FWeasel at New Year FuckWeasel
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Chrimo-Limbo Musing

Friends who follow us regularly will know that posts from me have been few and far between recently. 2017 was a trying year. We didn’t think our relocation to the UK was going to be easy but it turned out to be much harder than we expected and we had quite a lot of unexpected bad luck – not least all of our stock going missing for 8 weeks in the crucial spring period. We are so grateful for the many supporters in UK and HK who continued to champion the brand.

All this quiet though has given Lauren and me much needed time to think about the direction we want to take our little company. There have always been lots of ideas which we have juggled to fit into our story and this seems like a good time to rationalise, focus and come back with a strong idea of who Louella is.

With our roots in Hong Kong and our toes firmly in the sea I think our outlook will always be international and islands and oceans focused. As such it has bothered me greatly that we might be contributing towards environmental pollution ourselves. The amount of plastic packaging that is used to ship handbags from the factory to our warehouse is frightening. I am also perplexed and confused by the leather/pleather arguments – faux leather might be vegan friendly but when you see and smell the thousands and thousands of rolls of essentially textured plastic in a factory it doesn’t feel like a viable alternative. There are organic products being developed that mimic leather and this is an area I am actively exploring. I promise we will minimise our use of PU in the future and we will be changing our packaging to remove all single use plastics.

Inevitably one of our biggest losses this year was leaving Lamma Island – for me it embodied everything that I love about Hong Kong contrasts – it was simultaneously connected and remote, quirky and communal, rural and convenient and it was a great place to live and work. There are some wonderful things about living on the Isle of Wight – it is definitely remote, inconvenient, quirky and very beautiful. I can see this island being a good creative base as I do crave solitude, but we have always wanted Louella to be a discovery brand, so travel and sailing will remain our focus and I think you will see more of a reflection of this in both our patterns and in our bag styles.

The biggest change I think will be what we do with our Fuck Weasel. We have gone round and round and round with this. What do we call it? What does it stand for? (For those who don’t know how it started, here is a link to the original story).

The discovery of this hidden pin in our bags and its story has provoked really wide reactions from hilarity, (often) confusion, (sometimes) and very occasionally outrage and disgust (because of the F word). We have been really happy to let people who wanted a free pin define for themselves what they thought the F’Weasel represents. We have now sent out hundreds of pins for people who described sending them on to those they cared about who were struggling with everything from unrequited love, distressing home decoration, too many teenagers and inevitably – and closer to my original intent; office bullies. It remains both a symbol of support and a reminder of your own personal strength and we are just so happy that it has connected with so many people.

We are proud to call ourselves feminists and believe in equality for all people, regardless of gender or race. The recent revelations about sexual harassment in the film industry and in politics are not particularly surprising but the amount of righteous anger being bottled up, and the sense of potential squashed by the staus quo, has resonated with me. Obviously women’s issues are important to us wherever personal growth is prevented by the actions of others – whether that is in the boardroom or girls unable to access education due to a lack of feminine hygiene resources.

 The animal, the weasel, has a reputation for cleverness and fearlessness, for punching above it’s weight when standing up to it’s enemies or protecting it’s young. It seems a very appropriate symbol for these times. I now think our fuchsia version is boiling pink with determined rage to make a change. I would like it to more clearly define support for the underdog in any situation where Might-Is-Right and regardless of gender.

Our weasel will remain hidden in our bags as I think we need reminding we have the support of many behind us but I also identify with F’weasel’s subversive nature – we can chose to release our inner weasels if we believe we can. There will also be a new line of F’Weasel products sitting alongside our bags and scarves and I would really like a percentage of profit from these to go to an appropriate charity or charities.

I am looking for suggestions and weasel-y-ways of doing good in 2018 and I would love feedback if you know of any projects that we can either support or engage with. 

Best wishes,
Karen, Lauren and the team
Karen Mead art painting sketchbook How To Draw
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Practising Observational Drawing – a licence to stare

I truly believe anyone can learn to draw well- and I really wish people were not put off trying by thinking it is somehow innate. Sketching can be one of life’s great satisfactions. As much as you might think you need to work on the mark-making, most people need to practise the looking part more.

