Do What You Love interview – Su Blackwell


Today we bring you an interview with the fascinating Su Blackwell, a talented and creative lady who makes intricate art-works from every-day objects, and transforms books and clothes into spectacular three-dimensional forms.

“Paper has been used for communication since its invention; either between humans or in an attempt to communicate with the spirit world,” Su says. “I employ this delicate, accessible medium and use irreversible, destructive processes to reflect on the precariousness of the world we inhabit and the fragility of our life, dreams and ambitions.”

In 2011 Su set up her own business to work on a variety of projects, commissions and collaborations. Since then her exquisite work has been on display in galleries and museums all over the world and she has turned her hand to art-direction for commercials for clients such as Crabtree and Evelyn, Nicole Farhi, Volvo and British Airways. She has also designed fabrics for Liberty London, illustrated The Fairy Tale Princesses for Thames and Hudson Books and designed the set for The Rose Theatre’s production of The Snow Queen.

We were excited to hear more about her story… ~ Rachel

working on a commercial projectWorking on a commercial project

1. How are you ‘doing what you love’?

I’m doing what I love because I’m resilient, stubborn, rebellious, passionate and slightly obsessive about my work with paper. After leaving school and trying my hand at lots of different things, I stumbled into a textiles course run by the local college. While studying, I applied to local crafts markets, and I got a buzz out of people wanting to buy things that I’d made. I think this gave me the building blocks for understanding business early on. I continued to study art and textiles at BA and MA level, and was always hands on when it came to selling my work or working voluntarily within the community. During my studies, I gained a lot of different experiences, before becoming self employed, and eventually setting up my own company in 2011.

2. Tell us about your childhood; what did you do for fun and what did you want to be when you were growing up? 

I liked making my own entertainment and was happiest playing on my own in a small bit of woodland at the end of the cul de sac where I grew up in Sheffield. I built dens, climbed trees and imagined different Worlds. I dreamt of being an art student, but I didn’t dream of being a working artist, that just wasn’t in my vocabulary as a child. I remember going to the careers advisor at school, and saying I wanted to do something creative, and I think they suggested teaching. I didn’t have a formal art training until I was 20, and before that I used to paint and draw and keep scrapbooks from cut out pictures in magazines that captured my attention.

me painting in 1977 at 2 yrsMe painting, aged two

3. When did you first start making sculptures from books? 

The first book sculpture I made was using a book called The Quiet American which I bought on the Kao San Road during a month long trip to Thailand in 2003. It had beautiful, pictorial Thai inscriptions in the margin, and this provoked me to think about the book’s history, and how I could turn it into something tangible, and give it extra dimension above and beyond the text.

My father had passed away while I was studying at the RCA, and I was thinking about life, death, and the in-between. I cut moths from the book with a craft-knife. The piece was inspired by a Chinese legend, about two lovers whose souls re-emerge from burnt ashes in the shape of two moths. I felt bad cutting into the first page, but I had courage in my conviction knowing I could turn it into something magical. I began working with paper, because of its connection to spiritual rituals that I encountered in South East Asia and this was the beginning of what has become knows as my book-cut sculptures.

The quiet american 2007My very first book sculpture: The Quiet American

4. What are your favourite books and have these inspired any of your projects?

I think stories were an integral part of my growing up, I could identify with the characters in the books that I read. They opened up possibilities outside of my normal life. At school, I always felt like an outsider, looking in.

I especially love fairy tales, they are part of the national psyche and have such a universal appeal. I’m particularly drawn to European fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm. These stories have been with me since I can remember. Fairy tales work on so many levels, therefore they are an endless pot of inspiration.

5. Where do you find the books you use for your art and do they always inform the narratives you create?

I lived and worked in Carlisle when I left college and by chance I found an amazing treasure trove of a second hand book shop, a huge palace full to the brim with musty leather bound books on five floors. The top floor housed all of the very rare antique books, books which were in locked cabinets, and required an effort to view. There they had there a section of children’s books, like Alice in Wonderland, Chronicles of Narnia and The Secret garden. These are books that I had adored as a child, but had forgotten about into adulthood. Rediscovering them brought back memories and connotations associated with my childhood. Books like Alice through the Looking Glass and The Secret Garden have beautifully preserved illustrations from a bygone era. I bought a huge bundle of books, and then I started one by one to cut out the illustrations and create scenes around them.

Now I make a concerted effort to visit second hand book shops and to trawl through their dusty shelves, picking out books which appeal to me in one way or another. The book has to resonate with me somehow, either in an illustration, or in part of the story. I need that spark of inspiration. The books always provide the narrative, and core inspiration for the work.

6. You must have an amazing imagination, great vision and incredible concentration to create such magical works. Are these traits that come naturally or are they skills that you’ve worked to develop over the years?

I have honed these skills over the years, but I think they were skills that were always there. I have always been very imaginative. As a child, I was given a lot of freedom, freedom to be by myself and make up stories and games. I think that’s important for children.

