Blog, Exhibitions

British Surrealism

As I write this and the whole of the world seems to be shutting down and self-isolating, I am delighted that I was able to visit the British Surrealism exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery. 26 February -17 May 2020

Marion Adnams, Aftermath, 1946, Photo: 2006 Christie’s Images Limited, © The Estate of Marion Adnams 

         I love the Picture Gallery and it has hosted some fabulous exhibitions including the recent one on Rembrandt and light. DPG has a great modern extension that was completed in 2000, designed by architect Rick Mather described here by Don Cruikshank:

         “Mather’s work at Dulwich is a masterpiece of subtle, informed understatement where the feel for Soane has been combined with a flair for, and awareness of, the potential offered by new forms and new materials.”

 Edith Rimmington, Family Tree, 1938, The Murray Family Collection (UK & USA) © Estate of Edith Rimmington

         Dulwich Picture Gallery was founded in 1811 and was the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery. It gets no regular public funding and It cares for and displays an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings within Sir John Soane’s pioneering architecture. It runs fabulous and inclusive events programme that engages with as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds. So having laid out my pitch and said that I am a keen supporter of the gallery, I have to say I am not a keen supporter of this exhibition. Yes it does what it says on the blurb, It marks 100 years since the birth of surrealism. There are over 70 eclectic works from 42 artists including Leonora Carrington, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and Paul Nash.  There is even a piece of work by none other than Desmond Morris who is better known for his work as a zoologist, broadcaster and writer than as a painter. 

Edward Burra, Dancing Skeletons, 1934, (1905-1976). Photo © Tate, Copyright: © Tate 

         The exhibition curator Dr David Boyd Haycock describes surrealism as ‘Probably the most exciting, transgressive and bizarre art movement of the twentieth century”  

 The Dulwich picture Gallery’s Sackler Director, Jennifer Scott says

“ Visitors will be invited to embark on their own adventures into the illogical through some spectacular loans and inventive exhibition design; it is not to be missed.”

         The positive thing about this exhibition is that it includes poets and playwrights from the 17th -19th centuries who shared and inspired the subversive qualities and absurdities of the movement. The exhibition includes works by the, so called, ‘Ancestors of surrealism’ including William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Henry Fuseli, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Their inclusion feels as if they are there to bulk out what would otherwise be a rather thin offering of work.

 We are shown the echoes and elements of the uncomfortable, rejecting order and chronology to channel mischief and provocation of the movement.

Arranged to reflect the modes and methods of surrealism, with themes of war, dreams, the unconscious, the uncanny, radical politics, sex and desire. The common creative urge, between all artists, are highlighted throughout, revealing the power of the subconscious, and the liberation of the imagination.

Conroy Maddox, The Lesson, 1938/1970, © Christie’s Images Limited, Given with the kind permission of the artist’s daughter

         There are a few stunning of pieces of work such as Marion Adnams  Aftermath, and her painting called  The distraught Infants and  Edith Rimmington’s  Family Tree.

But where are the equivalent of the masters such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Rene Magritte.   Conroy Maddox with his Typewriter is a close second to the work that was made by Marcel Duchamp.

Conroy Maddox, Onanistic Typewriter, 1940, Photo credit Murray Family Collection (UK & USA) Given with the kind permission of the artist’s daughter.

         It appears that many British artists ‘had a go’ at Surrealism but it feels as if their hearts weren’t  really in it as a movement. There is a truly awful painting called Landscape with Birds painted in 1940 by, one of my favourite artists, Lucien Freud. Freud was attending surrealist meetings during the Second World war. But as he later explained. “ I objected to the fact that under the laws of doctrinaire surrealism …… it was easy for people of no talent to practice art.’

         The Sunday Times described this current exhibition as a “Pythonesque celebration of British Eccentricity” and indeed there is a truly Pythonesque  black and white graphic  piece on one of the floors with long black intertwined arms ending to white hands that point in different directions with words such as Desire, Exit, Coincidence, Conflict, Politics, The Impossible “

         There is a small excellent book and gift shop and great café selling delicious food. The museum staff go out of their way to help and engage visitors even small boys, who want to wear the head phones that guide you round the exhibition. So if you have an afternoon to spare I would recommend visiting to find those true gems that are hidden amongst the dross.

