31 March 2016

Florals and furniture, a match made in heaven!

Springtime and florals go hand in hand, don’t they? Flowers are natural shots of colour – and you know I love colour!

This may seem quite unusual, but I have quite a few stockists who as well as selling my paint, are also florists - when you think about it, it’s quite a natural fit. Nothing offsets the drama and richness of, say, a side table painted in Burgundy like a jug of vivid, bright English Yellow daffodils! In my blog about my trip to Paris in January I mentioned the ‘strong florals’ trend I’d noticed at Maison et Objet, the trade show for the interiors industry. This trend is one that my stockists who are also florists draw on every day.

It’s particularly common in Japan, where a lot of my stockists are also florists, or garden-inspired. The lovely Kimie, at Hug Home is a master floral basket maker and her shop is crammed not only with paint and beautiful things for the home, but also her wonderful floral displays – it makes such sense, seeing it all displayed together. I love the way she uses old paint tins to display her flowers – complete with paint drips for full effect!

Flowergirl in Singapore is run by two great friends, Catherine and Mandy. They specialise in orchids and use my colours to complement the delicate shades and structures of this, most decorative of flowers. The natural fit here isn’t so much the brighter shades, but those more fragile colours I’d use to create something more in keeping with a Vintage Floral look (see my book Room Recipes for a fuller explanation).

Whether you prefer the subtle pairing of Antoinette with Paris Grey or Coco, or the bold clashes of Bohemian style is more your thing - Antibes Green and Provence and Barcelona Orange - nature can be a limitless source of inspiration!

The garden studio at the Little Leaf Company in Australia is an absolute riot of colour – they ramp up the brights with lush greenery and vivid blooms in a cool, warehouse setting and a hint of mid-century modern vibe – I love it! Their Instagram is always visually stunning, and I highly recommended you to follow it!

Here in the UK, I must mention Monica and Milan, who own Lavender House and Garden, in West Sussex. Not only are they running a successful florist, but their shop offers a whole concept, with paint and furniture, new and old, in the mix. They source from all over Europe, but manage to bring it all together in a way that perfectly encapsulates that chic, classic country style. And, over in Northern Island, Marie Cafolla pulls together stunning floral displays with the added benefit of serving ice cream in the shop! What more could anyone want?

Yours, Annie

22 March 2016

A whistle-stop Canadian tour

I’ve just got back from a whistle-stop ten days in Canada. Nowadays when I travel, I always try and combine three things: exhibit at a Home Show, meet journalists (and bloggers, of course!) and catch up with my stockists. It allows me to meet so many people, and make new connections.

On this visit I met some very interesting people! In Montreal and Toronto I visited two shops, both of which were in the ‘hipster’ areas of town – just like my own shop in Oxford’s Cowley Road. Saint Laurent in Montreal and Leslieville in Toronto share that exciting vibe found in London’s Shoreditch, New York’s Williamsburg and – arguably the original ‘hipsterville’ – La Rive Gauche in Paris. They are both areas crammed with independent shops, each offering something unique and exciting. I’ve travelled a lot recently, and have noticed that these seem to be the areas where my paint and products are particularly popular.

Often ‘upcycling’ is seen as something that lends itself particularly well to Vintage Floral, Boho, Country Cottage or Traditional Swedish-inspired looks but what I love about my paint palette, and also what I love about meeting the people who use it, is to see how it works in such diverse ways to create very different styles. I meet people of all ages – in fact it underlines the point that it really isn’t age which defines us, it’s all about our attitudes and tastes.

Montreal was just delightful as the snow was falling. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to meet many customers, but I did spend some time at Piorra Maison – a fantastic shop, crammed with an eclectic mix of treasures. Whilst I was there we popped over the road to Salon de thé Cardinal, a fabulous tea room which was just humming! People chatting, someone playing the piano, drinking tea from vintage cups and eating scones – all gorgeous, all so French!

Between Montreal and Toronto I went to my Stockists shop ArtHaus150 in Kitchener, Ontario, to hold a Workshop with about 35 other stockists who travelled from all over Canada to join in. There was a great sense of camaraderie, which I always revel in.

At Rusty Hinges in Toronto and White Pears Studio in Oakville, Ontario I was able to do one of my very favourite things – a book signing! I met such a variety of people who told me all about where they live, how they live and what they do – sometimes even showing me pictures on their phones. It’s like having a snapshot of their lives, each with a different story.

Whilst I was in Toronto, I took part in The National Home Show. It was a real team effort, with many stockists pitching in to help out on the stand. One of the things I did there was to give a talk on their ‘Celebrity Stage’. I decided to give my Colour Talk, which is something I go through with my stockists at our workshops. I was a little worried, as I’d never given this talk to the general public before, but it seemed to go down well - despite being a little nerve-wracking!

Finally, I managed to squeeze in some television interviews, including a piece on The Morning Show where I used my English Yellow to transform a Mid Century Modern chest of drawers. I really wanted to show how quick and easy the paint is to use, so not only did I paint the chest, but also managed to show a quick ‘wash’ technique and add a stencilled pattern – all in just over five minutes! It was a little hectic, but I loved it – in fact, the same could be said of the whole trip!

