Amelia’s Magazine | Skirt 1 Exhibition

Bands like Okkervil River are eminently missable. They’re so redolent of a slew of others, pill more about and if you’re not on friendly terms with their songs they’ll pass you by like so much jaunty, information pills pleasant Americana. They’re also a great illustration of why you should persist with music.

And that’s not some pious, try rockist view meaning you’ve got to put down what you’re reading, sit up, and pay complete attention. It’s just good to give things a chance to get beyond your initial scrobbler – which makes quickfire connections, comparisons and judgments based on an increasingly convergent shared knowledge-bank of 50 years of pop. It’s about checking in music’s hiding places for that spark that turns a casual recommendation from a friend into your favourite album of the year.

You need to listen to Okkervil River because the real star attraction is the lyrics of Will Sheff. Like a Prozac-ed Conor Oberst words tumble out of him in stanzas, cascading, beautifully chosen, but always controlled. “Although I put my lips to your face / trying to push his kiss out of its place / although my heart started to race / now it has slowed / I’ll let it go,” he sings on ‘Song Of Our So-Called Friend’.

Behind him five guys playing the alt-country instruments you’d expect stay out of the way. Childlike drummer Travis Nelson (who has excellent wiry drummer’s hair) and keyboardist and trumpeter Scott Bracket sing along with every word, like their own band’s biggest fans.

Six members is often a bad, self-indulgent idea but OR’s are always serving and augmenting their songs. The slow-burning ‘The President’s Dead’ segues masterfully into ‘Black’, which is a pretty straightforward three chord stomper but when Okkervillised it comes out yearning, wistful and layered. They’re like “partytime!” Wilco, Being There-era. There’s a touch of Arcade Fire in their scope and ear for an epic. This sometimes skirts too close to hokey, but with lyrics as good as Sheff’s they’ve earned their slide guitar solos.

On latest album The Stage Names, everything comes together during the final song ‘John Allyn Smith Sails’. All the words, all the fear, all the joy, all the themes that have preceded it fall into place when it morphs into something from a very famous album. It’s one of the most beautiful musical moments of 2007. Ruining it before you’ve heard it would be a spoiler on a par with that Planet Of The Apes video cover featuring the Statue Of Liberty.

It’s a transcendent moment tonight. They know exactly how good it is. They audaciously don’t even end the set with it. They’re rightfully confident. They may be America’s best band.

Why is it so great being 16? It’s an angsty, pill uncertain time in which you doubt everything, troche struggle with a bunch of new and confusing ordeals and inevitably puke down your top talking to the guy/girl you like at an underwhelming party. But we largely remember it with total fondness.

You needed to work your problems through to their logical conclusion, buy more about no matter how labyrinthine they seemed. You’d not yet developed the coping strategy for later life – blithely shrugging, saying “well, them’s the breaks” and getting on with it. We can all agree that that’s a far simpler and more practical way to deal with things, but Jamie Lenman of Reuben is stuck in adolescence. His last thought is his best, and he’s going to yell it at you. This is thrillingly vital. I worry for him.

Slightly overweight, borderline ugly, he’s preaching to a small and dedicated throng. It’s a metal crowd – everyone is either unfathomably young and infectious or crusty and old enough to know better. It’s like being back at your first ever gig. An unexpected obscure song, a friendly moshpit, loud, people screaming.

Lenman’s band expends tangible effort, like the best air guitarists. Drummer Guy Davis reaches Canty-like levels of inventiveness, buried under a relentless propulsive drumstorm. He sits up throughout, a skinny Rollins, if he shaved his head he’d be a nutter. Bassist Jon Pearce does a textbook tall man, long instrument, purposeful sway thing. The three of them look moments away from combusting.

They tick lots of my boxes. Inventive, heavy, melodic, loud, fast, screamy, catchy. These are mostly the wrong boxes for 2007. ‘Some Mothers Do Ave Em,’ with a gargantuan riff that Josh Homme would divorce Brody (remember her?) for, is tossed away, apparently unaware of its own greatness. ‘Let’s Stop Hanging Out’ is their pop hit – a problem, because like almost everything they’ve done, it’s structured as if written by an Asberger’s sufferer. It lurches from A to B via, like, 37, each section marginally better than the last.

This analysis is all very silly and waaaay too glowing for a band you could fairly dismiss as dunderheaded nu rock – big riffs, often-daft words, sometimes cheesy tunes. But there’s something elusive, weird and brilliant at work which makes it seem completely unfair that Reuben are playing a half-empty goth club rather than enjoying Biffy-like love and adulation at the Astoria.

Their tour DVD, documenting life in a band too poor to give up jobs at supermarkets, is the saddest music film you’ll see this year, including ‘Control’. There’s a purity to Reuben, because you feel deep down they’ve realised they’re never going to “make it”. They’re getting as much out of nights like this as they possibly can.

They will surely disappear within five years, but Lenman will be back, I assure you. He’s a genius, that kid at school who was amazing at everything he tried but strangely awkward. His songs, once you’re over their ever-so-slight similarity to a bunch of nu metal we all wish hadn’t happened, are like nothing else in 2007.

I emphatically resist that getting older means you need to listen to cerebral, reflective music. It’s patronising, and a denial of where you’ve come from. Reuben are funny, but they’re also extremely earnest, and that seems to be a dirty word these days. But why should we forget what it’s like to be earnest? Why are we ashamed of being heartfelt? Why is it ok to call directionless, indulgent “folk” beautiful and intelligent when loving heroically crafted “rock” gets you laughed at? By your early 20s these are questions that seem too unanswerable to worry about

It’s fair to assume that most bands are having fun; travelling around the country playing music and generally being outrageous on tour buses is fine work if you can get it. Kotki Dwa however sound like they’re enjoying it even more then everyone else, buy more about not only have they rummaged around the musical toy box but they’ve emptied the shop. Robin’s Clogs is a wonderfully crafted indie pop song, mind with slicing guitars not dissimilar to Foals except without the edge and with a squeaking synthesiser over the top playing out a melody as catchy as they come.

Kotki Dwa then are one of the new generation of British pop bands who are re claiming the fun in indie from across the Atlantic. Vocalist Alex, unlike so many of his contemporaries, is actually able to sing melodically and belt out fine vocals with a painfully delicate voice, sometimes sounding on the verge of tears, yet conversely remaining wistfully upbeat, lips smiling but eyes crying. You know the type. This is never more apparent than on B-side Halogen, which holds it’s own to make a single of two fine songs. Oh, and they can even sing in French.
New ways, more about new ways, site
I dream of wires.
So I press ‘c’ for comfort, information pills
I dream of wires, the old ways.
Gary Numan, ‘I Dream of Wires’

Not only an underrated Gary Numan B side, but the latest retro clothing shop to open off Brick Lane. On the opening night, I Dream of Wires offered a kaleidoscopic mix of vintage fashion and nostalgic trinkets creating an environment Mr Benn would have reveled in. Had he actually existed outside of television. (For those who were not raised on children’s cartoons, Mr Benn was my childhood hero and the eponymous character of the classic children’s television show. He tried on clothes and was transported to exciting and dangerous worlds through the back door of the dressing-up shop. Now you know.) The rails ached with an eclectic clothing range as a cropped Moschino jacket with candy-striped lining hung beside a fluorescent pair of ski pants and bejewelled sweatshirt. Carla created a strong look Gary Numan would have loved, pairing a vintage dress with animal emblazoned leggings. In the display cabinets, curious and peculiar ornaments were arranged, the sort your grandparents displayed lovingly on tabletops and shelves. The changing room was continuously occupied as treasures came back and forth to be tried on for size and, happily for all, there were no January sale style brawls. Visiting the shop was like being in my own Mr Benn inspired magical adventure, starting out in the wardrobe of my babysitter in the eighties and stumbling through to my Nana’s bungalow. With so many second-hand and vintage clothing shops located around Brick Lane, I Dream of Wires is sure to appeal to those who get kicks poking fun at retro styles to create eccentric, outrageous ensembles.

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In amongst the glut of sugar coated schmaltz vying for the rather hollow accolade of Christmas number #1 for 2007 is this rather lovely cut from Welsh Wizards Super Furry Animals. A gift it is indeed. The track will be available free to fans in download format, view complete with B side and artwork on Christmas day. It’s safe to say this won’t be troubling the upper reaches of the charts then, viagra but when did SFA ever sell any records? The band’s lack of relative commercial success is still somewhat perplexing.

It matters not. Never intended to be a Christmas single, TGTKOG is one of many highlights from long player Hey Venus! released earlier this year. There are no bells or lyrics about snow. Just Gruff’s gorgeous tones, a meandering brass line and some intricate harmonies. Nadolig Llawen.

Imagine you’re watching one of those American hospital dramas on TV. Perhaps it’s the Christmas episode or season finale, medicine either way something is bound to go wrong. And when the shit hits the fan it breaks down into a montage of various characters in their scrubs, and remorseful, shop head in hands. Then, think of the music that accompanies those tearful medics. It’s emotive, driven by acoustic guitar and piano, with mildly folky vocals and a healthy dose of strings. Deadman, by House of Brothers, is one such track. Both sad and uplifting, this song has been strictly tailored in the studio to drag listeners up to peaks and down into troughs.

House of Brothers is Andrew Jackson’s solo project and is vastly different from his work with Scarecrow and The Death of Rosa Luxemburg. When I read the name of this EP I instantly thought of Jim Jarmusch’s film of the same title. House of Brothers’ release has little in common with the black and white western. I suppose you could say it’s lyrically bleak but the upbeat arrangements prevent Jackson from plumbing the depths.

Although lacking the polish of the title track, the other material has the same guitar/piano/strings, or indie-folk, sound. They are too long and it’s hard to maintain any kind of enthusiasm by the final track, correctly named The Last Ballad.

This EP is also aptly titled, because it retreads a musical style, which doesn’t have much life in it. It feels a little tired, as though most of the effort went into the first track. And was that effort worth it? As Jackson sings, “Don’t want to rise and shine for the second time. Just leave me be.” Perhaps we should.

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Having already waxed lyrical about These New Puritans after seeing them live in September, viagra approved I was more than ready and willing to get stuck into their much anticipated full-length offering, pharm Beat Pyramid. After much to-ing and fro-ing with release dates, cialis 40mg it looked like this one was going to up in the air for some time, however news is that’ll hit shelves this January and if you’ve an MP3 player, turntable, cassette deck or CD car stereo, I urge you to go out and buy it in every format and play it at high volume wherever you go. This is not THE perfect album, if such a thing even exists, and I won’t and can’t vouch for its life changing properties. However, what this is, I’d like to hope, is the beginning of something great. An album that delivers some absolutely stompingly good tracks, interspersed with a few that never take off; however it’s all a matter of context. Reaching such heights of brilliance at some points, if they fall short for just a moment at others, it hits as a minor disappointment. The fact is some of their lesser tracks would put most ‘indie’ hits to shame. Not a bad position to be in.

Beat Pyramid starts as it means to go on. The opener, …ce I Will Say This Twice which is picked up again in the closing track, sets the scene perfectly for the rest of the album. A beautiful slice of 80′s inspired, sharply constructed electronica, vocals nothing more than a mysterious, androgynous voice stating ‘I will say this Twice’. At just 16 seconds long its peculiar hypnotic effect leaves you wanting more, the sudden end coming frustratingly too soon.

Luckily the stomping drums that usher in Numbers make everything better again. As with their live performances, the beat is king on this record and having seen George Barnett (ringleader Jack’s twin brother) do some quite incredible things with a set of drumsticks, I was more than pleased to see all that demonic, tightly controlled energy translate onto record. “What’s your favourite number/What does it mean?/What’s your favourite number/what does it mean?” Jack never lets up. Insistent repetition is very much the order of the day with TNP, words becoming a beat within themselves, not what is said but more the pattern in which it’s spoken, over and over until it loses meaning but never effect.

Swords of Truth’s distorted trumpets swoop in like the opening of a Dancehall track, the beat conjuring similar reference, it’s easy to spot those unexpected influences that transform this band into something far more interesting and complex than your average post-punk outfit. It would be easy to mistake their eclectic tastes for pretension (Sonic Youth, Dubstep, the Occult, David Lynch) but they’re all laid out here, grabbed and borrowed from seemingly disparate genres. When mention was made of hip-hop whiz kid J Dilla I had my doubts, but they meant it; his irresistible, inside out beats littered throughout.

And now onto Doppelganger. I first heard this track online and immediately spent a good hour trying to track it down and just own it. A stuttering, Timbaland-esque experiment in beat and rhythm, it’s sparsity and directness carried along by, what can only be described as a ‘jangly’ electro dreamscape, giving it a kind of futuristic grandeur and irresistible head nodding appeal. It’s very rare that a band actually creates anything new but Doppelganger is so wilfully unusual and unexpected that it becomes almost impossible to place. At points I’m reminded of The Fall, Aphex Twin, GGD, Klaxons but as quickly as the comparisons come to mind, they’re dashed aside. This is something else and I’m having trouble putting my finger on it. I gave up trying. Whichever way you read it, at its core is something that just works, ultimately making it the standout track of the album.

Infinity Ytinifnl, £4, mkk3, all march along in a similar vein, perhaps a little less instantly striking, they nevertheless continue that ‘new sound’ with some impressive angular rhythms. Aggressive, brash, disjointed, taut. Heard outside of the context of this album, they would probably have had me frantically scrambling for the volume dial. Instead I just sit back and enjoy.

Things come to an unusually melancholic close with Costume, all drawn out, languid keyboards harmonising with Jack’s slow, deliberate vocals as they rise and fall through what feels like one continuous chorus. Interruption in the form of George’s powerful stuttering, staccato drumbeat, take this track to another level. The obligatory ‘Downbeat Finale’ this is not.

So, we return to the beginning again with I Will Say This Twi…, this time just 7 seconds long and ending abruptly like a sudden pull of the plug. The album comes full circle and while none of the mystery surround TNP has been solved, as impenetrable and cryptic as ever in their themes, even their intent, what they do reveal is a unexpectedly accomplished collection of off-beat, otherworldly tracks that remind you that taking a risk sometimes pays off.

Candles – pillar, symptoms tea lights and especially church candles in wine bottles. I love them all. Once I bought a load of tea lights, visit web lined them up on the windowsill behind my bed and lit them, hoping to create a nice atmosphere in my squat (ok it wasn’t actually a squat, but we did have a beetle and maggot infestation – who thought these life forms could co-exist so happily?) This ambiance lasted for about half an hour, until my friend forgot they were lit and leant back too far whilst sitting on the bed. His hair caught fire. After this debacle I’ve been banned from candles just incase I drop out of University to pursue arson as a career. But fate was quick to intervene, as some delightfully scented Diptyque candles were delivered to Amelia and I got to spark up. Diptyque began producing candles in 1963, and in the ensuing 45 years it has cornered the candle market with its exotic wax concoctions and beautiful packaging. In time for Christmas and the New Year, Diptyque have produced three limited edition winter candles – Encens (incense), Gingembre (ginger) and Epicea (spruce). These are candles your mum will actually appreciate as a gift, and so will everyone else within smelling distance. With 60 hours of burning time per candle, this seasonal trio are sure to last through the festive period to deliver the perfect aroma to cure January blues.

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I was told I’d really like The Chap by a good friend of mine. He went on to tell me he was drawn to them for two reasons; their name, this and the fact they had a song called Woop Woop. Luckily my friend isn’t four, cure he has a BA (!), more about so I took his word for it and waited in anticipation for what I hoped would be a pop feast.

I didn’t like Morviscous straight off the bat cause they all looked like sixth formers and I had a prejudice against their brass instrument collection. It didn’t help that the barman wouldn’t adhere to the advertised deal on red wine. But I grew to embrace their grim appearance over the thirty minute instrumental set and began to indulge in the progressive bass workout, the guitarist’s Django noodling and yeah, even the brass guy’s freeform squawk was good. I was a 21st Century Schizoid Man by 10 o’clock.

Zombie-Zombie let loose next and raised the bar completely. It doesn’t take a genius to pick out this duo’s influences. Their mix of synth and OTT echo on the vocals wreaked of Suicide, circa ‘77. If you ever wondered whether that effect could stay fresh after half an hour on repeat, in a live environment, the answer is yes. Top that with this dude, who calls himself CosmicNeman, perched just above a circle of drums of all sizes, bashing out relentless tom-tom beats that send the audience into a cosmic trance of their own, aided only further by the dark shifting light patterns that almost obscure their stage telepathy, and you’ve got one helluva kosmische party man! He even proceeded to leave his perch and dance uncontrollably in front of the stage for 5 minutes yelping like The Boss dodging a State Trooper, while accomplice Etienne Jaumet kept space wailing. Good it was!

