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A familiar theme forms when I'm preparing for a trip away; book my travel, research, research, research, then pack my bags. With heavy weight given to the middle bit, I consider the planning and map-making to be the key to a decent couple of days away. Good for my head, and good for whoever I'm with.

Always on the list; local cafes, coffee shops, craft beer bars, design stores and museums + galleries. As I've got older my tastes have changed; I'll now seek out the coffee shops with a more considered approach to service and the interior, and cafes with a nice balance of personality, but one constant which hasn't altered are the museums. Since a teenager I've always loved spending time nosing around museums; an hour's wander at the British Museum in London with a buddy, a solo visit to the Manchester Art Gallery taking in a photography exhibition, or learning about something more historical like the Trencherfield Mill in Wigan. It's part of what I've always enjoyed.

Art Fund recently approached me with the subject of how 30 minutes of leisure activities a day is the key to improved wellbeing, which got me thinking about why I've always liked making time for these exhibitions + well designed spaces around the country. It's the perfect thing to do when you're riding solo, but when a buddy tags along you'll find yourself chatting about subjects that generally don't cross your mind. 


For context, here are some of the findings from Art Fund’s Calm and Collected report, a study into how regularly visiting museums and galleries can contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing:

- 53% of adults said they had recently felt some level of anxiety on any given day, with 34% describing that anxiety as being at a ‘high level"
 
- 27% of adults feel guilty about taking time for themselves
 
- Only 41% say they have a hobby or activity that they regularly make time for, there is still plenty of scope for improvement – and that’s where art can play a more significant role
- While 51% of those surveyed say they would like to visit museums and galleries more regularly – and 63% say they have at some point visited specifically to ‘de-stress’ – only 6% of us actually visit at least once a month
 
- Those who regularly visit museums and galleries as part of their overall lifestyle tend to feel much more satisfied with their lives, and in the social study, those who visit a museum or gallery at least once a week report a range of benefits, from learning new things to finding space to reflect



So why are we increasingly feeling so anxious? I'd be the first to say that I feel the pressure which social media and a freelance lifestyle seems to evoke. I have great days and crappy days, and it's generally down to the pressure I've put on myself to be earning, to always be "on" and by comparing myself to others. I am finding the balance though; switching off totally isn't the right tact for me, but if I pinpoint the times where I do feel de-stressed I would have to say a lot of those moments are when I'm making time for the things that feel right. Museums + galleries fit in perfectly.

I'd never proclaim that the job role I've found myself in is "hard work" - it's a job I love, and therefore I feel fortunate to have found my place - but it would definitely benefit my own wellbeing to pursue more of the things I love to do in my spare time. I visit a museum maybe once a month, and leave feeling content and usually a little closer to the person who I'm with, so why don't I make more time for these visits? I'm not sure I have an answer to that.

"Do more of what feels right"
What I tell myself when things aren't going to plan 


Investing in yourself maybe isn't a subject we think about all that often. The Art Fund study shows that we are aware of the benefits of pursuing activities which contribute to our wellbeing (listening to inspiring podcasts, reading, exercise, socialising without phones etc), but it's the keeping it up bit that I reckon I struggle with. So this is me making a pact with myself to do more of what feels right, on a regular basis. The UK’s museums and galleries seem to be that untapped resource to wellbeing that many of us are seeking.

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Through the National Art Pass (an annual membership which gives you free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historical places across the UK + 50% of entry to major exhibitions including those at the British Museum, Tate, and the Design Museum) the Art Fund is encouraging us to say ‘yes’ more often to the things that make us happy. So when was the last time you dedicated a bit of time to visiting a gallery, what did you see + how did it make you feel?⁣⁣

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It's the weirdest thing, when I'm away holiday, that moment in time really is the only thing that matters. I've got quite a bit of work that needs doing and a few deadlines creeping but they can wait, 'cos beers by the pool + planning what restaurant to eat at next is all I can think about.

