Thursday, 28 October 2010

The house that Momoll built

When my sister’s son showed an interest in dolls houses she searched to find one that didn’t have a pink roof. In other words she wanted to break away from the stereotype that boys shouldn’t ‘play house’.

My girls have this one by Momoll for a while so I was happy to reccomend it.

Although I've got two girlie girls, I wanted a house they could make their own stamp on and could be other things too. The minimalistic design invites your child to use their imagination, play with the 'playtower thing 3' is made from a child’s creation.
Ours is sometimes a garage, sometimes a hospital, sometimes a museum full of dinosaurs, where people come to camp at night with their torches. It can be used in so many ways because it is not limited to one environment and so always has an appeal no matter what the girls are playing with.

The house is made of multilayer birch plywood and you can choose to have tinted plexiglas screens  (shown above) or silkscreened plywood in different themes (picture below). It has a simple structure which can be assembled and disassembled easily which makes it even more fabulous if space is scarce.

Momoll translates to “yeah yeah” in Swiss German slang and thats exactly our reaction "yeah yeah" and "please". Momoll is a brand of beautiful wooden toys for kids, their collection includes play kitchens and various contemporary play houses and farms all with simple lines. The added bonus in the design is that the house can be used from all four sides, which is great as siblings and friends can join in too.

You can also buy the completely cool, seriously stylish furntiure set too. It's 'Vitra' in minature and we love it.

Yes, like all great design the price is a bit higher than alternative high street options, but you have a piece that is truly multi-functional, designed, developed and produced by hand. It looks pretty darn good too, and, lets face it the Swiss are pretty well known for their craftsmanship!

Alternatively if you don't want to splurge with a second mortgage, Plan Toys do a great wooden house with no girlie bits in sight.

If you don't believe toys should remain in their traditional stereotypical roles there are alternative ways to merge the two worlds together. Though Sophia will often hang a doll from the top of the skyscraper only to be rescued by a handsome knight...I guess there are some stereotypical games that I admit I do like the romance of! Perhaps I shall suggest that the princess rescues the prince instead.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sisters Guild opens it's doors

An interview with Mini McGhee

On a visit to a studio to select pieces for our girls dressing room my eye fell upon a pile of beautiful soft sumptuous baby blankets with wonderful colours all wrapped up in vintage bags. I wanted to fall into the pile immediately snuggle down and,.... well, I fell in love. The range of baby blankets was by Mini McGhee and the woman behind these creations - Nicola is a creative wonder in her own right.  Infected by the welcoming charm of tradition and the inspired use of a more contemporary colour we want to know more about Nicola McGhee.

Graduating in 1995 from Glasgow School of Art having achieved the schools most prestigious award the Newbury Medal, Nicola was awarded with a place at Central Martin’s College of Art and Design where she pursued a Masters in Fashion Knit.
It wasn’t long before Nicola’s creative talents were noticed and she was recruited for a knitwear designer in New York.
Moving quickly up the fashion career ladder Nicola’s job would take her around the world but with her heart still drawn to her home of Scotland she returned in 2007, bringing her baby daughter and architect husband with her.

SG: We understand you worked in the New York fashion industry. What was it like returning home to Scotland?

NM: It was a huge culture shock, and also we were returning with a new-born baby! As most of my friends had moved away from Glasgow we were starting from scratch again. It took me a long while to slot back in but being around our families again was wonderful and made it all worthwhile. I am now very happily settled but still miss NY and our friends a lot. But I don’t miss the constant travelling I had to do with my work there at all!

SG: When did the idea of Mini McGhee first emerge?

NM: It actually began in NY. I was looking for a gift for a colleague who had just had a baby. I wanted to buy something Made in Scotland, preferably a baby blanket that was modern and eye catching but couldn’t find anything that I liked. So the seeds were sown...... Upon my return to Scotland, just as the recession started, I couldn’t find a job in the textile/fashion industry here– there just were no jobs available. Manufacturers and yarn mills were closing all around and although I could have gotten a job in London I didn’t want to uproot my family yet again and my husband had just accepted a good job in Glasgow.

So I had to create my own job and took a chance following my gut instinct by returning to my textile roots after mass commercialism in NY and started being creative again which I loved. I wanted to fill that gap in the market that I had seen in NY. I dusted off my old knitting and sewing machines and set to work creating a range of baby blankets, shoe bags, cushions all intended as gifts for baby/home. I tested products on friends and family, and found my passion again for textiles especially touchy-feely knitwear.

