Good morning folks! I am in a great mood this morning. Surprisingly so as I am meant to have a day off but am instead in at work. I just love waking up in the winter to a blanket of thick snow covering our lawn.
I love the cold, crisp winter mornings and I know that most of you will think I am mad but I genuinely love the way the cold makes your face red and how cuddled up and cosy you can get at home watching the snow drift past the window. This of course is helped by the fact that i live in a beautiful converted manor house which looks postcard perfect in the snow and my office is only a short walk away. I also think its because I am a southerner who still finds snow a rare treat instead of a nuisance like my northern colleagues who are used to this disruption, school closures and chaos. Plus not having kids helps! It means i can act like one instead which i inevitably will do at some point.
Anyway.. back to the reason I started this particular post.
In the winter i get an overwhelming interest in food. Cooking in particular and stock pile various magazines, recipes and blogs from my favourite sources. It must be an innate desire to fatten up for winter... or at least thats my excuse. I also cook our family Xmas dinner so I spend the majority of Nov and Dec planning various meat and vegetarian main course and twists on the traditional spread.
I use Google Reader as a resource to keep on top of all of my favourite foodie blogs and wanted to share with you one in particular that has continued to impress me with every new post for the past two years. Its called 'Canelle et Vanille' and is seriously one of the most beautiful blogs you can subscribe to. Each new post is not only skillfully written it is also accompanied by beautiful food photography and styling. The imagery in particular is what gives this blog stand out. If you like food and photography you have to check it out!
Not that I am a trekkie, a geek or even a Doctor Who fan, but as tube journeys go, they are pretty dull with little to do apart from wish you were nearly there. In London, on Thursday the tube was invaded by robots to publicise the opening of the Doctor Who Experience, next year in Olympia. The shots of the pr stunt look like a scene from i robot. I would have loved to be on that tube journey at the time.
I will hold my hands up and say I'm a complete sucker for 'cute' marketing. I will happily pay up to £3 for a bottle of innocent (no caps) smoothie because it says 'stop looking at my bottom' on the bottom of it, because their address is 'Fruit Towers' and especially because at this time of year their bottles wear a hand-knited mini bobble hat (25p of proceeds going to Help The Aged).
I'm not even very keen on smoothies.
So you could scarcely imagine my (admittedly ridiculous) excitement when a few months ago I discovered Bear, their delicious, natural nibbles and www.bearnibbles.co.uk . Now, Bear are a brand that takes the 'bear' theme and really runs with it. Yup, they' snnnarl at sulphites and grrrowl at gumming agents', and their blog is entitled 'Cave News'...
Yes, they almost certainly take the grizzly metaphor far too far but stop over-analysing for a moment and EMBRACE it in all its adorable furry glory. In doing so you'll discover some super tasty snacks at less than 100 cals a pop. And happily, like innocent they balance the grizzly gimmicks out with socially aware blogging, petitions against the government and charity partnerships with the like of the Forestry Commission.
So keep out of reception as I'm definitely going Bear.
The first of a four part series of William Boyd’s novel ‘Any Human Heart’ started tonight. I’m in a book club with five other blokes and we read the book a couple of summers ago. Having done a book a month for about five years, many now stare at me from the bookshelves and I struggle remember anything meaningful about them, although I invariably remember how they made me feel.
Everything about this book is still clear as crystal though - even how we chose it. We were having our annual Christmas round-up of the year and we asked the waitress for a recommendation - this book was it.
I’ve no intention of revealing any plot points for anybody who’s keen to follow the series, I simply want to recommend the book. And although I can’t claim it sits alongside some of the literary landmarks of the book club, I loved it from start to finish. When I look at this one on the bookshelves, I see that it’s falling to bits because it’s been round so many people since I read it.
However, my view wasn’t shared by everyone in the book club. We’re a pretty exacting lot and we unconsciously take it in turns to be intellectual fascists in the face of page-turners like this. It was obviously not my turn that month because I scored it high and wittered on about it for ages. The story is written as an autobiography and, stupid as I am, a good way into the book I thought it really was. William’ Boyd is no stranger to this kind of technique. The book he wrote immediately before this one was called ‘Nat Tate: American Artist, 1928-1960’, and it was a fake biography of a fictional Abstract Expressionist. The whole enterprise fooled many people who should have known better, especially after a lavish New York launch with excerpts read by David Bowie (who was in on the gag). All this of course long before Banksy’s ‘Exit through the gift shop’ which plays an almost identical joke on the Art world.
Some of my book club collegues were tough on the book - ‘history light’ and ‘airport literature’ were both levelled. And then, this very week, and old friend of mine and an avid reader had a go at the book and indeed, William Boyd. So there’s every chance I could be wrong. But I think the book is a great read and that Boyd is a superb writer.
So, however the TV series pans out, I’d say give the book a go. Logan Mountstuart’s story will keep you spellbound and in the end, will melt your heart.
Every time I visit other European countries, I can't help but notice how much more important good design seems to be to our European cousins, than it is to our fellow Brits. I absolutely love design and I love to travel. So combine the 2 and my recent trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen was always going to be sensational. And it didn't disappoint.
I love blogging but hate blogs that contain nothing but self promotion and useless information, so I thought I would use my time to impart some of my knowledge of art history to the masses! Each week I will dedicate some of my time to bring you a new Art History 101 subject. These may include overviews on movements, particular artists and techniques, all with the aim of developing your knowledge of the people and skills that have inspired the industry we work in.
The first stop on my decorative journey is not a traditional starting place in terms of chronological history. It is the most logical starting place from my point of view as we will be starting with the person and style that first got my heart racing in art class. Not because of his themes, which are often explicit and controversial but because of the beauty and personality displayed through his work.
