Easter in Greece

We spent the Easter holidays in Greece visiting my father who lives in a remote part of the Peloponnese, Trypi. My maternal grandfather, Dimitri Karayanakou came from this part of Greece, around 8km from the ancient town of Sparta and 5km from Mystras. Trypi means ‘hole’, named for the deep crack through the mountain rock in this area.
My grandfather met my grandmother when he was stationed in Northern Greece in the army. Granny Hareklia was born into a wealthy family in Constantinople but the Turkish national movement was growing, leading to the massacre and forced deportation of all the indigenous Greek in the area. Any of the surviving Greek Orthodox population left in the region fled and took refuge in Greece shortly after, in permanent exile from the land, my grandmother and her brothers among that number.
 Leo in the garden in Trypi 
Eventually they settled in Trypi during WWII, safe up in the mountains while Germany occupied and plundered Greece leading to widespread famine. My mother and her two sisters were born there and they became totally self sufficient, growing their own food, keeping animals and my granny even made their shoes! She was such a clever and resourceful woman, oh and the BEST cook! She died in 2002. My parents brought me to Trypi every summer when I was a child, and bought a plot of land there themselves to build a house to retire in. My father still lives there most of the year, and I married my husband Alex there in 2003.
 
 The church in Trypi, where I got married in 2003
We love to visit as much as possible, but I think Spring is the loveliest time of year, with a vast abundance of wildflowers blooming and mild weather and the intoxicating scent of orange blossom. It’s such a beautifully untouched area, 50 minutes from the sea (few tourists!) and with nothing around apart from olive & orange groves, breathtaking views and people leading a slow paced life living off the land. The area is very green and luscious, nourished by the waterfalls from Mount Tayetos, which makes it a very special place in Greece where a lot of the land is parched and baked by the hot sun. The quality of life there is pretty good, despite the terrible state of the Greek economy! 
We spent a day in the incredible ancient city of Mystras nearby, originally built by the prince of Achaia, William II of Villehardouin in the 13th century, and an important capital in the Byzantine era. The views are incredible and there’s some lovely wildflowers springing up at this time of year.
 
Asphodel and yellow wildflowers on the hillside in Mystras
 Angelica and Leo looking at the view in Mystras
Some of you may recognise the silhouette of the giant fennel from my Angelica / Angeliki designs, and the original photo was taken on this hillside in Mystras. The giant fennel were equally breath-taking this time, as were the Judas Trees, smothered in blossom, with it even coming out of their trunk and branches!
Giant Fennel on the hillside in Mystras
Leo, my chief photography assistant
Judas Trees and the walls of Mystras
Judas Tree
The walls of Mystras
 Evening light over Mystras 
Another day we walked up to the Tomb of King Melanion which is always completed deserted and has breath-taking views and amazing wildflowers.
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 View from Melanion’s tomb
Pine tree over Melanion’s tomb as the sun goes down
I’m obsessed by photographing the various wildflowers in the area, but have so many pictures, I think they’ll have to be a separate post. Watch this space…
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Work in (slow) progress!

I’ve been wanting to create some art prints for some time now but it’s been very busy in the studio and non-urgent projects like this end up getting put on the back-burner …realising that I wanted to have these ready for Christmas and it is now almost Easter has given me a push to finally move forward with these!

View of my mood board wall right now

Working on these prints is great as I have freedom to create something thats only use is to be aesthetically pleasing. When I’m designing bed linen or cushions I’m more constrained, considering how something would look in the bedroom, on a bed, on different fabrics, whether it’s even possible to recreate my original vision on a larger scale.

With prints I can just have fun tinkering with paints, dyes, printing and materials to my hearts content! One technique that I’ve been drawn back to time and time again can be seen in the video below, where the paper is wetted and then printed on. You can see how the edges bleed out to create softened lines.