7. What does the process of making a book sculpture involve?      

I start by reading the book, and then thinking about the work, and what I want to say. I start by sketching a few ideas. I usual have a general idea of what I want to create, and I will do some research, and some more in depth drawing. I then draw templates, and trace these onto the pages of the book, and cut the templates out with a sharp scalpel. It’s very complex working on such a small-scale.

If I’m making a sculptural object, I sometimes use wire to make a model to wrap the paper around. When I think the sculpture is nearly complete, I add the lights, and a bespoke box is made to house the sculpture. The whole process from start to finish usually takes between six and eight weeks.

8. What materials and techniques do you use most in your work?

I try only to use the material that I am deconstructing, whether that be the pages of a book, or say the cotton material of a garment, I try to use in essence only that same material. Occasionally, I need to use wire or balsa wood to strengthen the models, and glue, that’s about it.

9. When, and why, did you start lighting your sculptures?

I began to use light in my work because I wanted to create shadow, and make the invisible more visible. I look at it like theatre design, where the lighting plays an integral part.

Yeshen Venema Photography
One of my recent works called The Ice Maiden – before (above) and after lights (below). Credit: Yeshen Venema 

10. What’s a typical day like for you?

I live just a few minutes, walk from my studio in West London. I get to the studio for 7am with a coffee, and then I work until 7pm. I make a list of what I’ve got to do each day and I work through the list. There is always something to keep me busy. I’m happy working on my own, but I have an assistant who works with me a couple of days a week, and it’s great to speak to her about the projects we’re working on.

music vid still 2Stills from a music video I worked on

music vid still

Each working day can be quite different from the last, and each day brings with it new challenges. I never know what the next project that comes through into my inbox is going to be, and that keeps it exciting. About 70% of the projects proposed to me, don’t make it into reality. You get quite good at being able to tell which ones will make it, but there are some surprises. Work has taken me to places I wouldn’t normally have travelled to. Recently I was invited to work on a big project in Kuwait City.

11. What do you do to relax?

I’m relaxed when I’m working, and when I’m not working for a period of time, I start to feel anxious.

It is important for me to be able to switch off from work occasionally though, and my 3-year-old daughter sees to that. I make sure I take at least one day off a week to spend with her. She is great fun. We often go to Kew Gardens or Syon Park for a walk and for lunch in the café, and in summer I take her camping or we go to a music festival.

12. Tell us about some of the amazing projects you’ve done in the past. Which ones have you most enjoyed?

For the work that I did, the Bronte project was the one of the most enjoyable. I was given free reign of the Bronte Parsonage to install my art-works into their collection. Thinking back, it was quite a brave thing for the Parsonage to do. I loved the opportunity I was given there.

working on bronte projectA project for The Bronte Parsonage Museum, Haworth, West Yorkshire: working in the Bronte’s bedroom

bronte nurseryThe work I did for the Bronte’s nursery 

For the people and experience, it was probably a project I worked on in Jakarta, Indonesia, where I art-directed a music video. It was a huge project with a low budget, but it is such a different culture out there, they made it seem like anything was possible. There were no health and safety issues at all, you just came up with a crazy idea and they made it a reality. After we finished filming, everyone (cast and crew) went around hugging and thanking each other. It was really beautiful.

13. What are you working on at the moment? And are there any exciting projects planned for 2016?

I am moving house next year, moving out of London to be by the sea, and so I’m not taking on any big projects for 2016. Rather, I’m working on commissions for book sculptures, am exploring the possibility of an animation project, and will be exhibiting some dress installations in Museum Sinclair near Hamburg in Autumn 2016, which I’m really excited about.

14. What’s your ultimate dream?

I’ve never had an ultimate dream. I prefer to let things happen naturally, and like a leaf blowing in the wind, see where life takes you. I feel that that when you’re open to new possibilities, rather than being set on making your ultimate dream a reality, life can throw you some wonderful surprises.

For more information about Su and her work watch the video below and visit

Su Blackwell on CBBC Channel from Su Blackwell on Vimeo.


Are you up for a Christmas microadventure?


This is a guest post by adventurer, author and motivational speaker Alastair Humphreys. Find out more about Alastair here.

Alastair Humphreys

Over the past few summers I have been trying to rally people to tackle a summer solstice micro adventure. It has been a pleasant success, with loads of people heading for the hills. This year lots of people have been tackling a microadventure each month as part of the Year of Microadventure Challenge. Setting the idea as a challenge was a great way of galvanising people to action. People who quite liked the idea of sleeping on a hill but would not ordinarily do it were motivated to get outdoors and try something new.


So here is a challenge for you: a winter solstice microadventure…

The 21st December is the shortest day of the year. The day is short, the night is long. But if the weather is fresh and clear this can be a beautiful season. The sun lies low in the sky, backlighting or silhouetting the world beautifully. And the night is cold and long, filled with stars and the greedy knowledge that you own this night while everyone else is tucked up indoors frittering their lives in front of X-Factor Xmas Specials. You are out there, beneath the glory of the heavens (and – perhaps – freezing your arse off wishing you were back home in front of the telly).

