All posts by Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Dream of Drifting Away to Provence with the Scent of Lavender

Lavender is big business in Provence.

There is a significant agricultural industry built around the purple plants, which includes farmers, distillery owners and manufacturers (cosmetics, food). The is also an enormous impact on the tourism industry with countless visitors clamoring to get to see the rows of lavender plants at the peak of the blooming cycle.  There are tour groups and private guides who count on the lavender playing a part in their summer business.

Lavender Fields in Provence #Lavender #Provence

So, where do you see the fields? When is the best time for lavender viewing? Is there a driving route that you would recommend?

Franco-American blogger, Girl Gone Gallic  answers all of those questions in her post:

Tantalize your senses… Visit the Lavender Fields of Provence

Lavender has always grown wild in Provence…

Every year thousands flock to the hills and valleys of Provence to visit the famed lavender fields.  There are several different lavender routes (six official itineraries to be exact) that can be followed depending on the time of year and your interests…

Keep reading Girl Gone Gallic’s post here for details on lavender itineraries, drying tips and much more.

Can’t travel to Provence? We have the answer SHOP NOW! for lavender “wands” these make beautiful gifts, dried bouquets and they last forever.

lavender fuseaux

Look for Anastassia Sel Designer Jewellery on New York’s Fashion Runways

Volgodonsk is unlikely to be on many travel bucket lists; a Russian city located on the Tsimlyansk Reservoir, where the nearby nuclear plant is a local employer. This town is where Canadian artist and rising star jeweller Anastassia Selezneva was born.

Anastassia Selezneva emigrated to Toronto, with her parents, when she was nine years old. Artistic activities occupied after-school hours and much of her Canadian childhood. She explains that she had limited time to “hang-out” as she experimented with ballet, piano and visual arts. Selezneva attributes these touchpoints with creative circles to her desire to attend the Etobicoke School of the Arts.

Orion Earrings #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

However, Selezneva says that her journey to jewellery production began as an artistic outlet

“I started to fiddle and experiment with jewellery in November 2012. Wire wrapping, learning about stones, their properties, and teaching myself how to solder. I needed a creative outlet and my finance job was not giving me that.”

Black Tourmaline Union Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

Her practical business degree, from York University (Toronto) a safe choice, but one that did not fulfil her artistic needs. Selezneva’s diversion with jewellery has led her to global fashion centres;

“Anastassia has created ‘haute couture,’ one-of-a-kind works for Toronto, Milan and New York Fashion Week runway shows.”

Selezneva is now laser focused on her business and her Anastassia Sel brand. She recently (June 2016) graduated from the George Brown College fashion studies program.

Branch Ear Crawlers #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

“This program is intensive and not for everyone. It has very high expectations. To succeed in this program, you need to have patience and dedication to the craft. The one-year program that I took, gave me a solid foundation of the different aspects of the jewellery industry such as goldsmithing, surface finishing, gemology and technical drawing.”

Why did you move towards jewellery from other creative directions?

I remember always going through my grandma’s jewellery box and having a wild fascination with how much beauty it holds and how different jewellery can be. I think my inspiration for jewellery design came at a very early age, but it took some time to blossom into something concrete. Looking back, I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I decided I will be a jewellery designer. It just happened naturally.

Can you explain how you choose a stone for one of your pieces?

I have always gravitated towards rough stones. I love nature and looking at raw, rough, organic forms brings me closer to it. Ideally, in my comfort zone, all of my pieces would have rough stones. However, as a designer, I have to be versatile and appeal to various clients. If I were to choose my favourite stones, it would be black kyanite and rainbow moonstone. They are polar opposites. Kyanite is rough and dark, and moonstone is light, airy and smooth. When I design, I let the materials talk to me. It depends on the piece, but I typically start my design from the stone and create the piece around it.

Vitae Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

You work with recycled 14K gold and sterling silver. Can you share your sustainability philosophy as it relates to jewellery?

The way I see it is we as a society need to learn to reuse the resources we have to create a sustainable environment. Resources are finite, and we have to be conscious of how we recover and use it.

Cosmic Ray Ear Crawler #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

How do you find the inspiration for your pieces?

Nature is a big part of my inspiration. The freedom that comes with the natural environment. The place that we are whole, authentic and small. In urban areas we have titles and hierarchies, in nature, we are one. Mortal. Finite.

Union Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

What do you want someone to “feel” when they are wearing one of your pieces?

