene. There they are registered enabling them to board boats to Athens and make their way to new countries where they hope to be safe and build new lives. Some of these people have witnessed members of their families dying. These people are unlikely ever see their homelands again. Can you imagine what that must feel like?

It is impossible to ignore the plight of these people, they come in their thousands everyday. Everyone is effected here. It’s extremely traumatic.

I saw a man carrying his pet dog under his jacket walking the road towards Mytilene in the rain, this made me break down completely. One image set me off crying, tears streamed down my face and I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. I was beside myself with an unbelievable sense of grief. Later I felt the most enormous amount of guilt. Why did I not stop? Why did I not take him and the dog to the vet to get the dog chipped medicated and a passport for it to travel further? What made this the thing that tipped me over the edge? When I speak with other people they say the same how just one thing can make them cry uncontrollably.

Witnessing this daily has been unbelievable, everyone is traumatised.

This is the reality. The refugees leave Turkey to travel across the Aegean Sea in overcrowded, rubber and wooden boats some barely seaworthy. They pay traffickers from 1000 to 3000 dollars each to make the journey. The Turkish authorities turn a blind eye to this. If the refugees hesitate because they are terrified the traffickers hold guns to their heads forcing them onto the boats. Some of the rubber boats are being made so fast that the glue has not had time to set. The boats are completely packed, there can be as many as 50 per rubber boat and probably none of the occupants can swim. Sometimes they are told to throw the little possessions they have off the boat. One refugee is given the responsibility of steering the boat, not only can he not see where he is going because the boat is so overcrowded but he has never seen the sea before. Crossing the Aegean can be very dangerous particularly at night. There are many tankers and the sea is rough. Some refugees land with broken and dislocated limbs. Some don’t make it and drown, mostly children and babies.

One pregnant womans waters broke in Turkey and was forced onto the boat and gave birth on arrival on the beach at Lesvos. The Greek coastguards do what they can but don’t always have petrol to go out to meet the boats this leaves the local fishermen and volunteers. The fishermen cannot turn a blind eye to sinking boats and rescue people. Unfortunately, their boats are to small to take everyone and they are left to make the decision on who to take and who to leave behind.

Why in this day and age when they can send men to the moon is this happening? This is history repeating itself and some of the very old locals remember this trip themselves as children, during the cultural exchange. It’s a nightmare.

One of my friends told me that a boat arrived crammed pack with people and there was something different about them that she could not put her finger on, they seemed more traumatised than usual. After they were all taken from the boat she saw the dead body of a woman lying on the bottom. This woman had died before boarding the boat and her family did not want to leave her so her body was put in first and the men women and children placed on top.

Last week there were many lives lost in the sea because of storms it is just the saddest thing and there is absolutely no need for this to be happening. Bodies were washed up onto the beaches, a large number being children. These people have been through enough and deserve to be transported safely and treated with dignity. As the winter descends on us the situation will only get worse. I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of the thousands of men, women and children being exposed to terrible storms, pounding rain, wind, thunder and lightening, with no shelter.

The island itself cannot cope as there are only few ambulances, rubbish collections are scarce and the coastline is strewn with with fluorescent life jackets and rubber boats. There is litter all along the roads. People are volunteering to help with all this but it does not stop building up with new arrivals.

Nothing could have prepared us for any of this. And certainly nothing could have prepared the millions of people who are now called refugees for what they have had to endure to date.

As I sit here writing this from the safety of my Sydney home, looking out over the harbour I fail to make sense of any of it. Each day I am haunted by what I have witnessed. I realise that where you are born impacts so much on how your life unfolds. I question world leadership and political motives and my concern grows for the beautiful Island of Lesvos and its generous people. I realise that this situation is so enormous that it will not end any time soon. I understand that people no matter where they come from or what their religion are all the same.

I have encountered such warmth and gratitude from those I have transported in my car. Usually we hug to say goodbye and the depth of this hug is huge.

It’s important for everyone to see and understand just how fragile the world. It is equally as important to see how wonderful the human race can be when they work together for each other.

Thank you to all the Greek people of Lesvos who are sharing everything they have. Thank you to the non Greek locals who have been brilliant working as hard as they possibly can and thank you to the volunteers who have come from all over the world to help.

And to the refugees the beautiful people I have met I wish you safety and love and that you find peace and another place you can call home.

Please, please don’t let this put you off coming to the island, come and share all the wonderful things that Lesvos and its people have to offer. It is such a special place and it needs not only volunteers but tourists.

#lovinglesvos

 

I am lucky to have met so many wonderful like-minded and creative people on my journey through life, people who inspire me. It’s a real privilege to be the author of two books, Sensual Living published by Conran Octopus and My Greek Island Home by published by Penguin Lantern and Clearview Books. Working on these books has led to my meeting some really fab people.Recently I met author Karen McCartney. Her latest book published by Julie Gibbs at Penguin Lantern is called Superhouse; it showcases houses that have a strong connection with nature. I met with Karen for lunch and she told me about the house her and her husband, David built The Dangar Island House, on the Hawkesbury River. I immediately too a look at the website http://www.thedangarislandhouse.com and could not wait to book in. Matthew and I were in need of a few days away from our hectic Sydney schedule and this was the perfect retreat. The house was stunning, large, simple and light, nestled high up in the trees surrounded by gums, ferns and native plants. It was like living in a tree house. There was no need for music as we were serenaded by continuous birdsong. The views of the water and the sunrise were stunning. We connected with nature immediately. Matthew and I spent our time drawing, painting, reading and exploring this small island, a perfect mini holiday. Thank you Karen and David for the inspiration and for sharing your beautiful retreat with us. We came back with renewed creativity and completely invigorated. I hope you enjoy some details from inside the house that caught my eye. Happy 2015!

