RR Recommends: Ceramicists

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Object Enthusiast | Paper & Clay | Helen Levi | One Suite Studio
You may have noticed from a few of my posts that I have a thing for ceramics. There's something about their unique handmade quality that I find particularly beautiful, considering the love and time that goes in to them. I've mentioned a couple of times that my mum makes pots, but what I probably didn't mention is that she has a little studio down at the bottom of the garden Poddington Peas style (you'll have to have been raised in the UK to get that one), complete with potters wheel. Over Christmas I thought I'd try my hand at it. She's been making ceramics off and on for years - in fact it helped cure her post natal depression - and every time I go back to visit, I leave laden with bowls, pots and dishes in various shapes, sizes and glazes, which are currently spread all over the apartment - some purely for decoration and others that have adopted specific uses. My new year's resolution is to learn, as I've been looking for a hobby that doesn't give me square eyes. Last year I started following quite a few ceramic artists on Instagram, so thought I'd share a few of my favourites.
Are you taking up a new hobby this year? 

Paris Apartment Update

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

It's freezing cold and grey in Paris, so since I've been back I've been spending most of my time inside, cocooning as much as possible, cosy on the sofa, bundled under throws and drinking numerous cups of herbal tea - the January health plan is currently underway. I went on a bit of a framing frenzy at the weekend, so thought I'd share a little update. (There's nothing like nosy-ing around someone's home to distract you from your current task!) 

Furnishing the apartment these past few months has become an ongoing job and pleasure (read obsession). Yet at the same time I'm apprehensive about showing more and can already see things that need improving in the photos I'm posting - such as a new bedside table and lamp for example, but for now the boy's vintage side table and old Ikea lamp do the trick. We finally have a sofa, but still need a table, chairs, rug, curtains, coffee table, wardrobe… the list goes on. You can often find me staring across the main room envisioning various pieces of furniture and trinkets – mapping them out in my mind. The boy must think I’m a nut as I change things on a daily basis – I like to call it 'curating'. I’m a perfectionist and like things just so. There are a few corners I’m (almost) happy with - namely the fireplace and free-standing shelves we bought from Muji, which I’m constantly styling and rearranging. As the apartment is in an old Haussmannian building (big plus), we can’t fix shelves to the walls just in case they crumble down (slight negative).  There are already a few cracks, which I’m a little concerned about, which might scupper my prospective art wall of framed prints in the bedroom...

Atop the shelving, the print is from the newly renovated, Picasso Museum (a must see if you come to Paris). I'm a big art fan, but more and more prefer prints with minimal colour. I would rather have a neutral palette with pops of colour in the flat, a bit like the clothes I wear. The bowls were made by my mum who has been potting for years - I love the turquoise and blue colours. (My new year's resolution is to learn.) And I currently have a thing for copper and picked up the lamp and candlestick I picked up in Amsterdam. The apartment is slowing taking shape and it's feeling a lot more like home. I'd love to know what you think?!

Scroll down for a 'get the look' with links. 

Better Living Interview: Miranda York, Editor of TOAST

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I know Miranda from when I edited an arts and culture website back in London - she came to an event I was helping to organise and we clicked. After working as a freelance food journalist for various publications, she launched her magazine, TOAST, at the end of last year. What began as a conversation about food with a friend, quickly became a turning point and the start of a life changing project. First they launched TOAST food festival - inviting some of the UK's best food journalists, writers and chefs to talk. Off the back of that they continued to organise food events, but felt the need for something more tangible. A magazine was the best solution. It's a beautiful publication aesthetically, as well as beautifully-written, interesting, intriguing and inspiring. Instead of covering food trends, she (along with Assistant Editor, Sophie Dening), chose a carefully selected number of contributors to write what they wanted about food - there was no brief, it just had to be interesting. It's a celebration of food and ideas, and articles range from one in praise of crisps, a conversation about wine between Sager & Wilde owners, Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde, to a photo essay on the South West of England. It comes in the wake of a burgeoning British food revolution that is not only changing the face of food in Britain - putting fresh, locally-grown, organic products at the front of people's mind - but also altering its reputation on a global scale. I shot Miranda a couple of days after the magazine's launch, at a great French restaurant, Casse-Croute in Bermondsey, South London, just around the corner from where she lives and works. 

Scroll down to read the interview!

What inspired you to work with the food industry?
I stumbled upon the food world accidentally. After working at the BBC in current affairs I started writing for an indie food mag and became fascinated by the people I was interviewing and writing about. Everyone I met was so passionate about what they were doing, and so generous – I just wanted to be part of that world. I then worked for various travel and lifestyle magazines before going freelance and starting TOAST – which came about after of one of those crazy conversations with my good friend Sarah Chamberlain. We were longing for food events which delved deeper into food culture – and after speaking to a few people with encouraging words we decided to go for it and create our own!