Empowered and authentic.

Topus Necklace #Jewellery @AnastassiaSel

At Atelier, we are thrilled to be able to showcase jewellery designs from this young designer, who is quite clear that she would like Anastassia Sel to be New York City-based in the future. For now, she shared a few of her version of “where the locals go” in Toronto:

Favourite restaurant in Toronto?

Bar Raval for hipster tapas and Bairrada Churrasqueira for their great patio and Portuguese food.

Favourite coffee shop in Toronto?

Balzac’s Coffee Roasters.

Favourite thing to do on a Saturday in Toronto?

I typically escape the city to a beautiful park like Algonquin, Tobermory or Hilton Falls. However, if I do stay in Toronto I usually check out what festivals are going on (Wine/Beer/Music) or go to a lively patio.

To see the exclusive Anastassia Sel collection currently available on Atelier click here.

Settling a Purple Question What is the Difference Between Lavender and Lavandin

To the untrained eye, and certainly the uneducated nose it would be a challenge to know the difference between lavender and lavandin. What is lavandin?  Don’t worry you are not alone! We turned to our friend based in the “land of lavender” (Provence) and asked  Girl Gone Gallic  for her expertise in settling our slightly purple haze (not the Jimi Hendrix kind).

What is the difference?

There are actually 39 different varieties of Lavender.  Lavender has always grown wild in Provence, and maybe you’ve been lucky to discover the wondrous sensory experience that are the lavender fields in bloom. Cultivation has been around even in ancient times, and was one of the holy herbs used in biblical times to prepare holy essence. During the Roman period, the price for one pound of lavender equaled a full month’s farmers wages.  But can you tell the difference between Lavender vs Lavandin ?

Keep reading here… for the rest of Girl Gone Gallic’s post here to find out what the difference are and why real lavender products are worth the price.

Shop here! For 100% pure French lavender “wands” – shaped like a baby’s rattle – these are beautiful keepsakes, gifts and they will keep your clothes smelling of sweet Provence.

Lavender Fuseaux #Lavender #Provence #Handmade @atelier_boutiq

 

Colleen Poitras is Changing Your Look With Pretty Edgy Jewellery

Tomboy to jewellery designer. Colleen Poitras says “Ironically I was more my father’s daughter growing up, a tomboy who loved sports and wanted nothing to do with fashion. I’m not sure when the shift came, but it did, and I was suddenly sewing my clothes in high school, falling in love with fashion and really big earrings!”

After high school, Poitras studied the art and trade of jewellery making at George Brown College and the Mississauga Living Arts Centre. She now credits her mother’s work as a seamstress with unlocking her interest in fashion. “I was always creating something, but my first love was fashion. There is an excitement for me pairing clothing and accessories and seeing how the right combination can make an outfit come alive!”

The Colleen Poitras company tagline – Pretty. Rocker. Chic – is a perfect description of her work. Her shimmering stainless steel Endure Cuff hard-core enough for Wonder Woman yet flawless with that little black dress. The delicate Breathe Bangle is pretty enough for your niece, but you know you want one too. The Falling Chain Necklace is a waterfall of airy stainless steel chains bound by a touch of leather.

Matte-Series-Ring in Stainless Steel

You work with a selection of materials; leather, concrete, stainless steel and semi-precious stones.

What attracts you to those materials?

It’s really interesting to me how my material choices happened rather organically. I hadn’t thought to work with leather until I needed some supplies that required me to go to a leather supplier and I was drawn in right away. The minute that I started working with leather was when I found my voice as a jewellery designer. Concrete was another medium that was unexpected. Again, the possibilities excite me!

Matter choker leather and stainless steel

Of all the materials you work with is there one that is your “go-to” and if so why?

Leather is definitely my go to material. However, I am also having lots of fun experimenting with the concrete and mixing it with metals and leather. What I love about leather, are the endless possibilities – it offers versatility that lends itself to well to my designs.

Significance bangle moonstone @ColleenPoitras

Your work seems to strike an impressive balance between edgy (just on the end of trouble) and feminine keepsakes.

Do you design with a person or place in mind?

I love that this comes across. I wouldn’t say that this is 100% intentional, but I do design what I would wear, and I am a combination of all of those things. I think we all are! We all have a little pretty, we all have a little rocker, and we all have a little chic. Every day is different which is what makes every day so fabulous!

Can you describe your workshop?

