Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Seasons greentings...

Christmas eve, and just for a change, my body has given up on me and I am ill. Don't know exactly what it is, but it hurts, and I have now given it to my nearest and dearest. I'm not popular. But this time of year is all about sharing isn't it?

The run up (as usual) has been frantic, topped with the fact we have now adopted a rescue dog who is wonderful, but hard work. If I had a pound for every time I have said down in the past couple of weeks I would be very rich indeed, but the best things are hard work, so here's to giving her a better life than she had before.

So just a little post today, to wish you all the warmest of seasons greetings - I hope you all have a wonderful time, with the people that are closest to you, and with as little stress as possible.

Merry Christmas one and all, and see you all in 2009...

Monday, 22 December 2008

gobble gobble...


I'm sure that most of you will be eating it, or (depending on when you read this) ate it this Christmas. It's a tradition that most of us upkeep, along with chocolate at Easter and pumpkin at Hallowe'en.

Unfortunately, large scale traditions create large scale demand, and where there is large scale demand, some very unscrupulous people try to make large scale money.

And our old chum the turkey can be in the thick of it. Some commercially produced turkeys can grow to an immense 40kg in around 30 weeks. Staggering - which is exactly what they do when their joints just can't keep up with their mass.

I am a very opinionated meat eater, but I respect that people have a choice, so therefore I ask you this. Instead of having an intensively reared turkey that you have to sit on to get into the oven, that takes a day to cook, and that you have to eat for the remainder of the week as you did not realise exactly how much meat was on there, maybe you could spend your hard earned cash differently.

Get a smaller free range bird, or smaller organic bird for the same money (less need for the '200 ways with turkey' book) Or have a free range, organic, local goose. How about a joint of venison (beautifully in season) as old Hugh had in his alternative Christmas feast? Or a good bit of local pork?

Ring the changes, but whatever you do, try and have a responsible dinner...

in this time of darkness...

Not an uplifting title for this time of the season, but it pretty much summed up my Sunday, but in a better way than you may think...

For those of you who were not aware, the 21st December is the shortest day of the year, with the longest hours of darkness. The Winter Solstice, or Yule (as I celebrate) is an extremely important date in the pagan calendar - long before old J was a twinkle in his mothers eye.

Many Christian traditions have sprung from the pagan calendar, as it was much easier to convert people to something new if it retained something familiar, and the trappings of Yule are no exception.

Holly, mistletoe, ivy, berries in general - red and white, trees inside, and of course the Yule Log. Not the chocolate version as we now pick up in the supermarket with dustings of icing snow and plastic fir trees, but a real log, burnt to celebrate the light in the times of almost overpowering darkness, and to encourage the sun to return. A remnant of the log was kept to begin the fire of the next Yule, thus completing the circle.

With the plasticity of the season now in full swing, I feel it important to return to my ancestors roots and celebrate nature and the cycle of the year with respect. After all, regardless of your religion, isn't this what we all do all of the time as gardeners?

My Yule was spent gathering dried seed heads, twigs and berries at Devils Dyke to make into a wreath for the door, being blown to pieces by a battering wind, with stinging eyes and nose from the worst cold I have had in an age. But it was great, appreciating the bounty and power of Nature on the shortest day of the year. We then had a grand dinner, and I lit some candles in my own feeble attempt to bring back the sun.

So it was a little ironic when we returned home in the evening to a house of darkness due to an electricity power cut which lasted all night and into today (hence my late posting). Even Nature seems to have a sense of humour...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

we must be crackers...

From some of my recent posts you may think I am a bit of a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. This is not true, but I cannot stand the hyped up commercialism that we all now associate with the time of year, and all the tat, plastic and general crap that goes with it. By all means, do buy stuff, but think about it. Please don't buy for the sake of buying - and definitely try and cut the crap and packaging.

Right. Rant over.

But quite hypocritically I suppose, I love crackers. We only have crackers at Christmas, and they are an essential part of the Christmas table. The major drawback is that they are full of the before mentioned crap (yes, even the expensive ones, which are just full of silver plated crap) and everything goes in the bin and cannot be recycled as it is usually embellished with metallic bits to make it 'pretty'.

