Happy New Year

Midnight o'clock on the dot: a peculiar yet charming tradition
I was introduced to last year from Germany, via a British idyll

A Happy New Year to you all - here's to a bigger, better 2013


Merry Christmas

Three o'clock on the dot: a traditional British Christmas requisite

A very Merry Christmas to all my readers around the world


10 Ideas

My annual Christmas gift guide is back for another year and there's no better day than 10th December to drop my ten gift ideas that will get you some culture points under the tree this Holiday season. Taken from the worlds of art and design over the year from both my twitter and pinterest boards as well as this very blog, here's my curated countdown to the big two-five. Merry shopping to one and all...

1. Crème de la crème 
Contemporary artist, Kenny Scharf's Squirt character explodes onto this year's annual philanthropic art customisation of several product lines at Kiehl's
2. Cellar envy
Power of Creation - limited edition 750ml from 2003 - by David Lynch for Dom Perignon

3. Ladies who lunch
Prêt-à-porter versus prêt-à-manger - Saco de Papel by ADAISM
4. Men who munch
Something to put inside your missus's lunch bag - Band of Outsiders cookie cutters at Neiman Marcus X Target Holiday24   
5. Smooth operator
Hand-painted tortoiseshell case for iPhone 5 at Case-Mate
6. That's amore
My favourite childhood Christmas treats - Amaretti Di Saronno at I Camisa & Son
7. Globetrotting gin
Heritage tipple from British eccentric, Wing Commander 'Monty' Collins via India and Germany's Black Forest - Monkey 47 Dry Gin available at Manufactum

8. Diamond Queen
Stencil or thread to connect all sixty dots to create a silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II  - Queen's Head Stencil, limited edition of 100 by Studio Velardi
9. Trompe l'oeil tablet
2012's brand comeback kid gets tech-appeal with this iPad case from Kenzo
10. Plastic Fantastic
Kartell - The Culture of Plastics at Taschen


The Clooney Effect

Geneva, Switzerland 2012

Follow the #highlife and #lowlife @JMVELARDI

The Art Of Packing

This week I'm in Europe with Studio Velardi and before leaving for my first pit stop in Geneva, Switzerland I've been featured on the lifestyle blog I Am Packed. Founded earlier this year and sponsored by Air New Zealand, the site features a selection of items, packed and ready to go for any eventuality by travellers from around the world. 
I Am Packed provides the necessary association of contemporary-cool that brands, such as Air New Zealand, look for within social media. The unexpected submissions that resemble more art, than casual throw-in-a-suitcase snapshot, give both blog and airline the curatorial credentials that will have everyone admiring the art of packing

Check out what's inside my luggage between LHR and GVA here - more from Geneva on my return so until then, à bientôt tout le monde!


