Browsing Tag



Di Hassall, shoe designer for Rainbow Club- interview

May 23, 2014

Di Hassall

I met Di a some months ago at the Rainbow Club event – she is the head of design for the brand and we had a little chat. We got along really well and stayed in touch! As you all know, I’m a total shoe nutter and I had to find out more about the person behind the creation of such beautiful objects. Di was very gracious and agreed to do an interview, which I am sure will be a fun read as well as informative for anyone wanting to work in shoe design.

1 – when did you fall in love with shoes, do you remember any particular event?

I can’t remember exactly, I just always loved shoes, but when I was at school, aged around 5 or 6, I remember my whole class making models from cardboard boxes, most kids made houses or cars or boats, but I made a pair of Scholl sandals! the buckles were made from silver foil bottle tops and the rest from cardboard and fabric. I think the teacher was a little surprised, especially when I attempted to wear them in class!
Around the same time I went into Nottingham shopping with my Mum, and she bought me new school shoes, silver dance shoes for my dance class and a pair of little shiny red patent shoes that were in a sale, I couldn’t believe it, 3 pairs in one day! I kept them all in their boxes by my bed, and kept taking them out and looking at them. I never changed and since that time shoes became my big love!

2 – How long have you been designing shoes for?

I did my degree in fashion and textiles and for my final project I chose to make shoes, after doing work placements with Emma Hope and Jimmy Choo. On finishing college I set up my own business and learned the rest of my trade the hard way!

3 – What has been the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

I’m not sure there’s any one thing, I made some shoes for an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum many years ago and they’re now being used again in the current wedding exhibition  there that’s just opened, ironically the shoes look really dated and certainly aren’t my best, but it feels like a real piece of history and I’m so proud of that. However, I get lots of pleasure from doing things like making the occasional one off pair for a bride when we’ve run a competition, because you know you’ve helped make their day extra special. It’s a really good feeling.

4- Which are your favourite shoes ever?

They have to be my little red patent shoes, I don’t have them any more but I can still picture them in their box as if it were yesterday and they were the start of it all.

PicMonkey Collage

5 – Which is your current favourite pair of shoes?

I have a pair of pale pink nubuck shoes with delicate ankle straps and lovely little camellias on the front, they’re called ‘Sugar Plum’ from the Hassall collection, and look just as great with a pair of jeans, flowery summer dress or even a wedding dress!

6 – Tell our readers a little bit about your career – how did you get into shoe design?

At college I did work placements with Emma Hope and Jimmy Choo and that was it, I knew there was nothing else for me. After that I did a course for graduates starting their own businesses and then set up a studio in London. I had to learn a lot along the way and spent time in shoe factories and with hand shoe makers learning whatever I could along the way. It’s not always been easy, but I’ve never wanted to do anything else, and I still love it just as much today.

7 – What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the same area?

Keep learning and get as much practical experience as you can from as many different sources as you can.

8 – what advice would you give to your younger self?

Primarily to have more faith in myself, I always thought everyone else was much more talented than me and as a result I didn’t always make the most of the opportunities that came my way.

I’d also tell myself not to be in such a hurry! I always expected everything to happen overnight, and as a result made my mistakes along the way. If I’d had a little more patience I would probably have done things in a more measured way!


Thank you for your time Diane and I hope to see you again soon!


Mark Wilson, author of The Secret Of How To Be Happy

May 12, 2014


Mark Wilson wrote his book after his very own search for happiness. Through many trials and errors, he found his secret and he is eager to share it with the rest of us.

Mark posits that happiness can be reached through the law of attraction and all you need to do is to learn how to use it. Mark provides many insights into this, that even got me thinking “Of course! How didn’t I realize this before?”. Some things are as simple as that, we just tend to over look them, for that same reason, I suppose.

It is written in a way that feels like Mark is a friend telling you his story and it makes for a very pleasant reading.

It is not promised that all your dreams will come true just by reading the book, there are no miracles! But it will help you become aware and build your inner tools that you need to achieve your inner happiness goals.

