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In the vibrant world of contemporary art, Satu Metsola stands out as a beacon of creativity and resilience.

Her journey from a childhood surrounded by artistic influences to becoming a renowned curator and artist is a testament to her unwavering passion and dedication. Balancing her roles with grace, Metsola has not only carved a niche for herself in the art world but also inspired many with her story of perseverance, self-discovery and holistic living. Through meditation, she has harnessed the power of mindfulness to fuel her artistic endeavours, creating works that resonate deeply with emotional and spiritual insights.

Satu Metsola’s story is a powerful reminder that embracing one’s true self and passions can lead to a fulfilling and impactful life…

1. Can you share the story of your journey into the world of art and what sparked your initial interest in painting and curating

    I have had a lifelong passion for art since early childhood. My mother, a keen sculptor, introduced me to art at a very young age. She took me with her to her classes, where I was immersed in a creative environment filled with the mixture of plaster and clay lingering in the air. The atmosphere was charged with creativity, with adults concentrating on their work and the intriguing figure of the teacher walking amongst them. I made several sculptures before the age of 9, but my greatest passion was drawing. Being around art and artists has always been an inner necessity for me.

    I began studying art in my early twenties, dividing my time between art history studies at the University and art classes at the Academy of Fine Arts. I focused on completing my Master’s degree at the University. Soon after, I became a mother of two lovely sons, graduated, and got a job as an Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. I then became a Curator there, eventually a Chief Curator at Kunsthalle Helsinki, and later worked on the inaugural Helsinki Biennial. Fantastic projects followed each other at a fast pace, and I forgot to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

    That’s when meditation came into my life, helping me prioritise self-care. I rediscovered the necessity of doing art and started studying at an art school again, spending almost all my evenings and weekends studying for four years. This decision was driven by my desire to create something meaningful and express my emotional and spiritual experiences. Now, I finally feel my life is in balance, filled with art.

    2. How does your meditation practice influence your painting process?

    Meditation significantly influences my artistic process in various ways. By focusing on the present moment, I can access deeper levels of creativity and inspiration. It helps me clear my mind of clutter and distractions, allowing for a free flow of creation. Regular meditation practice has improved my ability to focus and concentrate on my work for extended periods. I can fully engage with the process, pay close attention to each brushstroke, and approach my work with a calm and centred mindset.

    Meditation has also helped me feel a sense of connection to a larger whole and more deeply with my inner self. By observing my practice without judgment, I can transform even the most intense emotions into the canvas, pursuing a deeper, personal vision. It always surprises me how calm and stable the result is when the work is finished.

    3. What does a typical day look like for you in Helsinki, balancing creating art and curatorial work?

    My typical day starts with a morning meditation, feeding my old rescue cat, grabbing a cup of coffee, and meal-prepping for the entire day. I take the metro to the museum where I work as a Curator and project manager of various exhibitions.

    After work, I head to my studio, relax a bit, and start working. There are days when I simply observe the work I’m doing. I can be merciful towards myself and protect my energy. I have developed a detailed schedule that includes dedicated time blocks for both artistic creation and curatorial responsibilities, while also enjoying life. Being flexible helps me navigate without feeling overwhelmed. I usually end my day with a dance exercise, a walk outside, or meeting friends and family, followed by meditating and resting on the sofa with the cat. On the plus side, I sleep very well.

    4. Who or what are some of your biggest inspirations, both in your personal life and artistic career?

    My biggest inspiration has always been my late grandmother Hilda, who raised me. She was an amazing storyteller with a fantastic sense of humour, a kind and strong independent woman who gave birth to my mother on a refugee train journey in the middle of a winter war. In my artistic career, I am inspired by independent women artists, particularly pioneers like Hilma af Klint.

    5. How have your diverse educational experiences, from art history to Finnish literature, shaped your approach to art and curation?

    I loved studying at the University; it was a paradise of freedom! I was so thirsty for knowledge that I studied whatever interested me: art history, archaeology, East Asian religions and philosophy, Finnish literature, film and television studies. I even took a few unsuccessful classes in Sanskrit. Only later did I realise that everything I studied came in handy when working with contemporary art! Continuous learning and remaining open to the unknown world, different visions, and ideas is essential for me.

    6. Can you talk about themes, ideas, and concepts behind your art?

    My practice relies on intuition; I never pre-plan my work. I have tried, but it does not work for me. I see my abstract works as expressions of myself and sometimes universal truths accessed through meditation and intuition. I feel that my art is guided by an intuitive sense of harmony and balance, inner peace, and colours. Despite the harmonious outcomes, I always put myself, my energy, and my experiences into my artworks. For example, some of the paintings tell stories about how I have transformed myself after a loss or heartbreak.

    Sometimes the works continue by themselves, such as the oil pastel series “Let’s Go to the Source.” The next one starts where the previous ended. The process always starts with knowing the first colour needed and ends when I know the name of the painting.

    7. What is your curatorial philosophy, and how do you select and present works at prominent institutions like HAM Helsinki Art Museum and the Helsinki Biennial?

    As a Curator working in an institution, curating is mostly teamwork. We choose the artists and exhibitions together and collaborate occasionally with guest curators. For the inaugural Helsinki Biennial, I was part of a curatorial team. As a coordinating curator, I worked closely with the head curators and the production team. It was the most challenging and rewarding exhibition I have ever been involved in, located on the former military island of Vallisaari. Every artwork’s practical realization and choice of materials were carried out in cooperation with specialists, considering the island’s unique nature and cultural history.

    My personal curatorial philosophy emphasises the careful selection and presentation of artworks that engage with environmental themes, sustainability, and ecological awareness. I value site-specific installations that harmonise with natural settings, encouraging viewers to experience art in a more immersive and holistic manner. A curator must balance artistic integrity with accessibility, ensuring that exhibitions are thought-provoking, meaningful, and engaging experiences for audiences. Most importantly, curating means taking care of the artists and the artworks, collaborating, supporting, and making things happen.

    8. How do you balance the roles of being both an artist and a curator? Do these roles complement each other or present challenges?

    Balancing an artistic career with a curatorial practice can be challenging but very rewarding. It requires careful planning, time management, and a clear understanding of how the two roles can complement each other. I cannot wear both hats simultaneously. Being a curator in an institution limits me in various ways, and my hands are tied in many respects.

    I confess that it was a bit terrifying to show my work in an exhibition for the first time after years of inactivity. I was known as a curator, and I felt like I had uninvitedly stepped into another territory, kind of the other side of the art world. Mostly, it was just a limitation I had made up for myself.

    9. How does living and working in Helsinki influence your art? Are there specific aspects of Finnish culture that are reflected in your work?

    I have to say that the colours and the light of the Finnish summertime, and perhaps a certain need for solitude, quietness, and peace, influence my work.

    10. How do collaborations with other artists and different mediums influence your creative process, especially considering projects like the Seven Prisoners VR/film project?

    Collaboration with other artists and mediums introduces new perspectives, techniques, and ideas that challenge my own practices. I was involved in Pawel Althamer’s work “Seven Prisoners” as an executive producer. The work was a Polish-Finnish collaboration with inmates of an open prison, and it expanded my horizons in numerous ways. That collaboration stimulated the creativity of all participants through dialogue, common drawing, spontaneous filming processes, shared experiences, imagination, and visions of multiple creators.

    11. What was your experience like working on the construction site fence painting project? How do you approach creating art in public spaces compared to traditional gallery settings?

    Art in public spaces is accessible to a wide audience, reaching people who might not typically visit galleries. I wanted the piece to create happiness and good energy in the environment. The painting was significantly larger in scale than my usual works and was designed to be visible in outdoor spaces. It needed to survive harsh weather conditions, so durability was carefully considered.

    12. How do you see the relationship between art and wellbeing, especially considering your meditation practice? Do you believe art has a healing power?

    Both creating and viewing art can reduce stress levels. The act of creating can be meditative, helping to calm the mind and body, while engaging with art can be a soothing and contemplative experience. The mindful creation process requires focus and concentration, helping to stay present in the moment.

    13. Where do you see your art and curatorial practice heading in the next five to ten years? Are there any dream projects you hope to pursue?

    I try to live in the present moment and remain open to all the possibilities the universe offers me to explore.

    14. Do you have a favourite medium to work with, whether it be painting, drawing, or printmaking? How do you decide which medium to use for a particular piece?

    I absolutely love drawing; it is the most natural thing for me to do. However, my favorite medium is painting with oil pastels. It is demanding, as the work can’t be easily fixed afterward, showing all the technique mistakes. I never choose a medium; the medium chooses the right day for it. Sometimes it is a slow oil painting with multiple thin layers; other times, it is a rapid and immediate oil pastel. Recently, I have also started experimenting with clay sculpting.

    15. What advice would you give to emerging artists who are just starting their careers and looking to find their unique voice?

    Always stay true to yourself.

    16. Outside of art and curating, what are some of your hobbies or interests? How do these activities feed into your creative practice?

    I love to travel! A few years ago, I started solo traveling, visiting places like New York, Iceland, Ireland, Poland, and Lithuania. Last summer, my adult sons and I traveled by bus around Albania. I also have an old and large garden full of fruit trees, berries, and flowers. I’m really inspired by the British cottage garden style. Both hobbies give me inspiration for my paintings, especially in using colours amidst November greyness. I also feel very relaxed having meditative forest walks or laying on the beach with a good book.

    17. Can you share a particularly memorable moment or achievement from your career that holds a special place in your heart?

    The most memorable moment was when a young person came to me and said, “Remember always that you were the biggest inspiration for me to have the courage to change the direction of my life.” I think there can’t ever be any achievement better than this.

    18. How do you view the role of art in building and nurturing community? Are there any specific projects or experiences where you’ve seen this impact firsthand?

    Art can bring people together and build a sense of community through shared experiences. Participating in group art projects helps people feel connected, supported, and more creative. I have been involved in many such projects: practicing drawing, painting, forming textile sculptures, and installations together. Probably the most impressive project was the filming process with the inmates, which had a massive impact on many lives.

    19. Our readers love to travel; what’s your favourite destination around the world and why?

    If I must choose only one destination, I will say Greece, especially the Ionian islands like Corfu, Kefalonia, and Ithaca. I love the culture, nature, people, food, colours, cats, sea—just everything. When I leave the islands, I always want to go back immediately.

    20. What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

    “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    21. Where can people follow you and find out more?

    You can visit my website and follow me on Instagram.

    For more inspiring stories, visit House of Coco.

    Paul J. Riley’s artistic journey is a compelling narrative of transformation and rediscovery.

    Originally trained in industrial design, Riley’s early career saw him creating innovative products for renowned brands like Haagen Dazs and Vivienne Westwood. However, a return to his artistic roots led him to embrace painting, where he combines his technical precision with a vibrant, free-spirited approach.

    Now residing in Grenada, Riley draws profound inspiration from the stunning landscapes of the Caribbean and his native Wales. His work, characterised by its dynamic compositions and rich, emotive themes, explores the interconnectedness of nature, personal resilience and the search for a higher power. Riley’s art is a testament to his enduring creativity and the powerful influence of his diverse experiences…

    Your journey as an artist has been truly fascinating, from your beginnings in industrial design to your rediscovery of painting after a hiatus. Can you walk us through the pivotal moments that shaped your artistic career?

    At school, I was always the kid winning the art competitions, though I never actually studied art due to curriculum clashes. I did engineering design because I liked the technical drawing and physical work with metal. Career advice was patchy back then, and for some reason, I ended up doing three science “A” levels, which I struggled with, and a first year of a degree in polymer chemistry. This included a day release in industrial design, where the lecturer let me straight onto the design BA degree course after one student left for medical reasons. From there, I went to the Royal College of Art.

    After my education, I formed a company and worked for eight years, during which we had a factory in Newcastle making plastic spoons for Haagen Dazs, as well as consultancy work until my first son was due to be born.

    Your diverse background includes designing products for renowned brands like Haagen Dazs and Vivienne Westwood. How has your experience in industrial design influenced your approach to painting?

    I always approach a canvas with a plan, which in design, we would call a brief. Although I’m not formally trained as a painter, I’m very obsessive about composition and line. These days, however, I usually stay as free as possible around the plan and let my second son mark the canvas if he’s present. Sometimes, this creates a new magic or added element.

    Many artists find inspiration in their surroundings. How have the landscapes of Wales and Grenada influenced your artistic style and themes?

