CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT :: Jane Cumberbatch’s Pure Style Online


You know when you love something so much you want to share it with everyone so they can enjoy it too? That’s how I feel about Jane Cumberbatch’s Pure Style Online (and her books, too!) Jane’s talent for expressing simplicity through photos and words is unmatched — entering the Pure Style world is like going on a relaxing mini-vacation.

Jane Cumberbatch's Pure Style

In this and future installments of Conversations with Designers, I’ll be sitting down with various talented bloggers to find out a few tips and tricks of the trade. We can all use some encouragement and inspiration, right?

Jane was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions on the topic, which I am thrilled to share with you today…

Pure Style Summer Garden - Jane Cumberbatch's Tips on Blogging

How long have you been blogging?
Jane: I’ve been blogging properly for 3 or 5 years, although I started my website in 2005.

How would you describe your blog to someone who’d never seen it?
Jane: My blog is like a kind of photographic and written notebook of the simpler things in life that inspire me, such as roses in the garden, a hand crafted piece of furniture or a wonderful fabric print.

My favourite Constance Spry rose - Jane Cumberbatch's Pure Style Online Tips on Blogging

Do you remember the first blog that really inspired you?
Jane: I can’t think of one particular blog that really inspired me, it’s more the excitement of being to take my own photographs and have the ability to create stories on online. An amazing leap for me, having worked behind a camera as a stylist for many years.

Jane Cumberbatch's Pure Style Online summer garden furniture - Pure Style Tips on Blogging

What are some blogs you read every week?
Jane: I have to say that I don’t really follow other blogs — just not enough time in the day as I’m also running my house as a location for shoots, and what with that working on my new book, walking dog, doing the laundry, etc, etc, etc…I do like catching up though on Remodelista.com for design ideas, and that’snotmyage is inspiring for an over fiftier like me!

Rose Petal Colour Band  from my new collection of wallpaper borders - Jane Cumberbatch Pure Style Online

What is one thing people might not know about your blogging journey?
Jane: Blogging has been a great way to engage with readers of my books. In the past before authors would only encounter readers at live events — now with blogging I get to engage with people from Swansea to Santiago!

What are your top three tips for other bloggers?
Jane: Be stick to your concept, keep your writing succinct, and be ruthless with editing your pictures — less is more!!

Thank you so much, Jane! Your work is so refreshing and it’s always a pleasure to see your latest.

Pure Style Online | Books | Shop | Blog

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DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT :: A Conversation with The Little Hummingbird


It’s been a while since we had a Designer Spotlight on Oaxacaborn! The conversations in this series are intended to inspire and encourage, and allow all of us to glean a little wisdom from fellow creatives and small businesses owners.

Today, I’m chatting with Olivia Lin and Archna Patel, who together run the childrenswear brand the little hummingbird.

sophie hoodie in pink by the little hummingbird as seen on oaxacaborn's interview with the little hummingbird
mae top, brooklyn pant by the little hummingbird as seen in an interview with designer Olivia Lin on Oaxacaborn

Walk me through your creative process — I guess you could call this the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Do you have a finished product in mind from the start, and then execute a series of steps to achieve this? Or do the ideas evolve and take life as you go through the creative process?
We think it can be a little bit of both!

Sometimes we have a finished product in mind; our poncho from the Fall ’12 collection and the pointelle cardigan from Spring ’13 are both examples of this. Other times, it is an evolution of ideas starting with a piece of trim, style detail, or theme we both like and are inspired by. Because we are a duo, we communicate and bounce ideas off of one another a lot, and try to make sure we are merging and using ideas each of us has.

When it is an evolution, it is definitely exciting seeing an idea come to life! (I think that is how we feel each time we complete a photoshoot and see a collection come to fruition!) For our current Spring ’13 line, we knew we wanted to incorporate pintucks into our designs but didn’t have the finished product in mind yet. We started by sketching as many different ideas as possible– which is the fun creative part! From there, we edit, share our sketches with each other, edit some more, then we finalize which styles we should go forward with and have in our collection.

stella dress by the little hummingbird as seen on oaxacaborn's interview with the little hummingbird's designer

