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Thursday, 23 February 2017

February Winner of Lekto Eco Logs

Storm Doris is hitting us in the UK and bringing heavy gales, so what better time to sit in front of the fire than now. This month on #behomefree I asked you to show me your fires and wood burners because those lovely, and rather brilliant, makers of eco logs Lekto have offered a few trial packs to the winner.

If you haven't tried these heat logs then I really promise you that you won't be disappointed, without going on about the heat efficiency and the fact that they are made from bi-products, my favourite thing about them is the lack of ash and mess left behind. 

I hardly every need to clean out my grate now as the ash is so fine and in such small quantities from each burning. Anything that results in less cleaning is a winner in my books.

So here are just some of the lovely fire related entries ...

@harryandfrank @janiceissitt_life_style @wild_meadow @prettytablepia

@crunchyandsnickerty @joeunderthethatch @eakygirl @hygge_and_me

@harriet.emily @geoffreyandgrace @farmcountrysoup @onrshop
It's been so hard to pick one, as always, but I'm going to plump for the snowdrops by the fire from Wild Meadow's Andrea, who is creating a haven in beautiful Wales with her shepherds hut and eco-cottage, what better for the eco cottage fire than some eco logs.

Here's a couple of photos from me getting in the hygge spirit, the candles and matches are from Amalia at The Botanical Candle Company,
The pale grey plate from Rose & Grey and the curly handled cup from my recent trip to the potteries of Wales.

Keep on tagging your photos with BeHomeFree and in a few weeks I hope to show you some amazing wall art and macrame which will also be a prize.

See you soon, love Janice

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Harris Tweed, Hand Knits and PoZu

I want to do more posts about clothes and personal style, so when I was asked to review these boots from Po-Zu I thought it was a great opportunity to talk about mixing up vintage classics, handmade knits with new layers.

In this first photo I'm wearing my nightdress (a french linen chemise from Amanda Leader at Mistress Of Linen), I popped my new Piper boots on with bare feet so I could nip out to the garden and pick some snowdrops. I personally don't like to wear socks with shoes and so this is the ultimate test to me, how comfortable are they with bare feet? 

Lots of friends like to see my tattoos, hence why I've posted this pick.  My right leg is mostly tattooed by Amy Williams and the tattoo you can see on the left leg is the one by Amee Cornwell.   Anyway, I digress, so this is when I first realised just exactly how comfortable these PoZu boots are, they feel like someone just wrapped your feet in sponge.

So anyway, I thought I should probably get dressed to go out, always a good idea, and we planned a day of lunch at The Old Flight House in Weston On The Green (near Oxford), where the food is amazing and its set in the best antiques centre around.

I decided to take the lead from the brown tweed Piper boots by pairing them with a vintage (mens) Harris Tweed jacket, found in a charity shop, some hand knitted accessories, cashmere jumper and skirt from Jigsaw (which is now in the sale). 

The great thing about mens jackets are the pockets! I wish womens' jackets had those big inside wallet pockets, they are perfect for the mobile phone.

On our way home we popped in to Claydon House which isn't open yet for the season, but you can still look around the outside where they have a great show of snowdrops and aconites and some impressive views across Buckinghamshire.

this small orangery is to die for, theres a flowering camelia inside

Po-Zu are an amazing brand, I suggest you check them out, not only ethical (using renewable, low impact components) but fair to their workers as well.  These hand made shoes and boots have a unique sole, made like a foot mattress, with two layers of springy latex and natural coir.  

There are a few options as well for vegetarians and vegans, and so by shopping with them you can thoroughly investigate every part of the product you are buying and trust with confidence about your purchase.

While looking at the info on their website I discovered the Brisk sneaker, a fully customisable sneaker so that you can design your own pair and these have the same sole as my boots.  If, like me, your feet suffer from walking on hard surfaces for long periods of time, then these must surely be the answer to giving support and impact protection. They look to me to be the perfect shoe for travelling, (when you are walking a lot around a new city and through airports) and so I'm going to consider a pair for my trip to Morocco in March. 