    The sky and shadows here are higher and bigger, like an “L.A.” light at 7:00 am. I had spent over 20 years in London without seeing the horizon. Initially, I painted outrageous versions of the walking tree I can see from my window, which is like a cathedral full of iguanas, and the curve of the hillside opposite, which resembles a woman’s hips or part of an infinity symbol. The nothingness of the horizon reignited a spark in me, the feeling that nothing is forever. 

    I had some health challenges (heart attack, new hips, some medium-level addictions, and type 2 diabetes) and wanted to leave something behind for my sons. I had previously been working on a music project (Paul J Riley), but it gradually morphed into visual art in the new surroundings. My inspirational parents sent me paint as a hint to ease off the bar hopping, which gradually pulled me away from drinking and lit a fire under me for visual art.

    Your artwork is described as exploring the energy that connects us and the possibility of a higher power. Could you delve deeper into the concepts and emotions behind your work?

    Having had a heart attack, I have seen the light on the other side that people often describe. Here, we get what the Italians call chiaroscuro daily—those moments where you think there must be a god. I have a level of telepathy with my partner here, which inspires some of my work.

    In addition to your art, you’ve also pursued a music career under the name “Paul J. Riley.” How do you see music and visual art intersecting in your creative process?

    The music visits periodically. The last time, around 2015-17, when I sat down and listened to it, I realised it was telling me to get out there and love someone again. So, one art form bounces off the other. I lived in London for 30 years, and that produced a darker introspection in the painting and a useful biographical one in the music.

    Building your own house in Grenada must have been an incredible journey. How has living in Grenada impacted your creative mindset and artistic expression?

    Yes, if I had known how much work and money it would take, I probably wouldn’t have done it. We did it in small increments over about a year and a half. My first son reminded me that I had been meaning to do it for more than ten years, and I’m glad we did as it changed everything. We carved our names in a gum tree there. Meeting my life partner here, who also dreamed of living by the sea, made me realise that the time is now. Life is not a dress rehearsal, as someone once said. I no longer procrastinate. The landscape of Mongolia is mind-boggling, and I have a whole set of paintings planned from there.

    Your art seems deeply personal, reflecting your experiences and struggles. How do you navigate the balance between vulnerability and privacy in your work?

    I’m not sure it’s possible. I’ve never worked for anyone else, so I never developed a dividing line between home and work. I’m on a journey to inner space, and attempting to feed the algorithm on Instagram is the closest I’ve ever come to having a regular job. But I generally treat it like a portfolio, so it has a positive creative function in that it helps me know where I’m headed creatively. I don’t generally post pictures of my son looking at the camera, and my partner usually declines to be featured.

    You’ve exhibited your work in various prestigious venues, from Art Basel to Art Innsbruck. What have been some of the most memorable moments of your career so far?

    It’s fairly early days in this incarnation as a visual artist. Seeing lots of school kids picking my art out of a room of paintings at the national museum here in Grenada this year was memorable. When I was in college, the Victoria and Albert Museum took one of my design drawings for their permanent collection. At the time, it didn’t seem significant, but now I wish I had paid more attention to the career message! I’m about to do a solo show from April 24-30 at J/M Gallery in Portobello Road, London, which is quite exciting. There is a Geest boat with 56 paintings on its way to the UK as I write this.

    Can you share some insights into your creative process, from the initial spark of an idea to the finished artwork?

    I have a sketchbook next to me at breakfast, and I generally note down four or five ideas as the sun comes up before my brain jumps onto mundane thoughts. I run my second son to playgroup, then work on three or four paintings for an hour or two at the same time. It’s very hot, so there’s a lot of sweat and some self-criticism, but ultimately, it’s a bit like surfing or meditation. The paint dries quickly but isn’t ready for another layer for a few hours. Usually, my “12-cylinder painting brain” will get burned out, and I’ll switch to “8-cylinder practicalities” like making stretchers or whatever.

    Your use of acrylic and car paint on canvas and wood panels is quite unique. What draws you to these particular materials and techniques?

    The fact that car paint is available on a car-obsessed island and uses different thinners than acrylic (which is hard to get at good quality and always with a wait) means I can remove one without touching the other. The wood is usually recycled from shipping boxes, and often canvas is sewn together from smaller pieces as the idea grows (see “All That Glistens” or “The Penitent”).

    Parenthood is often a significant source of inspiration for artists. How has being a parent influenced your artwork and perspective on life?

    I watch my son’s carefree approach to mark-making and life itself and attempt to keep that with me as I work. We usually go swimming when he comes home around 3:30. I’m painting firstly for myself to keep me on the outward journey, but secondly to help him when I’m no longer on planet Earth.

    The theme of resilience shines through your art, despite your struggles with self-criticism and addiction. How has art helped you navigate these challenges?

    Art has definitely saved me, and life has given me more things to paint than I will have time to paint. I am lucky to be able to reinvent myself after a heart attack in 2011.

    Your work has been described as visually stunning with a unique Caribbean twist. How do you balance your Welsh roots with your life in Grenada in your artistic style?

    I have the darkness you get from a Welsh winter, with the hope of spring and the amazing shadows of a 7:00 am light. They both seem to go together. There is usually some sort of orb replacing the sun or moon, representing my fear and hope for whatever is going on in the painting.

    Exhibiting at the Grenada National Museum must have been a special moment. Can you share your thoughts on being part of such a significant event celebrating Grenada’s Golden Jubilee?

    It was fabulous to be included as an outsider and to see the reactions of the kids to a less than traditional style of art. It was also the longest exhibition by far.

    Your Instagram reels give us a glimpse into your creative process. How do you use social media to connect with your audience and share your art?

    It’s very useful to ask yourself, “What am I trying to communicate?” Otherwise, I’m very isolated living in this part of the world. Generally, I use it as a portfolio (the stills), and the reels can be a bit annoying as they distract from the process if I have to film them. But I now have someone who will come out and shoot for me!

    Looking back on your career, what advice would you give to aspiring artists who are just starting on their creative journey?

    “Keep on keeping on.” I’ve tended to get distracted after the eight-year mark in other creative fields, so I would say just keep going!

    Your paintings “How It Began” and “Experimental Landscape” were featured at the Grenada National Museum exhibition “Infinite Futures.” What inspired these particular pieces, and what message do you hope viewers take away from them?

    I replaced the sun with a giant blue marble in “How It Began” and a steel ball bearing in “Experimental Landscape.” They can be enjoyed on any level, but to me, they comment on the imminent threat of the world we live in, whether by virus, nature, or war, and also the passage of time, with figures passing blissfully through unaware of world events as we often are here.

    The energy of nature seems to be a recurring theme in your work. How do you capture that essence on canvas, and what emotions do you hope to evoke in your audience?

    I paint with velocity, working on five or six paintings at once, and tend to ignore colour theory! Trees are like cities with whole communities interdependent. The colours are so big they bleed from the edges, and the painting changes as the sun moves over.

    There are oak trees in my parents’ valley as old as the Domesday Book, and the place where I built my house feels like it has energy lines culminating in a giant banyan at the end of the garden. When I saw the piece of land, I said “yes” immediately.

    Your art has evolved significantly since your days at the Royal College of Art. How do you see your style and themes developing in the future?

    I have a young mind, I’m told, but backed up with a lot of mistakes and oubliettes: “colourful with a hint of danger.”

    Our readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    Grenada, of course, but for what it doesn’t have rather than what it does. It’s a slower pace of life with time to think, a great place to write, paint, and compose.

    Where can people follow you and find out more about your career?

    Yes, @pjrileyart has my newest work, and @riley_archive has the older work. Also, www.pjriley.com.

    Paul J. Riley’s story is a testament to the transformative power of art and the enduring spirit of creativity. His journey from industrial design to painting and the unique blend of technical skill and emotive expression in his work, offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a true artist. As Riley continues to explore new horizons and push the boundaries of his craft, his art remains a vivid reflection of his life’s experiences and the beauty he finds in the world around him.

    To discover more inspiring stories of creativity, resilience, and artistic innovation, visit House of Coco. Immerse yourself in the journeys of artists from around the globe, each with their unique tales and visions that will leave you inspired and eager for more.

    In the ever-evolving landscape of business events, one woman stands out for her relentless pursuit of inclusivity, empowerment and sheer joy—Dani Wallace. As the founder of The BIG Festoon, Dani has revolutionised the traditional business event format, creating a space that not only educates but also celebrates the diversity and potential of every individual.

    When asked about the inspiration behind The BIG Festoon, Dani candidly shares her frustration with the typical business events that often feature monotonous, homogeneous speakers. She envisioned something radically different—a dynamic, inclusive event where people from all backgrounds could come together to learn, feel inspired and experience the joy of a truly accommodating space. Thus, The BIG Festoon was born, now recognised as the fastest-growing, actively inclusive business and personal development event for entrepreneurs and change-makers in the North West of the UK.

    Dani’s journey is nothing short of extraordinary. Growing up on the council estates of Preston, she faced and overcame the adversities of domestic violence, homelessness and single parenthood. Her resilience and determination to transform her life led her to discover her mission: to help others realise their potential and fly, just as she did.

    Looking ahead, Dani has ambitious plans for The BIG Festoon, including expanding internationally and continuing to create transformative events. Her dedication to staying connected with her audience through live shows and community engagement ensures that her impact extends far beyond the event itself.

    Her message is clear: success is for everyone, and together, we can achieve greatness. In this interview, we find out more from Dani herself…

    The big festoon

    What inspired you to create The Big Festoon, and how does it reflect your journey and values?

    Honestly? I was really fucking tired of sub-par business events that only featured pale, stale and male speakers that only went surface deep on the topics they were covering and were really, mindnumbingly dull. I was tired of seeing the speaking arena not reflecting the richness of the world; not seeing a space where people from all backgrounds and all communities could come together, learn, feel inspired and feel the joy that happens when you link arms safely in a space that’s accommodating for you. That wants to hear from you and champion you.

    So The BIG Festoon is now the fastest–growing, actively inclusive, joyful business and personal development event for entrepreneurs and change-makers based in the North West of the UK.

    I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come- the whole event is grounded in the notion that ‘we all do well when we ALL do well ; a core value of both IATQB and The BIG Festoon that expresses that success is safe for all of us, and it’s all our responsibility as a society to ensure that we do everything in our power to remove barriers to learning, and to make events, and the wider speaking arena, as accommodating, welcoming and accessible for every person who wants to be there.

    And so that’s what we’re doing-It’s my mission to create safe spaces to hold conversations that matter, and The BIG Festoon is rooted in talks that get to the heart of real issues in the safest of spaces to create tangible change on subjects such as LGBTQIA+, mental health, neurodiversity, finance, relationships, business development, marketing, and so much more. 

    Can you share a pivotal moment in your life that motivated you to rebuild and share your experiences with others?

    Having grown up on the council estates of Preston, I’ve survived the adversity of domestic violence, homelessness and single parenthood to become a leading voice in empowerment and now I’ve made it my absolute mission to encourage others to overcome their challenges too. 

    In the hardest of those days, when my mental health was at its worst, I realised that either life was going to keep happening to me, or I’d better start happening to life.

    So, I made a choice.

    I decided to start doing the things I needed to do to get myself into a position of strength.

    I chose to take back control.

    I threw myself into building myself back up. I consumed personal development books like they were going out of fashion, and I set to work on trying to like myself and, even-tually, love myself again.

    It was a hard slog, clawing my way back from the brink but I swore to myself that I would never allow myself to feel that desolate and desperate again.

    Pre starting my business, and a couple of years later, I was watching Bee Movie with my kids and there was this quote at the start that just floored me:

    “According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground.

    The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.”

    The realisation hit me like a bolt of lightning. I finally knew my purpose. 

    I chose to fly anyway.

    I also chose to make it my mission to help anyone that I was able to realise that they too could choose to fly too, no matter what they’d been through or are currently going through now. 

    Since then, telling this story, and in turn, helping others tell their own stories, has become my mission because our stories are powerful and have the potential to become another person’s survival guide.

    How did your background in corporate leadership training influence the creation and execution of your events?