I should have been more pumped up for The Chap but I think energy levels at that point were waning. More’s the pity that they couldn’t fix the situation; I think even my + 1 (who did the recommending) was having doubts after seeing Zombie-Zombie. The Chap were a horrible mess of irritating sing-a-long twee vocals without an ounce of soul. There was the odd flash of an interesting riff here and there but all I could think about was how much the singer looked like Tom Hanks in Big.

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We decided to meet at 10.30ish in Hoxton for Ghost School. Suitably, erectile t’was raining, help windy and freezing for the haunting of the Macbeth on a gloomy Friday night in East London. A bit of a venue du jour of late, I finally rolled up at nearly 11.30pm, leaving our Fashion Editor, Catherine, shivering in the bone achingly cold side alley next to the Macbeth, vainly attempting to shelter from the icy rain (sorry Catherine). She kept having to tell people that, no, where she was standing wasn’t another entrance into the venue, but that the door was around the other side.

When I arrived, there wasn’t anyone lining up outside – nor were there any loitering smokers either. And that’s because everyone was already all toasty warm and inside. And lo, the smokers were upstairs, as they have a covered roof terrace to puff away under, rain, hail or snow. The venue was rammed – we had missed the two bands playing, Betty and the Werewolves and Kasms who were on earlier in the night. Being my virgin time at the Macbeth and after reading up on the Ghost School manifesto, I expected it to be trendoid central with egos abounding. But immediately, I warmed to the venue, and to the crowd – who were uber friendly and diverse as advertised. And when Rihanna got a spin (YES, it was played unashamedly, unabashed and guilt free, without a hint of irony…I was reveling in it), that was it, Ghost School had me possessed (har har).

An eclectic and choice array of music – though Catherine was craving a bit of Wham!, a request for the next night please Ghostly DJs (Friday February 8th). Though it took a while for people to properly bust a move, by the end of the night the stage had been hijacked and people were up and cutting a rug. The singularly annoying thing was how insanely difficult it was to cross from the bar to the dance floor; theoretically only about three metres apart, but a logistical nightmare with the amount of people in the place. The only question is, how long a night like that can stay like that. Let’s hope it’ll haunt the Macbeth as is for a while longer before it gets ghostbusted. See you there next month innit!

London’s Royal Academy was the prestigious venue for the MA Show 2008, prescription presenting the MA portfolio from students at the London College of Fashion. ‘More champagne madam?’ asked the young waiter dressed in black. ‘Why not!’ After all, visit web it seemed to be the finest accompaniment for the minuscule Yorkshire puddings topped with rare slices of beef that came round. Walking around the first room, glancing at the four walls, each graduate presented their final work, their inner selves…

Photographer Joanna Paterson’s presented her fashion series beautifully. In hues of green, pink and yellow, a model stood in the dark, wet location, amongst a flock of birds. Almost unnoticed in the room, stood randomly located light boxes; apparently the perfect resting place for the half empty champagne glasses the ‘art crowd’ had carelessly left. These containers, made by photographer Michael Verity, had a 3-D view of a stark white room with a black chair and a man randomly changing positions within it. Although it created simple, yet poetic compositions, I did wish I could have understood what it all meant. Adam Murray’s colourful display of over 100 Polaroid’s of young men and women captured the youth culture of today in a unique style. Lutz Vorderwuelbecke’s fashion photographs, whose over-Photoshopped images were pretty amateur, did little to inspire me, especially when the styling seemed so cheap; a perfect example of one graduate who didn’t MA-ster their skills! Fashion designer, Jula Reindell’s transparent body suits, adorned and filled with hair left me wondering if any humans were hurt in the making!

From the Journalism course, students had presented their final magazines. Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s cute and colourful illustrations using felt tip, reminded me of my childhood days, in a good way. And it was refreshing to see that men’s fashion was taken seriously with Lucy Preston’s Young Man’s Fashion Journal ‘Manual’. One of the magazines that I loved was ‘Goo‘ (below) by Rachel Gibson; a feminist magazine with a good sense of humour. Now, I only got the time to read small snippets, but the content was intelligent, and the use of imagery was creative.

It was a shame I missed the performances showed throughout the day, presented by the new MA Costume Design Course, as it would have topped off the energy that came out of the evening.

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Much hype surrounds Dev Hynes, what is ed the devilishly handsome genius behind Lightspeed Champion. He’s a former member of Test Icicles, pilule a trio whose music and general on-stage movement resembled characters in a flick book. In contrast to this, Hynes’s current incarnation takes a drastic departure from his musically angular Test Icicle work. Tell Me What It’s Worth, the third single from his debut album, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge is a melancholic ode complemented by backing vocals worthy of a Disney Princess (actually the work of Emmy the Great). Mesmerising as this vocal combination is, once I listened closer, I found the lyrics humourously abrasive as Hynes coos ‘negros turn a blueish-grey when they’re dead, well that’s funny ’cause I’ve just gone quite red‘. Hynes’s lyrics provide a welcome contrast to the sing-song melodies of most folk music.

When watching Channel 4 at a ridiculous time somewhere between Friday night and Saturday morning I came across Hynes being interviewed. After confessing eternal devotion to American rock band Weezer, he took to the stage and played an acoustic set complete with violin accompaniment. It’s refreshing to see an artist who refuses to be pigeonholed into one musical category, be it folk, anti-pop punk or rock, but welcomes all influences.
It was Saturday, prescription I had a free afternoon, patient and so I decided to go to an exhibition. I like to do things like that because I often find something that inspires me… so I decided to go to the photographic exhibition by Darren Almond at the White Cube Gallery. With no expectations, I walked in…

Starting from the ground floor, there were large-scale landscape photographs on the wall, a series called ‘Fullmoon’. They weren’t just landscape photos. When Darren takes the photos, he uses an extremely long exposure in moonlight. As soon as I looked into them, I started noticing something strange. He seems to take them in remote locations; places with running water, like rivers, waterfalls or the sea, and where everything else in the photo stands still, like trees, mountains and cliffs. Because of this long exposure, the running water becomes blurry in the picture, making very beautiful and surreal images. The water looked like a very thick fog, creating a strong atmosphere. These very peaceful and calm images made me feel safe and secure. There was one fantastic picture, which was taken at sunset…I had to stand there for quite a long time because I couldn’t get enough of looking at the beautiful image. It was nostalgic, yet something I had never seen. Also, the softness of the water made different textures – like the surface of cliffs or trees – stronger and more powerful. That contrast and power of nature was fascinating.

When I went up to the first floor, there were other inspiring pictures from Tibet. They were pictures of flags. Actually, one of my friends brought one home from there when she went, so I have seen the flags before. But this picture was all about the flags; hundreds of them piled and hung together, making an infinite world. Plus, the flags were so colourful and bright, creating such eye-catching images.

When I was about to leave the room, a couple with a little boy came in to see the photographs. As soon as the little boy saw these pictures of flags, he had big smile on his face. I think that says just how good this exhibition was!

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A selection of Mike Perry‘s delightful drawings and words of wisdom slipped through the letterbox this morning in a tantalising yellow envelope. The rather prolific illustrator/designer, viagra 40mg who honoured us with a drawing for the back cover of issue no.5, patient seems very busy at the moment creating books AND starting up a brand new, order beautifully designed fashion magazine. Keep it up!

To see more of Mr Perry’s work, have a look at his website, MIDWESTISBEST.

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You can file Paul Pfeiffer as an elder statesman amongst an emerging generation of incisively critical American artists working within relatively new modes of digital media. Thus as Pfeiffer’s close kin we can count the ever excellent Seth Price, visit the BEIGE kids: Paul B. Davis and Cory Arcangel, a collective like Paper Rad, or on a more serious/theoretical note, someone like Paul Chan.

Above all what unites this new batch of practitioners is an edgy dissection of the techno-plurality of the contemporary moment: rather than be transfixed adoringly by the cornucopian delights of the Google-age, an artist like Pfeiffer rejects explicit hyperworld-positivism (art from the ‘technology is really great and can do nothing other that amazing, interesting things school’ – a la someone like John Maeda), favouring a somewhat more disenchanted creative turn.

Live from Neverland (2007), the central work at uptown West End gallery Thomas Dane, is a two part video installation inspired by none other than Michael Jackson (remember him? Mates with Uri Geller as I recall). Now, rather ingeniously Pfeiffer takes the full 10 minute dialogue from an interview conducted by Jackson in 2003 in which he squeakily enunciates his innocence regarding claims concerning certain nefarious nocturnal activities involving children and beds and restages it as a performance by 80 cherubic Filipino theatrical students. The nice poorly graded video footage of the Filipino students is projected large scale in one corner of the galleries main room (think school concert captured by an adoring parent) while the original interview footage – muted, synched and delightfully blended with the youthful chorus – is displayed in the opposing corner on a small floor monitor: the vision of Wacko’s weird surgically enhanced mouth appearing to speak in multiple youthful tongues being eerie to say the least.

In short a tricky issue: paedophilia, dealt with in a reasonably sensitive manner and diffused via a well recognised contemporary art trope: that big’ol nasty mass media thing and the many wonderful and weird conceptual personae it intermittently coughs up for our scrutiny

The second work Study for Koko (2008) is more immediately Pfeiffer-esque in its deployment digital erasure as a means to generate a simple but stimulating visual effect. It’s not bad, but the main show remains next door with the Jackson work.

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Don’t underestimate Thao Nguyen. Her slight form and delicate features do little to indicate the intensity of her billowing voice that at once erupts into gusts of breathtaking passion. Trickling in and out of the guitar strings, order her fingers work faster than the eye to create an electrifying urgency more akin to a four-piece rock band than a singular acoustic guitar (Thao doesn’t use a plectrum, prescription instead preferring to strum with the backs of her fingertips). Her exceptional acoustic strumming takes centre stage but excels through the contented marriage of Willis on drums. The drum sections roar and retreat with grace, lending Thao the best possible platform for her breathy vocals and licks.

Through songs like Swimming Pools and Geography we are taken on a surreal voyage across America. Alluding to her American roots, she introduces each song as ‘another song from Virginia’, her home state and with her lingering vocals, Thao adopts a Californian drawl, tinged with the bluesy warmth of the deep south but garnished with the cynicism of New York. A timeless American artist, she has the ability to speak to all, her affecting lyrics (‘we don’t jump, we canonball‘) are heartfelt and stirring. Snippets of her affable American accent touched in between songs as she entertained with light flickers of humour, inviting the meek crowd to shimmy forward to the front of the stage.

Monto Water Rats in Kings Cross proved to be the perfect place to showcase such a vibrant, spell-binding performer. Think old-man-pub dinginess with a comfortingly musty aroma and comfortingly honest prices, thus providing a certain genuinity which would have otherwise been lost had Thao played at a more polished, larger venue.

Launching into songs from her debut album, We Suffer Bee Stings and All, Thao quickly finds her feet onstage, side shuffling in her cowboy boots with the odd flick of the ankle, stamping a certain country effervescence to her music, charming it with occasional light hearted élan which helps it to break free from the ranks of her more earnest contemporaries, namely Cat Power.

Thao has capably brought to life the whimsical and powerful meanderings of her album, resurrecting the poignant simplicity of a voice, a story and a guitar. If you ever take a roadtrip, take Thao with you.

Although they’ve been opened just six short months, price Recoat gallery have generated more interest than most galleries could in six years. A well stocked print rack and their Bargain Basement night has made owning contemporary urban art accessible to the masses while a choice of attention grabbing exhibitions showcasing both international and home-grown talent has earned them a reputation as one of Scotland’s must see galleries.

Their latest show, sildenafil ‘Of Beasts and Machines’ is by Andrew Rae; illustrator, animator and member of the Peepshow collective. Best known for his work as art director on BBC Three’s ‘Monkey Dust’, Rae’s doodlings have also been picked up by MTV, Orange, the Guardian and the New York tourist board.

The exhibitions takes its name from one of Rae’s postcard books, and neatly sums up the chief motifs of his work. The exhibition includes pieces from Rae’s portfolio of prints and original postcard sized drawings as well as a mural drawn by Rae on one wall of the gallery. All are executed in the same clean yet gallivanting line, where intricate detailing meets a childlike imagination. In one piece, ‘King of Beasts’, a huge prehistoric looking monster is made up of lots tiny animals, from snake lips to feline haunches; in another, ‘ADD Brain’, flailing wires form a tangled brain, knotted up with hamburgers, human limbs, Nintendo consoles and amplifiers.

The dark twists that fans of Monkey Dust will be familiar with are never sinister, being deftly steered into comic, tongue in cheek territory – like in ‘A Nice Day Out’ where a father and son, chest deep in waders and beaming from ear to ear hold up their catch of the day; a dying, doll-sized mermaid.

Rae’s illustrations are surreal and sublime, clever and darkly comic. At times ‘Of Beasts and Machines’ holds a mirror up to modern life and we see our reflection like in the back of a teaspoon. But his world, populated by hybrids of animals, people and machines is always oddly beautiful.

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The prospect of free drinks will do an amazing amount to shift this society into action. Having strolled up to the entrance of Cargo happy and optimistic from a generous supply of champagne at a previous viewing, this site I was ready for a cheeky bit of entertainment from the grammatically complex Does It Offend You, information pills Yeah? The effects of the champagne slowly ebbed away as we stood outside in an enormous, stagnant queue of eager alcohol-vultures for almost an hour, but when we finally got through the doors the long wait had done nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. We joined the throng of people waiting – not ever so patiently – at the bar to collect their token beverages, and tried to stand our ground while the crowd heaved and pushed like a pack of sweaty wildebeests.

As our elbows grazed the bar the band came on, so we dashed with our treasured drinks towards the front. I was expecting a lot of energy from this gig, but strangely the entire session felt slightly flat – maybe that was purely the fault of the sound system, but I have to say I was left a little disappointed that I had been neither enthralled nor offended, but oddly subdued.

The music seemed to seep away quickly, and we were left wanting more, but not in a good way; more in a sort of “I queued for an hour for this? An outrage!” Not to mention the fact that the free drinks had so many terms and conditions, plastered literally onto the barman’s t-shirt on A4 paper, that I only managed to get one of the five I was promised. Ah well, maybe more drinks would’ve been a bad idea anyway.

I will conclude this anecdote with a positive message: the band are great, and I’ll put the poor performance down to an off-night. But did it offend me? No, and I’ve always got the paradoxically more lively CD to listen to. Besides, I learnt something valuable that night; that complimentary beverages can make wonders happen in London.

Recently the weather has been getting warmer and we seem to be having less miserable days. It’s almost like Spring is on its way; until the wind picks up, sales the skies turn grey and the rain pours down. But January mustn’t be remembered for the side effects of global warming, cheap as Canon is about to launch a new camera for this spring – the digital IXUS 80 IS. They have four colours to choose from: Classic Silver, Caramel, Chocolate, and Candy Pink. Highly compact and super stylish; they’re not just pretty, they’re also uber-functional. Canon have introduced a new clear 2.5” PureColor LCD II screen, which means that you get to see your subject in true colour (which is sometimes a bit of a reality shock at the end of a night out). I gave it a try and the screen was as advertised, particularly compared to the one I bought two years ago. But before you head off to your nearest electronic shop, there’s more! It has brand new Motion Detection Technology, enabling the camera to sense movement – no more blurry pictures! This is technology at its finest, if only it could magic the January rain away…
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The unsigned power-pop/electro-pop/indie-pop London four-piece known as The RGBs were Thursday’s main attraction at Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar. Three sparkly sparkly gorgeous girls (wearing the RGB colours – red gold and blue) took to the stage. Joining them was a hoodied drummer – ‘the French boy’. He was not so sparkly (yet still pretty gorgeous) and looked slightly out of place amongst the glamour of the sequins, doctor beads, glitter, sparkles and glittery sparkles. Nevertheless I wouldn’t really want to see him all glammed-up and I felt he was needed to help avoid the girl band stigma.

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The Everlaster opened the gig in a so-called Charlie Chaplin version. It was such a shame the microphones weren’t working for this particular song, with its powerful Bonnie Tyler meets Kate Bush vocals. Luckily the mic did what mics are meant to do in time for the second track – a self proclaimed ‘indie shimndie’ song called Your Scene – and there was a cheer from the growing audience (in size and enthusiasm). And what a diverse and random audience they were. There was a good handful of your Brick Lane trendies, a rowdy, energetic and sparkly groupie at the front, your token celebrity – Danny aka Shrek from Hear’say, a bunch of chavs and two suited, floppy haired business men who had probably gotten lost between Canary Wharf and Kensington.

