Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Belle & Boo Recommends - things to do in February

Parades of lanterns, snowdrop festivals, making wild art to fairytale ballets,  the UK has tons of wonderful things to do this February.

Now January is over I am looking forward to seeing the first signs of spring and enjoying the longer days.  As I researched things to do in February for this blog post I found lots of events and activities on offer across the UK to encourage us to take our families outdoors.    There are so many inspiring things to see and do that it is hard to pick what to feature , so I picked things  that are close to our hearts and things I think Belle & her friend Boo would enjoy - from building dens to exploring what colour means to the world.

The UK's first 'Snowdrop Festival' - across the UK and Wales

What a gorgeous idea - a Snowdrop Festival to celebrate one of the nations most beautiful flowers, the start of spring and to help raise much needed money for charity.

The first ever Snowdrop Festival is part of the 'Year of The English Garden' created by the National Garden's Scheme, an organisation which coordinates the opening of beautiful gardens across the UK to raise money for nursing and caring charities.  Starting this February, more than 100 gardens across the UK and wales will open their doors to visitors to see the carpets of beautiful snowdrops and watch the start of spring.  Find a garden near you by visiting the NGS website.

The Snowdrop Festival
Across the UK and Wales
From February

 Den Building, Star Gazing, Wild Art With The National Trust - Across the UK
There is a rapidly growing movement in the UK to encourage children to go back to simpler pleasures and play outdoors, taking a break from screens. Something we believe is important.

The National Trust has created a brilliant, inspiring interactive club and guide called '50 Things to Do Before You are 11 3/4' to help parents get their children outdoors which is free to join here. And this February half term there are lots of outdoor events taking place in National Trust properties across the UK including den building, campfire cooking, star gazing, making wild art and more.

There are too many to list but a few tasters include a family fun day flying kites, tracking animals and building epic sandcastles at Brancaster Beach in Norfolk ; there's bird box making at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal water Garden in North Yorkshire; Take the family to Leigh Woods in Bristol and build a den from materials found on the woodland floor; At Stoneywell, Leicestershire there is a week of wild art on offer, inspired by the William Morris' prints around the cottages. And at Gibside in Tyne and Wear are a multitude of muddy outdoor events taking place as well as a half term hog roast with real ale for the grown-ups to also enjoy.

February Half Term Events
National Trust Properties- Across the UK
Various ages


Creative Play With Scrap - Bristol

The Scrap Store in Bristol is a charity that makes practical use of scrap material for children's activities. The charity gathers supplies from businesses and industry and puts it to good use including running events throughout the year.  As Belle & Boo HQ  is in Bristol, the team including Kate and Mandy ofetn take their children's along to enjoy all this brilliant place has to offer.

During half term there are a whole host of creative events happening through the week for all ages.  Children and their parents can make shelters and grottos, get involved with a fun art attack and on the friday there is a technology day, with construction and deconstruction opportunities for children aged 6 - 12 years.

All year + half Term Events (8th - 12th February)

An Eye for Colour  - Liverpool

The award winning World Museum in Liverpool has lots to offer for all the family from antiquities to zoology.  And from now until September it is the home to 'An Eye for Colour' exhibition - a visual feast  to alert the senses.  Designed to be family -friendly the exhibition is packed with hands-on and interactive displays, exploring the endless ways in which colour shapes our world. As people who love to draw, we love the idea that this exhibition teaches children how colour is formed and used by artists.  It also explores how the natural world uses colours in many clever and mysterious ways. We hope the exhibition tours the rest of the UK soon.

An Eye For Colour Exhibition
World Museum
Until 4th September

A Giant Bed For Story Telling (Half Term Events At The Southbank) - London

The Southbank Centre in London is filled with wonderful events for kids during half term.  From Wednesday 10th February to Sunday 21st February it's the Imagine Children's Festival with music, literature and theatre events running every day. We love the idea of listening to a story on an enormous, comfy bed or making a dream jar, inspired by Roald Dahl's The BFG.  And one that really has caught our eye is the creative workshop to build and construct a city, inspired by two of our favourite children's books Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty.

The Imagine Children's Festival
The Southbank Centre
All ages

Make A Dragon - Wales

To celebrate St Davids Day  the wonderful, 19th century neo-Norman Penryhyn Castle near Snowdonia is opening it's gates for free on Saturday 27th February.   There will lots to see and do including Welsh craft activities and a special dragon making workshop.

