Monday, 20 October 2014

The Annie Sloan Conference with The Applestore

Harry and I are extremely lucky to spend lots of time at beautiful Batsford; weekends, Christmas, Autumn days and long Summer nights. We just love it there! Harry's Mum is married to Stuart, the Director and top dog (well he likes to think so!) at Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre. He's been there 28 years now. Heather opened her gorgeous shop, The Applestore, 3 years ago after the Garden Centre had a face lift and made room for Heather to move in to the old Applestore, hence the name, where the tea rooms used to be. If you haven't visited The Applesotre at Batsford Arboretum, you must. It is a beautiful, eclectic shop full of vintage pieces, unique Swedish items, gift ideas and up cycled furniture, all lovingly hand painted and given a new lease of life by Heather using Annie Sloan decorative Chalk Paint™. Which by the way, The Applestore is a proud stockist of. Read our full blog post all about The Applestore here.

Feeling very lucky again, Heather kindly invited me to France for a few days away at the Annie Sloan Conference. For any of you who don't know who Annie Sloan is... Where have you been the last 25 years? Well, she has many hats! Annie is a teacher, artist, paint guru, best selling author and inventor of Annie Sloan decorative Chalk Paint™ which The Applestore uses on a daily basis but also sells to customers who are looking to paint their own furniture... or infact, paint anything. Thats the beauty of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™, it is (to use Annie's own hashtag) #MoreThanPaint. You can mix the paints to create your own gorgeous colours, you can dye fabrics using the paints, her books and workshops teach you how to create all sorts of different effects and it literally will paint anything with very little fuss. It really is magical stuff and not like anything else you'll see in your not so local DIY store. 

The conference was being held in Dinard this year. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon after what was a really quick and easy flight from East Midlands Airport. Just 55 minutes! We were greeted by beautiful blue skies and I was thrilled to see the sea. Not having to plan any of this trip and not really having time to do my research, I had no idea what to expect but I wasn't expecting somewhere by the coast. Utterly gorgeous! We checked into our hotel and headed straight out the door for a wonder around. A quaint French town, beautiful artitecture, lots of locals and very little tourists; although we had just missed the British Film Festival which finished on October 12th but the streets still fashioned Union Jack bunting and pieces of film memorabilia. We spent the first part of our trip spotting others we thought might be here for the conference. Excitingly, we got them all right. Apparently, Annie Sloan stockist have 'a look'.

Back to the conference, Annie Sloan and her team invite all their stockist each year to an event as a thank you basically. As well as a chance for them to feed their stockists new information, inspire them, teach, announce upcoming projects and it's also great way for all the stockists to meet and inspire each other. After all, they are all indie businessmen and women with an invested interest in Annie Sloan. They are selling her products, using her products and Annie want to acknowledge that. Annie is lovely by the way; very humble, very normal, very creative and knows every single one of her stockists by name and shop. Now that's no easy task with over 200 stockists in the UK and hundreds more all over the world. We met lots of passionate stockists who travelled to Dinard from as far as Japan, Canada, Australia, South Africa and all over Europe. 

The conference itself included talks from Annie Sloan, her son Felix and other members of her creative team. They talked us through her gorgeous new book, her upcoming stencil collections, new website and of course, her paint. It was really interesting to hear how her vision for Annie Sloan decorative chalk paint came to life, how her business has grown and what her plans are for the future. Inspiring stuff! 

In the evening, we enjoyed the Annie Sloan Mixer. A dinner party for 300 people, live music from Annie Sloan's youngest son, Chad Valley, who has a huge following in the US and you can see why. He's very talented, has a gorgeous voice and great style. Great fun and a chance for all of us to let our hair down. 

It was a great experience and lots of fun. If anyone gets the chance to visit Dinard, do! It really was lovely. And of course, if anyone is interested in trying out Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ for themselves then pop by The Applestore at Batsford. There you will be able to chat with Heather about what you're trying to achieve, she can give you lots of useful tips and you'll be able to see some of her great work, as well as lots of other goodies she sells!

P.S. Be warned! Not only is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint™ easy to use and achieves great results... it is also very addictive!!

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Millie and Meg x

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