‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ at the Croydon Park Hotel (August 2012) with Sandra Hutton-Miller

Croydon Television presenter/Stylist Guru, Sandra Hutton-Miller was joined by Fiona Coppard, from Smart Nutrition and Weight Management www.smart-nutrition.biz and Make-up Artist, Reshma Khan www.reshmakhan.co.uk to create a brand new episode of ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’.

Dressing for the board-room, dinner, relaxing at home, and for the boudoir were today’s styling themes. Our models were beautifully made up and henna tattooed by Reshma and styled to suit the occasion by Sandra.

Fiona bravely bared not just her own experiences relating to health, but also her body, wearing some of the skimpiest and sexiest of outfits; but to quote the famous Kenny Everett line “But all in the best possible taste”.  And as always, the magic wand of Ms Sandra Hutton-Miller brought a touch of glamour to today’s styling.

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Mr Brainwash – London exhibition, August 2012

The first European solo exhibition of Mr Brainwash’s work was held this month at the Old Sorting Office in Bloomsbury.

‘Mr Brainwash’ www.mrbrainwash.com/ is the artistic persona of film maker and Pop artist, Thierry Guetta; who has been hitting the streets of Los Angeles and more recently Paris, with his spray painted stencils and pop art inspired images.  His work continues to be sought after by art collectors and is much admired by street art enthusiasts; most certainly he captured the imagination of pop singer Madonna who commissioned him to design the cover of her 2009 greatest hits compilation CD.  He was also the subject of Banksy’s documentary, ‘Exit through the gift shop’ that became a hit at the Sundance Festival in 2010.

This latest display of work features iconic American and British legends, such as Mickey Mouse, made from recycled branded packaging; a life size London black taxi cab, cleverly packaged in a cardboard Corgi box; an oil painting featuring the mega stars David and Victoria Beckham, mimicking the portraiture of the 18th century; and a painting of our very own Queen Elizabeth II, smiling broadly with paint brush in hand, daubing the words, ‘God save the people’.  The latter work was emblazoned on the outside of the old sorting office building. Surely a clever marketing ploy to attract the public interest.

We were certainly wowed by this exhibition – feeling it truly demonstrated the breadth of Thierry’s imagination, his amazing creativity and passion for ‘Street pop art’.

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Inspiration from nature

Across the centuries Artists and Designers have drawn inspiration from mother nature. For example, a landscape artist spending time in Scotland would probably incorporate not just the colours but also the shapes, smells and textures of the highlands in their next masterpiece.

We recently spent a few relaxing days amongst the lakes and forest life in Finland’s Tammela, two hours outside of Helsinki.  Living deep in the forest, with a glorious lakeside view from our summer house, helped to created a calm atmosphere for reflection and relaxation. We studied the fluidity of water from the lake, the lively display of countryside flowers, and the variety of forms/shapes of trees in the forest.  This in turn

inspired us to create new card designs,
e.g. the image of trees clustered together create a ceiling of foliage and colour that is not just majestic but magical too. Rather than create a carbon copy image of the photograph we added warm colours for an autumnal themed work.
Wild flowers are an excellent choice for an informal or country style wedding. The pink and white shaded flowers and the natural greenery that we gathered in the forest created an amazing colourful bouquet.
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Suomalaisten Flower Workshop at Windsor, July 2012

Last month 17 Finnish ladies, readers of Viherpiha magazine, visited the UK for a tour of select gardens across the South of England. Some of the tour’s highlights were a visit to the Hampton Court Flower Show, Wisley Gardens and attending one of our half day workshops at Beaumont House in Windsor.  Despite an exhausting day at the Flower Show our ladies buckled down and enjoyed today’s session.

The Beaumont is set in amazing grounds of green       lawns and well maintained gardens, and so an ideal       setting for a flower workshop: www.beaumonthousewindsor.co.uk

Pasi demonstrated how to create table decorations and button holes using flowers and greenery that one might find growing wild in the countryside and a domestic garden.  Gathering the materials from the Beaumont’s gardens, the ladies – working in four teams, began to a series wild table settings. The finished creations were so good they could easily have graced the dining tables at Beaumont’s restaurant.

The button holes also looked superb; the ladies wore them for a photo shoot at the end of today’s session. How proud and glamorous you all look. Well done indeed!!

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Pride Life Magazine Launch Event, 3rd July 2012 – Grange Hotel, Holborn

As event planners we certainly appreciate the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at events such as this. In tonight’s case the toil really paid off, so well done to the Pride team. We must also acknowledge that Stephen Sohal, Director of Pride Life really worked the floor bringing people together as any worthy host should do.