Most people have a chunk of time off somewhere between now and early January. Why not spend one of those nights out on a local microadventure? Head out of town with a friend or two. Climb a hill. Crack open a box of 50%-reduced mince pies and a few beers. Earn your Christmas Dinner. Work off your Christmas Dinner. Do whatever you like. But why not try to squeeze one last night in the wild into these last few nights of the year? Reflect on the year just passed, scheme for the year ahead.

Have a look at this video – it might spark an idea.

A Winter Microadventure: Cycle to the Sea from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

If you decide to do a winter microadventure, pop your pics and stories on Facebook,  Twitter or Instagram. Make sure to use the #microadventure hashtag to share your story with everyone else. Have a look here to see what everyone else has been up to.

I’ve done this for the past few winters, and here’s how I spent one evening: not exactly suffering – there was even bacon!

So, please, do consider a night under the stars this Christmas time. It’s entirely compatible with nights out at the pub or friends’ houses. It’s compatible with getting home for a full day of putting up the Christmas decorations. It’s so easy to do, but so memorable, refreshing and fun! Work out where you need to be to see the sunrise (use this great link). Tell somebody where you are going and when you’ll be back. And then go!

The Challenge Rules

Here’s the stuff you’ll need, complete with links to help you if you need more information:

  • Sleeping bag: Don’t buy anything special. Just go with what you have and add as many jumpers as necessary.
  • Sleeping mat: If you suspect you will not do a lot of camping just buy one of these cheap ones. Really makes a difference to your warmth in winter.
  • Bivvy bag: There are cheapmedium and expensive options. This explains everything you need to know. If you’re worried about rain take a basha too.
  • Woolly hat: Santa hats get bonus points.
  • Waterproof clothes
  • Warm clothes: Christmas jumpers get bonus points.
  • Torch
  • Toothbrush: put the toothpaste on at home and wrap the brush in cling film.
  • Toilet paper
  • Food and water
  • Mince pie & Whisky.

Do What You Love interview – Penelope Sacorafou


Penelope Sacorafou is one half of the talented young team behind Fox & Squirrel; a London based company that offers creative walks for the culturally curious. Since its launch in 2010, Fox & Squirrel has been voted best guided walks in London and, according to The Guardian readers, its food walk is the best guided food walk in the world.

So what makes Fox & Squirrel walks different from all the other tours in London? Well, rather than focusing on traditional tourist attractions and historic sites, they offer an authentic view of London; one curated by creative professionals who love fashion, art, food and architecture. Guides include art experts, stylists, photographers and foodies who are bursting with knowledge and who are keen to show a more unusual, less experienced and most fascinating side of the city – the side which reflects the diverse creative currents that are contributing to London’s evolution.

Sounds cool to us! We spoke to Penelope to find out more about her company and her journey to doing what she loves… ~Rachel

Fox&Squirrel_061VFinalP-2Penelope Sacorafou, co-founder of Fox & Squirrel


How to make hard choices


Here’s a talk that could literally change your life. Which career should I pursue? Should I break up — or get married?! Where should I live? Big decisions like these can be agonisingly difficult. But that’s because we think about them the wrong way, says philosopher Ruth Chang. Chang believes that hard choices are a godsend because they give us the power to create reasons for us to live the life we want. To become distinctive. And to become the author of our own destiny.

In this insightful TED Talk on decision-making and the human condition, Chang looks at how we exercise our freedom through the choices we make. She explores the relationship between reason and value, looks at how we navigate ourselves through the sea of pros and cons and offers a powerful new framework for defining who we truly are. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

What hard choices have you faced in the past? What did you do? What tips/techniques worked well? What hard decisions are you facing at the moment? Which choice will you make?

Colour in your wardrobe, home and food – how colour affects us

Last week, our senior editor Rachel talked about “Making your day more beautiful with colour”, today our Do What You Love team member and colour enthusiast Louise is looking at how different colours affect us with the clothes we wear, how we decorate our homes and the food we eat.

colorwheelalllayers Louise Gale

Imagine for one moment what your day may feel like without colour.

Colour is essential to our life. Using colour in our day to day affects us more than we realise, through our wardrobe, how we decorate our homes, the food we eat and creative life. Colour is also a tool that can be used to heal ailments and essentially change our moods, so today lets take a look around us to see which colours we are drawn to and which colours we use the most.

Colours in Your Wardrobe

clothingbycolor from Create Your Color Story

Image via

What are the colours that appear most in your wardrobe? Are your clothes hung or organised by colour? Which colours are missing? Think about the colours you like to wear and how they make you feel when you are wearing them. Here are recommendations for each:

Wear Red when you want to draw attention to yourself. Wearing red will make you stand out from the crowd, but avoid red if you are nervous, self-conscious or need to invite more calming energy into your life.

Wear Orange when you want to stimulate your creativity, socialize with other people, be cheerful and have fun. Orange can also motivate you and uplift your spirit.

Wear Yellow to encourage personal power, stability, confidence and happiness. Yellow can sometimes drain your energy levels, so avoid wearing when you are tired.

Wear Green when taking classes or learning something new as it signifies growth. It can also be a stimulating colour, so avoid it if you are a little restless.