Blog, Exhibitions

Cecile Beaton’s Bright Young Things

National Portrait Gallery, London 12 March-7 June 2020

Cecile Beaton and Stephen Tennant by Maurice Beck and Helen Macgregor 1927

As an antidote to Brexit, the Coronavirus and falling stock market, it was such a pleasure to visit this beautiful exhibition of, rarely seen, prints by renowned photographer Cecil Beaton. The glamorous and stylish ‘Bright Young Things’ of the twenties and thirties are seen through his eyes.

Paula Gellibrand, Marquesa de Casa Maury by Cecil Beaton 1928

         The exhibition presents the leading cast of the movers and shakers of the time. Many of them were to help refine his remarkable photographic style. Artists and friends Rex Whistler  and Stephen Tennant, set and costume designer Oliver Messel, composer William Walton, modernist poets, Iris Tree and Nancy Cunard, glamorous socialites Edwina Mountbatten and Diana Guiness (née Mitford), actresses and anglophiles Tallulah Bankhead and Anna May Wong, among many others.

The Silver Soap Suds by Cecil Beaton 1930

Brought to vivid life, by the images, each of them has a story to tell. There are the slightly less well known too-style Icons Paula Gellibrand, the Marquesa de Casa poet Brian Howard, part model for Brideshead Revisited’s mannered ‘Anthony Blanche’, ballet dancer Tilly Losch and Dolly Wilde Oscar’s equally flambouyant neice. Also featured are those of an older generation, who gave Beaton’s career early impetus: outspoken poet and critic Edith Sitwell, the famously witty social figure Lady Diana Cooper, artist and Irish patriot Hazel, Lady Lavery, and the extraordinary bejewelled Lady Alexander, whose husband produced Oscar Wilde’s comedies and who became a patron of Beaton’s.

Edith Sitwell at Sussex Gardens by Cecil Beaton 1926

This show charts Beaton’s transformation from middle-class suburban schoolboy to glittering society figure and the unrivalled star of Vogue. In addition to Beaton’s own portraits, the exhibition also features paintings by friends and artists including Rex Whistler, Henry Lamb, and Augustus John.

Cecil Beaton at Sandwich early 19202

         Beaton’s own life and relationship with the ‘Bright Young Things’ is woven into the exhibition. He was born in 1904 during the reign of Edward VII. His father was a timber merchant, and by the time of his late boyhood the business was failing  and the family had to downsize. Beaton very aware of his place in society hated belonging to a dull humdrum middle class family and wanted to be famous and successful with all the trappings that went with that life style.

Anna May Wong by Cecil Beaton 1929

His love of theatre goes back to the days when as a young boy he would crawl into his mother’s bed and look at the images of Hollywood stars in her glamour magazines. The famous racing scene in ‘My Fair Lady’ takes one back to the glamour of the Edwardian era. Socially avaricious, Cecil was a much photographed figure, a celebrity in his own right.

Nancy and Baba Beaton by Cecil Beaton 1926

Beaton’s transformation from middle-class suburban schoolboy to glittering society figure and the unrivalled star of Vogue, revealed a social mobility unthinkable before the Great War. He used his artistic skills, his ambition and his larger-than-life personality to become part of a world that he would not surely have joined as a right. Throughout the twenties and thirties his photographs place his friends and heroes under perceptive, colourful and sympathetic scrutiny.

The Bright Young Things at Wilsford by Cecil Beaton 1927

         The exhibition shows glimpses from the high spirited revels at country house weekends, including a rare vintage print of the leading lights dressed as eighteenth-century shepherds and shepherdesses on the bridge at Wilsford Manor, regarded now as the quintessential depiction of The Bright Young Things.

Maxine Freeman-Thomas dressed for Ascot in the year 2000 for the Dream of Fair Women Ball by Cecil Beaton

Robin Muir, Curator of Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things said: ‘The Exhibition brings to life a deliriously eccentric, glamorous and creative ere of British Cultural life, combining High Society and the avant-garde, artists and writers, socialites and partygoers, all set against the rhythms of the Jazz Age”

Oliver Messel in his costume for Paris in Helen! by Cecil Beaton 1932

To sum up the exhibition, and his own life, in the words of Cecil Beaton

‘I don’t want people to know me as I really am but who I’m trying to pretend to be.’

