Atelier 19

Well, I’ve finally managed to open my atelier/showroom in Cheltenham. Some of you may know that I’ve been trying to do this for around 15 years or even longer (I recently found something I’d written when I was 9 saying all I wanted to do when I grew up was open my own shop and make clothes for people!). So, maybe I’m grown up enough now and it’s finally my time to do what I want with my life!

I’ve been looking for the right premises since moving to Cheltenham and I finally found one at 19 Suffolk Road that gives me everything I need in my favourite location known as The Suffolks. It’s always been my favourite part of Cheltenham as it’s full of quirky shops and galleries, so very artisan and bohemian. The added bonus is that everyone is really friendly and supportive and work together to raise awareness of the area.

Eventually everything was sorted and I got the keys on September 30th. I decided I wanted to open on October 15th so managed to completely redecorate the space and set everything up in just two very hectic weeks! The other designers involved all helped set up and Anthony Lewis Churchill was brilliant adding the final touches and doing the window display (it helped that he used to design windows for Harrods and Fortnum and Mason)!

The amazing haberdashery unit that I came by when I was a teenager when my Dad refurbished a shop in Ross-on-Wye (the old Vines) finally came inti it’s own and looks like it’s been there for years. Behind it is a small selection of original vintage wedding dresses and a beautiful Victorian veil with the original wax flower headdress. To the left is a range of cute flower girl dresses by BE by Little Wings made from vintage fabric and antique christening dresses.

We eventually managed to fill the whole space with all our work, the French antique brocante finds I’d been amassing and handmade goodies from other friends and designers whose work I really admire. Basically, the whole space is filled with things I love so a bit self indulgent but it seems to work and everyone seems to love it too!

On the day of the gala opening, we had the Mayor of Cheltenham pulling the ribbon to officially open the shop as well as a visit from Michael and Clare Morpurgo. All my friends and family came along including a surprise visit from my eldest son and his new wife which was really ” the icing on the cake”! We also served mini cakes made by my lovely daughter with Prisecco, elderflower and tea.

It’s been a week now since we opened and the response has been brilliant although it’s still a bit quiet. We’ve already taken two orders for jackets/coats so all very promising. Can’t wait for our first bride to find us so we can design and make everything for the whole wedding!

Tales from the Potting Shed

A while ago I did another brilliant photo shoot with Danniella Jaine. We wanted to do a very floral shoot (right up my street!) and asked the florist Charlotte Elizabeth to be part of it as well as hair stylist Jo Vallender and mua Ruth Hancox. My very favourite model and muse Olivia Harriet agreed to model for us again. When Danniella arrived at our flat, we quickly decided that an old disused greenhouse in the garden would be the perfect location so emptied it of all the rubbish and filled it with the amazing flowers Charlotte had brought with her as well as the beautiful floral garlands and this was the result – my very favourite shoot to date! It was published in Fae magazine which was great – hope you like it!

After Alice photo shoots

While Danniella Jaine was in Cheltenham we did another photo shoot, namely the white Queen and Alice through the Looking Glass. We were hoping to use the churchyard in Painswick as the location but the weather was against us so we used Vallender Salon as Jo Vallender was doing the hair. We had two models, Olivia Harriet Smith and Sammy Lee-Smith. Our make up artist was Victoria Jones. The images were amazing and both shoots were featured in different issues of Dreamingless Magazine.

After Alice

The next exciting project while we were staying in Cheltenham was a mixed exhibition curated by yours truly at the Art Couture Gallery in Painswick. The idea stemmed from an amazing photo shoot I’d done with the photographer Danniella Jaine for her final degree project. Her idea was to take each character from Alice in Wonderland to represent one of the 7 deadly sins. The shoot took us three days with 7 models but we didn’t manage to get them published so I decided it would make a good foundation for an Alice inspired exhibition with the images on the walls and each of the outfits displayed on mannequins in the gallery. I had met the ceramic artist Claire Baker whist doing my MA at Bath Spa and knew that her ceramics would be perfect to set the scene for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. I also asked the milliner Lisa Jayne to provide crowns and hats that we’d used in the shoot. Whilst I was planning this extravaganza I came across Anthony Lewis Churchill who amongst other things has set up a children’s charity and makes incredible children’s clothes also inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Another textile artist I’d met at Bath Spa, Susan Sutton, also provided some lovely whimsical creatures which added a further edge of fantasy. The exhibition looked amazing but as Painswick is a bit off the beaten track, the number of visitors and buyers was a bit disappointing. The whole experience was lovely though and I proved to myself that I could curate an interesting exhibition. 


Marie Antoinette window


Another step in the right direction for our big move started last October. We had a few lets at Cedars House so rented a cottage in our favourite part of Cheltenham, the Suffolks for a month. I needed a hair cut and colour so went to Vallender Salon simply because I liked the look of it. I got talking to the owner Jo Vallender and it seemed we had a lot in common, including a passion for Marie Antoinette. I told her that I was looking for a studio/showroom in the area and she showed me an upstairs room which was empty. While I was still there, someone from the Wilson Gallery came in with details of a window display competition to tie in with an exhibition about the icon Audrey Hepburn. The brief was to do a window display inspired by another icon so we immediately decided to collaborate on a “Marie Antoinette” window as I already had an outfit and Jo could make a Marie Antoinette wig. I already had photographer Su Larkins and designer Anthony Lewis Churchill (who just so happened to have designed window displays for Harrods and Fortnum and Mason!) coming to talk about my upcoming Alice in Wonderland inspired exhibition so we tied it in with a live photo shoot in the salon window.

Unexpected Excesses photo shoot

      While we were in Edinburgh (the exhibition was on for the whole month of August) we thought it would also be lovely to get lots more creative people on board and as Liz had lots of artistic friends, we had a constant stream of poets, musicians and storytellers taking part in our extravaganza and even did two live stage performances on the street. Apparently, we were the first ever gallery show to be given a live stage slot! For my part, I organised a live photo shoot with an amazing photographer Juliette Litchmann from “Somnolent Images”. We had two models dressed and made up when two press photographers turned up. They both took a few images and said that they would be submitting them to the national press so they might appear in the paper the following day. I thought “yeah, whatever!” and didn’t give it another thought until the following morning my son saw on Twitter that one of my outfits was featured in the Telegraph! Juliette also took some beautiful images under not too ideal circumstances. 


Edinburgh Fringe Festival

  I had a busy Summer last year including taking part in an amazing mixed exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival. It all came about when I met the incredible ceramic artist Liz Watts in a gallery in Bradford-on-Avon. As soon as I saw her work I just knew we had to exhibit together somehow. We kept in touch until the time was right and decided to go for it! Luckily for me, Liz had many contacts in Edinburgh already including the EDS gallery who very kindly offered us a space in the gallery to put our crazy idea together. We decided that as our work was already slightly “over the top” we would call it “Unexpected Excesses” and set the whole thing up as a “Bohemian Banquet”.