Warhol At Windsor

The King of Pop Art, Andy Warhol said, “I want to be as famous as The Queen of England". Since the American artist’s death in 1987, countless retrospectives and iconic auctions of his trademark technicolour screen prints have travelled around the world, entering the public and private collections of the most powerful and popular personalities in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Contemporary culture continues to not only reference Warhol’s trademark aesthetic but also his intuitive prediction of the phenomenon that is celebrity today, coining the 'fifteen minutes of fame' expression in 1968,
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes".
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Edition 'R' - Andy Warhol, 1985
If there is anyone who is to defy fifteen minutes, or fame for that matter, it is The Queen of England. Presidents, dictators and actors have come and gone, however it has been Queen Elizabeth II who has surpassed Warhol’s eclectic global subjects: way beyond fifteen minutes, eighty six years and counting, of which sixty have been to serve her country. In an era when it has been possible for artists, namely Damien Hirst, to become as wealthy as The Queen, it is the untouchable allure of Monarchy that transcends time and remains an inspiration for artists throughout history past, present and most likely future. Hirst is regularly likened to Warhol in practice and panache. Should Warhol have been alive today, Hirst would undoubtedly have some competition on both art and rich list charts, but more importantly he would realize he had achieved the levels of fame akin to the British Monarch. One thing that he may not have predicted was that the person he wanted to be as famous as would one day also be his collector.
Windsor Castle in Berkshire - the world's oldest inhabited working castle
In the year that marks her Diamond Jubilee, in September The Royal Collection acquired a series of four screen prints of The Queen by Warhol. The four portraits on paper - edition 14 of 30 from Warhol's Royal Edition - were reworked from The Queen’s official Silver Jubilee photograph in 1977 by Peter Grugeon and form part of the portfolio Reining Queens, which include Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Ntombi laTfwala of Swaziland. Executed with a spectrum of colourways and sprinkled with fine particles of cut glass, known as ‘diamond dust’, the glittering purchase of Warhol’s work for The Royal Collection - property of the Monarch as Sovereign, held in trust for the British nation – signifies the conscious acceptance of the adage that has been synonymous of late with the House of Windsor: changing times. Joining the exclusive and spectacular roll call of artists from Holbein to van Dyck, da Vinci and Rubens, Lady Jane Roberts, Royal Librarian at The Royal Collection explains,
The Warhol prints are in many ways the most important popular image of the queen to be created by an artist print maker over the last few decades.”
Opening today, the new works are on exhibit for the first time since their acquisition alongside select images by Beaton, Freud, Rankin and Leibovitz as well as a host of society photographers and international portrait artists as part of the exhibition, The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch, at Windsor Castle to commemorate the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation next year. Charting the very first photograph of The Queen after her accession, taken by Dorothy Wilding, to subsequent official and Jubilee portraits commissioned by state and institution, the exhibition consists of works from different Royal residences and presents the image of a woman – a fact society seems to forget when erratic waves of feminist absence stir - whose face and expression has been captured in various sittings and moments in time; for canvas, coins, bank notes and postage stamps.
 The Print Room in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle
The addition of Warhol to the collection in this landmark year for Monarchy makes for quite the fairytale: a Queen-to-be and the son of Slovak American-dreamers, born within two years of each other, both conscious of one another in the public eye and yet leading polar opposite lives across the Atlantic, now come to share the exceptional historical status in both word and image. The conceptual process of repeat that the artist pioneered in the mid-fifties now resides under the Wyatville-designed ceiling of a woman whose very own face has been the most repeated image to date.

Pop Art’s message is often lost by its unashamedly superficial surface and familiarity with the language of advertising, however it is a movement that manipulates and exposes the everyday to new narratives for social reflection and its inherent nature of colour and repetition remains a potent product in demand across creative markets. As an admirer of Warhol and Pop Art, I have been fortunate to view his prolific body of work on my travels over the years and I was very excited today to be able to merely walk up the road and come face to face with his works in my hometown of Windsor, Berkshire. The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch is a refreshing display in contrast to the more traditional exhibitions that are sourced from the collection’s vast archives for the gothic gallery space at Windsor Castle. Consisting of a variety of mediums and expressions, each with their own individual story, the exhibition complements The Royal Collection’s permanent installation in the State Apartments and reminds visitors that the story of British culture and identity is living and breathing - beyond fifteen minutes, years, decades and centuries.

I’m sure The Andy Warhol Foundation – whose original collection is currently being auctioned to fund future expansion for the Visual Arts across America – feel a sense of pride that their founder’s dream posthumously came true.

The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch is part of a visit to Windsor Castle and runs from 23rd November 2012 to 9th June 2013. Click here for further visitor information about Windsor Castle and the exhibits on display.

Visit Christie’s for more details on forthcoming auctions from The Andy Warhol Foundation.  

Images courtesy of Royal Collection Trust


Happy Thanksgiving!

Decadent dining with Pantone 1815 C

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers 
across the pond and beyond!


Thank You Cards

The curtains are beginning to be drawn on another year and with the chorus of Christmas now very much in the air, I thought it timely to share a personal seasonal message of my own before the clock strikes festive-mayhem and panic in a few weeks. I have been looking forward to the end of this year for some time and I may finally share with you, after a year in the making, news of the launch of my latest design collaboration with the charity, Thames Hospicecare.

Thames Hospicecare provides a palliative care service to those suffering from a terminal or life-limiting illness in my hometown of Windsor and Ascot in the Royal county of Berkshire. In 2009 my Mother, Lilli received the specialist care and support at the Hospice towards the end of her life after battling cancer for several years. I was guilty of projecting the stereotypes that many formulate around hospice care; it was not until my family had to access the support of the Hospice that I realised the overwhelming compassion and treatment that was received by all and how I am now deeply fortunate to hold what is a painful memory in a positive light.

