Pia Östlund & London Craft Week

Alice went to hear Printmaker Pia Östlund talk during London Craft Week.

London Craft Week ran from 9th-13th May this year, and there was a plethora of exhibitions, talks and activities taking place all over London. You could design your own loafers with TOD's, make a Turkish Iznik tile at the Yunus Emre Institute, watch a demonstration by the Little Globe Company (they make little globes), and even visit a Georgian-inspired kitchen designed by HOWE and Plain English. There was so much making taking place.A number of events caught my eye, and I was sad to miss out on glassmaker Jochen Holz talking at about his exhibition Superficies at Flow Gallery; and Michael Ruh talking about his collaboration 'Edition' with Another Country - take a look at their beautiful 'Cob Decanter' (I have a thing for hand-blown glass, it is just so incredible).Another event I was intrigued by was Dan Cox and The Room Service, in which he spoke about the ceramics he has made for his new restaurant Crocadon (they are super, Paul Mossman made the ceramics, and Dan Cox created the glaze).  And I am now just so so very excited about the launch of The Room Service - essentially an online platform which sells the beautiful items you often spot in hotels and restaurants - and having gone home and hunted high and low for on the inter web, can never ever find. The Room Service may well have them, go and have a look.One event I really wanted to go to, was a talk and demonstration by printmaker Pia Östlund, all about her journey into the lost art of nature printing. It took place on Friday evening, and I got rather a lot of friendly disbelief (you are going to a nature printing workshop and not straight to the pub with us?!).However I stood firm, and at 6.30pm last Friday, found myself on the top floor of Daylesford on the Pimlico Road, surrounded by a number of ladies of a certain age, who had all been enjoying a day out in London, and who happen to be incredibly keen on printing.And I am just so pleased that I went along.Pia, who is Swedish, was wonderful. She was so warm and friendly, and after everyone had finally got the correct cup of tea, gotten over the confusion of what exactly the talk was to be about (nature printing, not flower pressing) and taken a seat - she began.Pia is a printmaker and graphic designer, and has spent 3 years developing her own version of nature printing. She had discovered a book in the Chelsea Physic Garden library containing prints using a process she did not recognise. Delving deeper, she made her way back to the Victorian era and to Bradbury Wilkinson and Company who had used this specific method of printing (having acquired it from Vienna). At that date it had been used extensively for the printing of plants - the Victorians were super keen on their ferns. However, other than this history and the book she had, there was very little further information on the actual printing process itself.So Pia set out to try and recreate this process. She spent two years working with lead, with numerous visits to lead factories. She even went on a trip with The British Pteridological Society, to collect ferns to work with. Eventually finding lead just too soft a material, she ventured to Vienna, where, amazingly, someone dug up some uncategorised copper plates in the Botanic Library - which turned out to be the very ones used to make the prints in the book from the Chelsea Physic Garden. So she turned to copper, and after a period trying out all sorts of processes using metals, has since been producing incredibly beautiful prints of foliage and flora.I really enjoyed Pia's talk, and fear I haven't really done it justice (she has written a book with Simon Prett if you want more detailed info). It was amazing to hear her talk about her journey into re-discovering this lost art of nature printing, her love for her work, the ups and the downs, and her perseverance with it.After the talk, and another cup of tea, we all had a go at a earlier form of printing, recreating the finest details of leaves in oil paint. It was incredibly satisfying, and so easy to do, once you have the right materials.It was such a fun evening, and I am so happy to have spent my Friday learning all about nature printing.Thank you Pia!Alice xxx

Young British Designers

We caught up with Interior Design student Imy Green, and photographed her in her favourite pieces from Young British Designers current collection.

What are you up to at the moment?

Studying Interior Design at KLC School of Design, London

What is your design dream?

I think there needs to be a huge change in hospital design and I am going to make it my life aim to do this (I know it sounds impossible!)

Favourite designer?

Thomas Heatherwick - he’s just so understated but does such clever designs.

Favourite architect?

Zaha Hadid - I thinks she is amazing!

Favourite place in London?

Tate Britain

Which is your favourite piece from Young British Designers collection?

The Dark Romance Skirt by Kelly Love - so light and floaty but also so comfy!


Young British Designers

Photos Charlie Knight

Location: Chelsea, London

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Talking with Andrew Hunter Murray

Andrew Hunter Murray gets up to all sorts of marvellous things on a daily basis and makes us laugh a lot. He's a QI Elf, a co-host of the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast, a writer for Private Eye, a correspondent on The Mash Report AND a founding member of the Jane Austen themed improv-show Austentatious. Below he shares some wise words and a few of his favourite things.

What did you study?

I was an English student, which was extremely good practice for what I do now - frantically reading large amounts of information before trying to explain it to other people. Except now I get to make jokes instead of having to explain the themes of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which is just as well for all concerned.

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a writer, actor and QI elf?

By complete good fortune. I got a bit of work experience at QI just after I left university - someone introduced me to the producer, comedy legend John Lloyd, and I then pestered him until he caved and told me I could work there for a month. I spent four weeks finding things beginning with G (we were working on the G series at the time) and presented him with a dossier on Giraffes, Gemstones and Gambia. We’re now on P and they haven’t rumbled me yet.

What do you love most about your work?

When I was young I desperately wanted to find a career where I could a) read and b) write, and ideally c) make people laugh. I didn’t really think that people got to do this stuff for a living, so I’m pleasantly surprised every day to find out I’m wrong.

How do you prepare prior to going on stage / in front of the camera?

I worry, intensely, about whether the stuff I’ve got is funny enough.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

For god’s sake, if you’re wearing a suit, make sure the flaps of the pockets are out on both sides. That one’s courtesy of my mother. She did tell me something else, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.