I was torn between the entertaining performances from the band and their audience, notably the dance-off between the chavs and the floppy haired sing-along businessmen (super-fans). The band, fortunately won my eyes over. The RGB ladies have such a stage presence; the lead singer gave an aerobic like performance, with lunges, stretches, grapevines and the occasional sly leotard wedgy picking – all the moves reminiscent of Mad Lizzie. The moves really got going to Chicken Licken – an apparent tribute to Beyonce with a drum intro by the French boy just like that of Mucho Mambo by 90s dance/rave act shaft. And with the “Shake your, shake your, shake your booty…” the keyboardist stole the stage with her booty shaking. The businessmen seemingly knew every word to Chicken Licken and at this point got into the swing of their dad dancing.

After more vigorous moves, infectious pop tunes and glittery sweat, the gig sadly came to an end. There was a plea for an encore from the crowd – the sparkly groupie, the chavs, the trendies, the enthusiastic suits, Danny from Hearsay and from my friend Adam and I, of course. All in all a fantastic performance from a band who shone as much as their outfits and who are as truly colourful as their name lead us to believe.

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Having grown tired of the sort of vacuous, viagra 40mg disposable music that has infiltrated our world in recent years, drowning out the quiet geniuses that modestly create wonders amongst them, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Junkboy‘s auditary universe of considered, positively unfashionable sounds.

With nature-derived titles such as There Is Light, Volcano Mono and Kano River, and the reverberating sound of crickets fading out the end of Tonight, Three evokes a stirring sensation of an imminent revival of nineteenth-century Romanticism, whilst slipping you softly into a lunar dream of skin-tingling dischords.

The sound of the sea, by which the Brighton-based band live, seeps lucidly into each and every track in a mesmerizing fusion of nature and technology, devoid of irony, sarcasm or the general post-modernist attitude that so many bands of this decade seem to operate around.

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Tonight and Held Inside have the strange, distorted resonances of a medieval folk song that, with carefully placed silences, tinkling bells and soporific vocals, drowsily transcend the categories of folk, classical and electronica and, to quote the legend of Alexander Pope, will “wake the soul by tender strokes of art“. It is certainly the right time.

It’s easy to dismiss Poppy de Villeneuve as a girl-about-town with splendid connections (her mother Jan was a famous fashion model in the 60s, ed her father Justin was a photographer credited for discovering Twiggy and her sister Daisy is quite a well-known illustrator who regularly graces the society pages). But her first solo exhibition entitled ‘This is a Story of Hope and We are All Characters in it’ in Paradise Row provided a venue with which to scrutinize, buy not her pedigree or even her social capital (although the excellent turnout did prove that it doesn’t hurt to have a lot of friends) but her talent. The exhibition was a testament that behind the socialite façade lays depth and compassion intrinsic both in the photographs and the photographer.

The exhibit was a culmination of de Villeneuve’s trip to Rio Grande, ed where she had initially planned to document the migration of the Monarch butterfly but ended up taking photos of people who live in the desolate desert that flanks the Rio Grande (the river separating Texas and Mexico) instead. The landscape and the state of the place was the juxtaposition of the American Dream, the complete opposite of the fame that Hollywood represents or the wealth that New York embodies. Instead of fame or fortune, the people and the desert gave one the impression of hopelessness and defeat. But de Villeneuve was reluctant to portray her subjects as forever rooted in their wretched surroundings and opted instead to photograph them against simple backgrounds, silently pointing the viewer to the Humanist belief in empathy as purportedly articulated in the pictures. However, the six portraits failed to capture any empathy from the viewer as although the photographs were quite stark and vivid, the subjects seemed to lack any emotion. Some of the pictures though, notably two landscapes were powerful and lucid in their imagery.

de Villeneuve’s documentary-style photographs, though certainly not in the same league as Lee Miller‘s or Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s, has that glint of potential. And as a young photographer in the process of honing her skills and her style, de Villeneuve still has a lot to offer. Socialite or not, as a photographer, de Villeneuve is one to watch.

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Call me a pessimist, viagra 40mg but the world as it is today seems to be fuelled with the need to grow up too quickly, and the value of youthful innocence is lost altogether faster then you could say “Fancy a fag?” to your 12-year old brother.

But low and behold there is a saviour – once you listen to the tracks of I Want You To Know There Is Always Hope by rising stars, I Was A Cub Scout, memories of old school never-should-be-talked-about-again naïve teenage crushes, impulse summer road trips to nowhere, and mooching around with your closest friends anywhere, because it didn’t matter where you were, only that your friends were with you, come flooding back again. This record takes you back to adolescent youth; days when it was perfectly acceptable to release the fickle rebellion inside because ‘you were going through that phase in life’, and when love (or lust, however you view it) could hurt. Bad.

The teenage (ish) duo made up of Todd Marriott, 18, and William Bowerman, 20, produce the kind of untarnished music, which makes you want to hug everyone in the room unashamedly. Todd’s voice oozes of heartache and emotion that evoke empathetic life experiences, and most importantly the music is, and feels real (unlike some of the more generic ‘bands’, which keep popping out from some sort of indie band pez dispenser). They re-coin the meaning of emo with their abstract but intellectual mixture of a little punk, a pinch of rock, extract of pop, and a generous smothering of indie.

Their first track of the album, Save Your Wishes, my personal favourite, sets up the mood of the entire album, commencing with an upbeat and captivating synth sequence combined with an equally up-tempo drumbeat, which allows the introduction of almost tear-inducing, (of the good variety) vocal chords, courtesy of Todd himself; young as he may sound, he doesn’t half know how to sing with his heart, which is hard to come by nowadays.

Then there is their forthcoming single Pink Squares, which also fails to disappoint; the juxtaposition of mellow synth lines with thrashing guitars and over-excited drumsticks sway to and fro states of tranquillity, and then back again; a parody of life that anyone can relate to.

Tracks in between manage to accumulate the best bits of an array of genres, from the indie-esque atmospheric keyboard lines in Echoes, to the reflective, and almost melancholic introduction of We Were Made To Love, which speedily picks up with a more playful, humorous pop beat. The closing track A Step Too Far Behind, is truly the delicious icing on this indulgent, feelgood cake of a record, ending with a glorious spectacle of Todd’s heartfelt vocals and Will’s pounding drums, guaranteed to hit the spot; I challenge anyone not to be moved by the last one and a half minutes of this track especially.

This album won’t knock your socks off, but could certainly well be the soundtrack to your life; after all, everyone has a little child inside them. And if it could put a smile on an often cynical, old before her time city girl, it could well save the hearts, and minds, of all the misguided alcohol swigging twelve year olds out there.

According to the Moving Brands representative giving the speech (who was like a tearful parent watching their child leave home) the Weare launch party was to celebrate the coming together of social media and fashion. He talked about this concept as if it was the Second Coming. I was slightly disappointed when he revealed a scarf, drugs rather than Jesus. This scarf (modelled below) was created from image contributions sent to a window gallery at the Moving Brands studio. Over 500 people participated, ask creating a garment designed by the consumers rather than simply for the consumers. This hands-on approach to design allowed anyone to participate, which is why the scarf featured everything from phallic symbols to Pac-Man. Apparently, the first suggestion for the launch garment was a cape. Personally I think this would have been amazing. Imagine – you could swish around the streets like a modern day Dracula. Maybe this is what Norton and Sons, a bespoke tailor of Savile Row, were thinking when they agreed to be the first to collaborate with Weare. Count Dracula was a dapper man after all.
The night gave me an insight on the future of designing and even if it was just in the form of a scarf, the concept was something a bit different than a launch for a lip-gloss. The Moving Brands employees were more than happy to talk and interaction seemed to be the theme for the night – there were blocks of post-its stuck onto the wall and you could re-arrange or remove them to your own delight. There was also an interactive table-top featured in the room, I wasn’t quite sure why it was there, but I suppose it went with the general theme of the evening. I felt like I was in a science dome.
I’ve never done a shout out before but I’m sending one to the exceptional waiting staff – my champagne glass never emptied. Wow. I feel like Tim Westwood now…
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Try imagining a musical mash-up of a relaxing and melodic slice of Mogwai combined with an electronic club beat and maybe your getting close to this one. Skibunny‘s single Aah Ooh is juxtaposition between so many genres stemming from the DJing background of the band. A dreamy pop vocal draws you beyond the common electro-acoustic sound to create something else.

Normally remixing music, troche Skibunny have built up a solid reputation in the DJing scene, with a club of the same name holding a very good reputation for alternative nights. Now we see their first release of original material and it is an enjoyable song. Although slow and slightly pathetic at the start, the song has a steady build up throughout that draws you in to its tranquil sound. The vocal, with its echoing Aah Ooh’s, invites you to dream away about sitting in the sunshine with your friends and has a very positive summer feel. At the same time the beat does not distract from the dreamy mood of the song, only creating more of an atmosphere behind the calming vocal.

Slightly cheesy, but given a chance this song is actually very enjoyable. Anything that provokes such feelings of summer and drinking with friends is positive in my book. The single features a remix by Japanese producer and DJ Handsomeboy that has more electric knobs tweaked and piano bits. This is more upbeat than the single but equally pleasurable. The calming Aah Ooh is perfect listen on these cold days as we look forward and daydream about the summer.

So it’s down to the Coningsby Gallery for the opening night of SH OW. The Coningsby Gallery has a wide reputation because of its connection to the agency Début Art. The gallery acts as a shop window for the emerging illustrators of the agency as well as other artists. The reason I was there was for the free beer and to check out some up and coming illustration by a collaboration called ‘Lie-Ins And Tigers’. It was raining outside and pretty cold, order and therefore a lot of people had squeezed into the exhibition space, look leaving very little room to move around the work. Beer was located down stairs and awkward to get through to, but rewarding it was when I finally got there.

Lie-Ins and Tigers is a collaboration of three image-makers. Sam Kerr, Walter Newton and Russell Weekes. Together they offer their individual styles to forge a humorous mix of work. The group’s concept is comical illustration that is usually simple and straight to the point. Some of the humor is childish and yet still engaging and fun because of the style it’s produced in. A beer was the perfect accompaniment to this slightly laddish humor.

Sam Kerr’s work fuses together a realistic illustration style with humorous elements that, at times, makes you laugh out loud. The illustration of someone masturbating, only the penis is replaced with oil paint spurting out of the tube, was a particular highlight. His realistic style lends well to some of the commercial work featured in the show. Illustrations of Gordon Brown and David Cameron for The Guardian newspaper show the MP’s in cartoon like sketches.

Walter Newton’s work is a more cartoon illustration style often taking things and putting them into a new context. The missing wasp poster saying, ‘Have you seen my wasp with distinctive yellow and black markings,’ is a very funny piece that made me laugh. I found some of his other pieces more childlike and less humorous.

Fans of David Shrigley‘s illustration will enjoy Russell Weekes work. The humour is less in your face and has to found within his, at times, strange images. Two figs, written as if it were figures in a textbook, are another highlight.

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Some poor saps believe that this country’s most talented singer/songwriters are best exemplified by dullards like Newton Faulkner, website KT Tunstall and James Blunt. But if anyone can save their souls it’s School Of Language. This glorious first release from ex-Field Music man David Brewis proves that you can be inventive with a much-pillaged genre, while keeping each melody completely singable.

A glittering example of what laptop recording can create, Sea From Shore starts as it ends, book-ended by two completely identical songs titled Rockist Part 1 and Rockist Part 4, with parts 2 and 3 sandwiched neatly in between. A series of daydreams on words, their meanings and the decisions which follow from them, these offerings are as compelling musically as they are lyrically – driven by woozy guitars, clattering rhythms, fuzzy basslines and a loop of incessant nonsensical vocals which sneak their way into your subconscious from first listen, while simultaneously giving the record an incredibly satisfying symmetry.

It’s an eccentric concept, but one that proves an undeniable highlight, along with such other stand-out tracks as the gorgeously squalling Disappointment ’99, which includes appearances from Brewis’ hometown pals Barry Hyde and David Craig of The Futureheads on vocals. The soaring psychedelic squelch-pop of Poor Boy and the infectious Marine Life are also hugely impressive, as is scratchy riff-tinged and time-change-ridden ballad Extended Holiday, which features an additional performance by Craig alongside former Kenickie/Rosita star Marie Nixon and friend Sarah McKeown.

Although it would seem that Brewis’ old collaborative approach to album-making is a hard habit to kick, his full-time band days seem to be behind him for the foreseeable future: in April 2007, Field Music announced that they were heading into hibernation to help the three core members, individually and collectively, ‘get creative and produce more and better music’. And while this decision disappointed both a large number of devoted fans and excited critics who had tipped the trio for greatness, it has worked out wonderfully for Brewis whose new project hints at the warm, catchy and quirky efforts of his former incarnation, while showcasing a strong desire to push himself and innovate both sonically and lyrically.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of sampling any of this chap’s creations then you’d better start playing catch-up, as Sea From Shore heralds the latest twist in what promises to be a long and compelling career.

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Dan Deacon will survive the media hype thrown at him in recent months because he knows he’s a space brain from Wham City, cheap USA (or Baltimore, Maryland to be exact). He knows what he likes; obsolete synthesizers, multiple effects pedals and the Looney Tunes. And he more than likely knows he’ll be compared to the original rock n roll space brains, Devo, at every opportunity.

But while the mass of similarities between the two rekindle happy memories, I’ve always loved Devo records for Mark Mothersbaugh’s social commentary-come-overall vocal bonkers-ness. And while Spiderman of the Rings comes close with Deacon’s own brand of chipmunk delay, he has decided to take the head crushing drum machine and synth route even further. And it works.

His Looney Tunes fascination is cemented after only 10 seconds as opening track Wooody Woodpecker loops the famous cartoon bird’s signature laugh over a dramatic build up of synth pulses and xylophones. This combination sets the tone for the whole record, immediately giving way to the best two tracks; The Crystal Cat and the epic 12 minute long Wham City. The first, beginning like an 8bit cartridge racing game, repeats one synthesized note with a steady bass drum until it explodes into a euphoric melody any pop producer would be proud of. Rolling Stone placed the track #84 on their list of the 100 best songs of 2007, and it’s easy to see how when a song clocking in at almost four minutes feels like it’s over before you’ve even had a chance to get up and dance. Wham City comes on like the first ever electro opera, flowing from calm xylophone loops and muted chords to pummel drumming and siren squeals headed by a choir of militant troops chanting a new age fairy tale over and over before fading to a down-beat game of drum ping pong and computerized harmonies. By the time an a-capella rendition of the chant kicks back into all out electro-popathon the listener is ready for bed. Big Milk provides the much needed rest but then comes the problem. There are still 20 minutes left of the record and you’ve peaked too early.

Much of the second side of Spiderman of the Rings carries the same traits as the first. A lot of synthesizer and drum machine driven computer music and a glut of high pitched vocal effects begin to take their toll. That said there are some great bass driven grooves in Okie Dokie and Snake Mistakes. The latter’s bass and shaker combination, reminiscent of the infectious Tom Tom Club, brings a welcome change of pace. Shades of Daft Punk form a strange interlude but Deacon pulls it back with the beautiful Pink Batman which allows a MIDI harpsichords and guitars to mix with organs and oscillators in a far more successful way than you’d imagine.

Running at nearly 46 minutes Deacon’s vision of an epic electro-pop showpiece almost comes off. The record is perhaps, just too long, but a definite grower. At first it may seem like you’re hearing the same song in 9 different ways, but once you notice the subtle dabbles with sine waves, vocoder blasts and discover his palette of garbage retrieved weapons (instruments), Spiderman of the Rings is a mini masterpiece in one man bandship.