Celebrate St Davids Day
Penrhyn Castle
27th February

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty - Birmingham

Matthew Bourne's version of this classic fairy tale is a delight for any age.  New characters have been added and Aurora's great love is not a prince but a gamekeeper.  Created in 2012 this became the fastest selling production in the company's history.   A glorious Gothic fairy tale for all ages and for all those little dancers out there.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty
The Hippodrome
9th - 13th February

Drawing On Childhood - London

A small exhibition at The Foundling Museum brings together illustrations from fiction depicting  images of children orphaned, adopted or fostered.  Original drawings, first editions and more from books and stories including James and The Giant Peach.  Hetty Feather, Rapunzel and Cinderella.

The Foundling Museum
Until 1st May

Celebrate The Year of the Monkey - Manchester

Manchester has the second biggest China town in the UK and the third biggest in Europe and every year there are events throughout the city to celebrate the Chinese new year.  There is street food, lion dancers, live music and on the Sunday there will be parade led by a 175-foot dragon, a funfair and a finale of fireworks to finish the day.

It is also 30 years since The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester opened and to mark the anniversary there is a high profile exhibition of some of the most respected Chinese artists of today.

Thursday 4th - Sunday 7th February

Magical Lantern Festival  - London

London has a lot to offer this February so if you can take a trip to the capital you might want to end your day at Chiswick House & Gardens where the spectacular Magical Lantern Festival will be taking place. This is an event  we think will enchant children as well as adults.  A beautiful installation of sculpted lanterns in the shape of animals to buildings to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  Adding to the electric atmosphere there will be staged performances to enjoy, a market and food stalls.

From 3rd February to Sunday 6th March
From 5pm in the evening

We will also be posting ideas for half term valentines crafts on our blog so do check back.  And don't forget to enter our valentines competition to win a new Belle & Boo personalised wall sticker.

Happy February
Jules x

Friday, 29 January 2016

Room Tour - A Room Revisited!

A few years ago we showed photos you a lovely Belle & Boo Nursery sent to us by Michelle. Recently, Michelle sent us some updated photos of her daughters room in their new house of how the nursery turned into a  'Big Girls Room'.
We love seeing the transition of the room and how our pieces grow along with children.

This is also a great example of how our wall stickers can be moved around time and time again! 

The blanket, cushions and sweet heart are made Ava and Friends Cotton Poplin

If you've got a Belle & Boo themed room in your home we'd love to see the photos! Email them to us at hello@belleandboo.com

Friday, 22 January 2016

Lou's 2nd Birthday Party

We were recently sent these stunning photos of little Lou's Belle & Boo themed 2nd birthday party. There was lots of 'oohing' and 'ahhing' in the office and they sure did put a smile on our faces. 
We love the soft tones and all the little bits of detail. I think the pictures speak for themselves so I shall leave it to them to do the talking!

Lost Cut Out Postcard used for embellishing.

(Top Left: The birthday girl wearing her special Belle & Boo dress
Top Right: Tea Light Decorations with Belle & Boo Accordion Stickers 
Bottom Left & Right: Patchwork Fabric tags and bunting adorn containers and goodie bags)

Belle & Boo "Furry Friends" Tattoo's used as party favours.

Top Left:  Seedbombs used as party favours. 
Top Right: Playtime Collection postcards used as decorations.
 & Lost Cut Out Postcard used as pretty details. 

Stunning pastel dessert table. We love the hyacinth flowers in there too!
Adorable carrot patch cupcakes
The birthday girl enjoying her Belle & Boo tattoos!

Beautiful bunting made with our Patchwork Fabric

We hope this has inspired you to have your own Belle & Boo party for your little one! Don't forget we  also have our range of party stationery and tableware available from www.belleandboo.com too.

Friday, 15 January 2016

8 Beautiful Belle & Boo Years

I can't quite believe it's been 8 years, on one hand it's gone so darn quickly and on the other when I think of everything that has gone on in my life and Kate and Patrick's, 4 babies, 4 house moves, 3 studio moves, lots of lovely staff coming and going and all the other stuff that busies up our lives for the better and worst, I am pretty proud we are still here and better than ever.

I have written about how Belle & Boo came about many times, so please feel free to skip this next bit! but I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the road so far and the journey ahead.

