Friday, April 30, 2010

Vintage glamour

Good morning everyone! I'm so glad to be back. :-)

Today I'd like to introduce you to Giovanna Velasquez, founder of the label Magenta 8, which produces beautiful, timeless boleros and jackets. I spoke to Giovanna about herself and her designs - read all about it below!

FoL: Giovanna, tell us a bit about your Peruvian background and how Magenta 8 came to be.

GV: I was born in Lima, a fantastic city, surrounded by friends and family with amazing long summers at the beach house. Then I moved to the States and lived in Washington D.C., travelling quite extensively while there until my early teens when I went back to Peru. Although I’m very Peruvian in heart and soul, I had very little knowledge of the country, so I decided to travel through the highlands, the Amazon and the coastal areas, which are the three main regions of Peru. It’s amazing, after so many years, I still go back to these areas looking for inspiration, or sourcing new materials and ideas, and it still makes me fall in love again. 

Magenta 8 started based on my belief that women were looking for unique, classic pieces that were not lifestyle or brand oriented. Investment pieces that have a strong sense of style, value and reflected elegance – individuality and quality all at once! 

FoL: What is Magenta 8's philosophy? 

GV: Our ethos is based on three parts. Firstly, our values. We are committed to a fault in what we do. We do not compromise with quality and standards, not only with our products but also with the people we work with. The second part is the garment or product, and last but not least, is our communication with people. We say what we do and we do what we say.

FoL: Do you have a signature product? 

GV: Our signature product is our brand. We are known to have “an eye for details”, such as our linings or something within the product itself that reflects our tendency toward “small things”, which, to us, are the things that can make a real difference. Our current collection is called Hummingbird, and these gentle Peruvian birds are hand-drawn and illustrated on the satin linings. They carry a message of joy, hope and happiness.

FoL: What else does Magenta 8 offer?

GV: The additional services we offer are personal. We are great believers of building relationships with our clients, our customers, and our supporters; so we listen. They might require an additional item and/or are looking for something specific. We will take into consideration their needs and depending on the workload we will make every effort to have something made to their requirement. We have done this a few times and in all honesty it’s a fun experience, because our customer’s special requests can serve as a source of inspiration for new ideas.

FoL: What does your typical day look like?

GV: First I spend my “me time” trying to keep in shape, and then I collect my “heavenly drink” (coffee) and go to the office or to a meeting. Most of my meetings are very early in the morning depending on which stage of the year I am in. If I am in the middle of building my key pieces, then my office will be surrounded by mood boards, swatches of all the materials I have gathered, sketches, illustrations, accessories and most importantly my main mood board, with everything that reflects the woman I am building this collection for. During these times, I will have many meetings regarding the production and development of the collection.

FoL: What inspires you?

GV: The vintage era, from the 30s Hollywood starlets to the 40s with its austerity and rationing. Tailoring was magnificent and items were investment pieces. But my favourite decade was the 50s: Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel. This era for me was the one that had a strong effect on women: a time of liberation and equality, especially since they contributed to managing tasks that were always given to men. Empowerment is one word that I always have in mind when designing.

FoL: How can the readers get in touch with you or buy your designs?

GV: Readers can write to us at for any queries, and if they are interested in buying any garments they can send an e-mail to and we will gladly take their request.

Thanks, Giovanna, for chatting to me! And yes, Magenta 8 ships worldwide! Have you guys seen the film An Education, by the way? It's fantastic, and I think Magenta 8's designs would fit right in there.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jewel colours

Are you thinking about sprucing up your living room for winter? Why not incorporate some of these lovely pieces from The Sofa Studio.

My favourite could be that teal chair, but I'm having a really hard time choosing! The Sofa Studio is located in Franschhoek and you can e-mail them or visit their website for more info.

I'm going away for a few days on a (hopefully) well-deserved break, so I won't be posting until next Friday. In the meantime, have fun exploring the archives and clicking on my favourite blogs! :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The artist’s life

Guess what? Today we have a real-life, honest-to-goodness, paint-and-brushes artist as a guest!

A while back, a gorgeous painting of red shoes by Cheri Wollenberg was featured on the blog (read the post here). Now let’s hear what has to say about art, inspiration and the ever-present money matters...

Cheri, you've been a painter for 25 years. I'm sure everyone asks you this, but how did you get to where you are now? Where did you study and how have you kept your art going?