Do you have a favourite Fish fact?

After 200 episodes, it’s basically whatever we’ve done most recently. But I do have a long-held soft spot for anything involving animals on parachutes. So, for example: during the second world war, the first allied combatants to parachute into Normandy on D-Day were a few German Shepherds, who were accompanying the first party of soldiers.

Do you have a favourite Jane Austen book?

I have written and deleted my answer to this one about five times. I go back and forth between Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. The latter is just an absolute Austen blockbuster with all your favourite hits: Persuasion is like her later prog-rock phase where all the themes are being played with greater maturity, and on weirder instruments.

Do you have a favourite writer (other than Jane!)?

Douglas Adams. And P.G.Wodehouse. And Terry Pratchett. Any of the amazing tradition of British humourists who create new worlds and then spend their lives roaming around them. But then again, if it’s Christmas and I fancy a nice murder, I won’t say no to a P.D.James, as she’s the absolute master of nasty murders by well-drawn characters.

What are you watching?

I’ve just finished Detectorists. The opening premise doesn’t sound like much - two middle-aged blokes walking slowly across a field with metal detectors, talking rubbish - and it slowly unfurls into one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, brilliantly-drawn sitcoms you’ll ever see.

What are you reading?

I’m flipping between a very weird book of sci-fi short stories called You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison, and some Grade A Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence).

What are you listening to?

The background hum of a washing machine. (A couple of my friends are so cool that they probably listen to bands with names like that. Just to be clear, this is just a washing machine).

What are you drinking?

I’ll have a half of cider, please.

Favourite word?

‘Rumble’, but only when preceded by ‘Let’s get ready to’.

Favourite animal?

My first ever pet, Lilt the hamster (1997-1999). In case you’re wondering, she’s not the answer to any of my security questions for my online banking, so good luck with that one, fraudsters!

Favourite place in London?

The water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, which is in the Embankment gardens. I frequently bore anyone unwise enough to walk past with me with stories about it, as my rapidly diminishing number of friends will tell you.

Favourite place in the world?

See above. And one interesting fact about the water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, is…no, wait, come back, this is good…

If you could have 3 people to dinner dead, alive or fictional who would they be and why?

I would have Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, and I would make them re-enact all their scenes from The Philadelphia Story until they got angry and left.

Parallel universe career?

If I can pick absolutely anything, I would like to be doing something very very similar, please.


At the Savoy Theatre, London: Austentatious

The podcast on tour: No Such Thing as a Fish


Collect 2018, Luxury British Craft

Alice went to Collect, to see all things handmade and collectable at the Saatchi Gallery.

I had a lovely time at Collect again this year. Held at the Saatchi Gallery, and organised by the Crafts Council, it calls itself 'The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects'. 40 galleries from 4 continents display the latest work by their 'makers'.  I really like this fair as there are all sorts of works, ranging from beautiful yet simple ceramics to entirely bizarre metalwork, handmade by contemporary makers.High end craft is quite a thing at the moment, we seem to be hankering after unique (often unattainably expensive) handmade works, in a rejection of the mass produced and machine-made, often cheaper stuff.There is also a very blurry line between what is 'craft' and what is 'art'. Some people define it by the materials used - textiles, ceramics and glass, versus pencil and paint; or the use of the object - craft often has a more practical use, art is to be displayed and admired. Possibly it is the way a maker or artist has learnt their skill, or maybe it is merely their intention when making a work, art is usually obliged to express something, craft is free of this prerequisite.But perhaps the rise of craft to a higher level - no longer is the skilled craftsman just replicating the templates of the designer, the craftsman is now also the designer - means that there does not need to be a distinction.Craft or art, or both, I very much like the objects on display at Collect. This year I went straight upstairs to see the exhibits in Collect Open, 'exploratory and risk' taking work by both established and emerging designers, chosen this year by Jay Osgerby, and was delighted with what I found.I will admit I was on a bit of a ceramics hunt, I have such a love for handmade ceramics, and this year I flitted through the rooms at a quicker pace, recognising some favourites from last year (ceramics by Valeria Nascimento and Domitilla Biondi's bas-reliefs carved into paper).However my absolute favourite display was Jilly Edwards' hand-woven tapestry. In a array of beautiful colours, she had chosen to display it on a plinth rather than the wall, to allow the viewer to engage with and explore the work further. Perhaps it was partly meeting Jilly that made this work even more special, but it really was captivating, I had to come back upstairs a second time to see it again.

Below I are my 5 top works by British makers at Collect, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Alice xxx

Jilly Edwards

It was so lovely to meet Jilly, and speak with her about her work. The way she weaves the different colours to create a painterly effect is absolutely amazing, and I love the arrangement of this work, with bright reds and yellows placed next to creamy whites and strong blacks.  She draws and paints her designs first, and then hand-weaves them. She also keeps every thread she uses, with the off-cuts being turned into incredibly satisfying small scale square tapestries. I loved this piece so much, the detail and the colour combinations, and it made me think about weaving in a completely new light.

Amy Douglas' works are super fun. She produces and re-configures 19th Century Staffordshire ceramics under the name 'The Art of Salmagundi'. Salmagundi is an old French and middle English word relating to a 'hodgepodge' of things - a mixture or variety of ingredients. Each of the Staffordshire figures she works with has a unique break or loss in the body, and Amy restores them with a twist, often using old folk tales and modern mythologies as inspiration. I love this work, and I love it's Title possibly even more.

