Local Businesses - Kilcoan Gardens...

A few weeks ago now, we visited Kilcoan Gardens in Islandmagee after hearing about their gorgeous grounds and wonderful tour for their open weekends.

Guided by the lovely Cherry Townsend, who manages, designs and runs the gardens, we were treated to a wonderfully informative tour, focussing on early Spring plants, what grows best in our Northern Irish climate, and what was flourishing and blooming for Spring. Cherry was so incredibly informative, and knowledgeable, rattling out the latin names for all the lovely plants, I felt like I was in the presence of a seasoned Garden TV presenter... it was SO fascinating.

Despite the rain, and hail (!), we had a fantastic time, and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful afternoon tea that was laid on for us at the end, most of it baked by Cherry's lovely mum... on gorgeous vintage crockery, no less.

Such a beautiful, and tastefully done garden, I just loved every minute.

Cherry is hosting another Open Weekend this coming weekend as part of the National Trust NI - Ulster Gardens Scheme, and we're really looking forward to returning to shoot more of early Summer (I know, it's a bit of a laugh so far, right?) blooms. Make sure to pop along, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and fascinating commentary from Cherry.

Saturday & Sunday 6th&7th June 2015, 2-5pm. 240 Middle Road, Islandmagee.

Inside the studio - Jess from Birds & Words at Seacourt Print Workshop...

There's something really fascinating about watching a maker at work, and our shoot with Jess of Birds & Words at Seacourt Print Workshop in Bangor was no exception.

We loved getting an insight in to the intricate, dark and inky world of letter-press printing. From the antique cast iron press Jess prints with, to the drawers and drawers of heavenly wooden type sets she constructs her beautiful prints with - it was a real pleasure to shoot, glimpse and capture. 

As makers ourselves, I am instinctively drawn to capturing other makers hands... how they do what they do. Those familiar rhythms and routines they practise day in and day out, seamlessly, as if it's just second nature to them. Because it is.

This was our first trip to Seacourt Print Workshop - a wonderful resource for artists in Co. Down - and we loved getting a peek in to the working artists there. It was such a pleasure watching Jess set up her printing blocks, ink up her compositions with her beautiful vintage roller, hand pull inked prints (including a gorgeous A&R for us!) and then create secondary embossed blank impressions, which were so, so special, too.

It was an absolute dream to create these images of Jess working, which are going to be on her new website soon... and I loved how much of a contrast they were to the shots we took in her Project24 studio pod at Bangor Harbour the week or so before! Her designs themselves are so bright, crisp and colourful, and her light and bright studio/shop space has the same look and feel as her work! White crisp walls, and punchy pops of candy-hues. I love that this shoot felt so different, and captured the actual hands on, almost messier side of the business... the nitty gritty, the test prints, the inky hands, the cleaning up and cranking through, the dark corners and strip lighting of working studio spaces... 

Make sure to visit Jess's website, Birds & Words, where she sells her beautiful letter-press prints. We are going to be shooting some of her gorgeous custom Wedding Stationery very soon, and if you're getting married and want something a little different, I would recommend reaching out to Jess for a consultation! Oh-so-dreamy stuff..!

We hope you like these shots as much as we all do. Oh, and doesn't Jess have THE BEST hair. Like, ever? ;)




NEW YORK - Skinny Skinny Urban Garden...

We stumbled across the delightful flagship store of all-natural Organic Skin and Body Care brand, Skinny Skinny, after busing it to Williamsburg for the artists & fleas market... we were walking around and enjoying all the gorgeous stores and galleries, and wandered in to this beautiful space which is part plant & urban garden store, and part apothecary, stocked with the Skinny Skinny own-brand line of gorgeous skin care products. 

I was missing our two pooches terribly (and was accosting dogs all over Brooklyn to ease my withdrawals), so was incredibly excited to see a beautiful resident pup, who belongs to the owner and Skinny Skinny founder, Clara! 

In addition to shooting the gorgeous store, I got my snuggle fix with Clara's beautiful dog, Haley, so I was one happy lady. I absolutely loved the mix of plants, planters, interesting ceramics, gorgeous terrariums and skin care goods at the Urban Garden store, and it really lived up to the tag-line "where art and nature blend seamlessly".

As a little bit of background about Clara, and her Skinny Skinny brand, which was founded over a decade ago:

"With a strong artistic and academic background, Clara immediately took to the craft of blending chemistry with nature. She combined Ayurvedic practices with her training as an esthetician, and and her experience as an aromatherapist ensured a high standard for complex scent blends. Initially fuelled by a serious lack of truly effective skincare products, Clara experimented with a variety of ingredients, perfecting her recipes over time."

Clara has an incredibly impressive stockist list, so make sure to check if there's a store near you that carries her gorgeous line. 

One of the things we loved most about Brooklyn was stumbling across all these independent, unique, and niche stores that were really thriving and totally nailing it on all levels! It was an exciting and invigorating experience, and one that made us feel truly motivated about returning home to Northern Ireland and connecting even more with other small businesses and brands, and by helping them along with our styling and photography services, hopefully capture some of that buzz, success and excitement that we felt in New York and Brooklyn and bring some of it to our home shores.

Make sure to stop by Skinny Skinny Urban Garden store if you're lucky enough to find yourself wandering down Grand Street in Williamsburg! Let me know, so we can come too, okay? ;)

NEW YORK - Mile End...

We tried quite hard to keep off the traditional tourist track while in New York and Brooklyn, and really wanted to get at the heart of what it was like to live in the city (why not try it on for size, right?)... so we did a lot of online research and spoke to locals on our meanderings and researched tips from bonafide New Yorkers before heading off in search of things...

Must Eats: While in New York, you have to get a hot meat sandwich, right?

Well, the obvious choice is going to Kat'z Deli - the crowded tourist trap of 'Where Harry Met Sally' fame - but the more we dug around and read through reviews, the more we felt it wasn't perhaps the BEST that New York had to offer. SO, after reading about it in a few places, and in the NY Times, we set off in pursuit of Mile End Deli, situated in Boerum Hill (which was such a lucky pick, as this turned out to be our favourite area, and one which we spent a few days exploring!)...and not too far from our apartment by bus.

Their story is thus: "Mile End is a Jewish delicatessen in New York City committed to breathing new life in to old-world traditions." 

I don't know about you, but we thought that sounded fairly delicious! ;)

We ate at Mile End twice, and frankly, it was worth it just for the pickles alone... which are, my God, to die for. The first visit, we had the smoked meat sandwich, and it was very yummy - delicious tender meat, great mustard and fresh bread. And then, after having a lovely lunch with Paul Lowe from Sweet Paul, he said we just had to go back for the Poutine (the founder of Mile End is Canadian, hence the new spin on this classic French-Canadian dish) and who are we to argue with the King of the NY food scene?! 

The Poutine was pretty dreamy... incredible skin-on fries, cheese curds, roasted chicken gravy and chunks of delicious smoked meat. It was worth every calorie. We also ordered pickles on the side, which are just divine, I could eat them all day long.

We would love to have had room for the Mazzo Ball Soup, which looked delicious, too. A good reason to go back, for sure.

Couldn't recommend this lovely little spot highly enough, and the wait staff were absolutely charming.

There are two locations for Mile End: 97a Hoyt Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn & 53 Bond Street, Noho, Manhattan.