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  • A Q&A with artist Heather Chontos

     

    Q: First of all, how did this unique collaboration with Miller Harris come about?

    A: It was all through the amazing representative in London the fabulous Holly Wood at Wood Society for the Arts. I think the concept of making visual the natural world around us, created a spark of an idea and we were fortunate enough to be in conversation with Miller Harris inspirational chief creative Sarah Rotheram, the exhibition felt like a perfect collaboration for this moment in time.

    Q: I love the oval ‘looking glass’ shape you have used for this series of works. With all the mirror/Alice/portal ripples perhaps associated with this form, why did you choose it?

    A: The “ looking glass” is exactly why I chose this shape. The oval is meant to represent the classic scape of the mirror, using the concepts of reflection and observance  of one’s self or their invito Kent.

    Q: They reminded me of aircraft windows and seeing pieces of land and ocean come up, float and drift away. You have travelled all over the world, how much has travelling impacted & influenced the use of such a luminous palette?

    A: I love that visual reference. My favorite part of flying is landing and take off and watching the landscape come in and out of focus. It is a huge influence. My favorite and most recent inspiration of palette came from Zanzibar, Tanzania. I feel the need to travel, not just because I am some sort of gypsy with deep wanderlust who can’t stay in one place, but rather it gives me deep and meaningful connection to inspiration that is ever changing and not stagnant. I of course fixate on some colors, but they move and change with the light in places around  the world that the people, the food, the smells, all of it, presents to me as I change my perspective from place to place.

    Q: I read that you prefer to use unexpected tools to apply, move, fix and blend paint on canvases. How did this come about?

    A: Honestly I love paintbrushes as objects, but not as tools. I don’t like traditional brushstrokes in my work. I have more control and deeper saturation with other tools. I like to feel connected to my surface too and so I want to be close. I think it first came about because I could not afford palette knives so I took out my library card from my wallet and voila!

    Q: You often add strata of paper, plastic and fabric to canvases. I interpreted this as a distant echo of your original training in fine art restoration: reconstruction, renovation and concealment. Is this something you sense in your own work?

    A: Yes! I often incorporated these materials in the beginning, because I was trying to repair or “ mask” something that was in need of repair on my painting surface. It worked as a great method to fix discrepancies in my work, but now I add it because I like the layering of texture and diverse materials.

    Q: A lot of contemporary art galleries seem to have evolved into retail spaces, selling so much stuff, sometimes it is hard to tell where the artist’s work ends and the nitty gritty of retail commerce begins. What do you think the challenges are of creating art for a luxury retail space like the Miller Harris Canary Wharf boutique?

    A: It didn’t find it particularly challenging because the space was so clean and beautiful , which lent  itself perfectly to featuring large artwork. I think that the variations of scale with the product being a smaller size is tricky, but when I received the elevation of the space it seemed to just make sense to me.

    I agree with the “ too much stuff” problem, so the simpler the better. Beautiful creations should speak for themselves whether it is art or design, the extra” stuff” is not needed.

    Q: And did this impact in any way decisions you took during the artistic process?

    A: The only thing was that the space was quite angular, lots of rights angles, so the oval made sense here and the glass gave way for the notion of the “ reflection or looking glass”.

    Q: What do you think of the idea of displaying and selling/buying art in a retail environment such as the Miller Harris concept boutique?  

    A: I think it’s in keeping with the times. Art is everywhere and not everyone is going to get to go and see an exhibition at a gallery. The creative conversations between brands and artists I think is key to keeping the experience for customers exciting and fresh. I love the idea that you get a snapshot into an artist’s inner workings in a beautiful scent store, the small exhibitions are almost always more interesting because they reveal so much more!

    Q: You spent nearly two decades working in set design and art directing.  Was becoming Heather Chontos, Abstract Artist an organic and fluid one or was it more complex than expected?

    A: It was at first challenging because the world likes to pigeon hole you into being one thing, a specialist in something, but I wanted to do everything and it was not fully accepted. It became clear to me that my creativity remains, no matter what, but it is painting that I love the most and I feel most fully myself being “ the artist”

    Q: One of the most profound things I learned about you was your total loss of sight at the age of thirteen and being legally blind for eight months. How do think this physical experience of not-seeing and also the memory of it shaped you as a visual artist?

    A: I guess it has shaped me in the sense that I know the loss, the grey space that sits between the light we can see and the light we cannot. It inspires me to find color and light in everything .

    Q: Do have a favourite perfume/Miller Harris perfume?