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I love peaking into other people’s homes. I don’t mind if they are old or new, occupied or abandoned. When I lived in London I always found it a pleasure to explore the local area by foot, especially on summer evenings. I delighted in the glimpses I got through open curtains and shutters into peoples lives. I have to admit to getting huge enjoyment from viewing property with estate agents. I  also had lots of fab, opportunities to see beautiful homes when I worked for The World of Interiors magazine, a real treat.  For me the best properties are the most neglected ones. I long to mend them and make them simple and beautiful. This I have done with many properties in London, Sydney and more recently in Greece. You can check some of them out here. Besides taking photos, making light, simple, serene spaces is my passion. Here on the Greek island of Lesvos there are many beautiful houses in need of love attention and I can’t help but want each and every one of them and if I could I would have them all but, I must be realistic. Recently I took a trip with some gorgeous Turkish friends to a nearby village where we checked out some houses. The local barber who I had met a few years ago when photographing for my book My Greek Island Home, see here, kindly showed us around one house. Below are a few details that grabbed me. Enjoy!

IMG_3605 The local barber. I’m loving the combination of  geometrical shapes and checks      

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3608 A simple bedroom. The houses here all have little shelves usually displaying an icon or three     

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3654 Striped cotton fabric is stretched over a window for privacy     

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3615 I just LOVE the way this fabric has it’s own natural flow and looks so etherial back lit

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3620 Everything here sits in it’s place untouched for I wonder how long

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3617 A simple detail 

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3655 Signs of life highlighted by back lighting

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3636 My favourite detail, delicate fabric lit from behind and tied with a colour co-ordinated ribbon

copyright Claire Lloyd

IMG_3633 The green of the window and the duvet work with the soft colour of the hanging curtain

copyright Claire Lloyd

 

 

I photographed a little peak of Matthew and my life here on the island of Lesvos for You Magazine a couple of months ago and here it is. Thank you  Clare Nolan for loving our lifestyle and Fiona McCarthy for  your kind words. Greece is the word 1

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GRACE SPREAD A

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My beautiful god-daughter and muse, Grace Bagot.

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When we bought our village house it was filled with somebody else’s life. It was really strange to open the door and feel we were entering a very personal space that was not ours. It felt like someone had just gone out shopping or to visit a friend and had never come back. I suppose that is what happened. The house had belonged to the village priest, Papa, and his wife. After Papa’s death his wife continued to live in it until she passed away. We were extremely privileged to be privy to their lives.

Our village has many abandoned houses. When I am lucky enough to peek inside I find it fascinating. Last summer our village friend George called me into the house of one of his relatives. This house is relatively close to ours and locked up behind big blue gates, completely out of sight. George knows we love the history of the village and its people and also knows I love houses. He invited us in. The house was fab and I asked George if he would mind me taking some photographs of my goddaughter Grace who was staying with us. He didn’t mind at all and here are the results, enjoy!

Isabel La Howe – Conant, “He who loves an old house never loves in vain.”

Living with dogs is a new thing for me. I had never had a dog until now, and I have gone from one extreme to another. As a child I begged my mother for a dog but she dug her heels in saying she had enough of us to look after without a dog. I now understand she was completely right and admire her for sticking to her guns especially even when I did my up most to sway her. Matthew and I have found ourselves taking care of many waifs and stray cats and dogs, that have made their way to our doorstep. We both find it curious the way we have become so fond of these furry friendsWe help them as much as we can but it’s very difficult as there are so many. As I write this we feed about sixteen cats, one of which has just has two of the sweetest kittens and six dogs, three of which need new homes. We only have a small garden so exercising the dogs is important. I usually do one long walk in the morning and Matthew another four around the village throughout the day. A couple of the cats like to join in the walks and our village friends are amused when they see the parade.

I dedicated a chapter in my book My Greek Island Home’ its called ‘Nature Nurture’. I write about some of the characters that have passed through our lives. One of my Greek friends, Vasillia has 25 rescue dogs in her care. She once told me that it was important to harden my heart otherwise it would be broken. It often is. We do our best and over the years have re-homed many four legged friends, especially dogs. A couple are now living happily in America, the others in the UK and Europe. We get help where we can and have been lucky to have very generous friends.

London florist Nikki Tibbles absolutely loves dogs and she has helped us with some of the financing and re homing of our four legged friends. We like have make contact with the potential new owners to get an idea if they are compatable with the dog. We have made some new friends along the way and also kept up with most of the dogs beautiful new lives. It’s hard work and expensive. There are the vet bills for injections, chipping and neutering together with the transportation costs, it all adds up. Matthew does the lion’s share of transportation dealing with the flights and the paper work which seems to change daily can be extremely time consuming and challenging.It’s always hard to say goodbye when they go off to their new lives, I sob but I know it’s for the best. When we see the lives these beautiful dogs are living now its so, so worth it.

Matthew has designed a t shirt to raise awareness and money for the dogs and cats we rescue, care for and re home. If you would like to be part of raising the awareness and helping the dogs and cats the ‘want me’ t shirt can be purchased on line www.usmarstudio.bigcartel.com And don’t forget to take a selfie in the t shirt and post it wherever you can. The t shirts will aslo be on sale at my London book launch on Wednesday night.

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I am very excited to announce my London book launch. My Greek Island Home is being published in the UK by Clearview Books. Next Wednesday night, April 30th Nikki Tibbles, Wild at Heart, Domus Nova and Clearview Books will be hosting a launch party at Nikki Tibbles, Wild at Heart. So excited!

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BINGO & FABRIC 2 These animals sure know how to choose their owners. Bingo one of our rescue cats always finds a way to get inside.  He fits perfectly into the our white house and I think he knows that. He’s a very special boy.

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