A LIFE OVER HAUL – Closet Confidential

Ok out there, who has too much stuff, so much you just can’t even face opening the cupboards?  It’s normal to put things at the back of the any the wardrobe or cupboard or our mind for that matter and it is going to take a lot of effort whatever the size of the project be it material or other to clear it.

It’s almost five years ago now that I decided to down size my whole life, sell my home and move my family into a smaller place. It wasn’t just the stuff of family life and 17 years in one spacious house that was going to have to be edited but like many others I have things from my whole life so far that I want to keep let alone all the things from my children’s life. Our history is important and memories are the stories and rituals often re-connected through an object of association. What to keep?

I carry within me an inner Buddhist, I find it easy to let go and move on. Although I like to have nice things and love to create a beautiful home which reflects my sense of style and  desire for both harmony and balance in my life. I am though not attached to the material, I enjoy it but can leave it all behind. I tend to be happy anywhere.

I am not a hoarder but I do collect. It’s a life practice on harmony, what gives me pleasure isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but that is of course OK.

When I moved into my apartment I shoved what I didn’t need to unpack into the space that had once been a wardrobe. Over the following three years I squeezed more into it,  work projects, fabric and clothing. After living through a total refurb of the apartment and delaying the kitchen refurb, all of which had to also be lived through it has taken me a while to find the energy to tackle this last project.

In here squished between work that I must keep is a selection of memory boxes kept from our previous home.  These memories are items of baby clothes, clothes from my teen years, my small vinyl collection from the 1970’s and 80’s, family photos and bits of ceramics made by my kids, oh and my first mac compeer which I still love. There will also be in here five years of tax returns which I can now shred 3 years of.

A LOAD OFF – trip to the tip.

First stop was to drop off a table, yes a table had been in my wardrobe. Re-homed at my friends newly rented place that she only found out that it was unfurnished when the previous tenant took the furniture. Also a large mirror, stored under my bed post my house move and a friends original sex pistols poster which I had housed for the past 10 years or so. It’s not just our own stuff that we hold on to.

The car is refilled with the remains of the soon to be replaced wardrobe interior and my first cull. Time to let go of my art school history. I can’t even bring myself to open the dusty portfolios knowing that my kids art work is much better and of course present, current and fresh. I have dragged this stuff around too long. Then there was a box of old yoga books, stored for three years but smelling like 10. They say if you haven’t worn it or looked at it for over a year……So as I dump even more of my past and happily let it go and I feel lighter, this stuff is what I felt defined me. My study of yoga and my love of having being a student at art college. There is almost a desire to say, ‘time to start again” but I have eradicated the word again from my vocabulary because again means repeat. The Wikipedia page says, to return to a previous position or condition. Neither are relevant and therefore I chose only to start.

Now for a final edit and the joy of selecting what I want and need to keep. I love this process of  chaos to order and the effort in the middle. The bit in the middle is all about finding the treasure of memories, a connection to the past and its place in the present.

This isn’t just a clear out and a cull of a build up of clutter, whats left is actually what I have kept my whole life. Three years ago I down sized from a large family house with lots of space for storage. That was a major clear out, seventeen years worth of stuff. Now I am arranging whats left into a series of shelves. I have a few boxes of the kids primary school work and baby clothes. I have a few boxes of photographs but it looks like I have to get rid of two cases of clothes from my punk and new romantic era. This bit will be hard. The final edit of my life lived so far.

These shelves are  now housing my current life, design projects and of course clothes and accessories. Memories are held in small boxes and a small collection of vinyl. I intend to up and travel and am getting ready to fly the nest. My kids might end up returning to live here whilst I am gone on adventures or that I rent my place out for others to enjoy.

Looking at what I have left it’s not much to show for a life but I don’t believe life is about holding on, it’s the reverse, letting go is where it’s at. I have to admit though this last bit feels nervous. It’s that feeling of being on the edge of change. But the over all feeling is so light and tinged with excitement that its worth it.

Whilst sifting though photo albums I found lovely pictures of my ex husband and some of the two of us pre kids. To be honest I knew those pictures were there but I hadn’t been able to look at them before now.  I found a beautiful photo him when we were in India  just before we got married. I found family photos, and a portrait of my mother and me as a little girl.

Its been physically exhausting (yoga and dog walks have had to be missed) and challenging my emotions. a literal tipping point of letting go. At the tip I saw two men picking over my life just dumped with a long stick, that felt sad.

When I got back the caretaker told me there is storage available on site! Theres a lesson.






Two go mad in Dorset

l love a bit of spontaneity, so when a friend invited me at the last-minute on a trip to Swanage in Dorset I jumped at the chance for a weekend away by the sea-side enjoying great company and also this years sensational sunshine. It was a treat to get out of London and into to some fresh air and was I in for a surprise?  I have never been to this part of England before so to soak up the sea front view after a long drive having dinner in a roof top restaurant with a very cool glass of wine was absolutly perfect. Then pinch me if you will but Swanage is packed with vintage shops, junk shops and some every good charity shops. Also plenty of artist selling ceramics along with regular shops selling very stylish home wears for less than what I would pay in London. Therefore most of Saturday was a lot of fun meeting shop keepers and artists.

Lunch of a crab sandwich and half a pint of pimms in near by Corfe Castle which we got to by old school steam train. A trip down memory lane albeit I was a very small child when the steam trains were replaced in my home city of Leeds. But there is such an air of romance about going back our childhood.

Armed with gifts and 1970’s ceramics and a host of new contacts for furniture and interior design ideas we grab a glass of cider and a pasty and continue to make friends in the pub. I felt like I had travelled a million miles away, it’s not so far to get to but the experience takes you back in time.