    Even when I was back in corporate leadership, I’ve always wanted to teach and to lead. So that’s always been something that I’ve carried with me, right from the earliest moments of my career. I think by not feeling fulfilled, wanting ‘more’, and feeling like I had no proper purpose (or enjoyment) in the corporate world, actually, it gave me the strongest motivation to discover what I’d been put on this planet to do. And then when I realised my mission and could see the bigger picture, I was determined to make sure as many people as possible never felt like I did. So that’s what we celebrate and nurture at The BIG Festoon; leaning all the way into your mission, fervently using your voice to bring others on that journey with you, and championing ‘wanting more’. 

    What challenges did you face while building your business from the ground up, and how did you overcome them?

    Oof- I faced a LOT of challenges, but I think the biggest one I overcame was self-sabotage. I realised that because of the adversities I’d been through, I was still unintentionally holding onto a lot of the baggage I’d acquired from being homeless, and from my previous relationships; it was heavy, things from my experiences that were then shaping the way I was approaching my business decisions and the way in which I viewed myself and my capabilities.
    Ultimately, I realised that I couldn’t change what had happened but I could change the way I approached the future. I could release the stuff that was no longer serving me and put that baggage down. I decided to thank Past Dani for being so resilient and committed pretty much there and then to making her proud with the moves I made in the future.  

    The atmosphere at The Big Festoon was incredibly inclusive. Can you elaborate on why inclusivity is a priority for you, and how it enhances the event experience?

    So I think now more than ever, people are waking up and recognising that if we’re not actively creating an inclusive culture where conversations can happen safely, then we’re not representing vast swathes of people who need their voices to be heard. People who need to see themselves represented on stage to know it’s safe for them to speak up and do the same.

    People can only see what’s possible for themselves when they can see what’s possible for themselves. That’s what me and my team are doing with The BIG Festoon. We’re inspiring people to use their voices and be part of a conversation that transcends across various demographics and generations to really hammer home that we all do well when we all do well and that success is safe for all. 

    Seeing the ripple effects that happen when a voice from an underrepresented community is given a true platform to share their lived experience is everything. They gain confidence. They put themselves forward for new opportunities. Their business gains more traction because they have more self-belief and start leading from the front. They’re celebrated and championed. They realise it’s safe to speak. And then on the other hand, the audience gains a richer experience and understanding from hearing their words, leading to them having more consideration for what life is like in another’s shoes. They change their behaviours and their attitudes and approach things differently.

    For me, it’s affirming. It’s fulfilling. And it shows how a series of small actions can lead to long lasting societal change. 

    How do you balance the energetic and fun elements of The Big Festoon with the serious topics of mindset and self-improvement?

    The balance is everything! That’s why The BIG Festoon is so unique and I think so many of our community love it so much- because we’ve nailed the blend between that sometimes heavy, tangible business/ life development work and huge, copious amounts of joy. I don’t know about you, but I always learn better if I’m enjoying myself, if I’m being entertained at the same time. For me, it anchors that feeling of fun and laughter and warmth and joy alongside those key learnings, which actually means I’m going to remember what’s been said and I’m more likely to do something with it. So yeah, that’s why I’ve curated an event that’s rooted in edutainment, because I want our attendees to learn and laugh and feel lifted and inspired to take action.

    Could you discuss the role of community in your journey and how it contributes to the success of your events?

    When I say that there is NO community like The IATQB community, I mean it. So I built an audience from going live in my car, chatting to people about the challenges and wins and scrapes I got myself in when I was just starting out in business. And people really resonated with that, for 2 reasons. 1- by seeing me, just farting about, getting ready, and being me, it made it a less scary thing for them to drop their guard and go live and show up and be more visible. And then 2, they became invested in my journey as I went from having faced the adversities that I’d been through, to where I am now.


    The love, the yearning for education to make things better for all, the support and the championing that goes on in IATQB Hive, which is my incredible online community space, is just beautiful to see. And as you’ll know, when we swarm on mass to The BIG Festoon, we welcome people in like we’ve always known them. And that is magical. It’s not just a trite marketing phrase- my community really does festoon, they link arms with each other, and our events flourish largely in part to that feeling of togetherness. 

    How do you ensure that the speakers at The Big Festoon, many of whom are new to public speaking, feel empowered to share their stories authentically?

    The majority of the speakers are people new to public speaking -but I work with them for at least 6 months to help them craft their talks to share their missions. Many established business owners can get on stage and share advice and knowledge based on their business -it’s a different thing altogether to stand up there and share vulnerability and personal stories -and many hide from doing this part, for years – but this is what is needed if we really want to connect to people as human beings.

    I have a whole range of public speaking programmes for incredible humans who are ready to take their visibility, their confidence and their ability to speak about their business and mission message to the next level. These have been specifically designed to allow business owners and change-makers to learn straight from ME and also create and practise their brand-spanking-new speaking skills in the safest of spaces.

    I work with my clients to teach them EVERYTHING they need to know to break free of those speaking fears so they’re ready to take to the stage, and make more money with their words.

    Can you tell us more about The Fly Away Foundation and its mission to support domestic abuse survivors in entrepreneurship?

    It was always my intention, from the second I heard the Bee Movie quote about bees caring not what humans think is impossible, to create a foundation that would help survivors of domestic abuse build businesses so that they could do just that, Fly Anyway.

    Taking back control of your life after you have escaped a toxic relationship is incredibly difficult. Learning to trust yourself, your talents and believing in your worth as an independent, whole person is a constant struggle, especially if you are trying to do that on your own.

    The Fly Anyway Foundation was launched in 2020 to help survivors access some of the best business mentors and business service providers in the UK and eventually globally, to help them to build successful and sustainable businesses.

    What impact do you hope to make with your foundation, both in the short term and in the long run?

    Engaging with the Fly Anyway Foundation not only gives our service users access to exceptional business experts and services but encourages them to be a part of a community that understands and creates a space for them to get excited about their lives again, as opposed to living in fear and victimhood.

    In what ways do you believe your events and foundation contribute to changing the landscape of business events and support networks for survivors of domestic abuse?

    Well, for one we’re not boring! We don’t force anyone to do the mexican wave of shit that normally happens at business events and networking meetings where you’re pushed to pitch yourself in 60 secs in front of a room of business suits. But more than that, we’re changing the way that people approach the idea of ‘business development events’ in the first place. We want people to come away feeling excited- The BIG Festoon is like no other event in the business calendar for a reason. It’s fun, it’s energetic, and thought-provoking all at the same time.

    And then when you combine that with the fact that we’re intentionally inclusive, it’s like a bat signal to others that this is the place for them. That we’re a safe bet where they can further their business and develop without worrying about feeling accepted.  We welcome everyone and actively welcome guests who are neurodivergent, LGBTQIA+ or disabled, along with members of the black community, having made sure we have created a safe environment for them with active representation, good accessibility throughout the venue, sensory breakout areas, captioned screens, and things like non gendered toilets and pronoun badges if people wish to use them. And that’s how we’re changing the game for business events.

    How do you see the intersection between personal development and business growth, and how does The Big Festoon address this?

    It comes back to that concept of edutainment again- bringing the fun, finding the joy and combining that with learning and development pieces that are going to raise the bar and change the game for entrepreneurs and changemakers, no matter where they’re at in their journey. 

    What strategies do you employ to maintain resilience and positivity, especially when faced with setbacks or challenges?

    So my days are always full on, and I’m rarely not on the go. So staying mindful and trying to find pockets of time where I can just be, is mega important for my own bandwidth and for seeing through the long term projects that I’ve got in the pipeline. And they’re huge, like my documentary screening at Leicester Square, our first ever IATQB international event in November, moving to a 2500 person arena for our 2026 event. HUGE. Sometimes it feels too big, and that’s where I have to dig deep, find that resilience and remember I’m capable of doing BIG things.

    My Lumi pod is great for cold water dipping which I have found transformational for the mindset shifts. Other than that, give me a good blanket, time with my family and my kids and that’s usually enough to see me through and recharge my batteries when I’m tired. I give myself the same grace to rest that I would afford others.  

    Could you share a particularly memorable moment or success story from one of your events that encapsulates the spirit of The Big Festoon?

    I’m going to talk about my costumes for a sec because I feel like they need the limelight. I’ve been on that stage dressed as Freddie Mercury, a giant poo, Wonder Woman, a Playboy Bunny, in a bright blue shellsuit…it’s my absolute dream to have them all up in glass cases like in a museum at some point. My team says I’m like Elton John and I’m here for it. 

    What future plans do you have for expanding your events or initiatives, both locally and beyond?

    Omg, the plans are endless haha. So The BIG Festoon 2025 sold out in under 48 hours- it was so fast that we had to call an emergency team meeting to turn off tickets lol. But before the end of this year, so much is already happening…we’ve got our BIG Festoon documentary screening in Leicester Square in August, which is just massive and an absolute dream come true. That’s focussing on our journey from a 50 delegate event to a 10000 delegate event and the effects of what The BIG Festoon is all about. 

    We are road tripping The BIG Festoon from the North to The South in September, as we head to the UK’s biggest business FESTIVAL, IdeasFest…we’ve got our own festival tent and stage which is just going to be the most delicious experience for us all and a baptism of fire for IdeasFest as they get a real taste of the mayhem and madness of The BIG Festoon. 

    And then we’re going global! I’m hosting my first ever LA event with the incredible Mike Ganino in November…so yeah it’s all happening here! 

    How do you stay connected with your audience and community, both online and offline, between events?

    I go live in my community 3 times a week via my fake telly show- The Show Up Wise Up Rise Up show which is all about delivering the motivation, learnings and a hefty dose of celebration for every single member of my community. It really unites us all together. I also love encouraging my community to support our sister events that I know to be safe and just run by genuinely good people who want to do good things; Atomicon, Expert Expires, Shake It Up, there’s loads more but yeah, it’s always amazing when my community turn up together- it’s a lot of black and yellow!

    Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    Oh wow…I mean, there’s so much more of the world that I want to see and experience- I’ve always wanted to go to South America, particularly like Argentina so I can go experience the squares and the people and indulge in the culture, especially to learn the tango!

    I’ve been lucky enough in my previous career to sing all over the world from Lanzarote to the USA, to all kinds of places in between…I’ve even worked in Lapland! Last year I did a rickshaw run in Sri Lanka and that was one of the most humbling and beautiful experiences of my life. This year I went on a solo trip to LA and I’m heading back there in November. So travel is definitely something I see more of in my future!

    Lastly, what legacy do you hope to leave through your work, both professionally and personally?

    I want people to know success, wealth, happiness and all the other good stuff out there in the world isn’t reserved for anyone. It’s ours for the taking, it’s there to be claimed, if you’re brave enough to stretch out those arms and seize it. Take the risk. Be brave. Success is safe. And we all win when we all win, so let’s keep festooning together. 

    Where can people follow you and find out more?

    You can find me across the socials @thequeenbeedani and you can find out all about our upcoming events and our next BIG Festoon at IdeasFest in September by heading to www.TheBIGFestoon.co.uk.

    Discover more inspiring stories like Dani Wallace’s journey of empowerment and transformation by exploring House of Coco‘s latest features.

    House of Coco had the pleasure of sitting down with Lesley Boerio, the brilliant founder behind L&Clay Ceramics. With a background in fashion and e-commerce spanning nearly two decades, Lesley has seamlessly transitioned into the world of ceramics, creating a brand that is both bold and deeply personal. Her journey, marked by resilience and a newfound passion for clay, offers a rich tapestry of inspiration and creativity.

    In this interview, Lesley opens up about her experiences, from the challenges of workplace bullying to the joy of discovering ceramics. She shares how her professional expertise has informed her entrepreneurial journey, blending marketing savvy with artistic expression to build L&Clay Ceramics. Lesley’s work is celebrated for its imperfections, vibrant colours and the unique integration of text, reflecting her love for words and music.

    Join us as we explore Lesley Boerio’s fascinating story, her creative process and the future of L&Clay Ceramics. This is a tale of transformation, passion, and the power of handmade art, offering a glimpse into the life of a remarkable artist and entrepreneur…

    L& clay ceramics

    What initially sparked your interest in ceramics and led you to establish L&Clay Ceramics?

    I’ve been working in fashion and e-commerce for almost 18 years. While many of those years were enjoyable and successful, I was bullied out of two jobs in a row and was left with PTSD from workplace bullying. It was the darkest time of my life. After this experience, I was offered a freelance role, which gave me more flexible hours. This allowed me to take a ceramics class every Friday morning. I utterly loved it, and it sparked a passion in me that I hadn’t felt for years. I’m now a member of that same studio and can easily spend 10 hours there making work. Creating my brand felt like a very natural step.

