Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Best Scented Candles In Ireland

Oh, I know. I'm aware. It's all too obvious: I know it is rather basic of me but I do love a good scented candle.

And, Ireland, in particular, happens to produce some really wonderful ones. Here are some of my all-time favourites, all made here on the Emerald Isle, at a couple of different price points.


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1. Fig & Vanilla, Paul Costelloe, Dunnes Stores, €12.00.

These candles are a long-time favourite of mine. The packaging is chic and slick and the candle is poured into a very simple glass tumbler that I have since repurposed to house my make-up brushes. Fresh from the box or empty with brushes or pencils inside, they look great on dressing tables and are really rather good value. You get a real luxe feeling at about a third - or less - of the price of a high-end candle of this size. This scent is my favourite - subtle and sweet and not at all over-bearing. I will say that more expensive candles tend to smell more potent without being too strong but Dunnes are one of the best for offering lower prices and non-stinky scents.


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2. Spearmint & Sea Salt, Considered by Helen James, Dunnes Stores, €12.00.

A lot of the same boxes can be ticked as above for this offering from another of Dunnes' homeware ranges. I adore anything that claims to smell like the sea and am a big fan of this one. Again, the packaging is chic, the scent subtle and price-point is competitive. The only thing I will say is that it is so subtle, it can fade into the background and become virtually unnoticeable if you're burning it for a long period of time. However, it is still really pleasant and fresh and a little more unisex and less sweet than the Fig & Vanilla.


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3. Rose Tea, Cloon Keen Atelier, €40.00.

I got gifted a sample of this last year and I love it. Sadly, this scent is never among those sold in the selection at Brown Thomas in Dublin. I have to wait until I go on a trip to Galway to stock up but it's always worth it! It really does smell like my favourite rose tea - a natural, earthy smell that isn't synthetic or over-powering at all. This is how rose should always smell - sweet but a little more complex and almost musky. There's a step up in price but also in packaging and quality. Again, I've kept the container and used it to house my sketching pencils. The mirrored effect on the outside looks nice now but was particularly attractive when a flame was burning inside and casting light all across my room. But it's not just how it looks, as I said, expensive candles smell different. They don't become background noise. They give off distinct smells that pervade the room once burned. If you like rose smells, this one is a real winner.

Sadly, this scent seems to have been discontinued now but I still highly recommend the brand and their Galway store is a place of great and quiet beauty.


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4. Dublin Tea Rose, Oud and Patchouli, Rathbornes, €19.00 (Travel Size).

The lady in Brown Thomas told me that this company is the oldest, continuously running, candle company in the world. Established in 1488, this Dublin-based company is uber-elegant with containers that look like porcelain, a box that looks like something jewellery should come in and gilded lettering on everything. Again, it's a rose tea scent but, again, it is more complex and rich. In fact, I think this may be my favourite candle scent of all time. It's subtly sweet, a little spicy and really permeates through a room. I was also surprised by how long it burns for, definitely longer than was indicated on the box.

Yes, it's a bit of a splurge - the travel size cost more than the Dunnes candles that are around three times the size - but if you're looking for a luxurious Irish candle brand, this is the one!


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So, maybe that wasn't quite so basic after all....I mean, I'm no nose and have none of the proper terminology going on but that's a lot of words about candles....


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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

ISLE - Jewellery Inspired By Ireland and Formed By Japanese Aesthetics

On my first Galway Fashion Trail last November, I saw, and fell in love with, the delicate jewellery of ISLE. The brainchild of two Northern Irish sisters - Ger, who lives in Tokyo, and Helen, who lives in Belfast - it is a brand inspired by the tales and natural beauty of Ireland and informed by the minimalist aesthetic and emphasis on craftsmanship of Japan. Each piece is handmade in Ireland and then beautifully presented in high quality packaging from Japan.

I wanted to know more about these two sisters and the magic jewellery that they produced; their thoughts on design and Irish design, in particular; their inspirations; and why it's important to support smaller makers.