We've been back from Orlando for about a month now, and a few days after getting home I found myself on a plane heading for Lisbon - for a fun work trip with my mate Jordan (more on that soon). There aren't that many other jobs that I can think of where these kind of last minute trips make sense - I tend to have a reality-check moment while I'm away and think to myself - or sometimes out loud - "oh know what, how cool is this job!?" It's very cool, and I think it pays to remind myself this, but also what it's taken to get to this point in my life too.

I'd never say it's a hard job, I mean, it comes with a lot of stress, anxiety and hard work, but then if I compare it to, say, hospital workers, the policeforce or even the pilot up front flying the plane, then it puts things into perspective. It's all relative though.

I like to use these trips with Hollie as a bit of a release from work, but I never really switch off my camera. I guess it's ingrained in me now, as a geezer who just loves to take photos. It makes me happy - and it's not just for sharing on social media sake, but for my own sense of purpose. Maybe it helps me look at life a little deeper; to notice more, see things that don't seem to matter but ultimately have a meaning, living day-to-day by being aware of how cool normal life actually is.

Mat.
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Well, I wasn't expecting to be visiting this place any time soon, but with some veeeeeery last minute booking provided by Hollie, we found ourselves stepping off the plane at Orlando airport just two days after we bought the tickets. Turns out she's way more spontaneous than I ever imagined. 

We've been visiting Orlando most years since we first got together (13 years ago, whoa), so anything too touristy doesn't really register on our radar anymore - other than the occasion visit to Universal Studios, cos we can never grow bored of that. The speciality coffee scene has slowly but surely becoming a pretty big deal in the city, and thanks to tools such as Instagram we've found ourselves sitting inside some absolutely stonking places.

Deeply Coffee has set the bar extremely high for the city, with a unique interior which featues a polish concrete floor, an impressive poured concrete shared bar + seating set-up, light natural wood cladded walls, hairpin leg tables and stools, mid-century seating and the odd fig plant dotted around. Due to the perfect positioning of Deeply, the whole plot takes advantage of the endless hazy natural light from Orlando's infamous long days. The kinda place you can imagine working away in for hours?

Coffee-wise, they were using beans from Stockholm roasters Drop when we visited; the filter came in a Kinto pouring jug, and for flat whites 'n' smaller these were served in tactile ceramic cups by San Diego-based Tiny Badger. Hollie grabbed silky and sweet cold brew, and the cakes came as big as your hand. The salted raspberry brownie and a banana muffin were both mega. Now this is the real side of Orlando that needs to be explored more often.

Deeply Coffee - 111 N Magnolia Ave #50, Orlando, Florida 32801
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 In partnership with Caran d'Ache

From the early days of starting this blog - just over 11 years ago now - I said that sharing creative ideas + interesting stories from people and brands was one of the main factors why I actually started Buckets & Spades. If I was sharing a fashion piece, a city break, a interesting magazine layout, some cool looking packaging or a more personal journal I always wanted there to be a narrative and reason behind why I decided to share it.

My own journey - from a slightly lost student bursting with ideas but no clue how to make them happen, to a 30-something full-time freelancer with mortgage and fulfilling yet hard-to-explain job - has definitely been colourful. A mixture of rewarding opportunities, anxiety, self-doubt, and sometimes weeks of hardly having any time to think about what I've experienced at all.

An email dropped into my inbox a few weeks ago, simply entitled, "Visit the Caran d'Ache stationery factory in Geneva"...I don't think I've ever been more excited by a line of letters sitting next to each other before. I've been using Caran d'Ache products for a couple of years, after receiving one of their iconic 849 pens from their collaboration with Paul Smith, and since then used their pens on a daily basis. But the name Caran d'Ache might not ring bells to a portion of you, so here's a super brief bio on the brand;

Caran d'Ache started life in 1915, in the centre of Geneva - an area of Switzerland known for its natural mountainous materials. Originally known as"Fabrique Genevoise de Crayons", the brand was renamed to something a little more catchy.