8 March 2016

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is International Women’s Day and it’s always hard to write about something like this without sounding dismissive of men. So, before I go on to say anything else, I want to champion my men! My husband David, my great male friends and colleagues here at HQ, all my male stockists and customers and, of course, my sons; Hugo, Henry and Felix.

There’s one more man I need to mention - my dad. In a recent magazine interview I actually named him as my greatest female role model! Strange, no? But, it was my father who encouraged me and taught me that regardless of gender I could become whatever I set out to be. He also introduced me to the wonderful book by Germaine Greer, The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. In it, Greer discusses Artemisia Gentileschi, who was enabled to become an artist through her father giving her access to his own studio. That really resonated with me, the idea of the father cultivating the creativity in the daughter. Armed with this, and my copy of the inimitable Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, I was ready to take on the world!

As a mother of three boys, it was really important to me to work and to be seen working, to continue creating and developing. I started my business because – like many other women – I needed to be flexible and creative. It is tricky to balance having children with work commitments and going down the independent route can be particularly well suited to women juggling family commitments with a need to create, innovate and – let’s face it – earn some money. Now there’s a whole team here with me, but when I started it was just me! Like a lot of my stockists, I discovered it could be very hard at times – that’s the nature of independent businesses. But, they also allow women, and perhaps especially mothers, to have flexibility. We can be our own bosses.

Many of my stockists are women, and I always love hearing their stories, how they came to start their businesses. A lot, like me, work with their families – their husbands, their daughters and sons – Connie and Sasha who own the wonderful Restyled in Indiana are an interesting combination of mother and daughter-in-law! And, of course, sisters. I mentioned Victoria and Becky Saunders of 19 alexandra road on my Facebook page the other day (do you follow me on Facebook?). These two young women have a gorgeous shop in Clevedon, here in the UK. At the other end of the spectrum I have stockists who are in their late seventies. Age is no barrier and that is really inspirational!

On a creative level, I’ve written many times about the different places and spaces from which I take inspiration. On a professional level, I want to single out two fabulous women: the tremendous Jocasta Innes and the equally wonderful Isabel O’Neil. Jocasta’s book, Paint Magic, published in 1981 truly revolutionised what we thought of as DIY and encouraged us all to pick up a brush and transform our homes. Isabel O’Neil founded her New York-based Studio Workshop, dedicated to the art of the paint finish, in 1955. She used her knowledge of historical paint techniques to create and replicate wonderful effects from shagreen and tortoiseshell to marble and malachite.

Have a wonderful International Women’s Day, and do get in touch on Twitter or Facebook to let me know which wonderful women have inspired you.

4 March 2016

Your Community Needs You - #25Project

I am absolutely thrilled to tell you all about the #25Project, my new campaign celebrating 25 years of Chalk Paint® That’s quite a heritage, and to mark this in an appropriate fashion, I’m inviting all of you to nominate a local community building in need of a transformation, Annie Sloan style! 

My stockists and I will be helping to transform spaces across the globe - local places, with their hearts and their roots embedded in their communities.

I always say that my stockists are at the heart of my business, and this is because I started as a shop owner myself.  My local shop, here in Oxford, has been the start of everything for me – my business, of course, but also through my shop I have become part of local life here: I’ve made friends, I’ve learned so much and this project is my way of championing the independent, bricks and mortar shops – not just across the country, but across the world.  This is something which is very close to my heart.

I want people to nominate their own local spaces.   Whether it’s the community centre, the youth club, the public loos (I’m hoping for some weird and wonderful ideas) and whether you’re in Rotherham, Lille, New York or Cape Town, everyone is invited to take part.  I’ll be looking at all of the entries, and will pick twenty five that will receive everything they need to make something gorgeous.

To kick start this, I’ve been working with The East Oxford Community Centre – my local space – right here in Oxford.  It’s a place I’ve been to a lot over my years in Oxford.  I have attended, and also given, workshops there.  More than that, I’ve taken my boys to playgroups there, and now my lovely granddaughter Willow goes to dance classes at the Centre.  There’s always so much going on, from Caribbean Lunch Clubs to Zumba, support groups to toddlers’ football!  It really is a space which is used every day by the whole community.   A month or so ago I went with some of the team from HQ to make over the lounge of this beautiful building, and we were overwhelmed by the level of support and involvement.  We ran workshops on dyeing fabric, on sewing and upholstering and had a great time meeting all the people who use the Centre, from the very young to the very old!  The whole community pulled together, and everyone worked so hard!  Now they have a great space, which they created themselves! 

So, what do you need to do?  Get nominating!!  Head to the dedicated site for nominations and complete the simple form to nominate your chosen space.  I’ll be choosing the winners in May and, of course, cannot wait to see the transformations take place.  Please, please, please enter and make sure if you tweet, use the hashtag #25Project so I can follow all your entries and comments!  There’ll be loads of support available from all of my stockists helping their local communities to create something wonderful that they've made their own.