I am eternally grateful to the Hospice's dedicated team of doctors and nurses as well as the bereavement support I received in the wake of my loss and at the realisation I no longer had family in Britain. I will never forget this time in my life and after much brainstorming on what I could do to say thank you, I approached Thames Hospicecare last year offering my design services. It therefore brings me great pleasure to announce a series of fundraising Christmas cards now available at Thames Hospicecare sites, shops across Berkshire and online
Fall In © 2012 - PURCHASE
Inspired by local and iconic scenes in this special year of both the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as the Hospice's very own twenty-fifth anniversary, three contemporary designs depict Windsor Castle, the Copper Horse in Windsor Great Park and the serving soldiers that are synonymous with the town. I hope residents of Windsor and beyond will support Thames Hospicecare's invaluable work and ability to provide palliative care in East Berkshire through my exclusive designs during what is a vital source of income for the charity over the Christmas period. 
 Windsor Castle Christmas Presents & Let It Snow © 2012 (Twin Pack) - PURCHASE
If you have been bitten by the British bug this year, please look to independent charities this Holiday season such as Thames Hospicecare by visiting their Christmas catalogue - 100% proceeds from sales go directly to the Hospice.
View the Press Release for more on the collaboration and my personal story with Thames Hospicecare. 

Thank you very much for your support. 


What If...

Hi everyone - apologies for my quietness of late on here - I have been so busy, which is ironic given what I'm about to post. 
This short lecture by the late British philosopher, Alan Watts on the subject What if money was no object? popped up on my Twitter feed posted by @meghanh. Please take three minutes out of your busy day to watch it - you may find what was to be another mundane day could end differently...


Studio Velardi Joins Tumblr

Studio Velardi has officially joined the visual realm of Tumblr! As many of my readers will know I launched Studio Velardi - the commercial arm of my practice - earlier this year to offer a digital, traditional and bespoke creative design service (Introducing… March 2012). To mark my first leap into commercial product design, I created an exclusive collection of environmentally friendly stationery that explored British stereotype and illustrative paraphernalia that has been well received in Windsor, where the enterprise is based, in the heart of Royal Berkshire.
Complementing the enterprise’s online activity in both word and image, studiovelardi.tumblr.com will present a visual archive of product, projects and events as well as a comprehensive online portfolio of both identity and inspiration of an emerging brand; focusing on accessible, high quality design production that employs local manufacturers in the Royal county wherever possible and is resolutely made in England.
This weekend Studio Velardi returns to the Windsor Emporium on Sunday 7th October at The Guildhall, Windsor.

Visit studiovelardi.tumblr.com and follow @studiovelardi on Twitter for the latest news and updates on my whereabouts over the coming festive season. 


Summer Of Dreams

The official end of summer may have been last week, but London was not ready to say farewell just yet and after a week of Paralympic action, it was time today to reflect on what has been an historic British summer of sport and celebration in the shadows of yesterday night’s extraordinary Coldpay tribute to the "Para- Para-" Paralympic Closing Ceremony.
From the magnificent spectacle that invited the world deep into the true British psyche of eclecticism and invention at the Olympics (Opening UpJuly 2012) to the superhuman achievement that was displayed again from East London to Eton Dorney and across the United Kingdom during the Paralympic Games, London 2012 will be remembered as the city that shone the Paralympic flame brighter than ever before, as if the Olympics were merely a warm-up to what would be an inspiring summer of inclusivity for all.
London 2012 Velodrome by Hopkins Architects
After being hooked to the Olympic coverage and desperately trying to get in on some Paralympic action for myself, I was lucky enough to witness last week what had been reported in the press with my own eyes: pride, patriotism and personality that had brand GB written all over it around the Olympic Park. Zaha Hadid’s critically acclaimed Aquatics Centre was arguably the most iconic venue in style and substance and it was somehow an honour to experience an ecstasy of senses within this beautiful structure and even see more than ten world records on the night that I attended, including Paralympic GB’s golden girl Ellie Simmonds MBE.
Legacy officially has nowhere to hide (The Finish LineAugust 2012) and it will be London 2012’s testament in years to come to its success in both sporting arenas as well as starting today and tomorrow in everyday life for young, old, abled and disabled alike.