Alternatives are now being made available however. Ones I love this year are biodegradable and full of flower seeds, so will grow in the garden next year. And the internal crap is replaced with a nice little felt fairtrade keepsake and an eco tip. Nice. Find some here.

Or, why not do a cracker secret Santa? We did this a few years ago, and it was great. Get a make your own cracker set (without metallic bits if you can to allow recycling), give each person a cracker and get them to fill it for their secret Santa for the set budget (we did £1 - challenging but did not break the bank).

And make a no crap rule. Get gran a nice neckscarf from a charity shop, a nice bar of soap, a posh little chocolate - the possibilities are endless...they just need to be small.

Friday, 19 December 2008

five gold rings...

I have pretty much finished my seasonal shopping, but tomorrow I will be accompanying my Dad around the streets of Brighton, shopping for my Mum - a family tradition started when I was young. We almost always forget where we parked the car, and the day finishes with a bag of chips from Bankers.

Anyway - to the point - we always end up in a jewellers of some description - along with everyone else in Brighton it seems. I don't know how much money is spent on jewellery over Christmas, but I know a lot gets spent, at a massive cost to our pockets and to the environment.

Some ethical gold exists, but most of the 2.5 tonnes mined annually (most of which is open cast), is not. Cyanide is used to draw out the gold which can contaminate the surrounding area, processing uses vast amounts of water, and exploitative labour is not unusual, including the employment of children.

So, what is a girl (or guy) to do?

Well, some ethical jewellers exist, like CRED , April Doubleday and Fifi Bijoux, but to stick to my favourite mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle, we should first reduce our lust for the raw material.

Not going to happen?

Well, you could hunt down an old special piece in an antiques store, or for something a bit different, why don't you reuse and recycle your loved ones own jewellery from Crimbles past, using a jewellery remodelling service such as that of Bloom and Co.

Give them an old piece, a bit of money and magic and hey presto, it is made into a new piece of your choice. A ring to a pendant, an odd earring set into an old ring, the combinations are endless. Keep the shiny stuff used and support a proper craftsman - ask your local jewellers for such a service, or visit a local art college and harness the raw talent of an up and coming designer.

I'm not going to lie - you are too late for remodelling this Christmas, so, peruse the antique shops, or keep it in mind for next year. Or maybe even Valentines day???

Thursday, 18 December 2008

stuff and nonsense...

At this time of year (well, actually since about October) the stores and newspaper supplements across the land have been filling with the obligatory Christmas 'gift guides' - each one promising to solve the eternal problem of what to buy everyone on your behalf. And all are free...

I have to admit, even in my youth, when the Argos book could be picked up by a child in one hand and not with the aid of machinery, I loved these 'guides'. They proved good to flick through and have always been good, mindless browsing.

But as I have got older, I question more (is this wisdom???). This year in particular I have been quite disgusted at the tat and crap that is being peddled through these bibles of the Christmas list. Plastic, throwaway, cheap and nasty, or massive, indulgent, unnecessary and vulgar it's all been there, and I have struggled to look at one without putting it down with a nasty taste in my mouth.

So, it was with horror I discovered the Observer magazine on 7 Dec had dedicated 36 PAGES to their ' to the Christmas presents even Santa would be thrilled with'. hmmm. We'll see...

I am glad to say I was (mostly) surprised, shocked and gladdened by the selection.

Chosen by a panel of resident contributors to the Observer, the guide was split into sections, with each bit selected by a suitable expert, so Nigel Slater kicked off with his page for cooks. C'mon Nigel - don't let us down...

It was great - no crappy gadgets, minimal plastic and everything I would gladly receive as a pressie. Carol Klein's book 'Cook your Own Veg' was there, along with 'Forgotten Fruits' by Christopher Stocks, Le Creuset pans (all mine are ancient - great investments), linen tea towels and wooden spoons. Well done Nigel.

