Wardrobe Conversations

Living Abstracts has had a number of focuses since its start several years ago: creative inspiration in London, what to wear if you don’t follow fashion trends, Instagram and planners + time management. It finally hit me in the past month that I am interested in ALL of these things – and all of them are about having greater beauty in our lives. Talk about a ‘Doh’ moment!

There is a new Sunday column – See / Hear / Taste – and new content on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tuesdays will be either a DIY or Wardrobe Conversation – chatting with women and finding ways of dressing that reflect our style and personality. Thursdays will focus on either business or adding to a collection of Freebies. I’m so happy that the blog feels whole now.

To help support the new style, I’ve moved the site from SquareSpace, where it has been for about a year, and rebuilt it in WordPress. It is still being tweaked, some older blog posts need new images and the shop has been closed for now. I’ll let you know when it returns.

So, onto a wardrobe discussion. This was sparked last week at the launch of Emily Quinton’s Maker Spaces book at West Elm in London by meeting stylist and blogger Jane Day of Tea with Ruby, pictured on the left. She was wearing a fabulous long, navy dress that looked cool, smart and relaxed. What we especially loved about it was it being long enough so that she could wear flip-flops or other flat sandals.

The maxi or almost maxi also seemed to be the answer to what a female wedding photographer wears to a summer wedding – another discussion had with a colleague earlier in the week. We need to wear flats of some kind, given that we are carrying around heavy equipment and may need to walk for an hour or two on some shoots. We sometimes end up lying on the ground or in other odd positions, so the only realistic options are trousers or maxi skirts. I love ASOS for basics like maxi skirts (and its VIP membership for £10 a year gets you free next-day delivery, good value if you use them more than a couple of times) and Jane recommended Cos; since she doesn’t live near a branch, her Cos shopping is all done online.

See / hear / taste

A collection of things I saw, heard and tasted this week. 

SEE: I visited the Savage Beauty exhibition of fashion designer Alexander McQueen at the V+A Museum, which opened a couple of weeks ago. It was superbly staged and one double-height room in the centre of the exhibition was breathtaking in its complexity (I won’t say any more than that in case you’re going and it can be a wonderful surprise). It felt a little odd seeing McQueen’s work again, after the Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House last year, with quite a number of the same tailored items in common. All in all, I preferred the reality of seeing frayed edges, a few stains and marks on the clothes in the Isabella Blow exhibition over the glamour and glitz of the V+A show. McQueen was remarkable, but still what we’re looking at is clothing that can be damaged by life, just like Blow and McQueen.

By pure coincidence, I ran into this spiffingly suited gentleman at Borough Market a few days later, collecting delicacies for his picnic on the London Tweed Run. He charmingly posed for me and in return, I suggested the sausage rolls from The Ginger Pig – a top tip from friend and children’s photographer Helen Bartlett.

London Tweed Run participant at Borough Market, stocking his picnic satchel.

HEAR: Love the Rockett St George Cover Up Spotify playlist, especially First of the Gang by singer/songwriter Zee Avi and Paloma Faith’s version of INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart. What a nice way of exploring a completely different range of music!

Lemon presse on a hot spring day from Fernandez + Wells

TASTE: Lemon presse with mint from Fernandez + Wells, just around the corner from the V+A Museum. The PERFECT drink on the first properly hot day of the year. I have bought lemons and mint for a home version, dreaming of more sunny spring days.


See / hear / taste

This is the first week of a new Sunday column, sharing some experiences from the week – things I’ve seen, heard or tasted that others might like.

SAW the original men with beards – Blackheath Morris Men – carrying out their Easter Monday tradition of lifting a woman up on a decorated chair in Greenwich, next to the Cutty Sark. They are funny and wholehearted in their dancing.  Do have a look at their  website: it is the original grumpy old man’s site and looks like it was built in FrontPage in about 2002.


And visited the National Gallery’s Sansovino Frames exhibition – a collection of very ornate gold painted wooden frames in Room One (turn left from the main staircase under the skylight).

Blackheath Morris Men lifting a woman on a chair for Easter Monday

National Gallery Sansovino frames from Venice

HEARd Radio Three’s Composer of the Week – Chopin.  He certainly wasn’t a well man and seemed to have a nightmare travelling with his family and still managed to write such sublime music – no idea how he managed it.