I missed Pre. But I am sure they were suitably stirring and pleasurable and that Akiko got partially naked. They are like a Fun Park. Always there and always frequented. But next on where Skeletons, health who I definitely did not plan on missing. Grungy and demin clad, treat Matt Mehlan former solo project, price were instantly charming. Mehlan is a co-founding member of Shinkoyo records, an advocate of collaboration, experimentation, his Skeletons project does not disappoint. Percussion like drums, metronomic bass lines they have a mid-Seventies sound with late 80s slower tempos, dissonant harmonies, and more complex instrumentation. With lyrics like, “Every day he falls in love with the gorgeous backsides of every girl he sets his eyes on/ Follows them home to catch a glimpse/ But they never, they never, they never turn around” on Fake Tits delivered with wavering and delicate vocals. They have tribal rhythm and punchy brass, experimental instrumentation and inventive arrangements. They are inescapably endearing. Next. HEALTH, who for one have an insane drummer. Insane defined as ‘extended in time or space beyond what is consideration normal, reasonable, or desirable’ not legally incompetent. He was truly terrifying. Scratchy and rhythmic yet undeniably tight, HEALTH make you feel lazy. There are controlled moments though, with long hair being rhythmically swung about in a routine manner. But they do not last. As we return to feedback, which microphones being put on guitar amps and reverb-laden vocals teamed with an abundance of power. They are like a sped up version of Liars. In short, pretty incredible.
Princess Tina designer Beci Orpin is the purveyor of the finest accessories in town. Well when I say town, find I mean Australia. And luckily for me, they got shipped express delivery into my clammy little paws. Beci Orpin specializes in kitsch designs (in a good way), often featuring woodland creatures nestling amongst the Russian dolls and fairy-tale castles on her bags and badges. Toadstools, squirrels, bears and unicorns all make an appearance – and how! As my experience of wildlife is more The Animals of Farthing Wood rather than real animals in real woods, these rabies-free designs suit me down to the ground. Although it seems that learning so much from television has also made me think that a unicorn can be classed as a ‘woodland creature’.
Other accessories from her collection include single ear studs to mix and match. Finally it’s possible to wear a bird in one lobe and a rabbit in the other. But if badges, t-shirts, bags or earrings are not for you – don’t fret, as there is a selection of wash bags that will melt your heart. They feature a happy tooth on one side and a part-decaying tooth on the other side (with an unhappy face). This bag should be used as a campaign for cleaner dental hygiene.
I am such a fan of this label, that if I was allowed to take the badges home, I would wear them all at once. (see below)

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Photography courtesy of Christel the Music Editor who’s always rambling about feral creatures (she’s a fox la).

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Save the Whale epitomizes the best times a band can have before they reach the ambivalent clutches of fame and fortune; the desire to strike, dosage pummel and batter every instrument in sight like you’d never played or heard it before, no rx in the name of making sweet noise. Wet Paint has perfected the art of clogging up one’s phone with hundreds and thousands of complaints from your dearly beloved OAP neighbours about the ‘awful racket’ from next door – have they never heard of music?!

The single urges to be played louder, this and LOUDER, to reveal it’s true intensity. Babak provides vocals of the day, which are slightly tinged with a confusingly seductive arrogance, adopting a carefree ‘I’m singing because I can’ attitude. This against the melodic electric guitar and boisterous drumbeat is enough to send you on a solo Beyonce booty shaking frenzy, coupled with some head-banging Ozzy Osbourne would be proud of, provoked by such lyrics as ‘Do you remember those days/ dancing in your underwear‘. The song finishes with an escalating no-holds-barred thrashing of their willing instruments, (I swear there is a revving engine here somewhere!) which remind you of exactly how their music is to be portrayed; as beautiful, loud, noise.

If it all gets a bit too much, the ubiquitous Lightspeed Champion’s B-side version is the perfect medicinal-remedy (the doctor told me so) to nurse such frantic thrashing of the arms and legs. So much calmer it made me wonder if I was listening to the same lyrics! But the swooping ‘woo’ mid-song is enough to deliver another dose of fun and light-hearted humour, which depicts the attitude you should welcome this song with.

Now take off those shoes and dance your feet to death to the A side; but remember, such ravenous award-winning dance-offs may need a little pampering of the B-side variety.

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The ‘Illustrators in Nature weekend pulled together 12 recent contributors to Amelia’s Magazine for a workshop at the Commonwork farm at Bore Place in Kent. Commonwork’s vision goes towards a fairer world, malady in which people work with one another and nature. It works by using it’s land and resources, viagra 60mg and by teaching people, rx from any age, the benefit of doing this. By bringing together like-minded individuals in a rural environment, the workshop intended to inspire, create nature awareness, and enable us to collaborate with each other on new levels. In other words, work as a community. Thankfully, the weather was on our side!

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After a breakfast of fresh eggs, the gang sat down to express themselves. What inspired them? What were these young creatives all about?
Zakee Shariff‘s calming disposition was well fitting with her orientation towards ‘peace’. And James Shedwan‘s picture frame with a photo of a cut down tree marked a sad memory of his, once, favourite tree. Nick Garrett‘s comics had monkeys swinging out from the pages, and Ute Kleim‘s stuffed cat was kitsch. Nikki Pinder‘s handmade parcels with lucky pennies and vintage book tears were unique and Jess Wilson‘s honest illustrations in her books presented what culture means today. Jasmine Foster‘s delicate and girly watercolours mirrored her soft and smiley personality. Electronic device dinosaurs and armadillos made up of beer bottles filled Andy Council‘s folder, and Amy Brown‘s fun, monster-like creatures took imagination to a new level. And, as for Andrew Cross, as long as you have your Rabbit, your light-hearted bunnies will hop along at whichever pace you like.

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Our guided tree walk with Leo Murray brought us much closer to nature. An environmental activist, he uses his creative side to express his involvement with nature through animation. I learnt a lot that day about the natural world that I live in. I was saddened to find out that Horse-chestnut trees in Britain are in turmoil because they are under attack by an aggressive disease.

Gorse and hazel were starting to bloom, in January! One consequence of Global warming staring me in the face! We picked up a fungus called King Alfred’s Cake, also known as tinder fungus, that grows on birch trees, and brought it back to use as a natural black ink. The special thing about King Alfred’s Cake is that as long as it is dry inside, it will catch a spark and light easily, perfect for starting fires.

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Illustrator Simone Lia, renowned for creating children’s books like ‘Fluffy’, showed her work on a projector. By drawing faces on any everyday objects, Simone manages to turn the most disregarded things into dainty characters of their own. ‘Chip and Bean’ really do feel alive! ‘Poor old bean!’ I sigh. In fact, one photo that she presented to us of her dad holding her as a young child had a strong resemblance to Chip and Bean.

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Have you ever sat on your own in a quiet place, in the same spot, for half an hour? It’s really something everyone should try out. We all found a spot on our own, for ‘quiet time’, listening out for the bell to ring at the half hour mark, for our return. Now, for everyday people with hectic lifestyles, ‘quiet time’ is a real rarity. I for one like to go on walks every now and again to clear my head, but each to their own. So, there I was, in the middle of a field, perched on a pile of old tractor tyres, watching the sun go down and listening to my new surroundings. One or two crows screeched, the crazy farmer man shouted instructions at his herd of cows, and planes soured above me every few minutes. Well I must have found some sort of peace, as I found myself wandering back to the barn an hour and a half later, looking through the window to find my peers sitting in the front room, fire going, and cups of tea in hand! I had somehow missed the bell! Reassuringly, ‘stripy’ Andy had returned only 5 minutes earlier too.

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The weekend was a weekend where even the most closed books had to open up. Being thrown statements in which we had to answer in pairs for 2 minutes each, uninterrupted, let us engage with each other’s personal thoughts. ‘What upsets me the most is…’ ‘I get over that by…’ ‘What I fear most for the future is…’ ‘What inspires me is…’ These were real people in front of me, pouring out their feelings. Suddenly they were no longer just the makers of ‘pretty pictures’ that I had previously only known on paper.

On Sunday renowned illustrator Andy McGregor led the next task, chopping up piles of intensely coloured vegetables. No, not for eating! For making natural inks! (The recipes are available in issue ’08 of the magazine.) I donned my rather large and attractive old shirt, and with flour and crushed charcoal filling the air, we transformed the contents of our fridge into bright and beautiful coloured inks. I am yet to find out if these intense red inks work as a good hair dye!

illustrations%20in%20nature%207.jpg

Ruth England, resident leader at Commonworks, worked with us making willow sculptures, by bending and shaping willow branches. We made large leaf masterpieces, by covering them in tissue paper, soaked in the flour and egg white paste mixed with the natural inks.

Working together, we conspired, inspired and created George. Ah, George, our weird and wonderful friend of nature. Made up of painted cardboard cut out into leaves and wild animals, sculpted willow, and dried twigs and grass, George began to emerge from the majestic tree. If only I could see how our sculpture will decay in the coming weeks.

illustrators%20in%20nature%201.jpg

Our games of consequences, our rather muddy stumble into the fields to admire the stars in this rural corner of Kent, the visit to see the chickens and Nikki and Jasmine’s late night frights due to an old tapping heater brought smiles to many faces.

All in all, the ‘Illustrators In Nature’ workshop weekend was utterly inspiring, fun, and gave me the chance to meet all these great people. If only it had lasted longer. Time, now for another cup of tea I think!

illustrators%20in%20nature%209.JPG
Not being known as a fervent political activist, here I was ready to be coaxed and cajoled out of my apathy by Peter Kennard‘s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photomontage. It didn’t really happen. Kennard’s cut and paste images address political, nurse environmental and social issues, unhealthy all very admirable, but unfortunately a lot of the work smacked of the sketchbook images of a fifteen year old boy who’d just read ‘Animal Farm’.

Symbolism such as pigs, bombs, gas masks and skulls were in abundance. Images that cast John Major as Mona Lisa and the Houses of Parliament as a casino have a certain humour, but to me most of the work was too unsubtle to be witty. In fact, some work seemed a little crass; ‘Time Difference’ depicts three clocks, labelled New York, Baghdad and London. The Baghdad timepiece has a military helicopter at the centre, with its blades as the clock hands. Any satirical message about political issues and the veracity of media information can be lost under such a heavy-handed use of imagery.

As a social commentary Kennard’s photomontages are very effective; the show at the Pump House exhibited work made by the artist over a thirty-year period. Over this time Kennard’s work has been regularly published in broadsheet supplements and left wing publications; some of these were on show in this context at the gallery. Perhaps this is where my discomfort lies: the images seemed much more at home next to an article. The four storey Pump House is quite a vast exhibiting space; Kennard’s politically charged work can seem a little repetitive by the end. Maybe this is indicative of how saturated the media is with images of this kind, or maybe it demonstrates that our generation really is too politically indifferent.

The saving grace of ‘Uncertified Documents’ is the chance to see Kennard in collaboration with Cat Picton Phillips in a more performative piece. In the video piece ‘Stop Posters’, the artists are seen presenting some of their photomontage posters on the perimeter fence of RAF Lakenheath, a US army base. This is where the work should be, actively protesting rather than languidly urging exhibition-goers to do so. The fact that the army tries to get the artists arrested for this act makes the point of the nonsensical ways of the military better than the posters in the gallery ever could.

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Explosions In The Sky typify instrumental post rock. Their compositions, information pills that often stretch to ten minutes in length, approved comprise of intricate, viagra 40mg technically sound musicianship characterised by a duelling guitar sound that is both brilliantly epic, wonderfully subdued, melodic, raucous, and at times breathtaking. A skilful avoidance of self indulgence, and just the right amount of commercialism has resulted in a prolonged career, helped in no small part by a relentless commitment to the gruelling schedules of life on the road. Tonight’s show is the second UK date as part of a 5 month world tour – the Texans barely pausing for breath following a similar jaunt in the second half of 2007. An enthusiasm of this nature is essential for a band given the unenviable task of headlining the soul-less cavern that is Bristol’s Anson Rooms. You can’t help but feel that any band playing here are up against it from the start. Ultimately, tonight, Explosions can’t quite overcome the handicaps they are faced with, which is a real shame. But it would be wrong to attribute an underwhelming performance entirely on the substandard venue. Some blame lies with the band themselves.

Interaction is one of the main problems this evening. There are no vantage points in The Anson Rooms meaning that even a clear view of the band proves problematic. This is coupled with a bizarrely quiet stage sound and consequently two of the most essential elements of live performance are largely diminished . The band’s lack of audience interaction is normally something to admire – it highlights the absence of bravado, promoting a simplicity that allows the music to do all the talking. But here it seemingly increases the division between band and crowd. It’s frustrating, and the frustration is merely compounded by an audience who remain hushed throughout. Instead of creating a poignant atmosphere, the place just feels a bit awkward.

It is testament to the quality of the band’s output though that there are still some moments to savour, despite such testing circumstances. Memorial arrives three songs into the eight song set, providing glimpses of what Explosions are capable of. It crackles and twinkles and leads you on a merry dance before unleashing itself with a carefree abandon. Such ferocity still thrills even without the benefits of unfamiliarity.

There were no similar heights reached during the remainder of the performance, only fleeting moments, but given the right surroundings Explosions can be a great live act. Here’s hoping they avoid the Anson Rooms the next time they visit these shores.

Whether this comes as good or bad news, prescription this is quite different from last year’s Barnaby. Unlike the aforementioned computer game electronica, adiposity there is something outdated about All Over My Face. It could rest easily in 1997 with Morcheeba and The Sneaker Pimps. At least this trip-hop approach shows that My Toys Like Me are more than a one-trick-pony.

Frances Noon must be bored of people describing her voice as “childlike” or “infantile”. If all you had to go on was Barnaby, troche then you could be forgiven for assuming she can’t sing. But she definitely can and this is the proof.

Noon’s voice shimmers over Lazlo Legezer‘s dub beat, mariachi horns and acoustic guitar. Her overdubbed vocals spiral out from behind this mix hauntingly along with a smattering of electronic noise that sounds like owls whistling. Lyrically it’s a little pseudo-romantic but the only marvel of this track is its construction around Noon’s compelling tones.

This single is released with two other remixes. The J-star mix brings the horns to the front but also increases the bounce with a reggae guitar line. On the other hand, the Hostmix augments the original’s creepiness, taking the edge off the dub and stripping down the accompaniments. Worryingly these tracks precede the original mix on the copy I was given, which suggests they are as underwhelmed with it as I am.
Although beer companies no longer use this kind of music in their ads, you can envisage sitting on a leather chair in some bar full of wood-trim and orange neon. It lacks any of the spunk or grit that My Toys Like Me have shown before. If nothing else, All Over My Face is an exercise in versatility and they have proved they can make decent background music.

With a stage decorated in pink flowers and fairy lights, purchase the Brudenell had become a veritable twee-folk domicile. Purveyors of brooding alt-country inflected with twangs of Americana, cost The Rosie Taylor Project sing forlorn tales of alcoholism and lost love. Melancholy and nostalgia intertwine through their literate and confessional lyrics, viagra order which were conveyed by measured vocals and echoed in the plaintive tones of the trumpet and acoustic guitar. The recent addition of a drummer and subtraction of their lead guitarist has induced the group to experiment. Sadly, this meant they altered an old favourite, Sun On My Right, by increasing the volume and adding synthesized effects to the backing vocals. On the whole though, change has proven to be a good thing for the band, who unveiled new songs to their set. The ethereal A Few Words Of Farewell, was a highlight, deftly summarizing idealised love in its opening lines: “they say she’s not all she seems, you’re only seeing what you dream“.

Playing to a full house might be daunting for a band with just two members, but Slow Club live are something special. They fill the stage with their vivacious presence, delivering a panoply of folk-pop songs with verve and panache. A playful, bouncy boy/girl duo from Sheffield, they are not afraid to dance to their own songs. They trade in twee and are unfailingly upbeat. Their rockabilly thrumming and mellifluous harmonies evoke American campfire singsongs and ’50s prom bands. A teenage fascination with sex and death is humorously and honestly conveyed in their lyrics, which evoke childhood summers and awkward teen romances, but with a self-deprecation that is unmistakeably British. Even their self-proclaimed Sex Song, all pulsating bass drum and trembling guitar, opens with the smirk-inducing line: “There are things in my wallet I will never use”. Executed with all the vibrancy their youth affords, their songs- Because We’re Dead and ode to adolescent marriage pacts When I Go – gloss over any latent morbidity with sugar sweet sentiments. Like their song, Apples and Pairs, this duo is so cutesy and sentimental they could be dismissed as schmaltzy, saccharine also-rans.

However, they incite smiles all round, and it’s hard to think of a more uplifting pair. Their bubbly personalities are so captivating, their cheeriness so infectious, that they can be forgiven any hint of mawkishness, and even a degree of technical buffoonery. Rebecca says she’s can’t play guitar, and does falter occasionally, but her lilting voice carries over any mishaps. In fact, these moments when their set breaks down are a vital ingredient of their charm as a live band. They glide over technical glitches with quips and easy laughter. Enjoyable to the last song, Slow Club Summer Shakedown gets their crowd jigging and ambling again in a Northern version of a country ho-down. More twee please!