SG: What's your work space like and how do you get inspired and motivated?

NM: I work from home at the moment, but have outgrown my space there and am currently looking for a studio. My ‘cubby hole’ is my creative/making area and is crammed with cones of yarns, knitting and sewing machines, inspiration tears on the walls, boxes of ribbon, vintage fabrics, baby blankets, ½ made and finished new developments. Bits and pieces and a large desk, but everything has its place. I keep my ‘office’ area separate and have the computer and files in another room, I like to keep them separate and not be distracted by the computer.
I have a lot of family heirloom textiles around me at home which I love and inspire me. It’s easy to be inspired by things you love and the emotions they evoke. I get inspired by old family photographs showing the hand-me down christening outfit my sister wore, the knitted slip-over my granny was wearing, looking through my mum’s old knitting patterns. I’m inspired by the care and love that went into the traditional handcraft skills of knitting, embroidery and crochet, yet they all had a purpose and a practicality. I also regularly go vintage shopping and love browsing car boot sales, I always come back with great finds that will inspire me. I often visit my factory and seeing all the knitted off cuts/bits and pieces they have lying around is a great inspiration, it’s a real treasure trove for me.

I am motivated because I love what I do and find being self employed so much more rewarding thus motivating me further. My husband’s support motivates me.

SG: As a fellow mum, any tips on getting the work and family balance?

NM: It’s hard and a constant juggle. I don’t think there is any right or wrong way; it whatever works for you at that moment of time. Grandparents are a huge help for me and my daughters’ nursery is very accommodating on my ever changing work schedule!
 Whilst working from home is a squeeze it’s extremely convenient, I can interrupt the working day with the nursery run knowing that I can pick it up again after the evening routine is finished. It doesn’t bother me anymore if someone comes around and there is washing still to be put away, it happens in a busy life.
My husband also does his fair share (I’m very lucky!!) and as I quite often find myself working on a Saturday he’s takes over at home then. But we always keep Sunday as a family day – no home chores, maybe go away for the day and just have fun together.

SG: All your pieces are handmade in Scotland and you use local yarn as well as local craftsmen to create each piece. How important is it to you to support this industry and to achieve the ‘made in Scotland’ label?

NM: When I was working on the concept of Mini McGhee I felt strongly that I wanted to keep it all ‘home-grown’ and made in Scotland. It’s a key factor in the business and I will never walk away from that. As the textile industry is in such decline here I wanted to support it even though I know I can get things at a much less expensive price in the Far East. We have an extremely high skill set within Scottish textiles that should be capitalised on, skills that are handed down through generations but are now being forgotten.

Also consumers are not so interested in mass produced foreign products anymore. I find in the current economic climate people are now more careful in spending their hard earned cash; they don’t want to waste it on throw away cheap goods. My customers are looking for something more individual, more considered, things that could be heirloom pieces and to be cherished. And the ‘made is Scotland’ label is as important to them as is it is to me, as they know they are supporting local industries.

SG: What are your favourites in the Mini McGhee collection this season?

NM: My favourites this season are my new McGhee Stripe Throws and matching Cushions. The throws are perfect for cuddling under on the sofa watching TV. Oh, and I also love my new hand knit baby collection especially the hand knit baby socks.

SG: With Christmas slowly creeping up on us how do you plan to celebrate this year?

NM: Christmas is always spent dashing around visiting our families across the UK. We’ll spend Christmas with one side of the family then New Year with the other side. But we always make sure we get in a couple of days to ourselves. My daughter will be 4 this Christmas so I suspect it will be quite excitable. I always accidentally leave Christmas shopping until the last minute and I’m sure this year shall be no change!

SG: What is your favourite thing about Christmas?

NM: I love leaving out Santa’s ‘whiskey’ (at Santa’s request of course!) and Rudolph’s carrot with my daughter on Christmas eve then seeing her reaction in the morning when she realises that Rudolph doesn’t like the carrot stock and Santa drank all the whisky. I love the first rush of excitement in the morning after finding out that Santa’s been. I love Christmas morning bucks fizz. Snow at Christmas is magical, snow balls, snowmen, then clothes drying on the radiators whilst having Christmas dinner.

SG: What can we expect from Mini McGhee in the future?