Pride Life magazine is the voice of Gay Pride and features general news items, fashion, media and travel articles. This year’s summer edition features interviews with Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters, articles on pride events across the globe and some interesting interviews with men and women involved in surrogacy, and an exploration into why the pink populace love their pooches so much.

We love the informal but informative journalism and the diversity of the articles. The on-line version can be found at www.pridelife.co.uk

Late evening,  Editor in Chief, Nigel Robinson gave a very moving speech about the campaign work of Jason Pollock. Jason was also the founder Chairman of Pride Life Magazine who sadly died last year but whose legacy of good works will be remembered for many years to come.

Our great friend Sandra entertained us with her witty comments on life and received a lot of attention regarding her new tv star status.  And on the same theme, tonight’s entertainment included – Sax and Honey, a husband [sax] and wife [honey voice] duo www.saxandhoney.com; British Magic Champion David Penn, www.davidpenn.co.uk whose illusions amazed and wowed us; and the incredible Vanity Von Glow, who sang cover songs, adding his own very funny and clever libretto.

A warm thanks to all the staff at the Grange Hotel for their ‘can do’ attitude and to Steve and Emily from Pride Life for introducing to us to the Grange Management, as without that introduction we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to decorate for this great event.

We leave you with the magical image of Sandra and David Penn against the amazing skyline of our great city of London.

Finally, the Grange is one of the select hotel chains in our event portfolio, one reason being is they are located in some of the most exciting and vibrant places, including St Paul’s, Bloomsbury and Tower Bridge, www.grangehotels.com

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Flower Decorations for the Grange Hotel, Holborn – ‘Pride Life’

‘Pride Life’ magazine asked us to decorate the roof terrace of the Grange Hotel for an evening event recently. The white terrace and bar areas are starkly decorated in a very contemporary style; and the hotel’s in-house florist had already chosen pink and white orchid blooms to decorate these two areas. Therefore we wanted our floral displays to blend in with the existing decor. We chose the purple flowers of Agapanthus and Brodiea, and the Burgundy tones of Astilbe. The finished effect added warmth and our unique style to the atmosphere without disturbing the modern decor.

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The Weather, the environment and the impact on our emotions

The elements of our weather all contribute to the well being of nature and our human existence. For example, the dawn sun stimulates nature’s creatures to wake up, its rays literally bring light to our soul, and gives hope for the day ahead. Where as the setting of the sun signifies it is time to slow down, relax, and prepare ourselves for sleep.

Starting from top left, ‘Forest Light’ I feel a sense of wonder that I have entered a magical kingdom. I love the way the shafts of light are played out against the forest trees.

In ‘Sunflowers at sunset’ I feel the sense of power that the setting sun has over the natural environment, i.e. putting the flowers to bed. It also evokes a sense of hope that the flowers will be alive and awake again tomorrow.

I adore sunflowers and in this image, the upright stems and the farmhouse background help to create a sense of domestic harmony. The fluffy clouds, stretched out against a marine blue sky bring to mind happy memories of childhood holidays spent in the English sunny countryside.

I love the feeling of drama and excitement in this rabid image of storm clouds gathering. My imagination has also gone wild here, e.g. the dark grey cloud, in the left hand corner, appears to have talons that are encircling the sky; in fact if you look closely the white gaps in the centre could even be a pair of eyes looking down on us with a doom-like expression.

In stark contrast this peaceful reflection of nature could almost be an image from a children’s fairy tale. As children we loved to disturb the reflections in our local pond by skimming stones or creating whirlpools with a stick. Nowadays I simply love to reflect on the images in front of me. In this example, taken in France, I have captured the reflection of white fluffy clouds caressing trees in full foliage, thereby creating a sense of harmony and stillness.

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Flor Unikon at the Marylebone Summer Fayre, 17th June 2012

We were thrilled to be invited by our good friends at Skandium www.skandium.com to host another pop up shop, at their Marylebone branch, as part of the festivities of the Marylebone Summer Fayre, http://marylebonesummerfayre.com. This is an annual event that provides all the activities one would expect from a traditional village fete. Today the main high street and adjoining avenues featured a farmer’s market, craft products, food and drink stands, games for adults and children, plus a music stage that hosted some of the most promising up-and-coming acts in the country. Local food outlets and shops also opened their doors to their loyal customers and visitors. In fact from the beginning at 10am to closure around 6pm the streets were pretty jam packed. Food outlets did a roaring trade, children queued for cakes and events such as face painting and the tower of strength were buzzing alday.

