27 July 2011

Exploring our Studio

As many of you will already know, yesterday it was our first birthday, and amongst all of the excitement with the launch of our new-look website, I found myself reflecting on Leaff, and how far we have come in this first year.

A scrummy birthday cake (complete with half melted icing - which did not ruin it one bit) and a pot of tea later, and I had an idea. In celebration of our birthday, I thought we could explore the studio; show you around, and introduce you to the things that inspire us.

Book, Books, Books

We have tonnes of books - not just because I have somewhat of a fetish for them, but because they are a major source of inspiration to us each and every day. Books like Impressive and By Invitation Only, which hold incredible collections of fantastic art and design work, are just a couple of the books that we regularly bury our heads in. Our shelves are also graced with the presence of books by artists and designers whose work we enjoy, like Rob Ryan and Teresa Monachino. It is not just books directly relating to design that capture us either - we also collect things like Howies' catalogues too, and books like 'A book about Innocent', because we are inspired by words as well as images.

'The Inspiration Box'

We have a very large, very special box, that we like to call 'The Inspiration Box', where we keep a range of material that catches our eye. In here you can find lots of random bits, from packaging and old diaries to leaflets and cards; they all capture something - whether it is the print and finish, a colour, some wording, an image or a piece of typography - and that something can inspire the most unrelated ideas ever, so you never know when they are going to come in handy. 

Our Love of Paper

And where would we be without our paper sample collection? We firmly believe that the print and finish of a design can make or break it, so finding the right stock and technique for a project is a vital part of the process, and one that we get super excited about.

Our Surroundings

Last (but not least) are the things that we have surrounded ourselves with. Our beautiful min-garden, that is vital for nature lovers like us, and our favourite artists work, that dress our walls. The first lot of framed pictures are of a calendar by Studio on Fire (an amazing letterpress printer in America). They produced this charming 2010 calendar, which once finished with, I had to frame every month of because it was just too beautiful to hide away. The calendar featured the work of 6 artists from around the world, such as Cecilie Ellefsen and Rilla Alexander. Finally, the last picture is a gorgeous letterpress print from Rilla Alexander, who created the beautiful character, Sozi, who I really relate to, and I think a lot of creatives could. She reminds me each and every day how important my imagination is, and how I should always look there first when chasing an idea.

I hope that you have enjoyed the journey around our studio, and that it has offered some inspiration to you, in whatever form that may be.

21 July 2011

Fantasy Themed Bars & Restaurants

Well, it is utter Harry Potter madness at the moment, and I am trying my very best to contain the child in me that wants to break out of this 27 year old body and just go crazy. I LOVE Harry Potter... in fact I love most things fantasy based. I put it down to my creative mind of course, because to be honest, nothing excites and inspires me more!

From childhood favourites like Alice in Wonderland, Hocus Pocus and The Witches, to more recent films like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Coraline, the film industry has released some fantastic movies over the years. I love watching films like this, but sometimes I almost want more, and that is how I came to search for places I could visit for the same sense of adventure; Google did not disappoint.

The Vampire Cafe | Tokyo, Japan

I nearly burst when I saw this. What an amazing place; the richness of the colours, the warmth of the candle light, the intensity of the ambience, and the incredible attention to detail. I would love to visit this place at Halloween - or any other time for that matter - for perhaps a Bloody Mary, Blood Clot or Blood Orange and Vodka, which are just a few of the cocktails on offer there.

Waxy O'Connor's | London, Manchester, Glasgow

More than a bit closer to home, I actually have some chance of getting to visit this little treasure - and can do so in any of it's 3 locations; London, Manchester or Glasgow.

Waxy O'Connor was a Dublin man, born in 1788. His name came about from his profession as a candle maker, and he was well known for his love of hard liquor. The 'Waxy O'Connor tree', which is on display in all it's glory within the London venue, was brought over from Ireland in 1995. The tree had actually died naturally in 1994, and a local woodworker who had a special connection to the tree, hewed the pieces of the tree for shipment to London.

The beautiful tree seems to form a real focal point within the bar/restaurant, and fits in beautifully with the detailed wooden interior. The venue has a real charm and decadence to it, with it's soft lighting that seems to make the decor glow with warmth. From what I have gathered, each of the venues follows the same theme of decor, but each may have it's own special feature; like London has the tree, Glasgow has a magnificent organ.