Next up was Dan Pearson with his selection for gardeners. Again - a sterling effort - proper timber seed trays, a proper timber trug, wind up torch, recycled strawboard and felt stool (I really loved this) and Japanese 'toe wellies'. Great. No tat, sensible, useful and some good eco stuff. Well done Dan.

And so it continued - for kids by Mariella Frostrup (some plastic, but not much - and some very good creative solutions), for ethical shoppers (surely this should be all of us?) by Lucy Siegle - all good, etc etc. Not all sections would have been my perfect selection, but most of it came damn close.

The point is, this is the first guide I have read this year that had good, ethical, organic, recycled, and innovative solutions to the gift buying problem. And in all sections. Not just the 'green section' which is shoe horned into most guides.

So - well done the Observer - hopefully others will take your lead next year and we'll all have something useful to flick over with a cuppa.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

London bloody london

I have just spent the last few days in our wonderful capital.

Thursday and Friday last week were spent in Lambeth at the Roots and Shoots Centre, where I was attending the Sustainable Building Course run by The Green Register of Construction Professionals. It was a fantastic two days, learning new stuff, refreshing old stuff and generally enthusing with other people about the green movement in general. Refreshments were absolutely delicious (and fully vegetarian) and the tutors were nothing short of inspirational. In fact, it was only spoilt by the awfully cramped Northern Line tube journey in every day, which is ironic given that it was the most eco friendly way of getting in.

But, I am now a proud member of The Green Register and will soon appear here.

Then, Monday was spent visiting the RHS Lawrence Hall in Vincent Square to meet my Feb Show neighbours and see the logistics of the site. The December show was being set up whilst we were there, with the theme of pantomimes. Not my cup of tea, but I can see the fun aspect for this time of year. I did object however to the huge amount of plastic white snow being used by some exhibitors.

Despite my misgivings on the material, the hall is a beautiful example of a concrete span building, and the tiered windows cast a wonderful wash of light throughout the space. I can't wait to put our little garden in there.

I then (stupidly) battled Oxford Street, looking at the window displays and decorations. Selfridges won again, for imagination and scale, with a Santa at the laundry and on the tube, and massive 'smashing' baubles inside. The 'more the merrier' mantra used for the displays is a little unfortunate given the state of the economy, but there were plenty of people about, so who knows.

London bloody London - great to visit, but it's also nice to go back home...

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

lettuce all be merry...

Last night I went to the bi-monthly meeting of the Sussex Postcard club and bought this fantastic postcard for the princely sum of 50p.

I have to admit, it took me a minute or so to get it, but I actually laughed when my brain cells finally connected. I kept on thinking of kale or cabbage, which didn't fit.

There should be more vegetable based greetings - like the one above, or 'please turnip at my party - I'll make sure you're not the gooseberry', and 'lettuce make up and berry the hatchet'.

I'm sure you can think of better ones?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

busy? me? nah...

I apologise for the lack of blogs recently - to say we have been busy is a tremendous understatement, but I plan to remedy this with a whole bagful of blogs over the next couple of weeks, about all sorts (but especially having a greener crimbles), so watch this space.

So - what have we been up to? Here is the (link filled) rundown...

Well - first we went to Bruges and wondered at some fantastic Belgian creations. We didn't do the skating in the square as I have a duff knee, but we drank gluwein and ate chips with mayo. Bruges is a wonderful little place, and demonstrates how well the Belgians can marry very old spaces with modern interiors...exciting, respectful and beautiful.

I went to a fantastic meal with the folk of Saville Jones Architects, at Graze in Hove, which specialises in local, seasonal and organic food. We had a seven course tasting meal, which comprised of truly some of the most wonderful food I have ever eaten, with impeccable service. I highly recommend it.

Then we went to dig up our fantastic Douglas Fir tree at Wilderness Wood, who we have named Frank (after Sinatra, who we listen to when we decorate the house). He is perfectly formed and smells wonderful. We then celebrated by having a mug of Sussex tea and a cranberry filled shortbread tree biscuit outside in the watery sun, and watched everyone else transporting their own special Franks from the plantation to the barn. For me, this is what the season is about - family, nature and togetherness - not plastic, sales and the credit crunch.