In the heart of Dalston, drug down the end of a small alley road was a large garage with a little door. Through this door, more about a group of 24 artists showcased their work. Sculpture, cialis 40mg music, performance and photography took place in the old car workshop that was far away from the usual pristine white walls of gallery spaces and created a rustic, and inspiring location for this exhibition, MC Motors.
With flame heaters to warm those tootsies, and the symphonious sound of a violinist haunting the open rooms, I found myself immersed in the eclectic furniture and art.

Sitting on a small row of old cinema chairs, I watched Alana Revell-Rohr and Charlie Sekers’ presentation of two simultaneous slide projections. On the white and heavily chipped brick walls they had written sentences, which as the slides changed, made utterly random and odd sentences, such as ‘think of the possibilities…ginger used to some with us’. James Gillham‘s installation of a suspended boxing bag and a series of photographs of boxers faced Andrea Greenwood‘s gym bars. Christopher Patrick’s rusty, brass bed frame contrasted with his bunches of coloured pencils hung throughout the entire room (below). On the table, a small china ornament of a lady and a man, broken to reveal the river of red crystals. A giant blackened banana was decorated with white and red patterns by Ben Nathan, and Katie Miller had her photograph of a woman squatting on a wooden chair, with a large black paper cone on her head, covering her face; a surreal portrait perhaps.

Anna Sikorska had a giant installation of what looked like a huge upturned, dead flower, and a fully laid dinner table with knobs of butter. Molly Gibson’s photographs, portraying the different cultures of 5 shopkeepers, hung in the back room with the parked retro car. Up the spiral staircase, was a short film of an OAP in his residential home. “I eat porridge everyday,” said Gordan, a 62-year-old pensioner.

So there we have it, MC Motors, an exhibition heaving with expensive collectables made into art; a backlash at the contemporary, formal galleries with little imagination.

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Opening their set to the swaggering bombast of She Was Always Cool, approved The Brute Chorus performed with promising gusto. Not merely toe-tapping or leg twitching, more about their torsos were jerking around the stage as if possessed. Jiving in brogues and bathed in red light, it seemed as though they were auditioning for the devil himself. Their music comprised the marching drums of Archie Bronson Outfit conjoined with the hand-clapping skiffle-rock of The Rumble Strips.

The Brute Chorus shun the current vogue for lyrical mundanity espoused by their contemporaries Kate Nash and Jack Penate. They prefer to fictionalize experience into folk tales and femme fatales. The cantering drumbeat of Nebuchadnezzar accompanied reminiscences of an old flame: “she sucked the rings from off of my fingers… she made me forget I was a poor boy, she made me feel like a king”. Its thumping bass line and bluesy guitar was punctuated with kazoo, whilst Chateau featured a bass line straight out of The Cure’s Lovecats.

Grow Fins signalled a momentary dip as they tried their hand at a sing-along pop song. It was a faux-rock affair in the vein of The Zutons that bumpety-bumped along until the advent of a cheesy guitar crescendo, all topped off with a drunken sailor of a chorus, “Let it rain, yeah let it rain now, let it rain!”

Luckily, they soon reverted course to their garage roots. Vocalist Tigs joined them on stage for a rendition of their single The Cuckoo and The Stolen Heart, which sounded like The Noisettes taking on Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. A revengeful Poe-esque narrative told to foot-stomping country, the duet romped through Murder Ballads territory, effusing the folk-tale vernacular of Henry Lee with such lines as, “A heart that never loved can never bleed”.

It certainly seems a case of ‘better the devil you know’, for if only they would discard the weak pop songs and cultivate the rockabilly and reverb that they excel at, The Brute Chorus could go far.

A gallery. The wrong place for music. One table, order the kind you see wrestlers thrown through. An iMac, things with keys in strange places, dry ice, a sampler, a suitcase, something you’re supposed to blow, something marked “Korg”, a drum in the middle. A reverential silence. Two American-looking guys arrive, baggily clothed. They have surprising middle England accents.

They play some pretty plinky piano, a pleasant tip-toe on a keyboard. Here comes the fuzz. Effects pedal: on. Benjamin John Power, one of men onstage grimaces. He and his friend Andrew Hung sway to an inaudible beat. Then an angry growl oscillates your organs. It bursts and bounces around the room, which suddenly seems vast. An intense man in the audience purses his lips and nods along as if agreeing with every cascading sound wave.

Power felates a toy mic plugged into a toy radio and mimes frantic mouth movements around it. The result is distant death metal, obscured under radio static. Notes, oscillations and treated vocals are juggled in much the way you’d expect. You can freak out during music like this. “What is the mood? What is the point?” Perhaps it’s best to be content to just “experience” it. In general the guys nod, the girls watch as if in awe of some magical art.

Later we’re in a deeply unsettling dream. Alarms of every kind, and a wasteland of white noise. Tribal drums. It’s very po-faced. The vast, sprawling electronic noise is building to an evasive climax that you’re made to feel foolish for ever expecting. There’s a touch more form and order than most “noise”, but nothing discerningly clever or emotionally affecting going on. It feels dark and difficult. I guess my impulsive desire to write down a stream of evocative words as soon as they came onstage is proof that there’s something intangibly intriguing about Fuck Buttons‘ music. And I’d prefer to be confused, uncomfortable, even repulsed by music than bored.

But Fuck Buttons, as a wise quasi-racist man once sang, “say nothing to me about my life”. That’s no crime if you make something transcendent and immersive, but they’re neither. The music is distracting, rather than compelling. Neither admirable, nor charismatic, nor particularly fun. They turn into a mutant Underworld at one point, riding their first straight beat of the night, rocking out over their synths. It’s less cerebral, but immediately more brisk and arresting than anything else they’ve done so far. It feels like the segue between two really good songs in a DJ set. Once again, the pay-off never arrives.

I was extremely excited to go to the Skirt 1 exhibition at the Wapping Project, cure as the venue is one my favourite places in London and I always love what they put on…. I tend to bring people who have never been to introduce it to them. So I walked down the narrow road with my friend, chatting away through the gate.

Then ‘wow’…my legs had stopped and my eyes were taken by the installation. There, stood a tree full of yellow umbrellas, hanging from the all branches. The combination of bright yellow umbrellas against the dark of the night was just stunning! This made me much more excited to see what was inside.

At the reception, there was a very nice lady Julie Wright from The Wapping Project welcoming us in. ‘Wow’… my eyes sparkled with excitement. The room was full of leaves on the floor. It was like a recreation of a park in winter. All the red and brown leaves fell from the tree, and I could almost feel the wind come and sweep the leaves away… the place was surreal, but romantic and sentimental.

The exhibition presented skirts only, designed by students from the Fashion Department of the Fine Art Academy in Antwerp. 23 skirts were exhibited. All were very constructed and architectural. I was very impressed by all the little details that were put on the skirts. It was very crafty and utterly beautiful.

Skirt%201%20Wapping%20Project%201.jpg

Skirt%201%20wapping%20Project%202.jpg

Categories ,Art Skirt 1 Exhibition Venue London Tree Surreal Fashion Fine Art Architectural

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Amelia’s Magazine | Spotlight: Sophie Webb

Interesting facts about Sophie Webb.
– After graduating from Byam Shaw, buy information pills more about she went on to work with Damien Hirst amongst others before becoming a freelance illustrator.
– She is a semi professional Kristin Stewart lookalike
– She likes breaking into abandoned mental hospitals with her equally insane best friend.


And she makes amazing artwork. Juxtaposing subjects, Bill Hicks and Robert Pattinson per example, advice her work is crafted in a multi-media fashion, incorporating retro black labels, rizlas, hand illustration and mix tapes. Her collection which she has named ‘care packages’ consists of customised matchboxes, with tiny scroll within, reading quotes from authors such as Sylvia Plath and Paul Auster.

‘Portraits’, which is available for commissions, focuses rather on the subject’s taste rather than the subject themselves. ‘Lemmy Kilmister’ for a Kilmister fan is a psychedelic combination of sign language, illustration, handcrafted paper and a rizla, which fits together to encapsulate far more about the man than the run of a mill illustration. Collage seems to becoming to re-emerge in young artist’s portfolios, and I find the use of relevant materials, the rizla for example which I love the use of in context with the artwork, to be very fresh and relevant.


Sophie has abandoned a traditional art career path in favour of the freedom of working independently and focusing on the art that she wants to create, which has also taken place all over her body is a series of self designed tattoos. So what inspires Sophie Webb? ‘B.Dolan. Twilight. Bill Hicks. Twin Peaks. Cigarette boxes.’
Excellent choice.

For more information, contact simivalleysherri@hotmail.com for pricing.

Categories ,amica lane, ,b dolan, ,bill hicks, ,collage, ,lemmy kilmister, ,robert pattinson, ,sophie webb, ,sylvia plath, ,twilight

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Amelia’s Magazine | Tea and Cake, illustrated by Emma Block: Book Review

Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Amelia’s Magazine contributor Emma Block has been on fire this year – before she even graduated from her illustration degree she began designing a book for Hardie Grant Books, called Tea & Cake. It’s a beautiful ode to the wonderful art of, yup, you guessed it, drinking tea with a slice of cake (or a beautifully-made mushroom tart, a delightful macaroon, a gooey brownie… you get the picture).

Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
The book is entirely illustrated by Emma Block in her inimitable style, in dainty pastel colours and collaged reliefs. From start to finish her work is featured on every single page, from pretty floral wallpaper designs which denote the start of each chapter, to tumbling stacks of tea cups and steaming freshly made cream cakes. I’ve not had a chance to try out any of the recipes (put together by a virtually invisible team who only get a name check right at the back of the book) but I’ve already salivated over every page. It’s the perfect gift for a tea and cake loving friend – and whether or not they are able to perfect the art of taking cream tea (like seriously, who has the time?!) this book will inspire and create desire in equal measures. Perfect.

Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
You can buy Tea & Cake here.

Emma Block is featured in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, available here.

Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books
Tea and Cake by Emma Block Hardy Books

Categories ,ACOFI, ,Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, ,Brownies, ,Cake, ,Cookies, ,Emma Block, ,Hardie Grant Books, ,illustration, ,tea, ,Tea & Cake

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Amelia’s Magazine | Tent London 2014: Textiles and Surface Design

Zoe Murphy
Yes yes it’s been 6 months since the 2014 edition of Tent London but straight after the show I became ridiculously busy with my 10th anniversary Kickstarter project, That Which We Do Not Understand. I have always wanted to share my finds properly, some of whom I have already profiled at length on this website, and I’m sure this little collection will offer some refreshing and exciting inspiration.

Zoe murphy cushions
From Mexico to Margate was inspired by Zoe Murphy’s summer travels, and is the perfect vehicle for her zingy colour ways. Used to great effect on these cacti fabric designs on cushions. Spot also the Snarfle ghost hand.

Seven Gauge Studios
I love the new geometric woven fabric designs by Seven Gauge Studios.

Room 39
This wonderful new bedding and cushion collection is by Room 39. Designer Petra was also very helpful on the subject of crowdfunding, having funded the fragment bedding range through this method herself.

Sian Elin
Sian Elin excels in the creation of upbeat geometric designs such as these wonderful duotone cushions.

Louise Wilkinson
Louise Wilkinson cushion
As always I adore the designs of Louise Wilkinson, whose new fabrics are a touch folkloric, a touch Scandinavian and a touch of chintz: lots of fruits, vegetables and strange little animals.

Louise Wilkinson hedgehog
I think this gold hedgehog wall decal is out of this world, but she only made them as one offs for Tent. Don’t you reckon they would sell like hot cakes?!

Lorna Syson
It was great to see new designs by Lorna Syson mixing up birds and geometric designs: I’ve since discovered her new Broom and Bee design, which is absolutely magic – check her website to see it.

Otago Design mat
We spent some time admiring coir circle mats made in Africa for Otago Design.

Sonya rugs
Amazing crazy cool bright rugs are by Sonya Winner.

Rose sharp jones
I adore the subtle crochet cushion designs of Rose Sharp Jones: one of a new wave of crafters bringing this traditional technique into the 21st century.

Occipinti
occipinti textiles
Embroidery hoops are a wonderful showcase for fabrics by Occipinti. Find out more about the designer in my recent interview.

Tracey Tubb
These very clever and original origami wall coverings are by Tracey Tubb.

Natalia Yanez
Natalia Yanez utilises a combination of crochet and local Chilean basketweave techniques in her beautiful and unusual structures. Very clever!

candid fabric
These fabulous tropical fruit fabrics are by Hannah Rampley for Candid Fabric – a new project to support emerging graduate textile designers.

Beldi rugs
Beldi rug vintage
I am just a little bit in love with vintage Moroccan Beldi Rugs. These rag rugs cost a fortune but are ever so glorious.

Parris Wakefield additions
Paris Wakefield Additions has released a stunning new fabric design. Since last September I have had the honour of working with Sarah Parris, who produced a beautiful print for my special That Which We Do Not Understand 10th anniversary gold leaf range, available here.

Fanny Shorter
Fanny Shorter skirt
As always I love tropical loveliness by Fanny Shorter, looking wonderful in a pencil skirt made with her fabric.

Kitty McCall
Last but not least, I am enthralled by the colourful abstract designs of Kitty McCall. This fabric looks like a surreal mountainscape.

Read about furniture, lighting and other odds and sods here! All of these images were first shared on my instagram feed.

Categories ,2014, ,Beldi Rugs, ,Broom and Bee, ,Candid Fabric, ,craft, ,crochet, ,Fanny Shorter, ,From Mexico to Margate, ,Hannah Rampley, ,instagram, ,Interior Design, ,Kitty McCall, ,Lorna Syson, ,Louise Wilkinson, ,Natalia Yanez, ,Occipinti, ,Otago Design, ,Paris Wakefield Additions, ,review, ,Room 39, ,Rose Sharp Jones, ,Sarah Parris, ,Seven Gauge Studios, ,Sian Elin, ,Snarfle, ,Sonya Winner, ,surface design, ,Tent London, ,textiles, ,That Which We Do Not Understand, ,Tracey Tubb, ,Truman Brewery, ,Zoe Murphy

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Amelia’s Magazine | The Art of Fashion at the Whitechapel Gallery: In Conversation with Erdem Moralioglu

Joe Worricker by Karina Yarv
Joe Worricker by Karina Yarv.

Joe Worricker was indeed wearing stars on his face, generic as declared on twitter twenty minutes before I arrived at his gig. I could hear Joe’s idiosyncratic voice even as I raced into this industry thick showcase at new venue XOYO, buy located just behind the main Old Street thoroughfare. He was also wearing the same clothes that he sports in his Finger-Waggers video (digital download out this week, sales though as Joe was only too happy to admit, easily downloadable somewhere online for free.)

Joe Worricker-XOYO-Photo by Amelia Gregory
Joe Worricker at XOYO. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Joe Worricker by Sarah Ushurhe
Joe Worricker by Sarah Ushurhe.

A whole 45 minutes later I was still somewhat struggling to describe Joe, who sings with a session-type band that wouldn’t look out of place on the X Factor – but then this is the lad who auditioned for that very show… and was turned down. “I think they were scared of my voice” he told me in our earlier interview. And he does indeed have an almighty set of curiously old-fashioned lungs, somewhat at odds with his outwardly trendy demeanour.

Joe Worricker by Fay Morrow
Joe Worricker by Fay Morrow.

He swung through a set which included some slow tempo tales of weddings and fairytales, before returning to his trademark upbeat tracks. “We’ve got two fun ones now, don’t worry,” he told his many friends in the audience, including what I can only presume was his granny sat pride of place in the front row, and another relative who was doing his best impression of the funky chicken.

Joe Worricker at XOYO. All photography by Amelia Gregory.
Joe Worriker by Sarah Ushurhe
Joe Worricker by Sarah Ushurhe.

Joe Worricker is an intriguing proposition for Rough Trade. He’s poppy – he fronts a band without an instrument – dance-y, and a whole lot of soulful. Who knows where he fits into the current market place, but that distinctive voice paired with some jaunty tunes could well make him the next big thing. One thing’s for sure, anyone who puts their granny in the front row at their debut gig gets my vote. And bless, being the polite lad he is, he even thanked me on twitter.