Russ and I were working and travelling when a friend in Sydney introduced me to Etsy, I was immediately hooked by the likes of The Black Apple and Ashley G and when I returned to the UK I couldn't wait to give it ago. People often ask me for advice on how to get started and I have to be honest and say "I was in the right place at the right time" in the sense that Etsy was still relatively new so it was easier to be found, also it had just become affordable to print archival quality prints at home on a relatively inexpensive printer (although I do remember wincing when I invested £400 on my first Epson printer having no idea whether I would sell a single print!) These 2 factors meant that I like many other creative people could start selling their art work directly to the public at affordable prices.

'Gentleness Green'  The first art print sold!
I wasn't from a computer generation (when I went to art school we didn't even have mobile phones!) I was meant to have 6 computer lessons during the first term of my degree, but I was so scared of them I typed on an old fashioned typewriter, cut and pasted and photocopied my work to make it look like I had done it on the computer! So websites and blogs were all very new to me, when I actually managed to list my first print on Etsy and it disappeared 10 minutes later I thought I had done something wrong until I realised I had actually sold it! and luckily they kept on selling!

My first shop on Etsy was called MillyMollyMandy after my childhood favourite heroine, but quite quickly it became apparent that I needed my own name and Belle & Boo were 2 characters that I had been drawing for a while and they came to the fore front.

It was around this time that I was struggling (in a good way) with work load and my lovely friend Kate and I started talking about the possibility of building Belle & Boo as a business together. Her background is in design and management and well quite frankly she is a great sales person and had always championed my work. Another thing I say when asked how to get to the next level with a fledgling business is "get yourself a Kate"! There is NO way Belle & Boo would be the brand it is today without her tenacity, humour and hard work and it definitely wouldn't have been as much fun.

We worked for the first year in my garden studio in London, which seems crazy now when we are busting out of our 2 floor 2000 square foot office, it was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun the possibilities seemed endless.

Mandy's Garden Studio in 2010

Kate and I in 2009 with Kate's eldest daughter, Robyn.
In brief, Kate then had 2 children, we had meanwhile moved the dispatch part of our business to Bristol where we relied on a fab bunch of mums to manage the consumer website. We got our first publishing deal with Hachette and this gave Kate's husband Patrick the confidence to leave his job at a London design agency and join us. Kate and Patrick moved their family to Bristol, then I fell pregnant with twins (Russ my partner and I had been considering moving to New York for a while for his work, but we quickly knocked that idea on its head, when the scan showed us 2 heart beats!) and we also moved to Bristol.

There are 9 of us now in the Belle & Boo team and most of the time coming to work feels like hanging out with your good friends, we eat too much cake, we drive Patrick (currently the only male) to distraction and we support each other at the different stages of lives that we are all at.

My family at home in Bristol.
5 Books later and a huge array of products and opportunities, mistakes made, lessons learned we are now all ready and a little more able (although our kids are all still deliciously small so we aren't going full time any time soon!) to move forward for the next big push.

So watch this space! but before I have to run off to bath my children I have to say that none of this would have been possible with out all the lovely Belle & Boo customers we have out there. We are always amazed, inspired, moved & over joyed by the different ways the brand has touched people's lives. When I think back to my childhood and my favourite children's books, the thought that I might be creating those memories for children today, well it kind of blows my mind!

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

Love Mandy

PS. To celebrate our birthday we have 15% off at www.belleandboo.com with code BDAY8 until Monday 10am GMT Jan 18th 2016.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Things to see & do in January in the UK

Things to do in January.  Go on an adventure in Winnie The Pooh's forest, make an origami monkey installation, learn about love and discover how to dance with Sadlers Wells.

Don't stay inside this January but go out to discover new places and fun things to do that don't cost the earth.  To inspire you we have searched the UK for activities and events for all ages...

Gallery Oldham, Manchester

Go Baby and Go Explorers are weekly fun sessions for babies and toddlers in this fabulous local museum in Oldham, Manchester.  The museum also runs the monthly craft and art based Go Getters for 11 - 14 years olds and at the end the kids get a Bronze Arts Award! And on the first Saturday of every month there is a free drop in session for all ages to get creative.

Oldham Manchester

Tutti Frutti's 'Snow Child' Theatre Production - touring nationwide

Touring the country in March 2016 is a charming play about a couple who long for a child.  They build a snow child who comes to life and brings joy to all that meet her. But there are challenges.
Written by Emma Reeves, who wrote the stage adaption of Hetty Feather and numerous TV shows including Tracy Beaker this has been entertaining audiences since October.  Between now and March you can catch the show in numerous towns and cities across the UK as well as in Hong Kong and Singapore.