How did the idea of a magazine come about?
The events we produce at TOAST are fun but fleeting. We wanted a way to gather our values, interests and ideas into something more permanent. With my background as an editor, a magazine seemed the obvious choice. Plus, after speaking to so many talented friends and colleagues frustrated with the industry, I wanted to create a space where people could write/photograph/talk about what really interested them – no restrictions, no subject off limits – if it’s a good story, we’ll print it.

They say Britain is going through a food revolution, how do you think the food landscape has changed in London in the last 5 years?
London is a really exciting city for food right now. There’s so much innovation, so many talented chefs opening restaurants and entrepreneurs starting new businesses. I’ve lost count of the number of restaurants opening each year (or each week!) but there’s no doubt London is a better city to dine out in. I love all the food markets popping up all over the city too – it’s an indication that people want to eat better at home as well as in restaurants.

The restaurant business is often fuelled by the next big trend, what made you steer away from the hype in favour of ideas?
For a long time I got caught up in the whirlwind of new openings and the latest up-and-coming chef, but after a while it became tiring. I stepped away from the hype and started to seek out genuine, talented, creative people who are striving to make something the best it can be – whether that’s a restaurant, bar, event, or a beautiful handmade ceramic bowl. Nowadays I’m much more likely to be looking around a tiny factory in Bermondsey where they’ve made stylish anodised metal trays since the 1930s, or searching for a railway arch in Peckham where they make fresh Mexican cheese, than trying to attend five launch parties in an evening. Though that’s still fun every now and then ;)

What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to start their own business or launch their own magazine?
Do it! It’s hard work and it’s a little bit crazy but if you have a great idea, then go for it. Surround yourself with people who support and believe in you and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

What was the inspiration behind the magazine’s design/front cover?
We wanted to steer away from the perfect shots of food you see on most front covers – food is messy, fun, communal, everyday – so we asked illustrator, Lara Harwood to create something that represented a meal just eaten, a conversation shared: the leftovers. Also, as we publish independently we weren’t tied to current magazine conventions – so there are no taglines, not even a barcode or price (we hid them inside the back cover), to allow the beautiful illustration to shine. I also liked the idea of the main image being on the back cover, just creeping onto the front – a reason to pick up the magazine and feel the thick, tactile GF Smith paper and discover what’s inside.

Foodies, chefs etc.. who inspire you?
My friends. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly talented people while creating this magazine and they have all encouraged and inspired me.

Last cookbook you cooked from?
Made in India by Meera Sodha. I’ve always been a little apprehensive about cooking Indian food at home (so many ingredients, such a long time cooking onions!) but Meera’s recipes are wonderful and never intimidating. The Keralan fish curry is my current favourite.

Last good book you read?
Ask the Dust by John Fante. Brilliant. Read it.

What’s in your magazine pile at home?
So many! There are magazines EVERYWHERE in my flat. I’m a little obsessed. At the moment I’m loving Cherry Bombe, an American food mag focused on women. Also, Cereal, Noble Rot, Lucky Peach, Vogue, Elle Decoration, Ernest, Lagom, Alquimie…I could go on forever!

Evening drink of choice?
Champagne. Or anything with dark rum in it.

Bedside table essentials?
Kiehls Crème de Corps, Plush Balm from & Other Stories, a good book and a glass of water.

Favourite London places for coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks?
Where to start… I live in Bermondsey and my favourite locals are Jose for tapas, Casse Croute for divine French comfort food, 40 Maltby Street for wine and sharing plates, and Bar Tozino for jamon. I also love Lyle’s, Som Saa, Quo Vadis, Tonkotsu, Sager + Wilde, Gymkhana… I’m very much looking forward to Bao opening in Soho (I’m obsessed with Gua Bao) and I’ve just joined Blacks members club – the perfect place for cocktails by the fire.

And finally, what is your definition of living better?
Eating good food with the people you love.

A Cornwall New Year

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

If you're following me over on Instagram, you would have seen a few snaps taken in Cornwall, where I spent my new year with one of my oldest friends. This part of the UK is beyond beautiful and I'm glad I had the opportunity bring in 2015 there. Despite feeling predictably ropey on New Year's day, I was luckily dragged out of bed to visit Porthcurnick beach. There's a cute little cafe, called the Hidden Hut on the hill selling ice cream and hot drinks. After a stroll down the hill in the biting cold and down to the beach to watch a few crazies run in for an icy dip, we lodged ourselves on a table to warm up over a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows. Ice-cream does of course go against said warming up attempt, but I felt that I couldn't come to Cornwall and not try Cornish ice-cream. I managed about 3 bites before my lips froze over, but it made a pleasing picture nonetheless, so obviously totally worth it.