Playing with colour in the studio

I’ve also been working a lot with a combination of the colours and prints seen below. Hints of smokey lavender, mustard yellow and murky khaki feature in soft layers. The colours feel fresh and different as I’m so used to working with the neon pink, kingfisher blue, and tiger lily red of my signature silks.

There’s still some way to go yet until I’ve finalised each piece but I’m on a roll now! Watch this space and hopefully the prints will be ready to buy before Christmas next year…

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Let’s Get Personal!

We so often have customers come into the shop asking for advice on which wallpapers to match with which fabrics, which cushions would sit on which bed linen… when possible I try to help out myself. So we had an idea: for the next few weeks we’re offering a personalised Clarissa Consultation service!

If you want to know how to bring colours, textures and accessories together, just e-mail sales@clarissahulse.com with a little message describing your project, room or specific query and how you’d like me to respond. If it’s an easy one I can reply to your e-mail directly, or if you want to show me the space then I can offer a Skype consultation after the Easter break, or even a visit to your home if you’re Islington based.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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Leave only Leaves

I have gathered and pressed leaves for many years now and have always marvelled at their pleasing array of colours, patterns and shapes. As is often the case with things that have been collected over long periods of time, I was left wondering what to do with all the carefully preserved piles of leaves precariously fluttering out from between the pages of heavy books! But I began to find more and more artists on Instagram doing fantastic things with leaves, inspiring me to try to create my own pieces of ‘leaf art’. I began my experimentation by screen-printing onto my own pressed leaves, some from the dramatically coloured Smokebush and the pointier, cat-face shaped one, plucked from the Tulip tree at the top of my road. It turns out to be much harder than it first appeared – the leaves are impossible to pin down, fragile and never entirely flat meaning they’re prone to shifting around under the screen and smudging the pigment. So yes – certainly a work in progress but if you skip ahead you can see some of my favourite leaf-art-instagrammers who are slightly further along with their creative journey!

Now – onto my favourite leaf-grammars! Instagram is such a constant source of inspiration for me. There’s such a sense of community on there and I love finding new artists and creaters to follow myself, so thought it would be nice to share some of my favourites with you.

1.  @helenahpornsiri (Helen Ahpornsiri)

Helen’s flower and leaf pressing is second to none. It’s so clever the way she seems to see the leaves as figurative shapes, transformed into the bigger picture without the need to cut or manipulate their natural form. Also – check out the videos, it’s mesmerising to watch.

 

2. @bicocacolors  (Elena Nuez)

Elena is based in Spain and among lots of other creative pursuits paints these lovely intricate leaves. I think the aboriginal feel of the patterns and colours is so much fun – I had my husband buy me some of these for Christmas and framed them!

3. @susanna_bauer  (Susanna Bauer)

I find it incredible that these crocheted leaves don’t break when Susanna is working on them! The work is so delicate and I love the natural hues which compliment the leaves. It looks as if nature has done the work itself, as if some kind of leaf fairy has come in the night and constructed them all!

4. @janine_mackintosh_artist  (Janine Mackintosh)

Janine creates these sophisticated pieces of art made from gathered eucalyptus leaves found on Kangaroo Island. I love the geometry and patterns that she’s created with the natural forms of insect-nibbled leaves.

5. @ninapearsepaperartist  (Nina Pearse)

Not much to say, except these intricate leaf cut-outs are really pretty.

6. @woodlucker  (Ann Wood & Dean Lucker)

Now I’ve slipped these guys in as they’re AMAZING and creating some of my all-time favourite leaf-based art… except it isn’t made from leaves! It’s hard to pinpoint what it is that I like so much about their paper constructions of leaves, butterflies, flowers and feathers. In one sense they’re just copying nature, but by adding their own quirky style to it and brilliant photography and styling, they’ve really emphasised the natural beauty of their subjects.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little browse through my Instagram feed. Keep your eyes peeled for future developments on my own leaf art!

