Originally posted on Polka Dot Bride on December 11, 2008


Today’s expert is Manuela Strano- one of the gorgeous creators of Australian home wares brand Dandi. This isn’t Manuela’s first time on Polka Dot Bride, Manuela was also the creator of the origami lotus flower napkins I featured in July.

Tell me about yourselves?

We are 4 trained Industrial Designers who share a passion for beautiful and functional objects for the home. We love colour, prints and patterns!


How did you come up with the idea of starting a homewares business?

There was nothing available in bold prints so we thought we would start designing our own! We all love designing and making things for our homes so it only seemed natural to take this path. The business grew from there and we now have over 100 products in our range.

What is the ‘mission statement’ for your business?

To make the world a fine and dandi place!

What inspires you?

There are so many things that inspire us! We love to travel and see new places. We love looking though blogs everyday (including this one!) to see what others are doing. We are amazed and inspired daily by the creativity of others! We also love books and magazines as a constant source of inspiration. Nature is also a huge inspiration to us.

How would you describe your ‘style’?

Simple, feminine, bold and whimsical.

How do you keep your ideas fresh and different?

We are constantly thinking about new designs and patterns and take inspiration from everything. This allows us to constantly have ideas which are innovative and fresh.

Are you working on new products to add to your business? How do you decide on the colours and designs for your products?

Yes, we are currently working on two new patterns to be launched early next year across a few products. This will be our biggest range of products launched at the one time so we are very excited! All our designs are a collaborative team effort so we all have a say in final pattern and colour selection. We use a co-coordinating colour palette so that all our products can be mixed and matched!


What sets you apart from others?

Dandi produces great quality products with gorgeous packaging that make our homewares great for gifts. We keep up to date with current trends and really think about what the consumer wants. This makes our products not only beautiful but functional as well. We also have a typically Australian theme that runs though our product range and sets us apart from overseas brands.

Since the introduction of our sustainable bamboo range we are trying to take the business into a more environmentally friendly direction.

Design is not just a job for us. We live and breathe it and are constantly coming up with crafty ideas and making things in our spare time. You can see what we get up to on our blog:

What do you see for your business in 3 years time?

At the moment most of our stockists are in Australia and NZ so we would like to be shipping more product overseas. We hope to have a larger product range including many new patterns and products. We would also love a flagship store in Sydney by then!

Can brides set up ‘wedding wish list’ with you?

Yes, our products can be found at ‘The wedding list company’ and ‘wedding gifts direct’.

What sort of linen/homewares should brides buy when setting up their first home together?

Firstly it is important to have a style that runs throughout your home. Place mats and napkins are great for everyday but a beautiful set of table linen is a must for entertaining!

Are you able to ship your products overseas?

Yes we can ship our products overseas.

What are your favourite wedding ideas?

We love anything handmade and original to give a wedding a personal touch. Being designers of homewares and napery we also love a beautiful table setting!

What are the biggest mistakes you see brides making?

Not personalizing their wedding. It is important that the day is a reflection of the couples style and personality. This can be done easily with a colour theme or a recurring motif from invitations, to table settings, cakes, flowers, bonbonnier and more!



Cleverest ideas you’ve seen?

Recently I made over 100 origami lotus flowers out of Dandi napkins that were placed on each table setting with a chocolate inside. They were an absolute hit! They are a fabulous idea as they look great yet are not expensive. (You can see Manuela’s flowers here)

5 things a bride should consider?

– To decide on a theme/style/colour that reflects your personality and is constant throughout all the elements of the wedding.
– Beautiful invitations, – we love gorgeous and original invitation that bring out the personality and style of the couple.
– A photographer who’s work reflects your style. Photos are memories you can keep forever and a good photographer will capture the energy, beauty and personality of the day.
– A gorgeous table setting – It will make your guests feel very special to be celebrating your day with them.
– To always remember that as special as a wedding day is, it is important to not lose sight of the bigger picture and to have fun with the preparations!

Thank you Manuela for joining Polka Dot Bride today! Be sure to check out Dandi– perfect for Christmas presents or to put on your registry!

Originally posted on Polka Dot Bride on December 4, 2008 


Today’s expert is the talented Jackie of the one stop beauty website Beauty Heaven. Beauty Heaven is not only packed with articles and handy hints to keep you look great, but it also has salon listings, expert advice, a forum and product reviews. it’s a great place to head when you need honest advice on your latest beauty issue! Jackie’s an expert in not only beauty but business too!