At one time or another, all creatives experience that “hitting a brick wall” feeling, where the ideas just stop. How do you deal with creative slumps and roadblocks?
We hate it when that happens! We deal with it by taking a break and focusing on doing something else such as reading, baking, or cooking. Putting some music on and surfing the web or flipping through magazines — we both are inspired by clothing for women — can give us a fresh perspective as well. Another thing we like to do is look back at old photos of ourselves and siblings when we were kids, and modernizing the pieces we used to wear.

hazel sweater, ava top by the little hummingbird as seen on oaxacaborn's interview with the little hummingbird's designer

So is it safe to say you’re more influenced by the idea of reinterpreting vintage rather than keeping up with latest trends?
One of the things we wanted to do when creating the little hummingbird line was to create pieces that are timeless and can be passed down through the generations. We don’t really follow trends– we try to stick to the beat of our own drum and be true to our style and design aesthetics.

ida top, kaity skirt by the little hummingbird as seen on oaxacaborn's interview with the little hummingbird

From a business perspective, what does collaboration look like for The Little Hummingbird? How do you decide which roles each of you takes on?
We both do a little bit of everything for the little hummingbird and try to make sure we are being fair and the workload is equal. The way we decide which roles we each take on is a combination of a few things. Which method is the most efficient? Is one of us is more skilled in that area? What’s the timing and priority? Who is available? And sometimes it just comes to logistics, like which one of us has a shorter drive to save time and gas! I think the big key to our collaboration is honesty and lots of communication. You should see how many emails and texts we exchange in a day!

amelia dress by the little hummingbird as seen on oaxacaborn's interview with the little hummingbird
What is the most challenging thing you have faced in your creative career?
The most challenging things we have faced have been the funding as well as marketing — getting the little hummingbird to a place where it is a known and trusted brand.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to fellow creatives?
We would say to give your dreams and goals a chance, follow through, and don’t give up! It is not easy and you have to be able to handle rejection, but believe in yourself! Be fearless, open to making mistakes and learning — ask questions and try to stay organized and remember to have fun and enjoy the journey :)

Thank you so much, Olivia and Archna!

The Little Hummingbird | on Twitter | on Facebook | on Pinterest


Previously on Designer Spotlight:

CHRISTMAS :: Above the Polar Circle: An Interview with the Scandinavian Christmas Blog Author


Scandinavian Christmas Blog
As I did last year, this year I again turned to the Scandinavian Christmas blog for inspiration. And the longer I browsed, the more curious I became. I mean, with stunning photos like this image by Stephen Worrall…
Tromso Norway by Stephen Worrall
…and an intro paragraph which reads “A Swedish-Norwegian family who lives in the very north above the polar circle”, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Just how far north?!”

So I asked Anna Linda, the curator of the Scandinavian Christmas blog, to tell me more about this beautiful place where she lives (and yes, more about her blog, too).

Anna Linda: I live in Tromsø, Norway, which is at the same latitude as northernmost Alaska or Siberia, and sits on the edge of the Arctic regions. Thankfully the climate is a little milder because of the Gulf Stream, and “our” island benefits from the protection of surrounding mountains.

What brought you to Tromsø — and what characteristics define this unique place?
Anna Linda:When my husband was offered a job here we got excited about the adventure it would be for us “southerners” to experience the North. Tromsø is a small town but boasts a University and large hospital, and is the commercial hobnob of the northern regions. Yet the polar wilderness and striking beauty is no more than 15 minutes away from the town square, making it an eldorado for extreme sports, biking and hiking. We experience polar night (no sun) and midnight sun (no darkness), plenty of northern lights, and extreme amounts of snow.

You feature simple yet stunning pieces on your blog — everything from linens to kitchen and gardening accessories to (of course!) Christmas decorations. What do you look for in the items you choose to bring into your own home?
Anna Linda:My own subjective combination of form and function. Form doesn’t need to follow function, but form needs to be well executed to interest me. Good looking everyday items, that are made well, are more interesting than decoration. A tea mug needs to sit comfortably in your hand, to be properly balanced, the thickness of the porcelain and the curve proportionate for your lips, and its size perfect for a generous serving.

I’m quite physical in the process of selection. I touch the textures, feel the weight, stroke surfaces, hold things in the air to discover points of gravity. Even if it’s the discount section at IKEA.

