Happy Christmas! The Cotswolds are blanketed with snow and – apart from pushing various cars on icy lanes and shovelling snow from under spinning tyres – I’m having a lovely rest. Nipped out this morning to deliver bowls of Christmas chicken liver pâté; it’s so easy to make and perfect for post-Christmas leftover lunches of cold meats, cheese etc – so here’s the recipe in case you feel creative between now and New Year…

You will need: 220g/80z butter, 1 onion (chopped), 2 garlic cloves (crushed), 450g chicken livers (trimmed and halved), 1tbsp brandy, 1tsp mustard powder, salt, pepper, dried cranberries to garnish. Melt 110g/4oz of the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and fry until softened, but not coloured. Add the garlic and chicken livers and fry the livers until golden-brown all over and cooked through. Add the brandy and mustard powder and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the liver mixture and 55g/2oz of the remaining butter into a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer the pâté into ramekins or small bowls (I used 4-inch pudding bowls, 99p each in my local hardware shop) and decorate with a handful of cranberries. Melt the remaining 55g/2oz of butter in a clean pan. Skim off the froth and pour the butter over the pâté. Transfer to the fridge to chill. Keep it covered with cling film once you’ve started to eat it, or it will dry out. You can buy chicken livers from good butchers or Waitrose. I’ve also been having fun making sugar mice for the Christmas tree using these wonderful silicone moulds from Lakeland

There’s a Victorian recipe for sugar mice, here. Happy Christmas! – Ellie

Heal’s & Jeremy Hutchison

December 22, 2010

Take your elbows off the table and listen: Heal’s has teamed up with an innovative young designer to create a stunning new collection of ‘Heal’s Rules’ homeware…

Earlier this year, Slade School of Art student Jeremy Hutchison cheekily took Ambrose Heal’s 1915 logo: ‘NOTHING NEED BE UGLY‘ and turned it into ‘the iconography of a totalitarian state’ for an Artist-in-Residence window display at Heal’s. “I wanted to critique the way that modernist design makes us behave: like polite robots,” he explained. “Curiously, my critique was licensed by the brand itself. An institutional critique – assimilated by the institution itself. I’m still getting my head around it!” Heal’s has now commissioned Jeremy to create a whole range of products and has plastered his designs across mass-produced tableware, doormats, framed prints, postcards, bags, mints and cushions. Oh, the irony!

The collection launches in February, but the charming Mr Hutchison gave me a sneak preview. “I consulted my granny when I was designing it,” he told me. “The pieces feature rules that we’re all familiar with – ‘elbows off the table’, ‘eat your greens or get no pudding’– the range mocks the rigidity of British manners and etiquette.”

Jeremy started his career in advertising (working for brands such as Coca Cola) which he regarded as “research” and has likened to “working in the upper management of a well-run religion.” According to his website: “The ability to co-exist in multiple fields is essential to his work – he slips in unnoticed, and politely moves the goal posts.”

His designs remind me a bit of of washing instruction symbols on clothing labels – logos you can just glance at and instantly understand their meaning. We absorb so many ‘rules’ as we grow up – perhaps their meanings are similarly ingrained in our brains? Hutchison’s rather sinister vision is a prison-like domestic space filled with rigid rules, regulations and conventions, from which there is no escape…

Jeremy Hutchison is definitely ONE TO WATCH. He’s been a busy boy of late, collaborating here, there and everywhere – check out his digital CCTV-themed Christmas window display at Browns on South Molton Street in London:

Of course, rules are there to be broken – just looking at Jeremy’s ‘fascistic iconography’ makes me want to rebel. My elbows are definitely ON the table. – Ellie

Advent calendar: DEC 21

December 21, 2010

Our Art Director, Emma, spotted this edible Advent calendar at Biscuiteers… such a simple but lovely idea! OK, so it’s nearly Christmas Day now, but I might try to recreate this next year. After all, you know what they say: a biscuit a day keeps the doctor away. – Ellie

NEW Aardvark print

December 21, 2010

I was flicking through the very beautiful Lost in London the other day (order your copy asap – it’s already sold out in Selfridges!) and stumbled upon this exclusive letterpress print from Aardvark (the manifesto people) inside the front cover – featuring a quote from London, The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Naturally, I cut it out, scanned it in to show you, then framed it in a flash. Check it out:

Isn’t it cool? Let’s have a look at the Pedlars manifesto, the V&A manifesto and Aarvark‘s other prints, too. Because it’s Christmas. By the way, congratulations to BETH CASTLE who won the fabulous We Make London giveaway prize draw. Happy Christmas, Beth! – Ellie