I was a young mother when I became interested in painting. I soon found out that mothering was a full-time job. I also found out that just as oil and water do not mix, children and painting equipment, art supplies and the painting process don’t either!  When my children were old enough to go to school I took some painting classes. The teacher soon became my mentor and she suggested that I go back to college and work on an art degree. I finished my BA and MA in Art Education. During this journey I painted a lot, but now I am finally at a place in my life that I can devote many hours to something I am passionate about.  I paint almost every day.

Do you believe professional artists can still make a living? How do you do it?

I do think that artists can! An artist has to have up-to-date marketing skills, a willingness to sacrifice many things including personal relationships, and work, work, work! In most cases, artists have to work another job to support the love of their craft. They must sacrifice personal and family time to produce. My profession does not make a living for me, but I enjoy the process so much that “I would probably go without shoes so that I can paint shoes” (laugh!).

What does your average day look like?

My day always begins with a cup of coffee, sending my sweet husband off to his day, and then I begin. I always check my Etsy shop before I start my work. Two days a week I teach painting classes in the morning until noon and I teach one night class. As soon as my students leave class I go straight to my studio and begin to paint. On two days of the week (sometimes three), I paint full-time. I look forward to those days without interruption because that is usually when I am most productive; however, I enjoy my students and I love seeing them accomplish their painting goals.

What inspires you?
As a person I am inspired spiritually by God. I am in awe of His love for mankind. As an artist I am inspired by everything He has provided on this earth. I love color, value, line, contrast, movement… all the elements and principles of design charge me with a desire to paint different subject matter. My problem is time – I cannot catch up. Always in art schools students are asked what they want to do in their art. Many will want to make statements about life, many will want to do art for art’s sake, but I believe many like myself want to create because of the challenge of recreating something that has already been created. Beauty, whether it is perceived as divine, human, natural or physical, or something ugly … still turns us all on!

On Etsy, you sell original oil paintings as well as Giclée reproductions of them. What is the difference? And where does archival paper come in?

Giclée is a French term that means “to spray” or “to squirt”. Many assume that because common inkjet printers in our home work this way that they produce “art” Giclées. This is incorrect. Art Giclées are produced and printed on very large printing machines and usually by a professional. My Giclée prints are done by a professional printer and the ink itself is archival. The papers he uses are archival and of the highest quality for prints. The Giclées that I offer in my Etsy store are printed on cotton canvas, stretched around stretcher bars (like my original oil paintings), and coated with a special UV-protective coating that seals the canvas and helps protect it from scratches. It also does not have to be matted or placed behind glass.

What advice would you give to first-time art buyers?

People buying art for the first time should always try to be educated about the materials and media used in their proposed purchase. Is it durable, does it need matting in addition to framing, is it the right size? What is the purpose of it? If they want fine art they must look deeper than what goes with their décor, or what is trendy at the moment. Who is the artist? What kind of record (feedback) does the artist have? What does it say to them? Is this work mass-produced or is it original? Is it affordable?

How can we contact you or buy your work?

I have an Etsy shop and a blog, or you can e-mail me. 

I have to tell you guys, I LOVE that rabbit. I have a thing for rabbits – they’re just so unbelievably adorable, and their fur is so soft, and they don’t make a noise! (No offense, parakeet lovers.) Hats off to Cheri for depicting that fluffiness so beautifully. I can’t paint to save my life, so all the more reason for me to admire professional artists. Don’t you agree?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Did you know...

... the unbelievably fantastic store Anthropologie ships to South Africa?  I sure didn't.

WSW Alert! Anthropologie

Yes, dear reader, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful décor, accessories and fashion items made by Anthropologie are indeed accessible to us here at the bottom of the world. Feast your eyes on everything they have to offer, then hurry away to their website for a shopping trip that will change your life. Or at least your living space.

All images:

Don't you just want EVERYTHING here? Good thing my birthday's coming up. I'll be sure to put some of these on my list...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fabulous foodie inspiration

Wondering what to cook tonight? I’d like to supply you with some appetising inspiration from AZ Cookbook, one of my favourite blogs. AZ Cookbook is run by Farida, an Azerbaijani expat who now lives in California. She prepares all sorts of ethnic dishes and takes the most beautiful photographs of them. Take a look – I guarantee you’ll have the munchies in no time!