    A: I own several, that’s a difficult question, I’d have to go with Eau de Parfum Le Jasmin, it instantly transports me and lifts me on the greyest of days. That’s what I love about really pure scent you know it’s giving you an extra lift, makes me feel like I’m walking on clouds, it’s a scent from heaven!

    Q: If you were given the opportunity and could do whatever you wanted, how do you think you might approach the design and creation of a perfume? How would you want it to smell and feel?

    A: Oh, wow, well... i would want to climb to the top of a hill or mountain and be surrounded by the scents that can cause me to stop in my tracks and completely encompass my senses. I would want it to feel warming and nurturing. It would have cardamom, cinnamon, the smell of trees, Moss and wildflowers in the early fall. I travel everywhere with cardamom pods and cinnamon for my coffee so i of course would have to supply those, but the rest I could find in nature.   I can see the painting g now that would cover a glass bottle with an array of colorful markings and pastel drawn lines to indicate the sensation that all of these scents bring to mind.

    Thank you.


  • I have admired Miller Harris as a Brand and Business for a very long time. When I was just starting Also Home I remember reading the story of how Miller Harris was created as a business and felt so inspired. So, when the opportunity to collaborate came up, I was so pleased.

    Why do you wear perfume?

    I wear perfume every day and it is one of my only little luxuries and a very important part of my morning routine. I have always had two scents I favour and people always comment on them.

    what kind of scents you like?

    My favourite style of scents are delicate and floral, but definitely not soapy. I always try a scent on my skin because I think you truly know if it’s the scent for you once it’s settled on your skin.

    why you like the pink one?

    I love Rose Silence because it has a wonderful delicate every day fragrance. It settles beautifully and has a soft fragrant hue.

    when do you wear it, what does it do to your confidence

    Wearing Rose Silence starts me off every morning with a sense of I’m ready for the day. Even though I run my own business I don’t always feel very confident or grown up. Putting on my perfume helps me think ‘I can do this’. It also helps me feel feminine, strong and determined to keep going!

    Hannah

    Discover the lovely Also Home collection here.


  • I got a call from the CEO of Miller Harris, Sarah Rotheram.  Could I find a find a photographer and a space in Edinburgh that fitted the new on-going aesthetic of the brand? Any suggestions as to brief? The vibe that I brought to my own perfumed, floral and chroma infused insta grid. Yes.

    There was a hint of urgency. The candle images needed to be showcased in the run up to the important festive retail season and I wanted to create images that the Miller Harris guys could use as much as possible.

    First up I found a brilliant art photographer called Laura Meek, courtesy of a friend; I loved her portraiture and quirky analogue work.  She had the blurred sophistication I wanted. Then the trickier proposition of the space…

    A fortuitous recommendation from another friend (and a bit of research) got us to an interior designer and object curator called Xanthe Weir, originally from Glasgow who after a long spell in London, including five years of marketing with a top fashion designer had decided to return to Edinburgh with husband Euan and her three children. Xanthe is working out of her beautiful Royal Terrace house in Edinburgh, using the William Playfair built house to showcase her evolving collection of Italian and French mid-century collectibles. All curated impeccably against the high ceilings and decorative cornices lit by the trademark glow of Edinburgh light from huge bay windows.

    This was exactly what I was looking for.  Xanthe was kind enough to let Laura and I shoot how we liked, uninterrupted.  There was so much we could use, to create moods, angles, colours etc. It was a dream.  Getting to know Xanthe has been a pleasure (not forgetting Romeo the Jack Russell...) we thought it would be interesting to spend some more time with her and ask some questions.

    Xanthe Weir: Interview Questions & Answers

    1 - Why did you move back to Scotland?

    X – I’m originally from Glasgow and my husband Euan is from Edinburgh. I studied here but we both moved away to work in London. Then after about sixteen years in total in London, plus me working in Hong Kong for over eight years, the time felt right to return. I had been working in marketing for a London designer and Euan was spending more and more of his time up here with his business and it was the right time for the kid’s exams.

    2 - What was it about this particular house that made you think… yes! ?

    X - I wanted a house in the city. City living, not out in the burbs. I loved this house as soon as I walked in. It also had a great history, the first house built by William Playfair on this terrace. It was built for a whisky merchant who liked to watch the ships carrying his barrels dock into Leith and you can just see it from the house. I had a family as well and I think part of me knew the collecting was growing. The large communal gardens, which, we have, direct access onto at the back of the house played a huge part as well. It’s fourteen acres and was planted by the same person who designed the Botanic Gardens. Parts of it seem quite feral and other bits are manicured. I love the fact I can see the Forth Road Bridge, Fife and Arthurs Seat. Previous owners had left their mark. I do feel like I’m only half way there really and still have lots I want to do in terms of buying and filling the gaps I have.

