Monday, 28 May 2012

Popping up at Hay-on-Wye very soon

The Starch Green Kindness Jug appearing at Hay-on-Wye - a literary jug for a literary festival
Alongside the Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye itself blossoms into a cultural hub of food fairs, pop-up shops, galleries and of course bookshops. Always a delight to visit, the festival adds a burst of energy to the town. This year we have banded together with Wood at Golden Valley, my brother's wood turning business, and Anne Fishenden, my artist-printmaker sister, to put up a pop-up shop in Castle Cottage, just behind Hay Castle.
The 'secret' gap in the wall to the cobbled courtyard
The cottage is in a cobbled mews, approached from the centre of Hay up steep steps and through a 'secret'  gap in the wall, leading to a magical, almost forgotten, courtyard.
A permanent resident here is the Olde Curiosity Shoppe, currently with a very Jubilee themed window, including an ageing teddy looking for a new home. Just past that on the left you stumble across Castle Cottage, its fading blue paintwork a subtle contrast with the red brick and grey stone.
More words bedeck the lovely Wood at Golden Valley bowls and boards
Come Thursday evening the porch will be decked out with scarlet pelargoniums and a bench under the window to welcome weary 'Hay-makers'.
Many Rivers to Cross, Jonathan Mercer, wood engraving
And inside a cool, modern British array of hand turned bowls and boards, wood engravings, lino prints, screen prints, decorated ceramics, turned ornaments and delightful felt 'botanicals' (definitely need to be seen to be appreciated).
Dog's Mercury, Anne Fishenden, lino cut
The shop then remains popped-up right through the festival until Sunday, 10th June.

The centre of Hay is smattered with lovely shops, galleries, cafes and the especially welcome Shepherds Sheep Milk Ice Cream Parlour - with bunting in full swing.
A pretty gateway in the wall leads to the castle where you'll find a mini Abergavenny Food Festival.
 Then some steep steps that take you up to the castle.
Turn right at the top, through the gap in the wall and you've found us! Before you go through the gap, look back for a fine view over the town.
Castle Cottage ready for transformation into our pop-up shop
Do come in and have a good look round - there's some lovely things - from pocket sized wooden treats, felt delights and hand-printed letterpress stationery to large, elegant silkscreen prints that will enhance the most discerning white wall.
The Starch Green Everyday Stationery set - lovingly printed on our old press
Carry on through the cobbled yard, past a Shepherds Ice Cream van, and you come to the The Sound Castle - Hay's mini music festival. There yesterday the grand white marquees were already up ready for the rumpus to begin...

Wood at Golden Valley

Little Brook that runs by John's house and workshop
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

Woodie Guthrie's quintessential American folk song echoes in my ears as we drive the last few miles through Golden Valley on the Herefordshire/Wales border to visit my brother John. It's a warm and bright May Sunday, the leaves are bursting impossibly bright green all around us, the hedgerows are bubbling with Queen Anne's Lace and the hawthorns are dripping, Hockney-esque, with their heavy May blossom. It's a time to love living in England.
Tansy exploring the pond, John's workshop at the end of the garden
As we turn into John's drive he comes out to meet us, be-hatted and relaxed. John has created his business, Wood at Golden Valley, out of his love of wood, hands-on creativity and the physical act of making lovely things.
A stack of turned bowls in the workshop
His main products are turned bowls and boards, bringing a delightful restrained aesthetic to the humble bread on your table. We can smell the bread for lunch baking as we pass by the kitchen and tumble into the garden; newly cut grass (except for the bit when the mower broke down), pond well-stocked with tadpoles (a passing heron having stopped off recently to scoff the fish), chickens pecking in their pen. 
Tools and sunlight
John's workshop is a handsome shed at the end of the garden, with a stream running by and a wood pile to supply the stove. 
John and Jonathan is the shed...
Inside is full of the tools of his trade, the lathe, the cutters, templates, samples of wood, turned bowls and wood shavings. It is exquisite.
The combination of high shelves with treasures not touched for several years bearing the dust to prove it, an old Gifford's Circus poster on the wall and the scattering of current projects here and there add up to the most inspiring and comfortable atmosphere.
A world where the craftsman is connected completely with his craft, his passion and his life.

John and Fran grow as much produce in the garden as they can
We lunch with John, Fran and son Eric (daughter Alice being away at University) in the garden on barbecued sausages, salad and the bread rolls hot from the oven.
My Cherry and Vanilla in a waffle cone
Our dessert, a trip to Hay to try Shepherds Sheep Milk Ice cream - a nice little connection with our roots in Shepherd's Bush - and delightful ice-cream.
John and Jonathan visualising the pop-up
In Hay we check out the site of the pop-up shop we're doing with John, and my sister, Anne, for the duration of the Hay Festival starting on June 1st. We're very excited by this coming together of work/life - very much at the heart of the Starch Green philosophy and embodied clearly by Wood at Golden Valley - an idyll in Artisania.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Greenside Arts Lectures

