Friday, 23 November 2012

A Book for Christmas

Whilst the whole world is going digital the beauty, smell, texture and sheer bookiness of books still have a role - and a place close to my heart. Books about art and illustrators are particularly appropriate for remaining in a paper-based format.
I was delighted to receive a copy of Angie Lewin's Plants and Places, "a record of past travels, places and plant studies," from Angie's sketchbooks. The book shows brilliantly how Angie takes her inspiration, draws from nature and then works up ideas for prints and textiles. More recently Angie has started working more in watercolours, the completed painting being an end in itself rather than just 'notes' for a design.
I first came across Angie's work when I saw her "The 1937 Coronation Mug" print in a magazine (Country Living I think). I was unashamedly attracted to it because of the Ravilious mug. I ordered it for Jonathan's birthday from Bircham Gallery in Holt. From then on we found out more about Angie and St Judes. A friend of ours in Norwich had been long enthusing over the St Judes Gallery, then in Aylsham - but we'd never quite got organised enough to get there. Since then we have met Angie and Simon a few times, in Itteringham and London - and very lovely they are.

Angie's book is organised by places she finds inspiration like Coast, Woodland and Hedgerow, Meadow and Garden - very much the places that inspire me too. It's nice to see an explanation of the process from drawing to printmaking - and we, at Starch Green, feel a close connection. The beauty of a wood engraving block - admittedly something we are surrounded by - is always nice to see.
One of the parts I like the best is the Bibliography showing some of the mid-century illustrated books I love and sit happily on my bookshelves. The role of lithography in children's book illustration is included in the St Bride's Library Christmas event 'Ravilious and friends in the age of lithography'.

Overall a lovely book that gives a glimpse of the 'behind the scenes' life of an artist and a rich tapestry of visual delights.

Studio Sale

It's that time of year - brave the wind, strike through the swirling leaves, shiver past the clouds of breath from your mouth and come and warm yourself at our Open Studio. If all goes to plan there'll be mince pies and mulled wine and lots of beautiful things to buy. All unframed prints will be offered at 20% discount to ease your way to an artistically inspiring Christmas.

We're open from 11.00am until 4.00pm Sunday 2nd December. Looking forward to seeing you then.
Our Kindness Jug - a popular gift for Mums - but a lovely message for everyone - good on the table, great as a vase... £30
Our letterpress printed Everyday Stationery complete with 30 sheets of handprinted paper, 10 continuation sheets, a handmade sketchbook AND a Starch Green pencil - all in a corrugated box - £20
See our beautiful Bespoke Stationery Box - order a set for someone special (but not for this Christmas as lead times are about 6 weeks...)
Large screenprints available unframed - 20% off for one day only

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Practical as well as beautiful

Sauntering through some of our favourite haunts along the North Norfolk coast last week we revisited the lovely Vintage Home & Garden. Housed in a little 1950s farm building at Drove Orchards, a family run fruit farm, it's a beautifully curated trove of lovely things.

One of the first things we honed in on was Vintage Flowers by Vic Brotherson with photographs by our talented friend Catherine Gratwicke. (Last time we were there we bought the visually rich Etcetera by Sibella Court.)

The shop is arranged in vignettes, subtle colours and groups of product creating delectable stories and tempting fantasies.

The simplicity of the palette and the pre-loved feel of much of the stock adds a magical calm to the atmosphere of the mid-century hut.

Right next door is the farm produce stall - a riot of lusciousness, vibrancy and sensuous deliciousness.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A grand day out