Amongst all the hub hub of the stalls we were particularly impressed with two fashion outlets, e.g. Millie Manu, whose distinctive and durable clothing is designed and crafted in the UK, from fine natural fabrics, www.milliemanu.com Their ethos for sourcing from local suppliers comes from the desire to support the local economy and protect our environment. DePloy demi couture is a fashion label with a difference for the busy but stylish woman about town. Using discreet fastenings each fashion item is adaptable at the blink of an eye, e.g. a dress becomes a skirt and blouse becomes a dress, thereby providing the wearer flexibility in her daily fashion attire. For her 2011/12 collection, DePloy designer Bernice has used bold and industrial colours such as emerald, slate grey, blue and brown; and with her choice of fabric textures, from cashmere blends to satin silks, we believe she has created a very luxurious and stylish fashion range www.notjustalabel.com/deploy.

Today and for many years, the Howard de Walden family, owners of most of the Estate of Marylebone, have been the Fayre’s main sponsor. They strongly support the local community and sponsors other events such as the Christmas shopping evening,  www.hdwe/en/the-estate.

Traditionally the Fayre has not only helped to bring the local community together but has raised money for a variety of good causes. This year’s charity partner is Kids Company, whose aim is to support vulnerable young people through important life changes, www.kidsco.co.uk Throughout the day we saw various volunteers collecting for this very worthy cause, some were on stilts, others dressed as animals. In fact we spotted a giraffe playing with some very excited children one of whom was trying to wrestle the beast to the ground. Thankfully the boy’s mother rescued the poor creature from its fate who very gladly trotted off to find more charitable children to play with.

And Keeping to the charity theme, a local estate agent was brave enough to place his head in the stocks and have wet sponges thrown at him, all in a good cause of course. We are not sure if this event was popular because of the British tradition to despise Estate Agents, a wet and soggy revenge tactic perhaps ?? or because participants wanted to support the chosen charity. Whatever the reason a lot of fun was had by adults and children alike.

Meanwhile back at Skandium the crowd pullers of the day were not just our flower creations but the demonstrations of traditional chair weaving from the Danish based furniture company, Carl Hansen, www.carlhansen.com/ One of their craftsman with traditional tools wove a seat for a wooden dining chair. Years ago, reed was initially used in the weaving process but over time the strength of paper cord was discovered to be more suitable. Today’s craftsman, who with over twenty years of experience, demonstrated the strength and skill required to produce a chair that is as popular today than when it was first produced in 1908. The speed and dexterity of this man meant that he completed one chair per hour. Therefore one could watch the beginning process and then pop back fifty minutes later to seem him add the finishing touches.  Truly remarkable!

What was also great for us is that our 2011 Christmas customers stopped by to say hello and appreciate our colourful displays. For example, we decorated the external spaces with various sized vases filled with summer flowers such as peonies, alliums and roses, an aqua water garden with floating delphiniums, a pond with a floating wreath, and fresh white displays of roses and orchids. We sold many of the displays throughout the day and it feels good that our work is now decorating someone else’s home.

One customer thanked us heartily for making such a beautiful Christmas wreath for his front door. He remarked that several neighbours had knocked on his door to enquire

where he had purchased such a delightful decoration, ‘Was this a conspiracy?’ he jokingly asked.

It was truly delightful to be part of this fun event and so a big thanks to all the participants, our customers and our great friends at Skandium for allowing us to be there.

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Helsinki, the design capital of the world for 2012

Finnish brands and products are still very much in demand across the globe. This is hardly surprising when Finland’s designers and artists continue to amaze and delight us with new and exciting designs. We therefore personally feel that Helsinki’s world recognition as a design capital is well deserved.

During a recent trip to Finland we decided to find out more about its contribution to the arena of art and design. We began by exploring the countryside of Rimmi, west of Hameenlinna, meeting a local artist along the way; then moving further North we explored local art galleries in Hameenlinna and museums in Iittala; and finally spent time in the capital of Helsinki, drinking in some of its amazing deco inspired buildings and talking with local crafts people.

Rimmi is famous for its forest and large lake. The fresh water accommodates a large variety of fish species where as the forest has become a weekend haven for Finns. Taisto, a retired Forester, one of the local people we spoke to during our brief sojourn, has lived there most of his life amongst the wolves, bears and a handful of human neighbours.

