Christmas crackers

There is such an amazing, diverse range of original design out there, Christmas need never be a boring, predictable affair again. And while there will always be certain motifs that we all hold dear such as Santa, reindeer, angels and robins, it’s great to see that there are new and unique takes on these images all the time.
I love graphic design as well as paper craft and textiles, especially when some or all of these things combine to create something really beautiful. So, particularly at this time of year, why not gift yourself or someone special something a little bit different. Here’s a few of my favourite festive designs…

Jurianne Matter

These pretty paper angels are also multi-tasking ladies – you can write a message on one to be used as a card or a place holder at the table or they can simply be used as home decorations.

Rachael Taylor
This talented Leeds based surface pattern designer and illustrator has transferred her work to gift wrap and cards, while the handmade decorations are made from her Etched Floral screen printed fabric.

This beautiful plywood bird comes in a postcard-like package which can be posted just like a Christmas card. It comes flat packed with instructions for simple assembly and I think they make great festive decorations that you’d like to leave out all year.

Jenny Arnott
This textile designer based in Somerset, creates beautiful embroidered textiles and accessories. Everything is carefully made by hand, using a combination of machine embroidery and appliqué, so each one is unique.

Al Heighton
I wish this design was available as a card/wrapping but here’s hoping it will be one day. In the meantime, I just wanted to mention this Doncaster based illustrator’s work, which spans editorial, fashion, publishing and music including Creative Review, Schuh, The Guardian, Arctic Monkeys and Boots. Limited edition screen printed posters of his original artwork are available. This recent illustration for Ripon-based Hornsey gallery conjures up lots that is good about Christmas shopping and makes me smile.


Christmas robin

Since it’s December and we’re now officially on countdown to Christmas, I had to share this cute, little handmade robin tree decoration, which my friend kindly made for me.
I’m sure there are several variations on this theme and you could easily customise the basic design to make your own unique and funky bird – maybe even a partridge if you’re feeling adventurous! However, this robin was made according to a pattern in a lovely sounding book called The Christmas Book by Sheherazade Goldsmith, with a focus on hand-made and therefore greener Christmas crafts. Well, my friend reliably informs me that my robin was made from a pair of trousers found at a jumble sale and a recycled shirt, so that’s one for the cause. I just think it looks great and will definitely be gracing my tree this year.



It’s not often you stumble across a beautiful and cool interiors shop on the school run but that’s exactly how I discovered Cimmermann. Tucked away off the beaten track on Regent Parade overlooking the Stray, this is certainly a destination store for any interior design devotees. Selling design classics by brands such as Vitra, Tom Dixon and SCP alongside vintage furniture, the shop is also the base for owners Matt and Helen Cimmermann’s interior design service.
The husband and wife team, originally from Middlesborough, took a brave step back in November 2004 when they relocated to Harrogate to launch their own business, which combines Helen’s talents as an interior designer and Matt’s passion for good design.
So why Harrogate?
“People want something a bit different to the traditional offer,” explains Matt. “A lot of our customers are Harrogate residents who have moved up from London or relocated from the city and they are pleasantly surprised to find a store like ours here. But really our customer is anyone who appreciates good design.
For example, we had an elderly lady in the shop the other day and she instantly recognised a piece of Ercol furniture which we had reupholstered. We sell a lot of Ercol day beds and Windsor chairs because they appeal to such a broad age range. The design is already there and some nice fabric can completely reinvent such a piece. We feel it’s important to stay true to the simple quality of the furniture – wacky design doesn’t always work. Often people come in and ask what the latest trends are but we suggest the classic pieces because they are good for a reason. They may be costly but they have stood the test of time.”
Cimmermann offers a full interior design service which can encompass as little as a pair of curtains or reupholstering to a whole house. You can also buy online at