My muse and the spark that started my fascination with all forms of art is the Austrian expressionist painter Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918).
A brief history: Egon Schiele’s history is saturated with controversy. Trained in Vienna until 1909 under the guidance of Gustav Klimt, he famously ran away with his model Valerie aka Wally, who was only 17 at the time and rumoured to be Klimt’s mistress. He and Wally were driven out of no less than two towns due to their questionable lifestyle and he was also arrested and convicted of producing work of a pornographic nature featuring underage minors and sent to prison in 1912. Despite this he managed to marry advantageously to Edith Harms (although he also planned to continue his relationship with Wally) serve with the army and produce and enormous catalogue of artistic work. Schiele died in 1918 three days after his pregnant wife succumbed to Spanish Flu during the epidemic.
So why am I so fascinated with Schiele's work and why is his history even relevant?
In writing this blog I spent quite a long time trying to find the most appropriate words to describe the style and why I like it or why it interests me. On a very top level I know that Schiele’s work is predominantly expressionistic but still features lingering elements of the Art Nouveau period in terms of colour and tone. His themes are often erotic bordering on pornographic and focus on sex, death and discovery. His technique and application of paint is neither conventionally pretty nor precise but it is certainly engaging and unique.
In all honesty I am not sure I can put into words the way I feel or think about his work. I am not sure if it’s his paintings or him that I find more interesting. I remember my first ever experience of his work however and the one question that made me delve into his past and catalogue of work. It was simply born out of my own confusion, I thought: ‘there is a girl, in an explicit pose, looking straight at the artist and yet there is nothing behind her eyes’. I wondered if she was merely a model that he had intended to appear soulless and uninterested or whether he was demonstrating his feelings towards the girl. Exposed and engaging in eye contact but with no desire to be approached. Like an object not a person.
It made me want to know more about the artist and at 15 I assumed there would be something psychologically different about a man that paints women in such a way. Rightly or wrongly this was my starting point. Sure enough I found a short but very colourful history as demonstrated above. He also created a large back catalogue of self-portraits of himself masturbating, a theme that I am yet to try to figure out or understand but that still fascinates me even more.
In discussing this with people and showing them his work I often get asked if I would ever want to own his work knowing the themes and back history and the answer I give them is always yes. Never before have I ever felt that art could give such a direct window into someone’s soul. To own a piece would be in my view like owning a page of someone’s personal diary except rather than being hidden in pages he tried to express his thoughts through intricate images and paintings.
I know there are many people that would disagree with my viewpoint on Egon Schiele but that’s the beauty of art, it’s always open to personal opinion and I love it! Every twisted and perversely beautiful piece of it!
And with that class is out! --- Coral
It all started when I suggested we do something for Children in Need. Bearing in mind it was 4pm yesterday, my idea was simple enough. ‘Why don’t we come into work tomorrow in our PJ’s?’ I wasn’t thinking big, just simple, straightforward fun in the office that would also raise some money to help disadvantaged children – something I’m always keen to do.
Then it ballooned!!!
More people got involved in the conversation and bigger, bolder ideas were put in the pot. Eventually we decided, at the eleventh hour, that fancy dress it was.
After much stress (at 10pm last night) I eventually sorted out my fancy dress. I got into character at home this morning and drove into work (getting a few winks and hoots from the bin men in Oakwood on the way).
I was impressed. Everyone had made an effort, even at such short notice.
Helen came as a cowgirl.
Jonny came as a skydiver.
Nick came as a woman (absolutely hilarious!)
Ian came as a sailor
Sarah came in the spotty theme.
Rachel came as a pirate.
As did Guy
And yes, I’m Wonder Woman.
Such a lot of fun but then I often think being spontaneous is more fun. And, as well as all the laughs, we raised a great amount for Children in Need.
The great thing about travel is that it really does broaden your mind. I have always believed that and always been encouraged to travel by my family. Last week I spent a few days in Stockholm (before heading over to Copenhagen) and it really is a magical city, well worth checking out. One of the highlights was a visit to the Nobel Museum, which made me realise that even though the Nobel Prize is one of the most famous things in the world, I knew very little about it. So I thought I'd share some of what I learnt...
Alfred Nobel sounds like he was one of those people that was great at whatever they did. He was a cosmopolitan who lived in St Petersburg, Stockholm and Paris between 1833 and 1896. His family descended from Olof Rudbeck, the best known technical genius on 17th century Sweden, an era in which Sweden was a great power in Northern Europe. Nobel was fluent in several languages, wrote poetry and drama, and was interested in social and peace-related issues, considered to be a bit of a radical during his time. His life was dedicated to solving problems by inventing things, the most successful of which was dynamite, which you could say caused as many as it solved! In his will, he wrote that physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine and peace would each year receive a part of the revenues of his fortune. No other prize spans so many subjects and nationalities, or is more revered, and more than 800 Laureates have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
Some of the world's most important ideas, thinking and discoveries can be found among the winners, from Marie Curie to Einstein to Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela to Ivan Pavlov (and his dog). Each category is judged by independent academies, who ask how the nominees have best used their creativity and how the world benefits from their creative process, with prizes distributed annually to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. What a fantastic idea.
I was also surprised to find out about the monetary value of the Nobel Prize. In 1895 Nobel stipulated that his estate (worth £148M in today's terms) be converted into a fund and invested in safe securities. The six annual prizes are worth in the region of £1m for each of the 6 categories, and have been paid out of the interest leaving the capital intact to this day.
So the man who invented dynamite is the same man that puts his name to the Nobel Peace Prize. There's a juicy piece of irony.