For that you don’t even need any art equipment.

When I was still at school I traveled twice a day on the bus and was often really enchanted by various things I saw – Hong Kong in the 1970s was quite exotic. The possibility of stopping to draw was impossible and this was well before the digital era so I had no way to keep or record what I saw. I don’t think I was even thinking about picture making as such but I was very interested in being able to recreate in my drawings what I had seen figuratively and ‘realistically’.

The key to remembering how things look is to simplify and to ask the right questions, whether or not you have your sketching things with you. It has become my habit. I am probably on a spectrum of something or other as I find I must count tones and measure angles just for the pleasure of recording them for myself.

These are my habitual questions;

Firstly, what is it about what you are looking at that catches your attention? This is the most important question as otherwise when you start drawing the thing you liked so much can end up off the page because you felt the need to contextualise all the surrounding stuff. (This is one of my biggest problems)

Karen Mead art painting sketchbook How To Draw

Secondly, it really is all relative; when you are looking ask yourself questions that measure things relative to one another – Can you simplify the shape of something to a square or rectangle, circle or triangle? Can it be imagined as two simple shapes interlocking? Is the tree bigger than the house? Is the angle of an arm or leg really horizontal or vertical or (I use the clock face as a mental reference) more 2 o’clock or 4 o’clock?

You know when you see artists holding up a pencil and squinting? They are using the length of it to measure one dimension in comparison to another. Tipping the pencil to follow the angle of something and comparing that to the horizontal or vertical will also help get perspective lines accurately.

And thirdly, as I work a lot in black and white I always look at tones and divide everything I see into light, medium and dark.  Especially in landscape which can be overwhelming when you are facing it with a tiny scrap of paper and an HB pencil!

Karen Mead art painting sketchbook How To Draw

So, when you are admiring a view, ask yourself where the light is and where the shadow? How many tones of green can you see in a field? Or look at your hand and squint, to do what my children used to call ‘fuzz-eye’ (just go out of focus a bit) and see if you can identify three differing shades of skin tone. Obviously there is infinity of differing tones, angles and possible places to start a drawing but editing out the complexity makes the whole process more manageable.

When you come to draw having the answers to those questions makes recall much simpler. I am not saying I could accurately recreate everything I look at, but take it from someone who was once asked to draw a horse from memory on the spur of the moment on live television (yes, a very sweaty moment)  it helps a lot if you have previously noticed and mentally recorded the shape of something.

When you are drawing from life, regardless of what it is, asking those questions while really looking means you are much more likely to take your time and place your marks more accurately. With practise the questions lodge in your fingers and you wont be aware of your brain doing any of the work.

Karen

Karen Mead art painting sketchbook How To Draw

eleanor mccoll-hong kong artist
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Artist in the Spotlight: Eleanor McColl

Could you tell us a little bit about your work and how you came to be in Hong Kong? 

I am a multi-disciplinary artist, focused on collage, photomontage and painting.  I first came to Hong Kong with a great friend from University who grew up here. We did a two month work placement for the amazing Lindsey Macalister at the Youth Arts Festival and a fabulous costume designer (Roberto Conti), who had us making 18th Century wigs, horses heads and dyeing ballerina’s leotards. It was a whirlwind of experiences and I fell in love with Hong Kong and the creative energy I felt then, and still do. I came back to help set up an art school the day I’d finished my degree and two years after that I set up my own art school Chameleon Workshop which I ran for 11 years before changing the business to make room for my own art.

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lattice wool scarf- winter style-organiser bag- small handbag
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How to look stylish in winter

As you may have noticed we have recently moved our studio from tropical Lamma Island in Hong Kong to the slightly chillier Isle of Wight. After six years of living in constant humidity I had forgotten quite how many layers an English winter requires. Scarves can (and do) stay on all day, regardless of whether you are inside or out, so it makes sense to pick a nice one.

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