Go and see this, it is a fabulous exhibition in a lovely gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is closing this June for three years as it undergoes a £35.5 million refurbishment.

Blog, Exhibitions

David Hockney : Drawing From Life

David Hockney “Self Portrait with Red Braces” 2003 Watercolor on paper 24 x 18 1/8″ © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

I am a huge fan of David Hockney, considered to be one of the greatest artists working today. There have been a great many exhibitions of his work over his long career and this is the first at the National Portrait gallery for over twenty years.

David Hockney “Mother, Bradford. 19 Feb 1978″ 1979 Sepia ink on paper 14 x 11” © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt Collection The David Hockney Foundation

‘Drawing from Life’ focuses on Hockney as a draughtsman from the 1950’s and his intimate and revealing depictions of the five sitters closest to him. These are himself, his mother Laura, his curator and business manager, Gregory Evans, and master printer, Maurice Payne and close friend Celia Birtwell

Celia, Carennac, August 1971 coloured pencil on paper 17 x 14″ © David Hockney PhotoCredit : Richard Schmidt, Collection: David Hockney Foundation

The exhibition serves as a poignant reminder of the effects on the human form with the passing of time. The drawings done over the past six decades also illuminate Hockney’s distinctive way of observing the people around him, creating an intimate visual diary of the artist’s life, while highlighting his reference to both tradition and the changing landscape of technology.

“SELF PORTRAIT” 1954 COLLAGE ON NEWSPRINT 16 1/2 X 11 3/4″ © DAVID HOCKNEY PHOTO: RICHARD SCHMIDT

He uses both traditional and non-traditional drawing equipment including coloured pencils, pen, the polaroid camera, he experiments with many different techniques and styles.

David Hockney “Gregory. Palatine, Roma. Dec. 1974″ Ink on paper 17 x 14” © David Hockney Photo Credit: Robert Wedemeyer

The influence of Ingres can be seen in Hockney’s neo-Classical style line drawings of the 1970’s and the ‘camera lucida’ drawings of the late 1990’s. In the 1980’s Hockney went through a period of cubist depictions that paid homage to Picasso. In more recent years, particularly with his use of the iphone and the ipad, Hockney’s work has returned to the distinctive mark making of Rembrandt and Van Gough.

David Hockney “Self Portrait” March 14, 2012 iPad drawing printed on paper Exhibition Proof 1 37 x 28″ © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

         Despite the shifts in Hockney’s practice and themes, his approach to drawing has remained largely unchanged: it is the foundation of his art, as he was taught at Bradford School of Art.

David Hockney “Maurice 1998″ Etching A.P. II/X 44 x 30 1/2” © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt Collection The David Hockney Foundation

 Drawing was still compulsory when Hockney enrolled at the Royal College of Art in 1959 and its staff took note of his natural aptitude  for this academic discipline.

         One gallery space is given over to the new portraits of Hockney’s close friends. Inspired by the NPG exhibition Hockney invited his friends to sit for him once more in a new series of drawings- ten of which are on display in the exhibition. Drawn in Los Angeles and Normandy in 2019, the three-quarter length portraits are fond evocations of time spent together and represent the familiar faces and different expressions of his old friends, informed by all the sittings they have done previously. In the works Hockney uses the walnut-brown coloured ink favoured by Rembrandt, achieving an uninterrupted continuous line.

David Hockney “The Student: Homage to Picasso” 1973 Etching, soft ground etching, lift ground etching A.P. 1/15 29 3/4″ x 22 1/4″ © David Hockney Collection The David Hockney Foundation

Quote by Sarah Howgate Curator of David Hockney: Drawing From Life

“ Drawing not only represents David Hockney’s distinctive way of observing the world but it is a record of the encounters of those close to him. He has returned to this intimate circle over and over again and, because their faces are so familiar to him, achieving a likeness does not distract from the search for a more nuanced and psychological portrait that also records the passage of time.