I have a thing for pairing my shoe colour with my outfits, which range in either brown or black tones, but as I can't pack ten pairs of shoes for a trip, I'm going to design my own sneakers on the P0-Zu site so they have both brown and black elements to them.  These will be perfect for exploring the medieval city of Essaouria. Also they are really light weight, another essential consideration for travel.

Po-Zu also have a few high heels too which intrigue me, I wonder if they can provide the same great comfort in a heel?, now this I am interested in, being only 5 foot 2 and a bit.

Over on instagram I shall be featuring the vintage items I found at the antiques centre, these include crystal champagne glasses, some china, linen and books. 

Have a lovely weekend - Janice xxx


Friday, 10 February 2017

Making Winter - retreat with Silver Pebble

Last weekend I spent an amazing two days with a group of ladies who were brought together to learn new crafts and skills by Emma, also known as Silver Pebble.

Emma is writing a book where she looks at all the elements of why and what living through the darker colder months is all about.
The book will be out later this year, so watch out for it in Autumn and you can get yourself prepared to snuggle down and deal with winter.

My trip to the cute village of Reach was to take part in the Making Winter retreat, a weekend of making some great items and learning new crafts, with good food and great company. Can I just say to anyone who is a bit shy about doing this, you never have to worry, women in groups making craft will always be a laugh, everyone will be nervous about their skill level, and it's not a competition, just bloomin' good fun.

We also went on a nature ramble where Emma shared her expert knowledge of plants, we discovered the first signs of spring, blessed by beautiful soft warm winter sun. These dried plants below are great hiding and nesting places for ladybirds.

I was really pleased to advance my crochet along, with the expert crochet guru Jemima, who, as it turns out lives near me in Buckinghamshire so I also plan to learn lace knitting with her, if she can be persuaded to organise a group lesson.  We made some fingerless gloves with beautiful yarn supplied by Loop London, the mecca of wool shops in Islington. This is the second retreat that I've attended where Loop have sent us goodies so I paid them a visit in Islington to say thanks and came away with some great items. 

Loop London's pattern book celebrating 10 years

Emma is also known for her silver jewellery and so she taught us how to make a mould in a latex putty and then cast a silver pendant using a silver clay, which I've never tried before but plan to get straight on the internet now and order some for myself.  I cast a little acorn and some of the other crafters pressed foliage into the mould and cast shells which they had collected themselves from beach combing. The materials can be bought from Cookson Gold and Metal Clay Ltd.  I'm going to play with it some more and write about the technique in more detail here.

We also learnt to weave with willow and rush, another craft that I want to do a lot more of, how satisfying to make your own baskets. 
Our teacher Val, helped us make a candle holder/ bird feeder depending on which way up you have it, and the basics of a wreath. I want to do my own basket so let's nag Val into doing a course just in that shall we?

Our last group activity was with Emma and Lu Summers, who showed us that anyone can draw nature, whether your style is traditional and illustrative, or stylised into pattern forming and design.

We were given a useful goody bag of notepads, pens and pencils, and a gorgeous book handwritten by Emma, this inspiring book is filled with projects perfect for when you are nesting away in the warm.

I'm so glad I booked with Emma (go to Silver Pebble ) this was great value, well organised and full of quality craft projects.  It's been a while since I came away from a class itching to do more of it. I will let you know how I get on with the silver and willow.  

Val the willow weaving teacher is also known as DottyCookie so let's all nag her to set up more classes eh?

Cozy wishes from me Janice Issitt


Friday, 3 February 2017

Welsh Pottery - a handmade tradition

My recent visit to Wales was focused on hunting down cool handmade pottery, new and old.  We were down at our favourite cottages 'The Welsh House' and my friend told me the story of the oldest pottery in Wales called Ewenny.

new Ewenny bowl

cup by Bethan Morgan

I usually have a shopping list whenever I visit anywhere, of things to look out for which are significant to the area, for me Wales is synonymous with rustic wooden items and clay pottery.  I was particularly looking for unusual and individual cups and bowls, more tableware than studio art.