TASTEd roast beetroot this week. They were small and organic, so should have tasted as good as they get, and served with butternut squash (also roasted) and goat’s cheese. Not awful, but not lovely either, so won’t be doing that again. The purple-stained cutting board will also be grateful. A much bigger success was making up my own granola recipe in a small quantity (to avoid eating a month’s supply in two days because it is so delicious). One cup of oats, one cup of assorted nuts, three tablespoons of coconut oil, three of maple syrup, heat oil and syrup in small saucepan until liquid, mix in bowl with dry ingredients and bake at 150 degrees celsius for about 20 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes. Very tasty – will be doing that again. Favourite home meal this week was a bed of green leaves with a generous heap of warm potato salad dressed in homemade lemon mayo with chives and slices of smoked salmon on top.

Photo backgrounds

I’m so happy to share with you what i’ve been working on for the past couple of months. It’s a set of photo backgrounds that you can download and print for your styled projects, Instagram photographs and blog or website images.

With the rise of styled photographs on blogs and Instagram, I was surprised that something like this didn’t already exist. Many of you – and I – had been using sheets of paper, painted canvases and other household surfaces for photographs. But what if we wanted something a little different, like planks of wood for a food or recipe photograph but didn’t want the weight or storage?

 IMAGE TO BE RE-UPLOADED: Grey and wood photo background for food styling, product display and styled Instagram vignettes. The photo backgrounds are easily printed, stored and carried.


Hence this collection of 15 backgrounds: 11 colours of linen, three woods and a metal background. They’re all designed to sit behind your styled items without overpowering the photograph. I’ve been testing them out over the past weeks and am excited to see what you create with them.

They’re set up as an instant download, so when you buy the photo backgrounds, you’ll be taken to the download page and you can be printing and using them in minutes. The examples you see here are all printed on a home computer onto A3 sheets of regular copier paper.  You could also print them larger (they’re sized 12×8″ at 300dpi) or have your favourites printed onto photographic paper.

So do go ahead and try them and see what you think, and let me know how you find them. There is a 20% off early bird special until midnight on Wednesday February 25, bringing the price to £28.

2014/2015 review

I wasn’t due to post today, but wanted to as last night had the most thoughtful new year celebrations in a long time and thought some of the ideas we shared might be fun inspiration for others reflecting on 2014 and looking forward to 2015.

A friend hosted dinner for a few people.. As well as delicious food and glasses of bubbly, we did a series of questions from Selina Barker. We looked back a year, thinking about our hopes and intentions for 2014, thinking about the key milestones and the most important lessons. We shared what we were most proud of, when we loved and laughed the most and what we were grateful for. 

We didn’t get to share our plans for 2015 as we had spent so long with 2014, but that really didn’t seem to matter. Sharing our year’s dreams and the reality with some lovely new and old friends was one of the best ways of seeing in the new year. 

2014 for me seemed to be a year of learning, of testing ideas and theories and of making room for change. The television I had been watching less and less chose to break and I didn’t replace it. I gave up trying to like fish. I experimented with tasty ways of adding vegetables to meals and found some success; that is still a work in progress. I did quite a bit of on-line learning. 2014 was like a fallow year on a farm – an important part of the growing cycle but not the most dynamic time.  So I feel very much set up for 2015 – bring it on! 

Merry Christmas

Whatever you are doing at this time of year, I hope you have time with loving people and to reflect on your year. 2014 has brought many lovely clients and touching connections for which I am very grateful. 2015 looks like being even busier, so I’m going to take this time to relax, recharge, spend time with family and look ahead to the coming year. 

Instagram of the day

Instagram is pretty much the first thing I look at every day, with coffee in bed. It’s such fun to catch up on friends’ lives and see the pretty photos that so many creative people have shared. With so much inspiration there, I have started a Pinterest page to collate one a day of my favourites.  There is such amazing work on there, I somehow want to capture it without stealing. So, do have a look at the Instagram Daily Favourites page and click through to your favourites and either leave a like, comment or follow them. 

Connecting and beauty with Instagram

Odd numbers -  one of my favourite ways of arranging items for styled instagram photographs. 

Odd numbers –  one of my favourite ways of arranging items for styled instagram photographs. 

There’s been a long gap since my last post. I was working on a third collection of patterns and realised that I couldn’t create the patterns I wanted – that I hadn’t done enough work, nor knew enough to produce them. So I booked into an online pattern design course and have been working away – nothing I want to share now – but certainly it’s getting me to where I want to be. 