Gregory 1978, coloured pencil on paper 17x 14″ © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schnidt, Collection The David Hockney Foundation

         Over the past six decades he has never stood still, or rested on a particular approach, medium or technique and this is a great strength. Inquisitive, playful and thought provoking he has generously shared his ideas with his audience. Although his drawing reflects his admiration for both the Old Masters and ‘modern Masters’ from Rembrandt to Picasso, Hockney undoubtedly has his own unique vision of the world around him and the people who are dear to him.”

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

27 February -28 June 2020 at the National Portrait Gallery

Tickets without donation from £17-£20

Tickets with donation from £19-£22

Free for Members and Patrons

Blog, Exhibitions

Out of The Blue

Fifty Years of Designers Guild

Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum 14 Feb -14 June 2020

Out of the Blue is the latest exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. It celebrates the work of the influential design company Designers Guild, that was founded in 1970 by Tricia Guild OBE. Since it’s founding, the brand has evolved into a worldwide company whose products have changed the way we view colour, pattern and texture in our homes.

         Frustrated with the lack of truly contemporary fabrics and wallpapers for interiors, Tricia’s vision was to create a lifestyle, by showing people how to put the different elements of a room together, how colour, pattern, texture and form can combine to create a harmonious space.

From the outset, Guild knew she had to show people how to use her products and thus displays and photography of her new collections are vital tools for communicating the total effect. She has produced many books over the years and has emphasised the importance of plain and semi plain fabrics as being integral to the whole Guild look. Their importance were captured by Elizabeth Wilhide the co-writer of Tricia Guild’s new soft furnishings, which was issued six times between 1990 and 1997 published by Conran Octopus.

         The fashion and Textile museum is not an enormous venue and yet they have very successfully constructed room sets showing the different styles that Tricia Guild has created across the decades.

We are shown where Tricia’s inspiration comes from – her travels to India, Japan and Scandinavia have all resulted in collections of fabrics, wallpaper, furniture and accessories. Her inspiration may come from ancient Indian Textiles or Renaissance – style velvet or a Swedish Gustavian wall treatment, but the resulting interior collection are never drawn from one source alone. Instead each collection is an eclectic amalgam in which harmony exists between East and West, past and present.

‘I’m passionate about a home being comfortable as well as beautiful. Being surrounded by good design is one of life’s pleasures.” Tricia Guild.

In 1975 Tricia split from her husband and business partner, Robin. Tricia continued with the business, working from it’s original King’s Road Chelsea flagship store, and Designers Guild has flourished. The brand is represented in over 80 countries worldwide with a turnover of over £55 million. From the outset Designers Guild has always maintained its own interior design department, based in its stores at Chelsea and Marylebone.

Each project responds to the requirements of an individual client and the architectural setting, whether in London, Paris, Manhattan or Tuscany. The Guild look can be found in a mews cottage or a rood top pied-à-terre, or in period homes and country villas. Tricia’s own homes are often the first place for experimentation with new concepts. 

         Designers Guild is best known for florals and botanicals, but plain fabrics in a multitude of shades and textures as well as a range of geometrics and abstract designs are also vital to the mix.

 The exhibition highlights the techniques and processes vital for making the collections happen. In the quest for innovation, the company uses a variety of printing methods from hand block printing in the early days to rotary screen-printing and most recently digital printing.

         Throughout the fifty years she has been in business, Tricia has championed and collaborated with artists and designers from other disciplines including Howard Hodgkin, Kaffe Fassett and recently Ralph Lauren and Christian Lacroix.

         Never shown before, this exhibition showcases the story of Designers Guild in settings that capture the changing tastes in interiors over the last five decades.

The exhibition is curated by Dennis Nothdruft. Head of exhibitions at the Fashion and Textile Museum and Textile Historian Mary Schoeser, in collaboration with Designers Guild.

Fashion and Textile Museum 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF

T: 020 7407 8664

E: info@ftmlondon.org

Please note the Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 11am-6pm ; Sunday 11am-5pm.

