For me, the ballet evokes a unique kind of festive nostalgia. There’s a grandness to it. A sense of occasion. There’s excitement and grace and beauty and hypnotism. The ballet promises escapism; a temporary portal into a fantastical world.

You can therefore imagine my child-like glee when I was offered tickets to see the Scottish Ballet’s showing of Cinderella at the Festival Theatre last weekend.  

I’m always fascinated by the different ways a classic tale can be told and re-told, and this version was no disappointment. Choreographed by the Scottish Ballet’s artistic director Christopher Hampson complete with set design by Tracy Grant Lord, we watch as the dancers movements, costumes and backdrops evolve from the sparse surroundings of Cinderella’s home into an increasingly magical aesthetic. 

The dresses develop from basic material, design and colour before peaking at Cinderella’s embellished tutu in the ball scene – a sight my inner wannabe ballet dancer was basically in tears at. Roses were the theme woven throughout the performance, which drove the visual experience into beauty overdrive while reinforcing the implied idea that Cinderella’s story itself mirrors that of the rose: at first fragile and ordinary before flourishing into her true and beautiful form. (If you’re thinking I’m not normally this deep then you are absolutely right. But what can I say, Christmas is a time of romantic reflection and the ballet gets me all sentimental…)

It’s easy to immerse yourself watching Cinderella, when the dancers, set design and music (performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra) all work together in such impressive harmony. In line with the Cinderella narrative we all know and love, the performance balances depth with comedy. It’s visually arresting and emotionally moving, factors which together played deftly into the suspicion I’d carried all along: that Cinderella was going to be a very magical experience indeed. 

Congratulations to the Scottish Ballet for putting on such an excellent performance, both on stage and behind the scenes. A perfect (almost) end to 2018! 

Follow:

Every so often you stumble upon such an aesthetically pleasing Instagram page that your scrolling thumb eventually begins to stiffen in protest. This is what happened when I discovered the glorious profile of Emma McDowall – the brain child behind Edinburgh-based homeware brand Studio Emma.

KK and I went along to her studio to find out more about how Emma’s business has developed from experimenting with materials in her parents’ garden shed to shipping her concrete creations to household names around the world.

 

Humble beginnings 

Like most people of our generation, at some point post-uni Emma found herself making the obligatory move back in with her parents to figure out Life’s Next Chapter. It was during this period that she was able to exploit her spare time and lack of uni commitments to start creatively experimenting.

“I didn’t have access to all the textile equipment and materials I had at Art School which was frustrating”, she explains.”But it led me to source other materials and make new processes so I could satisfy the craving I had to just make!”

After discovering cement in her dad’s shed, she began experimenting with it, mixing together different materials and using objects she’d found to create forms.

After this of course came the introduction of her trademark bright colours. “I found the contrast of concrete as a solid, industrial material and the playful colour palettes an interesting concept, and it was something I wanted to experiment with further”, says Emma.

 

Concrete and colour

I find Emma’s designs so intriguing because they’re simple yet mysterious, with an end result that is so far removed from the mental idea most people would have of concrete (for me: ’60s architecture and road maintenance.)

One of the most popular pieces she makes are the square vessels, whose shape is quite industrial but whose sides resemble what Emma describes as “tiny abstract paintings”. Of course it’s this deviance of concepts that makes her art so eye catching and unique (…as I said before, an Instagrammer’s dream).

…how does she do it? “I mix the concrete adding vivid colour before pouring the moulds in layers”, Emma explains. Leaving them to dry, she then removes the pieces from their moulds – the part of the whole process which is Emma’s favourite. “The surface pattern and texture is unpredictable so that makes it exciting – no two pieces are ever the same.”

The colour, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of it all. Instagram is one thing, but it proved too much for me in the flesh.

And that, readers, is how I ended up buying an entire box of homewares to adorn my flat with.

 

Home and away

When we arrived at the studio and immediately began fawning over all the different shapes  and colours of some of her finished products, we found out that lots of them were on their way to Iceland for stockists there.

When prompted by two excitable fangirls masquerading as bloggers, Emma listrs in casual nonchalance some of the exclusive brands who stock her products, and it’s clear her products command a universal appeal.

But what is it about the brand that attracts both a domestic and an international following?

“I think people like the use of colour in the designs. Colour makes people happy and they find the products to be fun.” If anyone’s looking to practice better modesty as a New Year’s resolution, we’ve found your gal.

“I also think sometimes in our culture full of cheap, mass produced design people find craftsmanship refreshing. They like something which has been made with consideration and passion, it makes the product feel special and with each piece being complete unique – it is special!”

 

 

 

Find Emma’s designs online at www.emmamcdowall.co.uk and follow her excellent Instagram account at @_studioemma 

Photos by KK Land 

 

 

Follow: