don’t give up the day job…

Having just finished reading the latest Garden Monkey entry on Quentin Blake, I began to think about the fantastical tales of Roald Dahl, most of which Mr Blake so wonderfully illustrated.

And, as my brain was wandering about, I remembered this little poem I wrote and illustrated many moons ago, inspired by good old Mr Dahl:

‘If butterflies were made of butter,

would they drip instead of flutter?’

I’ll leave you with that thought…

heroes…

Designers are often asked where the get their inspiration from, and recently I have been thinking about who inspires me. Plus, one of my favourite games is the ‘Dinner Party Game’ where you take it in turns to choose your ultimate guests for an imaginary soiree (except I was disqualified once for wanting Charles Darwin, who is obviously no longer with us – surely this is part of the point???)

Anyway – this little series will be a brief intro into people who I admire (for many different reasons)…

And the first candidate is… Sir Paul Smith…

Yep – the man who made multicoloured stripes fashionable. He has a massive fashion empire across the world, perfumes to his name and has a particular pull in japan, who go mental for him.

So, for a person who generally dislikes large industry, loves the handcrafted and not mass produced items, why is Sir Paul one of my heroes?

Well, one of my favourite books of all time is by Sir Paul Smith, and is my personal mantra – ‘You can find inspiration in everything, and if you can’t, look again’. Find a copy and read it. All of it. Then read it again. It is an insight into PS, his life, inspirations and aspirations and is a wonderful addition to a designers bookshelf.

He is also the true English eccentric, having a ‘stockroom of silly things’ which random people send him for fun and for inspiration. From stepladders to snowboards, they all collect there. I once made and sent him a Paul Smith Snatie – a snake made from an old tie, and I received a wonderful letter back, thanking me for the donation to the stockroom.

Despite his success, he seems to be down to earth, and regularly works Saturdays in one of his shops, alongside the part time assistants. He is connected to his roots.

He also breaks the ice at overseas meetings by pulling a large rubber chicken from his briefcase when he gets bored. I think he is close to a genius.

And in design terms, he is the king of the hidden detail – different colour buttons, inside pockets that flash lime green or neon orange -seemingly random yet utterly British. This covert design is wonderful – and really inspires me…

So – find the book and read it, or read this interview.

Sir Paul Smith – a British design eccentric…

bonjour mon petit chou fleur…

firstly – apologies for the written french above – it is probably wrong, but I’m sure you all know what I mean.

Yesterday we went to Boulogne on a daytrip. It was last minute, and free (other people had dropped out…) so we would have been fools not to go.
Travelling was by ferry, which my stomach was not very happy about, but after munching a few select pieces of ginger, and staying cold by being out on deck, I was fine. I even walked about without any hitches.

The day was cracking – blue, cold, quiet. The best. So – we went to Boulogne, ate some lovely mussels for lunch, drank some lovely beer. Then we had a wander about the old walled section of the town, which appears to be receiving some well deserved attention in the form of preservation and landscape redeveloping.

I think the french are much better at us with regards public landscaping, as they pay attention to places that we would just overlook. Some of it is not to my taste, but at least plants are there instead of concrete.

Pleached trees, clipped box and yew – the typical french bits were there, but also spotted some fantastic railing designs, highly considered paving lines and copper topped street lights that I wanted to smuggle home.

A lovely section was a large clipped yew pyramid, slightly offset yet perfectly reflecting the form and mass of the monument in front. Nice…

Then went to a terrible hypermarket where we did not buy booze, but stocked up on frenchie foods we love – good mustard, a huge and stinky smoked garlic plait and a box of my favourite things in the world – jewel like mini macaroons.

ah – j’adore la france…

mystery object revealed…

it suddenly occurred to me that I did not reveal the use for the random object I posted a little while ago.

well – just to remind you all, here is the object again.

and what is it I hear you cry? why did you use it as a girl guide???

I admit, they are slightly redundant nowadays, but the mystery object is… a tent post hook strap.

when camping (in an old tent I hasten to add, with proper ridge and central beam posts) you would strap this little gadget around a vertical post in the tent, the hooks would splay and hey presto, somewhere to hang bits and bobs away from the damp ground. clever eh?

I don’t live in a tent, so what am I using it for?

being lucky enough to live in a very old house, we have a few vertical beams, including an old oak post section with lath and plaster panel in the bathroom, so we have strapped this around the post (therefore not penetrating the timber with screws) and we hang our towels from it.

remember – nothing is redundant, you just need to think hard on how to reinvent it…

crunch day for the world…

i’ve been looking forward to this day for a while.

and even though I can do nothing about the result, i am glad that a certain George is being shunted off the stage.

lets hope that the americans do the right thing – they should (and who knows, maybe they did) have done it eight years ago.

what a different world we would be living in if Al Gore had rightly been given the presidency…

yuletide is a comin’…

the first weekend in november is very special in our house, as this is traditionally the time when we pick our christmas tree.