I have big windows that let in a lot of light giving it a very “lofty” feel. My photography accessorizes the walls, and I’ve had a custom work table built specific to my needs. It is light and airy with a bit of industrial edge. The perfect “me” workplace (okay in a perfect world I would have a little more space)!

Colleen Poitras designing Canadian women's jewellery

With any one of the Colleen Poitras pieces, you can almost guarantee that you will rock it in your jeans or bring your evening dress alive, but you might need to battle someone for these limited edition pieces. Check out the full collection here (quickly) before her gorgeous pieces are sold out.

Why You Should Consider Buying European Linen for your Home

Recently, we caught up with Interior Designer Rebecca Bizzarri to ask her about her design philosophy and to understand the inspiration behind Anouk. The designer brand that she launched with her partner Victoria Guy.

Anouk has a line of whimsical fabric designs for home décor. Digitally printed onto the finest European linen these designs are intended for light upholstery. The Anouk fabric is also available in tea towels and aprons, perfect for gifts (or for yourself) and available on Atelier.

European Linen Anouk Designs Aprons

 

Creating linen is labour intensive. It is spun from the coarse fibres of flax plants and coveted for its durability and absorption qualities. There should be no surprise why linen is well-suited to tropical climates. You can read more about linen here.

Why European Linen?

There is a tradition of linen manufacturing in Europe that has existed for centuries, probably because the climate is suitable for growing flax. Poland and Lithuania have historically had linen industries with high-quality production. In fact, when I was doing research to source linen for Anouk, I discovered that Lithuania has some of the oldest, premium linen fabric production in the world. We decided to use this linen for our products.

European Linen Anouk Tea towels

 

Linen is Durable

We specifically chose mid-weight linen (230g) as it is meant for light upholstery, ideal for drapery and cushions. This gauge is perfectly suited for residential use, and our designs bring a touch of charm, a bit of frivolity, to the sometimes stark look of contemporary interiors.

European Linen Anouk Designs Pillows

 

Design Inspiration

After studying interior design in Italy, I ended up spending four years in the Swiss Alps, in the high alpine, near St Moritz. This was a wonderful time in my life. I was attracted to the Swiss landscape and natural environment and the beautiful scenery that surrounded me daily, and on my countless alpine hikes. I would have to say that the Engadin Valley generated the right environment for my sketching and plenty of inspirational ideas.

What is the Design Process?

Sketching takes a long time, as I wanted the designs to reflect what I saw in the Alps. Determining the final colour palette is important. Muted  Anouk colours compliment many interior design concepts. Once the design and colours are defined, the rest of the process is pretty straightforward. The high-resolution images are scanned and then the file is sent for digital printing on the linen cloth.

European Linen Anouk Designs Pillows

Dream Job in the Alps

With a degree in Fine Art and Italian, from the United Kingdom, I headed to Milan to study interior design. My first job was with an interior design team working on high-end resort properties. After, six years, I found myself working for a residential design firm that specialized in chalet interiors. Hence the magical Swiss sojourn, in the Engadin Valley.

European Linen Anouk Designs

 

Anouk for Home and Gifts

Frustrated by the fact that Swiss-made yard goods that are both glorious and expensive, I began designing these fabrics. Limited edition designs, Anouk textiles are purposely mid-range in price with a high-grade feel.  Buying artisan, handcrafted products supports local economies. It is my belief that the creator’s positive energy gets passed along the chain to the end user. There is joy in the process chain that does not come from a factory.

What is up next for Anouk?

Look for Hawaiian-inspired designs shortly…

Understanding the Art and Craft of Chandlery and all that Beeswax

Medieval Craft of Chandlery

 

The advent of residential electricity changed our lighting needs dramatically and eliminated a once critical position in the medieval household – the Chandler – the person responsible for the candles. Click here for a detailed description.

Next time you strike a match to light the candles on your dinner table consider what it takes to make a candle.

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

According to Jill Smith, the owner of Salt Spring Island’s Bees Wax Works, the key ingredient in chandlery (besides the obvious: wax) is patience and more patience. Smith is a former ballet dancer and music industry professional who describes her career change as an “Opportunity to work independently, make things and grow a business.”

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

Becoming a chandler

Smith apprenticed under the company’s previous owner before she assumed the full responsibilities of Bees Wax Works. Although candle making was a learning curve, Jill Smith says “Making things with my hands has always been a part of my life. My mother taught me fibre arts at a young age and we were encouraged to ‘make things’.”