My inherent British cynicism thought London 2012 was going to be like a difficult relative coming to visit for the summer. Now, I don’t want it to leave. Congratulations to all the athletes, volunteers and organisers who created a summer of dreams that turned fantasy into reality - where athletes proved that dreams really do come true and hopefully the dreams of a generation have been planted for a lifetime. Here are some photos from my Olympic day out last week…
London 2012 Basketball Arena by SKM/Wilkinson Eyre/KSS
 London 2012 Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid
 British Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds MBE, wins gold 


Street Dance

Elegant, poised and seemingly still, a new member has joined the cast of street performers in London’s historic Covent Garden. While many made-up, foiled or glittering creations vie for your attention at eye-level, this performer commands an elevated view on the corner of Bow and Russell Street.
Globe Head Ballerina, 2012
I am of course referring to the celebrated artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE’s public art commission by the Royal Opera House earlier in the summer as part of the London 2012 FestivalGlobe Head Ballerina contributes to Shonibare’s growing repertoire of public art after the Fourth Plinth CommissionNelson’s Ship in a Bottle, installed in Trafalgar Square in 2010, as well as the artist’s conceptual aesthetic of past times. Inspired by a photograph of Margot Fonteyn, prima ballerina assoluta of The Royal Ballet, the sculpture sees a dancer suspended in pose and structure, scaling the façade of the Royal Opera House and encased in a large-scale snow globe. Almost cosmic in appearance, the sculpture's vertical installation draws your eye up to its untouchable vantage overlooking Covent Garden Market and its fellow resident performers.
Never one to disappoint on detail, Shonibare dresses the dancer in Dutch Wax fabrics - with its loaded perception of African identity via colonial supremacy - that are now synonymous with the artist’s range of work. Tailored by the Royal Opera House Costume Department, a tutu and shoes are fitted to a body cast from Soloist, Melissa Hamilton, and keeping with the artist’s tradition of headless mannequins, a replica Victorian world globe rests on the dancer’s shoulders and is a nod to the international work around dance, as art form, that the Royal Opera House has been dedicated to since the mid-eighteenth century. The dancer slowly rotates in her sphere and evokes a sense of wonder and spectacle amongst the buzz and pace of the streets below in the heart of Theatreland. Shonibare explains,
“… a very grown up piece of public sculpture than can be enjoyed by all. It’s like a life-size fairytale ballerina jewellery box that will spin”.
This is not the first time Shonibare has channelled dance into his art works as a medium to explore dialogues of culture and gender, politics and power, all packaged in a seductive scape of colour and sartorial elegance. Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), 2004 featured in the artist’s nominated Turner Prize exhibition and Odile and Odette, 2005 in collaboration with ROH2 at the Royal Opera House that involved dancers from both The Royal Ballet and Ballet Black, affirm his interest of physical expression within the context of experimental contemporary art. Public, playful and possessing pulling power in London’s oldest piazza, Globe Head Ballerina is a magnificent partnership of art and art form between contemporary artist and performing arts institution.
Globe Head Ballerina will be installed on Bow and Russell Street until 2017 – visit the Royal Opera House for more details.

View Larger Map
Royal Opera House
Covent Garden


The Finish Line

The London Olympic Games delved into the dictionary of Britishness. The city's charismatic Mayor, Boris Johnson started proceedings with zoinking off the Geiger counter and yesterday evening's Closing Ceremony said farewell to twenty-six million viewers across the world with a reminiscent zig-a-zig-ah. London has undoubtedly presented one of the most memorable and spectacular Olympic Games in modern history with stunning backdrops for sporting events across the city as well as the humbling service provided by volunteers and the armed forces over the last sixteen days. Add athletic finesse and unexpected triumphs with an electricity in the air that tasered even the stiffest of upper lips, the die-hard cynics were converted - even I caught the bug and I am now a proud owner of a Team GB t-shirt. British identity had a confidence boost on the court, lake, ring, track, pit... (didn't we do well?) as well as in the mirror - it is OK to be proud in competition, particularly when one is winning. It felt like the national anthem was on a loop for two weeks!  London 2012's official slogan is Inspire A Generation. Much debate will now take place around legacy and the future of sport for young people. Ironically London 2012 may have also inspired the quintessentially British introverts who may no longer be young, but are still young at heart and who have rather enjoyed the patriotic fanfare that has decorated our streets and television screens. 