Tell me about yourself?

My name is Jackie Maxted. I’m 47 years old, married with four children and I run a digital publishing business – which means that we run websites! I’m an ex-PR girl who fancied her chances starting her own business. I started off with a couple of clients and the agency grew really quickly with some great clients – mostly in the beauty industry. After about seven years I was looking for a new challenge and found myself in the HTML world launching a beauty media and industry website called After several years of hard work and a fair amount of banging heads against wall (mostly mine!) it became really successful. In 2005 we discovered that our industry site was also attracting attention from women who loved to read about beauty – and beautyheaven was born as a result.

How did you get into the beauty industry?

Well because I was looking after a number of beauty clients (my first was Clairol) I started to learn a great deal about products – especially all the exciting new products, the technologies and their benefits. I’d never spent a lot of time at make-up counters in department stores so I didn’t realize what a huge world of fun it was! Now I’m a huge lipgloss and mascara fan (though I’m still not too sure of myself when it comes to primers!) So while I am in the beauty industry I still see myself as having lots to learn – there are almost 10,000 products on beautyheaven’s database – I’ve hardly even scratched the surface but I do go to our member reviews to read all about them!

What was the catalyst for setting up the Beauty Heaven website?

I was wondering what we could give the 20,000 women who were coming to beautydirectory – apart from an enormous beauty product database. We got together with some great beauty writers and developed the idea of a consumer version of the site. We wanted to include our members in the site – so rather than just telling them about beauty, invite them to contribute to its content. There is so much knowledge out there in the online community and beautyheaven provides the meeting place for beauty-lovers to get together and have beauty fun! We launched it last year and already more than 80,000 people a month come to visit.


The Return Of Cherry Chapstick

What are your aims for your business?

In the digital world everything changes so quickly so one of aims is to offer today’s best beauty information combined with use of the latest technology. We LOVE interactivity between us, our members and the beauty brands so we always aim to deliver high quality content and a great environment for having beauty conversations. Beautyheaven was the first website of its kind in Australia and is certainly the biggest – no other beauty website has such a vast and expansive directory of products with real womens’ reviews.

How do you keep your website fresh and different?

Spending time on other websites around the world is great research (and you can do your Christmas shopping at the same time!) so we are always on the look out for new ideas. We also speak to many people from the industry to hear about the latest and greatest new technology. At the end of the day though, we never change our site for the sake of it. Our regular visitors seem to love it just the way it is so we keep it fresh with daily updates and lots of things that our members can get involved with – having live chats in the forum, using video and having our own members profiled.


What sets you apart from others?

We like to think its because we do what we do really well! Because we’ve been around the digital world longer than most (we started online in 1999) we have gained a lot of valuable experience and insights so we generally know what we’re dealing with and what we are working towards. Having said that, there was one horrific day when I woke to discover that both our sites were gone – they had been affected by an explosion in the US and we lost them both for 24 hours! That has gone down in beautyheaven folklore as The Houston Crisis of 2008!

How do you keep on learning?

Talking to people who know more than I do is really useful – when I first heard about Second Life ( in 2007 I couldn’t quite get my head around why millions were spending so much time on this site. But this is simply an expression of changing behaviours of people around the world. If you can grasp this and take advantage of it (doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it too!) then you’ll be able to deliver the appropriate experience to your own audience. I also read, research and read some more – everything helps!

What inspires you?

Depends on the day! Today it would be sitting on a deserted beach looking out at a wild ocean – but that’s because I’m stuck in the office pounding away on my laptop to get through my ‘to do’ list! Beautiful outdoor places inspire me – they help to keep all my ‘issues’ into perspective and allow me the space I need to keep growing.

What inspires you about Australian women?

I’m not sure about this – shall we name names?

What is your number one tip for brides?

Stick to what suits you – today is not the day to be experimenting.

What are your favourite wedding ideas?

I think it’s a highly personal thing but I’m in the less showy, more close friends and family and everyone letting their hair down, having one too many champagnes, dancing round handbags and enjoying themselves camp.

What bridal beauty trends do you see in the future?

As with everything else, trends are pretty much dictated by the catwalks – in terms of bridal designers you can’t beat classics like Vera Wang and Colette Dinnigan.

What should brides start with when they’re planning their skin care routine and make-up for their big day?