Sue Doggett

I love the beautiful colours of this book cover. In Henry Holland's original drawings for the 'Hunting of the Snark', the ocean chart used by the 'sailors' was famously blank. Inspired by this, Sue Doggett has represented each of these 10 'sailors' by a directionless compass. The book is leather bound, using a three part construction. Natural goatskin has been dyed and painted with acrylic, and the boards and spine have been machine embroidered.  The paper doublures are hand-painted, and the end-papers are both painted and machine embroidered.

Lucie Rie

This tea set by Lucy Rie is part of the 'Masters of British Studio Pottery' display - co-created with the Fitzwilliam Museum - the aim of which is to recognise and celebrate the rise of collectable modern and contemporary ceramics.  I absolutely love Lucie Rie's work, she was primarily concerned with producing practical and functional wares, and her works feature 's'graffito' - inlaid lines - and thick textures applied with a course brush, coating very delicate pieces. This tea set is wonderful with it's washed finish in a white glaze and l love the curved shape to each piece and darker coloured edges. So beautiful!

Anna Barlow

I love this so much, a stack of incredibly real looking sweet treats made from earthenware and porcelain - the detail is amazing.  Anna Barlow combines different materials and techniques to create 'visual edibility' - capturing the way certain foods melt and ooze - with high-fired porcelain for the wafers and ice cream cones;  and opaque earthenware glaze for dripping ice cream.

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Everything I Avo Wanted

Emily discovers something incredibly exciting at the end of her garden...

They say money doesn't grow on trees - and I used to believe them. That was until I discovered the millennial equivalent of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ...

An avocado tree in my West London garden. Yes, you heard me, an actual avocado tree.

My bedroom looks onto the garden and occasionally I would see these green, pear shaped objects rocketing to the ground. At first I ignored them, assuming they were some weird urban fruit (I'm not from London). Then I took a closer look and assumed some extravagant Gatsby living above us was showing off his financial prowess by tossing these princely fruits at the proletariat. And then I completely forgot about it.

Since Tim Gurner's 'wise' observation that if all of us youths just stopped gorging on avocado toast for brunch, then we would be able to buy a house (FYI that is roughly 24,499 portions) my relationship with avocados has been particularly tense. Not to mention their extortionate retail price - and the roulette you play with ripeness (nothing worse than a disappointing avocado - I hear ya!)However, after venturing out last week, as the weather teased us with the promise of Spring,  I saw my mottled green friends lying listlessly on the paving stones once again, and this time I was determined to complete my avo-quest. The temptation of an avocado mine, glory and riches was too much to ignore.

I broached the subject with my housemates, who didn't seem particularly bothered by my exciting revelation, and seemed slightly concerned for my mental well being. Classic avo-haters. Undeterred by their unbelieving - I decided to turn to the experts.

Enter: Sarah Bray - expert horticulturalist, plant enthusiast and my mother. Your family have to at least to pretend to be interested in your mad capers - so I knew I would get some help here.

I ventured into the garden, found a suspected avo - cut it in half and sent my family Whatsapp group a pic. (I'm convinced if Poirot was real and in his 20s today - he would have done the same thing).



Needless to say the avocado was extremely hard and having had no confirmation that it actually was an avocado - I wasn't willing to sacrifice my poor stomach ...



She was very keen for me to eat one - however I still wasn't convinced.



A number of useful suggestions! Deciding that the plant fans were more likely to be on Twitter than Instagram - I took to the latter platform and got in touch with the Royal Horticultural Society:



And low and behold! They replied, CONFIRMING that is was in fact an avocado. Miracles do happen!



So there you have it. I have an avocado tree in my garden. If anyone has suggestions regarding how to ripen the fruit in the harsh, polluted London climate - please let me know. In the meantime I will be sitting in my garden getting smashed on avocado.

But the good news is now I can stop spending all my money on avocado toast and save up for a house instead.

avo and out,

Emily x

Designers to Watch, London Fashion Week 2018

London Fashion Week has started today, and I am always so excited to see the marvellous creations sauntering down the catwalk each season.  Below I have chosen my favourite looks from SS18 – some are big names, others just starting out, and all of them are featuring in London over the next couple of days.  I am always drawn to bright colours, clean cut patterns and clothes I might actually wear - I can rarely get on board with creations that are just so obviously never meant to be worn by anyone.I am particularly excited for the shows of Tata Naka - last season they created snappy dresses in bold prints; Emilio De La Morena - last season his collection was just SO fun, bright colours with a Clueless touch; Merchant Archive with their incredible gowns; Harman Grubisa for their colour clashing contrasts, Baia bags as they are just so beautiful (purple suede, yes please), Sevda’s butterfly print  leather backpacks, Lui Mei and their wonderful pastel outfits and of course Jamie Wei Huang’s colour popping pompom accessories :-D. And I haven’t included some of my favourites, Rejina Pyo, Sophia Webster, Fyodor Golan and Peter Pilotto but can’t wait to see what they have in store this season.Below are some outfits which I think are fun, and wearable, and a few that have been styled so well that even if you wouldn’t wear them every day, they are super outfit inspirations 😊.

Alice xxx

Valentines Date Night Recipe with Lucy Pea

Lucy Pea shares a delicious, quick and easy recipe, perfect for Valentines Day.