NM: I am developing a range of cotton baby blankets for summer babies and I plan to expand my baby hand knit collection. I am also investigating baby/kids printed bed sets and home accessories that will co-ordinate with my knitted throw and cushion range that shall also be expanding. Exciting times ahead.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Almost there - come peep through our door

Well, we’re days away from launching Sisters Guild - a place that celebrates childhood and home.

A project where two sisters, collaborate to bring something to inspire, to read, to invite your imagination to create, and above all to enjoy. Bringing together designers, illustrators and crafts people that we have fallen in love with, as mothers ourselves and would like to invite you to discover too.

Sisters Guild was an idea conceived last Christmas. A family get together with a glowing room full of family, chatter at the dinner table and children playing. Itching to do something creative, the seed of Sisters Guild was planted!

An idea that would bring together not just wonderful things for you, your children and your home, but also a place to come to for inspiration for your own creations. 
Sisters Guild is a boutique full of wonders and delight, things for dressing, decor and play. But its more than a boutique, it's a place to find something new,  a print, a recipe, a new creative idea, a place you've yet to discover, a new delight for your home, a gift for a new arrival, pieces for girls, pieces for boys, a treat for us grown up girls, or a vintage piece with echoes from your own childhood.

A home of enchanting creations, colour, shape, good design, print and pattern, soft sumptuous fabrics, adventure, starting new traditions, play and intrigue. It’s a celebration too, a celebration of others work, with blogs, galleries, wonderful places and more creators being discovered and shown. So, whilst you will be able to buy some wonderful pieces, we will also have some ideas on making your own and getting little ones involved.

This is where we hope to collaborate with others. We have always been amazed by the profusion of  ideas and activity online by bloggers, writers, makers and mothers sharing their creative wonders and finds.  We look forward to celebrating some of this creativity through Sisters Guild by inviting others to speak, share and inspire.

We hope you enjoy discovering along with us.  In the meantime to give you a taster of what you might discover let us sing the wonders we’ve discovered so far…

     Angels and bunnies and miniature tea-sets,
       Soft vintage fabrics, and princess and pea beds,
Bright candleabras that make your heart sing,
These are a few of our favourite things.

Heart cookie cutters and pink feather dresses,
Perfect for parties and playing chef messes,
A little bird bracelet with sparkley wings,
These are a few of our favourite things.

Little felt houses and bedroom wall stickers,
Christmas dressed pixies in little red knickers,
A piece for a princess a piece for a king,
These are a few of our favourite things.

Now the festive season is tip-toeing in - yes the mince pies are now filling the shops - you’ll also discover a collection of fabulous pieces to adorn your home, gifts for all ages, and pieces with which you can start your own family traditions this Christmas. With home-made ideas, recipes and activities too!

We will open our doors shortly to invite you to become part of Sisters Guild, where you can step inside and spark your imagination.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Happy Birthday Mama


This the day our Mama turns 60.  Little Annie is a Magic Granny, a very much loved Mama, and a friend to many.  Fun, resourceful and adventurous, she's the one who inspires us in all we do.

To honour our Mama on her 60th we have added a bird to the Sisters Guild parade logo - a Swallow to symbolise Motherhood.

With love from your brood.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

For the Love of Tate

A bright sunny day on the Southbank and we head off to the Tate Modern. The view over the river is remarkable and the girls love watching the boats gliding up and down. It’s a great place to sit and point out some of the most magnificent and architecturally inspiring buildings. The Tate stands so tall and proud soaring into the sky and the girls have to strain their necks to see where the chimney meets the sky.

The old power station works absurdly well as a gallery and the natural expanse of the turbine hall is an exciting place to enter. The exterior gives no clues as to what awaits inside and walking through the wall of doors in anticipation of the colours, textures and plays of light that wait inside is like the suspense of opening a gift. This is what the Tate is – a gift – to everyone. Housing free exhibitions with the exception of the special exhibitions like the current Gauguin display, it’s a great place to take children.

Children don’t need to have an understanding of art to appreciate the glorious and huge displays of Pollock, Matisse, or Rothko and its fun to see modern art through their eyes. The space is enjoyable too, moving through the rooms and discovering what visual treats lay in each.

The highlight of the afternoon was without doubt Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds, the current commission in The Unilever Series.
porcelain sunflower seeds

100 million seeds poured into the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space. The mass of seeds, spreading over the floor like a pebbled island, look at first utterly realistic and urge you to walk upon them, to touch them, to listen to the sounds as they move under your feet, It comes as a surprise to find they are each crafted in porcelain, each seed is unique, though taking the same form, the same identity, each is a handcrafted piece.