As I said before, while it’s your special day, it really is best to stick with a similar or well-rehearsed skincare and make-up routine, you don’t want to go trying any creams or masks that you haven’t used before in case they aggravate the skin. So avoid any new treatments at least two weeks before the big day – and stick to the products you know and love the best.

What are the biggest mistakes you see brides making?

Selecting dresses or make-up looks that don’t flatter – that usually means following trends rather than going with your own sense of what feels right.

Cleverest ideas you’ve seen?

My favourite bride of all time was Caroline Bessette when she married John Kennedy Jnr – such beauty in simplicity.

Could you give us 5 tips and tricks for the bride?

1. Do your research – find out when stores are having their sales and be prepared to camp out front to get that perfect dress heavily discounted.
2. Plan – don’t go leaving things to the last minute, this will only stress you and your skin out.
3. Practice – you’ll feel prepared and calmer that you know what you’re going to look like on the big day.
4. Experiment beforehand – if you’re unsure of what make-up and hair looks to go for, be sure to trial them out (long before the big day), you don’t want to be thinking, what if?
5. Do not spray tan/get a chemical peel or anything else the week before your wedding: live by the mantra that it would be just your look that this is the time it goes wrong.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and tips on Polka Dot Bride Jackie! See more of Jackie at Australian’ beauty website Beauty Heaven

  Originally posted on Polka Dot Bride on November 28, 2008


Today’s expert is the very talented James Day of James Day Photography. Based in Armidale, New South Wales, James has traveled all over the world taking gorgeous photographs including the engagement shoot of Miss Sea Breeze over on Wedding Bee. (See her posts here and here and see James’ shoot with them here). I’m quite excited to have James join Polka Dot Bride today and learn more about him!

Where and how did you learn your craft?

I was given my first camera as a young kid, and my father who was a very keen amateur taught me how to use it. He owned a professional camera, so when he passed away when I was 14, I inherited that camera and I taught myself how to shoot like a pro at a very young age. I learned photography at school, and topped the class, and my teacher started getting me work when I was 16. From there, I just learned as much as I could from trial and error and from other photographers. When I finished school I worked for a studio and the local newspaper as a photographer.

What is your mission statement for James Day Photography?

To create powerful images with meaning; at the highest level.

What inspires you about Australian brides? Is there a special ‘Australian’ quality about brides from this country?

Totally! Brides here are so relaxed and just let me do my thing. It’s awesome to work for people like that!


What should brides look for in a photographer?

Definitely ask your friends for referrals. Also, check out photographers blogs and see if you like their style, their services and them as a person.

Do you take traditional photographs of brides or do you strive to be different? What sets you apart from others?

I take a mix. I love to create a simple, perfect portrait or get in there and explore new territory.
Where do you find inspiration to keep your photography cutting edge and your interest in it fresh?
I get a lot of inspiration from Hollywood and the high budget movies that they produce, from other photographers, and from fashion magazines.

How do you keep on learning?

I photograph for myself a lot. I get out there and just play and take photos that make me happy. It’s the best way to keep learning. I also am a part of a few professional organizations that constantly provide support, inspiration and information on workshops that are coming up.

What is your number one tip for brides when being photographed?

Have fun and be yourself.

What do you love about the industry?

Photographers in general are great networkers. That means we get to hang out lots and share ideas.

What are your favourite wedding ideas?

I love it when people personalize their wedding to the max. Looking back through the family history and incorporating old family traditions are probably my number 1 favourite thing to see.

What are the biggest mistakes you see brides making?

I don’t see my brides making too many mistakes, but when the occasional client decides to book another photographer due to budget constrictions alone, I know they’re going to majorly regret not spending the money on the photographer they really wanted all along. You get what you pay for in this industry and it’s definitely the service that you will remember the most out of everyone you hire, so choose wisely!


If money was no object, where and how would you photograph a wedding?

I would hire a Hollywood lighting crew and photograph a wedding in Italy and go into it with an attitude of making a film style look through photographs.

What is your dream for James Day Photography?

I’d love to photograph a few more overseas weddings and get to see incredible locations all around the world. I’d also love to do more photography consulting to other photographers looking to take their business and photography further. I go into every wedding with the attitude that this will be the best wedding I’ve ever shot, so things are always exciting here at James Day Photography!

Thank you James for joining Polka Dot Bride today! Be sure to check out James’ website James Day Photography and his blog to see more of his work!

Photo of James Day by Jessica Claire Read the rest of this article »