Did you ever “make” candles as a kid, by melting paraffin and pouring the molten liquid into milk containers? If so, the work that Smith does in her workshop is another world. She describes her studio as

“The best smelling garage on Salt Spring Island, with lovely windows and views of the Salish Sea.”

Process from raw wax to candles

There is a process to transforming a 45-pound block of beeswax into beautiful, clean-burning candles. The work requires smashing (she says this step is therapeutic), heating and reforming. According to Smith, chandlery steps are simple, and the tools rudimentary (a melting pot, simple hand tools, and steady hands). However, the age-old craft requires enormous amounts of patience.

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

Smith chooses to work with beeswax exclusively.

“It is pure and simply the best wax for candles.”

However, not all beeswax is created equally. Smith sources her wax from apiarists in Alberta. A family who have been beekeepers for three generations because their wax is the cleanest she has found.

Did you know beeswax changes colours with the seasons, depending which flowers are blooming?

Simple Fern #Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks

At Atelier, we are thrilled to feature some of the Bees Wax Works signature BWW Collection candles. The new line of candles required Smith’s close collaboration with a ceramist.  Together they developed moulds that reflect the art of candle making. This collection mirrors the “hive to home” philosophy at Bees Wax Works.

Made with high-quality wax and the steady hand of a professional chandler these contemporary candles are perfect for gifts (or for your home) check out the collection here.

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Jill Smith @ Bees Wax Works

5 Reasons Why to Choose Beeswax Candles over Paraffin

Most of us would admit that Ikea furniture shared a place in our homes at one stage. Whether it was for your first apartment or outfitting kids rooms the renowned Swedish brand with the DIY, feel still is an affordable option. Ikea’s tea lights – sold in bags of 100 – are strategically placed on your way to the checkout. An impulse buy? Maybe.

Beeswax versus paraffin

Recently, we finished our last bag of tea lights and have yet to make the trek to the furniture warehouse. The thought of battling the parking lot and crowds to pick up some cheap paraffin candles started us thinking about the ecological impacts of these little light sources.

#Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks blog post

What we discovered was the benefits of beeswax candles far outweigh mass produced paraffin versions.

6 Reasons to choose beeswax candles

  1. Beeswax is a natural product. Produced from the wax glands of honey bees (females) it is a natural, renewable product. Although, it is hard work for the bees who must fly long distances collecting nectar for honey. From 6 to 30 pounds (estimates vary) of honey is formed to produce a single pound of wax. Regardless of the number, you begin to understand why the wax is expensive.
  2. The expense equation. Beeswax candles may be costly to purchase, but due to a high melting point, the wax is slow burning and lasts much longer than paraffin versions.
  3. A clean, smokeless burn. Now, that we understand the impacts of second-hand cigarette smoke on our health. What about the toxic fumes from paraffin candles? Paraffin is a refined petroleum by-product. The black crude sludge is bleached, then acrolyn and stearic acid are added to provide texture and hardening properties. You can read more here.
  4. Light quality. Beeswax candles produce a brighter light than paraffin candles.
  5. Reinforcing traditions. For centuries, versatile beeswax has been used as a sealant, a lubricant, for artwork (think batik), in cosmetics and candles. Archeologists have identified traces of beeswax in Roman ruins and Egyptian tombs.

The Key to My Heart #Beeswax #Candles @Beeswaxworks

Check out Salt Spring Island’s Bees Wax Works story on our creator’s page here and the beautiful candles made with 100% Canadian beeswax, to enjoy the benefits of this natural wax.

Image credits: with permission from Bees Wax Works

Designer Shopping and 6 Reasons to Buy from an Artisan

Thoughtful Consumerism

The water crisis in California, VW’s diesel emissions scandal, pipeline spills, smog warnings, carbon taxes and global warming. Some days, it feels like being hit over the head with negative environmental messages. Stop to think about any one of those issues and it’s overwhelming. What can one human can do to facilitate change given the magnitude of the problems?

Designer Shopping Buy Artisan

You can help!