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Moi: How did ISLE come about? Can you tell us a little about its journey as a brand?

Ger: Starting some form of jewellery business was something that I'd thought about a lot over the years, ever since I started making jewellery for high school art projects. Although I loved painting, drawing and photography, I was especially drawn to metals and the mixed media possibilities of jewellery. So, I studied Metalsmithing & Jewellery at the University of Ulster in Belfast, but after, decided to become an Art teacher in England. After a few years there, my partner/boyfriend and I wanted to experience living further abroad and decided to have a go at living in Tokyo and here we still are.

ISLE has evolved a lot since the original idea that came about from a discussion with a Japanese friend who worked in the jewellery business in Tokyo. We planned to create jewellery that would tell stories of Ireland, introducing Irish culture to people that probably hadn't heard much about it.

Unfortunately, my Japanese friend wasn't able to continue with the initial progress we had made. So, instead of giving up, I turned to my sister Helen, who has long been a part of my design process - even coming in on the night before my final degree show to sit on the floor sanding and painting the display furniture for my installation. We work well together and are constantly sending images back and forth and bouncing ideas around.

Her main medium is textile but she has quickly learnt a lot about Metalsmithing and works closely with our talented Belfast-based makers.

My whole family is involved in ISLE in some form now and have been an amazing help.



Why are you so inspired by Ireland?

I guess living so far from home in an incredibly different culture, makes you think about where you come from and you look at things you took for granted with fresh eyes. I regularly go back home to Co. Down and yet it hits me every time I arrive; the landscape, the people, the atmosphere.



Who do you admire? What things inspire you?

Everything. I have about a thousand design ideas passing through my head a day. I have to tell myself to be quiet and focus on one thing (or else Helen will tell me Neutral Face). Sometimes you see a building that could be translated into a necklace or an accidental collection of colours that would make a beautiful print pattern. I have a crazy amount of photos that I've captured hoping that I'll go back to them someday and create something original from them

I admire the people that, in an age of mass production and fantastic digital machinery, are opting for a slow, focused and considered way creating. The joy of craftsmanship is not totally lost and I believe appreciation for it is growing again in Ireland.



Who is your customer?

We are our customers really. We want to offer contemporary jewellery that presents something deeper than passing fashion. Jewellery that is both stylish and has lasting quality, that reflects modern trends but that can be a future heirloom.



Why should people support smaller makers?

Supporting smaller makers allows for diversity, for uniqueness



If you could do anything you wanted - no limitations - what would ISLE do?

We don't have huge crazy ambitions for ISLE, we just want to keep on designing and making and hope that we can share what we do with people who feel the same as us. Sorry that's a boring answer, isn't it? But it's true.



What are you most proud of?

Surviving this far.



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(All images belong to ISLE and are reproduced here with permission.)

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Monday, 16 May 2016

The Pantone Colours Of The Year Made Me Rethink My Feminsim: Internalised Misogyny and Allowing Myself To Love Pink Again

I've been having this discussion with countless people lately where I share my theory that learning to be an adult - a happy, functioning one - is unlearning a lot of the bullshit that outside forces have put on you since you were a child. It's about learning to be a child again. Learning to be more essentially and purely you again.

In terms of behaviour and characteristics, I've been trying to revert to that kid who was the first to talk to the new person in school, who welcomed everyone, who wasn't judgemental in the least. In terms of tastes and internal struggles, I've been attempting to be freer, to allow myself to like what I like, feel what I feel and not apologise for it or hate myself for it.

And I have given up lying to myself about how much I love the colour pink.

As a child, I was a tomboy that climbed trees, fought on the schoolyard with the boys and had permanently scraped knees but I also had a perfectly organised Barbie Dreamhouse, made clothes for the Barbies that lived there, adored my baby dolls and was super-into princesses - particularly of the Disney variety. For a time, there was no distinct line separating these into two groups, as there is in the language and societal norms I would later adopt, they were merely things I liked and did. I was not defined by them in any way.