Wear Pink to convey compassion and an open heart. Whether you are male or female, you will appear approachable and capable of loving others.

Wear {light} Blue to encourage peace and healthy self expression and to be open to receiving communication from others.

Wear Indigo to encourage intuition and insight.

Wear violet or Purple when you are going through a transition, want to attract new opportunities, or in a spiritual place or setting.

Decorating Your Home

Create Your Color Story - decorate you rhome

Image via

What colours do you live with? Do you have different colour accents in different rooms in your home? How do your rooms make you feel? Here is a little overview of how various colours affect us in our living space. Here are recommendations for each:

Decorate with Red: Add red into rooms where you want to invite more energy in or require warmth or physical activity. These are usually a playroom, hallway or kitchen. Red in the bedroom may generate a little passion, but it might also disturb sleep as it is too energizing on the physical body. If you would like to add red in your bedroom, try accents such as throw pillows, blankets or other ornaments in this colour.

Decorate with Orange: Many find orange a hard colour to live with in their environment, so finding a tone that is softer is a great way to bring orange energy into your home/office.  This can be in tones such as amber, peach, apricot, terracotta etc. Orange is a great colour for the digestive system so having this energy in your dining room is really good. You may find many restaurants use a tone of orange too!

Decorate with Yellow: As yellow stimulates the brain,  using pops of yellow in your study or work area will improve your concentration or when you need to expand ideas. Some yellows can feel a little sickly, so golden yellows, primrose and buttery creamy yellows. Decorating a whole space in yellow with yellow light can have a negative affect and is not recommended as it encourages irrational behavior and nervousness.

Decorate with Green: Green is the colour to use when you want to feel calm and balanced in your space. It reminds us of nature, so if you do not get to enjoy the outdoors much, bring it inside with accents of green and plant life. Be careful to use clear or soft greens only. Muddy, dirty, olive greens have a negative effect indicating decay.

Decorate with Pink: As pink has energetic red in it, if you decorate with a hot pink or deep rose pink, you will be getting some of that vibrancy shine through (and maybe passion too!). Pink is also a muscle relaxant and relaxes our emotions too.

Decorate with Blue: Blue rooms and lighting create a calm, relaxing, expanding space. Many waiting rooms decorate with blue as it reduces anxiety.

Decorate with Indigo: Indigo helps us open up to our intuition and acts as a sedative. Suitable for more ‘quiet’ places. It works well in bedrooms or treatment rooms. Some people find indigo is helpful for studying so using in a library or study could work well.

Decorate with Violet/Purple: Violet and purple create an air of royalty, luxury and mystery. Many might use this colour for entrance halls or areas of worship. For the home, it is recommended to use small amounts, combined with other colours.

Eat a Rainbow

Create your color story eat a rainbow

Image via

By including all the colours of the rainbow from fruits and vegetables, you are ensuring that your body is receiving all the nutrients and colour energy it needs to stay healthy and balanced. Like everything in life, balance and variation bring us everything we need.

What colours do you notice the most in your meals? Are there any colours missing, do you eat one colour more than others? Here are some benefits for each:

Red food: In addition to vitamin C and folate, red fruits and vegetables are also sources of flavonoids, which reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties. Cranberries, another red fruit are also a good source of tannins, which prevent bacteria from attaching to cells.

Orange food: Thanks to the huge amount of nutrients associated with orange-coloured fruits and vegetables, consuming orange foods can help your overall health. The abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients in orange foods are good for your skin, eyes and heart, and they may also decrease your risk of cancer.

Yellow Food: The colour is sunshine, yellow food includes water soluble plant pigments that function as antioxidants. There is also an abundance of vitamin C. Studies suggest that these nutrients will help your heart, vision, digestion and immune system.

Green food: The natural plant pigment chlorophyll gives fruits and vegetables their green colour. Green foods that are rich in isothiocyanates, induce enzymes in the liver that assist the body in removing potentially carcinogenic compounds.

Blue/Purple food: Foods that are this colour are rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are the most abundant and powerful of all the phytochemicals contained in the foods we eat. They help make our blood vessels healthier, meaning a healthier cardiovascular system and lower risk of heart disease. They are also very beneficial in reversing the short-term memory loss associated with aging. They also help improve our motor skills, from walking and sitting to smaller delicate movements such as using our hands, wrists, fingers, and toes.

How else does colour show up in your life?

What colours are missing from your life?

How can you invite these colours into the different areas above?

Have a beautiful and colourful day

Do What You Love interview – Meredith Langer


Today’s big interview is with super-talented calligrapher Meredith Langer, who discovered her gift for creating beautiful handwriting by chance. “I loved typography but it wasn’t until a had to work on a project that involved copying a font that I fell in love with it,” she explains. “I began to notice how certain letters are formed and became obsessed with creating my “perfect alphabet” with angles and spacing that looked best.”