I caught up with (a very busy!) Farida and asked her a few questions.

So Farida, how did you get into cooking?
I got into cooking after I married and moved to California, in 2002. Before that, my cooking was limited to a few things. Mom was in charge of our kitchen and apparently, that worked fine for me. Ironically, I had an affinity for recipes since I was a young teenager. I would collect interesting recipes anywhere I saw or heard them. But I rarely used them back in Azerbaijan. Since there was no one to cook for me in California and since I loved and craved homemade food, I decided to cook myself. The collected recipes were finally put to good use! The journey started there and I’ve never looked back. 

Tell us more about your blog.
I happened to listen to a radio programme about blogs and was immediately drawn to the idea. This motivated me. Also, a good friend of mine suggested I started my own blog, and so I did. It started as a simple Blogger blog where I simply wanted to share my passion for food with others. 

You’re working on a cookbook now, right? That’s so cool!
My cookbook is still a work in progress. I hope it will be published by this time next year. I will let you know where you can buy it after it’s been published!

What inspires you, in your cooking and as a person?
I like cooking for my family and friends. I’m inspired by the fact that whatever I cook will be shared with somebody.

What do you do when you're not cooking?
I like reading books, meeting with friends, and exercising. These days when I’m not in the kitchen, I spend long hours working on my cookbook – doing research for it, polishing the recipes, taking pictures and working on all the little details that I never thought writing a cookbook would entail.

Sounds like publishing a cookbook is actually quite hard work! Well, I’m definitely looking forward to the book – I’m sure it would make a great gift for all the epicures in my life (and I know quite many). Cookbooks make such wonderful gifts, don’t you think? And there are so many good ones out there, and so many new ones coming out all the time, that it’s possible to choose something really specific and unique for any recipient.

By the way, the recipes on Farida’s blog are divided into categories so you can click on whatever you need – meat, pasta, soups, desserts, etc. The methods are not too advanced, and substitutes are offered for ingredients that may not be readily available where you live. So go on and turn your kitchen into a restaurant this weekend!

All images by Farida from AZ Cookbook.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dressed to a tee

Just a quick note to tell you about a special offer from Fluff! (Some of their gorgeous products were also featured here.) There's a 15% discount on House of Fluff tees until 20 April. Get moving!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scandinavian style

I’m a big fan of the sleek lines and light, airy feel that characterise Scandinavian décor. Some excellent examples of this design style can be found at Normann Copenhagen, a Danish label established in 1999. I’ve selected some of my favourite products from their online store to share with you today. Yes, they ship worldwide (awesome!). By visiting their website, you can find out more about the brand, see all their brilliant designs and look for a stockist near you.

For interesting news and opinions about their products and Danish style in general, visit the Spotted by Normann Copenhagen blog. If you want my opinion, though, I can't think of anything better (or more stylish and funky!) to store all my books in than that green Collect bookshelf. The Mormor servingware at the top are also lovely - I do so adore a country-style kitchen. And the vase at the bottom is the most original thing I've seen in a long time!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Creativity with a conscience

Today I’m very pleased to introduce you to a wonderful South African handbag and homeware label called Mielie (Afrikaans for a corn cob). Since 2002, the Mielie team have been hand-crafting colourful products from reclaimed fabric and locally produced finishes. The “Mielie strips” that are used to make their products are a byproduct from cotton mills – how’s that for recycling?

Most of the Mielie team’s artists are from townships around the city of Cape Town. Every product is labelled with the name of the weaver who made it, which creates the opportunity for a connection between buyer and artist. Mielie aims to promote sustainable employment, but also to have a practical impact on the communities where the weavers live. To read more about this inspiring venture, visit their website (a design masterpiece in its own right!) or their blog.

Mielie products are available in several countries, both online and in stores. Try Be Sweet (a really awesome online store for environmentally friendly goods) or Party with Heart if you’re in the States, Tractor Home if you’re in Australia, Capegem if you’re in the UK, or pick your country from the list of stockists on the Mielie website. To contact Mielie, click here to send a message from their website or here to e-mail them. 

Now let’s rave over these fantastically original designs! I would like the cube and round mat please – perhaps in candy colours like light blue, rose pink and scarlet for a Scandinavian-meets-South African theme! That heart handbag has also stolen my, uh, heart. ;-) I’d love to hear what you think of these creations!