Matt Cimmermann


Article on vintage

I’ve just realised that I forgot to do a post on an article of mine that was published in the last issue of beyond magazine. The article was discussing vintage – a favourite topic of mine! For those who didn’t manage to get hold of a copy or don’t live in the area, I’ve included the content here. Hope you enjoy.
Beyond magazine
Head/ A very good vintage
Sell/There’s been a huge revival in the popularity of vintage and we’re not just talking second-hand clothing. Young guns are revisiting the golden oldies with a renewed respect for music, fashion, art and design through the decades.
Kathryn Sharman reports
Vintage is fast becoming mainstream and while this may not please some die-hard fans, its growing popularity is a positive sign that our throwaway culture is reassessing the value of days gone by. And now there’s even a new festival dedicated to the cause.
Vintage at Goodwood, which took place in August, is the brainchild of Wayne and Gerardine* Hemingway of Red or Dead fame. Intended as a voyage of discovery, the festival celebrates music, fashion, film, art, dance and design from the 1940s to the 1980s.
“We’ve created something special that fills a niche because people don’t just want to see a band, they want to have an experience,” says Wayne Hemingway. “We’re giving an in-depth look into the underground scenes of lots of different kinds of music and design but in an accessible way. It’s not nostalgic, it’s fresh and exciting.”
While there were experiences aplenty, music was still the essential element, taking people on a magical mystery tour that included the Faces, Sandie Shaw, The Noisettes, Earth Wind & Fire, The Feeling, Heaven 17 and The Damned.
Performers like Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Shingai Shoniwa, lead singer of The Noisettes celebrated their love of vintage through their stage costumes.
“Vintage at Goodwood was definitely the highlight of the festival season for me and all the band and crew,” said Shoniwa. “It was like being at a huge dressing up party!”
“This is the best festival I’ve been to this year,” added Supergrass’s Danny Goffey, who had come to support the fashion show curated by his wife and daughter Pearl and Daisy Lowe. “It’s great for those who love vintage to be able to come here and go for it with like-minded people”
This was an opportunity to see and be seen as thousands turned out in their finest vintage, raising the bar of festival chic in spite of the weather. And if you hadn’t come prepared there was a high street full of vintage sellers to be plundered.
This desire to be glamorous and original has long been fuelling the market for vintage clothing and has been spearheaded in the North both by buyers and sellers alike.
Catherine Smith, whose newly-opened store on Harrogate’s Cold Bath Road has made a reputation for its superb quality, high-end pieces, which are attracting a new breed of vintage customer.
“I’m aiming at people who haven’t tried vintage but are so impressed by the quality that they want to own it for themselves. They want an individual statement piece that’s also top quality. I think people realise you can’t get this kind of craftsmanship from most areas of retail anymore.”
Steve Elvidge, owner of Space in Harrogate has just launched a new business called, which recognises and facilitates this clamour for all things vintage as he explains.
“If you love vintage you will seek it out wherever you go and this location finder tool makes it easier.” The online directory, created in conjunction with Keeley Harris of Discover Vintage fairs, provides a UK wide map of vintage sellers, which already totals over 200 and counting.
“There are people who buy one piece of vintage and work it into their wardrobes and there are others who live the whole lifestyle. I think more than anything we’re acknowledging there’s some great design in the past.”


In Gok we trust

Last week Gok Wan came to Harrogate to film the new series of his fashion roadshow and thanks to a bit of word of mouth via local networking group BlaH (Business Ladies Around Harrogate), I managed to wangle an invite. No sooner did I get the nod from production company Endemol, I was very excited about being in the presence of Gok – who doesn’t love this man!?
Along with my fellow Gokettes Katie and Lisa, I was taking part in the Bodyshape Boutique, the part of the programme where Gok dispenses invaluable advice on how to dress to make the most of your body shape, followed by a rather frenetic clothes swap.
Prior to this, we had duly hung up our five items of unwanted clothing on rails dotted about the room in eager anticipation of the swap. At one point Gok did a brief survey of the rails looking for interesting pieces to use in his forthcoming makeover section. I saw him pick up a cute checked vintage-style shirt and no sooner had I muttered to my friends, “ooh I like that” he twirled around to size up the garment against me.
True to form, Gok is every bit as warm and funny as he appears on screen, with his trademark combination of sarky wit and almost maternal fondness for women of all shapes and sizes.
“Welcome to telly-land,” said Gok as we groaned slightly at the prospect of having to film yet again a sequence of us all filing into the Royal Hall auditorium, but once things got underway the Harrogate ladies conquered their stage-fright and stepped up with their fashion dilemmas: “I can’t wear dresses”, “I always wear black” and “How can I be a glamorous grandmother?”.
After a little bit more standing around (you do a lot of that by the way, but lovely Gok keeps you entertained with his flagrant language and ruthless mickey-taking of the director), the bodyshape surgery is over and several runners start hunting around the room, seeking out the brave women who put up their hands to ask a question, in order to be whisked back stage to be re-styled according to the fairy Gokmother.
And then it happens. Gok is holding the aforementioned checked shirt and pointing to me. A runner smiles and escorts me backstage with the others, where rows of flesh coloured underwear and a myriad of fashion accessories are waiting to transform us. It’s all slightly surreal as Gok joins us and we start changing into items he’s picked out for us. “You don’t mind if I do this do you?” he asks as he rearranges someone’s decolletage, “you know I’m very gay.”
The lovely fashion girls run around at Gok’s instructions: “Can we have some navy blue tights please”, “I think this needs a belt and size 6 shoes while you’re at it.” Meanwhile Andy the seamstress pops in to see if any quick pinning and tailoring is required to complete the look.
Then it’s back out in front of the cameras to film ‘before and after’ sequences as Gok works his magic on each of us and a seriously impressed audience.
Was I slightly unnerved to be stood on a box next to Gok with a camera crew in my face? Just a bit. Did I love being made over by the master? Yes! Was it a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity? Most definitely.

Katie and Lisa registering


Katie and I with our bags of second-hand booty


What shall now be known as my Gok shirt


The lovely Gok!

The new series of Gok’s show will be aired in January!