Meredith Langer 1Image credit: In the eye photography

Her love of scripts and hand lettering led her to start her own business as a calligrapher and sign maker. “I am a firm believer in living life to the fullest and making everyday meaningful,” she says. “This means that I fill my days doing things that I enjoy doing: making place cards for someone’s special day, creating signs for a local restaurant, addressing envelopes, or wood burning a custom gift, logo or packaging design.”

Meredith Langer - mirror

Meredith is also passionate about sharing her knowledge with others and she regularly teaches traditional pen and nib techniques, as well as more experimental forms of calligraphy. I had the pleasure of taking a workshop with Meredith earlier this year and I can highly recommend it. ~ Rachel

1. What is your background?

I have always been drawn to creative endeavours and I love learning new skills. I’ve obtained so many random skills that I’ve been told that I am modern day renaissance woman, which always makes me laugh. I have had no formal training in calligraphy, but I majored in art in college and I often pull from the skills I learned in school.

Meredith Langer 2

2. How would you describe your style and approach?

I am definitely drawn to the handwritten touch. So much of what we see on a daily basis is typed or super perfect. I love doing things with a purpose but embracing the one-of-a-kind feel.

3. What are your favourite tools?

My best tool is definitely my Le Pen. Supposedly the pen was invented for left handed writers because it dries so quickly. I love it’s fine-point felt tip. I am a pretty hard writer, so when I break it in and hit a sweet spot, it’s like heaven! I am also a huge fan of any writing implements made by ZIG. I often use their Posterman pens for chalkboard signs.

Meredith Langer - materials

When working with traditional calligraphy, I love working with india ink or mixing my own colours with powder pigments/gauche, water and gum arabic. Finding the right paper is key for calligraphers (your nib will catch on anything too fibrous) but solid white bristol is my all time favourite to write on. I have a collection of Hunt, Brause and Gillott nibs that I always alternate between.

4. What are your absolute necessities to get your creative juices flowing?

Honestly… Instagram! I follow a lot of typographers and calligraphers that are constantly inspiring me and pushing me to try new things. I also have a nice little library of books. Molly Thorpe’s Modern Calligraphy & Eleanor Winters’ Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy are both a must. Oh, and putting on a good record or podcast really helps me stay motivated when I have lots of work to do!

5. Talk us through your design process…

It really depends on what I am doing. When I am working on a large scale sign, like a seating chart, I start with a typed document which lists everyone’s name. I format the names so they are laid out as I would like to write them. Then I measure the sign and figure out the math for the spacing (this is not a glamorous part of the job, but it is an important one). Once this is done, I can focus on the fun creative bit while sitting in front of the sign.

Meredith Langer - wedding seating chart

6. You’ve worked on countless projects; what have been your favourites so far?

I love doing large scale signs in chalk! Most of the work I do for clients is with waterproof paint markers so it’s great when someone allows me to work with good old fashioned chalk! I did a large scale menu sign for Wynnewood Station Cafe that I love. It’s on a wall in an old train station that was built in 1870 and the building has a lot of charm.

7. When did you realise you could turn your passion into a business? How did you go about it?

For the past five years I’ve been freelancing here and there while working a full time job. The past two years have been very enlightening for me as I found I had more and more work coming my way. One day I sat down and looked at how much I was making in my full-time job and how much I was making with my personal work. It was then that I realized that I could be potentially making more doing my own thing. And, honestly, I wasn’t happy in my full time job so I made the jump and left. It’s been hard work starting my own business! I constantly have to motivate myself and it’s not always fun work. But it’s totally worth it and now I get to I get to share my knowledge and sills with others too.

Meredith Langer - teaching workshop

8. What do you most enjoy about running your own business, and what have been your biggest challenges?

I really have enjoyed how empowering having my own business is! It is super rewarding to drive down the street and see my own signs along the way. I also love how I can make my own schedule.

That said, managing my time can be tricky. I have learned that I have to give myself one office day a week to get organised, plan my week ahead and respond to e-mails. I also find it difficult to say no to people, but experience is teaching me to be realistic about what can be achieved and I’m also careful not to undersell my time.

Meredith Langer in action

9. What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a photograph quilt for a client’s wedding. The couple has been together for 20 years, so I will be sewing together a photograph from each year. I will be embroidering dates and names to the quilt, which I am really excited about. It’s nice getting the dust off of my sewing machine!

10. What is your dream commission?

My dream commission… such a good question! One that is a repeat customer. I do a lot of wedding work, which I love because it’s all of one big magical day. But thats it, once the wedding is over, the works over. I love creating a relationship with someone where I update or modify the work overtime and watch it evolve.

11. What are the current trends in calligraphy?

Calligraphy is such an old tradition. There are many aspects that never go out of style! For example the classic black ink on white never gets old. But I think that it is definitely trending to use unconventional inks: watercolor, gauche, gold or white. Brush pens are also really fun to play with. I personally love applying calligraphy skills on unconventional surfaces. Wood burning in script is always super fun.

