28 November 2014

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

Today is Black Friday, so named because as the first shopping day after Thanksgiving in the States it marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. The word black here meaning the start of business being in profit, rather than in the red (debt).
So I thought I'd mark the day with another collection of nice black boot scrapers that I have spotted around central London.

To see some of my earlier posts about boot scraper please click here and here and here.

Then next weekend, 6th December, sees Small Business Saturday, a day to promote and buy from small traders and independent shops.
I will be selling my clay pipe creations at markets on both of these days. Today at Camden I will be offering a 20% discount. See my full market list here.

25 November 2014

From the Forest to the Sea – Emily Carr in British Columbia

This intriguing exhibition about one of Canada's best-loved artists has just opened at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Emily Carr spent a great part of her life in British Columbia, in particular Haida Gwaii, documenting the things she found around her such as totem poles, trees and skyscapes.
I was lucky to be able to attend the press launch which started with a traditional welcome by the Haida Hereditary Chief and Master Carver, James Hart, accompanied by some of his people. It was rather strange, standing there in our modern garb, watching people in tribal dress perform songs and dances that were centuries old in surroundings that were also old but completely different in style.

The exhibition shows how Emily's work evolved over time. It highlights especially how her style changed and became bolder after her time spent in Paris where she honed her painting skills. Returning to Canada she continued to develop, and devised mixes of different types of paint which she used on cheap paper so that she could paint with speed outdoors. Sadly that paper has since discoloured, but what the heck, the paintings still look great; white space has just become pale brown space.
The exhibition begins and ends with display cabinets containing relevant tribal artefacts from various museums including two of my favourites, The Horniman and Pitt Rivers.
The exhibition runs until 8th March. More information here.

Ian Dejardin leading our guided tour, some reflected heads, Haida indigenous objects.
Emily Carr self portrait, and some of her totems and trees

18 November 2014

Stonecutter Street – AKA Treecutter Street

Earlier this year I was on my way to one of the monthly London Historians get togethers in the Hoop & Grapes on Farringdon Street when I stopped in my tracks at the end of Stonecutter Street.
A whole row of trees, I think there were eight of them, had been hacked down to thigh level in the name of progress.

The stumps ranged in diameter from 8 inches at the Shoe Lane end of the road to about 30 inches at the Farringdon Street end. Thirty inches – that's an OLD tree, that is. So sad. And I very much doubt that the development going up behind the blue hoardings will 'live' to be as old as the some of those bigger trees.
The stumps have probably been removed completely by now.
The area, bordered by Holborn Circus, Fetter Lane, Fleet St and Farringdon Street is full of evocative street names such as Printer Street, Wine Office Court, and, of course Stonecutter Street and Shoe Lane, all hinting at the trades that used to be predominant in those roads. But over the past 20 years or so I have watched as the whole area has changed considerably – it now bears scant resemblance to how I remember it when part of my first job as a junior in an advertising and design company back in the 80s was to deliver packages containing finished artwork to the newspapers and magazines in the vicinity.
A stone cutter's throw away, hidden amongst the modern buildings you can find Dr Johnson's House and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Johnson and Boswell would have enjoyed a few chats, drinks and smokes. I wonder what they would have to say about the rush of change that has happened in the past two decades?

11 November 2014

It's here, it's there, it's every bloody where

I recently went for a walk around the Fenchurch Street area of the City, popping into churches, investigating little streets and alleys and admiring old buildings and their interesting details.
But that bloody Walkie Talkie loomed over me from almost everywhere.
As you are probably well aware from my previous posts, I am not a fan of all this heavy-handed steel and glass architecture (see here and here) that's sprouting up like some kind of instant Dubaiification.
The Pointy Thing at London Bridge is just a greenhouse that tapers towards the top, and conversely, though similarly, 20 Fenchurch Street is just a tower block that flares out at the top but has the added bonus of being able to fry eggs and melt cars.

As viewed from Blackfriars, from Potters Fields near Tower Bridge, from the northern end of London Bridge, and from Rood Lane EC3.

As viewed from Eastcheap/Philpot Lane (x2), and from the eastern end of Fenchurch Street. The last pic shows it at street level illustrating how truly unimaginative this building is – just compare it to the considered old architecture on the corner of Philpot Lane.

I wandered into Mincing Lane and found a relatively new pedestrian street opposite the Disneyland-style castle and prancing ponies of Minster Court (ugh!). 
Plantation Lane forms part of the huge Plantation Place development (but check out Google maps and zoom in to notice that the road name on the street sign has been erased – why?). The street narrows as it goes westwards towards Rood Lane. The only reason I didn't get agitated by being hemmed in by even more bullying glass is because I was distracted and intrigued by the pavement which is natural stone embedded with lines of names, words and phrases linking to London. Great to spot some wonderful old street names there ;-)

The pavement along Plantation Lane. At the Rood Lane end of the street I took the chance to capture some convergence images illustrating the diverse architecture. 

The City of London will never be finished. It is constantly evolving. Yet it seems to me that there has been a greater percentage of building/development per square metre in the last ten years than in the last 500. I appreciate that we live in a different world these days, with different needs and demands, but what I cannot fathom is the extent and size of these things, especially when so many old buildings stand empty and many finished buildings of similar size are not yet anywhere near reaching full occupancy.

Immediate plans for The City

David Edward's idea of what's in store for the future

4 November 2014

A walk around the Cheynes

Just some pics I took in the little area of Chelsea that borders the Thames.
It's a really interesting area close to the lovely Chelsea Physic Garden. The 18th Century houses of Cheyne Walk have had many famous residents including Rossetti, George Eliot, David Lloyd George and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to name just a few. See a fuller list here.

A stink pipe, egyptian benches, Thomas More, Hans Sloane
Closed pub, birds and a lady
Metal street sign, lots of pipes, new development, old frontage.