The phrase “Scandinavian Christmas” brings to mind a very distinctive look and style. What are the elements which make up this style — and why do you think this aesthetic is shared across Scandinavian countries?
Anna Linda:Elements that unite the modern Nordic preferences are: adoration of “white, light and bright”, pale wood, strong graphics, and a love for midcentury designers. From a historical viewpoint it is easy to see the influence of Gustavian neoclassicism, reformative ideas of the late 1800s, and functionalism.

But all theory aside, it’s probably a matter of availability. The look is easy to achieve even if you’re colourblind with the tiniest of budgets. Swedes are also collectivistic and anxious about falling out of the norm, which causes trends to spread like wildfire.

What Christmas design trends have you noticed over the past few years?
Anna Linda:The first decade of the new millenium had a definite stroke of exotism, with references to Morocco and “SohoBohos”: deep jewel tones combined with gold or glitter, damask patterns.

Next came the “white on white” or “white & metallics” phase, followed by a crafty craze with doilies, dots, turquoise and bright reds. Two years ago it shifted to a cabin hommage that still lingers: plaids, kraft paper and string, knitted and cross stiched details. In the wake of the shabby chic movement a parallell colour scheme is gaining popularity with lilac, gray and silver at the forefront.

My predictions are that the next big thing will be a warmer retro palette with influences from the seventies: deep green, navy, orange, yellow, brown and brass.

Thank you, Anna Linda! Readers, I know it’s a busy time — but I encourage you all to take a little coffee break and scroll through the Scandinavian Christmas blog. Scattered in between stunning images of Tromsø’s lights twinkling in polar darkness are old photographs of Christmases past, Scandi-modern items for your home, Christmas music and recipes, tidbits about culture and traditions…it does a heart good. -Gina

DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT :: Anna Allen Clothing


I’ve admired Anna McClurg‘s talent as a seamstress for a long time. So when she agree to chat with me about her creative process and her new Fall/Winter 2012 line for Anna Allen Clothing, well, I just couldn’t wait to share our conversation with you!
Eugénie Silk Velvet Dress - Anna Allen Clothing
What prompted you to start Anna Allen Clothing?
I’ve always been sewing something since I was a little girl and it seemed to be something I had a knack for. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with history and especially the 19th century. I became really good at making historical garments and started an online business in 2003 selling clothing to living historians and reenactors. After doing that for several years, I became more interested in sewing my own apparel and discovered a whole new world of people who were interested in fashion and sewing. Often people would tell me that I should make modern clothing or wedding dresses. So I finally decided to get serious about it and teach myself to draft patterns. Soon after, I designed a small collection and took the plunge with my new clothing line!
Chambray Tie Shirt - Anna Allen Clothing
Walk me through your creative process — I guess you could call this the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. Do you have a finished product in mind from the start, and then execute a series of steps to achieve this? Or do the ideas evolve and take life as you go through the creative process?
Recently, I have found that it’s better when I have a finished product in mind and sketched out on paper first before I scout for fabric. I’ll usually start by drafting a pattern and later decide that my original sketch doesn’t look right. So I tweak it a bit and the design usually evolves during the drafting process. And other times I’ll see some fabric that I love and design a garment with that particular fabric in mind.
Eugénie Silk Velvet Top - Anna Allen Clothing
Everyone likes a peek into designers’ studios. Can you describe where you do the majority of your work?
I have had three different studios since I started my clothing line back in 2010. The first one is about the same size as the one I am in now. The second one was huuuuge! Way too much space actually! My current workroom is a bit tight, but I like it! It isn’t fancy and it’s filled with old hand-me-downs from my mom (e.g. an old ironing board and sewing cabinet). Someday I want to re-vamp my sewing room and get a new cutting table, shelves to store fabric, and a better place to put my sewing machine and serger. At the moment I have to swap table space between my sewing machine and serger every time I need to use the other one. But I simply don’t have room for another table! My workroom may not be as pretty as other sewing spaces I’ve seen, but it works for me and it’s cozy!
Tattersall Pullover - Anna Allen Clothing
Do you do all the sewing yourself? What does collaboration look like for Anna Allen Clothing?
Yes, everything is hand-made by me! I am probably a bit of a control freak and it’s hard for me to think that I could give this work to someone else to do. But eventually I will probably need to get help. I think a collaboration would be so fun and inspiring! I haven’t done one yet, but I am open to it!
Denim Button-up Skirt - Anna Allen Clothing
At one time or another, all creatives experience that “hitting a brick wall” feeling, where the ideas just stop. How do you deal with creative slumps and roadblocks?
I absolutely know that feeling much too well! I feel like I just went through one recently. I think what really helped me get out of it was thinking hard and searching within myself about the reasons why I am doing what I do and what I love about it. I think it is so easy to forget what I love when there are so many beautiful images surrounding me on Pinterest, blogs, Instagram, Twitter, etc. It’s very inspiring in many ways, which is why I am addicted! However, it can also get distracting when you are trying to be true to yourself. That may sound corny, but sometimes I think I’m not good enough because my clothes are not like some of the others I’ve seen out there. I have to tell myself that my clothes don’t need to look like other designers’ clothes! They are my unique designs, and I’m proud of them. Another thing I’ve found that really helps when I hit a brick wall is to learn a new skill, especially if it is slightly out of my comfort zone. It can be very rewarding and inspiring when I accomplish something that I’m afraid of!
Tattersall Pullover Top - Anna Allen Clothing
Let’s talk trends — or rather, the intentional lack of them. Why do you think classic, timeless simplicity resonates with so many people?
I think it has something to do with feeling safe and comfortable like an old quilt. For me, I’ve found the clothing I am always most comfortable in are classic pieces. They make me feel confident and I know I don’t have to worry whether or not they are in or out of fashion. Clothing has the ability to share with others around you who you are in a nutshell. Although it’s never good to judge a book by its cover, most people do! So when you feel put together and you love what you are wearing, then hopefully you can convey to others a little aspect of who you are.
Wool Sailor Dress -- Anna Allen Clothing
Can you share your biggest influence as a designer, whether it be human, literary, geographical, or….?
I probably find my biggest influence in old films. I grew up watching old movies and there is something so timeless and effortless about the clothing people wore back then. I know my garments are not replicas or anything, but I am definitely inspired by the way people dressed. They always had a different garment for every occasion. I want to get back to that. I think they really took care of their clothing and the quality was so much better in the past than it is now. I am also a huge fan of Nancy Drew books and my mind is always spinning whenever I think about putting together a collection inspired by them!