A very important point that resonated with me quite strongly (and I’ve mentioned this quite a few times on here) is that happiness is not attainable by accumulating material goods. So we better stop hoping that amazing pair of Louboutins that costs almost a month’s salary will finally make you happy because it won’t. Save your pennies and your credit card and get Mark’s book instead. A much smaller investment but with much higher dividends!

I asked Mark a few questions about his book and his ideas. Enjoy!

The Secret of How to be Happy w border

1 -what prompted you to write this book?

Haha, desperation! A couple of years ago my life wasn’t in a great place and I certainly wasn’t happy. I’d just moved to a new town on my own, my social life wasn’t satisfying, my career seemed to have stalled, and I’d been single for ages. Plus, to make matters worse, I had anxiety issues and low self-esteem and over the years I’d come to almost expect that ‘things’ weren’t ever going to go right for me.

I’d really tried to help myself, too!

I’d read so many books about the law of attraction and employed all the techniques authors such as Rhonda Byrne advise their readers to try to attract positivity into my life but it just wasn’t working for me. The funny thing was, I always kind of intuitively felt that the law of attraction was a very real thing and that it was the key to my happiness. The concept of the law of attraction certainly resonated on some level with me, I just couldn’t get it to work for me.

Then one day I had a genuine epiphany moment.

I realised that I’d been trying very hard to consciously attract nice things to me, whereas what I (or anyone else) actually needed to do was subconsciously change the way I was thinking and feeling. Once you can subconsciously think and feel positive, that’s when the law of attraction actually kicks in automatically and amazing things start to happen naturally to change your life for the better.

Of course, the trick is to train your subconscious thoughts and feelings into being more positive. None of the books I read told me this, and it was only when I’d figured out how to change my subconscious feelings for the better that I knew I had a great self-help book that would help others to improve their lives.
2- Besides reading your book, what else would you recommend to anyone trying to improve their wellbeing?

Well, my book contains all the information you need to attract more happiness into your life, but I think the most important single mindset is to take responsibility of your own wellbeing and then regard it as an ongoing longer term issue rather than a quick fix. That’s why I’ve set my readers’ expectations at a 28-day happiness programme, although in reality I’ve found that most people will start to noticeably feel happier after only a few days.

But naturally there are other things that anyone can do to improve their wellbeing.

Years ago I suffered from occasional bouts of mild depression, and during these phases I discovered that consciously setting myself just one small attainable goal each day helped my state of mind immeasurably, so I’d recommend doing this every day if possible whether you’re depressed or not.

A typical goal would be different for everyone, but the key is to make it significant but simple; so for example it may be to go to the gym, or to clean the house. Or give some old unwanted clothes to charity, Sara?! Or it may be as simple as going for a five-minute walk, or phoning a friend to see how they are.

The important thing is to consciously set yourself one small attainable goal each day…and then do it. What happens when you do this is that at the end of each day you’ll naturally and subconsciously feel a small amount of satisfaction for achieving your target, even if your target was something simple.

After a few days you’ll find that you’ll almost magically feel better, and more motivated to set higher targets for yourself too, which is a great start to any kind of self-improvement journey.

I say ‘magically’ there, but of course this is the law of attraction in action! For every day you achieve your target, your subconscious mind feels more and more satisfied…and that attracts more and more satisfaction into your life, which then improves your wellbeing even more!
3 – How do you think we sabotage ourselves in the pursuit of happiness?

This really puzzled me early on in my own personal journey, because feeling happy is such a beneficial state of mind, and yet almost everyone these days finds it difficult to ‘be happy’.

Clearly we do sabotage our own pursuit of happiness, and this seems to be a really counter-intuitive self-destructive thing to do…until you accept that we have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind, and then understand how the two function (and dysfunction!) together.

You see, while our conscious mind enables us to be self-aware (that is, make decisions, plan ahead and enjoy creative thoughts), our subconscious mind controls all our automatic functions (our breathing, heartbeat, blinking, blushing, sweating and much more) for as long as we’re alive whether we’re awake or asleep.

