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Cretan Delights: Colourful Containers Fresh from the Med

Gorgeous Greece Opener1 - beautiful buildings by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

Apologies for the brief interlude there – it’s been a rather busy month at Stylist HQ, with several magazine shopping features to get in the bag in time for the Summer months, a little holibob over to Crete, and an unbearably exciting, top-secret project which I will reveal as soon as I’m allowed! The next couple of months don’t promise much let-up, but I’ll pop back soon.

But back to the holibob. So after the disastrous non-holiday of 2012 (four days before we were due to depart I managed to smash my elbow to bits, meaning I spent the day we were meant to fly out lying at home on the sofa in a post-operative, codeine-induced stupor) I almost couldn’t allow myself to look forward to this one (needless to say, I turned down an offer of a Roller Disco the week prior). Luckily the boyf, who booked the whole thing, sorted us out a bit of a blinder, getting us a very cheeky little deal on the stunning Blue Palace resort in Elounda, north-eastern Crete (thanks, Travel Zoo!) Having never stayed anywhere particularly posh before, this was a right ol’ treat for my thankfully-recovered yet world-weary arm, and other limbs. A week of having three courses at breakfast alone (including olives and cake, obvs) can somewhat give a girl a taste for the finer things.

Gorgeous Greece Opener2 - beautiful buildings by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

But fear not, I haven’t lost my love for crumbly, tumbledown, ramshackle interiors. Or more specifically for this post, exteriors. As it’s been winter in the UK for approximately ten months now (though the sun does appear to have finally put his hat on today – hurrah!) and as I’m still looking for ways to tart up our garden on a budget of approximately 50p, I found myself increasingly drawn to all the glorious flora and fauna dotted all around the Island. With a climate as fabulous as this, who wouldn’t want to cover every available outdoor area with a riot of plants and flowers? And no one quite does breezy, just-throw-together casual outdoor arrangements quite like the Greeks in my book. From cheap and cheerful gerberas exploding out of old urns to mismatched pots crammed together, leaves a-mingling, threatening to topple off a sugar-cube-house windowsill, it’s an achingly charming, utterly achievable look to recreate at home. If it ever turns into Summer and you possess a pair of green fingers, that is.

Well my fingers are far from green but as my Concrete Jungle garden contains zero planting space, I’m going all-out for container gardening – here are a few things I’m hoping to try out back in balmy east London:

Rustic style pots1 - by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

Rustic style pots2 - by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

Rustic Style: An organic, eclectic mixture of vessels look simply stunning when grouped together en masse. Adding levels, like these wooden steps and tree-stump-turned-pot-stand, is a great way to both create height for added interest and make the most of limited floor space. A wholly achievable look for making a mish-mash of individual pots all work together.

Painted pots - by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

Painted Pots: Always a classic way to add a dash of colour, especially over in old Blighty for those months when everything’s 50 shades of blah. Whilst old terracotta pots are a lovely little rustic treat just as they are, their mass-produced brand-new counterparts leave a little more to be desired and are a perfect candidate for whipping out the brushes.

Having fake-painted pots numerous times for shoots and events with little consideration to them actually lasting the test of time, I’ve given this one a bit of a Google: the general consensus seems to be that both artist’s acrylic paints and normal water-based emulsion are the best candidates for the job. There are various should-you, shouldn’t-you varnishing debates, however – as the terracotta is porous by nature, you don’t want moisture running through it and causing the paint to peel, but at the same time you don’t want to ‘trap’ the moisture either. The best bet seems to be to coat the inside of the pot with some slightly diluted PVA glue beforehand – or just go for it and paint it as is, and accept that it may well all flake off in a year or two (by which point your chosen colours will presumably be so last-season anyway that you may well be grateful for the enforced update…)

Recycled tin pots - by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

Recycled Tins: Whilst I’ve seen the classic upcyclers’ tin-as-planter many a time, I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen one painted before – and this is a super-fab idea. Hammerite’s the guy you want for this job, and they’ve just launched 26 new colours, too. I love the idea of going two-tone with this, and maybe even adding a strip of masking tape randomly across the tin before painting, to peel it off and reveal a hint of the original design. Time to start stalking the local Indian for leftover cooking oil tins…

Beautiful Blooms1 - by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog Beautiful Blooms2 - by  Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

I’m also keen to try covering some of my plastic planters, which the Greeks also seemed to just liberally splash with emulsion but in reality I think some Plastikote spraypaint is probably your best bet. I’ll be giving this one a go soon now I’ve semi-organised the shed and can actually reach my spraypaint section.

I’ll be back soon with more Grecian snaps, but to end, a familiar scene throughout the holiday: the slightly-irritated-boyfriend-on-step-waiting-for-partner-to-finish-instagramming.

Toodle-pip for now!