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Indigo Nights

You might remember some of my blog posts from South Africa in 2015 where I was stunned by the unique plant life surrounding me at every turn. Cape town hillsides along the coast were covered by the South African Fynbos, a floral kingdom with a staggering amount of endemic plant species and a higher level of biodiversity than the Amazon rainforest. Parts of the Fynbos had been decimated by bush fires before I arrived and although the charred and blackened shrubs were shocking to see at first, it was fascinating to learn that this type of plant actually benefits from a regular burning, with the fires recycling nutrients back into the soil to feed the dormant seeds and allow them to grow.

The light was so interesting in South Africa, highlighting the texture of the spiky stems in silhouette.

Aside from the many, many photographs I took away from walks in the Fynbos, we also spent some time on the beach where there was a wide variety of tangled beaded seaweeds washed up on the shore to snap away at. Here’s my son Leo, beach-combing!

Back to 2017 and it’s easy to see how long it takes from the moment of inspiration to a design coming to fruition – many of these plant images were used as the basis for the new Indigo Patchwork bed linen. I decided to try a new technique to create the original artwork for these designs – instead of screen-printing pigment onto fabric or paper, I printed using a type of solution that, when exposed, creates these beautiful bleached out effects.

We also played around with watercolours on a pale ground. The inks bled out onto the paper and fabric pieces below creating different tones from deep midnight through denim blue down to the palest stone.

After days of experimentation, I carefully stitched selected patches together and found that the result had an organic beauty to it. By using so many different types of fabric to create the patches, the bed linen is rich in texture and shade. Open-weaved linens that were bleached took on a thatched effect, and I used my signature ombre dyes to add an extra dimension.

Come and see the final product here!

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Suffolk Reeds

I spent a few days over the half-term break staying with friends in Suffolk with my family. We were fortunate in having some beautifully clear weather and went on a long walk around Minsmere nature reserve where I was able to fiddle around with photography a little. I found the reeds really inspiring – they created fantastic patterns as the light passed through them and the stripes reflected perfectly on the still water. Finding these kinds of regularities in nature really appeal to my textile designer sense of pattern and while reeds have featured in my designs in the past, it’s interesting to gain a new perspective on their form at different times in the year.

There was an incredible sunset that afternoon, a low-hanging, late-winter sun creating a hazy golden glow, picking up the fluffy tops of the seed heads. I’ve found that the light in winter can be perfect for getting the silhouetted shots that are the creative source of so many of my designs.

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Christmas Cards

We have been gearing up for the festive season here and that means… starting on the Christmas cards! Last year was the first time we crafted these hand-printed beauties and they proved really popular. Throughout the year we’re constantly experimenting on card, printing different patchwork pieces or painting large scale watercolour designs for bed linen. By the time Christmas comes round we have piles of pieces that have been painted in ombré stripes of every colour. Instead of wasting them, we screen-print festive colours and metallic pigments over the card to create layered botanical silhouettes.

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Once we’re happy with the look of the prints, we cut them to size and they’re fixed to co-ordinating coloured card. Many thanks to Katie, our lovely intern, who is helping us print, cut and package all of the goodies.

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We’re so pleased with the end result and hope to have them up online soon for the first time. Each one is unique and hand-crafted so they’re the perfect way to give someone a special little piece of Clarissa Hulse artwork this Christmas.

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Tania’s summer garden

I made it out to Tania’s garden in Wiltshire for a weekend during late-summer and was blown away by the beautiful dahlias. The showy flower originates in Mexico and was grown as a food crop by the Aztecs. There are over 40 different species of dahlia and from there, many, many hybrids can be produced at home. With so much variation in colour, size and structure, the dahlia can provide real show-stopping coverage during late summer and early autumn. I walked around the garden until my basket was over-flowing and then got to work taking these close-up shots at the kitchen table. Many of the layered waterlily variety of dahlias were just coming into flower and I love the way their ruffly over-lapping layers of petals are only half unfurled. I felt really inspired by the colour of their silky petals – rich reds, purples and pinks, often with contrasting white and yellow accents.