Take small steps to reduce your personal environmental footprint through thoughtful designer shopping. As an e-retailer, we would be crazy to tell you not to shop. Here is why we think you should buy from an artisan designer:

  1. Support the arts. Whether they are creating a new art form or reviving an old traditional craft, these creators are following their passions.
  2. Buy local. Purchasing from an artisan means you are supporting the local community.
  3. Quality materials.  An artisan selects the best materials to create their products. If not, why would they make the effort in the first place?
  4. Make a Personal connection. Gain an understanding of the person behind the product (not an assembly line at a factory).
  5. Look for one-of-a-kind.  Why? Because you know that it sucks to show up at a party wearing the same outfit as your hostess.
  6. Go green. Happy knowing that you are making your contribution towards reducing the impact of those global environmental issues.

Check out our artisan creators here, and their products here.

French Designer Fashion Style. What is a Carré Silk Scarf?

Surprisingly, it was not Hermès that invented the word carré, but once the company launched its line of square silk scarves, the luxury fashion world has not looked back. Since 1937, there have been over 2,000 unique designs for Hermès carré silk scarves. Worn by royalty and coveted by many, you can read the Hermès story here.

French Carré Silk Scarves

A luxury scarf does not start with humble beginnings; the silk has to be top quality. In the case of a carré silk scarf, the fabric must be cut in an exact square. The raw edges are sewn and then rolled and finished by hand — roulottage is the mark of a premium brand.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Why buy a square scarf? The shape allows for more options for wearability. You can see what we mean with in the Hermès Maison des Carrés.

Petitjean Paris is a new line of ready-to-wear silk clothing for women. Léa Petitjean is the company’s founder, she completed a degree in luxury marketing and has gained an appreciation for excellent craftsmanship, from her work with Van Cleef & Arpels jewelers. However, it is quality fabric that “speaks” to Petitjean. Her approach to nothing short of perfection becomes clear when you understand that she vetted many French artisans before determining whom she would trust to execute on her vision, including established silk printers in Lyon.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Atelier has been fortunate to secure a limited number of silk scarves from Petitjean Paris’s introductory line – Les Jurassiennes. These scarves are “Designed in Paris and made in France.” Gorgeous enough to frame – order your carré today.

French Carré Silk Scarves

Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of Petitjean Paris

3 Reasons to Visit Bowen Island and Handcrafted Wooden Serving Boards

Bowen Island was a discovery for Kathy Clarke when she and her husband moved to the coast from British Columbia’s interior (Okanagan). In her words, “I could not believe that this paradise was in such proximity that my husband could commute into the city, and I could work from home. We moved here on a whim about five years ago and now cannot imagine living anywhere else.” The best part was that Bowen Island also fulfilled her lifelong dream of living on an island.

Kathy Clarke Schooner Lane Designs Bowen Island

Kathy says she continues to be amazed by Bowen’s artisans – the talented craftspeople – who have also chosen this west coast island for their home.

Reasons to Visit Bowen Island

“There are so many reasons to visit Bowen and to pick a top three is nearly impossible! There’s a stepping back in time feel to it. The Island has a great history, the pace is slower, the people are friendly, and the sense of community is apparent. There is something for everyone; great hiking and beaches, unique shops, wonderful restaurants, an incredible arts community, an award winning golf course, community events. The list goes on.”

Heart Handle Schooner Lane Designs Wooden Serving Boards

Bowen Island Artistic Inspiration

Harnessing her creative talent and inspired by her surroundings, Kathy launched Schooner Lane Designs.

“The first boards I made were for Christmas presents. I loved making them and was pleased with how they turned out, so I decided to make a few more and take them to our local Christmas craft fair. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Schooner Lane Designs wooden serving and cutting boards are made with Canadian food-compatible hardwoods — walnut, maple and cherry. Kathy chooses rough off-cuts of timber that have lots of interesting knots, grain and rough edges. All of the boards are made from a single plank of wood (no gluing or laminating), and hardly any wasted material.

Schooner Lane Designs Wooden Serving Boards

In her outdoor studio (see below), Kathy cuts each piece freehand without a template. Once she finds a shape that she is happy with the wood is sanded to a smooth finish before preserving with beeswax and mineral oil paste. “That’s my favourite part you never know just what the wood is going to show you until it’s oiled and all its beauty shines through.”

Workshop Schooner Lane Designs Wooden Boards

Schooner Lane Designs “Board out of my Mind” ~ Cheese, Chopping & Serving Boards. Are available in several shapes and sizes: small, medium, large and baguette.

Perfect for gifts, for your home these one-of-a-kind boards are sure to be keepsakes.

Image credits: photos provided by and published with the permission of Kathy Clarke