    3 - You have a background in fashion. How did the interest in collectibles, art and interior design come about?

    X - During my time in London I had worked with someone who designed and curated the brand shops, picking key pieces for each and ensuring the visual merchandising team created shop environments appropriate to their areas. He taught me a lot; he had the most amazing eye for objects and beautiful taste. So I collected pieces and people liked things, asked me where I bought them. I learned what worked in my house and I thought maybe I can do this. Soon I had more pieces than space and the idea of Lair and the pop ups started.

    4 - Tell us a little bit about the things you buy and curate?

    X – My personal taste is what you see, mid-century modern, usually French and Italian style. I like to things mix though.  Quite early on my rule of thumb quickly became, if I wouldn’t have it in my house, I wouldn’t sell it. I’ve been burned a few times, so I try to be true to myself in that respect.  A lot of legwork is involved. I go to markets, in France and Italy. And Spain, there are some great markets in Spain at the moment. After putting in a lot of effort over the years, I now have dealers who buy for me. I do a little online sourcing and I do use auction houses too. I do like to touch and feel what I’m buying. But sometimes that’s not always possible. I have an auction house contact in London who is able to supply me with detailed condition reports.  I’m not necessarily buying things to make a profit; I bring in the pieces for specific clients or to fit my aesthetic, knowing they will sit well in my house.   

    5 - Why did you decide to use your home as a curated space?

    X – When we moved into Royal Terrace after living in a flat in London, I was slightly daunted by the size of the rooms, the height of the ceilings. All the rooms have an echo and the light is huge. It floods these rooms. I needed to furnish the house and started putting together a collection of pieces that reflected my aesthetical mid-century taste.  After having a couple of pop-ups and running Lair for a year I realised I couldn’t really afford to do it that way. So now I have established partnerships with some exclusive galleries and art societies to host occasional events and I bring in pieces for clients and showcase them here perpetuating the aesthetic that I’ve stayed true to.  In the beginning I think people didn’t really get what I was doing, like it was ‘second hand’ stuff or something, scratched etc and tried to knock the price down. But I’ve stuck with it.

    6 - When we came to shoot in the space and do our pre-shoot visit I was struck by how beautiful all the rooms and spaces in the house smelled. Do you think scent and odour have a role in interior design?

    X – Absolutely! It’s vital. Scent is one of our key senses. I always have candles burning, they make people feel comfortable, seduced into the ambiance of the room. I like high impact candles, large sizes, well made with a good strong scent. I’m burning the Miller Harris ones today in your honour… they smell wonderful. These rooms are big. It’s important to me they look good too.

    7 - Is scent something you think about in your work?

    X – Yes it is.  When I was in Paris years ago I visited Hotel Costes and I was very struck by the scent of the hotel. Even now, talking about it, I can smell it in my head, spicy and warm. I bought the candles and I never forgot the impact that scent had on me.  I have a second business called DecorAir, focussed on interior design for the “Buy To Let” market, more specifically the more high-end part of the Air BNB market. When we have discussions with clients we always talk about the importance of scenting the space when they rent out to more exclusive clients. 

    8 - What kinds of scents do you like in a room?

    X - That depends. It’s a mood or seasonal thing really isn’t it? If I’m having friends round or it’s Christmas. I choose candles to suit the month or occasion. I like the idea of your house having a signature scent, something you become known for.

    9 - What about you personally?

    X - Hmm. I don’t like the kind of bright strip lighting duty free fragrance shopping. I like wearing things that are unusual, that other people haven’t heard off, or are hard to get hold of. It’s very important to me how it is retailed, for that reason I like Liberty’s for fragrance shopping.  I do have a couple of favourites, I like the Margiela Untitled; I don’t normally go for designer perfumes but I like that one and the Alaïa in the black bottle, I think you can wear that day into night. It’s beautiful.

    10 - Are there things you find hard to part with once you have bought them?

    X – Oh yes. And things I regret selling as soon as they have gone too. I can think of a particular lamp and a gorgeous pink marble table straight away. I even called up the person I sold it to and said… if.. you ever think about selling it, can I please have first dibs.

    11 - Do you have a favourite object or piece of furniture?

    X – I think that would have to be the huge Italian glass table in the room upstairs. It is so beautiful and versatile. I can display books and objects underneath it and it looks so good in the bright city light. 

    Thank you so much Xanthe for taking the time to talk to me today.

