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Lettering workshop with Martina Flor

A few weeks ago I spent a sunny Saturday taking a hand-lettering workshop with Berlin-based letterer Martina Flor of goodtype.co. It was held in a fab artists’ supply shop called Jackson’s which is about a ten minute walk from my home here in Stoke Newington. The class, generally aimed at creative types, was all about creating and sketching our own lettering piece while getting advice from Martina on how to improve our process.

First, Martina talked us through some of her work, including for commissions for clients including Etsy, Esquire, Penguin books and Harrods, as well as self-initiated pieces for exhibitions.

She then explained her process for creating a new type piece and gave us a demo. Basically she starts with a loose composition sketch and lays tracing paper over the top, adding more details and making revisions where needed.

While we had a go, Martina walked around giving tips and advice.

It was a bit difficult for me to separate lettering from calligraphy. Martina explained that while calligraphy can be useful in learning about pressure, line weights and character consistency, hand-lettering is a much more free process so you shouldn’t feel bound by any ‘rules’. However it’s still important to ensure there’s a rhythm through the piece and shared characteristics between the letters so they create a cohesive whole.

I did about a million versions, ran out of time, and my piece is still not finished! I came away with a better understanding of how to improve my process, composition and letter-making though. Next time I would like to push myself and try something completely different away from the calligraphic style.

Find out more about Martina’s workshops here, and visit goodtype.co to see upcoming dates.

Disclosure: I received a discount on my ticket from Martina.

Hola from Quito, Ecuador

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Hello there. I’m on my travels again – this post comes to you from Quito, Ecuador, care of KLM. After visiting Panama with their partners Air France and Branding Latin America, I’m so pleased that KLM invited me to take another trip to show off one more of their increasingly popular Latin American destinations. Panama so exceeded my expectations that I was raring to see more of this part of the world. Even better, Ecuador is officially in South America (Panama is part of North America, continentally speaking), so it’s a brand new continent that I can tick off.

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KLM fly to Quito daily from several UK airports, including Heathrow where I took off from yesterday morning. The trip is undeniably a long slog, but KLM made it pretty easy and comfortable. As with Panama, I was treated to use of the SkyTeam lounge at Heathrow. With a 6.30am flight time I was out of the door at 3.15am (I didn’t even bother to go to sleep, which was an error in hindsight), so it was very nice to be able to recharge and get a little breakfast in the lounge before the short hop to Amsterdam. From there it was a quick transfer and on to Quito. No upgrade this time sadly as the flight was full, but Economy was plenty comfortable enough to get some sleep and there was a great selection of TV and films (I watched The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which was absolutely hilarious and beautiful – watch it if you can!).

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I can’t wait to see what this country has to offer – the tiny peek I had getting from the airport into town already revealed some stunning vistas. The itinerary I’ve got planned looks amazing and covers some of Ecuador’s natural wonders such as volcanoes, lakes and geobotanical reserves, as well as plenty of time in the colonial city of Quito checking out the local crafts, markets and food. Keep an eye on my Instagram and Twitter for regular updates and of course more in-depth updates here.

I’ve been sent to Ecuador as a guest of Branding Latin America / Quito Tourism, and my flight was provided by KLM.

Tea and ballet at Kew

Thank you for all your entries into my Kew giveaway. I enjoyed reading about all your favourite herbs and flowers in the comments, and was only sorry that just one person could win – that was Sabina of Shade of Red, and I hope she enjoyed the night. Just thought I’d share some photos of the evening. It had been pouring with rain all day so I was a bit worried the night would be a washout too, but luckily it held off and was a very nice evening.

First we had a tea tasting in the palm house, the splendid Victorian iron and glass structure at the heart of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. We also had short talks from Kate Halloran, senior tea buyer of Taylors of Harrogate, and Monique Simmons OBE, Director of the Kew Innovation Unit, who worked together on the new range of herbal and fruit teas.

All the teas were delicious, but I especially liked the sweet rhubarb; an unusual flavour but appropriate given how much rhubarb is grown in the Yorkshire area. The tea smelled just like warm rhubarb crumble and would be great after dinner in place of dessert. I’ve also been drinking a lot of the lemongrass and ginger as a soothing digestiv.

After the tasting, we wandered around the palm house, admiring the tropical plants.

As dusk fell we headed outside, where Betty’s were offering more tea and some of their amazing baked goods. I had a tiny delicious Victoria sponge and a macaron that tasted just like chocolate brownie.

We took our lakeside seats for the performance and wondered how the ballet on water would be performed. It turned out to be a 3d hologram, projected into a spray of water in the middle of the lake. The effect doesn’t photograph well but was stunning! Thanks to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Taylors for a great unusual night.

Wedding Dresses at the V&A

Wedding dresses at V&A

I was treated to a preview of the V&A’s new Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition last week. It opened to everyone at the weekend, so here’s a peek at some of my favourite things on show.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A
The ground floor charts dresses from the 18th century up to the mid-20th century. You can clearly see the styles changing through the years and the influence that factors such as wealth and location had on the dress a woman chose. Above, some elaborately hand-worked 18th century dresses.

Wedding dresses at V&A

I love the print of this humble cotton dress, worn by a farm labourer in the 1830s.