Joe Worricker XOXO granny

Go check him out. And read my interview with him here.
Joe Worricker was indeed wearing stars on his face, about it as declared on twitter twenty minutes before I arrived at his gig. I could her Joe’s idiosyncratic voice even as I raced into this industry thick showcase at new venue XOYO, viagra 100mg located just behind the main Old Street thoroughfare. He was also wearing the same clothes that he sports in his Finger-Waggers video (digital download out this week, though as Joe was only too happy to admit, easily downloadable somewhere online for free.)

A whole 45 minutes later I was still somewhat struggling to describe Joe, who sings with a session-type band that wouldn’t look out of place on the X Factor – but then this is the lad who auditioned for that very show… and was turned down. “I think they were scared of my voice” he told me in our earlier interview. And he does indeed have an almighty set of curiously old-fashioned lungs, somewhat at odds with his outwardly trendy demeanour.

He swung through a set which included some slow tempo tales of weddings and fairytales, before returning to his trademark upbeat tracks. “We’ve got two fun ones now, don’t worry,” he told his many friends in the audience, including what I can only presume was his granny sat pride of place in the front row, and another relative who was doing his best impression of the funky chicken.

Joe Worricker is an intriguing proposition for Rough Trade. He’s poppy – he fronts a band without an instrument – dance-y, and a whole lot of soulful. I’m not entirely sure where he fits into the current market place, but that distinctive voice paired with some jaunty tunes could well make him the next big thing. One thing’s for sure, anyone who puts their granny in the front row at their debut gig gets my vote. Go check him out.

Being the polite lad he is, he even thanked me for coming on twitter.

Joe Worricker was indeed wearing stars on his face, this site as declared on twitter twenty minutes before I arrived at his gig. I could her Joe’s idiosyncratic voice even as I raced into this industry thick showcase at new venue XOYO, recipe located just behind the main Old Street thoroughfare. He was also wearing the same clothes that he sports in his Finger-Waggers video (digital download out this week, though as Joe was only too happy to admit, easily downloadable somewhere online for free.)

A whole 45 minutes later I was still somewhat struggling to describe Joe, who sings with a session-type band that wouldn’t look out of place on the X Factor – but then this is the lad who auditioned for that very show… and was turned down. “I think they were scared of my voice” he told me in our earlier interview. And he does indeed have an almighty set of curiously old-fashioned lungs, somewhat at odds with his outwardly trendy demeanour.

He swung through a set which included some slow tempo tales of weddings and fairytales, before returning to his trademark upbeat tracks. “We’ve got two fun ones now, don’t worry,” he told his many friends in the audience, including what I can only presume was his granny sat pride of place in the front row, and another relative who was doing his best impression of the funky chicken.

Joe Worricker is an intriguing proposition for Rough Trade. He’s poppy – he fronts a band without an instrument – dance-y, and a whole lot of soulful. I’m not entirely sure where he fits into the current market place, but that distinctive voice paired with some jaunty tunes could well make him the next big thing. One thing’s for sure, anyone who puts their granny in the front row at their debut gig gets my vote. And bless, being the polite lad he is he even thanked me on twitter.

Go check him out. And read my interview with him here.
Joe Worricker was indeed wearing stars on his face, story as declared on twitter twenty minutes before I arrived at his gig. I could her Joe’s idiosyncratic voice even as I raced into this industry thick showcase at new venue XOYO, story located just behind the main Old Street thoroughfare. He was also wearing the same clothes that he sports in his Finger-Waggers video (digital download out this week, buy information pills though as Joe was only too happy to admit, easily downloadable somewhere online for free.)

A whole 45 minutes later I was still somewhat struggling to describe Joe, who sings with a session-type band that wouldn’t look out of place on the X Factor – but then this is the lad who auditioned for that very show… and was turned down. “I think they were scared of my voice” he told me in our earlier interview. And he does indeed have an almighty set of curiously old-fashioned lungs, somewhat at odds with his outwardly trendy demeanour.

He swung through a set which included some slow tempo tales of weddings and fairytales, before returning to his trademark upbeat tracks. “We’ve got two fun ones now, don’t worry,” he told his many friends in the audience, including what I can only presume was his granny sat pride of place in the front row, and another relative who was doing his best impression of the funky chicken.

Joe Worricker is an intriguing proposition for Rough Trade. He’s poppy – he fronts a band without an instrument – dance-y, and a whole lot of soulful. I’m not entirely sure where he fits into the current market place, but that distinctive voice paired with some jaunty tunes could well make him the next big thing. One thing’s for sure, anyone who puts their granny in the front row at their debut gig gets my vote. And bless, being the polite lad he is he even thanked me on twitter.

Go check him out. And read my interview with him here.
Shea Alchemy by Cat Palairet
Shea Alchemy by Cat Palairet.

I am a big fan of cottage industries – after all, cialis 40mg I am one myself. In the first of an ongoing series that will profile ethical skincare and makeup brands, let me introduce you to Shea Alchemy founder Sally Mumford. Having discovered her creams some years ago (at a market) I can indeed testify that they are very yummy… Here she talks about how she set up her business and why it is possible to avoid spending a fortune on good quality natural skincare.

Shea Alchemy founder Sally Mumford by Charlotte Hoyle
Shea Alchemy founder Sally Mumford by Charlotte Hoyle.

What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

Shea Alchemy pots

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s Yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantic in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Shea Alchemy by Alison Day
Shea Alchemy by Alison Day.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

SheaAlchemyBottleIllustration_by_JessGu
Illustration by Jess Gurr.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Shea Alchemy by Karina Yarv
Shea Alchemy market stall by Karina Yarv.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

SheaAlchemy by Reena Makwana
Illustration by Reena Makwana.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins and pots – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Shea Alchemy Stall by Charlotte Hoyle
Shea Alchemy Stall by Charlotte Hoyle.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House Publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, salve being a practical kind of person, pharmacy (and miserly), diagnosis I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantics in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House Publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, rx being a practical kind of person, healing (and miserly), buy more about I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantics in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House Publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, viagra order being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantics in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
I am a big fan of cottage industries – after all, order I am one myself. In the first of an ongoing series that will profile ethical skincare and makeup brands, let me introduce you to Shea Alchemy founder Sally. Having discovered her creams some years ago (at a market) I can indeed testify that they are very yummy… Here she talks about why it is possible to avoid spending a fortune on good quality natural skincare.

What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House Publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantics in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
I am a big fan of cottage industries – after all, pharm I am one myself. In the first of an ongoing series that will profile ethical skincare and makeup brands, cialis 40mg let me introduce you to Shea Alchemy founder Sally. Having discovered her creams some years ago (at a market) I can indeed testify that they are very yummy… Here she talks about why it is possible to avoid spending a fortune on good quality natural skincare.

What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House Publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, viagra 40mg being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantics in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
I am a big fan of cottage industries – after all, cheapest I am one myself. In the first of an ongoing series that will profile ethical skincare and makeup brands, let me introduce you to Shea Alchemy founder Sally. Having discovered her creams some years ago (at a market) I can indeed testify that they are very yummy… Here she talks about how she set up her business and why it is possible to avoid spending a fortune on good quality natural skincare.

What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House Publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantics in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
I am a big fan of cottage industries – after all, pharm I am one myself. In the first of an ongoing series that will profile ethical skincare and makeup brands, let me introduce you to Shea Alchemy founder Sally. Having discovered her creams some years ago (at a market) I can indeed testify that they are very yummy… Here she talks about how she set up her business and why it is possible to avoid spending a fortune on good quality natural skincare.

What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s Yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantic in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via Twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!
I am a big fan of cottage industries – after all, dosage I am one myself. In the first of an ongoing series that will profile ethical skincare and makeup brands, web let me introduce you to Shea Alchemy founder Sally. Having discovered her creams some years ago (at a market) I can indeed testify that they are very yummy… Here she talks about how she set up her business and why it is possible to avoid spending a fortune on good quality natural skincare.

What did you do before you set up Shea Alchemy?
I was marketing manager at Random House publishers. Absolutely nothing to do with skincare. After having my kids I wanted to be around at home more so I went freelance from home as a graphic designer and copywriter. This all sounds totally unrelated but has actually helped me set up the business as I haven’t had to pay designers or marketing people which would have cost a fortune and I did know about running a business.

What prompted you to set up shop? Where did you learn how to make skincare products and where would you recommend that budding skin magicians go to train?
I went to stay with a friend in the States when I was a freelance designer and met a woman who was really into natural skincare who told me all about all the rubbish that is in so many commercial skin creams. I was pretty horrified and bought some ‘natural’ creams made by a company called Arbonne. I loved them but they were INCREDIBLY expensive. When they ran out I looked at the ingredients list and, being a practical kind of person, (and miserly), I thought I’m sure I could make this myself and save myself £100’s. So, I bought a natural beauty recipe book from Amazon and with Claire, my daughter, I set off to Neal’s Yard and spent a fortune on natural ingredients (far more than £100 in the end) and came home and had fun in the kitchen. We squashed beetroot through sieves, blocked the sink with melted beeswax and made all kinds of weird and wonderful concoctions. That was just the beginning but I got hooked on it. I did loads of reading, experimenting and talking to various chemists and toxicologists. I researched ingredient properties and finally, once I had decided I wanted to sell my creams, rather than just giving them to friends and family as I had been – I went on a course run by Aromantic in Fulham to find out how to make sure they didn’t curdle or go off and to learn about the legal side of things.

Why Shea Butter? Do you ever feel tempted to throw another substitute product in the mix?
On that first Neal’s Yard trip in 2003 we bought some shea butter just because it was in one of the recipes I fancied making. I really liked its texture and the feel of it on my skin. When I read about its properties I decided to make it the theme of my creams. Shea butter is fantastically good for the skin and has been used for centuries in Africa as a natural skin moisturiser. It helps heal scars, offers natural sun protection, soothes eczema and a whole range of dry skin conditions and is also used as a hair conditioner. We mix it with other ingredients though as in its basic unrefined form it is hard and wax like and needs warming before use.

How do you source your shea butter? What led you to Ghana?
We get our fairtrade, unrefined shea butter via a child rights organisation in Ghana called Afrikids and it is made in a woman’s fairtrade cooperative. Ghana is the main place for Shea butter and as a friend of mine had some Ghanaian contacts it seemed the natural place to head for.

What other products do you add to the shea butter and where do you find these?
We use organic oils such as olive, apricot kernel, thistle and avocado, aloe vera, horse chestnut extract and cocoa butter. We use spring water which we get from my cousin’s farm in Northants where they have a natural spring. They bottle and sell their water and I am sure this is why our creams are so good for sensitive skins because our water is SOOOO pure. We use an emulsifier – cetyl alcohol, which comes from coconut oil – to blend the fats and the water together. We scent the creams with organic essential oils. All our ingredients are sourced from different companies.

Can you explain a bit of the process behind the making your products?
It’s a cross between cooking and chemistry! Lots of heating, cooling, whisking and stirring. Heating has to be very precise and timing is crucial. In the early days we had loads of disasters with curdled messes in saucepans but now we have it down to a fine art. The cooks in the company are Prue (my sister), Emma (my oldest friend) and me. Emma has a science background and that helps a lot.

Why is selling in markets so important to you, and which markets do you sell in?
Selling at markets is great because it really keeps you in touch with the people who buy our stuff and what they want. We love the feedback and because we are a tiny company we can actually act on it. If people say they love the smell of geranium for example – we go and get organic essential oil of geranium and add it to stuff. If people show interest in hemp oil for example or blackcurrant seed or blackseed oil etc (as they have done) we can add it to products. We do have to get every recipe toxicology tested though before selling it so its not totally ad hoc. We sell at Broadway Market in London Fields every Saturday and Brick Lane Upmarket in the Truman Brewery on Sundays. We also do one off markets in York (we are there loads over Christmas), Suffolk, Brighton etc. Our website is regularly updated with our plans for the next month and every Friday we confirm our venues via twitter. I chose Broadway and Brick Lane as regular markets because they are GREAT venues and I love being there! Lots of people, lots of great stalls and really friendly stall holders. If I am going to spend my weekends working I want to make sure I am going to enjoy myself.

How do you work between Crouch End and York?
I am based in Crouch End and make stuff in my kitchen and sell at markets in London. Emma makes it in her kitchen in York,  services most of the web orders and sells at York markets. My sister, Prue, makes creams in her kitchen in Northants and brings batches of cream up to me on a weekly basis.

What are your new products?
Our new products are Cyclists’ Sore Bits Cream and Cyclists All Weather Face protection because we have had loads of cyclists asking for specialist creams – particularly on Broadway market. We also do a blusher and tinted moisturiser because it is simple to just add mineral tints to our existing creams. We don’t have plans to extend the make up range but these two products fit comfortably with the rest of our products.

All your products come in distinctive little tins – why have you decided to package them in this way and what inspired the distinctive bright design?
I just liked the idea of tins because they are really practical, unsquashable and have a kind of basic honesty about them – no fake bottoms here. I did some basic market research before becoming a Ltd company and the results of the survey I did showed that people wanted something a bit different that would stand out from the endless white boxes. I design all our packaging myself and I love bright colours. I looked at lots of Ghanaian batiks for inspiration and the borders of all our tins are based on a batik I liked.

Why are gift boxes such a good idea for a small brand like yours?
I think people like to buy presents that are packaged in some way so it made sense to put combinations of creams together. I have to admit I love little bags, boxes, tissue and ribbon so it gave me a great excuse to go and spend loads of money at the packaging factory!

What are your dreams for the future of your brand?
Oh wow … Well, I think we want to stay small. This company is a lifestyle for us rather than an ambition to make mega bucks. We like messing around in the kitchen and making lovely products. If we were to go into shops and get big, our recipes would have to be made in a factory, we would need a distribution network and a production line and who wants to spend their days dealing with all that hassle and the stress of borrowing large amounts of money? If we just sell online and at markets the other great thing is we can keep our prices very competitive because our overheads are massively reduced.  We do want to make a bit more money than we do at the moment though … I think online sales are the way to go. So check out our website www.sheaalchemy.co.uk and start doing your christmas shopping!

Erdem, online illustrated by Katie Walters

The Whitechapel Gallery is, this month, hosting a series of talks which see a host of London-based fashion designers in conversation with curator Kirsty Ogg. The first of these talks saw Turkish/English/Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu take to the stage. 

Personally I’m a massive fan of Erdem and the inherent beauty he’s displayed across collection after collection. Amelia’s Magazine supported the designer since his first show, with an interview and feature in Issue 08 of the printed magazine. It’s a shame, then, that we didn’t get a ticket to his most recent show so we haven’t covered his work in a while. Yes, they probably go faster than Take That tickets, but, y’know, we’ve been on the Erdem wagon longer than it takes to correctly spell his surname.

Above: Erdem S/S 2011 Below: Erdem S/S 2010, illustrated by Michelle Urvall Nyrén

After a warm introduction from Elle‘s fashion director Anne-Marie Curtis, who thanked Erdem for her wedding dress (cringe), the conversation began, as these things tend to, rather awkwardly. We got a brief synopsis of Erdem the man so far – he relayed stories from his childhood, described his Virgin Suicides-esque hometown and discussed his fascination with right and wrong. He’s a man after my own heart who has always been fascinated by women and the impact that fashion has on their lives. The contrast of cultures – a Turkish father, an English mother, a Canadian upbringing – has had a massive impact on the designer’s work and life. He has always been obsessed by reality, fantasy and femininity.

This unusual series of talks see fashion designers talk about the influence of the art world, generally speaking, on their work. Each designer has been asked to pick 10 pieces of art that they feel have been most inspirational. Erdem had hand-picked a wide range of pieces that had been influential, from centuries-old paintings to the work of modern photographers.
From Ryan McGinley‘s ethereal firework images to Singer Sargent‘s oil paintings, all genres were covered, with an unsurprising theme of women and figures running throughout. Here are a few of his picks:

Seeing Peter Doig’s White Canoe (1990-1) in oils appeared like a close-up image of Erdem’s many digital prints, but also evoked his own memories of growing up near this ‘large lake’…

Singer Sergant’s Madame X conveyed Erdem’s fascination with mysterious women…(detail)

Ryan McGinley’s Fireworks Hysteric was a combination of the female form and his obsession with reality…

Inspiration from Tina Barney’s Matador, from the conscious influence of Erdem’s detailing to the juxtaposition of the elaborate jacket with the crispness of the shirt and tie… 

While there’s no doubt that art and fashion are physically and psychologically intertwined, it did feel at times that the emphasis was on the deeper and often patronising themes that existed in Erdem’s choices. I would have happily listened to his dulcet Canadian tones wax lyrical about fashion than hear him struggle somewhat to form concepts from pieces of art that just weren’t there. ‘There isn’t really a meaning, love!’ I kept thinking to myself as Ogg tried to worm out themes from his choices. ‘Leave him alone!’ I forced myself not to say aloud. ‘LEAVE MY ERDEM ALONE!’ It was a little like sitting in on a psychiatrist extract information from a sane person who didn’t really need to see a psychiatrist.  