Alice in Wonderland Restaurant | Tokyo, Japan

Finally, we finish with this visual feast of a venue - the Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant. The venue is divided into various scenes from the film - each carrying it's own imaginative charm. From over sized books and tea cups, to dramatic wall art and hanging hearts and cards, this looks like one big adventure. I think I could spend all day in there.

I hope that you have all enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed creating it. As mentioned, I went on a Google spree for these images, so as always, if anyone comes across one that is their own, please feel free to credit yourself in the comments box (and well done for such fabulous photography).

Lastly, if you know of any other amazing fantasy themed places to visit, please do post a comment to tell me about them! As you can probably tell, I would love to discover more - and so might other readers.

15 July 2011

Wedding Invitations - Tips & Advice

Wedding invitation planning can be a bit of a nightmare when you have so much information to think about, wording to choose from, and things to remember. This post aims to highlight the main things you need to consider, from our experience - both as stationers and as a couple who have just gone through the process themselves.

1. Who is doing the inviting - you, or your parents?

There is around a 50:50 spread between our couples who have opted to address their invitations from themselves, and those who decided to use the more traditional approach, and address them from their parents. Putting the whole to-follow-tradition / to-not-follow-tradition to one side, it is really more of a decision about whether you are prepared for the job that will come with putting yourself forward as the one to be contacted. Your guests will inevitably have questions and individual issues that they will want to address, and soon enough the decision you made to put your name on the invites turns out to bring more responsibility than you bargained for. Having said this, I think that the amount of thought that you put in to the information you include with the invitations, goes a long way to ensuring there are fewer of these questions and issues.

2. Extra information - how much to include and why.

Extra information can include anything from gift list details to a full blown itinerary of the day. A lot of our couples decided to include maps and directions, and for ourselves, we decided to include a small amount of gift information, maps, accommodation details, and a few other scraps of info that we felt would be good for people to know. While some people may consider this a little over the top, it is really more about being organised and addressing potential problems before they arise. It makes it easier for guests to know what is happening, and it makes it easier for you too - you will have already nipped most major questions in the bud, and made the whole decision making process on whether guests can make it so much quicker; they can immediately see how far they need to travel and can get their accommodation sorted with ease. This all makes for quicker RSVP-ing, which leads us nicely to point number 3.

3. RSVP's - what to include and why.

RSVP's are by far the most important bit for you, as they hold the information that impacts on a number of other details, such as numbers for food, drinks and chair covers etc. What to include on your RSVP's really depends on your plans for your day, but the main things are to identify not just the number of people attending, but the names of those attending (which directly impacts on details like name placings) and dietary requirements (which directly impacts on the menu). For those that want to keep a close eye on budget, it is also a great idea to find out who will be drinking alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks for toasts and the breakfast, so that you can get the numbers right and save money there.

Another thing to think of with RSVP's is how you would like your guests to respond. Traditionally, it is by way of an RSVP slip or card, included with the invite, for guests to fill out and post back, but if you are having more of a modern wedding or aren't too bothered about this particular tradition, then you might want to consider alternatives - like response by email. Lets weigh it up...

Pro's and Con's of Postal Response:

For this kind of response (aside from the fact that it is lovely and traditional), is that they are exciting to receive, they can be a keep-sake, and they perhaps make things easier to organise, as you can keep them in your wedding planner book or folder with the rest of your plans. However, believe it or not, no matter how easy you make it, guests will still find it too difficult to get to the post box and send it back promptly!

Pro's and Con's of Email Response:

As so many people use a computer on a daily basis - whether that is for their work, keeping in touch with friends, or to shop - it will always be the most accessible option to them. Simply popping an email across without moving from their spot, and perhaps while they wait for something to load, will always be deemed easier than taking a walk to a post box.

Having said this, you must consider elderly relatives who may not own a computer or be able to email a response. The ratio of computer illiterate and computer literate elderly people seems to have shifted in recent times, but I guess it just depends on the individual. There is of course the option to include a phone number with the email address, but think very carefully about the possible repercussions of that - with all of the other planning and things on your to-do list, do you really need the phone to be constantly ringing? Or do your parents?! Similarly, by supplying an email address and/or phone number, you are opening up a dialogue with your guests, which perhaps suggests that you are open to organising them as well as yourselves.