But it’s very difficult to change the way our subconscious mind performs its job; we can’t just consciously decide to be happy because being happy is a function of our subconscious mind, and our conscious mind can’t override what our subconscious mind is doing – as people who blush or sweat too much will understand.

So our subconscious mind – that part of us that interacts so powerfully with the law of attraction – is actually more concerned with just keeping us alive rather than attracting a gold-plated sports car and a 50-room mansion into our lives. And because, by our subconscious mind’s standards, it’s done a pretty good job for us so far (well, we’re all still alive aren’t we?) then it actually resists you when you try to do something it deems as being ‘new’ or ‘different’.

This is why it’s so hard to stick to a New Year’s resolution. Even if it’s good for you, your subconscious mind is suspicious of anything that threatens that comfortable status quo it has over-cautiously nurtured for you since you were born, and it will therefore resist unless you consciously persevere until your resolution eventually becomes a subconscious habit.

Thankfully, I’ve found that there are easy ways to create very beneficial subconscious habits that will attract happiness into your life!

4- What are you currently working on? Can you lift the veil a little?

I’ve mentioned the subject of my next book a few times to you today, and it’s a result of the amazing research I’ve continued since writing ‘Happy’.

My next book is called (at the moment) ‘The Power of the Subconscious Mind’, and I really think this book will help people to fulfil their potential and enjoy a quality of life that they could previously only have dreamed of.

The more I learn about the subconscious mind, the more I’m in complete awe about what a supreme asset we all have, and yet we all take it for granted.

But if we learned how to use our brain properly, we could revolutionise our lives. At the moment, for most people, it’s like having an Aston Martin Vantage and then never getting it out of first gear.

What a waste! I want to show people how to hit fourth or fifth gear! Or higher!

Thank you Mark for your time and for sharing your experiences with us. “The Secret of How to be Happy”is available on Amazon for Kindle.


Joseph Ari Aloi AKA JK5 – an interview

April 28, 2014

Happy Monday! Today we have a brand new interview on the blog: this time I got to chat with painter, illustrator and tattoo artist Joseph Ari Aloi, AKA JK5 about his inspirations and ideas on spirituality. The name might not ring a bell to most people on this side of the pond but know that he’s tattooed many a famous individuals, one of them the late Heath Ledger, among others. But that doesn’t really matter, as he is in his own right an extremely talented and accomplished artist. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NYC and divides his time between his family, tattoos and other art projects – and now will be visiting us in the UK this week.

So, you’re coming over to England this week!

I’m very excited, I’ve never been to the UK before! It’s been all kinds of missed opportunities or ill alignments with record labels, bands, art shows and projects that weren’t just quite meant to be, up until now. Now it’s a convergence of meant to be-ness and a wonderful way to be there for the first time. It embodies a lot and I’m being received by so many people, doing my book signing, it’s exciting!

Tell me a little bit about yourself, how did you get into art and tattooing?

It’s never been a choice or an option, I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a crayon or any sort of implement and I really haven’t stopped. I was hyperactive, imaginative and creative in grammar school, then got more serious about it in high school. Then, when I was in college, my third college – because I transferred twice – I just wasn’t ready for a focused art school or design curriculum right out of high school. I needed a well rounded, wild partying versatile college experience and that’s what I got. Then, I finally applied to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), I got in and it changed my life. I was finally in a place where all these expressive individuals from all over the world were gathered to go to school together and it was an awakening – my musical taste and exposure to other artists, literature, poets and art movements exploded and opened up when I was there. 

Also a deeply personal thing happened to me that changed the course of my life – I got a letter from my birth mother on my senior year at RISD, 23 years, 5 months and 19 days after I was born. That was something I had been aching for internally, spiritually and psychologically in my biological bones. Not knowing (where I came from) gave me an incredible reason to design and define myself. I started off drawing all kinds of cartoons, Star Wars characters, science fiction and fantasy, then got into surrealism and other art movements in High School. I was doing everything from photo realistic oil paintings, to translating my own dreams and filling up journals, always exploring and generating my own visual languages and drawing from my internal life and the outside world . You can say that the theme of finding oneself has always been a major motif, Star Wars introduced me to that mythical hero journey, and I always related to it.