That left nothing to blog about; unsurprisingly, I didn’t write anything. Over the last few months though, I’ve returned to Instagram gradually and am finding the creative process of producing photographs that I like which have nothing to do with my ‘day’ job as a wedding and portrait photographer. 

The Instagram of recent months is the most beautiful thing. Alongside the selfies and coffees and dog photos (I LOVE dog photos- please let that never change), there is a growing collection of people just posting beautiful things. They’re usually styled in some way, often have lovely light, they might be about a moment, a mood, a pleasing arrangement … and so many people are creating them. There are style professionals – shop owners, stylists, food bloggers – who do some AMAZING work. And SO many others, who produce photographs which are just as amazing. Perhaps they’re an escape from the day, a way of capturing a fleeting moment or time for themselves in the midst of busy family or cubicle life. Taking time for beauty is also part of slowing down, of making yourself see and a wonderful way of connecting with others. And most of it is without language barriers – if you like someone’s feed, you can follow, whether or not you speak each other’s languages. 

There are competitions and hash tags to connect with others; the competitions force you to be creative within someone else’s parameters and you get to immediately connect with others working on the same thing. Beauty and connection – just astonishing together. 


Some of my favourite competitions are:

- Emily Quinton’s #floralfridaycompetition – as it says on the tin, every Friday, you submit one or more photographs with flowers using the hashtag and tagging @emilyquinton  More than 10,000 entries are now under the #floralfridaycompetition

- Gudy Herder’s #itsamoodyday on Wednesdays is a new competition that has been running a few weeks and is about evoking moodiness in your Instagrams. Use the hash tag on a photograph you have uploaded on a Wednesday and tag @gudyherder

- 7 Vignettes. This is a competition running from the first to seventh of each month from Interiors Addict. You’re given a different word for each day and have to create a vignette (essentially a styled collection). The seven days is quite a commitment, although you don’t have to take part in it all.  You tag your images with #7vignettes and @interiorsaddict and quite often their sponsor for the relevant month. It’s run from Australia, so if you’re following the hash tag from other parts of the world, there’s lots to see early in the morning! 

In the next little while, I’ll be writing about Instagram, the lovely connections, the beauty and working to lift my game to produce photographs that I want to share. Do you have favourite Instagram competitions you like to take part in? Where do you get your inspiration from? What do you do if you don’t feel like posting – not post or do you make yourself? 

PS Two of my favourite dog Instagrammers are @lyndseygoddard and her French Bulldog and Annabel Bird at @insideology with Edward Lear the Welsh Terrier. 




TUTORIAL: coloured string for gifts

Have you ever been wrapping a last-minute gift and found yourself without ribbon or other trimmings to finish it? Or perhaps you have a craft project that would look better with string that tones with the rest of the project? Read on for an easy tutorial using items you probably have at home. 

Start with white household string, a small bowl or eggcup, brush or stick for mixing, a fork for lifting out the dyed string and some kind of water-based artist’s paint. The paint can be watercolours and gouache to inks and acrylics.

Put a little paint in the bowl or eggcup. Add a little water and mix to desired strength of colour. If you’re using inks, you may not want to dilute it much at all. Cut a piece of string (don’t ask me how long – it’s up to you) and put in the diluted paint or ink. Poke with the fork or paintbrush until it is totally covered in the colour. Leave for a few minutes. (This is a good time to pop on the kettle). 

Lift out the string with your fork. It will drip. A metal or dark kitchen sink draining board is a good place to do this. Drape over something glass or non-porous to drain a little. If you’re doing multiple colours, be careful to keep them separate. (By now the kettle will have boiled and you can pop the tea in the teapot or mug to brew). Wash out your bowl, paintbrush and hands. The string should have stopped the worst of its dripping and you can hang it somewhere to dry. It is likely to drip some more, so protect your floor or whatever is underneath the string. I used a metal stepladder and door handle – a clothes airer would also work well. Wash your hands again and have your cup of nicely brewed tea. Once your string is dry, it is ready to use. 

Be the heroine

Writer and editor Sam Baker posted this quote this morning on Twitter to mark the late Nora Ephron’s birthday. It’s simple, strong and just the ticket for first thing on a Monday.