Across Europe the name Caran d'Ache became synonymous within the world of pens, pencils and art equipment. It's one of those brands that you'd be exposed to from an early age at school, grow fond through your teens, and become attached to as an adult. The words Caran d'Ache originally come from the Russian word for pencil, “karandash”, which in turn derives from the Turkish root “kara tash”, referring to the origins of graphite.

In 2015 Switzerland's first pencil factory turned 100 years old; a testament to the brand's ability to evolve over time, stand by its original values and eagerness to collaborate to create something new.

A month later I found myself stepping off the train in Geneva Central Station, for the second time (the first time was back in 2015). Buzzing from the fact that in a few hours I'd be taken around a stationery factory - for someone who absolutely loves stationery and "how it's made" documentaries, the next morning couldn't come quick enough. The first afternoon wasn't wasted though; me and Emma Jane Palin - a travel, culture + design writer from Margate - took to the streets to see what the city was made of. It's a whole lot more colourful that expected!


The 8:30am bus ride to Eaux-Vives region of Geneva couldn't come soon enough. Never has a building took me straight back to the school classroom quite like the Caran d'Ache factory; the smell of wax crayons and Californian cedar wood wafted through the corridors just like freshly baked bread in a bakery.

We heard from longstanding members of the team: the enthusiasm for the smaller design details such as the weight of an ink refill or the hexagonal shape of the aluminium body on the Caran d'Ache 849 ballpoint pen (so it doesn't roll off your desk!) is the kind of passion I love to be around.

First let's take a look around the pencil making process:

If you've been reading my blog for a few years you'll know that I've visited a bunch of factories - from baseball jersey to distillery - and while not all of process can be shared, what I can say is that I've never been inside an operation with such grace, curiosity + science lab-like precision than these walls. If Wes Anderson designed a factory...super ordinary details every direction you turn. 

We followed the pencils from start to end; starting with the colourful pigment room and cutting line, to their inception inside cedar wood blocks and the mesmerising seven stages of vanishing finishing room. Living inside a "how it's made" documentary is fun!

And then it was time to see how they make their pen range + the iconic 849:

There's something very pleasing about being involved in the making process of a product. It's a similar feeling to cooking a meal from scratch, then serving it to friends - a sense of accomplishment. On my visit to the factory had the opportunity to have a hand in constructing my very on 849 Caran d'Ache ballpoint pen from the new Claim Your Style collection, and it gives me the same satisfying feeling every time I see that pen sitting on my notepad at home. A timeless piece of  I made an item that has become a huge part of my own creative process. My craft skills might not have been up to much, but you can't knock my enthusiasm!

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be 
useful, or believe to be beautiful."
William Morris

Sometimes a fleeting visit to a new city happens so quickly that I don't always fully appreciate what I've experienced, but there's something about these two days in Geneva that felt different. There's a great excitement towards a brand, and I was also surprised by just how much I enjoyed the city. There's good stuff here, you just gotta know where to look for it.

The recipe for a meaningful relationship between a brand and individual cuts much deeper than using a product. To build a genuine connection over time in a way which feels natural isn't easy, that's exactly what I'm experiencing here with Caran d'Ache. True, I am a part of a paid partnership with the brand, but I'm never told what to write on these pages. These are for me. If I could tell my younger self that he'll one day get to visit a stationery factory to build his own pen, the answer would be the same every time: "It's a big yes from me".

To be in with a chance of winning a set of the new Claim Your Style collection 849 pens head over to my new Instragam post to enter (starts soon).

This blog post is in partnership with Caran d'Ach. Thank you for supporting the people and businesses that help make this blog happen.
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In partnership with Joseph

Blocking three days out of our week to visit Barcelona for the first time sounded pretty ace. With my case packed with a selection of my favourite pieces from the SS19 collection by Joseph, and some cheap fights booked, we were all set to see the city with fresh eyes.

Sometimes those cheap flights have you arriving into a city quite late and force you to leave wayyyyy too early - but hey, that's what we signed up for. Our "three days" ended up really just being one, but you can really shift pavement when you're under a tight time restriction.