    With your background in e-commerce and marketing, how do you merge your expertise with your passion for ceramics to create a successful brand like L&Clay?

    For years, I’ve helped other designers and brands with their e-commerce, online sales, and digital marketing. There was always a niggling voice in my mind saying, “I’d love to do this for myself,” but I always needed a product. Now I have one—my own ceramics. It feels like everything has fallen into place. I’ve been able to set up my own website, manage the SEO, and start building a database for my email marketing, using all my expertise in the field of e-commerce but now for my own creations.

    Your pieces are described as bold and striking. What inspires the designs and motifs you incorporate into your ceramic creations?

    I’ve always loved words and text in art, from posters and logos to the paintings of Rose Wylie, and color was always going to factor greatly. I found myself turning to lyrics to always have something written on my work, and I love the idea of someone seeing one of my pieces and finding a deeper meaning with the words.

    Can you walk us through your creative process from idea conception to the finished product? How do you bring your visions to life?

    I always sketch my ideas and get them down on paper for fear of forgetting them. I find that just hearing a song or seeing someone in a colorful outfit will spark an idea. Then I quickly move into the studio and start making. I’m not fussed about the piece being an exact representation of the drawing. Clay has a way of going in its own direction. I never move far away from the initial idea, however, and once it’s in my mind, I won’t deviate or change anything. After the bisque firing, I add underglaze, which is becoming my favorite part of the process, adding in color and all of the details. Then I cover the piece in transparent glaze that adds the shine, and it goes into the kiln once again. You can’t get too hopeful about the end result, as you can never really predict what will happen in both firings—it’s always a bit of a surprise.

    Handmade ceramics often celebrate imperfections and uniqueness. How do these qualities influence the identity and aesthetic of L&Clay Ceramics?

    When I first started ceramics, I realised that you have to let go of trying to make things look perfect. I think that was a good lesson for me, and I was able to shake off my ideals of what a perfect vase would look like. I embrace the marks left in the clay and the wobbly nature of some pieces. Not all my letters will be even and straight, and not all the edges are completely smooth, and I love that. It needs to look tactile and handmade.

    What challenges have you encountered along your journey of establishing and growing L&Clay Ceramics, and how have you overcome them?

    Just getting the brand name out there is a work in progress. I want people to recognize my style and for it to become a “must-have” item. My trinket trays are the current bestseller, and I love the fact that people have purchased one of them for their home. It’s such a compliment. There’s so much more marketing I can do, and I take it step by step.

    Text and ceramics are fused in your work. Could you share some insights into how you integrate text into your ceramic pieces and the significance behind it?

    I remember the first time I saw the sweaters made by Bella Freud. It was a picture of Kate Moss wearing a black jumper with white text on the front, and I just fell in love with it. As soon as I started making my own work in ceramics, I knew that words would be a main feature. I’m inspired by song lyrics and like to choose a sentence from a song that might not be the most obvious.

    Your ceramics make colourful statements in any home. How do you approach colour selection and experimentation in your designs?

    No colour is off the table. I love to choose two or three that might not always be seen together and combine them. It’s the easiest part of the design process for me.

    As an artist and entrepreneur, how do you balance the creative aspects of your work with the business side of running L&Clay Ceramics?

    I have to make sure that at least one morning is dedicated to the business side. I’m very organized, and I know how important admin, replying to emails, and sticking to deadlines are. Two days a week, I am in the studio, which is obviously the best part, and I relish my time there.

    Collaboration is often a powerful tool in the creative industry. Have you collaborated with any other artists or brands? If not, is it something you’re interested in exploring?

    I haven’t collaborated yet with any artists or brands, but I would absolutely love to. I can see my pieces working really well for multiple companies that might want to do special editions or celebratory pieces outside of their usual range. The dream for me would be working with Diptyque, creating a candle holder for them or something similar.

    Sustainability is increasingly important in the world of design. How does L&Clay Ceramics prioritise sustainability in its production processes and materials?

    My studio is a co-op and a shared space, run by Tatiana and Ana Baskakova. Their dedication to sustainability is unprecedented. They recycle all of the clay, so even a dry scrap will be used again. The kilns are electric, and we have a big focus on re-using packaging. We also have a “free” box, so if there’s a piece you’ve made that you really don’t like, it goes in this box for someone else to have instead of being destroyed and thrown away.

    Can you share any memorable moments or milestones from your journey with L&Clay Ceramics that have left a lasting impact on you?

    Being invited to showcase my work in British Vogue has been huge as I’m such a fan of the magazine, and I’ve been accepted to sell my work through some of the top homeware websites of the moment, like Holly and Co, The Oblist, and Glassette. It’s genuinely such an honor to have such valued companies see my work and like it.

    What advice would you give to aspiring ceramic artists or entrepreneurs looking to pursue their creative passions and start their own businesses?

    If you love it, just do it. Don’t let fear get the better of you and don’t overthink it.

    Social media has become a powerful tool for artists and designers to showcase their work. How do you utilise social platforms to connect with your audience and showcase L&Clay Ceramics?

    Instagram is the front runner for me, being of a certain generation, and I’m only just getting used to reels! I learned a lot of tips from my time at Sophia Webster, as Instagram was such a huge focus for her at that time. I understand the mix of content that works: product imagery, lifestyle pictures, and not being scared to show behind-the-scenes and the “real life” behind the glossy images. I’ve also found a fantastic ceramics community on Instagram where artists really support and congratulate each other on successes and career milestones.

    In what ways do you see L&Clay Ceramics evolving in the future? Are there any new techniques or styles you’re excited to explore?

    I’d love to branch out to embroidery and clothing—with the L&Clay touch, of course. I’d have a huge set of new skills to learn, but I do think they would all work really well together.

    Lesley, could you share any behind-the-scenes insights into your studio space and creative environment? How does your workspace influence your creative process?

    It’s my favorite place in London—a shared space that is calm and supportive. I’ve not questioned my work or been embarrassed to create exactly what is in my mind. It’s been so freeing. I know whatever I create will be enjoyed and celebrated, even though it’s vastly different from anyone else’s work.

    Your career has spanned various industries. How has your diverse background influenced your approach to ceramics and entrepreneurship?

    I think I’ve just learned a lot, from teamwork to how to really communicate with customers and clients effectively, as well as the complexities of running a business. Above all, I know to treat everyone with kindness, and I will continue to do that all of the time.

    Our readers love to travel; what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    I’ve just got back from Lake Bled in Slovenia, which I would recommend to everyone! Next on the list is the Amalfi Coast and Seville!

    Looking back since launching the brand, is there anything you would do differently?

    Nothing at all. It’s very early stages, and I’m enjoying every step. It’s a journey, and I’m in it for the long term.

    Finally, what do you hope people feel or experience when they interact with L&Clay Ceramics products? What impression do you want your brand to leave on the world?

    I’d love people to see the humor in my work. My hope is that no matter how bad your day may be, you can walk past one of my pieces in your home, and it will make you smile.

    For those looking to explore more captivating stories and interviews with inspiring creators, make sure to delve into the treasure trove of content available at House of Coco. Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes glimpses into the lives of talented artists and entrepreneurs who are making waves in the creative industry.

    Introducing the vibrant force behind Kashmir Swimwear, the effervescent Hannah Redgrave! With a zest for life and a passion for fashion, Hannah’s journey from dreamer to founder is as colourful as the swimwear she designs. Born from her love affair with Australia’s beach culture, Hannah’s story is one of inspiration, determination and a sprinkle of wanderlust.

    Imagine a sun-kissed coastline, where the rhythm of the waves meets the beat of a pulsating city. It was here, amidst the laid-back vibes of Sydney, that Hannah found herself captivated by the allure of swimwear design. After five years soaking in the Aussie lifestyle, Hannah returned home with a burning desire to create her own fashion empire, with swimwear as her canvas.

    Driven by her insatiable wanderlust and an unwavering love for fashion, Hannah embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. Drawing inspiration from her travels, nature’s wonders and the eclectic energy of urban landscapes, she set out to redefine luxury swimwear. And thus, Kashmir Swimwear was born – a manifestation of Hannah’s vibrant spirit and commitment to empowering women of all shapes, sizes and ages.

    But Hannah’s journey is more than just about crafting beautiful swimwear; it’s a tale of resilience, creativity, and the unwavering belief in oneself. From sketching designs on sandy shores to making her debut at photoshoots in Sydney, every step of Hannah’s journey reflects her boundless passion for her craft.

    Get ready to be inspired, uplifted and transported to a world where confidence reigns supreme and every woman is celebrated for her unique beauty…

    Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Kashmir Swimwear and the journey from concept to creation?

    Living in Australia for five years, where beach culture is a way of life, ignited my passion for designing swimwear. I’ve always dreamed of owning a fashion brand, particularly in swimwear, as I have a deep love for it and travel. Each holiday, I found myself packing numerous bikinis, and the thrill of shopping for swimwear and wearing it became a profound source of inspiration. This led to the creation of Kashmir Swimwear. I’ve developed two custom prints, initially inspired by an episode of “Sex in the City” featuring Carrie in the iconic Dior newspaper dress by John Galliano. These prints reflect my vibrant, bold, and colourful personality, which I aim to convey through my swimwear designs.

    The name “Kashmir Swimwear” was one of my initial choices. Kashmir, a region in India known as “paradise on earth” for its beauty, embodies the essence of the brand. Our slogan, “Kashmir Swimwear – Where luxury swimwear meets paradise on earth,” suggests that wearing Kashmir is akin to experiencing paradise.

    Your brand emphasises empowering women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. How do you ensure inclusivity and diversity in your designs and marketing?

    At Kashmir Swimwear, inclusivity and diversity are fundamental values. We believe that every woman, regardless of her body shape, size, or age, deserves to feel confident and empowered in her swimwear. Currently offering sizes from XS to XL, we plan to expand our size range as the brand grows, ensuring every woman finds her perfect fit and feels fabulous in our swimwear.

    Our marketing showcases models of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds to highlight inclusivity and representation. Focusing on body positivity and self-love, we celebrate women as they are, using uplifting messages to inspire them to embrace and appreciate their bodies.

    Sustainability is at the core of Kashmir Swimwear’s ethos. Could you elaborate on the ethical practices and eco-friendly initiatives incorporated into your production process?

    As a startup, our journey toward sustainability is ongoing. We prioritise a slow production process that values quality over quantity. Our manufacturers meticulously craft each swimwear piece with precision and care, reducing our environmental impact and ensuring high standards of quality and luxury.

    Minimising waste is a top priority. We carefully plan production to avoid excess inventory and repurpose or recycle leftover fabric for garment sampling or other creative uses, thereby reducing our environmental footprint. Additionally, our packaging is designed to be both luxurious and environmentally friendly, using 100% biodegradable and recyclable materials.

    Kashmir Swimwear aims to create timeless pieces that transcend trends. How do you balance incorporating current fashion elements while maintaining a classic aesthetic?

    Balancing current fashion elements with a classic aesthetic is central to our design philosophy. We start with classic shapes, such as sleek bikinis and sophisticated cover-ups, ensuring our swimwear stands the test of time. By using high-quality materials and craftsmanship, we create pieces that not only look beautiful but also endure. Our goal is for women to cherish our classic pieces for years to come, maintaining their elegance and style season after season.

    Your swimwear is described as luxurious and sophisticated. How do you ensure both comfort and style in your designs?

    We carefully blend luxury and sophistication with comfort and style by using high-quality materials, ergonomic designs, and meticulous attention to detail. Our goal is for our customers to feel both chic and comfortable in every piece, allowing them to exude confidence and elegance effortlessly.

    Can you walk us through the process of creating a new swimwear collection, from initial idea generation to the final product?

    The creative process begins with inspiration drawn from various sources, such as nature, art, travel, and fashion trends. We then brainstorm ideas and create mood boards to solidify our vision. Next, we develop digital mock-ups, paying close attention to factors like shape, fabric selection, and functionality. After creating samples and refining designs, we move to final production, ensuring each piece meets our standards of quality and luxury. It’s a rewarding journey seeing our collections come to life.

    In what ways does Kashmir Swimwear go beyond being just a fashion brand to embody a lifestyle?