Valentine’s Day – always a controversial day with a bit of a Marmite vibe. Some people love it, some hate it. None the less, it’s a good excuse to get in the kitchen and cook something special for your loved one, housemate, best mate etc. So, here’s a really tasty, quick and easy recipe that everyone will love.So, who am I and why am I here - I’m Lucy, and I’m a self-confessed food lover. I’m literally obsessed. I’d spend every waking moment thinking about, talking about, cooking or eating food if I could. I officially work in advertising, but feeding people is what I SHOULD be doing.Follow me @LucyPea_Cooks and I’ll feed you virtually. DM me with a tempting enough proposal, and I’ll happily actually feed you.This Asian influenced marinated salmon dish is so easy, it’s my go-to when I want to recommend a stress-free recipe to friends. I’ve paired it with a colourful slaw salad, which is well worth the little bit of chopping required. You can easily put this together after work.The slaw champions seasonal ingredients that are readily available in the colder months of February, and the salmon is so easy you’ll (hopefully!) return to this again and again for a post-work feed!Top off your Valentine’s evening with my ready in no time pudding, satsuma segments dipped in chocolate and sprinkled in sea salt.

Asian influenced marinated salmon, with a colourful slaw salad

For the Salmon:

1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped (I cheat and use lemongrass paste)

½ thumb of ginger, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 bunch coriander

2 salmon fillets

1 tbsp runny honey

1 chilli, finely chopped

1 lime, zest a quarter

For the Slaw:

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 cabbage, grated

2 carrots, grated

½ pepper, finely sliced

¼ cucumber, peeled into ribbons

4 radishes, finely sliced


1.Mix the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic with the soy sauce and lime zest. Rub all over the salmon fillets.  Leave to marinate for an hour if you can, or 4 hours + if you’re really prepared.

2.Pre-heat your grill to 200C. Whilst the salmon is marinating, prep and chop all of the ingredients for the salad, mix all the vegetables together.

3.When you’re ready to cook the salmon, brush the ginger and garlic pieces to the side of the salmon (if they’re on the top, they’ll catch and burn on the grill). Brush the salmon with a little runny hunny and put under the grill.

4.Depending on how aggressive your grill is, after around five minutes your salmon should have a nice dark colour. If, like mine, your grill is a bit temperamental, keep half an eye on the salmon whilst it’s in there so it doesn’t blacken too much and start to burn. Once the salmon has browned on top, turn off the grill, close the door and leave the salmon in there for another five minutes.

5.Pour the marinade from the salmon into a bowl, add the juice of the lime and mix. Serve the salmon and salad, pour the marinade on top, and sprinkle over the chilli and chopped coriander.

If you’re particularly hungry, serve the main dish with cooked rice noodles or sweet potato mash.

If you really want a special evening, the best wine for this dish would be a dry Riesling or a Gewürztraminer, both which should hold their own against the richness of the salmon and the Asian flavours in the dish (I worked in wine before I worked in advertising. I like to pair food and wine…).

And for pudding...

If you want to make a simple pudding, why not make these chocolate-salted dipped satsumas too. They’re a tasty, winter-version of the chocolate dipped strawberry (save this for the summer when you can buy local, juicy-sweet strawberries). They are super simple and only take around half an hour to firm up in the fridge.

Salted chocolate dipped satsumas

250g dark chocolate

2 satsumas

Maldon sea salt


1.Peel the satsumas and take off the pith and separate out the segments.

2.Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie (aka in a heatproof bowl on top of a simmering saucepan of water).

3.Once the chocolate has melted, dip a half of each satsuma segment in the chocolate, put on a plate and lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

4.Pop in the fridge and bring them out when you’re ready to eat them! These will also keep for a day or two in the fridge so they’re perfect if you want to make them ahead.

LucyPea Cooks

Travelling in China

Palomi Kotecha shares her experiences travelling in China, along with her top tips if you are planning a visit. 

China doesn’t seem to be at the top of many people’s lists when it comes to booking a holiday. Despite having a fascinating imperial history, a cuisine that’s reached almost every corner of the world and a vast and varied landscape, it has a reputation for being quite difficult and inaccessible.I’ll be honest, China wasn’t the top of my list of travel destinations when I first went in 2015. In fact, it probably wasn’t even in my top 10. If I didn’t have a boyfriend who keeps inconveniently deciding to move out there (Beijing-2, Palomi-0) I probably wouldn’t have gone for a long time, and my initial reaction to having to travel out to visit him was more ‘needs must’ than gung ho.The image that I had, and that a lot of people seem to have of China, was ‘polluted, smelly, dirty, too many people’, and if you only spend time in Beijing or one of the other major cities, that’s probably fair. If you head out of the cities however, and you absolutely should, there are so many incredible places to visit; it’s an extraordinarily beautiful place, and really unlike anywhere I’ve been before. I won’t pretend to be an expert on a country that is immense to say the least, but here is a whistle-stop tour of the worst and best bits of my two trips.


First things first – Beijing sucks. I know that’s a wildly generalising statement, but honestly I think the city is the pits and reconfirms the worst of people’s expectations of China. The best description for it is hostile. It is polluted, dirty and you’ll do a lot of hopping out of the way of flying cigarette butts and people spitting.

That being said, I found the best places to go in and around Beijing are the ones which have a lot of green open space, including the Temple of Heaven Park, The Lama Temple, the Summer Palace, Fragrant Hills Park and 798 Art District (no green, but out of the centre and quite cool, if you like modern art…which I don’t, but it’s an interesting contrast to the rest of the city).