{Images: all copyright Joanna Thornhill}

Low-fi Video Delights: What to do with 288,000 Jelly Beans, three projectors and a laser

Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 1

I’m not normally one to pay too much attention to video art (is it even called that anymore? “Video” sounds so Granny these MP3-days). But I do enjoy creative, interesting visuals, the comedy of Adam Buxton and casually mocking/deriding poor grammar and spelling. So as all these elements combined last week at Mr Buxton’s cult comedy night, Bug, I revelled in the opportunity to laugh my proverbial socks off at the accidentally-side-splittingly hilarious comments posted by the YouTube community, whilst sitting rather in awe of some of the artists, too. Here’s three fab ones you should definitely pay a virtual visit to.

Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 2 Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 3 Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 4

Created entirely as a stop-motion film by director Kijek/Adamski, this quirky video, Katachi (which roughly translated means ‘shape’ in Japanese) was made out of around 2,000 silhouette pieces extracted from PVC plates using a computer controlled cutter. Meant to represent “an everlasting chain of convulsive memories”, I just, um, liked the nice shapes and bright colours.

Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 5 Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 6 Sugo Tokumaru Katachi Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 7

(Video above: Shugo Tokumaru – Katachi. Do also  check out the making of it here)

Willow - Sweater Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 1 Willow - Sweater Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 2

Next up is Willow with Sweater – not sure if the song title actually refers to the very Sarah Lund-esque knitwear the lead singer is sporting, but either way this video is an extremely clever bit of projection – the entire piece is shot in one set, with a treadmill and three beamers projecting a series of moving images (stairs, trains, the tide, a bizarre underwater world with day-glo sea creatures) in which our leading man reacts appropriately. Go watch it, it’ll make more sense then.

Willow - Sweater Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 3 Willow - Sweater Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 4 Willow - Sweater Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 5 Willow - Sweater Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 6

(Video above: Sweater by Willow)

Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 1 Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 2 Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 3

And last but certainly no means least, this frankly amazing video featuring American Singer/Songwriter Kina Grannis and made by the most patient man IN THE WORLD, director Greg Jardin, who together with his team and over 288,000 Jelly Beans, painstakingly created a three-and-a-half minute stop-motion video containing 2,300 individually composed frames. Over TWO YEARS. And I can barely concentrate on finishing blog posts…

Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 4 Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 5 Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 6 Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 7

(Video above: In Your Arms by Kina Grannis – and click through to The Making Of while you’re at it).

Kina Grannis - In Your Arms Video - Stills as blogged on Stylist's Own 8

{Images: All screengrabs taken from each artist/director’s individual videos – see links above}

Terminal Mirage: Abstract Photography that’s not all it seems

Terminal Mirage Photography by David Maisel

Flipping through the Sunday Times magazine recently, two things caught my eye: one, I was still reading the 3rd Feb issue – why am I so slow at reading? And two, some rather outstanding photography which at first glance looked like abstract close-up images of wall tiles, but is in reality something very different indeed.

Terminal Mirage Photography 2 by David Maisel

Part of photographer David Maisel’s Terminal Mirage project, they are actually all aerial shots of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, Western United States. Exceptionally rich in sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride and sulfate, along with algae and bacteria also living in its waters, the mineral content of each lake results in its kaleidoscope of colours. With parts of the lake used to commercially extract salts and minerals for industrial use, it is hard to determine exactly where nature’s touch ends and the toxic influence of man’s hand begins. By deliberately obscuring function and scale, the viewer is left to ponder exactly what they are looking at, who created it and why it’s even there.

To find out more, do take yourself over to David’s website for more of a gander. Bring a cuppa with you.

{Images: All copyright photographer David Maisel}

All of the Lights: Light Show at the Hayward Gallery

Outside the Inside Southbank Opener Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

I love my job. Not all the time (particularly on Admin Days), but in the broader sense, it’s pretty ace. But sometimes it can be hard to switch off. When you work from home and your work is in interiors and you’re also decorating your house from top to toe, sometimes it’s hard to think of little else. A “break” in-between writing about inspirational cushions and plotting a kitchen makeover shoot is these days spent frantically scouring eBay for cheap old cupboards, so I can finally store my guest towels somewhere other than in a leftover moving-house box on the floor, alongside dealing with DIY calamities (sigh)…

Light Show 1 Images by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

My point being, sometimes it’s easy to forget to step out of that interiors bubble and look at the big wide(r) world, as when we do, more often than not it provides the inspiration we’d been desperately seeking earlier. And a visit to the Hayward Gallery’s Light Show exhibition on London’s Southbank (where I snapped this cool graffiti and huge tree inexplicably wrapped in fabric, above) quite simply blew my little socks off recently.

Light Show 2 Images by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

An exploration of the way artists are increasingly using light itself as a medium, a series of displays and mini ‘sets’ play with the visitors’ visual and sensory perceptions – and some of them will LITERALLY blow your mind. Let’s put aside any deeper meaning and symbolism for a moment (look away, artists): this exhibition is fun! From Conrad Shawcross’s Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV (a small room where the play of light and shadow convince your brain the space is swiftly bouncing up and down, giving your the off-the-waltzers fairground-leg wobbles when you exit), to Olafur Eliasson’s Model for a Timeless Garden (a pitch black space with a bank of miniature fountains, flashed with strobe lighting to ‘freeze frame’ its movement), this is a playground for all. Case in point – it’s not often you see swathes of toddlers at art galleries actually engaging with the work on show, rather than just running amok round their exasperated parents.