Armed with a handy list of recommendations from folks on Instagram + Twitter, we launched into our 24 hours exploring a new city with an early rise and a solid planned mapped out. The early bird catches the siesta, or something like that...

On our agenda; architecture, coffee, food and craft beer:
 
 Breton Top by Joseph | Perfect T Shirt by Joseph | Trousers by Arket | Sneakers by Converse | Sunglasses by Moscot
 Maxime Twill Bicoloured Jacket by Joseph | Socks by Margaret Howell
Walden7
Ctra. Reial, 106, 08960 Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona

What a way to start the day! This mind-bender of a building was suggested by our mate Jordan Bunker. Created from the genius mind of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, Walden 7 is a super surreal looking housing development on the west side of the city, which has become a much-loved icon of the city. The otherworldly labyrinth-like passageways, stairwells and jutting balconies of this place made for a slightly off-balancing yet unforgettable experience

It's the kind of place you see on the internet but never have a clue as to where it actually is. Being a private housing development means access isn't easy to come by - I'm told that there are regular tours, but we made our way inside behind some happy looking locals who had no qualms with us being there when we showed them our cameras. Worth the risk!


Syra Coffee
Carrer de la Mare de Déu dels Desemparats, 8, 08012 Barcelona

Ain't it amazing what you can do when you're under restriction. I'm constantly impressed with the design solutions people come up with when coming up against issues such as space, money and time. Syra Coffee is a perfectly example of this how to create a inviting and wholesome place inside a tiny unit, located in the middle of the city's vibrant Vila de Gracia district.

I didn't realise how affordable good coffee and very good cakes can be in Barcelona - 4 Euros for a tasty flat white + a locally made ginger and white chocolate cookie is a 10/10 every day of the week. Syra was definitely a highlight from my day. I just loved how this place looked, the geezer making the brews was really friendly and there was even room for a small Japanese photography exhibition at the back.


Parking Pizza - Parking Pita
Passeig de Sant Joan, 56, 08009 Barcelona

Food - the heart and soul of every city visit. Torn between a list of 10 cafes and restaurants to decide from, we ended up choosing a place that served more than one speciality. Mega looking pizzas and absolutely packed pitas. Communal benches promote sharing and unexpected conversation, and the open-plan setting allowed the midday sun light to flood in via well placed skylights. As for the food, the falafel pita takes the winnings // Parking Pizza - Pita

 Mer Parachute Shirt by Joseph | Breton Top by Joseph | Plage Linen Shorts by Joseph | Vans OG Slip


Skye Coffee at Espacio88
Carrer de Pamplona, 88, 08018 Barcelona

Just look at this place! I don't associate converted industrial warehouse spaces with Barcelona at all, in fact, Jake commented that the whole El Poblenou district of the city felt similar to San Francisco. Agreed. Along with Cloudstreet Bakery, Skye Coffee's resident coffee truck can be found inside Espacio88; a multi-faceted architectural space used for experiential events, workshops, creative talks and home to one of the city's most striking coffee outposts. Serving speciality coffee from a restored 1972 Citoën HY to locals and visitors looking for a truly unique experience. For more about Barcelona's coffee culture see Kaffeine Kick.


Mikkeller Bar 
Carrer de València, 202, 08011 Barcelona

It's become a tradition of ours to end a city break with a beer at a local Mikkeller bar. With 40+ locations now, these guys are becoming easier to find as the years go by, and while they're not Barcelona-local they have found their place within the city's booming craft beer scene. Natty doodles anywhere you put your eyes are wrestling against vertical wood panelling (a theme through their bars), marmalade orange pendant lights, a sea blue hi-shine floor which could throw up some issues after a few IPAs, and tap list covering all bases from 2.5% easy goers to face-melting 12% imperial stouts. Sounds over the top, but it works so well.
My favourite piece from the Joseph collection, the Plage Linen Shorts. Photography by Jake Millers

Thanks for reading,
Mat.