What is the most challenging thing you have faced in your creative career?
I would probably have to say the business aspect of things! I hate the business side with taxes and such. They are so confusing and I remember when I first started I used to cry because I was so frustrated! But now, although it’s never exactly easy, it is more manageable. It is one thing you have to learn if you want to share your creativity with others, and I think it’s worth it!
Denim Button-up Skirt and Tattersall Pullover Top - Anna Allen Clothing
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to fellow creatives?
Just keep doing what you love and keep stretching yourself. Continue to learn and do things that don’t always feel safe to you! The only way to be dead in creativity is to stop learning and growing. Also, take time to become really good at what you do. Sometimes what you love doesn’t come easy, and sometimes it is a pain. But I believe it is really worthwhile in the end.

Anna Allen Clothing | Shop | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT :: Gigi Rose Gray, the Artist Behind the Illustrations


This past year, I’ve experienced the incredible thrill of having my work illustrated. Since the illustrations are arranged by the publisher, I don’t see the art until long after it is completed — and I often don’t know anything about the artist who transforms my words into images. So I was especially delighted to see this interview with Gigi Rose Gray, whose tremendous illustrations appear alongside my childhood tale “The Egg Man” in the current print issue of Babiekins.

When I first saw the two pieces she drew for my story, I was in awe of how someone else could capture the essence of my childhood so well. How could she know what a little girl would see in another country? How could she know what it looked like through my young eyes?

The Egg Man in Babiekins Magazine - by Gina Munsey and illustrated by Gigi Rose Gray

It all made sense when I read what she said about her own childhood: “In Brittany I have memories of a towering armoire teeming with jars of homemade jams, walking along the ramparts of the medieval city. In Normandy I remember the ‘moules frites’ and fisherman hauling in their catch, witnessing a thief make his escape in Barcelona and galloping on horseback through the wild fields of Provence. My work has been strongly influenced by my childhood, as I remember it to be a time of wonderment and exploration which was no doubt largely thanks to my travels.”

How neat is that? This story was illustrated by someone who really gets it. That’s so awesome.

You can see more of her art on sale for a limited time here — and don’t miss the fantastic illustrations she did for another one of my stories here, here and here