The next day we visited Godrevy beach (the slightly sunnier photos), which has a lovely long, sandy stretch of beach and a brisk wind that helped blow away all those 2014 cobwebs. It really did me good to get some good fresh sea air, calming my mind a little before getting back into the work mode, as did the super-sized sausage, egg and bacon sandwich we had for lunch. How was your new year's? 

Winter Wardrobe

Monday, 22 December 2014

I am not built for cold weather. My hands are the first to freeze, then my feet, then nose and before I know it I need to be thawed out. I know that 'chilled to the bone' feeling oh so well - when they invent wearable hot water bottles, I will be the first to buy one. So this year, I vowed I'd be prepared for the first sign of frost. I bought my winter coat when it was still warm, having spied this dressing gown navy number in COS. It's over-sized, snuggly and keeps me warm. Better yet, it slots into my wardrobe.

Since moving to Paris and in my quest to live better, I've been trying to streamline said wardrobe and throw out the clothes that I don't wear, with the aim of building a uniform (note irony when you scroll and see the grey jumper/navy skirt schoolgirl combo) of items that are stylish, timeless and made to last. It's an ongoing task, this shopping better and only trying to spend money where it counts, (it helps to keep a list) and I am constantly on the search for classics that will last longer than a season. My taste is pretty minimal and varies between shades of black, navy, grey and white, with the odd shot of colour, usually in the form of lipstick. This winter, I have been literally living in a variation of the following looks, switching it up with a pair of jeans, white tee and navy cardigan  (I have a thing for navy right now). And thinking I perhaps needed a little more colour in my life, I bought the trainers to match my lipstick, yep not the other way around.

How much thought goes into your wardrobe? 

Photos by Hana Pedajnianska, edited by me.

Christmas on Columbia Road

Saturday, 20 December 2014

One of the things I used to love doing when I lived in London was spending my Sunday mornings wandering (make that squeezing my way) up and down Columbia Road during the flower market, to peruse beautiful fresh blooms, foliage, cacti and a variety of potted plants and herbs. As I was back in the Big Smoke last week, I thought it was high time I paid an overdue visit. It being the second weekend before Christmas, the place had been transformed into a winter wonderland, with Christmas trees everywhere. I knew it might be festive, but not quite the explosion of forrest greens, berry reds and golds it was - luckily I brought my camera.

I haven't been in two years - so long that I arranged to meet a friend at a cafe that no longer existed. Luckily we managed to find each other in amongst the crowds. If you've been you'll know what I'm talking about, but for the uninitiated, it's quite an experience to find yourself pulled into the steadily moving traffic of bodies as they drift up the street, momentarily stopping to admire a flower or to purchase a bunch, in between the loud hawking noises of the stall vendors ("TULIPS!! - 2 BUNCHES FOR A FIVER!"). It's almost meditative to get swept along by the current, as the throng of locals, tourists, pets, children and buggies push you through the most congested part of the street and out the other side, where you can suddenly breath with ease again. I went through twice to try and capture what I could, after grabbing a tea and a warm pain au chocolat (as if I don't get enough of those..), with my friend in a makeshift cafe, which looked like it had been set up in an old garage. Despite the doors being open, the light was streaming in (hence I had to snap Gemma's sun-drenched hands clutching her warm mug), so we stayed wrapped in our coats, perched on a couple of stools and caught up, whilst watching the world, as well as purchased Christmas trees, go by. 

A day in Amsterdam

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Last weekend we drove to Holland. Yes you can do that from Paris. You can even take the train - something I'm going to do more of, now having been and loved it and not wanted to leave... We stayed with friends in Rotterdam in their beautiful apartment (more about that later) and then had a day trip in Amsterdam. I'd heard good things about the city, although admittedly mainly memories from friends who had visited the city during their youth to try and get their hand on illegal substances of the smoking variety. Luckily the city has cleaned up its questionable reputation and is now a destination for design, coffee, shopping, sightseeing and eating - all of my favourite things rolled into one. We managed to pack in a lot in eight hours, but this is definitely a city you need to spend a good 2-3 days in to really make the most of it. Here's a quick little guide if you're planning to go below, and hoping you like the photos. (It's not so easy to stop and snap every five minutes when you have a man in tow...)

- Nine Streets (great shopping area, where we spent most of our time)
- Coffee and Coconuts (Amsterdam's newest hotspot for coffee and breakfast - it's a huge three-storey space in a converted 1920s cinema)
- KOKO Coffee & Design (good coffee and clothes)
- HAY (amazing design and things for the home)
- WEEKDAY (for jeans & clothes)
- Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum (great magazine shop where we spent a small fortune)
- Wolvenstraat (good lunch place for tasty pizzas and sandwiches)
- Bloemenmarkt (flower market)

KOKO Coffee & Design

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