Under the artistic direction of Kim Gavin, the Closing Ceremony was to be the last plug of brand GB. The arts have played an important role since London won the Olympic Games with an extensive programme of events, performances and commissions organised by the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and it was time to shine on the global stage in a dramatic and soulful read-all-about-it finale of made in Britain culture. Boy bands, Girl Power and the late Freddie Mercury - our other Queen - celebrated decades of musical favourites around a London cityscape formed in the shape of the Union flag.
Hirst goes epic for London 2012 Closing Ceremony
Having visited Damien Hirst's retrospective at the Tate over the weekend (Money Maker, April 2012) and viewing his music video collaboration with U2 for the rerelease of their 1992 hit , Even Better Than The Real Thing, I was hoping Hirst would be involved in the ceremony and as the first shots of Sunday's stadium were being aired, my suspicions materialised. The stadium floor was covered in the artist's iconic spin painting in a red, white and blue colourway that spanned one hundred and thirty metres wide, providing a contemporary artwork as the backdrop for the bird's-eye shots throughout the evening. Art's ability to inspire was followed by a mobile fashion show with Moss, Campbell and Tennant joining a cast of British supermodels who showcased golden creations to the soundtrack of David Bowie's Fashion in global success stories such as Burberry, McQueen, Westwood and Paul Smith. From the billboard-sized lorries that looked if they had migrated the whole of Oxford Street to the Olympic Village and the iconic London black cabs, sold around the world, to the export go-to in luxury motors; a fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupés handmade in West Sussex circulated the stadium, travelling in time through Lennon's I am A Walrus from the Sixties and then to Fatboy Slim's appropriately named, Right Here Right Now of the Nineties. British business old, known an emerging had viewers spinning in sound and vision.
Imagine: Yoko Ono creates John Lennon sculpture 
Touching moments for reflection were encapsulated by a large scale piecemeal cast of John Lennon's face, designed by Yoko Ono, resulting in what must be the most unanticipated art intervention with that of Hirst to be ever staged in one venue. Competing with as many stars in the sky as those on stage, the mashup continued with super hits from Pink Floyd, the Bee Gees, Oasis and Julian Lloyd Weber alongside the Pet Shop Boys, the Band of the Coldstream Guards and George Michael. 

If the Opening Ceremony was a lesson in British social history (Opening Up, July 2012), yesterday evening was recess - a guilty pleasure playlist of Brit Rock, Pop and pride that catapulted brand GB, in Monty Python fashion, naturally, over the finish line to win Gold.

The verdict: congratulations to everyone who was involved in the London Olympic Games - it's been #highlife.


What A Difference 16 Days Make...

After counting down for the past four years, the closing of the London Olympic Games is nigh - what have been your #highlife & #lowlife moments over the last sixteen days?


Opening Up

Where does one begin with yesterday's Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games? The wealth of imagery, and surprising education, that was injected into Isles of Wonder presented the trials and tribulations of British social history (and its global repercussions) - three centuries condensed into a three hour performance under the artistic direction over the last four years of Danny Boyle - captivated the world, as well as the British who now have a clear reflection in the pool of identity to look at. 
A formula of all three British traits; wit, spectacle and class, were not enough for the greatest show on earth. With the addition of a good helping of bonkers, or should I say Bond-kers, it was a unique ceremony with loaded juxtaposition of both the familiar and new introductions of brand GB that Boyle unashamedly offered on a molten platter to the sweet teeth of the world. This morning an American reporter commented on how Americans felt at home on British soil due to the growing closeness of popular culture and celebrity, that some will say is unfortunately shared in equal measure across the Atlantic. After yesterday night, twenty-first century America may feel differently towards a nation that is so drowning in iconic history, the Opening Ceremony could have lasted a whole week if it were possible due to Boyle's selective choice, and we even have our very own Abraham Lincoln in the shape of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, or Kenneth Branagh if all of this detail is getting too much for you. Given that thousands were invited to the technical rehearsals earlier this week, one can add another trait to being British: keeping a secret. Paramount to any Olympic Opening Ceremony is the power of image above the word; it was an evening of open access for all into the host nation's visual archives - from the private apartments of Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace, as well as a taste of her humour, to the core of the British psyche - a brand so complex it will have curious tourists wanting more for years to come. I am not going to attempt to tackle Boyle's narrative - you only need to access the global press to read credit and critique in every possible language - here's my humble take on a remarkably humbling night to remember...

An Artist's vision with an epic tale of British history to tell, featuring icons across eras and the everyday: priceless. 

On Her Majesty's Secret Service