The subway is the easiest, cheapest way to get around the city, and you’ll avoid the traffic, but it is a rabbit warren. If you use it then plot out your route before you leave the comfort of your hotel's wifi. I had to ask for directions once and the first two people I tried literally turned their backs on me, the third (well-meaning) gentleman sent me in completely the wrong direction. If you use cabs instead, then make sure you have your destination written down in Chinese characters.Although a lot of the travel guides will list hutongs as something to visit while in Beijing, you're better off buying a history of the hutongs and settling in one of the city's hipster coffee shops instead. Most of them have been either been bricked up by the government, or horribly commercialised, (several are now home to Starbucks and McDonalds), and walking around the ones that are still residential feels more like poverty tourism than anything else. The coffee shops make for excellent people watching, especially in the 798 Art District.If you’re pushed for time then give the Forbidden City a miss, it’s not that great (don’t @ me). Although it’s listed on just about every ‘top 10 of China’ list, take it from me you’ll be missing very little if you don’t go. It is enormous, the sheer scale of it is mind-boggling, but there are almost no exhibitions on Imperial history, and limited artwork; what little there is there you will be fighting 10-deep Chinese tourists to get to, and it is all housed behind dirty plexi-glass. The only one worth seeing is the Imperial collection of clocks which are exceptionally lovely. Think parts of Versailles transplanted into Beijing. The architecture is impressive, and if you absolutely can’t leave it off your list then whizz through it and walk up to Jingshan Park which sits behind it – up a few steps is a pretty lovely view of an unlovely city.One of the best things about China is, because it is just so enormous, the food from the different provinces varies as much as if they came from completely different countries. We mostly ate in and around the residential district where Garrett lives, but one of the highlights of my second trip was trying Yunnan food at In & Out Lijiang, where the staff are exceptionally surly but the food was to die for. Be more adventurous than me and try the rice and pineapple dish which is apparently a speciality of the province...There’s also Beijing’s famous ‘Ghost Street’, which is wall to wall of hot pot restaurants. Go for a walk after dinner, in almost any neighbourhood you’ll find exercises classes and ballroom dancing taking place under the massive underpasses, and you’ll be encouraged to join in! Mostly so that they can laugh at the silly foreigner, but it does look like fun.

The Great Wall

I wanted to do one of the "wild wall” hikes, but Garrett vetoed it as I’m quite slow…instead we went to Mutianyu which is just far enough away from Beijing that you can escape the smog of the city. As with most places in China, go early to miss the crowds. Also as in most places in China, be prepared to become the tourist attraction, as being a foreigner (particularly if you’re white) is still a big deal over there. I went to the loo before we climbed the wall, and came back to a gaggle of schoolgirls asking Garrett for photos. They’d waited till I’d gone away to ask, clearly being Indian isn’t exotic enough! “Your boyfriend is so handsome, like Jason Statham!” one of them helpfully explained.We walked a bit further than the official end of the Mutianyu section of the wall, and explored some of the ‘wild wall’. Vast swathes of it have been dismantled by local villages for building materials, so much of it is crumbling away. As it is less explored it’s far more remarkable, but also a lot more precarious as there’s nothing either side of you except a sheer drop.If you go to Mutianyu you can take a toboggan ride back down to the bottom instead of climbing down or taking the cable car, which was pretty fun. Just don’t fall off!


Being totally honest – we barely saw the city. The only reason for going there was because - PANDAS.  There are several panda sanctuaries in Sichuan province; we went to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. Pandas are basically ridiculous drunk toddlers and I could spend hours watching them. If you’re partial to a bit of celeb spotting, the Chengdu base is also home to the panda that was the model for Po from Kung Fu Panda.Again, you’ll have to do battle with reams of Chinese tourists and the fact that the pandas go to sleep after lunch for several hours (sensible animals), so skip breakfast at the hotel, go early and grab a good lunch afterwards. We went to what is supposedly the home of Mapo Dofu. I had a great lunch – Garrett ended up with chicken feet, so order wisely.



This is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Jiuzhaigou is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a series of valleys and mountains and populated by nine Tibetan villages – they are pretty touristy as that’s the locals’ main source of income now, but still interesting to look around. The colour of the water is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and the pictures are not photoshopped, which is definitely what I’d thought before we went.It’s so beautiful that it’s a popular pastime for couples to travel there before their wedding, to have their wedding photos taken, and we saw couples in Yangshuo and in the 798 Art District doing the same thing. Pre-wedding photography is such a huge trend over there and so competitive that couples travel abroad to do it as well.Unfortunately the region was badly hit by an earthquake in summer 2017, but the government has committed a huge amount of money to restoring it and it should hopefully reopen again soon. As with all my recommendations – start early! Before the earthquake, as many as 40,000 Chinese tourists visited the park a day (although it’s so huge you’d hardly realise), so the earlier you start the more you’ll have the place to yourself. It seems to be one of China’s best kept secrets, as we only saw two other foreign tourists in the two days we were there.It’s either a 10 hour rickety bus journey, or an hour’s flight from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou; you’ll land at a tiny airport in the mountains, which is so rural that when we turned up two hours before our 8am flight back to Beijing it was still closed.

Guilin & Yangshuo

This was my winter 2017 trip over, and November actually turned out to be the perfect time to visit. The weather is usually c. 20-25 degrees, but it’s still considered off-season so the prices are quite low. We stayed in Guilin for one night, then took a 4 hour boat trip down the Li River to Yangshuo. The landscape is all karst mountains and rivers, and it feels a bit like you’ve wandered into a Tolkein novel, or Pandora. It is probably my favourite place in China so far. The scenery is so beautiful the government put it on the 20 yuan note, which is why almost everyone who goes there has a picture like this.We got pretty unlucky with the weather for most of the time we were there, so instead of all the hiking and cycling we planned to do, we took a leisurely bamboo raft down one of the tributaries of the Li River, which was a nice contrast to the large boat cruise from Guilin.We stayed at the Li River Resort which has a fab location overlooking the river and a brilliant restaurant. This is one of the few times I’d say definitely eat at the hotel, as the food was fabulous, and then go into the buzzy town for drinks on one of the many rooftop bars. A word of warning, there is karaoke everywhere and it is universally terrible.I also dragged a grumbling Garrett out of bed at 4am to climb Xianggong Hill to see the sunrise, but he agreed it was worth it (I think!)

