Arts & Culture, Behind the Design, Portraits

PHOTOGRAPHING CRAFT PORTRAITS: BARBORA ULRYCHOVA

Barbora; intern at Craft Design Scotland. Picture by Ivon Bartholomew.
Barbora; intern at Craft Design Scotland. Picture by Ivon Bartholomew.

Since January, we have had the pleasure of an exceptional dynamic duo in our midst: Barbora and Buffy. Having joined us as an Erasmus intern, Barbora and her shadow Buffy have been committed members of the Craft Design House Team for six months. When June rolled around and it was time for them to head home to the Czech Republic, we couldn’t imagine how we were going to get along without them both. Happily we haven’t had to suffer too much as we are continuing to work with them on an ongoing basis.

In fact, Barbora will be returning to us in just a few short weeks, camera in hand, and we can’t wait! Continue Reading

Arts & Culture, Behind the Design, Landscapes, Outside Our House

THE GRAND DAME OF CHAMPAGNE AND THE ORIGINS OF VEUVE CLIQUOT

First up in our series of inspiring brand origin stories is that of Veuve Cliquot.

Known now as an exceptional champagne, a treat at celebrations and a mark of indulgence, the Veuve Cliquot was a woman who defied convention and took the world by storm. We are still in thrall to her legacy today.

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Veuve is French for widow, in this case Barbe-Nicole Cliquot (née Ponsardin) whose husband died in 1805.

Against a backdrop of upheaval, bloodshed, war and revolution, this formidable woman overcame an inauspicious start in life – widowed in her twenties, left with a 3-year-old daughter and an ailing vineyard – to become an exceptional businesswoman. At the helm of one of 19th century France’s greatest business success stories, Veuve Cliquot became the innovator of champagne in the form we know and love it today.

Not only were the politics of the time against her, so was society, unused to seeing a woman free of the yoke of marriage and even less willing to see her exerting considerable power in her own right. When her husband died, the widow campaigned her father-in-law relentlessly to be allowed to run the vineyard. He eventually relented in the face of her determination, no doubt expecting that she would soon tire of it and he could reassign it more appropriately.

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Instead, Madame Cliquot and her champagne rose to become the darlings of European courts; she was the ‘Grand Dame of Champagne’ and a branding pioneer. Although the bottles were initially unlabelled, she introduced the distinctive star on the cork as a marketing ploy referring to a hotly-anticipated comet, the indicator of an exceptional vintage, and the initials VCP. The star and the name stuck and have been used ever since.

More revolutionary still was the widow’s ingenious creation of the riddling rack, a way to gather all the lees (or sediment) of the champagne just behind the cork, so that it could be removed without spoiling the drink and without excessive wastage. This was achieved by placing the bottles neck down through angled holes in a board (or, ahem, a kitchen table on its side) and rotating them daily. The yeast and sediment could then be carefully siphoned off, leaving the remaining liquid free of unpleasant taints to the flavour, colour or clarity. Madame Cliquot fiercely protected her innovations, taking those who attempted to counterfeit her work to court.

Not only was the Veuve Cliquot’s champagne of unprecedented quality and clarity, it reached markets that were seemingly impossible to tap into. At the time, France was at war with Russia, and there was a trade embargo on French imports into Russia.

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The war was going badly for France and the Veuve Cliquot recognised that there was a huge potential for her champagne in the Russian court when the war was won. After all, nothing says celebration like champagne. Skirting the embargo, she shipped 10,550 bottles of champagne on a Dutch ship to the Baltic port of Königsberg, a key Russian trading station. When hostilities ceased the bottles were jubilantly received and Madame Cliquot sent over 12,000 more bottles a week later to meet with demand. Veuve Cliquot quickly became the tipple of choice at the Russian court.

In the years immediately after Madame Cliquot took over the vineyard, it was selling a meagre 17,000 bottles a year. Over the next 40 years she and her faithful vignerons nurtured and innovated and brought that figure up to 400,000 bottles per annum when she retired in 1850, leaving the management in the capable hands of her protégé Mathieu-Edouard Werlé.