There is an excellent book to go with the exhibition published by ACC Art Books at a cost of £30

Blog, Exhibitions

We Will Walk

Art and resistance in the American South

Turner Contemporary Margate 7 February -3 May 2020

Ralf Griffin Eagle from Found Wood, nails, paint
Griffin made his work from tree roots from the banks of Poplar Root Branch, the small creek behind his home. The works were created to sit outside his yard, visible to passers-by

The work in this extensive exhibition is by African American artists in the American South during the second half of the twentieth Century to present day. 

         Slavery and segregation shaped the rural and industrial economies of the South and created a regime of racial terror. Much of the art in We Will Walk was made within this context.

         Produced in outdoor yards, the work takes many forms, from ephemeral environments made from salvaged materials to sculptural assemblages, paintings, musical instruments and quilts.

         In the segregated South, creators drew on black Southern cosmology, musical improvisation, American history, African traditions and more recently popular culture as materials for their work.

Blues and Spiritual music were exported from the South to the rest of USA and beyond. The art in We Will Walk can be seen as a visual equivalent of this musical improvisation but has been overlooked until relatively recently.

Annie-Mae Young with quilts and her great granddaughter Shaquettein Rehobeth Alabama 1993

         It was during the Civil Rights protests (1954-1968) that  walking, as an act of courage and protest, came to the fore. The title of this exhibition reflects that courage and protest.

To Quote Martin Luther King

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Activists like the writer James Baldwin and the photographer Doris Derby went to the South to bear witness and demand change. Vast communal acts like the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery (1965) started a process of transformation that gradually allowed hidden artistic practices to become viable.

         The exhibition highlights the innovative visual languages created by these artists, their relationship to history, the environment and their influence on American culture. We are in a new era of protest and resistance, even Prince William, at the recent Bafta award ceremony, expressed his frustration at the lack of recognition of diversity within the film industry.

WE WILL WALK presents the extraordinary creativity of artists working outside the mainstream for the first time in the UK.

         My main purpose for visiting this exhibition was to see the quilts of Gee’s Bend, today known as Boykin. For those who haven’t heard of it, Gee’s Bend is a small community located on a former plantation in Alabama. It lies on a spit of land surrounded by the Alabama River. The deeply rural community has become world famous for their unique hand made quilts created by the women for their own use and gradually recognised and collected by outsiders.

Linked to their maker’s history of poverty and hard labour on the cotton plantation, the quilts are made from repurposed materials. They contain abstract visual languages that have been developed in isolation over a hundred years. The ferry that linked Gee’s Bend to Camden, the nearest town, was removed in order to prevent the residents from registering to the right to vote and from voting during the 1960’s and was not re-instated for forty years.

         The quilts are made from used clothing such as blue jeans and football shirts, their materials follow the history of American clothing, as fabrics developed and changed. It was relatively common for plantation owners to name their enslaved workers with their own names, which remain a symbol of a terrible past. Many of the quilters are descendants of people enslaved on the Pettyway Plantation, which is reflected in their names to this day.

         Much of the show draws on the tradition of the ‘Yard Show’, temporary outdoor environments made from salvaged materials.

James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas was a blues musician and sculptor. He sculpted heads from unfired clay dug from local source. His subjects ranged from historical figures to local community members. He also worked as a grave digger and many of his heads include human teeth.

         The exhibition was conceived by, the artist, Hannah Collins, who spent three years researching and developing the show. She is joined by curator Paul Goodwin, professor of Contemporary Art  and urbanisation at University of the Arts London. His particular interest is in fugitive art practices and place. 

         This exhibition is worth seeing, if only as a way to view of recent history. These artists turned impossible circumstances into innovative artworks and still do so today. This is an  excellent, and deeply profound exhibition.

Blog, Exhibitions

Picasso and Paper

Royal Academy of Art 25 January- 13 April

Pablo Picasso drawing in Antibes 1946 Black and White Photo Copyright Michel Sima/Bridgeman editions.

This is the RA Spring 2020 blockbuster

Billed as the most comprehensive exhibition devoted to Picasso’s imaginative and original uses of paper ever to be held. There are over 300 works encompassing Picasso’s 80 year career. The exhibition shows the myriad of ways in which he worked both on and with paper.

