Thursday, 29 April 2010

Dedicated Followers of Fashion


Nepalese men young and old are all about working a look ! These guys spotted on my recent trip to Katmandu, have just about as much sense of style as any self respecting Saturday Broadway marketeer !





...and it's appears this is not just a trend right now but these menfolk have always loved to don a robe.


Sunday, 25 April 2010

Illustrated Book Of The Week : Let Me Drive

What do you want to be when you grow up? A fireman? A nurse? A fairy princess?

If, even now, the answer is "a railway driver", then we have the book for you.


Brian Fawcett's 'Let Me Drive' is the ultimate 1950's how-to manual for the junior steam engine fanatic. It's not really a story book, more a beginners guide to the technicalities of working on an 'iron horse'.


Opening a page at random you're informed that "Mid Gear keeps the valves covering the steam ports to the cylinder, and can be used to stop in the event of a Regulator Rod breaking when the valve is open..."



Still, even if the text is a little dry, it's the unusual combination of 'Boys Own' type illustrations with technical drawings that makes us want to jump aboard and stoke the engines.


Time to go into the attic and dig out the old Hornby set, I think.

Friday, 23 April 2010



There was quite a bit of consternation earlier this year when Bates the Hatter closed their doors. One of the classic Jermyn Street gentleman's establishments, Bates was
a shop that seemed completely displaced in time. Throughout the narrow interior, dark wood shelves were crammed with every sort of old school chapeau, from Panama to Homberg via Boater and Fedora. This was the sort of perfect Victorian interior only ever seen in Dickensian adaptations and slavishly retro bars in Brooklyn.


Sadly, it's another victim of 'regeneration' (ugh). The shop has been shuttered, and the business has moved into a shared premises with Hilditch and Key. But fear not, decor fans! I'm glad to report that most of the shop fittings have found a very good home.


They've been salvaged and re-used by our old friend Nathaniel at M.Goldstein, who is happily displaying his wares from them in his shop in Hackney Road. As far as hauls go, this must be one of the all time greats. Not only was Bates legendary, but the fittings sit so perfectly in the space that they almost look made to measure. A few of the salvaged pieces are for sale, and I'm desperately racking my brains for an excuse to buy the awning for the studio - if only I could think of a canny way to re-purpose it for interior use.


As if the furniture wasn't amazing enough, some of the shelves' interiors have great bits of ephemera attached, adding extra flavour.


Always nice to have royal approval...

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


I just thought I'd throw in a few detail shots of the set ups in the studio at the moment. Unpacking all my stuff and rearranging it has thrown up some interesting juxtapositions.


So, we have a D-Torso cardboard cat (a gift from my mother - thanks Ma!), on two stacked Ercol coffee tables, next to some vintage knitting magazines found at Norman's stall in Dalston.


A set of 1950's sci-fi classics found on the Suffolk Coast slotted into a 1930's American shop fitting brought over from Chicago.


I particularly like the interesting colour mixes of these - army green and turquoise, violet blue and baby pink - very inspiring!


And finally, a fast growing collection of wooden clamps, a Sussex church pew, a miniature wooden bench and an Art Deco Rug.

Putting it together is like having a giant junk jigsaw which needs a bit of thought before it all fits together nicely. It's a game of mix and match that is going to keep me amused for many years to come.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Setting The Scene


So, one of the fantastic things about having a huge space is that it allows you to indulge every decorating whim at the drop of a hat. But, of course, that can be a dangerous thing too.

Suddenly there are no limits to the amount of objects you can justify purchasing - nothing is too big, too awkward or too eccentric to fit into a space like this - no collection is too quirky or overwhelming. Now I know how Augustus Gloop must have felt when he walked through the doors of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.


It's all good fun until you get sucked into the river of chocolate. Or in my case, shop like there's no tomorrow and end up living in a junk shop. So I'm trying to practice being moderate.


Still - while I try my best - I can't resist playing around with a few areas and creating some little sets just for fun.


Just keep an eye on this blog, and if in a few years time you can no longer see the studio for the weird objects - then leave a comment with the words 'Augustus Gloop' in it, and I'll check into some sort of rehab.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I don't know about you, but I find the thought of my new studio space ever being a gym quite hard to imagine.

At my school, the gym was housed in a 70s pre- fab box so ugly that it would have made Le Corbusier weep and question his whole raison d'ĂȘtre.

So the idea of hundreds of children doing push ups and star jumps in a Victorian vaulted hall, filled with decorative tiles and classical mouldings seems slightly odd.

However, there are still a few pieces of evidence to prove its former usage.

The floor is marked out with a fully sized badminton court. Always fun for those who like a shuttlecock.


The floors are scattered with metal repositories for nets and other equipment.


Heavy duty hooks on the ceiling, presumably to hang ropes off of. (How I hated climbing up ropes - those rope burns on your thighs after sliding down were pure evil).


And finally, a place to put the school flag. I must admit I am tempted to fly a personalized flag from these. But that's just a hop skip and jump away from having your own coat of arms designed and putting a monogram on every shirt that you own, and I'm not quite at that stage. Yet.


I wonder if my childhood gym was as inspiring as this I would have been more excited about PE class. Probably not, but at least I might be able to cartwheel properly. And this space certainly makes me want to do cartwheels...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

True Story


Once upon a time there was a Happy Little Blogger.

The Happy Little Blogger would sit at his computer and write happy little blogs about all the things in the world he liked. Sometimes he wrote about interesting objects, other times he wrote about inspiring places, and once in a while he wrote about ideas that he had.

One day, the Happy Little Blogger wrote a blog post about 'School Style'.

"'s quite amazing how fascinated I am by educational style" he wrote, "I dream of modelling a room after a 1940's school gym - filled with leather mats, metal lockers and a sculptural wooden pommel-horse as a centrepiece."

Now, it just so happened that the Magical Blog Fairies were surfing the web that day, and came across the Happy Little Blogger's post. "What a happy little blog" they said to one another "Let us make his dream come true".

So, it came to pass that, about two months after he wrote that blog post, the Happy Little Blogger found himself in the gym of an old Victorian school. It was more beautiful and exciting than he could ever have imagined. He gathered all his money together and bought the gym, making him the happiest little blogger that ever there was.

The End.

Actually, that's far from the end of the story, because buying the gym was just the beginning of a massive adventure. The space is incredible - huge and stunning and full of character, but the work and renovations have been so all-consuming, I've been completely unable to blog for the last few months. So I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the Magical Blog Fairies for the lack of recent attention and thank them very much for granting my wish.

It's not exactly the dark wood and leather space that I had imagined - but soaring vaulted ceilings, amazing daylight and loads of period features more than make up for it. I haven't bought that pommel-horse yet, but give me time...

Built in 1906 in East London, it's part of a classic Victorian red brick school. Originally used as a gym and assembly hall, it has functioned as an artist's studio for the past 40 years. Now I am lucky enough to be the latest occupant.

I'll be blogging the progress that I make, and sharing some of the wonders of living and working in such a special building.

Watch this space...


Sunday, 4 April 2010

Dhakar Weavers in Katmandu


Today I visited some of the Dhaka weavers living on the outskirts of the beautiful town of Bhaktapur, just next to Katmandu. These weavers are displaced from the north of Nepal, and live in tiny rooms with their bed, loom, and cooking pots. I am hoping to be developing some new products with them through the organization, SABAH Nepal. Who have invited me here to look at collaborating.




The patterns are all made by placing the yarns in by hand, and the motifs are keep in each womans mind. They follow no designs or charts.