This post is a paid partnership with Joseph, but all travel + activities above was paid for by me. Your support of the brands + businesses we work with helps make this blog happen.
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In partnership with The Nottingham Building Society

I can hardly believe that we are approaching our third year as homeowners. I couldn't even imagine past the first month, but here we are! That's three challenging but extremely rewarding years of memories pumped right into our 3-bed semi-detached house in a small working-class town in Lancashire. I realised that I haven't actually shared loads about "where we're at", the classic life updates have been few and far between - that's been an organic reaction to how we create and consume content on social media platforms. Instagam is indeed that, instant content - so while I may be concentrating my day-to-day more on IG it's still mega rewarding to bash out a few hundred words every now and again on my blog.

So much has changed in our house in (nearly) three years. There's a heck of a lot to be proud of; we redecorated our lounge, bedroom and downstairs bathroom, converted the wrecked garage into a functioning utility and the biggest achievement of all, we totally transformed our overgrown, tired back garden into a space that we are unbelievably happy with. Still a work-in-progress though.

Next on our list is to renovate our open-plan living room / kitchen / dining room area - but that all comes with time. We're just planning and saving for the right moment.



How we Afforded our First House 

I'd like to start this piece by explaining our circumstances. We decided to buy a house in a small town instead of moving to one of the bigger cities in the UK. This enabled us to afford the type of property we just wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. Hollie works full time as a university lecturer, and I work full time as a freelancer creative in the fashion and lifestyle industry. 

There's somewhat murky grounds with how much (and generally just "how") freelancers in the creative industry earn, and how they afford to live their lifestyle. It's not a subject widely discussed. If we skip back to the time me + Hollie were applying for our mortgage, it quickly became clear just how unknown my job role was to people outside of the same industry. The conversations we had with our mortgage broker + several banks would make for interesting viewing...but we did get accepted! A somewhat milestone achievement at the time, for what is now commonly known as "an influencer".

We put a good sized deposit down on our first house (around 15%), one that I'd had in a savings account - similar to The Nottingham's 18-39 Lifetime ISA - since I was 18-years-old at art collage, then moved in shortly after. We had very little furniture and appliances, but we made it work. Being scrupulous with money is a quality that has been past down to me from my grandad, who was my main father figure when growing up. I didn't realise it at the time, but a lot of his mannerisms and personality traits rubbed off on me, and as boring as it sounds I now consider my attentiveness with saving and budgeting to be one of my strong points.





My Relationship with Money + Budgeting

Currently I have a good relationship with money, but that hasn't always been the case. It's a weird subject after all, we don't talk about it much do we? It's not nice when someone calls you "tight" when you think you're actually being considered, but realising you don't always have to be watching your wallet, when you can afford to do some of the things you want to do was a huge realisation moment for me. And that all comes down to sensible budgeting.

Owning a property is a huge responsibility, but with that comes a massive amount of satisfaction. By setting some budgeting ground rules from the off and sticking to them as much as we can we have been able to afford to slowly renovate our house without cutting corners, take a summer holiday aboard each year, treat ourselves to homeware and clothing when it feels right, all the while not feeling like we're on first-name-terms with beans on toast.

My routine is to put as much as feels comfortable into my savings account per month. There's no set amount as such, as I never really know much much I've got coming in (those late invoices...). It's worked well so far!