For ages over three

Tokens of Love - explore the history of valentines day - Oxfordshire

Small museums are often the most rewarding to visit and this little gem in the pretty town of Woodstock (also home to the wonderful Blenheim Palace and 20 minutes outside Oxford) is a brilliant visit for all ages. As well as the permanent and fantastic interactive Dinosaur exhibition ,Victorian dress up activities a new Army museum and a lovely sculpture garden, there is always something fun and interesting to do.  In the lead up to Valentines Day the museum are running a little exhibition looking at Valentines from 1840 with vintage cards, satirical objects and love tokens.

This is a brilliant museum for children and adults a like, with a pretty garden to sit and enjoy a cake and a cuppa.

Not far from the Cotswold and easy to get to from London and Birmingham combine this with a walk around Blenheim for a lovely day out.

Tokens Of Love exhibition
Woodstock Museum, Oxfordshire
From 9th Jan

Top Notch Affordable Vintage Fairs - across the UK

One of the best vintage shopping experiences are Judy Vintage Fair's which run throughout the year across the UK.  During January they are running five great fairs full of second hand bargains and retro cool delights from the top to the bottom of the UK.  There's a vintage kilo sale in Bristol (pay for vintage finds by weight - £15 per kilo!) to gorgeous homewares, gifts, jewellery and fashion sales from the 1920's onwards in Edinburgh.  If you don't have a fair near you, sign up because one is sure to be heading your way soon.  This is the place to go for the best in retro style at affordable prices.

Judy's Vintage Fairs - Nationwide

Build An Origami Monkey Installation, Bath

Bath is a gorgeous city - there's plenty to see and do but we really like the idea of spending a friday night at Bath's Museum of East Asian Art learning how to make origami monkeys.  This is all to celebrate the Year of The Monkey and the challenge is to make an art installation from the origami monkeys which will be displayed alongside an artist commissioned giant origami monkey from the 14th February. Drinks are included.  Sounds like a great idea for a crafty night out.

29th January.
Friday night Origami 
Museum of East Asian Art - Bath

Walk in Winnie The Poohs Woods- East Sussex

Looking for a family activity for January that's free, fun and healthy then head to Ashdown Forest in East Sussex for a muddy walk. Download two free maps from the Ashdown Forest website and take children on an adventure to find some of the places which inspired A.A Milne's classic Winnie the Pooh books.  Hunt for the Heffalump Trap to Roo's Sandy Pit and more.  Enjoy both a beautiful walk in an ancient forest and a literary treasure trail all in one.

Make a day or weekend of it and check out Ashdown Forest Tourist Information for nearby places to eat, visit and stay  - there's plenty of ideas.

All Ages
Ashdown Forest 

Sample Dance At Sadlers Wells - London

Dance away those January blues without breaking the bank. Now running since 2007 Sadlers Wells Sampled is a brilliant way to introduce children to a wide variety of dance from Hip Hop to classical ballet, tango to classical Indian .  Tickets start at just £8 although there are special discounts for schools and groups.  Performers include Connor Scott, winner of the BBC Young Dancer of the Year 2015 and the Northern Ballet.

There are also several brilliant workshops hosted by some of the best dancers in the world including the chance to learn some of Matthew Bournes iconic movements. Some of the workshops are suitable for all abilities and tickets cost from just £2.

So dust those dancing shoes off and do something different this January.

Sadlers Wells Sampled
 29th and 30th January
Sadlers Wells - London

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! What a year 2015 has been, lots and up and downs (although mostly ups!) and we can't wait to see what 2016 brings for Belle & Boo. Did you know we'll be turning 8?!

Our HQ will be closed from today and over the Christmas Weekend but will be open from the 29th if you need to contact us about anything.And then closed again over the New Year weekend and back again on the 4th Jan!

Thanks for all your support! See you next year.
Love from
Clare and the Belle and Boo team. x

ps. As I'm packing up for Christmas and collecting all my crafty bits to take with me (lots of wool to knit with and some sparkly gold ink and black paper to make some last minute gift tags), I thought I'd do a quick round up of some of the lovely Belle & Boo inspired Christmas craft we've seen across social media!

A beautiful Christmas dress using our Winter Wonderland fabric by Rachelthomasjones
Serencenight turned one of our cross stitch patterns into a festive cushion! 

Match Boxes covered with Belle & Boo fabric and packed with Tea Light candles - Such a cute gift idea by elsebesjes


Pretty gift tags made with our Trimcraft paper range by Nadya_Lifa