HOT SHOP: Garudio Studiage

December 20, 2010

You want screen-prints made using real Peckham dust? Quirky limited edition plastic carrier bags? Stunning owl lampshades? Flat pets for, erm, flats? There’s only one shop for you, then. The marvellous, magnificent and sometimes rather mental: Garudio Studiage

These ‘Wildlife of London’ tea towels are great. From the ‘Cockroach’ and the ‘Ferral Pigeon’ to the ‘Three-legged fox’ and the ‘Common/Brown rat’, all the old classics are here. Garudio Studiage is a Peckham-based creative collective set up by artists Chris Ratcliffe, Laura Cave, Anna Walsh and Hannah Havana; With individual specialisms in screen printing, jewellery and painting, the group sells quirky and gorgeous products online and at events.

The ‘appropriately glamourous and unpronounceable name’, is derived from the words: ‘Garage studio’ which is where the venture started in 2003, among the ‘sand, stray cats and broken car parts’ of Peckham. How very romantic.

From a ‘Camberhell‘ keyring to a ‘Peckham Palms’ tote bag, the products and the hilarious ‘Photo of the week’ entries gently and lovingly mock south London’s finest shops and streets…

And anyone who’s ever found themselves at a Morley’s, (‘Mmm, it tastes better’. But better than what? Hmmm.) will appreciate the ‘Ham Bag‘ range of glamorous fast food fashion accessories. – Ellie

Advent calendar: DEC 20

December 20, 2010

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to open our 20th door today…

Aw, it’s a little festive ‘note-to-self’ that I found inside an old cookery book recently. I stuck it to a piece of Liberty fabric then copied it to make my Christmas cards. Whoever typed this was obviously a domestic goddess, recording how her cake baking sessions went and making meticulous notes each time. I wish I was that organised! – Ellie

Christmas gifts GIVEAWAY!

December 17, 2010

Ho ho ho, have we got a treat for you today! Lovely designer-makers from We Make London have created a fantastic goody bag packed full of gorgeous handmade Christmas gifts worth £360 in total…and we’re giving it away! Still got shopping to do? Never fear! Help is here!

This festive gift giveaway includes: A beautiful hand-crocheted bib and hair slide set from Nyoki; An amusing ‘Will Perform For Cakes’ side plate from Jimbobart; A luxury notebook from Eva Sonaike; A floral purse from Laura Fallulah; A plush rabbit toy from Hope and Eden…and there’s more…

A cute Liberty-print baby’s bunny t-shirt from Milk Two Bunnies; A festive knitted tea cosy from Chi Chi Moi; Three lovely hand-made cards from Nyoki; A pair of pretty hand-made knickers from Circe’s Knicker Draw; A pair of smart silver butterfly stud earrings from Red Fox Blue Monkey; A leather red bow hair clip from Sew Smitten…plus more gorgeous gifts including wall stickers from ChickP, a retro Oyster card holder from Sew Smitten again, and a funky black recycled tyres belt from Re-Collect. Phew! SO MANY We Make London GOODIES. Perfect for gifts. Or keep them for yourself…mwah ha haaa. Just leave your name and email address in a comment after this post to enter. At 6pm on Monday 20th I’ll pick a name out of the hat and post off the goodies next-day-delivery to the lucky winner (UK only). Click here to see the lovely TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Feel free to enter if you live outside of the UK, but please note the prize will not be delivered before Christmas! – Ellie

Advent calendar: DEC 11

December 11, 2010

O come all ye faithful, give that 11th door a mighty shove. It’s a biggie…

It’s a beautiful hand-printed Christmas card from Sort Design! At the Cockpit Arts open evening recently, I bumped into the moustached, charming and ‘revisionist’ typographers from Sort, and admired their lovely wares. To be honest, they probably thought I was a right freak because I hung around cooing over trays of type for an unhealthy length of time before stocking up on ‘Allotment Fancier’s Stationery Sets‘. Just in case. – Ellie

Advent calendar: DEC 10

December 10, 2010

It’s the Ideal Home Christmas party today, so we’re all feeling rather festive. Luckily, I’m still just about sober enough to open the tenth door on our enormous virtual advent calendar…

What a treat! It’s the beautiful new tea towels from Mr PS (aka Megan Price) available at To Dry For. DING DONG indeed. This next figgy pudding design is lovely, too, but personally I’d prefer a satsuma. It’s just that whole dried fruit and peel thing. Can’t be doing with it. – Ellie

Advent calendar: DEC 9

December 9, 2010

Poor Rudolph.

But what lovely paper stars he’s found at Cox and Cox! – Ellie