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By Clementene Coates, Mar 15 2015 04:11PM

As the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun!” I launched my business just a few months ago, but it only feels like it was several weeks away. Gone are the days when I used to wish the week away and live only for the weekends. Now I look forward to each and every day and I couldn’t be happier.

Spring is already upon us and things are truly in full swing back at HQ. So far this year I’ve sold a number of pieces of furniture; I’ve got three commissions on the go and I’m also writing articles and blogs for several interior magazines. I never anticipated being so busy so soon, but I’m absolutely thrilled that I am and long may it continue!

I’ve had such wonderful support from my family and friends (in particular my lovely fiancé Pete), but also from strangers who’ve posted sweet comments and words of encouragement about my work. It really does make it all worthwhile. And, to top things off, the lovely people at Country Living Magazine have invited me to attend their Spring Fair at the BDC in Islington, London next week between the 18 - 22 March.

As no doubt most of you will know, Country Living is the renowned and celebrated lifestyle and decorating magazine which champions craftspeople and small businesses like myself. Their annual Spring Fair is a celebration of this and an opportunity for home-grown talent to show off their skills. Visitors can expect to see furnishings, fabrics, accessories and more, all from hand-picked makers. It really is the most exciting event of its kind in the year.

My contribution to the Spring Fair is really quite unique. For each day of the show (both in the morning and in the afternoon) I'll be painting a range of furniture live in front of Country Living’s visitors, showcasing a new range of paints produced by the fabulously talented people at Marston & Langinger, who've teamed up with Country Living to create a stunning palette of colours.

I’m so honoured to be taking part in this great occasion as this is the first time that these gorgeous paints will be shown off in public. The colour palette is simply divine – a sumptuous range of creams, pinks, blues, greens, greys and more – all with pretty names (including Plaster Pink!). There are three different finishes: Chalky Interior Matt, Interior Eggshell and Exterior Eggshell, each with its own unique qualities.

I was lucky enough to be sent a selection of these paints in advance of the Spring Fair so I could try them out. I wasn’t disappointed. They’re wonderfully versatile paints and almost completely odourless making them environmentally friendly too. Never mind the divine packaging these paints come in; they’re an absolute pleasure to use; they’re self-priming, smooth flowing and easy to apply, which certainly makes my job a lot easier!

Even more exciting is that one of the pieces I'll be painting will be given away as a prize to one of the lucky Country Living Fair visitors. It's a gorgeous antique oak wash stand with beautiful tapered legs. I'll be restoring, priming and painting her (yes, I’ve decided it’s a she and she’ll have a name too when I’ve finished with her!) with one of Country Living and Marston & Langinger’s stunning paints. So, if you’re coming to the Spring Fair and you want to be in with a chance of winning a beautiful, bespoke piece of furniture, pop by and say hello!

And, if you’re around on the last day of the show (Sunday 22nd), make sure you pop over to the Lifestyle Theatre at 11:45am where we’ll be holding a Q&A session on “How to choose the right paint colour”. I’ll be one of the guest speakers, so feel free to quiz me and I’ll hopefully have the answer you’re looking for!

I’ve created a really useful twitter list for anyone who’s interested in hearing all about what’s going on at the Spring Fair. It brings together all the exhibitors, speakers and Country Living staff and will be a great place to keep up to date with what’s going on, as well as following the #clspringfair hashtag and @CLFairs twitter account.

I’ll also be posting a new blog for each day of the show with pictures of the pieces I’ve painted that day, as well as pictures of the different exhibitor’s stands and their beautiful products on show. I’ll be tweeting live as well as updating my two new Country Living Spring Fair Pinterest boards with pictures of my furniture and other great things I spot over the 5 days, so keep a look out!

If you’re attending, remember to pop over, say hello and enter the competition to be in with a chance to win one of the first pieces to be painted with the fabulous new range of paints by Country Living and Marston & Langinger.

Please read the rest of my posts from the Country Living Spring Fair 2015

By Clementene Coates, Mar 8 2015 06:13PM

Spring is without a doubt my favourite time of the year. It's when nature begins to wake from her long, wintery sleep; when birds begin to ruffle their feathers and sing a sweeter tune; when honey bees start to busy themselves gathering nectar; and when flowers begin to bloom with their colourful and varied displays.

And yet, with all that’s going on, there's a soothing calm in the air, which steadily grows warmer as the days draw closer to summertime. So, it will come as no surprise to learn that at Easter I love nothing more than to bring the look and feel of the outdoors in to my home. One of the ways I do this is to create a unique and beautiful centre piece for the table; a bell jar display of a bird’s nest made from natural moss, twigs, leaves and feathers, with a gorgeous speckled egg sitting on top. It's also a little nod to the delightful and very talented Christen Bensten of Blue Egg Brown Nest whose work I love dearly.

