12 Apr 2019

Visiting Geneva + the Caran d'Ache Stationery Factory, Switzerland

geneva lake at sunset
abstract street photography in geneva, switzerland
vintage cars in geneva, switzerland
archiecture in geneva switzerland 
 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!

geneva old town at sunset
abstract street photography in geneva, switzerland colourful
geneva old town streets at sunrise
aesop store in geneva switzerland shop window
colourful architecture in geneva

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:
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland colourful details
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland natural dye
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland school crayons
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland school crayons
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland pencil making process
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland pencils
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland yellow pencils

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:
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland claim your style collection
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland machines
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland offices
visiting the caran dache stationery factory in geneva switzerland

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.

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

8 Apr 2019

24 Hours in Barcelona | City Guide

walden7 apartment block in barcelona designed by Ricardo Bofill, Joseph menswear spring summer 2019 collection

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:
 
walden7 apartment block in barcelona designed by Ricardo Bofill, Joseph menswear spring summer 2019 collection
 Breton Top by Joseph | Perfect T Shirt by Joseph | Trousers by Arket | Sneakers by Converse | Sunglasses by Moscot
breton stripe long sleeve shirt by joseph fashion, worn with moscot lemtosh sunglasses at walden7 barcelona
cornflower yellow converse 70s worn with cuff off beige arket work chinos at walden7 in barcelona
 Maxime Twill Bicoloured Jacket by Joseph | Socks by Margaret Howell
walden7 apartment block in barcelona designed by Ricardo Bofill, Joseph menswear spring summer 2019 collection
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 speciality coffee shop design store in barcelona, city guide
syra speciality coffee shop design store in barcelona, city guide
syra speciality coffee shop design store in barcelona, city guide, wearing joseph pleated shorts and vans red suede slip ons

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 in barcelona, 24 hour city guide
parking pizza parking pita in barcelona, 24 hour city guide

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

skye speciality coffee shop in barcelona at Espacio 88, wearing breton top, beige pleated shorts and poplin blue shirt by joseph spring summer 2019
 Mer Parachute Shirt by Joseph | Breton Top by Joseph | Plage Linen Shorts by Joseph | Vans OG Slip
skye speciality coffee shop in barcelona, converted citroen van into coffee cart, at Espacio 88
skye speciality coffee shop in barcelona at Espacio 88, wearing breton top, beige pleated shorts and poplin blue shirt by joseph spring summer 2019


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 craft beer bar interior in barcelona
mikkeller craft beer bar interior in barcelona ipa

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.
yellow on the street details in barcelona
tradional archiecture in barcelona
mat buckets wearing spring summer trends by Joseph Fashion, blue stripe breton top with beige pleated shorts, blue poplin shirt and off white baseball cap
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.

28 Mar 2019

Our Money Journey | How We Afforded Our First House

modern living room inspiration with picture rail and mid century details
modern living room inspiration with picture rail with west elm bar cart
our cookery book shelf house tour
living room details featuring red pen board, travel momentos and anglepoise lamp shades
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.

our dining room with DIY hairpin leg table, exposed brick wall and fern house plant
haakon glasshouse greenhouse book on arket wooden chopping block with earl of east london candle
our beige shaker style kitchen with black granite worktop

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 listening...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.