Meredith Langer - wood burning

12. Finally, what are your top tips for anyone who’s never done calligraphy before? 

  • Getting good requires lots of repetitive practicing.
  • Don’t settle on one tool, try several until your find your favorite!
  • Use a calligraphers grid under your paper to help keep your lines straight.
  • When first starting, just focus on lower cased letters so you don’t get tripped up on capitalizing.
  • Begin by focusing on each letter in the alphabet and perfecting each letter.
  • Get inspired by what other calligraphers or sign makers are doing. (I love using Instagram to get inspired)
  • Try to copy the inspiration and see if you can do it better!
  • Don’t get discouraged if you are struggling, ask for help because it might be a silly mistake or a tiny hair caught in your nib. (I have cats, so this happens often for me!)
  • Take a calligraphy class.
  • Don’t forget to have fun!

For more information about Meredith and her work visit her website:

Get out your rainbow colours and make today beautiful

RainbowA magical reminder that the world is a kaleidoscope of colour. Image credit: Jamie McCaffrey

Colour is a powerful thing. It can open the door to the mind and the soul and heal us on all levels, it can improve our health and boost our sense of wellbeing and it can also help us to create a happy harmonious home. So forget black, white and grey (yes, all fifty shades of it!) it’s time to open our eyes to the bold, the bright and the beautiful.

Here are our top tips for inviting more colour into your life…

1. Wear clothes that light you up

We all love neutrals but by stocking our wardrobes with the same fail-safe shades we could be missing out on the health benefits implicit in colour. As our very own colour expert Louise Gale says: “Colours can have a big psychological effect on us. Warm, bright colours, such as pink, yellow and orange, instantly put us in a cheery mood and make others feel that way too. Green is calming and soothing, blue can help you feel relaxed, and purple is associated with creativity and luxury and like red, it can also boost your energy levels.” Look for beauty in what you have in your wardrobe and bring your outfit to life with a bright accessory, like a bag, a scarf or a piece of chunky jewellery.

mandcoFloral Gypsy Top £26, Jeans £20, Knitted Scarf £12, Tan Belt £5, M&Co

2. Rock bold lips

It’s a small thing but lipstick makes a massive difference to the way you look and feel. As Coco Chanel said: “If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack”. Bright lips are back this season and the enduring classic red offers a shade for every complexion; orangey-reds work
well on ‘warmer’ faces with yellow undertones, while reds with a hint of blue look great against cool-toned skin.

Get out your rainbow colours and make today beautiful Lipstick1 e1441308017984Lipsticks, £12, Iconic London

3. Love your walls

While it’s great to have a neutral scheme that goes with everything, all that white, cream and beige can start to get you down. Your home is your playground and your sanctuary, so it should feel that way! Vibrant splashes of colour here and there can brighten your mood, stimulate lively conversation, inspire work, hobbies and interests and help you wind down too. If you’re not sure which hue is for you, take this The Paint Personality Test before you get out your brushes and go bold.

House to Home

Image credit: House To Home

4. Give your living space a lift

A colourful cushion or a well-placed throw can change the focus of a room in an instant, while a quirky accessory will ensure your home reflects your personality and makes a style statement to see you into autumn.

houseoffraserLinea Justapose living room, House of Fraser

5. Go potty for plants

As Oscar de la Renta said: “Gardening is how I relax. It’s another form of creating and playing with colors.” So with cooler weather on its way now’s the time to pop down to your local garden centre and find inspiration. Add a pop of dramatic colour to your garden with containers filled with beautiful autumnal blooms like Violas, large faced Pansies, Heuchera, Nemesia, Snapdragon, Dahlias, Chrysanthemum or Camellia.

homebaseImage credit: Homebase

6. Spread a little sunshine

Show someone a little love today by giving a colourful gift – like a candle, photo frame or journal – wrapped in beautifully designed paper or decorated with bright tape. Your act of kindness is guaranteed to brighten their day.

dotcomgiftshop_66139916748386912Floral fabric sticky tape, £3.95, Dotcomgiftshop

7. Polish up your act

Dark manicures, brilliant brights, jewel tones, matt finishes and a splattering of nail art, when it comes to painting our fingers and toes there are so many wonderful ways to create our own unique and colourful look this autumn. So now’s the time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

NailsMatte nail polish, £2.99, New Look

8. Eat right, eat bright

Multi-coloured plant foods don’t just look good on your plate, they’re good for you as well. Each colour relates to different phytonutrients, which boast specific health benefits for the body and mind. Find out more here.

flirting_fig salad_watermark - credit: https://consciousbitesnutrition.comImage credit:

9. Bring the outside in

Flowers have a wonderful healing energy, which can instantly lighten our mood or transform the atmosphere in a room. “The best way to appreciate the colour, scent and beauty of fresh flowers is to place them in your hallway and in your bedroom,” according to event-stylist-to-the-stars Matthew Robbins. “That way you enter your living space in the morning to something fresh, organic and inspiring and you end your day seeing something natural and beautiful.”

dunelm flowersBotanical vases, Dunelm Mill

10. Connect with creativity

Ask yourself which colours you are especially drawn to right now and use these as a basis for a new creative project. Draw, paint, knit, sew, scrapbook, take pictures, bake – do whatever you love to do – or try something you’ve never done before. To find out how your colour choices reflect what is going on in your life right now, click here.