The perfect accompaniment to your Easter Bird's Nest Bell Jar Display; Emilie - available in my shop collection.

What you’ll need:

• newspaper or an old cloth

• 1 free range egg

• a sharp needle or pin

• 2 bowls

• kitchen towel

• duck egg blue paint

• dark grey paint

• a teaspoon

• a skewer

• a small stiff bristle paint brush or an old toothbrush

• a large bell jar or glass jar

• moss

• twigs

• leaves

• feathers

A note about materials…

I purchased my glass bell jar (also referred to as a cloche) at an auction. It’s a stunning jar with a very heavy stone base. If you can’t find one in a shop, have a look on the internet – there’s an array to choose from. If you can only find the bell jar but no bottom, don’t despair, just rest the jar on a pretty plate. Alternatively, make your display in a large, upturned glass jar. Feel free to use your imagination!

I used a James Potter Yorkshire Free Range Egg where these healthy little hens get to roam around in the great outdoors!

I painted my egg with the wonderfully versatile Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® which I purchased from the lovely folk at Dovetails Vintage. I paint a lot of my furniture with these gorgeous paints. Not only does Annie offer a beautiful colour palette, but the paints have extremely low VOCs which means they’re good for the environment. You don’t have to use Annie’s paints, any paint will do but have a practise first to make sure you like the look of it.

As for the moss, twigs, leaves and feathers, you can buy as much or as little of this as you like depending upon the size of your bell jar. You can purchase these items from a craft store, online, or you can gather them yourself (for free!) from the great outdoors. If you do collect your own, make sure you let any wet bits dry thoroughly before using them. For this display, I purchased the moss from Country Baskets; the twigs I broke off a little broomstick I bought for my niece at Halloween from a supermarket; and for the leaves and feathers I gathered these from the field where I take Oscar and Aoife for their walk. I also picked up a handful of twigs and dried out grass from the field to add a bit of variety to the overall look of the nest.

Before you start, cover the surface you’re working on with some old newspaper or cloth in case you have any accidental spills.


1. Blowing Out The Egg!

First, you need to ‘blow out’ the yolk and white from inside the shell leaving you with a completely hollow egg.

To do this take a sharp needle or pin and carefully prick a small whole at either end of the egg.

With a skewer, make the holes a little bit bigger, with one hole being slightly bigger than the other.

Break up the yolk and white by carefully wiggling the skewer inside the shell to turn the yolk and white into a loose mixture, making it easier to blow out.

Holding the egg over a bowl, blow through the small hole so that the mixture runs out of the bigger one.

If you love eggs like me, don’t waste the eggy mixture and make yourself a scrambled egg or freeze it to use at a later date!

Rinse the inside of the egg by running tap water through the large hole and then blow it out again. Then, dry your egg with some kitchen towel.

2. Painting Your Egg

Now you need to paint your egg. I chose Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg Blue Chalk Paint®.

Insert the skewer into the egg and holding the egg over a bowl, spoon the paint over the egg allowing it to coat the entire surface of the shell.

Leave the excess paint to run off and the paint on the egg to dry by poking the skewer through an egg box or anything that will hold it steady. And, if you’re impatient like me, speed up the drying process with a hair dryer!

3. Creating the Speckles

Next, you need to create speckles on the egg. I chose Annie Sloan’s Graphite Chalk Paint®, but this time you need to thin the paint until it’s a watery consistency.

Using a small paint brush with rigid bristles or an old toothbrush, dip the end of the brush into the paint, then flick the paint onto the egg by using either a skewer or your finger.

Once you’ve got the desired speckled effect, leave the paint to dry. Have a practice on some paper first so you don’t make a mistake on the egg. If you do make a mistake on the egg, simply paint over it again.

What a difference a bit of paint can make...

4. Making Your Nest

Now you need to create a nest to put your egg in. First you'll need a bell jar with a solid base.

Place a layer of moss on the base of the jar.

Carefully bend the twigs into a circular shape (like a wreath) to create the nest. Place the nest in the centre of the moss and tweak the twigs until you get a nest you can be proud of!

Then, like a little bird would do, line your nest with small pieces of moss, twigs and a few feathers.

Finally, decorate the edge of the nest with a pretty leaf or two and a few more feathers to create a natural, lived in nest and place the egg in the centre.

Cover the display with the bell jar and there you have it – a beautiful bird’s nest bell jar display, perfect for a table centre piece at Easter.

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Here's the place to find out what Clementene's been up to. She'll post updates on new projects; features she's written for Country Living Magazine UK; design tips and tricks; and 'how to' guides for ways to paint your own furniture. Clementene's blog is regularly updated so make sure you keep coming back. You can follow Clementene on social media too (check out the links above) and don’t forget to post your comments - Clementene would love to hear from you. And, for those wanting the latest news, sign up for Clementene's Newletter...

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