Generally, the idea of a fashion designer discussing his influences, and purely artistic ones, is a great concept, but what it didn’t need was patronising drivel. Just my philistine opinion, obviously.  


Illustration by Katie Harnett

You can catch Marios Schwab in conversation with Daniel F. Herrmann on Wednesday 24th November. Click here for more details.

Categories ,Anne-Marie Curtis, ,art, ,canada, ,Elle, ,England, ,Erdem Moralioglu, ,fashion, ,John Singer Sargent, ,Kirsty Ogg, ,Peter Doig, ,Ryan McGinley, ,Take That, ,Tina Barney, ,Turkey, ,Virgin Suicides, ,Whitechapel Gallery

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Amelia’s Magazine | The Ecologist Guides to Food and Fashion: an interview with illustrator Lucy Kirk

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to fashion cover

The Ecologist has just published two superb new books with Leaping Hare Press that detail the ways in which we can improve the food and fashion systems, both of which are so fraught with unethical and environmentally detrimental practices. The two petit guides are designed in an easy to read format and chapters are accompanied with some wonderful illustrations by Lucy Kirk, a contributor to Amelia’s Magazine and one of my star picks at her University of Brighton graduate show in 2012. Here she explains the process of working with The Ecologist and the creation of engaging illustrations from often difficult subject matter.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to fashion - cottonkiller

How did you get hired to create illustrations for the new Ecologist Guides?
I graduated from the University of Brighton in 2012 and during the final degree show Ivy Press visited the exhibition and later invited me and a few others to visit their Lewes office to show them more of our work. After a rather nerve racking (on my part) portfolio meeting, they kept my details on record. A few months later I received an email from James Lawrence at Leaping Hare Press asking if I’d be up for doing some initial drawings, which later lead to the project.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to fashion - harris tweed

What was the process of creation and collaboration with the Ecologist like?
The art director James Lawrence was great to work with, he sent me the authors’ written text and brief ideas he’d had as starting points for me to work with. This being my first major commission it was hard not to find it a little daunting, so having some key notes was really helpful. It allowed me to interpret the text creatively but not get to lost.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to food - WORKERS

How many images did you have to create altogether and how long did it take to get together all the images for both guides?
I think roughly about eighty. I started working on the project during the summer of 2012 but it continued on and off until november 2013. It was more of a collaboration to be finished as and when the text was complete. I think I preferred this process rather than a block of solid work, as it allowed me to approach each section of drawings with a fresh mind.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to food cover

What materials and techniques do you use when you work on line drawings like this?
As often as possible I like to work with loose cartridge paper rather than a sketchbook, a big pot of black ink (which I normally spill) and a new paintbrush. I like a tiny brush; the ones used for model railways are my personal favourite.

Where did you find inspiration for the images?
Sometimes from reference photography, if there was a particular message to portray or imagery I had no previous knowledge of. Other illustrations were inspired by things around me. My parents live on a farm in Nottinghamshire, which proved helpful when it came to working on some of the food drawings.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to food-packhouse

What was the hardest aspect of creating images to accompany often difficult topics?
I think it was hard not wanting to offend anyone, but James was good at suggesting alternatives and ways to avoid this. I found that trying to marry imagery to sometimes upsetting text can be tricky, but I think that overall everyone who worked on the books has done a great job.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to fashion - roadkill

What was the worst thing that you learnt about the food industry?
There were lots of interesting things I learnt about the food industry that I either knew little or nothing about. It opened my eyes to the conditions of workers that I think is sometimes easy to forget. The exploitation of some women working as tea pluckers in East Africa was particularly upsetting.

What was the most interesting thing you learnt about the fashion industry?
There’s a section on slow fashion which I think is great: it is the process of making clothing that lasts a long time and is often sourced and produced locally or via fair-trade. There’s more of a stress on quality of garments rather than quantity and it’s becoming more and more popular. If you are interested in fashion I think it’s definitely something you should be aware of.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to fashion - sew machine

Has doing this project altered the way that you relate to either fashion or food, and if yes in what sort of way?
Yes, I think it’s easy to turn our heads and forget issues that are happening around us and trick ourselves into believing we are not personally responsible. I’m not saying I’ve become vegan overnight but it has definitely made me become more aware. I think both authors approach both subjects in a way that’s an interesting and informative read and I’d recommend them to a friend. I’ve already leant my copies to my grandma.

Lucy Kirk - Ecologist guide to food - cows

What else are you working on in 2014?
As well as doing illustrations, I also co-direct a stationery business called Pen On Paper with my friend and fellow artist Millie Popovic, who is also a Brighton graduate. So day to day our time is taken up designing new products and printing orders. We have some events and projects later in the year which I can’t yet reveal yet but I am very excited about. But when I’m not screen printing cards, I’m working on a new ceramic series which hopefully will be ready soon. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to work with clay, so it feels good to go back. I’m also a new member of the illustration collective Puck and there’s lots of exciting things happening with them this year, which I’m looking forward too, including some exhibitions and maybe some publications.

The Ecologist Guide to Food and the Ecologist Guide to Fashion are out now, published by Leaping Hare Press and available from all good bookstores.

Categories ,Ecologist Guide to Fashion, ,Ecologist Guide to Food, ,Ecologist Guides, ,fairtrade, ,interview, ,Ivy Press, ,James Lawrence, ,Leaping Hare Press, ,Lucy Kirk, ,Millie Popovic, ,Pen On Paper, ,Puck Collective, ,the ecologist, ,University of Brighton

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Amelia’s Magazine | The London Zine Symposium – A little appreciation please!

thumbnail zine

The London Zine Symposium, viagra dosage held last week at the Rag Factory, was full to the bustle with a variety of cheery people, all sharing in the spirit of DIY; flicking and chatting, perusing and purchasing. Every struggle past skinny jeans and plaid shirts to arrive at each table was well worth the few minutes spent avoiding elbows and backpacks, as each stall held an array of crafty delights; carefully screen-printed A2 fold-out works of typography, pretty necklaces, vegan lemon cupcakes and, of course, the zines. Some full of doodles, some full of words, most an arrangement of both. Hundreds of thousands of words caught up in photocopied pages bound with staples and thread, heaped on the rickety wooden tables just waiting to be flicked through and absorbed; their art appreciated and ideas assimilated.
I bumbled in and dropped my last pennies into the ‘£2 Suggested Donations’ pot, thankfully leaving me bereft of coin and therefore not prone to the madness of trying to choose between all the amazing zines on offer.


Beginning with a leisurely stroll around the halls before the Creating Our Own Culture discussion, I checked out the monstrous creations and was suitably scared then hung out at the Zineswap table for a little while, having to turn down the offer to buy one of their freshly screen-printed canvas bags, and shuffled through their archives. Zineswap are aiming to be a resource through which people can swap their zines (bit of a clue in the name), as well as becoming an archive of contemporary zine publishing. They also happen to be jolly decent chaps, helping find the girl whose zine I was admiring but which was not in their swap box. Not actually being able to buy it, however, I glanced over her stall of zines about solidarity camps and living in trees, made a mental note to come back with cash, and scampered to the workshop space to hear Melanie (Colouring Outside the Lines), Em (The World’s a Mess and You’re the Only Cure), Patrick (Ricochet! Ricochet!) and Debi (Self-Publishing and Empowerment) chat about the subversive measures it takes to sidestep mainstream media, engage with like-minded people, form communities and get out there – even if you’re not sure where ‘there’ is.

The main themes which permeated the discussion were connection and visibility. Em started The World’s a Mess and You’re the Only Cure with a view to thanking empowering people, and also made fliers searching for anyone interested in making things happen, which she put around Sheffield. A few people got in touch (which makes me both despair at general apathy and be glad that there are those out there who do want to get involved!) and they then began setting up gig nights, organising little known bands from across the country to come and plays. She gets emails from all over about her zine, full of grateful and excited words, and says that once you put a zine out there, you don’t know how far it’s going to go, or who it might reach. Debi encouraged being visible; making your talents known to the wider world and skill sharing at every opportunity. The cover of her book was designed in return for guitar lessons. Finding mentors and creating networks can help no end and she recommends doing what you’re not supposed to do and going where you’re not supposed to go, and perhaps finding other people already there! The story of Patrick’s gallery is a great example of lodging where you already are and engaging in community. They found the space because he walked past it everyday on his way to work, and attended the local Resident’s Alliance meetings to promote their events and to find people to borrow ladders from.

Diy culture isn’t all share and share alike, kittens and roses though. Em mentioned that she sometimes pays the excess of gig costs from her own pocket and Patrick emphasised his lack of social life and the possibility of burn out if taking on too much. They both work a variety of part-time jobs to scrape the cash together for their ventures, but were very clear on that fact that they’re happy to do so because their diy projects are the best possible reason to go hungry or poor. (Patrick also steals stationary from his paid work. Handy!) The overall message of the discussion was ‘Get Out There!’ Connect with people via whatever means available and don’t be afraid to start something, offer something, ask for something. There are others out there who want to build communities, publish books, create art spaces and take back media; the trick is to find them.

Feeling thus empowered, I took another circuit around the stalls and introduced myself properly to Miss Tukuru who runs Vampire Sushi distro with Mr Carl, and from whom I had ordered a satisfying pile of zines earlier in the month. They stock mostly perzines of a feminist and/or queer slant, dealing with depression, sexual awakenings (or not) and just, getting along in the world. We talked briefly about my kodame tattoo and the Moomins before she whirled off to take a turn about the room. After browsing the Active Distribution stall, I had to run to a cash point. Apparently I can’t deny myself a good anarchist zine, so I bought three, as well as ‘zine and the politics of alternative culture’, a book exploring the history and theory of zines and how effective they really are in rebelling against the consumer society which tends to appropriate and recycle all forms of culture jamming and subversive media back into advertising (a form of recycling I’m against!). The friendly anarchist presiding over the stall loaded me up with flyers for the infoshop 56a and Pogo Café, a social centre in Hackney, currently looking for summer volunteers.

Having already spent more money that I really had, I decided to leave before getting sucked into the screen-printed beauty of the TBA table, the full colour photos and tales of adventure in Girl Photographer, the cute pony necklaces and the hundred and one other beautiful bits and pieces of display.

I’ll leave the last words to Em who reminded us all that ‘Zines offer an amazing opportunity to get your feelings out. You can put anything you want in a zine. Anyone can do it, in their bedroom. Zines create links with people all over the world, and bring a community to you, instead of looking to others.’
So check out all the links above to start making connections with a world of opportunity and a pool of skills for you to add to and draw from. Head to the Woman’s Library Zine Fest on the 12th June, check out Brighton Zine Fest and Leeds Zine Fest and GET INVOLVED!

http://www.zineswap.com/
http://vampiresushi.co.uk/
http://www.activedistribution.org/
londonzinesymposium.org.uk
brightonzinefest.co.uk
http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/thewomenslibrary/services/learning/learning-projects/zinefest.cfm
http://wemakezines.ning.com/
56a.org.uk
http://www.eleanorjane.co.uk/ (Girl Photographer)
http://www.myspace.com/zinefest (Woman’s Library zinefest)
http://tba-online.org/

The London Zine Symposium, order held last week at the Rag Factory, buy was full to the bustle with a variety of cheery people, page all sharing in the spirit of DIY; flicking and chatting, perusing and purchasing. Every struggle past skinny jeans and plaid shirts to arrive at each table was well worth the few minutes spent avoiding elbows and backpacks, as each stall held an array of crafty delights; carefully screen-printed A2 fold-out works of typography, pretty necklaces, vegan lemon cupcakes and, of course, the zines. Some full of doodles, some full of words, most an arrangement of both. Hundreds of thousands of words caught up in photocopied pages bound with staples and thread, heaped on the rickety wooden tables just waiting to be flicked through and absorbed; their art appreciated and ideas assimilated.
I bumbled in and dropped my last pennies into the ‘£2 Suggested Donations’ pot, thankfully leaving me bereft of coin and therefore not prone to the madness of trying to choose between all the amazing zines on offer.


Beginning with a leisurely stroll around the halls before the Creating Our Own Culture discussion, I checked out the monstrous creations and was suitably scared then hung out at the Zineswap table for a little while, having to turn down the offer to buy one of their freshly screen-printed canvas bags, and shuffled through their archives. Zineswap are aiming to be a resource through which people can swap their zines (bit of a clue in the name), as well as becoming an archive of contemporary zine publishing. They also happen to be jolly decent chaps, helping find the girl whose zine I was admiring but which was not in their swap box. Not actually being able to buy it, however, I glanced over her stall of zines about solidarity camps and living in trees, made a mental note to come back with cash, and scampered to the workshop space to hear Melanie (Colouring Outside the Lines), Em (The World’s a Mess and You’re the Only Cure), Patrick (Ricochet! Ricochet!) and Debi (Self-Publishing and Empowerment) chat about the subversive measures it takes to sidestep mainstream media, engage with like-minded people, form communities and get out there – even if you’re not sure where ‘there’ is.

The main themes which permeated the discussion were connection and visibility. Em started The World’s a Mess and You’re the Only Cure with a view to thanking empowering people, and also made fliers searching for anyone interested in making things happen, which she put around Sheffield. A few people got in touch (which makes me both despair at general apathy and be glad that there are those out there who do want to get involved!) and they then began setting up gig nights, organising little known bands from across the country to come and plays. She gets emails from all over about her zine, full of grateful and excited words, and says that once you put a zine out there, you don’t know how far it’s going to go, or who it might reach. Debi encouraged being visible; making your talents known to the wider world and skill sharing at every opportunity. The cover of her book was designed in return for guitar lessons. Finding mentors and creating networks can help no end and she recommends doing what you’re not supposed to do and going where you’re not supposed to go, and perhaps finding other people already there! The story of Patrick’s gallery is a great example of lodging where you already are and engaging in community. They found the space because he walked past it everyday on his way to work, and attended the local Resident’s Alliance meetings to promote their events and to find people to borrow ladders from.

Diy culture isn’t all share and share alike, kittens and roses though. Em mentioned that she sometimes pays the excess of gig costs from her own pocket and Patrick emphasised his lack of social life and the possibility of burn out if taking on too much. They both work a variety of part-time jobs to scrape the cash together for their ventures, but were very clear on that fact that they’re happy to do so because their diy projects are the best possible reason to go hungry or poor. (Patrick also steals stationary from his paid work. Handy!) The overall message of the discussion was ‘Get Out There!’ Connect with people via whatever means available and don’t be afraid to start something, offer something, ask for something. There are others out there who want to build communities, publish books, create art spaces and take back media; the trick is to find them.

Feeling thus empowered, I took another circuit around the stalls and introduced myself properly to Miss Tukuru who runs Vampire Sushi distro with Mr Carl, and from whom I had ordered a satisfying pile of zines earlier in the month. They stock mostly perzines of a feminist and/or queer slant, dealing with depression, sexual awakenings (or not) and just, getting along in the world. We talked briefly about my kodame tattoo and the Moomins before she whirled off to take a turn about the room. After browsing the Active Distribution stall, I had to run to a cash point. Apparently I can’t deny myself a good anarchist zine, so I bought three, as well as ‘zine and the politics of alternative culture’, a book exploring the history and theory of zines and how effective they really are in rebelling against the consumer society which tends to appropriate and recycle all forms of culture jamming and subversive media back into advertising (a form of recycling I’m against!). The friendly anarchist presiding over the stall loaded me up with flyers for the infoshop 56a and Pogo Café, a social centre in Hackney, currently looking for summer volunteers.

Having already spent more money that I really had, I decided to leave before getting sucked into the screen-printed beauty of the TBA table, the full colour photos and tales of adventure in Girl Photographer, the cute pony necklaces and the hundred and one other beautiful bits and pieces of display.