How we Make Savings in Other Ways

Saving isn't just about how much you've got in your account, it's how we're savvy in other ways which enables us to feel like we're not overspending or pushing our limits. Here's a few things that spring to mind, things we do weekly:

  •  We both LOVE craft beer. It can be pricey but I consider it totally worth it. We'll buy beer from our local shop to drink it at home instead of going to the pub. I take great satisfaction from cracking open a cold one in our living room.
  •  Cooking at home. We buy 80% of our food from ALDI, which effectively cuts our food bill down by half to what it would be if we did our weekly shops at Tesco or Sainsburys. We also buy little and often instead of one big shop per week - this helps minimise wasted food. The meals we cook always turn out top notch and we get adventurous with the recipes.
  •  As part of my job role (as in blogger / infleuncer) in I am fortunate enough to regularly receive clothing, homeware and sometimes hotel rooms for discounted prices or for free. This plays a big into factor for my month expenditure, but often these perks are considered as "payment" for certain jobs. A great perk, but it still involves the work a regular job would require.
  •  Smart meters are our best friends.  Once our smart central heating hub learnt to our daily routine it started to regulate the times it switched itself on (to keep things topped up, rather than heating from a low temp) and maintaining a comfortable level. We save £50+ per month compared to our old traditional boiler system.
  • DIY. Nearly all of our home projects have been done by ourselves (that me, Hollie and her dad). My father-in-law Neil really does have the "dad knowledge", he's helped us tremendously. We've build a wind-resistant fence, dug out an overgrown garden, tiled the porchway, changed electrics, laid and fixed floorboards, sanded the hallway, build a garden gate and dining room table from scratch, fixed cracks, fitted blinds, coving and shelving, painted each room and created insulation walls in the garage. I can't even imagine how much we have saved by doing this ourselves!




    Thinking about the Future

    Having my head firmly in-tune with a savings routine since I was a teenager has helped, but it's never too late to start. There's loads of things that can help at any stage; from first time buying, making putting money aside for a couple of trips away a year easier, investing in furniture that will last a lifetime or saving for future retirement. Taking full advantage of incentives such as the 25% government bonus within The Nottingham's Lifetime ISA account means you can accumulate an extra £1000 per year on your savings - this account can be used to buy your first time and then continue the use to save for retirement. 

    Essentially, if you opened an account at 18, you could receive £32k from the government, for totally free, if you’ve saved £4,000 a year until you were 50. That's the max, but it's always best to be realistic and stay within your means when putting money aside.

    Pension plans don't really sound so sexy, but nothing should discourage the importance of thinking about stuff like this and actually talking about it. As I mentioned earlier, money is a tricky subject to chat about, but more and more I find myself talking to by buddies about it - we're slowly learning what we can charge clients for projects, keeping rates competitive in line with how the industry is evolving and smart ways we can saving money each month which fit with our own personal circumstances.

    Our house is constantly involving, as is the industry, my creative work and our home. It's slowly becoming the place we have always wanted to create; something I look forward coming back to, spending quiet time in, throwing diner parties, or watching wrestling on the big telly with a cold beer.
     
    Our personal journeys all come with hard work and planning - and a lot can be gained from considering the bigger picture from an early age. My grandad past away when I was only 15, but the influence he had on my far surpasses the amount of years I knew him. It feels right to be passing this knowledge on to those of you who have stuck with me.
    Thank you for reading!
    Mat.
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    Do you remember me banging on about my visit to Ace Hotel in Shoreditch a few weeks ago? I had a decent stay, but I did mention at the time that there was something missing - I guess it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

    While in the area I reached out to my mate Jordan Bunker to see if he had any cafe and coffee shop recommendations. Word of mouth is so valuable, especially from the people who "get" you. He suggested I take a five minute walk from Shoreditch High Street to the recently opened Nobu Hotel - a little Japanese haven in the centre of London.

    As soon as turned the corner to approach the entrance of Nobu I knew this would be a steller experience. Although I wasn't here to stay this time, if the lobby, cafe and restaurant are anything to go by then the actual hotel rooms will be on another level. I can't recall a time that I have been so bowled over by the attention to detail of an interior. Clear Japanese design influences took centre stage; from the vertical wood panelling, woven cane space dividers, consideration to natural light vs artificial lighting, and smaller details such as the choice of drip coffee machines + cups. A tactile experience really do make a difference.

    For full disclosure I didn't stay this time (it's mega bucks), but I would love to in the future. In the cafe a black coffee costs around £3.50, which on the surface does sound quite a lot, but for the fact that I stay here over an hour with my buddy Luke, and left feeling like I'd had a pretty outstanding experience, I think it was money well spent.