Saturday dawned beautifully sunny and saw Team Starch Green heading West along the A40. A sharp right turn a few miles before Cheltenham brought us straight to Whittington - home of the Press and the village Summer Show.
After parking in an excellently tussocky field we headed for the dog show - a charming display of friendly canines.
Next to tea and cake at the Village Hall, the sound of the brass band and spirited Morris dancers.
Back along the lane to Whittington Manor where the Press is housed in the old gardener's cottage. The garden is crammed with stalls of letterpress delights, paper and a marbling demonstration. Inside the presses are demonstrating various different letterpress techniques.
Exhibitors include the lovely Typoretum, the Old School Press, John Purcell Paper, Christopher Rowlett Bookbinder and Paper Marbler and Tilley Printing from Ledbury to name just a few.
The whole place is buzzing with a typographic fervour and inky pleasure shared by a few old crusties and some fresh new printophiles keeping the love of print going.
After returning for another cup of tea in the Village Hall we headed back to the car park via the marquees - produce included wine dark chillies, over-large marrows and stringy beans. The second tent had a range of baked goods but also the children's competitions, my favourite 'a filled matchbox with contents listed.'
 Driving back eastwards we both felt rejuvenated by what was definitely a grand day out.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Rural Mums

Espalier apples in Lesley's garden
On our way back to Leicester from a visit to Flag Fen, the site of a 3,500 year old wooden causeway over the fens near Peterborough, we dropped into friends for tea and cake. But these were not just any friends. Mum, Lesley Jennings is the co-founder of new online community Rural Mums.
Garden chairs overlooking the churchyard
Having moved up from London some years ago Lesley, her husband and two beautiful children have created a home in Belton-in-Rutland. Lesley met Sue, the other half of Rural Mums, through mutual friends and found they had a lot to share, and a lot to learn from time with like-minded Mums - the kernel of Rural Mums was born.
A shelf in Lesley's kitchen
The website says it is, "the place to connect with country-minded mums. Chat, share ideas and stories, get advice or simply find out stuff. We want you to feel it’s just like going for a walk and a chat across the fields with a group of friends." Rather like a cross between Country Living and Netmums - but much more lovely than both.
Tea and cakes
Meanwhile back in Lesley's garden we were treated to locally baked Battenburg and chocolate cake, a large pot of tea poured into 'the best china', all in the perfect rural garden. My almost 90-year old Mum enjoyed the convivial company and Lesley's daughter took my two to the 'secret garden' to roll down the grassy slope.
Fishing net at the ready...
Many of the women enjoying the benefits of Rural Mums mix their rural life with motherhood and work. Lesley is a talented Graphic Designer whom we have enjoyed working with on many projects - and is the designer behind the Rural Mums website. Full of ideas and enthusiasm, I'm sure Lesley's design skills and innovative thinking will, supported by husband Karl and with partner Sue, drive the success of Rural Mums

Friday, 10 August 2012

Besotted & delighted!

Recently we had an order from Much Ado Books in East Sussex. I remembered the name from when our friend James Russell did a talk there in March on Eric Ravilious. I immediately scurried to look up there website - and what a joy! A fantastic melange of crazy type and a lovely story of a bookshop in a barn. Located not far from the magical Charleston, they specialise in books about the Bloomsbury Group, but obviously have all sorts of marvellous things and "Book-lovers find comfortable chairs for browsing our hand-picked books, ranging from fine press editions to recent publications to classics for specialist collectors." Heaven...

We carefully packed up their order in a suitable 'pre-loved' cardboard box and dispatched it from the Starch Green post office. Imagine our joy when we received not only a thank you note but a little gift too. The note opened, "We saved the parcel with our order as a treat - and opening it proved much more than just a treat - we are utterly besotted & delighted!"

The little books they enclosed are two of the London Transport Country Walks series with Ravilious illustrations on the covers - we too are utterly besotted and delighted!

Thank you so much, Cate and Nash at Much Ado Books.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Sitting Down Sports

It's all true - with Team GB's first medal going to Lizzie Armistead for cycling 'pretty well' in the Women's Road Race, our success at sitting down is affirmed. The Australians may have started the idea as a jibe, but in true British style we have embraced the slight and turned it into a positive.
Jonathan was so impressed by this idea, and always willing to stand up for his pride in Britishness, he has created a set of five wood engravings celebrating Sitting Down Sports. At our Artists at Home weekend in June cycling and rowing enthusiasts were the first to snap them up. They have now come to the attention of architect, shopkeeper and general stylemonger, Ben Pentreath who writes,
"I have just discovered my favourite thing of all about the Olympics. Not #SirDannyBoyle; not even the Queen and Bond; nor the fantastic cauldron designed by my friend Tom Heatherwick displaying his genius for seeing things differently once again. No, it’s the small set of wood engravings by Jonathan Mercer over at Starch Green, Sitting Down Sports. Pure genius."
Wow! Here at Starch Green we loved Danny Boyle's celebration of genuine Britishness and found Tom Heatherwick's cauldron, and the fact it was lit by seven athletes of the future, really beautiful. But you know, if you say so Ben...
The limited edition wood engravings can be bought separately or as a set of five at a special price of £180. They are printed by the artist on his delightful Albion press, on Zerkall mould made paper, signed and numbered.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Artists at Home 2012