I’ll leave the last words to Em who reminded us all that ‘Zines offer an amazing opportunity to get your feelings out. You can put anything you want in a zine. Anyone can do it, in their bedroom. Zines create links with people all over the world, and bring a community to you, instead of looking to others.’
So check out all the links above to start making connections with a world of opportunity and a pool of skills for you to add to and draw from. Head to the Woman’s Library Zine Fest on the 12th June, check out Brighton Zine Fest and Leeds Zine Fest and GET INVOLVED!

http://www.zineswap.com/
http://vampiresushi.co.uk/
http://www.activedistribution.org/
londonzinesymposium.org.uk
brightonzinefest.co.uk
http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/thewomenslibrary/services/learning/learning-projects/zinefest.cfm
http://wemakezines.ning.com/
56a.org.uk
http://www.eleanorjane.co.uk/ (Girl Photographer)
http://www.myspace.com/zinefest (Woman’s Library zinefest)
http://tba-online.org/

Jenny Robins Illustration
Illustration above by: Jenny Robins

The London Zine Symposium – The Rag Factory, generic Brick Lane, page 29th May 2010

Zines piled on zines, upon comics, upon fanzines on top of stories and poems and doodles, limited edition prints amongst button badges and cupcakes. All sorts of stalls overflowing with any number of DIY publications, swarmed by enthusiasts all eager to get their eyes and hands on some original lo-fi press. A range of workshops and creative activities and some great food to boot. The London Zine Symposium, a little appreciation please.

Photography by: Jamie Harrington, www.ShitBirthday.orgPhotography by: Jamie Harrington

It is a thrill to witness so many individual people each with their own ideas about what constitutes a zine, what it means to make one, what it should be filled with and how it should be printed and sold, if it‘s to be sold at all. Each of these publishers deserve credit for resourcefulness and effort. They have a drive to get their message out and they will adopt any means to do so. To most it goes without saying, it’s what they do because they have to, it’s their means of expression, their creative outlet.

Photography by: Jamie Harrington, www.ShitBirthday.orgPhotography by: Jamie Harrington

The London Zine Symposium shines a light on the endless ideas, personality and uniqueness within these pages, each publication is a glimpse into the psyche of it’s maker. Zines are truthful, from the heart. Unadulterated creativity, undiluted expression. I witnessed zines of all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds. On all subjects. Some were twee, some vulgar, some were edgy, some were pretty, some were soft and small, some zines were shouting at you. There were geek zines, gay zines, zines for guys, zines for girls, zines for goons and zines for greens. I saw humorous zines, twisted zines, zines with belief, zines with a bit of attitude, pretentious zines, sinister zines, comic zines, zines for cat lovers, hand written zines, coded zines, zines in boxes, stapled, bound, buttoned, bent and probably in brail. Zines on posters. Zines made by one artist and zines made in collaboration, some displaying the creative outpourings of any number of people from any number of countries from every corner of the earth and all gathered under the same roof to be consumed by the alternative press loving public of London and beyond. It sounds corny but it’s true…It brings people together.

Illustration by Davd Blatch
Illustration by:David Blatch

There is integrity in this. You have pencils, paper and the drive to get your message out, you have a zine, something for people to hold and relate to, something for people to enjoy visually, aesthetically, something to cherish. These DIY publishers are special people with something of much value to offer, they have a vision of a world much more at peace, more intimate and with a strong community of friends at it’s core.

Photography by: Jamie Harrington, www.ShitBirthday.orgPhotography by: Jamie Harrington

There is a concentration of love and passion for the arts here that is hard to come across, a buzz of atmosphere and interaction, a melting pot of creativity that is a must for the fans and creators of alternative publications and an eye opener for those intrigued enough to come and find out what it’s all about. Events like this do a good job of bringing like-minded people together, it’s a great platform for upcoming artists and writers, a great opportunity to network and serves to highlight the brilliant diversity of this culture and guide it closer to the public’s consciousness.

The London Zine Symposium, a little appreciation please.

Words by: Matt Witt – www.creaturemag.com

Jenny Robins Illustration

Categories ,alternative press, ,Brick Lane, ,comics, ,DIY culture, ,fanzines, ,lo-fi press, ,publishing, ,rag factory, ,zine, ,zines

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Amelia’s Magazine | The Prince’s Drawing Clubs exhibition

princes drawing clubs portraits

Of all the art in Shoreditch, here’s some you should definitely see. It’s an exhibition of raw talent, and the work is done using the very basic method of drawing.

princes drawing clubs portrait

I say ‘raw talent’, but this exhibition shows what happens when talent is nurtured and directed. The four hundred drawings here were produced by children and teenagers in The Prince’s Drawing Clubs, a network of free after-school classes in London and Glasgow for 10-18 year olds who show a passion or aptitude for drawing. So this is the first work you’ll see by some of Britain’s best young artists.

Much of the work here is impressive full stop. You find yourself thinking “that’s really good”, rather than “that’s really good for an eleven year old”.

princes drawing clubs cat

I think the background to this cat may be a heavily-used litter tray. Genius.

The exhibition is in The Prince’s Drawing School, a four-storey Victorian warehouse near the upmarket intersection of Charlotte Road and Rivington Street. It’s all brick and cream walls, light and airy.

To maximise the hanging space on the ground floor, they’ve split things up with a maze of gallery walls. There’s lots to look at here, in any order you fancy.

princes drawing clubs show

princes drawing clubs show

princes drawing clubs show

You can tell some of the briefs that have been set. Self portraits (often cleverly framed in pairs by the curators). A horse. A meal. People dancing. Subjects as simple as drawing itself.

princes drawing clubs meal

Each piece is labelled with the artist’s name, age, and which drawing club they belong to.

There’s a long box of sketchbooks (sadly behind glass – I wanted to flick through).

princes drawing clubs sketchbooks

The drawing school is one of Prince Charles‘ not-for-profit organisations. He gets a lot of flack, but Prince Charles is doing something right here. My generation had Tony Hart as our drawing inspiration, and artistic ambition meant sending your best pics off to his Gallery in hope of TV fame. I’m not sure what the kids watch nowadays for art kicks (Art Attack with the ace Neil Buchanon ended in 2007), so it’s great that The Prince’s Drawing Club is continuing Tony Hart’s wholesome, studious approach to this art.

princes drawing clubs portraits

The exhibition makes you excited for the next generation. I particularly like the Drawing Club’s explanation that “drawing skills open doors to careers in the arts, design, architecture, and science”. Yes, science. Drawing makes you think about physics, biology, chemistry and maths, and can lead you down unexpected roads. All the drawings in this show are for sale, and the money goes directly to the artist, allowing these children and teenagers to see a real possibility of making a career from art.

princes drawing clubs dancers

The Drawing School also offers really affordable drawing classes for adults. Someone in my own class there mentioned how hard it is as an adult to draw freely, as children do. So if you’re inspired to take a class, or if you already draw, approach it with something of the free spirit you see here.

And if you know a child with passion and aptitude for drawing, get them involved.

The exhibition is free and runs until Wednesday 5th June 2013.
Find The Prince’s Drawing Clubs exhibition on Facebook.

Categories ,art, ,Art Attack, ,children, ,drawing, ,glasgow, ,london, ,Prince’s Drawing Clubs, ,Prince’s Drawing School, ,shoreditch, ,teenagers, ,Tony Hart

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Amelia’s Magazine | Tim Plester introduces ET IN MOTORCADIA EGO!

Motorcadia-Promo

ET IN MOTORCADIA EGO! is a spontaneous dream-poem that was inspired by The Beat Writers, American Counter-Culture and the iconography surrounding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Here film maker Tim Plester explains the idea behind his latest project.

Motorcadia-Promo

Teddy Roosevelt may have been the first U.S. President to ride in an automobile, but John Fitzgerald Kennedy will be forever remembered as the first to die whilst in one. Shot like a red grouse, on November the 22nd 1963, whilst incumbent on the backseat of an open-topped four-door Lincoln Continental convertible. The fatal headshot sent echoes around the globe, and was captured for all to see by frame 313 of the apocalyptic 8mm home-movie taken by local Dallas resident Abraham Zapruder.

Channelling the dharma-burn of Allen Ginsberg and The Beat Generation, ET IN MOTORCADIA EGO! is a cinematic poem, inspired by the rich iconography surrounding the events of that fateful afternoon fifty years ago. A deep dream echo, transmitted by a displaced soul marooned in a blistered corner of imaginary desertscape.

Motorcadia-Promo

ET IN MOTORCADIA EGO! was written and directed by Tim Plester, in collaboration with Lamb+Sea, and performed by Kieran Bew.

Categories ,Abraham Zapruder, ,Allen Ginsberg, ,American Counter-Culture, ,ET IN MOTORCADIA EGO!, ,Kieran Bew, ,Lamb+Sea, ,Lincoln Continental, ,President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, ,Teddy Roosevelt, ,The Beat Generation, ,The Beat Writers, ,Tim Plester, ,video

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Amelia’s Magazine | UK Uncut, Green & Black Cross, Black Bloc & the March for the Alternative.

March 26 2011-UK UncutUK Uncut gathers on the South Bank on Saturday 26th March 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Unless you have been living under a rock you will be aware that there was a huge anti-cuts March for the Alternative on Saturday 26th March 2011. In the days since then the press has been dominated with both outrage from the government that “hooligans” should be allowed to roam the streets, and on the other side, shock at the way in which once again the police and media have mistreated protestors. As anyone who was following me on Twitter will know I was involved on the UK Uncut action, which involved an occupation of Fortnum & Mason… yet another large corporation culpable of massive tax avoidance: This action led to by far the largest numbers of arrests and charges on the day: a staggering 138 of the 149.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

On my way through London I saw the most enormous amount of creativity, from pound coin shields to a Trojan Horse cunningly installed at the centre of Oxford Circus – and of course plenty of banners bursting with witty one liners: included in this blog post are just a few of the amazing sights from the day. With a march numbering possibly half a million and upwards (something the government has been quick to downplay) there were surely many great ones that I missed – especially the legendary message “I was told there would be biscuits” carried by a small child on someone’s shoulders. I broke away from the march early on to take part in UK Uncut actions on Oxford Street and then at Fortnum & Mason.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

Demonised by the press for their behaviour, UK Uncut have been quick to fight back with their version of events: really, the police and media should know better. Both UK Uncut and Green & Black Cross – the support network that provided legal observers and arrestee support – have grown out of Climate Camp networks and ways of organising to take on completely new identities of their own. As a result some of those involved are no strangers to wrongful arrest, police brutality and political policing: remember Heathrow, Kingsnorth, G20 and Ratcliffe anyone? These people know what they are doing; naturally the unfair arrests of UK Uncut was filmed and immediately shared, the footage unsurprisingly making the front page of the Guardian.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

Some people might wonder what on earth the links between the anti-cuts movement and Climate Camp are, but Climate Camp has always been rooted in a desire to address the social inequalities of capitalism – for example a breakaway group in London is currently looking at ways to campaign around fuel poverty. One of the favourite slogans at the COP15 Climate conference was System Change not Climate Change – we can’t cure the problem with simple quick fix answers, but rather by tackling the whole global neoliberal system. A brutal plan to cut services such as libraries and the NHS will undermine the fabric of a just society, affecting the poor most. Meanwhile the rich are able to avoid huge tax bills at a time when we desperately need to start building a green economy that is not based on endless profit. Clearly these inequalities are something that green activists are keen to tackle.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

Climate Camp has also always been a broad mix of liberalism and radicalism, so it’s no surprise that UK Uncut is as well. The very name Green & Black Cross indicates how the group combines the more autonomous anarchist streaks of activism with the skills, infrastructure and ideologies built up within the green movement. It supports grassroots social struggles in the UK and during the March for the Alternative the Green & Black Cross provided Legal Support, Action Medics and Action Kitchens. They even had a basic compost portaloo roaming the streets in a supermarket trolley – but in the event it was never used: it’s hard to get into a kettle once it is formed. They will be independently advising on all arrests during the day at a defendants’ meeting on Saturday 2nd April and were generally out in force to offer biscuits and legal advice as soon as arrestees were released.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

Since the arrests UK Uncut activists have had to field a barrage of commentary from the media, which has been ever quick to notice the anarchic element of their protest. Their sit in at Fortnum & Mason was largely peaceful – protestors ate their own sandwiches and listened to performances and speeches – but on Newsnight a spokesperson was asked to denounce all protestor violence. She did a marvellous job of neither condoning nor condemning it: there were people from all backgrounds in Fortnum & Mason. For some it will have been their first experience of direct action (read this shocking report of the arrest of a 15 year old girl) and others were part of the Black Bloc earlier in the day – the two are not mutually exclusive. UK Uncut has an incredibly loose non-hierarchical structure, and to be successful it must somehow find a place for those of all backgrounds.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia GregoryInside Fortnum & Mason. They look super scared don’t they?

Most UK Uncutters recognise that there is more to successful activism than a simplistic black and white damnation of violence, but the more liberal end of the spectrum may well be new to the idea that damage to property is not considered violence by many activists – see here for a definition – so there is going to be a rapid need to redefine and educate as soon as possible. Most of the targets for property damage on Saturday were well thought through – big banks that avoid tax, Topshop, BHS and so on. Who threw paint, and who broke windows? It’s not clear, but the targets were clear enough. Some people, whether you agree with it or not, think it is more effective to inflict damage on a well selected target than to simply march from A-B and then listen to speeches. After all, what did it ever do to stop the Iraq war? Direct action through the ages has proven that targeting property can be highly effective – the Suffragettes were never afraid of inflicting collateral damage. Last year at Climate Camp windows were smashed at the RBS head offices in Edinburgh to demonstrate concern against their continued investment in fossil fuels.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

By Trafalgar Square at night some rogue elements (possibly pissed up) were clearly provoked into throwing glass bottles at police, never something I would recommend however bad police brutality gets (and by all accounts it did get REALLY bad) because I personally don’t believe that violence against people is ever acceptable. But I do believe that the Black Bloc as a considered and thoughtful tactic is something that our movement needs: people who are willing to put their bodies and actions on the front line to stop those who are damaging the fabric of our “democratic” society. Many of them were very young, possibly disaffected veterans of kettling at the student demos last year – others were highly organised groups who came to join the march from across the country. Those involved will undoubtedly have slightly different views as to process and outcome but recent online dialogues prove that diverse parts of the movement are keen to work together. Rather than dismiss Black Bloc actions as the nihilistic work of masked “hooligans” we would do well to consider the underlying reasons why this is seen as an appealing tactic utilised by at least a thousand people last weekend. After all, we’re all in this together… and this is just the beginning of our future.

March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory
March 26 2011-UK Uncut. Photography by Amelia Gregory

Further reading:
Why Fortnum & Mason?
Video footage from the UKuncut action
An open letter from the Brighton Solidarity Federation of Anarcho-Syndicalists
People are worth less than property
A night in the cells is nothing to a lifetime imprisoned by cuts
Reasons why the cuts are a bad idea
Dominic Campbell experiences police brutality in Trafalgar Square
Political Dynamite: We should use the word violence with the greatest care.
Leah Borromeo: Protestors can’t disown the “violent minority”.
Why the UKuncut arrests threaten future protests
What is the Black Bloc? Information page.
Laurie Penny – What really happened in Trafalgar Square
My UK Uncut arrest made me a political prisoner
Climate Camp 2010 in Edinburgh – my commentary
Climate Camp 2009 in Copenhagen – my commentary part one, part two and part three.
G20 Climate Camp in the City – my commentary
Ratcliffe: Did PC Mark “Flash” Kennedy ensure my arrest as one of the Ratcliffe 114 ?- my commentary
Climate Camp at Kingsnorth in 2008.
One of the first UK Uncut protests: Sir Philip Green and his Topshop billions get the UK Uncut treatment.
The Third Estate: A message to Critical UK Uncut activists.
Latent Existance: a report by the 15 year old who was arrested.

Categories ,Anarchism, ,Anarcho-Syndicalists, ,Anti-capitalism, ,Anti-cuts, ,Banners, ,BHS, ,Black Bloc, ,capitalism, ,Climate Camp, ,COP15 Climate conference, ,Cuts, ,Democratic, ,Direct Action, ,Dominic Campbell, ,economy, ,Fortnum & Mason, ,g20, ,Green & Black Cross, ,Green New Deal, ,Green Party, ,Hooligans, ,kingsnorth, ,Liberal, ,March for the Alternative, ,Neoliberalism, ,Newsnight, ,NHS, ,Oxford Circus, ,police, ,Political Dynamite, ,Ratcilffe, ,Suffragettes, ,Tax Avoidance, ,The Third Estate, ,topshop, ,Trafalgar Square, ,Trojan Horse, ,UK Uncut, ,Veggies, ,Violence

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