Sunday saw the launch of the 2009 Green Pages - the eco alternative to the Yellow Pages by Sarah Lewis and the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre. We picked up our free copy of the directory (which will now be distributed across Sussex) at the Hove Farmers Market and attended the 'swishing party'. Our bag of swapping clothes was a bit random, and included a pair of Rodeo ski goggles and an earflap woolly hat with orange reindeer on. I even donated a few of my own handknitted hats. The reindeer hat was swapped in seconds as it was about 2 degrees outside. In return, I refilled our cotton bag with other peoples cast offs. Great. We then had a very nice cup of mulled cider (at 10 in the morning...) and bought some local wine from The Iron Railway Vineyard and had a free homeopathic remedy tailored for our ills by the wonderful and knowledgeable practitioners based at Revitalise in Hove, where they run a drop in Homeopathy Clinic.
And today I am posting my cards - fully reclaimed and recycled - made from flyers left over from our show gardens this year. (will show you how I made them in another post...)
What a great week. Here's to more celebrations eh?

Monday, 1 December 2008

'twas the first day of christmas...

...and my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree...'

Well, maybe not at the moment.

According to a recent report by BirdLife International, and quoted by The Independent, the poor little grey partridge has declined a staggering 79% over the last 25 years. Not anything to do with loves giving them in pear trees unfortunately, but more to do with massive scale agriculture, pesticides and monoculture. This has to change, and with the wonderful increase in organic farming, habitats are growing again, and with a bit of help, so will the partridge numbers.

So, if you want to give a partridge in a pear tree (both of which are wonderfully in season at the moment), I suggest you find a good and responsible game butcher local to yourselves and purchase a couple of these beautiful birds for the table - visit to find your local supplier, then quiz them about their suppliers. A good butcher knows the history of his/her stock and will be proud to tell you. And if you possibly can, try and make it an organic bird.

The pear? Well, bash up a quick pear chutney with this recipe and serve with the partridge. Then buy a pear tree anyway as they are a great British fruit and highly under-rated.

Maybe not as romantic as the original song, but still a great British meal. Lovely local food.

Friday, 28 November 2008

the electric urban orchard...

Exciting new show news!!!

We are chuffed to bits as we have been invited by the RHS to stage an urban front garden at the London show in February 09. We are to be one of three gardens - the others being a group from Capel Manor and another designer yet to be announced from a competition run by the Society of Garden Designers. As you can see, we are in exceptional company, and excited doesn't even come close.

The design has been evolving for a couple of weeks now, and I can now do a little reveal of the concept of the design and a wee sketch...

'the electric urban orchard' is a sustainable front garden with a difference. It recognises the fact that people have vehicles and parking is at a premium (especially in London), but also that paving over a front garden is hugely detrimental to the environment, both on a spiritual and personal level, but also with regards localised flash flooding. A successful front garden should be able to incorporate all needs of the user and be sustainable in all terms.

Therefore, a sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) is included, made from bound recycled glass and illicit CD chips, to allow two electric scooters to be parked at the front of the house. These scooters are charged via sockets in the bottom of recycled plastic planters, placed beneath the window for security.

The design is simple and graphic, with lines taken from the facade of the house into the horizontal of the garden. Ribbons of planting continue from the ground up the facade into a green wall module system, physically linking the two planes together.

The planting scheme echoes the graphic simplicity of the layout, being mostly made up of herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme, but an unexpected twist comes with the inclusion of three different forms of apple - espalier, steopover and standard. 'the electric urban orchard' is intended to be a modern garden, with a nod to traditional formality, and also a place to park.
Let me know your thoughts...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

only in brighton...

I was born and bred in Brighton, and am jolly proud to say so. Believe me - proper Brightonians are a little thin on the ground here, so we are becoming a rare breed...

