July 2012

July 31, 2012

Wee obsession: The ‘hill’ at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony

Did you watch the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics? What did you think? I intended to stay up all night so I could watch it live at 5.30am but I accidentally fell asleep and missed the first two hours. Bugger. Nonetheless, we popped the Champagne at 8am, I joined in some live tweeting with my friends in the UK, and watched the re-run later that day. And you know what? I thought it was PERFECTION!

I really loved the opening sequence tracing the origins of the Thames all the way to London (cue shivers – and the opening beats of EastEnders); bucolic England (ducks! sheep! Maypole!), dancing NHS nurses, the tribute to Great Ormond Street Hospital; the Queen’s cameo role (what a jolly good sport, eh?); a flock of Mary Poppins’ descending on Voldemort; the Britpot music medley (The Jam! The Who! Happy Mondays! Underworld!); dancers in two-tone A-line frocks; and Kenneth Branagh’s turn as a Victorian Caliban, complete with top hat (Caliban’s speech from The Tempest is Shakespearean GOLD). In short, job well done Mr Danny Boyle – it was utterly brilliant and beautiful and so very British.

For me, the one image that resonated wasn’t that of the Queen greeting James Bond (although that was pretty good, too), it was the rather glorious hill that grew a forest of flags from every competing nation. Magnificence!

The hill was apparently modelled on Glastonbury Tor, which is one of those beautifully mythical sites in Britain that has been occupied by humans since Neolithic times.

Like many of my favourite places in Britain, it has manifold layers of human history, including Roman occupation, and at various stages throughout history it was a fifth century fort; a medieval church and a 14th century church, as well as the execution site of the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey (along with two of his poor monks). It’s also associated with Arthurian legend, and may alternately be the site of the Holy Grail or the entrance to Avalon, the land of the FAIRIES.

With that kind of resume, I quickly added it to my ongoing “UK must-visit” list.

What was your favourite moment from the Opening Ceremony?


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July 30, 2012

5 good things you should see (and buy) in London right now

1. The Animal Olympics
Can you see one of Charlotte Cory’s brilliantly bonkers artworks lining the centuries-old walls of Windsor Castle? Apparently it’s true, and word is that the Queen is a huge fan of the London artist. (I’d believe anything after her starring role in the James Bond skit). You can see what all the fuss is about at Charlotte’s current exhibition, ‘The Sporting Champions’ at her gallery in Greenwich. There are Victorian rabbit wrestlers, parrot cyclists and kangaroo cricketers, as well as hand-crafted Victorian medals. But where are the corgi beach volleyball players? Probably hanging her Her Maj’s bedroom. Until 20 August, 2012.
The Green Parrot Gallery
, Greenwich

73 Lassell Street
London SE10 9PJ
Nearest transport: Greenwich rail/Cutty Sark DLR
Click here for a Wee Birdy map.
Opening hours:
Fridays 11am-6pm

2. The Karl Olympics
Even the likes of iconic Chanel fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, couldn’t resist taking on the Olympics with a limited-edition capsule collection for Selfridges. His new pop-up shop on the third floor, named Team Karl, is home to a range of Olympics-inspired fashion and accessories including medal-emblazoned t-shirts and gold-splattered Karl motif tote bags. There are also a few men’s items currently available online.
Selfridges
400 Oxford Street
London W1A 1AB
Nearest tube: Bond Street
Click here for a Wee Birdy map
.

Opening hours until Monday 13 August:

Monday to Saturday 10am-10pm
Sunday 10am-8pm
[Image via Blog Deluxe Online
]

3. The PopUp Olympics
Head to this pop-up shop in Greenwich throughout the Olympic period and discover some of London’s best designer-makers from Cockpit Arts and various studios. Take your pick from art prints, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, homewares, beauty products and lighting by the likes of Lorna Syson, MacMaster Design, Naomi Ryder and Siobhan McIntosh. Until Thursday 23 August, 2012.
PopUp@Greenwich
20 Nelson Street
London, SE10 9JB
Nearest transport: Greenwich rail/Cutty Sark DLR
Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 12 noon-8pm
Sunday 12 noon-5pm