    Kashmir Swimwear represents not only quality swimwear but also a distinct lifestyle characterised by luxury, elegance, and self-expression. It’s about celebrating individuality and empowerment, inspiring women to embrace life boldly and confidently. By embodying these core values, we aim to make a positive impact on women’s lives beyond just fashion.

    Personal empowerment is a key focus for your brand. How do you envision your swimwear empowering women who wear it?

    We envision our swimwear as more than just garments; they’re tools for self-expression, confidence, and empowerment. By celebrating diversity, prioritising comfort, and encouraging self-expression, we empower women to embrace their authentic selves and live life with passion and purpose.

    Are there any particular success stories or moments that stand out to you since starting Kashmir Swimwear?

    The first photoshoot in Sydney was incredibly rewarding, seeing models wearing my brand. Additionally, my first sale, the high-waisted set Ophelia in Pearl, was a memorable moment. Packing up that order and ensuring it was perfect highlighted the journey from concept to creation.

    Collaborations can be powerful in the fashion industry. Are there any dream collaborations you have in mind for the future?

    Collaborating with icons like Victoria Beckham to create an exclusive swimwear collection would be a dream come true. I admire her impeccable style and drive, and I envision a collection that captivates audiences and leaves a lasting impression. Additionally, showcasing Kashmir Swimwear at Miami Swimweek alongside other renowned brands is another dream of mine, bringing our brand to a wider audience.

    What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own sustainable fashion brands?

    Believe in yourself and your vision, and overcome any limiting beliefs or imposter syndrome. Work hard, stay determined, and save diligently to invest in your business. While challenges will arise, remember that there’s room for everyone in the industry, and your unique perspective can make a significant impact. Pursue sustainability from the outset, carefully selecting suppliers and materials aligned with your brand values.

    How do you source materials for your swimwear, and what factors do you consider when selecting suppliers?

    Selecting suitable suppliers is challenging but crucial. After evaluating numerous options and reviewing samples, we choose suppliers that meet our standards and align with our brand values. When sourcing materials, we prioritise luxurious yet durable fabrics that withstand exposure to sun, sand, and sea. The entire process involves thorough review and consideration to ensure every detail aligns with our expectations.

    Body positivity is an important aspect of your brand. How do you promote body acceptance and confidence through your marketing and messaging?

    We prioritise body positivity in our marketing and messaging by celebrating the beauty of diversity and authenticity. Our imagery features models of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, showcasing the scale of female beauty across our channels. During photoshoots, we create a supportive environment where models embrace their unique beauty and imperfections, celebrating them as natural and beautiful features. Through our messaging, we aim to inspire women to love and embrace their bodies exactly as they are.

    What do you envision for the future of Kashmir Swimwear, both in terms of growth and impact?

    I envision expanding into resort wear and launching more styles and collections that embody our values of luxury and sophistication. Prioritising inclusivity, we aim to expand our size range and diversity of models, ensuring every woman feels fabulous in Kashmir Swimwear. We’ll continue learning and improving our operational methods to reduce our environmental footprint. Overall, I see the brand growing and making a positive impact by staying true to our values of empowerment, sustainability, and luxury.

    Our readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    The Amalfi Coast is at the top of my bucket list. The breathtaking views, rich culture, and amazing beaches make it an ideal destination, not to mention the delicious Italian cuisine.

    What’s your go-to quote when lacking motivation?

    “I am where I need to be on the journey right now” and “risking is better than regretting” are two quotes that inspire me to keep moving forward, especially during challenging times.

    Lastly, what message would you like to convey to the readers of House of Coco Magazine about Kashmir Swimwear and its mission?

    Kashmir Swimwear is more than just swimwear; it’s a lifestyle. We encourage women to celebrate their uniqueness and create cherished memories in our swimwear. Join us in redefining beauty, fostering confidence, and making a positive impact on women’s lives and the world.

    Where can people follow you and find out more?

    You can follow us on Instagram @kashmirswimwear, Facebook at Kashmir Swimwear, or visit our website www.kashmir-swimwear.com.

    As we bid adieu to the captivating journey of Hannah and Kashmir Swimwear, we invite you to continue exploring the world of fashion, empowerment, and inspiration within the pages of House of Coco Magazine. Dive deeper into the stories of visionaries, trailblazers and dreamers who dare to defy convention and shape the world around them.

    Step into the mesmerising world of Mano, a Hungarian painter whose artistic journey intertwines with a deep love for nature and a fascination with the human experience. Through the strokes of her brush, Mano captures the essence of our Earth’s breathtaking landscapes and the diverse tapestry of humanity that inhabits it.

    Born from a passion for exploration and inspired by encounters with fascinating people and places around the globe, Mano’s artwork is a testament to the beauty and wonder of our world. From the tranquil shores of Lake Balaton to the bustling streets of Vienna and Rome, her paintings transport viewers to captivating scenes filled with light, colour and emotion.

    Mano’s art speaks to the soul, inviting us to see the world through her eyes and discover the magic that lies within…

    Your journey as an artist has taken you across the globe, from Hungary to Sweden, Israel, Italy, and beyond. How have these diverse cultural experiences influenced your artistic style and subject matter?

    Art has always played a significant role in my life. Even in my childhood, I loved to draw, and later to paint. In my adult life, both my work and my husband’s have brought us to different countries, leading us to travel extensively with our family. Discovering new landscapes, meeting foreign people, and experiencing different cultures have been incredibly exciting for me. For an artist, this is more than just a challenge; it’s a rich tapestry of inspiration. 

    These significant life experiences and cultural encounters have profoundly influenced me. I’ve endeavoured to capture the beauty of these varied experiences in my artworks. One memorable incident occurred when the Mayor of Sydney visited one of my solo exhibitions in Budapest. After viewing a painting depicting a Scandinavian port with its typical red houses, he exclaimed, “Oh, now I can almost smell the fresh Swedish air!” It was then that I resolved to evoke such sensory experiences in my audience through my paintings.

    Your artworks are featured in prestigious international art books and have been exhibited in various countries. Could you share with us how these opportunities came about and what they mean to you as an artist?

    My artistic journey began with my first solo exhibition during the prestigious Budapest Spring Festival in 1987. The event attracted notable public figures, including the second American astronaut to walk on the Moon. Following this success, I received an invitation from the Royal Academy of Arts in London to participate in a group exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

    This recognition was a significant milestone in my artistic career. Subsequently, I have been fortunate to exhibit in renowned art capitals such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Tokyo, as well as numerous cities in Italy and Hungary. Additionally, my artworks have been featured in esteemed art books published internationally. These opportunities not only bring me immense joy and pride but also inspire me to continue creating. They serve as validation of my artistic endeavours and provide me with the motivation to explore new horizons.

    Nature seems to play a significant role in your artwork, from capturing the lights dancing on water surfaces to admiring the beauty of landscapes. What draws you to portray nature in your paintings, and how do you hope to convey its essence to your audience?

    The natural world is a source of endless wonder for me. Each season brings its own unique beauty, from the freshness of spring to the scorching heat of summer and the vibrant hues of autumn. I am captivated by the kaleidoscope of colors and the myriad scents that accompany these seasons. Through my paintings, I seek to preserve and share this beauty with future generations. 

    Whether it’s the gentle ripples of water or the majestic vistas of landscapes, I aim to capture the essence of nature in its purest form.

    As a painter who focuses on capturing the beauty of nature and interesting people, how do you approach the challenge of translating these experiences onto canvas? Could you walk us through your creative process?

    I approach each painting with a sense of openness and receptivity to the world around me. When a particular moment or scene captivates my attention, I feel a deep urge to translate it onto canvas. I immerse myself in the image, allowing it to take shape within me before I begin to paint. While some artists may prefer to pre-draw their compositions, I find that my creativity flows most freely when I paint spontaneously, allowing the brush to move intuitively across the canvas. 

    By channeling my emotions and impressions onto the canvas, I strive to create artworks that resonate with both myself and my audience.

    Your paintings often depict special moments in history or contemporary life. What inspires you to explore these themes, and how do you infuse them with your unique artistic perspective?

    From a young age, I have been deeply influenced by the works of historical painters such as Gyula Benczur. The monumental paintings depicting significant events from history left a lasting impression on me. In my own artistic journey, I am drawn to themes that reflect the rich tapestry of human experience. 

    Whether it’s a historical event or a contemporary scene, I feel compelled to capture the essence of the moment. These scenes are often inspired by everyday life, reflecting the diversity and complexity of human existence. By infusing these themes with my unique artistic perspective, I hope to offer viewers a fresh interpretation of familiar subjects, prompting them to see the world through new eyes.

    With numerous solo and group exhibitions under your belt, including shows in major art capitals like New York, Rome, and Vienna, what have been some of the highlights of your exhibition journey so far?

    Exhibiting my artworks in prestigious locations around the world has been a deeply fulfilling experience. It has allowed me to share my art with a diverse audience and connect with fellow art enthusiasts from different cultures and backgrounds. One of the highlights of my exhibition journey has been the opportunity to engage with local communities and immerse myself in the vibrant art scenes of cities like New York, Rome, and Vienna. The exposure gained from these exhibitions has opened doors of recognition within the art world and provided me with invaluable opportunities for growth and collaboration.

    You’ve received numerous prestigious international awards throughout your career. How do these accolades impact your artistic journey, and do they influence the direction of your work in any way?

    Receiving prestigious international awards has been a tremendous honour and validation of my artistic endeavours. These accolades serve as a source of motivation, inspiring me to continually push the boundaries of my creativity. Moreover, they enhance my visibility within the art community, attracting the attention of galleries, collectors, and curators from around the world. While awards do not dictate the direction of my work, they reaffirm my commitment to artistic excellence and encourage me to explore new avenues of expression.

    Your artworks have been featured in publications like Vanity Fair Magazine, exposing your work to a wider audience. How do you navigate the intersection between traditional gallery exhibitions and exposure through mainstream media?

    I view traditional gallery exhibitions and exposure through mainstream media as complementary avenues for sharing my artwork with the world. Gallery exhibitions provide a curated environment for viewers to engage with my art on a personal level, while mainstream media platforms offer a broader reach and accessibility. By leveraging both channels, I am able to connect with diverse audiences and spark meaningful conversations about art and culture. Whether it’s through a gallery exhibition or a feature in a magazine like Vanity Fair, my goal remains the same: to inspire and engage viewers with my artistic vision.

    Collaboration seems to be a recurring theme in your artistic career, from participating in group shows to working with galleries and publishers. Can you tell us about some memorable collaborations that have shaped your journey as an artist?

    Collaboration has been instrumental in shaping my artistic journey, enriching my experience as an artist and expanding the reach of my work. One particularly memorable collaboration was my partnership with the Italian Foundation Effetto Arte, which provided me with invaluable opportunities to exhibit my art internationally. I have also had the privilege of collaborating with esteemed curators, galleries, and publishers from around the world, each contributing to my growth and development as an artist. These collaborations have not only expanded my artistic horizons but also deepened my connections within the global art community.

    Your paintings often capture the essence of “interesting people.” Could you share some stories behind the individuals you’ve portrayed in your artwork and what draws you to depict them?

    In my paintings, I strive to capture the essence of human experience, celebrating the diversity and complexity of individuals from all walks of life. One of my favourite artists, Salvador Dali, inspired me to explore the theme of human equality in my artwork “We are equal.” In this painting, I incorporated Dali’s portrait among various characters to convey the message that our true worth lies not in our outward appearance but in our inner values. I am also drawn to the expressive power of the human eye, which serves as a mirror of the soul. Whether it’s a striking gaze or a subtle expression, I seek to capture the unique qualities that make each individual captivating.

    Your artworks span a wide range of themes and subjects, from historical figures to contemporary scenes. How do you maintain a cohesive artistic voice while exploring such diverse subject matter?

    Drawing inspiration from the works of historical painters has provided me with a rich artistic tradition to connect with while exploring diverse subject matter. By infusing my paintings with my unique perspective and creative vision, I strive to maintain a cohesive artistic voice that resonates across different themes and subjects. Whether I’m depicting a historical event or a contemporary scene, my goal is to create artworks that reflect my personal interpretation of the world around me. In this way, I aim to bridge the gap between past and present, offering viewers a glimpse into both history and contemporary life through my art.

    Travel seems to be a constant source of inspiration for you. How do you balance the excitement of exploring new places with the discipline required to focus on your artistic practice?