     Picasso was one of the most important and prolific artists of the twentieth century. He was born in 1881 and died in 1973. He worked across a range of mediums including painting, ceramics, sculpture and graphic arts. He drew incessantly, using many different media, including pastels, watercolour and gouache, on a broad range of papers and card. A glossary of these is available for anyone who is interested. He assembled collages of cut-and-pasted papers, created sculptures from pieces of torn and burnt paper, produced both documentary photographs and manipulated photographs on paper; and spent decades investigating printmaking techniques.

Violin Paris autumn 1912 Laid paper, wallpaper,newspaper,wove wrapping paper and glazed black wove paper, cut and pasted onto cardboard with pencil and charcoal 65 x 50cm Musée national Pablo Picasso

         The exhibition is organized in a chronological framework and opens with two paper cut outs of a dove and a dog made by Picasso when he was 8 years old.

Highlights include Les Femmes à leur toilette, winter 1937-38.This extraordinary collage is made from cut and pasted papers and measures 4.8 meters in length.

    Throughout the exhibition paper works are displayed alongside a number of closely related paintings and sculptures. Although Picasso didn’t paint war paintings as such, his images of sheep’s skulls or women in position of grief and anguish provide a deeply personal record of fear and dread in the shadow of impending catastrophe. He didn’t want his work to be mixed up in politics but after the aerial bombing of Guernica in April 1937 Picasso accepted the commission to paint a mural for the republic ‘s pavilion at The Paris Worlds fair of 1937

Seated Woman (Dora),1938 Ink Gouache and coloured chalk on paper 765 x 56 cm Foundation Beyeler ,Rehen/Basel, Beyeler Collection.

             In August 1940 Picasso moved back to Paris and remained there throughout the German occupation. Picasso was considered by the Nazi’s to be a degenerate and was threatened with extradition to fascist Spain. He was forbidden to exhibit or publish but continued to work in his studio. with materials in short supply, the ever resourceful Picasso created a world of shapes- masks, birds etc by tearing, cutting, and burning paper napkins. He made ink drawings on propaganda published by the collaborationist press.

    One section of the show examines the materials and techniques used by Picasso over the course of his career. This includes early woodcuts, photographic collaborations with Dora Maar and later Andre Villers, as well as experimental graphic works and illustrated books.

        Near the end of the exhibition the audience can see the great master at work stripped to the waist in the film ‘Le Mystère Picasso’ made in 1956. It is a remarkable documentary recording Picasso drawing with felt-tip pens on blank newsprint. It is shown alongside original drawings made for the production.

       The exhibition closes with a focus on Picasso ‘s last decade, which saw a final flourish of his work particularly as a printmaker.

         I have said this before, and excuse me for repeating myself, but we as audience or viewer are seeing this work with hindsight and knowledge of 20th century art. We need to imagine how amazing, original and out of this world the work of Picasso must have been when it was first viewed. It is still amazing strong and vibrant. A great, but very large exhibition, so allow yourself plenty to of time to see it.

Blog, Exhibitions, Press Show Picks

Top Drawer’s S/S 2020 best small producers

Spice Kitchen :mother and son team Sanjay & Shashi Aggarwal

Visiting trade shows always sounds exciting, but for those of you who have been to the likes of the Ideal Home Show and The Country Living Fair, you will know just how exhausting it can be. I recently wrote a piece on new spring and summer 2020 trends. This post is different as it is about my pick of the designers, often sole traders sometimes a partnership, who also show at the big trade fairs.  Their stands are usually much smaller than the large flash companies, but this is where you will often find the truly innovative and inspiring products.

Before we get down to specifics, and despite it being a trade show, it is worth saying that the buzzwords this year are ethical and sustainable. So as well as wanting originality and good value for money the general public are less prepared to purchase at the expense of the environment and those trying to make a living in poor communities.