Our host at The Welsh House cottages was Dorian who knew of a local potter, so we jumped in the car and wound our way through the narrow, high banked lanes to see Mick Morgan at the Talog Pottery (Carmarthenshire).

Ewenny Pottery

Mick very kindly showed us his workshop and process (his art can be found is several galleries which are listed on his website), but it was the work of his daughter Bethan Morgan that caught my attention, in fact it was her 'seconds' shelf in particular as I was really looking for the more 'wabisabi' imperfect and everyday objects that I could use for moments of slow living, where a cuppa is made even more enjoyable by the holding of a gorgeous vessel. 

Mick told me that Bethan works in Narbeth at the alternative health centre and while I never actually got to track her down in person this did lead me to discover the nicest little town in the area. Narbeth has some really great cafes and antique shops but also a pottery where I met Bryony Rich at her shop The Narbeth Pottery and it began to dawn on me that the Welsh take their pottery seriously, they appreciate the skill and it's a tradition that is engrained in their history.

bowl from Narbeth Pottery

There is a great antique centre in Narbeth called Malthouse where some of the dealers have rustic pieces.

In these antique centres I did see some old pieces of Ewenny, which I can now recognise from it's glaze so I popped to their studio on the way home from Carmarthenshire, they are near Bridgend.  

Ewenny prides itself on being the oldest pottery still in existence in Wales, on the same site as it's always been. The reason for this pottery and many others in the area, began with the natural resource of clay combined with the other resources of stone to build kilns and wood to fire them.  It's thought that the first pots to be made at Ewenny were in 1427 but it was a travelling salesman Horace Elliot who brought them to a wider audience during the arts and crafts movement.

I have, since my first discovery of the pre-Raphaelites and William Morris, loved the ethos of that first Arts and Crafts movement and totally get what Horace meant when he said 

“My craving for the simple joys of peasant life dragged me down there when ever my dear wife could carry on without me, all this time I was living as a peasant potter in the cottages either of one of the potters or small plot holders and became well known to all the countryside for many miles around so that I became practically welsh as an English born man can make himself.”

who couldn't love a place that has a cat as it's emblem

I also googled up what other potters were in the area of our cottages and one result led me on a wild goose chase to find Nick Membery who makes plain and practical tableware, I drove up and down a mountain trying to locate his studio, which, as it turns out isn't open to the public, so not sign posted.  However, I did see that his work was stocked at the local castle, so down the hill and then up the hill I went again heading towards a castle ruin which was in silhouette against the brooding sky.

Carreg Cennen castle in Trapp was well worth discovering and their little shop had just a couple of pieces of Nicks stoneware, but luckily for me, the bowls that I was after were in stock, so it wasn't a wasted journey after all, but more a surprising adventure. 

I didn't visit the castle and cave itself, but will be sure to do so on a return trip as my other half would really love it. The castle dates back to the 13th century but it was so cold that day, and despite being 'dressed like I was going up Mount Everest' according to a man I met, I couldn't face the chill, instead opting for Welsh Rarebit and coffee in the tea room.

tin, old saltglaze bowl and stool from antique shops, cup by Bethan Morgan

The perfectly imperfect cup by Bethan Morgan, I just adore it so much.
I'm hoping to track down Bethan and ask her if she makes tea pots, her cups have become my very favourite things.
This weekend I'm off to Cambridgeshire to meet up with Emma - also known as Silver Pebble, to learn many new skills and freshen up on some old ones.   I hope to get some cozy photos of creatives round the fireplace and an overview of painting, jewellery casting and crochet to tell you about. 