    Traveling has always been a source of inspiration and enrichment for me, allowing me to discover new landscapes, cultures, and artistic influences. While the excitement of exploration can be exhilarating, I also recognise the importance of maintaining discipline in my artistic practice. By finding a balance between travel and focused studio time, I am able to channel the energy and inspiration gained from my experiences into my artwork. Whether I’m sketching on location or reflecting on my travels in the studio, each new adventure contributes to my growth as an artist.

    Your paintings often evoke a sense of emotion and connection with the viewer. How do you approach the challenge of creating artworks that resonate with people on a deeper level?

    I approach each painting with the intention of capturing the essence of a moment or emotion that resonates with me personally. By channeling my own experiences and emotions onto the canvas, I strive to create artworks that speak to universal themes and evoke a sense of connection with the viewer. Whether it’s a tranquil landscape or a poignant portrait, my goal is to elicit an emotional response that transcends language and cultural barriers. Through color, composition, and expression, I aim to create artworks that invite viewers to reflect, empathise, and find meaning in their own lives.

    As an artist who has exhibited internationally, how do you perceive the global art scene evolving, and what role do you see yourself playing in its development?

    The global art scene is constantly evolving, driven by shifting cultural trends, technological advancements, and social dynamics. As an artist who has exhibited internationally, I see myself playing a role in shaping this evolution through my creative vision and artistic expression. By engaging with diverse audiences and participating in global conversations about art and culture, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive and dynamic art world. Whether through exhibitions, collaborations, or community outreach, I aim to foster connections and inspire positive change through my artwork.

    Your paintings have been described as capturing “the best moments” of nature and human experience. Could you share with us some of the most memorable moments that you’ve depicted in your artwork?

    There have been many memorable moments that I’ve captured in my artwork, each reflecting the beauty and complexity of the natural world and human experience. One such moment occurred during an evening jog with my husband, where the play of light on the surrounding trees and lamp posts inspired me to paint the scene. 

    Another memorable experience was witnessing the breathtaking beauty of Lake Balaton, its shimmering waters reflecting the towers of Tihany Abbey. I’ve also been deeply moved by encounters with people from different cultures, such as a young Ayamara girl and her sister boating on Lake Titicaca in Peru. These moments of connection and wonder continue to inspire me in my artistic journey.

    Art has the power to evoke change and provoke thought. How do you hope your paintings contribute to conversations surrounding environmental preservation and the human experience?

    Art has the power to transcend language and cultural barriers, making it a potent tool for raising awareness and inspiring positive change. Through my paintings, I hope to highlight the beauty and fragility of the natural world, prompting viewers to reflect on the importance of environmental preservation. Whether it’s a majestic landscape or a poignant portrayal of human connection, my goal is to evoke empathy and provoke thought about our relationship with the planet and each other. 

    By sparking conversations and fostering a deeper appreciation for the world around us, I believe art can play a vital role in promoting environmental stewardship and social consciousness.

    Your artist name, Mano, carries significance in your artistic identity. What inspired this choice, and how does it reflect your personal connection to your artwork?

    The choice of my artist name, Mano, was inspired by my daughter’s suggestion when she was a young teenager. Drawing parallels to renowned artists like Monet and Manet, she proposed the name as a way to make my artwork more familiar and intimate. Since then, I have signed my paintings with this name, which has become an integral part of my artistic identity. It reflects my personal connection to my artwork and serves as a reminder of the support and encouragement of my loved ones in my artistic journey.

    Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of your artistic career, and what legacy do you hope to leave behind through your paintings?

    In the future, I aspire to continue creating art that celebrates the beauty of the natural world and the richness of human experience. My goal is to inspire empathy, reflection, and positive change through my paintings, leaving behind a legacy of love and appreciation for nature and humanity. Whether my artwork is displayed in prestigious museums or cherished in private collections, I hope it will continue to resonate with viewers on a deep emotional level, prompting them to see the world with greater clarity and compassion.

    Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    As someone who has had the privilege of traveling to many beautiful destinations, I still have a few places on my bucket list that I hope to visit someday. One destination that holds particular allure for me is Bora Bora, with its pristine beaches and turquoise waters. I am also drawn to the rugged beauty of Greenland, with its majestic glaciers and breathtaking landscapes. Exploring these remote and awe-inspiring destinations would be a dream come true for me.

    What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

    When I am lacking motivation, I often turn to literature, film, or theatre for inspiration. Stories have a unique power to ignite the imagination and spark creativity. Whether it’s the world of Griet and Vermeer in “Girl with a Pearl Earring” or the tragic tale of Anna Karenina, I find that immersing myself in the rich tapestry of human experience can rekindle my passion for art and storytelling.

    Where can people follow you and find out more?

    You can learn more about my artwork and stay updated on my latest exhibitions and projects by visiting my website at artnow0.webnode.com. I invite you to explore my portfolio and discover the stories behind my paintings. 

    Step into the world of Jessica Steele, where jewellery isn’t just an accessory; it’s a conduit for storytelling, emotion and sustainability. As the visionary founder of The Jewellery Consultant, Jessica has redefined luxury by infusing it with purpose and authenticity.

    With over 16 years of experience in the jewellery industry, Jessica’s journey is a testament to resilience, creativity and unwavering passion. From her humble beginnings to establishing her own brand, she has remained steadfast in her commitment to creating pieces that stand the test of time, both in craftsmanship and sentiment.

    In an exclusive interview with House of Coco magazine, Jessica shares her insights, inspirations and the driving force behind her Metamorphosis collection, a stunning fusion of artistry and profound storytelling.

    Join us as we delve into the world of Jessica, a trailblazer whose creations not only adorn the body but also resonate deeply with the soul…

    Your brand, The Jewellery Consultant, is described as “sustainable, meaningful luxury.” Can you delve deeper into what sustainability means to you and how it influences your design process?

    Looking after the planet is a really important part of my ethos. When I first entered the jewellery industry over 16 years ago, I never understood the impact that the beautiful materials I worked with could have on the environment and people living within it. Thankfully, I, and the industry, have come a long way since then. I am a big advocate of designing pieces that stand the test of time, not only from a point of view of wear but also by not jumping onto trends but leading my own way with pieces I feel will be passed down and enjoyed throughout generations.

    The Metamorphosis collection is both visually stunning and emotionally profound. How do you navigate the balance between creating aesthetically pleasing pieces and infusing them with personal and societal significance?

    I think my pieces are naturally infused with personal and societal significance because jewellery is my way of storytelling. There is no surprise that the significance that Metamorphosis holds within my own life also applies to others worldwide. We all experience loss and transformation in some way during our lifetime, and that, in itself, is beautiful! But creating something visually appealing that also shows that deep meaning can sometimes be tricky, but I am still so proud of how this collection continues to grow!

    Nature seems to be a significant source of inspiration for you, especially evident in the Metamorphosis collection. Can you share more about your connection to nature and how it informs your creative process?

    I spent a lot of time in nature as a child, and I was thankful enough to understand the importance of things much smaller than myself. I fear that the younger generations are so distracted that they don’t always have the opportunity to immerse themselves in it the way I did as a child. Any opportunity for me to share my love of this in my work is something I cannot pass up!

    Collaborations can often bring new dimensions to a brand’s identity. Are there any dream collaborations you envision for The Jewellery Consultant in the future?

    In terms of other brands, I have always dreamed of creating an exclusive Metamorphosis Collection for Liberty London because I think their prints would look incredible on the wings of my butterflies.

    In your journey as a jewellery designer and business owner, what has been the most unexpected lesson you’ve learned about yourself or your craft?

    I think resilience is one thing I learned about myself while running a business. My empathy allows me to connect with people on a deeper level, which I think is what ultimately led me to jewellery. But for years, I was told that I was too sensitive to run a business, which is clearly not the case. I have faced many difficult hurdles in my 4 years, but I am more resilient because of it, and I continue to learn and grow every step of the way, despite setbacks.

    Many aspiring designers look up to you as a role model in the industry. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the world of jewellery design and entrepreneurship?

    To understand that the foundation of your business is you, but also whom you surround yourself with. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. You will have to be your biggest cheerleader, and it will be tricky, but so worth it if you are able to keep going. I think social media creates the idea of overnight success, but often you don’t see the decades of work and failures which went in beforehand, so don’t be put off by those – it will make you better in the long term.

    Your commitment to exceptional customer-focused experiences is evident. How do you ensure that each client feels valued and understood throughout their journey with The Jewellery Consultant?

    Communication is key. It was purposeful that each client would have 1:1 time with me in person at each step of their journey. Too often, people experience distraction in today’s world, and when someone is purchasing a piece of jewellery, often with huge sentimental value, they should be made to feel special. I hear horror stories of clients who have visited jewellers only to be totally ignored or pushed to purchasing something they didn’t want. I want every client to leave my office knowing that they received something far beyond their expectations.

    The concept of creating future heirlooms is both romantic and enduring. Can you share a story of a particularly memorable piece that holds special significance for you or your clients?

    Remodels are one of my favourite things to do, but one of my favourite remodels was a piece that we created for a client who had lost his mum. We combined gold and diamonds he had inherited from his late mum to create a custom signet ring, including lots of hidden meaning and important dates engraved. To anyone else, the ring may be beautiful, but the hidden symbols were a super important part of the design and something which is so personal for my client.

    Your journey from college to establishing your own brand is inspiring. What were some pivotal moments or decisions that shaped your path to where you are today?

    From the age of sixteen, I always knew what I wanted. The vision of my first studio was something I had dreamt of from that age. I offered to volunteer for so many local jewellers just to gain experience in my teenage years but was always turned down, so I decided to teach myself. Years later I entered the jewellery industry and gained another level of expertise which far surpassed what I had learnt myself at the bench. Ultimately, I always had a burning desire to fulfil this dream, and to this day that continues. Passion for jewellery drives me to learn as much as I can about this fascinating industry.

    The pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to businesses worldwide. How did you navigate the uncertainties and adapt your business model to thrive during such difficult times?

    There was a hell of a lot of pivoting! It was a roller coaster really; the market was changing constantly so learning a new way of working was crucial in making it through. I remember I had a client who was looking for a specific colour of sapphire for his engagement ring, one which is only available in Montana in the US but suppliers in the UK had not been overseas on their usual buying trips so sourcing this colour was virtually impossible. I managed to find an artisan husband & wife team in Montana who mine & cut their own stones; they sourced a sapphire in the rough for my client & cut it to requirements. This all happened during the height of the pandemic, with multiple lock downs & the ring was delivered to my customer on Christmas eve of 2020.

    Your brand ethos seems deeply rooted in authenticity and personal connection. How do you maintain these values as your business continues to grow?

    For sure & sometimes I wonder as the business grows how I maintain that. I think it is possible but it’s all about ensuring the right people are on board. That being said, I believe what you put out you attract, so my optimistic outlook is that when we look to recruit in the future we’ll be able to find the right people to expand the team.

    Innovation often drives progress in the world of design. Are there any new techniques or materials you’re excited to explore in future collections?

    It would be wrong to ignore how AI is changing the landscape for jewellery. It can be fascinating to see how brands are offering a different customer experience by utilising AI for designing & manufacture. I have personally witnessed AI programmes set up for allowing customers to design their own pieces. While it was interesting to see, it felt soulless & did not compare to the human experience that my clients love.

    Your dedication to creating meaningful jewellery extends beyond aesthetics. How do you ensure that each piece tells a unique story and resonates with its wearer on a personal level?

    Jewellery for me is storytelling, so it’s all about understanding the person or people I’m creating for. In a consultation, I make a conscious effort to get to know my clients on a deeper level. Oftentimes we take our own lives stories for granted in that they are not interesting to us, but those are the ones which I want to hear from my clients so I can translate them into a beautiful design that honours them in the pieces I create.

    Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, especially as an entrepreneur. How do you maintain harmony between your professional endeavours and family life?

    I think that was one aspect of my business which I always found difficult. When I fell pregnant with my son in 2020, I knew I would have to take a step back from my business, but it was not easy for me. Since then, I have made sure I am strict with my working hours, and I switch off notifications for downtime. Most recently I have changed my working weekend to be off with my family. My son is still young, and he is ultimately my priority, so maintaining 1:1 time with him is incredibly important.

    As your brand expands internationally, how do you ensure that The Jewellery Consultant remains true to its roots while embracing diverse cultural influences?