Many companies support charities, for example Spice Kitchen, a family-owned artisanal spice and tea company run by mother and son team Sanjay & Shashi Aggarwal (aka Mamma Spice & Baby Spice!)  What started as a discussion over the kitchen table on Christmas Day 2012, Spice Kitchen has developed into a thriving small business that has never lost touch with its roots.They  support the charities   FRANK Water who build sustainable water projects in India and Nepal and Find Your Feet who help families in Asia and Africa build a future free from poverty and hunger. They produce small-batch, freshly ground spice blends and tea blends. They source the freshest raw spices from around the world, and then hand-blend, hand-roast and hand-grind them to authentic recipes. The containers they come in are covered in old Sari’s.

The Kindness Co-op

Rainbow kindness

The Kindness Co-Op, is an online clothing and gift store for children aged 0-14 years started in 2014 as The Wee Store. It was re-launched and re-branded by Lucie Carr and her business partner Charlie in September 2018 in an effort to become more socially responsible, for example sourcing organic clothing that has been locally screen printed with their own designs. The brand makes a donation to the charity Young Minds for every piece of own brand merchandise sold. https://www.thekindnessco-op.com/

One of my favourite brands is

illustrated stories

lllustrated Stories by Kay van Bellen I love the quirkiness and originality of her work.

Netherlands-based ceramics brand, Illustrated Stories, was founded by British-born artist and illustrator, Kay van Bellen in 2019. The brand story emerged from her Dutch heritage and her love of Delft Blue ceramics and the stories that unfold behind each delicately painted image. The pieces in the inaugural collection are made from old, found objects which Van Bellen screen prints and hand decorates to create new narratives. Illustrations are witty, humorous and often sinister, each individual piece is a work of art to hang on the wall.Kay has worked with brands such as Converse, Universal Works and Size? She has recently had a solo exhibition of her work at Pols Potten, Amsterdam. Her latest commission was was to design and produce a range of bespoke giftware with Nottingham Lakeside Museum. https://www.kayvanbellen.com/

Floral Tea Towel by AMPellegrini

AMPellegrini Art & Design was founded by London based designer-maker Anna-Maria Pellegrini in 2019. Her passion for printed textiles, nature illustrations and homeware products developed during her Master studies at UAL, where she fell in love with designing homeware and illustrating the natural world. She mainly draws inspiration from the nature surrounding her to create storytelling designs, reflecting the biodiversity on our planet. Anna-Maria exclusively works with UK based companies only, to ensure all elements are sourced and produced ethically to the highest standards. The current product range includes tea towels, tile coasters, giclée prints and tote bags. https://www.ampellegrini.com

Shortbread House of Edinburgh are known around the world for the quality of biscuits that they produce. In 2018 they again won more Great Taste Awards than any other shortbread producer. However it was the Sables not their shortbread that makes me love them, they are delicious. Pea Green Boat Cheese Sablés. are made using a wonderful blend of Scottish Cheddar and Italian Parmesan, the Fennel & Chilli flavour won the Golden Fork Award for best Scottish Product at the 2019 Great Taste Awards.

https://www.shortbreadhouse.co.uk/retail/cheese-sables/range/

Tea Cosy by Poppy Treffry

Poppy Treffry is a  Cornish based company, producing a range of quirky textile based products. They have been going a few years now but always come up with new products of a high standard. These include bags, rucksacks, totes, purses, tea and coffee cosies and much, more. Their latest exciting product is a reusable sandwich wrap.

https://poppytreffry.co.uk/

Sea Garden

www.materiarica.com are  a husband and wife design team who laser cut walnut which they are then paint to make very imaginative jewellery. Their motto is Choose Your Style, Wear Your Story. Here is their story :

Tea Time

Destiny united the paths of Marta, a Polish artist who lived in London and painted pictures of peculiar characters, with Joan, who was passionate about both design and technology and was running a laser cutting company for creative projects. Together they began to transform Marta’s illustrations into small works of art to wear: brooches, earrings and necklaces, which Marta sold in local creative markets in the English capital.

Roar

In 2014 Marta and Joan set sail for the Mediterranean and founded the Materia Rica brand. In recent years the growth and international projection of the project have allowed the team to grow, incorporating Oscar, Clara and Sonia.