    Further information on Xanthe and her work can be found at the following links:

    http://yourlair.co.uk

    http://www.decorair.co.uk

    Alex Musgrave


  • Rose Silence by British fragrance house Miller Harris is a cashmere soft floral fragrance of subtle and delicious composing. To me the rose is alabaster white, a rose placed in quiet memoriam to a love, not exactly lost, just unattained and lost to  time. Rose Silence is a cloistered rose, head bowed, eyes closed, a veil of musks draped gently around petals. Silence is beautiful because you can hear tears fall and break like glass on stone.

    In floriography, the language of flowers, white roses say: ‘I am worthy of you..’ Here, the earthy patchouli, Miller Harris blackcurrant motif and dash of sweet mandarin are worthy notes of delight and detachment as this most graceful of rose perfumes blends hints of rain-washed gardens and the sugar-dusted addiction of blushing Turkish delight. Miller Harris Rose Silence is a discreet and charming solitaire rose with a promise of love and style.

    Shop Rose Silence.


  • This year, Miller Harris include a paper hat designed by Julie Verhoeven in  each of their Christmas boxes, taking the ordinary out of tradition with a twist of the unexpected. Every Miller Harris Christmas product comes with two Christmas hats for yourself and your best friend.

    A traditional Christmas in Britain would not be the same without certain things; turkey, a Christmas pudding set alight in the shadows of evening and multi-coloured paper crowns, tightly  folded and hidden inside the pop and wreckage of crackers.

    Have you ever wondered why we wear paper crowns with our Christmas dinner? We may owe this  typically British tradition to the Roman feast of Saturnalia, an annual period of revelry honouring Saturn the God of Wealth, Agriculture and Liberty. This Festival of Light lead into the Winter Solstice.

    Saturnalia was marked by public banquets, private gifting, parties and the relaxation of rules on  gambling. Masters served servants; streets and feasts saw nights and days of masked role-playing. Over all this spirited upheaval and carnival Kings of Saturnalia were appointed by lot or the  throw of dice. Masters of ceremony to oversee and reign over the debauched twists and turns of  the Saturnalia days and nights. The bright paper crowns we wear each year may well be an echo  of the Kings’ crowns and on Christmas day, we are all Kings and Queens for the day, whoever we  are.


  • By Callie Robertson - Head of Fashion Influencer Campaigns at The Goat Agency

     

    I’ve never discovered a fragrance that I can call 'my scent.' I tend to switch up my perfumes and enjoy trying different ranges (certainly an expensive habit), yet I can’t say I’ve ever found something that is me. You know when a woman walks past and you catch her scent and everything smells fantastic for a moment in time? (Yes, I know this sounds strange.) Well, I still haven’t quite found a fragrance that lasts throughout the day and that people can associate me with.

    So I decided to try one of Miller Harris’ fragrances. As I prefer fruity scents over floral, I opted for Poirier d'un Soir. If you’d like to try it, you can find it here. This scent makes me think of how Marilyn Monroe might have smelt, and you can never go wrong with something that smells like Marilyn Monroe. It’s sweet, a little musky, sexy and subtly fruity.  Feminine, sultry and with a little bit of a punch to it - if I’m not able to live my life that way, then at least my perfume can!


  • It’s your birthday and you smell of flowers and sparkling fruit, pear and peach mixed with a bouquet of rose, jasmine and tuberose. Coeur de Jardin by Miller Harris is that unique thing, a narrative of joyful garden, chypré-tinted, lush in places, sun dappled and buzzed with insects. There are memories of a shimmering summer garden, dogs barking at bees and butterflies flitting across the sun. So much laughter. A table of sweet food, pop and fizzy wine in the tended haze of your beloved garden, balloons rolling in the emerald grass.  Your children are coming home from far and wide; there are voices breaking the silence, children rushing into the light. You smile, the circle is complete.

    The scent of Coeur de Jardin fills the light, lovely bright morsels of amber, musk, green damp moss and a comforting soft patchouli. The perfect Miller Harris floral for a special summer’s day.


  • Noix de Tubereuse by British fragrance house Miller Harris is a perfume of excess and lavish nightfall skin.  As a night blooming flower, tuberose  (polianthes tuberosa) donates its decadent scent to darkness as an exotic gift to flatter the stars and seduce the vault of heaven.