4. The Goodhood Olympics
Hackney is one of the host boroughs of the London Olympics, and it’s also home to some of London’s coolest and most fashion-forward boutiques, including The Goodhood Store. Based in Hoxton for over five years, the store stocks a line-up of covetable brands including P.A.M, Antipodium, Surface to Air and Peter Jensen. To celebrate the borough’s Olympic status, Goodhood has designed a limited-edition t-shirt, which goes on sale today in store and online for £35.
The Goodhood Store
41 Coronet Store
London N16HD
Nearest tube: Old Street
Click here for a Wee Birdy map.
Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 11am-6.30pm
Sunday 12 noon-5pm
5. The Retro Olympics
London’s legendary vintage shop, Retro to Go, has gone for retro gold with their collection of original sportswear from the ’70s to ’90s, like this Olympic Karate t-shirt. Check out the range in store (there are three shops in London) or online.
Retro to Go
110-112 Cheshire Street
London E2 6EJ
Tel. 020 7613 3636
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
Click here for a Wee Birdy map.
Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10am-7pm
Thursday 10am to 8pm
Sunday 11.30am-6pm

Click here for the 25 best London Olympic Games souvenirs.
Click here for the best Union Jack souvenirs.

Click here for the best non-tat Jubilee souvenirs.


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July 28, 2012

Wee finds: An Aussie-style Olympics outfit

In the name of patriotism for my native country, I really ought to wave the Aussie flag in the midst of all my Best of British Olympics blogging. The marvellous Nikki from Styling You shamed inspired me to create my own Aussie look – check out her post here.

Green and gold – the colours of our native wattle – are Australia’s team colours but I rarely see them used together in a way that doesn’t make me cringe. But green and yellow – generally used separately – are having a moment in fashion and design at the moment, so there are loads of options around to mix and match.

I’ve pulled together an outfit that revolves around a rather lovely emerald green crepe shift by Country Road. It’s a classic, simple piece with clean lines and an exposed zip detail on both shoulders, which gives it a slightly toughened edge. It’s one of those ultra-wearable trans-seasonal frocks that is an Australian wardrobe essential. Just pop it on, slick back your hair and slip into a pair of sandals for an instant pulled-together look in warmer weather. Pair it with black opaques and a coat in cooler weather.

This ultra-versatile crepe shift can also be dressed up or down with judicious use of colour and accessories. I’m coveting the Givenchy shoe boots but Country Road offer an excellent and more affordable alternative. Add a pop of yellow with a stack of Dinosaur Designs resin bangles, and pull it all together with a clutch in a complementary shade. Here are all the details:

1. Crepe shift dress, AU$179 from Country Road.

2. 3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Minute leather clutch, £320.83 from Net-a-Porter (for a more affordable clutch, try the Deux Lux ‘Juno’ Clutch, on sale for AUD$40.69 from Nordstrom.)

3. Dinosaur Designs wishbone bangle, AU$55; Irregular bangle, AU$75; and Irregular bangle, AU$75 from The Iconic.

4. Givenchy low-cut leather ankle boots £554.17 from Net-a-Porter (Country Road do a similar version for AU$229).

5. Micha leather sandal, AU$119 from Country Road.

So what do you reckon? Did I manage to pull off the green and gold look without the cultural cringe?

Click here for the 25 best London Olympic Games souvenirs.
Click here for the best Union Jack souvenirs.

Click here for the best non-tat Jubilee souvenirs.


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July 27, 2012

Best of British: Lesley Barnes

It’s less than 24 hours before the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, and I can’t help but be caught up in the excitement of the count-down. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time on the bloody Daily Mail but I’m absolutely thrilled by their incredible images of the torch relay as it winds its way through the old streets of London town. It’s like the Jubilee celebrations all over again – and I’m loving it.

I will be blogging about the best of British design and style over the next few weeks, so I thought I’d kick things off with Lesley Barnes‘ triumphant lion illustration as the perfect celebratory image to mark the Opening Ceremony tonight – and follow it up with her rather handsome wee knight (below).

I’ve been following Lesley’s gloriously vibrant and pattern-rich illustrations for some time now, and I featured the Glasgow-based illustrator/animator’s festive Christmas wrap last year. I’m in love with her dazzling and sophisticated use of pattern and colour, and her illustrative style is a subtle nod to mid-century artists such as Edward Bawden, Alexander Girard and Charley Harper.