    I think universally there are a lot of things in humanity which bring us together, even vastly different cultures have the same or similar core beliefs, so I think embracing who I am and what my brand represents at its core is a key value of remaining true. I’m really lucky to have a member of my team who has spent her life travelling and working abroad; she is also multilingual, so it helps to have her on board while we explore together the international market.

    The journey of grief and transformation is reflected beautifully in the Metamorphosis collection. How do you approach translating such profound emotions into tangible works of art?

    Usually, I start with a gemstone or at least a vague concept, with Metamorphosis, my work was driven by my grief, and creating pieces has always been a cathartic process for me. It allowed me to make sense of something which is unique to me but also something every person has to go through in life. I think there is a lot to be said for creating something beautiful from a very sad story.

    Community engagement seems integral to your brand identity. How do you foster connections with your audience both online and offline?

    Absolutely, and as I mention all the time, I absolutely love people! So speaking to my audience and understanding them is, of course, a part of running my business, but I actually really enjoy it. Human connection has changed vastly over the years, but I have a global audience and people whom I’ve shared true connection and championship with all the way from Florida to Milan. I made these connections by engaging with people through various social media platforms; it fascinates me!

    Continuous learning is essential for growth in any field. What are some resources or practices you rely on to stay inspired and informed in the ever-evolving world of jewellery design?

    My love for this industry never waivers, so being a part of it has always remained even while running my independent business. I regularly attend trade shows to keep in the loop, and I stay connected to the likes of Fair Luxury who are constantly driving for better ethical practices in the industry and the conversations surrounding that.

    Your commitment to sustainability sets a commendable standard in the industry. Can you share some initiatives or practices implemented within The Jewellery Consultant to minimise environmental impact?

    I am constantly looking for new ways to make my business better in this regard, and I don’t think that ever stops. Providing transparency has always been at the top of my list for my customers. I also provide various options for my customers like Fair Trade Gold, Single Mine Origin Gold, and most recently connecting with a gemstone supplier which provides end-to-end traceability with mines in.

    Looking back on your journey so far, what legacy do you hope to leave behind through your brand and your creations?

    I really hope that people remember my brand as being authentic luxury but with sustainable practices that make a difference. I would love to have my brand grow in a way where I can make a larger positive impact on the world. One of the reasons I was drawn to jewellery making so much is having pieces that are hallmarked with my mark, in centuries to come, perhaps someone will pick up one of my items & admire it.

    Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    I’d love to visit Japan, for the cuisine and the country’s beautiful landscape, but I also adore the rich history they have. Alongside jewellery, I have always admired the work of ancient armoury & the decorative aspect of swords, so it is my dream to see a traditional katana being made.

    What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

    “No one is going to save you but yourself.” Sounds harsh but it’s true. When I’m in a bit of a funk, I have to remind myself that I can only be accountable for myself and I am the driving force in my life and business.

    Where can people follow you and find out more?

    You can follow me on Instagram @jessicasteelejewellery, and my website is www.thejewelleryconsultant.co.uk.

    If you’re hungry for more tales of resilience, creativity, and unwavering determination, dive into our treasure trove of inspiring stories. Let’s embark on a journey together, exploring the boundless possibilities of the human spirit.

    Visit House of Coco today and ignite your own spark of inspiration.

    Embark on a journey with us in our next Worldwide Wonders feature as we delve into the captivating story behind JO&LYD, a brand born from a passion for handcrafted elegance and a commitment to supporting independent designers.

    From the inception of JO&LYD to its remarkable evolution over time, founder Pantelis Chatzigeorgiou shares insights into the brand’s ethos and vision…

    What inspired you to start JO&LYD, and how has that initial inspiration evolved over time?

    I have always enjoyed observing the creations of independent designers. These handcrafted designs were the result of the artist’s expression; they had something authentic, beyond the limits set by famous brands. There are many artisans out there who create handmade jewellery that is superior in quality compared to many well-known brands. The initial inspiration behind JO&LYD stemmed from a deep love for beautiful, handcrafted jewelry and a desire to support and promote independent creators with the rest of the world.

    Can you share a memorable moment or milestone in JO&LYD journey that made you particularly proud?

    The most memorable moment was the day I received an email with a collaboration proposal from a well-known film studio in L.A. A well-known costume designer working on a TV-series production asked me to supply her with freshwater pearl necklaces. Admittedly, I didn’t expect it; I was fully surprised. It was one of those moments that remain indelibly etched in my memory. We still continue our partnership, and some of our jewellery is worn by actors in the series. We get the satisfaction and pride of seeing our handmade jewellery worn by those famous actors on TV.

    How do you go about discovering new independent designers to feature on JO&LYD?

    Recently we have been looking for new fashion designers. Last year, I tried to visit as many as I could, in addition to my obligations, various fashion exhibitions mainly in the Scandinavian countries, where several designers exhibit their creations. There I had the pleasure of meeting several talented fashion designers, and it has inspired me to expand my business to include apparel. We are always looking for new independent designers. That never stops.

    For me, the key as a CEO is to find common goals and interests with my partners. Hallmarks of good business relations include trust, loyalty, and communication. So, soon we will surprise our friends with new collections.

    What role do you believe JO&LYD plays in supporting and promoting independent fashion designers?

    Supporting independent fashion designers is crucial for encouraging creativity, diversity, and sustainability in the fashion industry and for talented people to express themselves through their art. This is the most important for JO&LYD. To support people who want to work from home and get paid for their own creations. This also has a climate-friendly footprint since no one needs to take their car or transport to get to work. Local, small-scale production is the future in my opinion.

    How do you balance staying true to your brand values while adapting to evolving fashion trends?

    Our company’s line is specific and focuses on the manufacture of handmade accessories. Jewelry made of gold, silver, gemstones, and pearls will symbolise timeless luxury and elegance, and that is not going to change.

    Can you tell us about a challenge you faced while building JO&LYD and how you overcame it?

    From a business perspective, the challenges are many, especially here in Sweden, where the market is mostly dominated by multinational companies that source their products from Asia. Customers are so used to cheaper products, so it is difficult to compete with the prices when you cooperate with independent designers. We want to focus more on quality, not on quantity. This is where you need belief in your vision, patience, time, and the right partners. After all, success is a matter of time.

    What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break into the fashion industry?

    Know your market. You must thoroughly research your target market before launching your business. Build your network and connections within the industry. But most importantly, be confident, stay true to your unique style, and never give up. With dedication and unwavering passion, you can make it in the fashion world.

    What is your favourite piece of jewellery or accessory currently offered on JO&LYD, and why?

    Each piece of jewellery has its own story and character. But I would say that my favourite pieces of jewellery are rings. The combination of 925 silver with freshwater pearls and gemstones makes these rings truly unique.

    What do you think sets JO&LYD apart from other online jewellery and accessory retailers?

    Our clear focus on timeless pearl jewellery. We will stay true to our style and not try to offer a little bit of everything. We focus on quality and personal expression and always provide personal service.

    What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

    “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

    Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    Japan is a place my son and I dream about going to together. Otherwise, the Greek islands are always my go-to destinations. I can highly recommend Symi, located 50 minutes away by boat from Rhodes.

    Lastly, what message would you like to share with the readers of House of Coco magazine about the JO&LYD journey and the future of fashion?

    I have invested a lot of time, energy, and care into the business. That is why the name is a dedication to my children, Jonathan and Lydia. The fashion industry is predicted to go through a major transformation in the coming years, due to technological developments and a stronger focus on sustainability. We are in the forefront of this development, with our focus on sustainable production, inclusivity and original expression.

    Whether you’re seeking the next must-have accessory or yearning for a glimpse into the future of fashion, let House of Coco be your guide.

    Step into the world of Bénédicte de Boysson, where timeless elegance intertwines seamlessly with modern glamour, and each piece of jewellery tells a story of creativity and sophistication.

    In this exclusive interview, we delve into the creative mind behind the brand, exploring the inspirations, values, and craftsmanship that define Bénédicte de Boysson Jewellery.

    Bénédicte de Boysson’s journey is one marked by a deep appreciation for heritage, a multicultural upbringing, and a commitment to infusing each creation with meaning and beauty. From paying homage to classic pieces to celebrating the mystical allure of stones, her designs resonate with individuals who seek to express their inner essence through exquisite adornments.

    Join us as we uncover the philosophy guiding Bénédicte’s design process, the influence of her diverse experiences on her creative vision, and her dedication to upholding exceptional French craftsmanship….

    Bénédicte, your brand embodies a captivating blend of timeless elegance and modern glamour. How do you ensure this balance resonates in every piece you create?

    In my opinion, creativity is always a balance of intuition and awareness of what already exists. So, I remember what great artists and fashion moguls have done in the past and try to add my personal touch. For me, there is nothing better than classics.

    As we usually say in France, “simplicity is elegance.” Personally, I would add that simplicity is also modernity; it is the perfect equilibrium between timeless and elegance. I have always designed something that speaks to my heart and that I would personally wear on an everyday basis and in the long run.

    But with Bénédicte de Boysson Jewelry, I really chose to pay homage to a classic piece: the “Long Sautoir Necklace.” Coco Chanel popularised it at the beginning of the 20th Century, and it was worn for any occasion. My purpose is to bring the focus back to this amazing timeless piece and revisit it with my own creativity.

    All of our Sautoir Necklaces are produced in limited editions – 16 pieces per model and colour to always ensure new models and designs. Then, around this piece, I create an entire collection of matching pieces to complete the look.

    Your jewellery is described as “head-turner” pieces that are uniquely striking yet effortlessly refined. How do you approach the design process to achieve this distinctive aesthetic?

    Designing comes from the heart and only the heart. It is hard for me to answer this question as it is an inspiration, a deeper knowing intertwined with joy and happiness. So, it is difficult to put words onto something that is so “intangible” but yet magical. When you experience passion, happiness in you, it is effortless. I think the key here is just to listen to your inner self and who you truly are.

    We are all unique but one at the same time. So if what I create comes from my heart, it will speak to yours. With experience and time, I have noticed that people usually say that my designs are unique, different, amazingly beautiful and easily noticed when worn.

    As someone who has traveled the world extensively, how has your multicultural upbringing influenced your designs and creative vision?

    Traveling was one thing, but living in different countries allowed me to really delve into the different cultures and experiences of the world’s diversity. Of course, it influences your creativity and brings ideas, but I would say it brings deeper values like openness, compassion, and a deep personal expansion of your soul. All those ingredients are needed when you decide to create your dream and put it into form.

    Could you share a specific moment or experience from your travels that directly inspired one of your jewellery collections?

    When I started my brand, I went to Thailand, this beautiful, colourful country. All those colors really inspired me. They also have those multiple/bazaar shops where you can buy anything, and from time to time, there are those stone jewellery shops. I was already a big fan of coloured stones, and I thought they were not really given the right homage in the luxury world. So I decided to focus on them and bring my personal touch with my experience from the luxury jewellery world.

    Your brand emphasises the intertwining of French elegance with the mysticism of stones. How do you infuse this concept into your designs?

    As I previously said, I have always been a big fan of stones and all the mystical aspects behind them. I believe they speak to your soul and vice versa. What I really love about those stones is that you can be amazingly creative with them. Each stone can be cut according to a design while respecting the way they naturally grow. If you look at the beginning of the 20th century in the Art-Deco jewellery style, especially in France, they used to really put them forward rather than diamonds at the time.

    Bénédicte de Boysson Jewelry is known for accentuating understated elegance. How do you ensure each piece reflects this understated sophistication?

    Very humbly, I try to put a little bit of my soul into each of my creations. I was brought up with a mother who was always very elegant, into details, and who knew how to style everything: From herself, the house, the Garden “à la française” to flower arrangements. I guess she did influence me in the best way.

    You’ve mentioned that you see yourself as a “stage director” whose goal is to illuminate the stones in the best possible way. Can you elaborate on how this philosophy guides your creative process?

    I like to say that I am just the one who “adds on” to the stone. The stones already speak for themselves with the colour, the texture, the story, and significance they have on their own. I am just here to add the small touch of embellishment they deserve with my creativity and design.

    Your commitment to exceptional French craftsmanship is evident in every piece. How do you maintain such high standards of quality and artistry?

    I make sure that the best artisans in France surround me, those who really respect the traditional know-how of jewellery making. Unfortunately or fortunately, today so many big actors are producing in quantities as the demand is always growing, but it also means standardising production to gain time and margin.