Veuve Cliquot continues to thrive today, and offers Business Women Awards in recognition of its indomitable matriarch.

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Arts & Culture, Behind the Design, Landscapes, Portraits

INSIDE THE INSPIRING ORIGIN STORIES OF THE WORLD’s GREATEST BRANDS.

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It occurs to us that the designers leading fashion and lifestyle brands around the world, household names and multibillion dollar companies, all started off as one wo/man bands with inspiration, passion, innovation and a lot of challenges.

From Coco Chanel who started life in an orphanage, to Christian Louboutin who grew up back-stage in Parisian theatres, running errands to the local butchers for slivers of meat to cushion the dancers’ shoes, to the young widow – Veuve Cliquot – who dreamt up the riddling rack from a kitchen table (a means removing lees from champagne), giving us the clear, bubbly liquid we love today, these are stories that inspire and should give hope to new generations of designers and makers. Continue Reading

Arts & Culture, Landscapes, Outside Our House

In Edinburgh August Means Only One Thing: THE FRINGE IS HERE AGAIN!

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It’s that time of year again. August 1st.

An average Tuesday most places in the world, but in our home city it is anything but average. It is the beginning of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival month. Officially running 4-28th August, the festival turns the city upside down with street performers, death-defying feats, events squashed into every space from churches to living rooms to lecture theatres, and don’t even think about using transport in the centre. Continue Reading

Arts & Culture, Curators' Edit, Jewellery & Accessories, Our Houses

GAME OF THRONES STYLE SWOON-WORTHY JEWELLERY

MAMM+MYRGH_THREESTRANDCROWNBLKENAMEL_SIDE_OLIVIA BOSSERTLove it, loathe it or even if you have been living under a rock (which, let’s face it sounds pretty uncomfortable so I hope for your sake you haven’t been) you will have heard tell of the return of Game of Thrones.

Season 7 of George RR Martin and HBO’s Game of Thrones hit screens on Sunday, bringing in its wake intense discussions of the Ed Sheeran cameo, speculation of what this season will bring as contenders for the Iron Throne heat up the rivalry (yes, even more!), and a dissection of the visual cues from hairstyles (Sansa’s is now modelled on Cersei’s from earlier seasons, suggesting she might be channelling the Lannister matriarch’s ruthlessness and cunning) to costumes and accessoires.

As ever, the costumes and props of the show are utterly envy-inspiring, not locked in to any one period or culture, they are truly a (heavenly) global fantasy hotpot.

Watch this incredible video from the costume designer for Game of Thrones, talking about the inspiration behind the looks of the places and characters in the series.

With everything from velvet-strung necklaces to silver armpieces to brooches made from polished metals, using ancient mirror-making techniques, whether you are (or you know) a Sansa Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister or Margaery Tyrell when it comes to jewellery, we’ve rounded up the most fantastical handcrafted jewellery, just for you.

Wear it and channel your inner princess and/or fierce warrior!

Indulge for yourself (really it’s an investment in feeling fabulous), gift to your fantasy and fiesty-female-character loving friends, or buy them as gifts and then decide to keep them, we won’t tell…

Discover more about these incredible handcrafted jewellery pieces and the exceptional makers behind them.

If you are interested in commissioning the crown in the image at the top of the page or something similar, please get in touch at info@craftdesignhouse.com.

And remember, Winter is Coming.

Arts & Culture, Behind the Design, Landscapes, Our Houses, Outside Our House, Portraits

MEET XANTHE WEIR, FOUNDER OF LAIR AND OCCASIONAL CRAFT DESIGN HOUSE STYLIST

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‘How would I describe my taste? Eclectic but I do like a bit of bling.’

Xanthe Weir, founder of Lair, has had a long and varied career at the forefront of innovative fashion and design. Her newest venture, Lair, was founded as a way to monetise her passion for collecting mid-century furniture. The rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t work in her home then it doesn’t make the cut. Continue Reading