Which colours make you feel happiest? What’s your favourite colour and what does it mean to you? Which colours would you like to surround yourself with and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Do What You Love interview – Matthew Robbins


Today’s big interview is with event-designer-to-the-stars, Matthew Robbins. Matthew runs his own successful business, Matthew Robbins Designs in New York, and he’s planned weddings and celebrations of all sizes, for all budgets. He really is the go-to guy when it comes to big day quandaries and making events extraordinary. 

Matthew’s talent for bringing a client’s vision to life in a way that truly reflects their personal tastes and style is why he is now Martha Stewart’s right-hand wedding expert – a collaboration that’s been going strong for 15 years. As well as contributing regularly to Martha Stewart Weddings and Martha Stewart Living, he has appeared many times as a guest on both the Martha Stewart Show and on Martha Stewart Living Radio. He also features regularly in O Magazine, Sweet Paul, Coastal Living, The Knot, Bridal Guide, InStyle Weddings and Style Me Pretty, and he writes an ongoing blog for The Huffington Post and Stylelist

Matthew Robbins profile

Beth and I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew when we took his workshop, ‘Inspired tables’, at The Sweet Paul Makerie, Philadelphia, earlier this year. Together we created four stunning tables by combining a beautiful mix of décor and craft techniques which left us bursting with ideas for how we could make our own celebrations and intimate every day gatherings all the more special back home.

After seeing Matthew in full creative flow, doing what he loves, I just had to find out more about him. I hope you enjoy the interview. ~ Rachel

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1. How are you doing what you love?

My professional background is rooted in art and art history. I studied painting and art history in San Francisco and during my college years I worked for many of San Francisco’s best and most renowned event designers. This was my introduction to the world of event design and event planning. It was a natural transition from art making to floral arrangements and beautiful spaces. My love of colour, texture and form are all easy things to find in floral and event design. The same rules for good design still apply. I moved to New York City to continue my art career and of course, I had to work to pay the bills. In working as a freelance designer I slowly developed an interest and a small following. With that little bit of buzz around town I had the confidence to open my own floral and event design studio. I started really, really small and during my first year of business I was lucky enough to be discovered by Martha Stewart.

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2. What is it about flowers that captured your heart?

I was immediately in love with floral design because it felt like painting but in a three dimensional form with amazing natural materials. It’s all about the layering of colour, form and texture. It’s about telling a story in the same way a painting tells a story with all of these elements. My mentor, Maria Vella in San Francisco, really opened my eyes to the beauty of a garden and how the essence of a flower can inspire an entire colour palette, mood or overall design. Flowers are also so temporary and I love the fleeting beauty and inspiration they provide. For me, flowers were the perfect route into the event design world, and they have helped me to carve out my own style and business. Now I take a more holistic approach to design, flowers are just one element of the overall vision I have for an event or space.

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3. How would you describe your signature style?

My signature style is what I like to refer to as contemporary romantic or effortlessly chic. I love classic, refined and romantic details combined with clean lines, simple and bold shapes and vibrant colour palettes. The combination of old and new is very much a part of my signature eclectic style.




Nature is a constant source of inspiration for me 

4. When did you first start working with Martha Stewart Weddings and how did this collaboration come about?

I met Martha and team during my first year of business. I was very lucky to have friends who own a fabulous millinery shop where Martha and her team love to shop. Some of Martha’s top editors were in the store one day and my friends suggested they all check out this new kid in New York City doing great, natural, beautiful work. They followed up and in true Martha style they reached out immediately after seeing some of my work. Before the first year of my business was complete I had a huge feature story in Martha Stewart Wedding and I did the cover of the magazine. I remember the day I was in the Martha Stewart Weddings office reviewing the feature because Martha called in to say how impressed she was and how she wanted me on her show right away. That was the beginning of 15 years as contributing editor to Martha’s magazine and company, along with styling some of the most signature flower stories in the Weddings magazine.

Matthew&MarthaMe on the Martha Stewart Show talking about my book

5. Who inspired you to write your first book Matthew Robbins’ Inspired Weddings? 

I was lucky enough to do design a wedding for a fabulous literary agent in New York City. She happens to own the agency and when I did her wedding she suggested it was time to do a Matthew Robbins book. I thought it was a glamorous idea but I didn’t feel I was ready. I waited a few years, strengthened my relationship with the press and gained more accolades and finally decided it was the right time. I felt inspired to create a book that offered a new way of thinking about weddings and design for events. Many of the books out there are just filled with over the top, old school designs and they don’t really provide any real tools or inspiration for how to think like a stylist or an artist. I wanted to empower the client, the reader, or the bride or groom to find his or her own vision and style. My book is a wonderful resource for design inspiration, even if you aren’t planning a wedding!

Matthew Robbins Inspired Weddings

6. In the introduction to your book you say: ‘I like to encourage couples to think of their wedding as the largest dinner party they’ve ever thrown’. Is the secret to planning the perfect event?