Jonathan was very happy to take part in Artists at Home for the third year. It takes a bit of heavy lifting to sort out the downstairs and clean enough to make us presentable.
Although it is Jonathan who is 'the artist' it's a family affair to get through the weekend!
We were down to only two helpers this year - our lovely Tansy, who did stirling work all weekend and made huge amounts of (very popular) fairy cakes every morning, and the divine Polly - who made rare but exquisite appearances!

Launched, and freshly printed, for the weekend was Jonathan's new set of witty and apposite prints,  'Sitting Down Sports'. Depicting the sports that the British are known to do well at, and turning an antipodean jibe into a positive attribute, Jonathan has created a beautifully designed collection of images. Over the weekend the first purchasers of the prints were keen cyclists and rowers.
The equestrian print is perhaps my favourite with the exquisitely decorative mane.
I also love the elegance and dynamism of the 'Sailing Gold'.
Also for the first time at Artists at Home was the Bespoke Social Stationery. A really lovely idea for a special occasion gift - perhaps a wedding present, a house warming, wedding anniversary or a significant birthday.
Extraordinarily popular were our Jam Making Kits - which sold out on Saturday and the ever lovely Kindness Jug.
Jonathan spent most of the time in the shed, surrounded by absorbed fans listening to him wax lyrical on the delights of spitstickers, scorpers and bullstickers and inking up blocks on the press. Occasionally he emerged brandishing his collection of vintage Parker fountain pens to let people test the superb writing quality of the paper in our Bespoke Social Stationery - very silky.
Everything is now up on the website shop for sale - and we'll be having another open day on Sunday 2nd December for all those pre-Christmas purchases.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tinsmiths - we don't do useless

On our way to Hay-on-Wye last Friday we stopped off in Ledbury to visit the marvellous Tinsmiths.
Tinsmiths is a shop that is a gorgeous melange of fabrics, housewares and artists prints with a slight smattering of stationery.
As they say, "we try to stock beautiful and timeless things and we are very keen on things that function well; we don't do useless."
We had a lovely chat with proprietor Phoebe Clive, and as we mutually admired the St Judes prints around the walls, she mentioned how great it was to work with Angie and Simon Lewin as they are such lovely people. 
We agreed that business with lovely people is soooo much better!
We also spotted merchandise from the lovely Merchant & Mills by two more friends of ours, Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field (who we then bumped into in Hay on Sunday).
Tinsmiths showroom, built in  a little space between the higgledy piggledy buildings of Ledbury, is a masterpiece of inventive creativity by Alex Clive. It is both quirky and homely, whilst also being modern and fresh - a shed-full of contradiction.
The interior is a stage set of modern British living, a bit like one of the room sets from the Geffrye Museum - inviting, precious and delightful.
Tinsmiths enjoys championing the work of illustrators such as Kate Farley, who has an exhibition coming up next Summer, and printmakers such as James Brown. One of my favourite new illustrator-artists at the moment is Alice Pattullo. Besides her work on the walls of Tinsmiths, she has done some lovely work for Cecil Sharp House in Camden. I notice from Tinsmiths Facebook page that they have just received some new work by Alice inspired by the tradition of the Harvest of the Sea festival linked with London's Billingsgate fish Market.
From Ledbury it was less than an hour's drive to Hay-on-Wye through some lovely lush green countryside, hedgerows dappled with May blossom and cow parsley, the sky rather leaden with 'soft, refreshing rain."