Fluro Love Light Show Images by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Art & Interiors Light Show & Dulux by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

From an interiors perspective (see, I just can’t help myself) it was fascinating watching how different lights and colours bled together in the graphic set of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation, with both its hues and aesthetic sharing a little similarity with Dulux’s Collective Passions SS13 palette, along with Brigitte Kowanz’s beautiful Light Steps, giving a completely different twist to the much-berated (in interiors) fluorescent tube light and causing me to now lust after this, spotted in the gift shop.

{Images: All photography by Joanna Thornhill apart from the room set at the end, which is via Dulux. Light Show is on until 28th April 2013 and booking in advance is strongly recommended.}

{Psst: wondering why I’m blathering on about Dulux all week? Well, I’m working on an exciting online collaboration with them, exploring their latest SS13 trend, Collective Passions. All week I will be producing blog posts with this trend as the starting point, and then on Saturday 9th March I will be presenting my findings at Meet the Blogger London. To find out more about both, click here.}

The Big Chill

I think I speak for all Brits when I say I’m mighty glad that (for now, at least) the extreme chill that enveloped our fair lands for most of February seems to finally be making way for a tentative start to early Spring (cue heavy rain and plummeting temperatures for the next three weeks). Right in the midst of the chill, and also in the midst of house hunting – the main reason for my lengthy absence as much of the month was lost to findaproperty.com – myself and the boyf embarked on a weekend trip to the Welsh countryside, for a stay in beautiful Portmeirion.

Although there’s no doubt it would indeed be a most excellent place to while away the hours on a balmy summer’s day, there was something about being in essentially a tourist resort (albeit a very classy one) out of season that just feels somewhat magical. The piercing Winter’s sun glistened away over frosty surfaces and the vibrant pops of colour within the village itself contrasted beautifully with watercolour skies, all beautifully tempered by the cold seasonal light.

As well as lofty design ideas to steal for my own as-yet-non-existant garden and some rather natty little colour combos, I’ll not soon forget those beautiful, inky skies – and a Full English so immense, we were full up until tea time.

{Images – all copyright Joanna Thornhill}

Happy New Year – and an Insight into India

Well here we are – a whole shiny new year sprawled ahead of us. It seems somewhat odd that many of us (myself included) choose to spend it mooching around the house with a hangover and hazy memories of dancing the night away to bad ’80’s music whilst we watch crap telly, counting down the minutes until we can legitimately go back to bed again and do things ‘properly’ tomorrow. But I’ve just about mustered up the energy to cobble together some of my favourite photos from my recent trip to India, which was hands-down my most inspirational, eye-opening, glorious highlight of what is now last year.

I’ve never been that keen on the idea of going to India to be honest – too noisy, bustly, chaotic and a severe lack of bland food (I don’t cope well with spice). But the opportunity to go out there for my Bestie’s wedding was simply too good to refuse, and as it turned out, these actually ended up being the things I loved most about the whole experience. In the sanitised West, where a simple request like asking for access to bleach spray in order to clean a dusty cupboard shelf at work can be refused on grounds of the Health & Safety risks (yes, this honestly did happen to me recently), the whirlwind of madness that is India, with its families of 10 hanging out of a tiny rickshaw, live power cables draped at head height and streets where life is just there, right in front of you in all its beautifully unedited glory, it all felt so wonderfully, liberatingly free. Perhaps it’s a somewhat crass viewpoint given that, I’m sure, the survival rate on those roads and streets must be significantly less rosy than in our seatbelted, security passed towns, but there was something so honest and simple about so much of what we saw I feel it’s justified to be envious of many of the lifestyle elements we bore witness to. And the spicy food? Well, let’s just say that genuinely enjoying a plate of Curried Cumin Cabbage couldn’t have surprised anyone more than me. And nowadays, you can’t keep me away from a good Rogan Josh for love nor money.

Here are a few compilations of some of the glimpses of colour, texture, people and pattern that caught my eye over there – will try and post the remainder, grouped into buildings and transport (seriously – the trucks out there are, like, totes amaze) – soon. Happy New Year!!

{All images copyright Joanna Thornhill}

Vacations and Vintage Keys

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all stylists must love the following things:

Washi tape

Charity shops/car boots/antiques fairs/second hand stores

Rusty old vintage keys

Hydrangeas

Trinkets, baubles and general other miscellaneous nonsense a magpie might want for their nest.

Behold here a board full of said rusty vintage keys, snapped in India on my recent vacation there last month (hence my absence of late, and much more to come on this subject!) Needless to say, one of these said keys is now hanging on a door handle in my flat, along with numerous other artefacts picked up on my travels. Just wanted to pop in and share before I do my uber catch-up post in a few days – and a big wave if any of you have popped over from Heart Home magazine, where my latest Christmas styling feature has just gone live. Do come back shortly, as I’ve got some sneaky behind-the-scenes snaps of our shoot day to share too – coming soon!

{Photo copyright: Me}