If you decide to go postal, make it as easy as possible for them to fill out and respond. Keeping questions simple, clear and few, will be easier for your guests to understand and get through quickly, and self-addressing them is also a major incentive for guests to respond faster. You could do this by including it on the slip/card if you decide on a post-card style RSVP, or on an RSVP envelope that you can include with the invite. Some of our couples have even gone as far as stamping their RSVP's themselves, to save even more time for guests, which is very clever and does work, but it really depends if you have the budget for this. If you decide to go with the email response, think about setting up a special email address, only for that purpose, which will keep your replies separate from your whole load of other mail, preventing messages from getting lost (plus you can give it a special name).

4. Addressing your guests.

Do you spend extra money on getting your invites printed with the individual guests names on them? Or do you hand write them? - which can look lovely and personal if you have neat writing, but there is a risk of mistakes, smudged ink and not being happy with your writing. It has been a common dilemma for our couples.

While some wanted the personal touch of hand writing the names within the invites, others chose to address their guests on the envelopes only, and it worked out very well. In either case, you do need to think about how big the families you are inviting are, as you need to consider what space you have given them to write their names on the RSVP's (if you are having postal responses). You can get around this by inviting anyone aged 16 + separately from their parents - they are old enough after all, and it makes them feel valued.

Well, we hope that this has been helpful to a lot of you reading this, and please feel free to leave any feedback or ideas in the comment box, and indeed any questions if you have any, which we would be happy to help you with. We do love to hear from our readers, so be encouraged!

All images have been taken from our portfolio, which you can view here.

08 July 2011

Studio Dreaming...

It is good to have dreams, and this is something that I have a lot of - that Leaff has a lot of.

Well before Leaff was even born, we had plans for a special studio... 'one day', and as Leaff's first birthday looms, I have been reflecting on our current studio, and our bookmarks of inspiration that we have collected for what we hope will be our next...

From top to bottom and left to right:
• Selgas Cano Architecture Office, Madrid (picture by Iwan Baan), located on todayandtomorrow.net
• Sommerhaus Piu, Germany (designed by Patrick Frey and Björn Götte) located on inhabitat.com
• Glass Casa La Semilla, Mexico (designed by t3arc) located on inhabitat.com
• Amsterdam Schipol Airport (built by Maurice Mentjens & NatuurCollege) located on inhabitat.com
• A Leafy Home (designed by BlueForest), located on blueforest.com
• Pool House (designed by BlueForest), located on blueforest.com
• Lakeside Paradise, Lake Garda in Italy (designed by BlueForest), located on blueforest.com
• Cliffside Lodge  (designed by BlueForest), located on blueforest.com

I love how nature envelopes the Selgas Cano office, in it's beautiful colour. I love the peacefulness of the setting where Sommerhaus Piu and Glass Casa La Semilla sit; visible through their glass walls. I love the inclusion of trees bursting through the space in Amsterdam Schipol Airport, and the use of wood in A Leafy Home, with it's beautiful shapes. I can imagine sitting on that decking at the Pool House on a summers morning, brainstorming a project with a fresh brew, and I can dream ever more about the Lakeside Paradise and Cliffside Lodge; havens in the forest, and the ultimate Leaff paradise. I can dream, dream and dream...

01 July 2011

Chuck Close

We do love a new discovery, and it doesn't come much bigger than Chuck Close. We discovered him on the BBC's 'Imagine' series on Tuesday evening. If you missed it, you can catch up on the BBC iPlayer, here - it is well worth a watch.

Chuck is a New York based portrait painter, and is one of the worlds most successful artists. Ironically, he has a neurological deficit called 'face blindness', where he cannot retain memory of faces or names. He is also wheelchair bound after suffering a spinal artery collapse, and paints with a brush strapped to his wrist.

Due to his deficit, he approaches his paintings very close-up, in tiny sections - grid-like - building up to a whole. Up close, all you see is a series of tiny, colourful, patterned squares, but when you step back, you see the amazing transformation from blocks of colour, to a portrait with such incredible tone and depth. It is hard to see how it is possible to create such a portrait from his approach.

Chuck only paints portraits of his family and friends, as a way of remembering them, and therefore they are like photographs and stories to him. In this way, he has used his work as a way of dealing with his inability to recognise faces.

None of his images are created digitally or photo-mechanically - it is all by hand from a blank canvas. We think it is absolutely amazing - the work in itself is amazing, but the fact that he has face blindness and a disability that would perhaps usually stop an artist from painting, makes it all the more awe-inspiring.

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