All my love - Janice Issitt


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

January 2017 Be Home Free

Hi there to all the new people who are joining with #behomefree over on instagram.  My roundup for January 2017 has a cool feel, despite getting no snow where I live, and possibly feeling fairly cheated by this, I have chosen some pale and interesting photos and some with blue touches.

limited edition print from Curious Egg

My own version of this colour palette includes this beautiful limited edition print from Curious Egg.
Encouraging the collecting of art is my main motivation, and so to find artists who can suggest ways to display their work, and shop from curators who travel the world discovering new talent, makes me happy.

Curious Egg has been a new discovery for me, and their art section is really very good. So it's probably no surprise, that the owner Lorraine Aaron is an artist herself, as she has an eye for the different and inspired.  Their ethos to bring art and interiors together fills a yawning gap in the market and their travels have uncovered some amazing talent.

I urge you to look at their website, it's so interesting and full of good content, I could spend quite a considerable time there.

Over then to #behomefree, and please show lots of hearts to these accounts who consistently post good content. It would be great if we could just all support each other, together we are stronger.

I'm hoping we can link up with more and more parts of the world just using a hashtag, and get the message across that home is where the heart is and support can come in many forms.

@fabricofmylife @carina.michelli @wild_meadow @abookishbaker

@catesthill @hannie65 @erikaappelstrom @lapinblu

@so_siehts_jinke @so_siehts_jinke @the_curious_north @oandystudio
My overall favourite this month comes from a glorious account called Nihao Planet, which is a lifestyle store of simple and sophisticated items and they snapped this photo in a shop in China called @whiteisgoodshop. I found it so unusual and sculptural.

So here's an exciting announcement - one of the best things I received last year for review was some wood logs from Lekto Woodfuels, I'm still burning the composite logs they sent and I've never known anything to be so efficient.  They hardly leave any ash behind and so, fire after fire, I've hardly had to sweep the fireplace.  They have kindly offered two bags of hardwood logs to the next months winner of Be Home Free !!  so if you have a fireplace, wood burner or such, get posting and tell your friends to as well.  A theme of fireplaces would obviously go down really well!!

Love and hugs to all my readers, yours support is amazing.  I will strive to bring you good and honest content as much as I possibly can.  All the hearts Janice Issitt

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Burano the island of colour

Many people know of the island just off Venice called Murano, but they are missing a trick because just a little further out is Burano and boy, this is a photographers paradise.

Murano is where glass is produced, but personally I find it rather dull, we changed boats at Murano as we had gone to the wrong bus stop, there are two ways to get here from the main island of Venice on public transport.  You can get a boat to Murano from outside the main train station, but then you have to walk a little way around Murano to find the stop for Burano.  Or you can go direct but you need to go to the bus stop at the far north of Venice (the route the airport bus comes, its just round the corner from the church called 'Chiesa dei Gesuiti', if you look on the map its the side of Venice that faces Murano.

Once you are there you are a bit of a captive audience, so warning about getting food, you don't have a huge choice and what there is can be over priced.  So either take a bit of a pack lunch or eat at the little coffee places, the one where the boats leave from do deep fried calamari snacks and it looked really good and warming.

Stories go that the reason behind the painted houses were for the fishermen to be able to see their cottage from out at sea.  Now probably more done for the tourists, the colours are incredible and every house has put in the effort to place cute flowers on the windows, colour match their mop and bucket and even their washing.

It really is so much fun just to wander through the side streets using the brilliant walls as backgrounds to photos and hunting down little vignettes of cute.

I found myself thinking about which of my friends would live in which house, especially some of my instagram buddies who are associated with certain colour pallettes. 

Strange thing was, I never did find the paint shop that stocks all these colours, you would think that they must be the busiest shop on the island.

This really is an instagramers paradise.

If you time your journey just right then you can catch the sunset on your return trip to Venice.  

I hope my dazzling array of photos gives you the idea of what to expect on Burano.

Next week we are back in the UK looking at Welsh pottery, quite the opposite!

See you over on instagram, love Janice 
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