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It was a beautiful sunny weekend but there was the feeling of summer drawing to a close, a chilly mist in the air in the morning and appearance of delicate seedheads sitting among the late season poppies.

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Focus/16: An Invitation

Anybody free on Monday? Come down to the Harlequin showroom at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre where I will be chatting about the inspiration behind the Callista fabric and wallpaper collection. This is a great opportunity to see the new collection in the flesh and some of my photography that feeds into the design process. I will be talking at 11am and 3pm but the showroom will be open all day, and Linda Thacker, the lovely Harlequin designer, will be presenting the new Harlequin collections too.

Monday 19th September

11.00am – 11.30am

3.00pm – 3.30pm

Where: Harlequin Showroom, First Floor, South Dome

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, London, SW10 0XE 

Tel: +44 845 1236805

As a way to pique your interest, here’s some photos taken in the studio showing the mood board that slowly took shape as I worked on the Callista collection. Colourways, designs and textures were landed on after lots of experimenting with watercolours, printing and drawing.

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I’d love to see you there but if you can’t make it keep your eyes peeled for future blog posts on Callista and a behind the scenes peek at the smokebomb photoshoot!

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Summer in Greece

I spend most summers in Greece, visiting my dad and hanging out on the beach with my family. It’s such an inspiring place for my work because the scorching heat means a lot of plants have become completely parched and are reaching the end of their life cycle…sounds morbid, I know, but it’s at this point that grasses and seed heads morph into the most beautiful shapes. They look so striking silhouetted against the sunset.

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We decided to rent a boat for a couple of days this year and had the best time exploring tiny coves and bays without another person in sight. Incredibly, a turtle appeared off the side of the boat one day and I must admit I got so excited that I didn’t realise I was actually filming my own foot the whole time instead of this guy! Luckily my husband was able to keep his cool!

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Chelsea Flower Show

Just a quick one today to share with you all some photos taken at the enduringly inspiring Chelsea Flower Show…

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Pink, pink, pink

I wanted to share a colour moodboard with you all to get a feel for how I work. This one has been created on the computer but in the studio I have a large wall that is always covered in fabric scraps, photos, painted swatches and other random bits, all pinned up overlapping one another. When I’m working on a new collection, the colourways are one of the most important parts to get right, and inspiration often comes from my large stock of nature-based photography!

Perhaps surprisingly, I find pink a really versatile colour. In recent collections it has been found clashing loudly against red or lime green, or subtly fading into grape and plum shades. My all time favourite shade is coral- I love the shot of the peony in the middle here, gently unfurling it’s silky leaves to show off its sunflower-yellow stamina.

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Textures in Tenerife

I’m in Tenerife and fascinated by the variety of flora here. The Canary Islands sit quite isolated in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa and have the fourth greatest variety of endemic flora in the world! The volcanic soil, jutting topography and resulting micro-climates mean that different types of plants have adapted and thrived in different areas of the island. The north of the island is luscious, warm and wet whereas the south is arid and lunar. Here’s a collection of some plants that I found foraging on mountain trails – from juicy succulents to vibrant fanning palm leaves, there were so many textures brought to life by the winter sun.

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Palm leaf

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Succulent

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Spiky cactus

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A collection from the first mountain plant forage!

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Frost

I spent the weekend staying with my friend Tania in Wiltshire. She has the most gorgeous garden and it is always a hotbed of inspiration for my designs. That’s not to say that I was feeling inspired when Tania first shook me awake at the crack of dawn, urging me to grab my camera and get outside into the freezing cold. But once I was reluctantly up and out, the spectacle was absolutely mind-blowing. The garden had been transformed overnight by the frost into a sparkling, glittering, sequinned wonderland, like a scene from a Disney film.