Anyway - Brighton has long been famed for seedy nights, dirty weekends and being the gay capital of the UK, (all of which is great by the way) but Brighton is so much more than this. We have a crackin' Festival every May, we are close to the sea and the Downs, we have the Royal Pavilion, the Dome, the new Jubilee Library, the old Lanes and the North Laines (yes they are spelt differently - a laine is an old measurement or something for a field), fantastic Regency architecture, a vibrant music and arts scene, and so many wonderful independant shops that you would never be able to shake a stick at them all in a lifetime.

Plus, it is a city of randomness. I love random things - out of place, odd, surprising. Random things make me laugh, and fortunately good old Brighton delivers every time I venture in from the 'burbs.

So to celebrate this mesmerising randomness, I will be posting a few piccies under the banner of 'only in Brighton...'. And tapping into my obsession with skeletons, here is the first:

a posed skeleton with googly eyes in an old hearse. bloody genius.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

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...

Monday, 17 November 2008


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...

Thursday, 13 November 2008

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...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

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...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

well done america...

well done america.
here are some nice poster images that were used for the campaign by an artist called shepard fairey (i think)
change is a comin'...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

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...

Monday, 3 November 2008

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 for further info on the trees available this year, or visit where you can find other British christmas tree growers near you... reduce those miles and buy local...lets all have a greener crimbles...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

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 which has much more advice about the issue. go and take a look - lets crack down on the greenwashers...

Monday, 27 October 2008

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

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'...

Friday, 24 October 2008


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...

Monday, 20 October 2008

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...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

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

Sunday, 12 October 2008

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 1)
second clue: it is not remotely kinky.

so, can you guess what it is?

claire's little black 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

Friday, 10 October 2008

random, but I like it.

Found this picture today from when I went to Hampton Court Palace flower show this year.
I love it.
If I had the space and money (or a client with space and money, and a sense of humour) I'd have it.
And yes, it is a sculpture of a full size, vaulting skeleton. Fantastic.

do something. please

welcome to rant #1. the do something please rant.

Now, we are all told to 'be greener' 'save the planet' 'be responsible' and even though I do preach these things myself (and practice them as far as possible) it can be tricky.

I have caught myself with a takeaway coffee cup and really battled with myself whether to throw it in the street bin after I have finished it. Is this a bit mental? I suppose what is more mental is that most of the time I transport the frothy, leaking mass back home, to rinse it out and put the cardboard cup in my recycling. and yes, it has leaked in my bag, which I then have to clean out, and wipe brown froth off everything.

I'm an environmental mentalist.

I even pick up rubbish outside of my house and put it in my recycling bin.

But, being responsible comes in many guises, and we should not beat ourselves up about not having a solar panel on our roof or wind farm in our back garden. Little things add up.

And, to my delight I have found a fantastic website by the people who brought you 'change the world 9-5' a lovely little book should you ever find it. is a fantastic list of stuff we can all do to get things happening. Sign up, create your own list, and tick the wee boxes everytime you do something. very satisfying - just like that sheet with stars on you had at school for when you did a good thing...

Yes, there are the usual green actions you can track, like turning down your thermostat (couldn't do this one, as our house has no heating anyway - we just put on more jumpers...), recycle everything and support small and local businesses, but what I LOVE is that there are other good things that you can do easily but we JUST DON'T DO MUCH ANYMORE.

#101 - make someone smile, #97 - say thanks, #77 - show empathy, #73 - leave work at least one a week on time, #60 - remember peoples names. You get the picture. Easy stuff that we were brought up to do and yet some of us have forgotten.

But, the one I love is #82 - 'aspire not to have more, but to be more'.

Food for thought. So - visit the lovely people at, and see what you can do to get things moving.

Oh, and #98 - spread the word.

laters all

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

from small seeds...

well. welcome to my new little blog...hopefully this will be a space where you can follow what the practice is up to, going to do or just done. It will also be an area for eco discussion - new stuff we've found, good stuff, bad stuff and everything in between. I'm known for my rants, and I'm sure there will be a few on here... comments welcome.

more stuff to follow when I understand what the hell I am doing...

laters all - cj