Top tips:

Get your visa early – Chinese visa rules are weird and pedantic and change all the time. You’ll need several documents including a confirmation letter from your hotel and a return ticket, so make sure you leave enough time before your trip in case anything goes wrong.Be prepared to unplug. Chinese censorship is real and a pain in the arse, so unless you download a VPN you won’t be able to use a lot of things like Facebook/Instagram (!)/Twitter or Google. Also don’t make the mistake I did of trying to use Google Maps through a VPN because it is all wrong. Something I discovered trying to find the 798 Art District in Beijing and spent 45 minutes walking in the wrong direction towards the edge of the city…Express VPN is cheap and one of the best. I was out there at the same time as Trump and was hoping he’d manage to get himself arrested by illegally tweeting something outrageous. Alas.If you don’t speak any Mandarin– some kind of translation app is a must. Despite the emphasis on education, the standard of English spoken is far lower than you might expect, especially if you’re not in the major cities. Even if you do speak Mandarin, the likelihood is they'll be so surprised that you’re speaking in their language that they'll still get confused. (Happened to me with my pidgin Mandarin, but also to Garrett who is pretty fluent).Always order the aubergine. Even if you hate aubergine. Seriously.“I never imagined China would look like that” is what a lot of people said to me when I came back. Neither did I. It’s an incredibly beautiful, bonkers country, and although I wouldn’t choose to live there (and would quite like my boyfriend back), I can’t wait to go back, I’m already planning a third trip over (to Yunnan, because I can’t stop thinking about the food.)

Reading recommendations:

The Emperor Far Away, David Eimer

The Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan

Words and photos by Palomi Kotecha @pkthakkarphotos

The February Issue

Happy February!

We have made it here at last, I feel it has been a particularly never ending, rather blue January, and I was so happy to see sunshine, real almost-warm sunshine this morning 🌞It is also over two years now since I started the blog, and it seems to be growing steadily, or at least more people are arriving on the blog in search of something.I am forever being asked, 'What are your stats like?', although I never answer this question, as first of all it's very nosy (I dislike people who pry) and secondly I currently have quite a resentment towards the dopamine fuelled social media numbers game, the way in which a photo on Instagram or a blog post is classed as 'good' or 'bad' purely by the number of 'likes' it has received. Of course I check my blog stats, and it's nice to see a post has been viewed by a lot of people. But it's always nicer and more rewarding to hear just one person say they really enjoyed reading a certain piece.For me the blog has never been a way of gaining followers quickly. It was initially more of a personal journey, first as a way of documenting my activities and interests, and of sharing other peoples ventures, and more recently it has become a platform of sorts, on which other people can share their stories, knowledge and experience.It is constantly evolving, 'growing organically' as someone (who loves a good buzz word 😉) put it, and at the moment I see it as a bit of an experimental space, a place to try projects out (I loved our Millennial Mega Babe photo shoot), where others can share their interests (Sarah Cape's piece on artist Alicia Gradon), one in which they can be creative (I am a big fan of Olivia Dueser's illustrations), and one in which they can share their experiences (Flo Wollstonecraft's piece on life in Cairo).  And of course I am still writing lots, I am thoroughly enjoying interviewing people, and will be doing more, a particular highlight recently was speaking with Natasha Hulse.

And from March I will be mixing it up ever so slightly, with a bit more energy, and more content so do keep tuned in.

Below I have also shared a few things I have learnt about blogging over the last two years.

I hope you enjoy all the February posts and see you in March!

Alice xxx 💕👧

Blogging Realities

1.It is possible that for the first year, the only people who read your blog are you parents, your boyfriend, your dog and the boy who fancied you at high school but has never let on.

2.Some people will never understand why you are writing a blog (half of them think you are writing an open online diary, the other half haven't got the faintest idea what a blog is).

3. Some of your friends will never read it.

4.A lot of people you know will think it's just a silly phase.

5. Your Granny will however ask you regularly if you have done a blog this week, even though she can't see a computer screen anymore. This enthusiasm is worth all the silence.

6. It is incredibly easy to set up a Wordpress account and type out a few heart-felt posts. It's much much harder to keep up the momentum over a long period of time.

7. Blogging regularly is time consuming, particularly when you are fitting it around a full time job.

8. Having a blog plan is imperative,

9. And so is sticking to what you believe in.

10. The most reliable of people can be incredibly unreliable (best to move on), but the people who do take it seriously and share in your project make it completely worth it.

11. It is totally understandable that it is not the top priority on other peoples lists, although it is at the top of yours - you are constantly planning, reviewing, reassessing and moving forward with the next part of the plan.

12. Your friends will never accept that you can't come to the pub because you are 'blogging', best to say your at yoga or caring for your sick goldfish.

13. People don't 'just give you free stuff', you have to ask for it. If you are deemed 'too small' (too few followers) a lot of companies won't give it to you.

14. But then again, you're not writing a blog for 'the free stuff', this is not 1997.

15. Some people will however be incredibly kind, will help you out and will offer useful advice when they don't need too.

16. You will have many many blog crises, Why am I doing this? Why I am spending my time doing this? Why am I still looking at a computer screen once I've left work? Is it turning my brain to mush? When did I last read a book, do people even read books anymore?! Shouldn't I be moving offline completely? Isn't the internet an evil place?!

But then you will remember that really it's very enjoyable and really quite satisfying, and leads to many new and exciting people and opportunities.