A self taught carpenter, artist and sculptor he spends most of his retirement days constructing something that is not only practical but also beautiful to look at. Where as Picasso may have had his blue period Taisto has developed his artistic work through a number of mediums, moving from oil painting to sculpting and in more recent times constructing wooden furniture. The oil paintings mostly feature his colleagues in natural poses, with their tools, wooden huts, the magical lake and giant trees as backdrops. He has used rich autumn colours to create warm natural landscapes and cosy domestic settings. Each painting appears to be a nostalgic snap shot of his past than simply being an interpretation of forestry life. As he moved towards retirement Toista began to sculpt life size models of animals and humans out of wood, and later casting them in bronze. They along with his paintings have been placed amongst work tools and work benches in a series of out buildings. This leaves the viewer with a thrill that the artist has only just left the room, leaving us behind to preview his latest masterpiece. We love the bronze series of athletes striking action poses, e.g. ‘The runner’ with arms bent at the elbows and legs at full stretch appears to be sprinting the 100 metres. Another favourite is a plaster female head that stares wistfully out of the window “who is she waiting for?” we wondered.

Prior to our departure we asked Toista what work we had interrupted. He smiled and replied that he had been watching the tennis finals on television. Of course, even Artists deserve a day off!

The Hameenlinna Art Museum was the next stop on our artistic tour. One of the major exhibitions that run there until January 2013 features the major and minor works of the Finnish artist, Egon Meuronen. Principally known as a water colourist he later developed his own recognisable style of light and delicate brush strokes that were as translucent as the water of the natural world he portrayed in his pictures. He comments on his own artistic process by saying “I’m a colour ascetic. I use colours sparingly [blue/grey/yellow], but with these few colours I seek to bring out the entire strength of the subject”.  We can certainly appreciate that despite the Meuronen minimalist colour pallet he beautifully captured the tones and movements of storms, the fading light of autumn, the sighing of reeds in the sea breeze, the construction of craggy rocks and the artistic display of birch branches.

The retrospective exhibition of a lesser known artist of the golden age of Finnish art, Hannah Ronnberg [1860-1946] is a real treat for the eyes. For a woman born in a period where it was the norm to marry and bring up children she pursued a very different path. She was very active in the Finnish artistic community, painting mostly in oils in the naturalistic style that she had studied in Paris. She also wrote detailed travelogues, her memoirs and art reviews. Her use of colour was in direct contrast to the aforementioned minimalist style of Egon Meuronen. For example in her work, ‘Onningebymuseet’ the pallet of rich mossy greens create the forms of fields and trees, where as burnt reds and browns construct windmills, barns and mountains.

Another exhibition worth mentioning features a very recently completed collection of garden paintings from female artist, Salla Laurinolli. They all have a dream like quality due to the way she has captured the natural environment in an out of focus style.

Leaving Hameenlinna behind we pursued our journey to the artistic village of Iitalla. The museum of iitalla takes the visitor on a journey to the beginnings of Scandinavian glass design in 1881, to the more recent design trends. One can see from the earliest period that the natural landscapes of Finland inspired iitalla’s designers, e.g. the frosted glass and the water line outlines of Alvar Aalto.

At the gallery, Lumottu Puutarha is a temporary exhibition, ‘Naivistit Littalassa’ that runs until the end of August. What a delightful and colourful

collection of both sculptures and paintings. There are too many artists to mention but the highlights for us were the sculptures of Kikka Nyren and the paintings of Seua Levanto and Petra Heikila.

When we arrived in Helsinki we felt we had totally immersed ourselves in the Finnish art scene. But not completely as on the public pier we discovered a handful of crafts people, from wood carvers to jewellery designers.  Many were willing to pose for photographs and talk about their craft work. They were very passionate and this in turn made visitors want to buy the finished product.

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Flor Unikon at Skandium, RHS Chelsea week, 22nd-26th May 2012

On the Brompton road during one of the hottest weeks of the year we set up our pop up shop at Skandium for five days, as part of the Knightsbridge initiative to celebrate the Chelsea Flower Show.

Skandium sells the best of what has been produced by Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Swedish designers. The stylish furniture, vibrant fabrics, chic vases, and sleek household objects help to create an amazing collection that are as popular today as when they were first produced.

We decorated the interior and exterior settings with paeonies placed in Alvar Aalto vases; tall ceramic containers featuring white and purple aliums, with panicum grass that softened the arrangements beautifully; and miniature gardens that really wowed our visitors and customers, in fact we were given an award, ‘Best in show’ by  a group of very enthusiastic Australians. These pretty gardens helped to create a lively and scaled down version of RHS Chelsea.

A big thanks to Chrystina and her Skandium team for allowing us to be present. Finally a few words of appreciation to our new customers who fell in love with our work. We do hope you enjoyed the table arrangements that we made for you and your friends.

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