Shops that I loved




A Very Talented Woman


Meet my friend Amanda, a super cool woman and great friend to have.

Back in the 80’s when I was a fashion student at Jacob Kramer art college in Leeds Amanda was studying fine art at Leeds Poly.  It was decades later when we actually met, when our kids were all at primary school together. The first time Amanda came to my home she saw a piece of her art work that I had bought years before.  Kind of cosmic  I think. Our kids were not in the same classes, we just met through other friends and here we are many years later happily walking our dogs and sharing our interest in creativity often over tapas in Tooting Market, London.

Like many working mum’s, getting the work life balance is not even a consideration when the kids are young. There really isn’t time to think about what you might do for yourself when you have to do so much for everyone else. But much to our surprise we slowly start to reemerge from under the pile of laundry and washing up, post exams and teen angst to observe that the little people have become bigger and better versions of themselves and can more or less get on without you doing it all for them.

I was thrilled when Amanda started to re-connect to her natural creativity and carve out time to work on her own art again. I know from my own experience that brushing the dust off  our previous life is exhilarating but it can also be scary. No matter how successful we have been in the past, and with all that life experience that has brought us to this present moment, we will invariably feel vulnerable starting out again and putting ourselves on show.

I have seen Amanda go from creating small pieces and gift cards to bigger canvases full of colour and texture. Paintings that demand you stop and immerse yourself in the moment, taking time to experience the enjoyment of engaging with something original Something that someone has taken time to create.

In our world of instant fixes, works of art can be reproduced quickly and can be a colourful accessory to a room, picked up cheaply in the supermarket without much consideration to any aspect of where it has come from.  For me original art is there to enhance my need to be connected to colour, texture, themes that excite me and to be motivated by. Original art holds the energy of the artist even if you never know who created the work you will have a visceral connection to it. The art work that catches our attention takes you on a journey, it evokes memories and cultivates desire.

To live with anything less than that would be foolish.

We might not be buying but we can enjoy, most artists that I know love to share the inspiration behind their work. I hope you enjoy Amanda’s, she can be found here.


Thoughts on sharing. To blog or not to blog


I am returning to blogging after a bit of a break. My relationship with blogging seems to be similar like that of any other relationship. It brings up issues around what to reveal about myself and share and what not to.  My thoughts about healthy engagement with social media is to be discerning and to make positive choices around what is relevant to our life at any given time. That said I don’t intend to use my blog as a sounding board for the world that we are living in but to use my blog to pick up from where I left off and the share stories as I would with friends and colleagues based on what is inspiring me in my work and life, be that art, making, designing or just observing on my travels and what I find at home here in London or the UK.

So these shots are taken on the beach at Dungeness. It’s a favourite place of mine and I was thrilled that my friends equally loved it. Dungeness can be a bit of a Marmite experience in that you either love it or hate it. Even though it is a recognised as a place of nature beauty, for some a long stretch of pebble and single beach scattered with an array of disused and broken machinery and old boats is the polar opposite of their idea of a stunning location.

The back drop of two  nuclear power stations only add to its charm, yes you read that correctly. The landscape is like a something from Mad Max, perhaps a setting for a dystopian future. Its surreal, the light is stunning even on a more typical British  grey day.


Forget the future though, how about the present. The Fish hut serves up the most delicious variety of snacks and meals, freshly caught on the day.

Going back to sharing, this is the life for sure, great friends by the sea eating lovely food and feeling the love, that quality of energy that comes from being with like-minded people who want to share their time with you.

You can find everything you need to know about the area on any google search, here is the wiki page


But for now my joy is in sharing the images, the colours on the weather battered disregarded industrial items set against the natural beauty of the beach and the bright blue sky. You will  have to go there to enjoy the tranquility and the sounds of silence intermittently broken by the sounds of the gulls and the waves greeting the beach.


VINTAGE TEXTILES – reworking prints

I love to live with pattern, print and colour. Layering patterns and textures is visually stimulating but also draws out our desire for being tactile. The love of touch and feel. The print’s that I collect are genuine vintage and most are archived in museums. For me they are an art form from the past, they are a direct link to a time and era. I rework the prints to offer clients and mid-century collectors  accessories that complaint their furniture collections. The fabrics are in good condition, having not been used before. I do not rework something that has been a former curtain but do have a small stock of curtains which are often used in back drops and set designs. I have a shop on Etsy where you can see what I have in stock. https://www.etsy.com/shop/FabulousNelly


One of the things that I love about buying at auction is the preview days where you have the opportunity to handle some fabulous garments. Many vintage clothes shops don’t like you touching the items much where at auction you can try it on and get a feel of the era as well as understand the structure in detail. I don’t know anywhere else where you can get such a detailed close up of period clothing. This can be from Victorian frocks heading to a museum, garments that you are unlikely to see on the open market again. Famous people’s clothes, clothes that have contemporary value from designers as recent as the 1990’s, punk garments from the 1970’s along side clothes from glamorous eras and movie stars.

My love for clothes holds no time, I tend to collect garments that I can wear, sell on or just enjoy. Some of my garments are used for props in film and TV.

There is a thrill of buying at auction and getting to know other collectors are buying. My collection is somewhat random, I tend to get a look in on more eclectic lots as I am up against  collectors who are going to buy certain designers whatever the price is so therefore there is no point pushing the price up over what they are likely to pay.

Here are photos of some of  my collection, it changes over time. Some pieces are for sale and some are often on loan. Please email me for any info @ lisaaskem.me.com

I also source garments for clients.