British Colour Standard original book of ribbons

British Colour Standard was originally conceived in 1931 by the British Council, cloth -bound earthy green ‘dictionaries of colour’ crammed with 100’s of brightly dyed ribbons were created to standardise colour reproduction throughout the British Commonwealth.

paint from British colour Standard

When the art/design team of Jackie Piper & Victoria Whitbread discovered an old colour dictionary in an Oxfam shop, they began a journey to re-establish this long forgotten brand.produce a range of products based on the book of coloured ribbons.  They were original colours not used since 1958. The designers turned entrepreneurs now produce paints, ceramics, basket work glasses in bright colours www.britishcolourstandard.com

Stylish Tea Towels by Rye & Moor

Rye and Moor were another fabulous find. They are a partnership who have designed  a collection of contemporary  furniture, textiles, home wares and prints using their own prints. As it says on the tin. Simply Designed. Thoughtfully Made. Remarkable objects for modern living. www.ryeandmoor.co.uk

Rye and Moor Bench

As you may have gathered I love quirky and one of the originators of this genre is Donna Wilson. She produces strange cushions, animals, toys, many knitted and felted. She has recently added platters, trays and mugs to her range. www.donnawilson.com

Pretty Bee fresh DIY bees wax wraps

As a replacement for cling film, Beeswax  wraps have been round for a while. wwwprettybeefresh.com have come up with a new and fun idea, a DIY box with everything in it to create your own beeswax wraps. They too, are supporting a charity and have teamed up with www.workforgood.com For every purchase of on of their larger packs a tree is planted.

Dalmation design by Scarlett

There are lots of stationary designers around but I was particularly drawn to the work of Scarlett Josse. Her work is whimsical feminine and romantic. All made in England and her greetings cards either come wrapped in compostable plastic sleeves or naked. www.byscarlett.com

Bowls made at Selbourne Pottery

I definitely have a thing for blue which given it is Pantone colour for 2020 is probably a good thing. So my next recommendations are all have blue elements. I met Robert Goldsmith from Selborne Pottery. He makes beautiful hand thrown and curated stone ware. He has used some beautiful blue glazes. on his work. www.selbournepottery.co.uk

I like be meeting makers, and Lisa Reddings of  www.indigowares.com was no exception, particularly as she was her hands were covered in indigo dye, and her work is beautiful. She runs workshops and sells her goods at shows and on line.

Arashi workshop

Another lover of blue is Hayley Potter RCA. She works from her studio in Dorset creating works on paper and ceramics inspired by the wild, folklore and magic. She uses the image of the hare in much of her work. www.hayleypotter.co.uk

Sunrise card by Hayley Potter

I love lino-prints as a medium and particularly these made by Sarah Cemmick her work consists of original Lino cuts of predominately British wildlife with exclusive editions of only 25.

‘Highlander’ linocut & watercolour 
48cm by 58cm
Limited edition of 25

Each print is produced by hand in Sarah’s Cumbrian studio. Designs are printed on Japanese tissues and traditional printing papers which are then tinted with watercolours. A range of 90 art cards detailing the lino cuts compliment the original prints. They are produced in England on recycled board with recycled envelopes and biodegradable cello bags.

http://www.scemmick.wix.com/sarahcemmick

Earrings designed by Sally Holyoak

Using the brand name  My bear Hands Sally Holyoak hand makes silver jewellery from re-cycled silver. www.mybearhands.co.uk

This is her mission statement:

‘As a maker, I want my jewellery to be beautifully designed and well made.  But I don’t want this to be at the expense of the earth or people who live in it.  Jewellery is a luxury item, and there is really no justification for damaging natural environments or exploiting workers in it’s creation.’

The final company I am writing about is Roka. They have just celebrated their second birthday. They create practical, colourful, beautiful ruck sacs and bags. I have bought many of them in different colours from my favourite emporium ‘ Live Like This‘ in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. For any stylists out there they look great in shoots.

A yellow Roka rucksac stars as a prop on a shoot.

This bag is made using 12-15 recycled bottles. 

In order to reduce waste in the ocean, Roka has created a new line of bags. Made using 12-13 recycled bottles, the Sustainable Finchley iThe production of this bag not only uses recycled materials, but also uses less energy than traditional production methods.