The Greenside Mural by Gordon Cullen
One of the joys of the last 12 months has been helping run the campaign to restore the Greenside Mural. The old adage, 'the more you put in the more you get out' is, as so often proved, quite true. But I think the most surprising thing is that what you 'get out' is very seldom what you expect.
Science Week at the school inspired by the Greenside Mural - Solar System
The Friends of the Greenside Mural was set up 18 months ago or so, to bring the extraordinary Gordon Cullen mural at Greenside Primary School back into school life, and make it a presentable part of the school foyer and the school curriculum. Having been covered over for many years, the mural is worn and dirty, but surprisingly not really that badly damaged.
The entrance to the Goldfinger school built in 1952
The mural was commissioned by architect Erno Goldfinger as part of the original school plan. Goldfinger won the project to design the school when he presented an innovative pre-cast concrete concept, rather than follow the brief to put up a series of huts as a temporary school. The winning idea was that his design offered a covered walkway from the main school to the hall - something the separate huts wouldn't provide. The curved walkway is still one of the more distinctive features today.
Detail from the mural - The Sea
Gordon Cullen was asked to create a mural for the entrance hall and he wrote in his notebook,"a castle, the world, a toad, an engine"; and a lone sentence saying, "Mural. To undulate and intrigue.  How?" The result, painted during 1952-53, is an intriguing set of vignettes, set firmly in the 50s in style, but inspiring today.
The Thames - Eric Ravilious
As part of our fundraising campaign we have initiated the Greenside Arts Lectures. Our aim is to curate  a series of insightful talks, highly illustrated, that celebrate artists who have lived and/or worked in the area. We also want to develop Greenside School as a local cultural hub, given its heritage both architecturally and artistically and its Grade II* listing. Our initial focus is on 20th Century artists, kicking off with one of our favourites, Eric Ravilious, in April.
James Russell signing books at the evening Eric Ravilious: the Hammersmith Years
James Russell, author of the series 'Ravilious in Pictures', delivered a very personal and entertaining talk entitled Eric Ravilious: the Hammersmith Years. Ravilious lived on the corner of Weltje Road and Upper Mall on the river in Hammersmith from 1930 - 1933 with his wife Tirzah Garwood. Tirzah herself was an artist and is the subject of a lovely exhibition at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden to coincide with the publication of her autobiography, "Long Live Great Bardfield and Love to You All" published by the Fleece Press.

The evening was sold out and we were thrilled by the response from the local community, art lovers, local historians and heritage enthusiasts.
The Harbour, School Print by Julian Trevelyan who lived by the river in Hammersmith, this example is displayed in Hammersmith Hospital
My research into what the next talk should be has led me to discover all sorts of brilliant new secrets and artistic gems about Hammersmith and our locale, and meet some lovely people full of information and ideas about art, people and our local heritage. All very exciting.

We are planning more talks for Autumn and Spring now, please keep an eye on the Greenside Mural Facebook page for more news.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Pop-up Pleasures

The Starch Green Kindness Jug first seen at Nothing But Navy
One of the trends that I most enjoy at the moment is the rash of pop-up shops that showcase the creative and ingenious talents of marvellous people. They represent the passing pleasures brought to the public by people with a story to tell, a living to make and the need to spend more time making than selling.

Pop-up shops have many forms and a long tradition. The 'definition' is really the ability to arrive at a venue, create an environment that presents a story to your audience, primarily to sell something, and then disappears again. The tangible presence can exist from a couple of hours to a few weeks. The long tail (and long nose - if you count the stuff before the 'happening') of PR, tweets, websites, blogs and, even, gossip, can keep it alive much longer. Rooted in the traditional 'flash mob' retailing of the street market, pop-up shops have a wealth of experience to tap into. And they add immensely to the vibrancy of what may be an otherwise sagging High Street.

Nothing But Navy have curated two pop-ups so far. Initially in Stroud for a month, Gem Waggett's concept came together in fine style for a month before Christmas, using Twitter, @NothingButNavy, in exemplary style, and tweeting her 'product of the day' daily. The clarity of her vision, 'nothing but navy', gives a sense of purpose and coherency to the shop, and tapped straight into her own personal narrative. Very compelling. Very stylish. Navy is one of the most sophisticated of colours and, of course, was much favoured by the fashion designer Jean Muir, to the exclusion of every other colour. The second manifestation was within the delightful Luna and Curious in Shoreditch. A tiny exhibition space transformed into a cool, shrine-like worship of the sea-worthy colour. We were inspired to create our own navy products for her, our Lobster Again mug and now the Kindness Jug. Look out for more Nothing But Navy pop-ups soon.
Emily Sutton, St Jude's at Tinsmith's
Tinsmith's in Ledbury curate regular pop-up exhibitions integrated into their exquisite shop, the epitome of modern British style. Just finished is the St Jude's at Tinsmiths with lovely prints by Angie Lewin, Mark Hearld, Christopher Brown, Emily Sutton and Ed KluzSt Jude's themselves are masters of the pop-up exhibition and will be re-visiting London soon at the Coningsby Gallery with Angie Lewin, Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton from 24th May to 2nd June, 2012.
One of my favourite executions of the pop-up genre at the moment is Reginald Spleen and his Travelling Snuff bar. As he says,"A Suitcase Stuffed With Sneezes!"
'There sleeps Titania', Jonathan Mercer, wood engraving
We have been invited to join Wood at Golden Valley in a pop-up at the Hay Festival this year. From 31st May to 10th June, 2012, in the rather wonky looking but charming Castle Cottage, our wares will be ready and waiting for locals and festival goers alike to see, feel and generally get close to. Many of Jonathan's limited edition wood engravings have literary connections and will be available to buy, as well as large silkscreen prints, stationery and ceramics. Do come and visit us for the fleeting time we are there.
Castle Cottage, Hay-on-Wye