I got the letter from my birth mother that changed everything, and at the same time I decided I wanted to tattoo. I was good friends with a print maker who had the equipment – all punk rock style, out of his kitchen, in Providence RI- and that was sort of it. I got bit by the bug of that history, culture and expression. What it was like to bleed and feel the pain for your own beliefs and expression, or something as simple as getting a drawing etched onto your body, the canvas shifting and turning yourself inside out if you will.

When tattooing presented itself in my life, I was ambivalent about the idea of tattooing before I really wanted one. Then all these factors converged, changed my life and gave me this incredible craft, platform and vehicle for all my other personal work which I was always generating. It just enabled me to stay true to myself and be completely free,  but earn an honest living and carve out a special unique artistic identity (at the same time).

Between 94 and 97 I was at this little biker shop, just burning through sketchbooks and generating original content, exploring my own spirituality – East vs West. It’s like a ton of pop cultural, ethnically inspired design languages. The sketchbooks, because of how densely and richly those pages got filled, became a style, aesthetic and a process, ultimate sort of medium unto itself and I got known for that. In 99 I published my first book, self published with my good friends from RISD and that got around the world. After that, opportunities for art shows and products started happening and naturally expanding.

What about the new book?

The new book is a time capsule, a beautifully designed document of my best output, back to 2003. There are some pages from the 70’s and bits and pieces from from my childhood, sketchbook pages from the 80’s and 90’s but for the most part it’s the last 11, 12 years.

What inspires you most to create nowadays?

I’m going to say I was really inspired by an interview I just heard yesterday about the presence of the divine and how one defines their spirituality. There were some really intelligent and insightful esoteric responses. This one caller equated the word curious (to spirituality) and said she had an insatiable curiosity for the mystery of life, the unknown, the unexplored. Why are we here, what is really going on inside my brain, how does one define the spirit, how do we manifest our divinity through our work and she equated being spiritual with being curious. I thought that was really bang on and very real to me.

I’ve always considered myself deeply spiritual and insatiably curious, my curiosity is constantly fueling my productivity. I’m constantly working and evolving my content, it’s a full time job. It keeps me up at night, makes me want to stay in bed because I’m still dreaming of it – a new form I want the work to take or environments using all my visual language. Prolific as I am, I’m getting out 1% of my subconscious activity. I always have work to do and at 43 years old I’ve produced enough work for a few lifetimes.

We have something in common, which is growing up and being educated in a Catholic school. How do you think that may have influenced your work?

(At the time) There was break dancing and hip hop and I was trying really hard to be that kind of kid. I was really into graffiti but my dad was Italian and really strict and he would kick my ass if I actually ever wrote on walls so it was all happening in my sketchbooks. My parents had this teacher’s conference at my school and were going around and all they were getting was negative feedback. When it gets to the religion teacher and he’s like “Joey Aloi? That’s your son? He’s one of the best students I’ve ever had. His notes are impeccable, he illustrates everything we’re learning about – the Church and Catholicism, the symbols, he asks questions, excellent test taker.” My dad is like “Are you sure you’ve got the right kid?” I tell you this story because a) it’s such a good story, b) it has everything to do with the religious artist that I’ve always been, if you will.

I think my Catholic foundation and early experience turned me on into this internal church we should be worshiping at, that’s all about awareness and consciousness. It’s all here now, a oneness with the divine, no separation, it’s all here on earth. It’s magic, look around, the acid that dissolves the doors of perception, like Aldous Huxley said, it’s all here. The early exposure to Christian art and all its vocabularies and stories, all the saints, angels and symbols through to Star Wars and all sorts of pop culture, mythological translations into tattooing it is all about this higher consciousness. The Church of the Creator vs the Church of the False Invader, the duality between your own internal and artistic spirituality vs that of the masses, or that of a drive-thru window, or that of plastic externalized culture that’s completely co-opted.