Wedding dresses at V&A

A steam-moulded Victorian corset to be worn under a dress – yikes.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at the V&A
A century later, the influence of eveningwear on bridalwear became apparent. This beautiful gown with a ridiculously long train was worn by a socialite in the 1930s.

Wedding dresses at V&A

Another stunning 30s dress, bias cut silk with a slightly more subtle train, again worn by a society lady.

Wedding dresses at the V&A

A silver lamé bridesmaids’ dress for a Jewish wedding, from just up the road in Stamford Hill.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Not every dress is white: a purple coat dress handmade by its wearer in the 1890s, and a gorgeous red shirt dress from the 30s.

Wedding dresses at V&A

The show is interspersed with little personal touches: fabric swatches, shoes and floral crowns and real quotations written on the walls, which makes it feel intimate and personal. This show really celebrates the bride herself.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Moving upstairs, this section covers the 1960s onwards and contains most of the star draws of the exhibition. Firstly, Kate Moss’s dress from her wedding to Jamie Hince.

Wedding dresses at V&A

The Galliano dress is even more stunning in the flesh as it was in the photos at the time: it’s got over a quarter of a million gold sequins as well as pearl beads and paillons which took over 700 hours to complete.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Another Galliano creation and one of my all-time favourites, Gwen Stefani’s dip-dyed dress. Great to see all the punk-influenced lacing and strapping on the back. Ugly shoes though!

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Dita von Teese’s typically retiring shimmery purple gown

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Modern dresses with influences from the 60s and 30s.

Wedding dresses at the V&A
Wedding dresses at the V&A

A pretty 60s tea dress, designed by its wearer

V&A Wedding dresses

A modern Ghanian wedding ensemble in traditional wax prints. I thought the show was a little too Western-orientated overall – it would have been nice to see more dresses from other cultures.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Interesting and beautiful craftsmanship techniques: roses applied to the veil with rubber, and the Duchess of Cornwall’s handpainted silk coat.

Wedding dresses at V&A

Even if like me you don’t have much interest in weddings, there is plenty to be enthralled by here. The changing fashions through time, the craftsmanship and the social and historical influences are all fascinating and make this show well worth a visit. The exhibition runs at the V&A until next March; you can find out more and order tickets here.

Breddos for brunch & dinner

Breddos tacos

So excited we were that Breddos Tacos were popping-up just down the road in Haggerston, we visited on consecutive weekends right after it opened earlier this month. Well, there’s both the American-style brunch and night-time Mexican street food menus to check out, so it’d be silly not to really.

Breddos tacos

First up, a foray down to grab some breakfast just a couple of days after the opening night. The pop-up is in Trip Space, cultural/events centre just behind Haggerston station. It was half-full with a relaxed buzz about it, with a mix of local hipsters and families at the tables.

Breddos tacos
Breddos tacos

The menu looks promising; mostly American breakfast classics with a stab at healthiness in the avocado toast and granola options. Ain’t nobody got time for that, though…

Breddos tacos

His n’ hers coffees to start

Breddos tacos

Josh went for the chorizo, egg and bacon muffin: a pimped up Egg McMuffin with requisite fluffy bun and ooozy innards, complete with chipotle ketchup to slather on.

Breddos tacos

I had huevos rancheros. They let me swap the chorizo for a second egg, and it was a great example of one of my favourite dishes: the tomato sauce and guacamole were spot on and there was a good balance of all the elements.

Breddos tacos

We shared a portion of triple-cooked potatoes, perfectly crispy-skinned and fluffy inside.

Breddos tacos
Breddos tacos

A week later we were back for round two, taco edition. Booking is pretty essential in the evenings and it was much busier. There’s a short but well-judged range of wines, cocktails and local beers. I started with an Anejo Sour, which is basically all my favourite things in a drink: rum, honey, lime, ginger, bitters. Ace.

Breddos tacos

The food menu is small but mega appealing: there aren’t tons of vegetarian taco or plancha options but there’s a whole section of veggie sides which we hit hard. The food comes as it’s ready from the kitchen and the menu changes up often.

Breddos tacos

First up we got the charred spring onions with queso fresco, and a slaw salad. Both were super fresh and full of vibrant flavour. In fact I’m going to copy the spring onion idea as a taco filling at home.

Breddos tacos

I ordered the mushroom, porcini and peanut tacos and was really impressed. I think it’s hard to make a vegetarian taco reach the same mouthwatering levels as say, pulled pork, but this was a really good stab: the mushrooms cooked down to a meaty reduction, given an extra whack of umami and crunch from the roasted peanuts and topped with a fresh salsa and baby greens. Very clever. Devoured immediately.

Breddos tacos

Grilled corn is a street food classic, and this had that intense buttery flavour offset by a sprinkling of habanero. I also liked the little jar of pickled chillies (jalapeno and habanero) you get for the table so you can dial up the heat to your liking – a nod to their Netil Market stall where a big jar stands waiting for the brave. (The even braver neck the pickling brine as a chilliback shot – yikes!)

Breddos tacos
Breddos tacos

Not quite full, we has space for a second cocktail and a wedge of key lime pie to finish. It could have done with a bit more lime for my taste, but the curd was smooth and creamy and the base biscuity-crisp perfection.

It’s ever so slightly dangerous to have all this yumminess just down the road for a few more months; I feel we’ll be back sooner rather than later. See here for opening hours and here for a bit more about Breddos.