But, eventually (in fact, all too quickly), I began to take in and understand how people saw little girls, what they thought of our opinions and tastes. It didn't so much change how I saw myself but made me consider myself at all in the first place. It stopped me from blindly following my heart and imposed categories on things that had simply been before.

Boy. Girl. Tough. Silly. Them. Us.

When I began to get the impression that girls were somehow considered lesser - that "don't be such a girl", "you play like a girl", "you're alright for a girl" were insults, that girl = lesser - I became determined to prove people wrong. Sadly, that can seem to warrant an "us versus them" mentality. And this is where the patriarchy is truly toxic as it imposes labels and restrictions and turns us against each other.

But the other really tricky thing about our society is, that though I was a self-identified feminist from a very early age, I also was seduced by the lie of the "cool girl". I believed women and men were equal but I did not evade the messages laid out everywhere - no matter how innocent they seemed - that this was not true. At least, not in the eyes of others.

And so I became this torn creature that proclaimed that boys smelled and girls were better but rejected anything overly "girly". I internalised that misogyny and decided I could not like, or do, certain things as they were for other girls, girly girls, girls that were wimpy, not like me. I became one of those girls who would say "I'm not like other girls" - as if there were anything at all wrong with being like other girls.

As I got older, I began to wade through the nonsense. I saw that the "cool girl" was merely an impossible male fantasy that did not exist and, where she tried to exist, was merely a woman without a voice - who didn't complain or speak out, even when she had every right to. I learned that I was like lots of other women, and unlike some as well, but there was nothing wrong with either of those things. That it was an honour to be like other women. That I loved and admired so many women, so why wouldn't I want to be like them?

It took longer to let go of some of the language and notions. In fact, I still am in the process of doing so. Things like "don't be a pansy" escape my mouth sometimes and I catch myself looking down on things that are "girly" from time to time but it is a process, it will take time and I am still learning and unlearning.

The Pantone Colours of the Year recently triggered another lesson for me.

The seriously beautiful pairing of Rose Quartz and Serenity has me obsessed. Blue has been my official favourite colour for a long time now and, though that hasn't changed, pink has suddenly crept back into my heart.

For a really long time, I haven't allowed myself to like the colour pink and this ran so deep that I didn't even realise that the aversion was largely contrived. Yes, some shades of pink are garish in a way that makes me cringe. And, yes, blue genuinely is my favourite colour - the colour of clear skies, the grey-blue of stormy seas, the varied shades of my family's eyes, from baby blue to almost black - and the punk in me means that black is a staple in my wardrobe. But I really, really love pink - cherry blossoms, shy flushes across cheeks, vibrant sunsets, carnations given to my mother.

It took being unable to resist the draw of this colour combination for me to finally admit to myself that I liked pink.

Of course, I am aware that this could seem silly but it is less about a colour and more about the fact that even as a liberal, rather self-aware 24 year-old feminist, I still have lots of internalised misogyny to unpack and face.

So, all of the pink creeping into my wardrobe is not just cute but a way of celebrating that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman, that "pink" isn't necessarily "girly", that, despite this, there isn't anything wrong with something being "girly" and that I can like whatever I damn well like.

Embrace the pink in your life. It's made me happier.

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Photo Post - January - April 2016

As I've been making a concerted effort to take more photos and go back to the thing that brings me such joy, I have more photos than ever that float in the ether of my My Pictures folder. It's about time more of them were released into the world.

The past few months have been a bit of a frenzy. I get moments where I feel like I need to plan something for every single day, moments where I have bursts of energy and ambition and aim to do more for the blog, more travelling, see my friends more. And so - between bouts of blog event after event, long days in work, weekends spent out all night or dashing home or away, evenings writing, editing, meeting people for dinner or drinks - I have weeks where I slump in exhaustion or get sick and am given no choice but to pause. This week is one of those, after several of craziness, and, boy, did I need it.

Perhaps, I should make these posts a monthly affair and catalogue both the insane and immobile moments...Yes, let's do that. But, for now, here's a mish-mash of the recent past and how it treated me.

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