and before you ask, no – we are not one of those who put up decorations in september and live a year round crimbles. but, we do always have a real tree, and most importantly, a local and sustainably grown British tree.
so, the first weekend in november sees us tootling off to Wilderness Wood (a traditional working wood and education centre) in Hadlow Down, East Sussex to pick and reserve ourselves a tree for the yuletime celebrations.
this weekend was perfect – a bit chilly and misty, yet with the watery sun bursting through to warm the face. we arrived on the second day of reservations, and bought our tags at the barn (already up to number 100), before heading down to the plantation field which holds Douglas Fir, Nordman and Spruce.
we always have a Douglas Fir – a beautiful christmas tree for in the house if you can find one – they have fragrant, almost fluffy foliage, don’t drop too much (as long as you keep well watered and do not put into a sub-tropical centrally heated room) and also transplant very well once the decs are down.
like the children in the field, we ran about shouting ‘what about this one?’ ‘oooh – this one’ ‘I’ve found a good one…’ you get the picture.

after a little while we chose our tree – and here he is…
he will sit here until december, when we will go and dig him up and bring him home.
back to the barn for a mug of sussex tea and a slice of homemade carrot cake, then back home, filled with the promise of yule…

visit http://www.wildernesswood.co.uk/ for further info on the trees available this year, or visit www.bctga.co.uk/ where you can find other British christmas tree growers near you… reduce those miles and buy local…lets all have a greener crimbles…

greenwashing – no wonder we’re all in a spin…

claire potter design markets itself as ‘a small design studio committed to producing innovative, exciting and sustainable interior and exterior design’ Now, there is nothing in this statement which is not true. I go to massive and sometimes painstaking lengths to ensure this statement remains true. always.
But many companies have realised how the ‘eco’ and ‘green’ label can get them into the good books of potential customers. So they pretty up and promote the sustainable bits of the company to score precious brownie points with us all, hoping we will part with our pennies with a clean conscience.

this process is ‘greenwashing’ – basically like political spin for companies who want to jump on the eco bandwagon.
don’t get me wrong – I would want everyone to be on the bandwagon – as long as their intentions are true and they are not out to make a quick buck on the backs of those who really care. we should all be playing the same tune.
this ‘greenwashing’ of course makes it very difficult for the general joe who does care where those precious pennies go. marketing is such a strong weapon for companies, and truly is the reason why a lot of us buy certain brands over others.

So how can we make sure we don’t support the greenwashers?

It is very hard, but buying organic (which is certified), and local where you can helps to cut out a lot of greenwashing, and support small businesses, who usually care a lot more then the large guys. buy recycled items (check the back of items though and see exactly how much recycled bits are in there), and if you are going for a large purchase, try and check out the true eco credentials online.
an interesting site I have found is http://www.greenwashingindex.com/ which has much more advice about the issue. go and take a look – lets crack down on the greenwashers…

saw this and thought of you…

This one’s for the Garden Monkey – in true Post Office style:

‘I saw this and thought of you.’

How fitting…

Like it? Find it at http://www.plantstuff.com/

swishing – what’s new?

Those of you who know me well and even for those who have only just visited the ecospot, will know my obsession with all things eco.

Well, I have a new obsession – swishing.

This has all originated from the current BBC 2 programme – ‘Twiggy’s Frock Exchange’. The clue is in the title really – frocks and outfits are exchanged between visiting women, thus getting rid of that fashion disaster yourself, and swapping it for something more fitting…

Anything truly awful has the opportunity to be customised by a team from TRAID remade, and every week a designer give away is fought over by the ravening fashion hordes.

The idea is that we can all arrange parties to swap our clothes that we no longer like, get a new look for free, and help the environment to boot.

Call me cynical, but when I was younger, this was just called charity shopping, and yes, not free, but then the money was going to needy causes. And we ripped things up, painted things, and sewed them back together (badly) but hey – I was not going to see anyone else in the same outfit (sometimes a good thing)

Now, if we have to sexy up eco for the fashionistas – fine – every little helps, and better that we all swap or buy secondhand than new, but itself swishing is not new. We’ve been doing it for years. It’s just that now it’s fashionable – so my new obsession is not new, it’s just got another label.

I suppose ‘swishing’ is infinitely more sexy than ‘thrifty’…

crestie…

Crestie, as shown here, is my handknitted alien with a cause.

He was designed, and is produced solely for the Brighton and Hove Emmaus Goodwill Co-operative – a band of designers and volunteers who increase the value of donated stock for the charity by remaking, renovating and rejuvenating bits and bobs. It is a band we are proud to be members of.

Last weekend saw the official opening of the Goodwill Co-operative section in the Brighton and Hove shop, which was a massive success, taking over £200 in a couple of hours. From my Crestie to handknitted scarves, handwarmers, hats and jumpers, birdboxes, paintings, cards and other random toys – it was all there, and everything else in between.

Well done to everyone involved – especially Joel Lewis, Emmaus Business Manager, who dreamt the whole thing up.