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Autumn

Autumn is by far my favourite season. I am naturally drawn to warm shades – fiery red and burnished copper – and I don’t think that there is any other time of year with the landscape looks as dramatic with colour, light and mist. A lot of these shots were taken on the hoof- a case of seeing thick fog rolling in or a terrific sunset out the kitchen window and running out the door to the closest park with my camera, shouting over my shoulder to my husband to hold the fort with the kids!

The fog in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington was really atmospheric on this chilly October morning.

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The sunsets are also very special at this time of year. I love the way the burnt orange sky brings out the colour in the leaves.

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Cobwebs

I’ve been taking these crisp macro shots of spider webs at every opportunity recently. Water droplets clinging to the silk threads make them look like tiny chandeliers.

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South Africa part 2- Fynbos Fires

Whilst traveling around Cape Town I was quite shocked by the destruction caused by recent fires which had decimated huge swathes of the Fynbos growing on the hillsides. It was quite an extraordinary sight as the contrast of the black charred bushes against the white sandy soil cut striking and dramatic silhouettes. The moody cloudy skies made the scene even more dramatic.

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As I ran about taking photos whilst my family yawned in the car by roadside (a daily occurrence in my family) I came across a sign explaining that the fires are an important part of the plant life cycle of Fynbos as it is a fire-adapted vegetation that requires regular burning for it’s persistence. Far from a disaster, fire provides the the crucial trigger that sets the ‘successional clock’ and recycles precious nutrients back into the soil. It provides the stimulus for dormant seeds to germinate and the opportunity for many annuals, and bulbs to grow, flower and seed during times of abundant nutrients and sunlight. The optimal fire cycle for fynbos is between 10-14 years. Shorter fire cycles can wipe out slow maturing species, while species start dying when intervals become too long.

Here are some of the photos I took of the burnt Protea bushes.


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South Africa part 1 (of a few!)

I’m afraid my blog posts are rather like buses…

Having just returned from the most incredible holiday/ plant research trip in South Africa taking 1500 plus pictures it is really quite overwhelming to know where to start in organising them! But don’t worry… I won’t be posting them all  here

We visited Cape Town and then traveled down the coast stopping in Harmanus for a few days. I can honestly say that South Africa has quite blown my mind. I was obviously aware there would be varied and unusual flora but nothing quite prepared me for the massive extent of the plant life that I barely scratched the surface of, and in the most incredible wild and beautiful settings. With barely a person around!

So here are a few posts that I have endeavoured to keep focused!

Of course I need to start with some plant life…

 

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First stop was Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens… utter heaven. A vast array of incredible flora with exotic birds flying around, set against a backdrop of Table Mountain, I felt as though I had just stepped onto the set of the latest Disney Princess movie!

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Plectanthus…. clouds of vivid purpley blues, with lovely twirly stamens.

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Protea Mimetes Cucullatus

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I love the textures of paint splatters dripped onto these delicate leaves.

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Dried palm leaf spiraling.

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My favourite Christmas present

When the London skies are flat and grey and there is sleety drizzle falling from the skies I have to find my inspiration indoors…

I have been having a little play with these beautiful vintage glasses given to me for Christmas. I have been huge fan of antique glass for years, and whenever I get a chance I buy the odd glass from junk shops that can be used as a vase. IMG_1465

 

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Pink peppercorns… a design in the making!

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Astrantia… those colours!

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Sunsets and seedheads

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I am clearly stuck in the 70’s somehow as there is just nothing I love more than a silhouetted plant in the sunset. I adore the fiery colours, the ombres and the stark crisp beautiful outlines of plants, the more broken and random the better.

I was lucky enough to stay with friends in Norfolk near Brancaster Beach this weekend and as soon as I saw the sun going down I raced out to the nearby field leaving the kids half fed and my friends mid-conversation. When the light is right you’ve just gotta go! It was well worth it as the wide Norfolk skies are perfect for this kind of photography. Here are the results of my endeavours.

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