    Nobu Hotel, 10-50 Willow St, London EC2A 4BH.
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    A recent visit back to my old uni city of Preston turned out to way more fruitful that I could have imagined. With a few hours to idle around before I went to see illustrator Mr Bingo give a talk at UCLan, I did a quick Instagram search to see what was new in the city. 

    Preston has really tucked its shirt in over the last five years, with the city centre + university area being heavily invested in. Lines of trees have been added to the highstreet, the once-tired flag market is now a bustling hotpot where traditional butchers and antique sellers are knocking elbows with microbrewing start-ups and local ceramicists, and small business ventures are starting to pop up in disused retail units which have been left behind by the decline of the British high street.

    The old Fish Market hosts another new venture for the city - Preston Box Market; a canopied row of tidy retail units ready to be occupied by local entrepreneurs. Coffee is always on my research list, and when I came across Jonah's Coffee I put it as top priority. 

    Jonah's Coffee originally started as a mobile coffee cart business, by Adam "Jonah" + friends, serving the local area, and in the summer of 2018 the guys decided to take the next step. The idea was to bring a speciality coffee experience to Preston - with a level of service, knowledge and enthusiasm we associate with the more established guys around the country. This little place really does stand out in the city, with the striking wooden coffee bar being built by hand, bespoke typeface + hand lettering seen across the menu and signage, and an extensive selection coffee, tea (as well as soft drinks + locally baked cakes) being sourced from as far as Texas, to as local as Atkinson's from Lancaster.

    Two hours later and I felt like I'd known Adam for years. It turns out we have friends in common, both share a keen interest in DIY, and within an hour he was showing me how to work the equipment. What a find!

    Jonah's Coffee, Preston Markets - Box Market, Earl Street, Preston, PR1 2LA
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    January was a weird month. Chugging along at a snail's pace, paid opportunities were few and far between, and it felt like every day was an admin day. But saying that, I did manage to travel around to the usually cities a few times (London, Manchester and Liverpool) - seeing friends, meetings with potential clients and generally trying to make things happen for myself.

    You know I'm not a negative person, far from it, I don't tend to dwell on the slower times. If anything I make good use of them. Two weeks in to 2019 and I managed to tick off one of the goals I set myself this year; to run 10k without stopping. Nailed it!

    On a round trip to London last week I booked myself in for an overnight at Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, as I was visiting for an event just up the road. It was a decent experience, with everything I need from a couple of hours of laptop club, a short but solid kip and comfortable surroundings. Tbh a highlight for me was the patchwork denim APC blanket, which can be seen adorned across each low-set king size bed in the hotel. True, a blanket doesn't make the hotel, but it did stick in my mind as being one of the more memorable features (along with the army green storage cabinet at the side of the bed, I dig).

    Maybe I've been spoilt by the quality of design (especially for the price) at Whitworth Locke in Manchester, because for me, the rooms at Ace were lacking something. It has got some major ups though; the Shoreditch Highstreet location is pretty spot on for local restaurants, cafes etc, it's two mins walk from Redchurch St, and Ace's own restaurant Hoi Polloi is stone cold stunner.

    So to sum up, would I recommend Ace Hotel? Yes, but only if you can get a decent deal.

    Ace Hotel, 100 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JQ
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    Absence - Vimeo


    It seems awfully quite around here. I've given myself the last couple of weeks off to catch up on down time, collect my thought and generally get my life in some kinda order. Did I manage that order, I'm not so sure, but I'm in a better place for trying. We can't fail or succeed without trying, and no matter which category you efforts fall in you'll always be better off with the experience gained from giving it a shot. I did however find some clear order with my Instagram account.

    This short animated video by London-based award winning filmmaker Alex Goddard feels fitting to me at the moment - slightly off-beat, always thinking positively, tuned in, but ultimately a little unsure of where my place is.

    Mat.
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