    You are dancing in an empty ballroom beneath a glittering chandelier, the room echoes with the scent of mimosa, violet, creamy tonka and the fetish complexity of French tuberose.  Fleshy and fatty with a biting edge of cruel pink.  Your love has pollen on the tips of her lashes and a coronet of blushing buds. The moon floods across a gilded wall as you inhale stems, petals and boudoir green off the scented hollow of her throat. Air explodes with corollas and indolic weather. There is no need for music when you dance to the carnal swoon of Noix de Tubereuse.


  • Victoria Gaiger - Editor and Creative Director - rakesprogress

    What is fragrance if it isn’t déjà vu? More evocative than any photograph, our sense of smell is a portal into our past. For me the smell of warm, wet earth takes me straight back to my childhood growing up in Uganda in East Africa. A catalyst to moments I thought I had forgotten, a fragrance so distinctive and evocative that in an instant I am once again standing in my parents’ garden soaked to the bone, splashing in puddles, happy to be wet.

    Later we moved to Khartoum in North Africa where the daily bombardment of intense smells I enjoyed brought with it a kaleidoscope of colour. Even now I just need to catch a waft from the kitchen spice rack and once again I’m running through souks on hazy dusty days, wandering through bustling fruit markets littered with a trail of musky and warm fragrances, hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Dry soil mixed with deep notes that were both sharp and sweet - oleanders, mimosa, tangerine, lemon, jasmine. These scents are, for me, the most poignant, smells as powerful as the loud calls to prayer and the intense African sun.

    Recently I have caught myself seeking out fragrances that contain some of these scents of my childhood, perhaps a nostalgic desire to return to those places and times, to be a girl again, and reconnect with a world that was, through rose-tinted glasses, the dreamy anti-thesis to this Western world of computers and commuting.

    Which explains why I’m a sucker for any new fragrance that can work its magic, weaving a blend of long-forgotten smells with cherished memories. And so much the better if someone has bottled it already (no one has yet bottled the smell of warm soil after rain).

    So when I opened Miller Harris'  La Fumée Alexandrie, I was once again back in the garden in Uganda, the smell of roses mixed with tangerine zest, gorgeous notes of geranium and sandalwood mixed with the irresistible headiness of incense, and the slightly animalistic, earthy and almost smoky smell of Oud. Add notes of cinnamon and cumin and suddenly my memories drift north to the spice markets of Sudan. It’s a powerful, personal, botanical cocktail of memories and emotion.  A heady mix but one that works for me. Open the bottle and I am in Africa again.

    La Fumée Alexandrie Fragrance Notes:

    Top: Mandarin Italy, Cumin essential oil Egypt

    Heart: Rose Damascene absolute Turkey, Incense absolute, Geranium essential oil Egypt

    Base: Sandalwood, Amber, Birch Tar essential oil Russia

    Victoria Gaiger is one of the founding editors and creative director of rakesprogress. She set up the ground breaking quarterly magazine with her journalist husband Tom. Launched in June 2016, the magazine takes a fresh look at the world of gardens, plants and flowers, as seen through the eyes of artists, designers, documentary and fashion photographers. Volume 5 is on sale now for more information go to www.rakesprogressmagazine.com


  • By  Jo Tiller, CRM Loyalty Programme Manager at Harrods

     

    Walking along Hans Crescent you can almost smell that familiar scent that greets you with a luxurious embrace as the doors to the terracotta palace are opened by a Green man to welcome you in-store. Deep breath in ... Mmmm it never fails, it gets you every time and takes you away to a wonderful world full of THE very best ... and it feels good!  However luckily for me and my bank account I spend 60% of my working week in Head Office but it doesn't stop me, the temptation's always there to look for new fragrances, new scents to love and enjoy ... just because I can!

    It all changed when I reached my 40s...through my 20s and 30s I was always so loyal to one perfume maybe two max, but as I've transitioned from independent woman to married and a mother, I need more. I need one for every mood and every mindset...I need one that takes me back to my youth, back to my carefree self or back to the date nights in town where we pretend to be carefree for all of 3 hours!

    And being a working mum I need a fragrance that totally lifts me, gives me that confidence to kick start the day ahead feeling fresh, light and instantly energised. Lumière Dorée does exactly that! With its playful exciting tone it gives me a little pick-me-up every time the wind blows! It makes me want to pick up my wrist and inhale the intoxicating floracy again and again. Maybe it's the base blend of Amber and musk followed by neroli and orange tones that instantly draws me to take a deeper breath and then I'm taken away by Jasmine...and it seems to get me everytime! The familiarity gives me the confidence I need to boost me through my day to remind me that I'm still that woman, youthful and playful but professional in my everyday! I LOVE it and it's totally a feel good scent that bursts with every spray! And it lasts ...

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