If you get to know my body of work as a whole, which is a history of the universe onto itself, you will see all the woven threads, going back to my earliest memories of drawing Jesus, Kiss, Star Wars, crosses, symbols, logos, cartoons, it’s all there.

I’m really curious about your book and see all these layers of your work.

It’s beautifully designed and carefully edited, a digestible and navigable journey of my life and work like never before. It’s my third book published and my first monograph at Rizolli. I’ve done a million projects and been working and tattoing for a long time. With this book, I don’t have to say anything, I just put it in someone’s hand, people just pick it up and read it like a novel. There’s a chronology to it, an autobiographical component, it’s a portfolio, a time capsule, a retrospective and embodies a lot of different things. My birth mother wrote the intro, there’s contributing essays by contemporary artists. Some of these essays are hilarious, entertaining and informative, even moving and it’s all there! I wrote the intro to all the different sections, (as it’s) separated into categories. The response has been really wonderful and I just found out the New York Times is going to cover the book, and that’s really exciting.

Thank you Joseph for your time and kindness. Joseph will be tattooing in London for this week only  and doing a book signing on the 1st of May at Seven Doors Tattoo in London. Check their website for more details.

If you would like to know some more of Joseph’s work head on to: Tumblr blog, website



The Tattoo Files – Fiona Morris

April 4, 2014

The Tattoo Files


Name Fiona Morris , Age  43 , Location Grantham

What was your first tattoo and how old were you when you got it?

Winged heart in the centre of my back just before my 38th birthday

Which one is your favourite?

Don’t really have a favourite tattoo, love them all, no regrets J

Some have meanings behind them, like my girl’s best friend and Rock of ages which is for my sister as she’s the strong one in the family and keeps us all together.

Rosie the riveter and poppies, bombs and soldiers grave, I wanted as a tribute to all those who sacrificed everything for us to have the freedom we do and to remember everyday.

The Tattoo Files

Do you feel that people look at you differently because you’re a tattooed woman?

I do get some unwanted attention from having tattoos, not sure if it’s because I’m a woman or just that some people don’t like ink.

I’ve had a unique dress style since my early teens so have always had people look at me differently, especially in a small town, so maybe I just don’t notice the looks anymore 😉

Strangely the older generation seem to be less concerned, I often get pensioners chatting about my 1940’s / 1950’s dress style and my tattoos don’t bother them.

The Tattoo Files

Do you want to get more ink? What would you get?

Definitely getting more ink, still got gaps!! My partner and I go to ET’s Tattoos in Norwich and book a few days each year.

Have some ideas, want flowers on my collar bones but otherwise not decided yet, always trying to find something unique to my lifestyle and personality.


The Tattoo Files – Martin Barker

December 13, 2013

It is now time for another installment of the Tattoo Files series. this time I convinced my friend and co-worker Martin to pose for a couple of portraits and tell us all about his passion for tattoos. We took these photos at lunch time, while hiding in a meeting room. thank goodness no one barged in on us as it would look quite the weird thing to do!

Name, Age, Location:

Martin Barker, 23, Grantham

When did you get your first tattoo and what was it?

When I turned 18 and planned to have my one and only tattoo (That failed) I watched Dead Poets Society and discovered the concept of Carpe Diem! And Seize the day I did 🙂

Which one is your favourite?

The marathon details on my leg, not only because I achieved my aim of running a marathon, but also as it is my own handwriting and so no one else will have that font.
Do you have any that you regret? (If so, why?)

I don’t really regret any as at the time when I got them I know I would have been feeling pumped and so it was worth it for that, but possibly PMA- I’m all for positive mental attitude but I probably could have come up with something a bit more creative.

Any plans for acquiring more art?

After acquiring quite a few quotes I want either an Orangutan under my arm pit swinging from my armpit hair or I will draw a comic book of the highlights of my life.

See also: Emma North