    I am going the opposite way; I am making sure that each of my pieces is made from A to Z by one jeweller as I believe that you can really live the process fully and bring to life the finished piece from your heart and passion. For sure, sometimes, we are facing some delivery time gaps. But what else than to have the excitement of waiting and expecting something that really speaks to your heart and is made with passion and love?

    Each stone in your jewellery is handpicked and imbued with meaning. Can you share a story behind one of your favourite stones and its significance to you?

    I do not really have one favourite stone. I love them all, as one would speak louder during a period of my life and then it would be another one. I believe that we are in constant evolution and expansion if we allow our soul to be so. For example, these days I am really drawn to grey moonstone.

    If you look at the signification, it means inner peace and calm. It is a stone of new beginnings and is believed to help with decision-making. It is also a stone for reinforcing the divine feminine power. If I am honest, it is exactly what my soul needs these days to ground those beautiful energies and expand deeper.

    Your upbringing in a lineage of nobles dedicated to serving the world is fascinating. How does this heritage influence your brand’s ethos and values?

    I would say it is both a burden and a blessing. I am very grateful that I was raised with these beautiful, upright values as it gives a sense of respect, honour, honesty, and integrity. You really need those to embrace who you are truly. But on the other hand, it can be a lot of pressure from the lineage. However, it is a good lesson to learn how to detach from those and keep only the right things that speak to your own self without forgetting where you are coming from.

    Your brand celebrates freedom and creativity. How do you encourage these values within your team and throughout your creative process?

    You can only embrace true freedom from within with peace and happiness. When you are truly free, then you can expand and be creative from your heart. Those values are to be lived and shared with others. You cannot be free and happy alone in the long run. We are all one, and it is the beauty of it. With my team, I try to allow them to find their own balance between their own happiness and freedom.

    If I apply those values to myself, I should be applying them to everybody around me. It brings me joy and happiness to see my team being happy every day. I also make sure that individuals do what they like to do as I believe it is the best way to move forward and together.

    What inspired you to create jewellery specifically for women who want to express their feminine and glamorous sides?

    Sometimes in the world we live in, it is hard to really come back to our true essence as a woman. With everything around us, it can be challenging to be feminine and glamorous without falling into vulgarity and provocation. The Feminine, like the masculine, has been twisted and it can be hard to find your way back to those pure energies. We carry both of them, but I believe there should be a balance between them. In my opinion, those are just energies rather than physical or material things.

    My purpose with my jewellery is to really speak to the soul. I like to imagine that my jewellery would act like talismans and help you integrate slowly a balance within you. The combination of the stones chosen by you with the design will help you feel beautiful, elegant, and feminine.

    Your pieces are worn by those who command attention and elegance. How do you envision your jewellery empowering the individuals who wear it?

    When I started, little did I know it would happen? I never truly decided any of this. With time and experience, I have just seen, noticed, and been told that when my clients wear my creations, they feel amazing, glamorous, and empowered by themselves. I am just “an added tool” to help them shine their own inner beauty.

    In a world of fast fashion, your brand emphasises timeless pieces. How do you ensure your designs remain relevant and coveted for years to come?

    I do not know how everything will grow and evolve, but I like to put the greatest intention into it. I am not a big fan of fast fashion myself as I am more into taking the time to buy and really feel what I would like for myself. I am more into consuming with awareness and feeling what I would love to wear in the long run. At first, I thought I was going the opposite way as the world is today, but surprisingly I discovered that quiet luxury and investment pieces are an absolute trend, which is really what Bénédicte de Boysson is all about.

    Collaboration and community are essential elements of growth. How do you foster these connections within your brand’s ecosystem?

    As I said, we are all unique but one at the same time. I believe collaboration and community are key elements for personal growth but also for anything you would create. I allow anything or anyone that the universe will bring to me, listen to my intuition and inner heart, and see if it is in alignment with who I am, what my brand is, and if the rest of my team agrees to it. I am a true believer of “you attract who you are.” I would also add that you grow with the ones around you. I believe it is a conscious decision to keep the right people around you to maintain a perfect balance for yourself and your surroundings.

    Looking ahead, what exciting projects or collections can we expect from Bénédicte de Boysson Jewellery?

    We have so many exciting things in the pipeline, so it is difficult to really focus on one. We are now slowly but surely expanding our presence on the web and with selected retailers around the world. We also have so many exciting partnerships with the media, but it is still confidential for now. Personally, I’d rather talk about creativity as it is what I love to do and the essence of Bénédicte de Boysson. I truly hope to continue the expansion of some of our existing collections.

    As you know, our specialty is Long Sautoir necklaces, but I would also like to develop “smaller products” around some of our existing collections in the future and why not release a new Long Sautoir Necklace with pearls. I am also developing personalised pieces for my clients. It takes time but It is a growing demand for personalised and unique design.

    What legacy do you hope to leave through your brand’s impact on the world of fashion and jewellery?

    Only “God/The Universe” knows. I’d rather live in the moment, keep creating, expand and let everything unfold the way it should be. But If there was one wish in “my legacy,” it would be to bring back luxury jewellery wearing to luxury jewellery with meanings as the Egyptians did when wearing jewellery as talismans.

    Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    I am so curious and love to travel, so everywhere is on my bucket list. I’ll let you know and see what new inspirations will come out from it.

    What’s your go-to quote when you are lacking motivation?

    Listen to your heart, Be present, Trust, and Let go.

    Where can people follow you and find out more?

    www.benedictedeboysson.com / Instagram: benedictedeboyxson

    As we conclude our conversation with Bénédicte de Boysson, we are left inspired by her passion, creativity, and commitment to timeless elegance. But the journey of discovery doesn’t end here.

    For more inspiring stories and exclusive interviews with visionaries from diverse fields, visit House of Coco.

    Meet Sharon A. Keyser, the visionary founder of SKCreations, LLC, a beacon of creativity and innovation in the world of textiles and vibrant design. With an unwavering passion for bold colors and originality, Sharon’s journey from a young girl sewing aprons to a distinguished entrepreneur at the forefront of the fashion industry is nothing short of inspiring. Her upbringing, steeped in the elegance of her family’s style and the invaluable lessons passed down by her great-grandmother, laid the foundation for her artistic endeavours.

    Driven by a desire to create pieces that resonate with individuality, Sharon embarked on a path that seamlessly intertwines her love for textiles with her innate sense of style. From humble beginnings to debuting collections at New York Fashion Week, Sharon’s dedication to her craft shines through in every stitch.

    As a Woman-Owned Certified Minority Business Enterprise, Sharon has navigated the challenges of the industry with resilience and grace, turning setbacks into opportunities for growth. Her commitment to sustainability and ethical practices underscores her belief in using art as a force for positive change.

    Join us as we delve into the vibrant world of Sharon A. Keyser, where creativity knows no bounds and each design tells a story of empowerment and inspiration.

    What initially drew you to the world of textiles and vibrant colours, and how did your upbringing influence your passion for creating?

    My favourite colour is red, which I see as powerful and energetic. Bold and vibrant colors feel full of life to me and speak to my tactile nature, igniting my excitement when incorporated into textiles. My personal style has always leaned towards originality, drawn to unique pieces rather than mass-produced trends. This inclination was shaped by my upbringing, particularly by the stylish women in my family, notably my grandmother, who effortlessly elevated even simple clothing. Additionally, learning to sew from my great-grandmother at a young age allowed me to create outfits that reflected my individuality.

    Can you share a memorable experience from your childhood that solidified your love for sewing and fabric design?

    As a young girl, spending summers with my great-grandmother, she taught me how to sew. Using her vintage Singer sewing machine, I embarked on my first project, crafting an apron. Impressed with my work, she entrusted me with making throw pillows from red velvet fabric for Christmas, which further fuelled my passion. My mother then gifted me my own sewing machine, and from there, my love for fabrics and design grew. I frequented fabric stores, often sewing outfits after school and wearing them proudly the next day. This love evolved into a desire to create original designs, laying the foundation for my current work.

    What inspired you to transition from creating for personal enjoyment to founding SKCreations, LLC?

    Initially, I didn’t intend to sell my creations; I was immersed in the joy of my newfound hobby. However, as others admired my work and expressed interest in purchasing, I saw an opportunity. Amidst the demands of school and work, my passion for design persisted, eventually leading me back to sewing. Encouraged by the positive response to my creations, I established SKCreations, LLC.

    As the founder of a Woman-Owned Certified Minority Business Enterprise, what challenges have you faced in the industry, and how have you overcome them?

    As an artist finding my footing, I encountered numerous rejections before successes. Despite setbacks, I remained steadfast in my belief in myself and my craft. Initially striving to fit into perceived norms, I eventually realised the importance of authenticity and staying true to my vision. These experiences taught me resilience and ultimately contributed to my breakthroughs in the industry.

    Can you walk us through a typical day at SKCreations, LLC? What does your creative process look like?

    No two days are alike in my business. Some days, I spend hours designing on my computer, experimenting with colors and patterns. Other days involve virtual meetings with international showrooms, coordinating photo shoots, or fulfilling orders. Despite the varied tasks, organisation is key to maintaining balance between creativity and business operations.

    How do you stay inspired and keep your creativity flowing amidst the demands of running your own businesses?

    Creativity serves as a therapeutic outlet amidst the demands of running a business. I prioritise carving out time for creative pursuits, recognising its vital role in maintaining balance. Even during busy periods, I jot down ideas for future projects, ensuring a steady flow of inspiration. Additionally, listening to my body and allowing myself breaks when needed rejuvenates my creative energy.

    What role do you believe creativity plays in everyday life, and how do you encourage others to embrace their own creative passions?

    Creativity fosters a positive outlook, allowing individuals to envision possibilities beyond current circumstances. I encourage others to nurture their creative spark, as it can lead to newfound passions and opportunities for growth.

    Could you share a particularly rewarding moment or project that stands out to you in your journey as an entrepreneur and artist?

    A standout moment in my journey was debuting a collection at my first New York Fashion Week show. Despite the challenges of a freezing outdoor runway, the experience was unforgettable, marking a significant milestone in my career.

    In what ways do you strive to incorporate sustainability and ethical practices into your businesses?

    I prioritise collaborating with contractors who operate sustainably, preserving environmental and social resources. Ethical business practices are fundamental to my brand, ensuring honesty and fairness in all engagements.

    How do you balance the artistic side of your work with the practical aspects of running a business?

    While creativity drives my work, my background in accounting and finance equips me to manage the practical aspects of running a business. Balancing both sides requires careful attention, but my experience allows me to navigate this intersection effectively.

    What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to pursue their passion in the creative industry?

    Embrace the journey, recognising that success takes time and perseverance. Learn from setbacks and trust your intuition, staying true to your vision.

    Can you tell us about a setback or failure you encountered along the way, and how you turned it into a learning experience?

    Opening kiosks at shopping malls was a challenging endeavour, marked by long hours and fluctuating sales. Despite eventual closure, the experience taught valuable lessons in resilience and preparedness for future ventures.

    How do you approach collaboration and partnerships in your business endeavours?

    While I primarily operate solo, collaborations offer exciting opportunities to expand my brand’s reach. Working with artists during fashion shows has been particularly rewarding, introducing my designs to new audiences.

    What do you hope people feel or experience when they interact with your designs or products?

    My designs aim to evoke positivity and inspiration, uplifting those who interact with them.

    As someone deeply connected to the creative process, how do you navigate the intersection of art and commerce?

    While creativity drives my passion, commerce validates my work and sustains my business. I appreciate the symbiotic relationship between the two, allowing me to pursue my craft while sharing it with the world.

    What future goals or aspirations do you have for SKCreations, LLC, and Cultured Wags Swag?

    I envision SKCreations, LLC thriving with timeless designs and expanding into gender-neutral products. As for Cultured Wags Swag, I plan to reignite my focus on providing products for pets and their humans.

    Can you share any exciting upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?

    I’m thrilled to collaborate on a project focused on a global sustainable future, curated by Fashion Crossover London.

    Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

    Ghana is currently at the top of my bucket list, drawn to its vibrant textiles and expressive art.

    Lastly, if you could offer one piece of advice to your younger self when you were just starting out on this journey, what would it be?

    Persist in following your dreams, embracing setbacks as opportunities for growth.

    Where can people follow you and find out more?

    For more information, visit my website at www.skcreations.com and follow me on Instagram at @skcreationsllc.