The awareness that you were casually walking upon another’s art, which hundreds of hands had created was a peculiar feeling. Yet this is part of the intention. The contrast of efforts of significance.

Of course the girls are completely unaware of the ‘geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange today’ and I don’t think it would have mattered to them that they were not in fact real sunflower seeds. The girls instead immersed themselves into the field of seeds, tossed them into the air, hid each others feet under seed mountains, chased one another, falling down in delight, shifting and moving the husks, taking a closer look at each of them, and filling their shoes. It’s a visual sensory work of art and this is what makes an exhibition like this so perfectly pleasing for children.


With a promise to visit ‘Sunflower Island’ on the way out we ventured up to the other floors to see even more delights. It was a fantastic day and Sophia’s favourite was Cy Twombly’s Bacchus series. I can understand why.

Walking into room nine Sophia asked ”Is this a theatre, is there going to be a play?” She was quite right too it’s an installation entitled The Juniper Tree which re-imagines a performance, a piece by Joan Jonas which combines fairytales and Japanese theatrical traditions. This is why I love The Tate Modern; it’s a satisfying of the senses, a collection of works that asks you to ask questions even if you’re only four.

Oh and did I say 100 million sunflower seeds? Lets make it ninety- nine million nine hundred ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine – we discovered one in Oona’s shoe! Not to worry though Tate we’ll give it back on Saturday as the girls have got the love – the love of Tate.

For children aged five and over there are free art activities on satudays and sundays. During the week there's a family zone to enjoy, and free paper based activities for children to enjoy whilst exploring too. Whatever the age there's something for everyone.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Finding Magic in the Most Unusual of Places

Sessi found a tiny envelope by our back door.  Inside was a note....from the fairies. They would like to come and live in our garden. They have asked us to collect leaves, twigs, and pieces of moss.

Sessi was very excited so we set off to the park with little sister Oona, who is too small to understand but any opportunity to rummage around on the ground was very welcome. It was a perfect Autumn day and the sun was shining.  With a basket on my arm we set off to collect all the things we could find that would help the fairies build their homes.

Sessi looking for moss
We searched high and low for anything that might be useful.

Oona gathers mud

We noticed so many more things, little green bugs hiding underneath leaves. Ladybirds were busy scurrying around, squirrels were guarding the acorns and spiders were content in spinning their webs.
watching ladybirds

I think the fairies have already been here!

Other homes we found

finding bugs

our gatherings
The excitement of gathering ordinary objects that suddenly seemed like precious treasure was wonderful and the girls ran around back and forth to the basket until it was almost overflowing. We found an abundance of leaves of every colour and shape, twigs, berries, tiny fir cones, acorns and even a piece of broken tile .."it will be useful for the fairies mum" suddenly the fairies were going to have tiled floors!

The walk home was a slow, hushed, meandering stroll, pausing for more finds, laughing at how incredibly mucky Oona had a forest urchin.

Then, last night after dinner, after bath time, after bedtime stories having waited until the sun had gone down and it was starting to get a little dark. We lit tea-light candles all along the walls in the garden.

sessi decorates the wall

 Sessi picked flowers and placed them between the candles along with all the shells she had collected from our beach holiday, she became completely immersed in it all and couldn't believe how lucky we were that they had chosen our garden to live in!
 When we were sure the scene was set and the garden felt like a warm welcome we left the basket with all the treasures we had found.

anticipating fairies

 The garden came alive with magic. The hushed evening air and stillness of our little walled London garden suddenly felt like a picture from a fairytale book. We stood in pyjamas and wondered if the fairies were there right now, could they see us, were they watching, all the time whispering so as not to scare them away.

We tip-toed off after whispering goodnight and made our way to bed, peeking out of the windows on the way to see if we could see any movement in the garden. Sessi watched the shadows moving in the flickering candlelight and was certain she saw a fairy there.

The girls went to bed with their heads filled with images of fairies busy building their dwellings and flying around carrying the twigs and leaves. It was so beautiful to watch them fall asleep and as they slept I watched a while trying to picture their dreams.

our fairy dwelling

Hanging lantern at the fairies house. You can just make out the white door.
This is what I later discovered!
I can't wait for the girls to see them in the morning.

In the morning we raced downstairs tiptoed into the garden and with finger to pursed lips there hidden amongst the geraniums and clematis we discovered ………………

I’m not sure how long they’ll stay but they seem very ready to spend a beautiful winter in our garden.