In our area? Pop along and take a look…

happy birthday to me…

birthdays are always great, but this year I’ve had a fab one.

the day was blue, crisp, and smelt of winter. my presents included book vouchers (always welcome) some new Ilse Jacobsen lace up wellies in poppy red, and a new solar powered Roberts DAB radio.

breakfast was organic museli, tea was homemade chocolate truffle cake, and dinner was lamb tagine (and more cake…)

but the icing on the cake? finding out that my latest garden has got thorough the initial selection process for the Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship to be held at Malvern next May…
good birthday? bloody great thanks…

the garden of three r’s at Malvern

well, seeing as other people have managed to write some lovely bits about our recent show garden at Malvern, I thought it was pretty lame to have not covered it myself. very remiss…

so, here goes – the as brief as I can lest you all fall asleep description of the garden and what we got up to at Malvern…
‘the garden of three r’s’ was first staged at BBC Gardeners’ World Live in June 2008, and we were thrilled when we got a bronze medal and ‘the NS&I Peoples Vote’ 2008. people love a bit of ethics… anyway, we were invited to restage at Malvern, in the new edible pavilion for the Autumn Show, which was grand.

for those of you who are unsure, the three r’s stand for ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, and the garden was designed to be completely sustainable , in planting, materials used etc. many of the bits in the garden were either reused from an original life (like the planter for our black mulberry, which was an old oven casing bought at a scrap yard for £5) or recycled, like our fantastic recycled glass pavers from Enviroglass.

the main focus of the garden was the butterfly pavilion, which was made from a standard 6 x 4 shed, to show the general joe that anyone can have a bit of drama for not much cash. we split the front and back sections of the shed, flipped them around, and inverted the roof. because we had lowered the ridge line, we raised the shed up onto a plinth (clad in reclaimed aluminium printing plates) and added an extra ridge beam to take the new loads from the altered roof. recesses in the shed sides housed a beehive and a wormery, and the space both took up were made into the aluminium clad potting bench inside. all was given a couple of coats of a natural woodstain, and voila – one butterfly roofed shed.

the roof was covered with a new sedum and herb mixed blanket from bauder, and featured a solar panel to run the water feature, which was made from a wicked recycled plastic sheet with shredded bank notes in (ones that would otherwise have been burnt…). a valley gutter directed water front and back to a tomato filled trough or water butt, and the whole lot sat in a deck made from reclaimed scaffold boards.

my other obsession of late has been galvanised bits, and this garden was no exception, with a perimeter boundary of locally coppiced chestnut and reclaimed scaffold poles.

planting was fully edible (except the water lettuces) with a limited colour palette to reflect the modernity of the design.

well, did we get a medal? yes we did, a nice little silver one thank you. I would have liked the silver gilt, but I live to fight another day… and honestly, the best bit was talking to the public and spreading the eco word about a bit. (that was after I had finished raging…)

thank you to all those who visited the garden during it’s life (including some celebrities…). another drawing has just leapt off my board and into a submission for next year – will keep you posted on its progress…

laters all

can you guess what it is yet?

Ha Ha Ha…

supreme satisfaction will be the prize for anyone who can tell me what this little object is for…

clue: i used one of these as a girl guide, but found it today in the wonderful basement of Lewes Antiques Centre (see ‘claire’s little black book…page 1)
second clue: it is not remotely kinky.

so, can you guess what it is?

claire’s little black book…page 1

Not as exciting as it seems I’m afraid, but now and again I will let you lovely people into some little secret bits and bobs from my little black book.

Today has been a black book day, as we visited one of my favourite places in the south, Lewes.

Now, many of you will know Lewes, as every year it is the location for the most incredibly massive, diverse (and dangerous) bonfire celebrations. Bonfire societies are linked to different areas of the town, and compete for the biggest and best parades, displays and bonfires themselves.

If you have not visited this wonderful little town before, please do, both on bonfire night (where you will be scared out of your wits by people dressed as pirates and other things running through the streets with burning barrels and lines of firecrackers going off by their ears), and at any other time in the year. They are very different animals, and both are fantastic.

Anyway, back to the black book. Lewes is by no means a secret place, but as a designer who loves old stuff, it is a place of dreams. Crammed full of antiques and collectables, bits from France, rescued from old factories, it is all here, including a smattering of organic foodie places. It is my idea of heaven.

But there are two places of particular interest to those who do not have bottomless pockets, and like random things.
The first is Lewes Flea Market. Based in a converted church (methodist I think) there are stalls a plenty full of great things. I fell in love with a very old battered brass sink and inset drainer tray today, but could not think of anywhere to put it myself, or what client I could convince that this was the piece that would change their life. Still, someone will find it and love it.
The second is Lewes Antiques Centre. This is a series of stalls in a four or five storey building, with furniture, statues, garden bits and anything you can think of spilling from the floors. My tip? Head for the basement. It smells musky, is dark, and always cold, so not many people go down there. But if you do, you can unearth some real treasures, at bargain prices.

The galvanised tubs in our recent show garden came from the depths of the basement, for a bargain £15, as did our antique mussel collectors basket (a snip at £20), and some old spoons we used as hooks.

So – visit Lewes, and take a leaf out of my black book – visit the church, then head downhill and end up down stairs (metaphorically speaking if course).
Laters all xxx