And so I shall keep blogging for another year 💕😍

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The painting in the header is by Annabel Ridley

British Brands We're Loving Right Now

Alice takes a look at some British brands, and recommends her favourite pieces.

Blessed London

I love everything by Blessed London, jewellery in bright colours and fun designs, all hand made in London. 10% of every online sale goes to Caudwell Children, a UK charity that provides family support services, equipment and therapies for disabled children.  I love these Queen Bee Tassel Earrings, they are really light making them easy to wear all evening.

Octo Chocolate

I was very kindly given a box of these Craft Raw Coconut Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts recently, and have to admit the idea didn't hugely appeal. However when the cupboard was bare of all types of unhealthy chocolate, my eyes turned to these (a chocolate fix is a chocolate fix, after all), and I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised, they are quite delicious. So much so, that I can't wait to get my hands on another box. It turns out 'healthy' chocolate can taste good too - YES Octo Chocolate.

William Waterhouse

I am still totally in love with William Waterhouse's mobiles, he now makes a range of combinations, and I have this one very happily hanging from my (just about still living) palm plant.  They are rather magical, although Max assures me he could knock one up in about 10 minutes, I have yet to witness this. So for now, I may be buying another one to add to my collection... and do also have a look at Louisa Loakes' super designs once you've finished perusing mobiles.

Sarah Fennell

I really like Sarah Fennell's designs, beautiful bold brushstrokes of colours, I particularly like her lampshades, perfect for brightening up a room. Each lampshade is first stencilled and then screen printed onto linen using water based inks, and each one is completely unique.  So happy making, I really like this Melba Lampshade, her cushions are fun too.

Milk Tops

Now this isn't something I am currently needing (no babies on the way), but lots of my friends are producing offspring at a rapid rate and Milk Tops does exactly what it says kind of... Essentially they make nice clothes, clothes you actually want to wear, clothes you can wear and look tidy in, when you are breastfeeding. The designs are really nice, I really like their skater dress.

Joanna Cave

Always earrings. I love Joanna Cave's whimsical jewellery, I like that her pieces are often big, with very intricate, delicate looking designs. They remind me of Jan Pienkowski's silhouettes from his book 'The Necklace of Raindrops' - they would definitely be worn by a princess in a fairy take. I like these, Kalysta B, but she does all sorts, necklaces and rings too, do go have a look.

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Serial Flake?

Emily explores a widespread epidemic, the symptoms, effects and a possible cure. 

Imagine this.

It’s some time in the late 1950s. Doris and Bertha have (over the LANDLINE) arranged to meet at a trendy Soho spot for after-work drinks on Thursday to gossip and generally chew the fat. But when Thursday comes, Doris can’t be arsed - because she got a little crazy on Wednesday with Cynthia in Accounts and is hungover and wants to go to bed. BUT she can’t just whack Bertha a Whatsapp to lie about having terrible period pains to get out of the drinks. If she doesn’t show, Bertha will be left hanging, all tarted up with nowhere to go. And she can’t just call or message her - because A. mobile phones don’t exist yet and B. Bertha is out at meetings all day and therefore couldn’t be contacted on the landline - even if she wanted to be. So guess what? Doris has to go, hangover and all because she has no other choice. So she shows up and the two of them actually have a really great time.

What a dreamy state of affairs? People make plans and actually stick to them.

However today sadly the concept of reliability is so alien I bet Charlie Brooker makes an episode of Black Mirror about it.

As usual technology is to blame. Out constant state of connectivity means that we can formulate and cancel plans in the blink of an eye. Nothing is set in stone (or even in pen) and this has lead to the acceptance of serial cancellations. Our digital lives have made everything more informal, more detached. Where once one would receive and RSVP to a party invitation on paper, now we compulsively click ‘attending’ on Facebook events, with no intention of actually going. We speculatively make plans with friends weeks in advance, with no thought as to how we will feel at the time: perhaps we will be tired, or busy at work? But because we know that we have the option of changing plans last minute - we don’t consider the future.

This is what has lead to the emergence of THE  SERIAL FLAKES.

Flaking is a dangerous game, if done infrequently it can be fine, but like most things if done in excess - it can have disastrous consequences. Chronic flakiness breeds resentment and even if unintended can come across as exceptionally rude. It assumes that the flaker takes you for granted, and doesn’t value your time or friendship. Our time is precious and when frittered away by an inconsiderate flaker can cause trouble.


(I’ll admit that my own flakiness record isn’t exactly pristine. I’ve flaked many times on some of my nearest and dearest for a plethora of legitimate, such as norovirus, and non-legitimate, reasons aka I was tired and wanted to spend time alone watching Netflix. But I always try to manage the expectations of my friends and respect their time.)

From my perception of Flakers in the wild, I have discovered four prevalent types:

The Tired Flake

Our mentality is very much ‘work hard, play hard.’ This means that we are expected to give 100% to both our work life and our social life. So we plan, and we feel like if we don’t plan then we are somehow missing out. I have friends who I have tried to organise plans with and they don’t have any space in their diary for at least a month in advance?!  Extracurriculars are admirable and can be important for personal development - but that is just silly. But with our diaries choc-full of drinks, dinners, cinema trips, tennis lessons, volunteering, dates etc we eventually burn-out and that is when the ‘Tired Flaker’ comes into play. This is usually someone who has taken on too much and is so exhausted from their constant parade of engagements that they just need a break. They will be honest in their flakiness, they will give you fair warning, apologize profusely and rearrange (maybe more than once).

The Legitimate Flake

You can tell a legitimate flaker by the totally unexpected nature of the flake. Usually reliable in their organisation, they themselves will be just as surprised as you are by the flaking. It will rarely happen but when it does, be down to illness, work or a family commitment.