This is the foundation of my philosophy and my approach and it is very much an integral part of how I plan and design events. For most people a wedding is the first opportunity to really define their sense of style as a couple and for their new life together. It’s a wonderful moment to infuse an incredible celebration with a personal and authentic style. If you think of the wedding as a fabulous dinner party it not only removes some of the stress but it allows everyone to enjoy the details and remember that they are hosting and entertaining. Being a great host means considering the small details but also making sure that your unique style, personality and vision for your perfect party shines through.

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7. What floral trends are you seeing at the moment, and which flowers and colour schemes do you love most right now?

I’m seeing a return to using vibrant colour. For many years it was all about soft, dreamy blush and vintage tones but I think trends are moving away from these muted palettes and embracing clean, crisp colour again. Purple is very popular at the moment along with deep blue tones and copper as a replacement for gold or silver.

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8. What are the biggest challenges facing you in your business and in the floral/events industry in general?

The event design or any design related industry is faced with many challenges now as there is an abundance of images and inspiration available for free and online. Clients often feel they have seen it all because they spend hours on Pinterest and they are obsessed with everything being original. I find it disconcerting that most people tend to forget that everything is related and design and art has a real history. Good design is always referential and it circles back to trends, rules and inspiration form the past. Nothing is truly original but what is original is how we all interpret these things and make them our own. The wedding and event design world is flooded with new businesses and this is also challenging, especially as many of these new businesses have no background in design. Having a background in design is essential because it enables you to navigate your way through all the different challenges you encounter in this industry, from client briefs, to new projects to the ups and downs of daily business as creative entrepreneur.

9. You are working on a new book – what can you tell us about it?

Well (hopefully!) it will be out by Spring 2016. In it I go back to my roots, and explore my love of art and flowers. It will focus more on designing events for smaller parties, like entertaining easily at home with family or friends, rather than ideas for big celebrations or weddings.

MattRobbinsInspireWedd_p89Designing for a more intimate gathering

10. As well as running flowers schools and design workshops all over the world, you’ve recently started hosting big design events. What can people expect from an inspired luxury excursion with you and when and where is your next one?

MR Beijing workshopTeaching workshops at Flower School Beijing, June ’15

My next excursion is to Guatemala on November 1-7, 2016. This will be a trip filled with some seriously gorgeous inspiration including locally made textiles, traditional cooking classes and even a Mayan cleansing ceremony by a local Shaman. We have a few spaces available for anyone looking for a great adventure filled with beautiful details! Email [email protected] for information.


11. What advice would you give to someone wanting to do what you’re doing now?

Be persistent and really, really believe in your vision. There will be many obstacles and challenges financially, emotionally and in general it’s just not easy starting your own business in a very saturated market. If you want to develop a name for yourself you must be persistent in all of your efforts to network, get noticed, develop a brand and a clear vision for what your work is all about. I also recommend growing your business slowly. Focus on the goal or goals that really matter and try to ignore al of the other chatter.

12. What’s your ultimate dream?

My dream is to live somewhere far away from New York City with a fabulous interior design/home design boutique in a chic, coastal village somewhere warm and tropical. I also want to have a whole series of books all focused on design and entertaining along with a line of beautiful products. All of these dreams are in the works so I will keep you posted!

13. Finally what are your top five floral arrangement secrets?

  1. Keep your selection of flowers limited. Don’t mix too many things or too many colours. Going monochromatic and simple will lead to an easier and more beautiful final product.
  2. Stay seasonal. Get inspired by the season and allow these materials to inspire your designs.
  3. Always start with foliage. Create a shape and a structure by starting with beautiful foliage or branches. This allows for an easier and more natural arrangement.
  4. Don’t cut your flowers too short! I see this problem in many of my classes. Students will often chop a stem much too short for their vase before they have a structure or shape developed.
  5. Allow the natural shapes and movement of the flowers to define the shape and spirit of your arrangement. Don’t try forcing things to do things they wouldn’t do in nature.

Hunter:gatherer1Hunting and gathering for inspiration

Matthew’s snapshot

What flower would you be and why? Sweet pea because they are effortless, light and unfussy.

Where should there always be fresh flowers in a home? In the entry area or hall and in your bedroom. These are two great places to enjoy flowers and/or plants. You enter your living space in the morning seeing something fresh, organic and inspiring and you end your day with something natural and beautiful.

Biggest career highlight to date: That’s a hard one… probably seeing my first book finished, published and on bookshelves across the world – it’s an amazing feeling and incredibly rewarding. I’m proud of many other things too – there are too many too list!

Three designers who most inspire you: Kelly Wearstler and Alberto Pinto from the interior design world and from flower world, Christian Tortu.

Best way to overcome creative block: Travel to a new place.

Place you go to feel inspired: The ocean or a beautiful garden.

Quote you live by: “Be curious, not judgmental” ~ Walt Whitman

Wish for the world: I would just love for everyone to open their eyes to the inspiration and beauty found in the small things, in the details. We live in a world of sweeping generalisations and where everyone strives to do things bigger and better. It would be nice if we could all appreciate the small things that inspire our big plans and grand ideas.

For more information on Matthew’s work and his book, visit