Lesley is incredibly prolific and has worked with the likes of Puffin Classics, Poketo and the V&Ayou can see more work from her portfolio here. Most recently, she portrayed a kaleidoscope of colour in her illustrations of the Autumn Winter 2012 collections of various British fashion designers (attention all fashion magazine art directors!).

Her signature paper-cut graphic style is perhaps most beautifully realised in the animated video she made for (another British great) Belle and Sebastian. Lesley’s playful and folky characters come to life in the video for ‘I didn’t see it coming’ and imbue Sarah Martin’s sweetly-sung vocals with a sense of childlike naivety, while a darker threat – and heartbreak – nudges at the edges.

I Didn’t See It Coming (Richard X mix) from Belle & Sebastian on Vimeo.

It’s this shadow of darkness in Lesley’s work that intrigues me, and I reckon the book world is crying out for a new Grimm’s Fairy Tales filled with Lesley’s mythical and colour-saturated illustrations. ‘Twould be a design classic! And I’m hoping that someone will hand this lady an animated title sequence for a feature film – I’m thinking something along the lines of Catch Me If You Can.


You can purchase Lesley Barnes’ delightful cards, bookmarks and limited edition prints from her Etsy shop. Get her adorable bookmarks for Belle and Sebastian from their website. You can also find her work at Soma Gallery and Many Hands.

Click here for the best Union Jack souvenirs.
Click here for the 25 best London Olympic Games souvenirs
.
Click here for the best non-tat Jubilee souvenirs.


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July 25, 2012

The 25 best London Olympic Games souvenirs: the non-tat edition

Medal Necklace by Tatty Devine.

You know I love me some awesome London souvenirs. So I’ve been in a veritable flap all year with Britain’s designers putting their considerable talent behind all sorts of desirable and highly collectable stuff to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the 2012 London Olympic Games.

You won’t find any “official” London Olympics merchandise here, because frankly, I couldn’t find anything I fancied. And I’m sure you’re going to be hit over the head with the stuff over the next few weeks. Furthermore, the official mascots are kind of hideous and I can’t look at the official 2012 logo without seeing Lisa Simpson performing an adults-only act. Oh dear.

Instead, I’ve scoured the net for great design, a playful approach and stuff I’d actually like to wear – or have in my house. And you’ll find that most of the pieces are designed or made in Britain, if not London itself. Take Thorsten van Elten’s collaboration with East London creative agency CREATE, which offers a line-up of five “well considered” souvenirs by British designers that serve as an antidote to the “overly-commercial, tacky souvenirs on sale across London this summer”.

Are you ready? Steady. GO!

What’s your favourite Olympics souvenir?

Want more London souvenirs?
Click here for the best Union Jack souvenirs.
Click here for the best non-tat Jubilee souvenirs.


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July 24, 2012

Birdy pick of the week: Upcycled vintage tea cup and saucer

With just days until the London 2012 Olympics begin, I’ve decided to take Wee Birdy back to its origins and bring you the Best of British (and London) for the next few weeks. It’s no secret that I miss London terribly and it’s taken over two years to be able to blog about London without dissolving into fits of despair and homesickness, despite the fact that Australia is my native country. I have an embarrassing amount of London-based material (wee gems! souvenirs! must-eat dishes! favourite shops!) that has never seen the light of day, so I’m really excited about revisiting the place that inspired me to start blogging in the first place.

I was hoping that I’d be back in London to cover all the excitement during the Olympics (in terms of culture, style and shops, naturally) but I’ll just have to blog my little London-loving heart out from Sydney instead. Having said that, if any fabulous British company would like to sponsor a Wee Birdy for the Most Awesome Tour of Britain, you know who to call.

To kick off the Festival of British Awesomeness, this week’s birdy pick comes from West-Londoner Melanie Roseveare, who is the Canadian-born designer behind Melody Rose. Melanie takes long-forgotten vintage tea sets and gives them her signature make-over, using her own ceramic decal designs and re-firing them in the kiln. The pieces naturally lend themselves to decoration, but they are also functional and are hardy enough to be used every day.

The ‘Bird and Nest’ design is part of the Urban Nature collection and features a surprise nest on the inside of each cup. The cup and saucer sets are available in pink, yellow, green, light blue, dark blue and amber.

Upcycled Bird Design vintage teacup and saucer, £28 from Melody Rose.


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