The Scatty Flake

You should never bother to make plans with the scatty flake. They rarely know if they are coming or going. They will probably have double booked you, turn up on the wrong day and if they do arrive, they will be late. They have no concept of time, or the importance of other peoples. If you do make plans with the scatty flake - make them at your own home so when they do cancel, it doesn’t matter.

The Distance Related Flake

Do you have friends who do their best to avoid travelling any distance out of their way? Who you always find yourself moving mountains to go an visit and yet there is no way they would ever return the favour? Those that fall into this category usually have a desperate phobia of leaving Zones 1&2. If you make plans with them outside their comfort zone(s) they will devise chronic lies to avoid travelling any distance. Best to meet them in Sloane Square.

The Lying Flake

This is the worst and most devious type of Flaker. They are the ones who will always wait until the last minute to flake. They text just a couple of minutes before you arrive for a drink to say they aren’t coming, or ruin a seating plan by cancelling at the last possible second before a dinner party. They will have a repertoire of excuses: ‘I had Zumba with my Granny’ or ‘I had to take my dog to the masseuse.’ You always know they are lying, either because they got a better offer, or they just can’t be bothered, but either way it is no way to behave. When making plans with The Liar - ensure it’s in groups of more than two, so they can’t totally ruin your plans.

Flaking is a vicious circle. In the worst possible way, I find myself feeling less and less bad about about flaking on my flaky friends. Which, I imagine leads them to flaking on me. And so round and round it goes, chipping away at friendships until there is nothing left except for a resentful mess.

Worse still is that flaking is now affecting bodies like the NHS - with missed appointments costing the health service nearly 1bn a year! It’s one thing to flake on drinks with Araminta at The Sloaney Pony on a Friday, but to flake on a GP that you have presumably booked an appointment with because you had some medical concerns - is in my (hypochondriacal) mind, totally obscene.

I was speaking to someone very wise about the flaking epidemic last week and he said that what we really need to do is:

Plan less and show up more.

And I am in total agreement.

Illustration Olivia Dueser

Words Emily Bray

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Natasha Hulse Design

Alice spoke with designer Natasha Hulse about her beautiful floral inspired designs.

I first met Natasha Hulse whilst I was working in a bookshop, she had come in to look for an illustrated book on trees.  We spoke about our mutual love for the English countryside, for plants and flowers, and also for doing things we love, agreeing on the importance of pursuing the things that make you happy.That was January last year, when Natasha was just starting out creating her beautiful bespoke headboards and since then I have been admiring her creations from afar via instagram. And so, this December, it was a real delight to be able to speak with her and take a look at her designs up close.Each of Natasha's stunning floral inspired designs is an intricate work of art, every piece is hand painted on linen, hand-embellished with embroidery and beading, and appliquéd in layers, creating a unique sculptural effect.  Her craftsmanship is exquisite, and the time, care and patience put into each design makes each one even more exceptional.Her bold semi-abstract rendering of plant life is delightfully enhanced by the structural origami-esque composition of each flower, and this unique combination lifts her designs to an almost fantastical level - you might expect to come across one of her flowers in an enchanted forest.  For me they cross the boundaries of design in an incredibly pleasing way, playing with composition, texture and colour. And each bespoke piece differs as her style continues to develop, creating an ever expanding variety, almost as though her evolving designs are imitating real plant life.Her designs, initially, were very neutral, with a timeless appeal, with blues, browns, whites and greens defining her colour palette. But as her style has developed and evolved, she has begun to work with bolder shapes and colours.Natasha enjoys the design generation process the most, and is inspired by nature and organic structures, from the foliage, ferns and mossy carpets observed when walking in the New Forest near home, to the wildflowers found on a trip to the Grand Canyon. She says she endlessly presses flowers, and uses them for design inspiration, her favourite flowers are the Amarylis, big and bold and the Poppy, so delicate yet so strong.  She is constantly discovering new flora, and a recent winter favourite is the bright colour of Barberries.Her first bespoke headboard was created as part of Kit Kemp's interior at the Whitby Hotel in New York, and since then she has worked with Colefax & Fowler on a number of designs. She has most recently branched out into cushions (I love her wisteria cushion) and a wall paper project with Kit Kemp.  Currently all her designs are one of a kind bespoke projects, but eventually she would like to build up a collection of signature designs for clients to choose from. And she is more than happy to branch out, she would love to create designs for covered screens and ottomans at some point.Natasha has been appliquéing garments since she was 13.  She took the BTEC at school, and was initially drawn to shoe design. She went on to study Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts, and took an Erasmus year in New York where she focused on digital design and pattern cutting as well as taking a ceramics class. After graduating she started her own womenswear brand, and went on to freelance for two womenswear textile studios first in New York, and then in London.She says it has taken her a while to find her aesthetic, and although it has been challenging at times, uncertain which direction to focus on as a designer, she feels that the process has been important. Time and experience have helped her understand which direction she is happiest taking. Working with clients and designers has been an important part of this process, and she says she greatly enjoys the direction and influence of others, allowing her designs to continually evolve, although never wavering from her initial concept.I loved speaking to Natasha about her work, it is truly beautiful, so if you get the chance to see it definitely do, she often sells her cushions at fairs, keep an eye on her insta for all updates. Her love for nature and for creating by hand is so refreshing in our fast-paced digital and all too consumerist society and there is so much to be said for beautiful design that is the result of dedicated craftsmanship.

Thank you Natasha, I can’t wait to see your next designs!

Alice xxx

Natasha Hulse


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