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

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. 

Blog, Exhibitions, Press Show Picks

Key Interior Trends for 2020

This week Olympia hosted ‘Top Drawer’ the show where the buyers go to source new, unearth the latest trends and discover emerging talent, and buy for the coming season.

         According to Flamingo Trend Predictions , there are four key trends this season the first being Playful Chromatics. Described thus, as a fun filled palette of block colours that bring modernity through mid tone brights. Varied hues are achieved through mixed material densities. 

A key colour is neo mint and it adds a fresh and positive start for 2020. Kat Burroughs, Interiors Journalist of the Times, mentions in her predictions for 2020 the Pantone colour of ‘Classic Blue’, which is more or less Royal Blue, and also lilac being used in some home wares.

From Illustrated stories, artwork that tells tales through eclectic narratives by Kay Van Bellen

Blue also features in another of her 2020 predictions, chintzy china. There was a great deal, of that old favourite, blue and white china, much of it with a modern twist.

Burleigh.co.uk

The second predicted trend is ‘Rare Bloom’ powerful, pigmented florals grounded with soft brown leathers. Florals add deep intensity of reds, oranges and purples clashing with acid lime, and tempered with soft peachy coral.

Fleurs de La Soir, Hummingbird and butterflies
from Katie Victoria Brown

The show certainly had many surface designers who have taken their inspirations from nature with fine examples of flowers and insects.

Portico Designs – Archive Rainforest Print Stationery. Photo: porticodesigns.com

         ‘Mad About The House’ journalist Kate Watson Smythe, in her predictions for 2020 describes how we are turning away from the minimalism of recent years and embracing pattern, particularly with a new take on English country style with layers of colour and pattern.

https://www.ampellegrini.com/

         Unadorned Tactility is the third trend and that is formed from new interpretations of traditional materials. Organic prints and textured layered on to geo shapes give a bio-futuristic look.

https://www.ryeandmoor.co.uk/

         The fourth trend is Serene Warmth. Described as dappled sun warmth and cool shade, colours are juxtaposed in the raw fabrics, rich prints and smooth pale marble and concrete.

https://www.raineandhumble.com/olive-grove-range

This warmth aspect of this trend fits in with Kate Watson Smythe’s prediction that ‘the fashion for brown furniture, which I wrote about last year, has now become part of the sustainability movement and will, rightly, continue to grow in popularity. We will buy more from eBay and vintage stores, we will paint and customise and up cycle more and we will continue to reupholster and repurpose.’

Blog, Exhibitions

Lucian Freud The Self Portraits

This small but packed exhibition is on from 27th October 2019 until 26th January 2020 in the Sackler Wing at The Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House Piccadilly London W1J 0BD https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/

Ok let’s start with the biographical bit, Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved to the UK in 1933 to escape Nazi Germany. In the late 1940’s he chose to make portraiture his primary focus of practice.

Freud had two obsessions painting and sex. Author John Richardson once remarked ‘ He turns sex into art and art into sex- there is no differentiation; the two aspects of his senses came together in the act of painting”.

Because Freud was renowned for his works of startling intensity, and for frank, often disquieting nudes, he often required his models to sustain uncomfortable poses for long periods of time. Freud stated that it was only fair that he should subject himself to the same process.

The exhibition shows his work from his early years, including his painting Man with a feather (self portrait 1943) It was exhibited in the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1944.

The first portraits are in pencil and or ink. Encouraged by his mother, Freud had drawn obsessively since childhood. His approach to painting at this time was marked by a preoccupation with line, combining expressive force with a quality of draughtsmanship that led the critic Herbert Read to describe him as the ‘Ingres of Existentialism”

From around the mid 1950’s Freud turned his attention away from drawing to painting, and for a period of about seven years stopped drawing altogether. In order to free up his painting he stopped painting sitting down and from then on painted standing up. His last painting made sitting down is Hotel Bedroom 1954 and is a double portrait of himself and his second wife Lady Caroline Blackwood.

Between the 1950’s and the mid 1960’s Freud’s painting gradually freed up. In 1961 he took up using watercolours, replacing the linearity of pen and pencil with loose painterly washes.

From the mid 1960’s Freud used Mirrors to help him paint his own likeness. He didn’t use photographs and only kept mirrors in his studio not in the rest of his house. He liked the way that a mirror could suggest a new and unexpected angle or perspective.

Freud said of himself ‘ My work is purely autobiographical. It’s about myself and my surroundings…I work from the people that interest me and that I care about in rooms that i live in and know.”

Throughout his career Freud held a succession of London Studios, in Holland Park, Paddington and Notting Hill. They provided the stage for his encounters with sitters- each an intimate environment that was erotically charged.

A series of exhibitions in the late 1980’s and 1990’s cemented Freuds reputation internationally. From then on he held an exhibition every year for the rest of his life. He continued to paint self portraits that display his self- possession and extraordinary mastery of colour, form, light and shade.

Freuds late self-portraits become increasingly built up with thick layers of paint sometimes smoothed at others scratched as though responding to the changes in his physical appearance. He almost disappears into the surface. there is a narrowing of the space between the painter and his work. This is a very popular exciting exhibition and you will need to book to see it.

Blog, Exhibitions

Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy

Antony Gormley is an internationally renowned sculptor. Known mainly for his huge sculptures such as Angel of the North. This exhibition covers his work from his early beginnings in the late 1970’s to his latest works.

            The human body is at the core of his practice, but he is not interested in realistic likenesses, or depicting an ideal form. For Antony Gormley the body is a vessel for feeling. It is both the unique site of our individual journeys, and the one thing we all share.

This exhibition has work I had not seen before, including works on paper, fabric and other media. I loved his sketch-books full of workings for his often very complex sculptures.

            There is one particularly unusual wall hanging made from white pieces of bread hung together in a grid with a cut out human form made by biting into them. Called Mothers pride !

            Another fabulous wall hanging is made from clay and blankets and is from 1983 and is called Blanket Drawing.

            As you enter the courtyard of the RA curled up on the floor is a tiny figure, which were it not for people around taking photo’s, it  would be very easy to miss. The life size cast iron form is of his daughter when she was six days old.

            One of the first rooms you enter is full of slab works, they are dense hard, edged and look like enormous bronze versions of Lego bricks. They are extreme geometric abstractions of the human form. I persuaded a friend to sit next tone of them.

            In one of the smaller galleries is a single life-size body form, with head bent, contemplating the ground on which he stands. He is formed of tightly packed vertical and horizontal steel bars that map the internal space of the body.

            Clearing VII 2019 is an amazing space the artist calls it ‘drawing in space. In this interactive sculpture the viewer climbs in and out and walks round the room that consists of 8 kilometers of square section aluminium tube, coiled and then allowed to expand and uncoil until restricted by the walls and the ceiling.

            Lost Horizon 2008

Inside the gallery, gravity appears to be defied and space folds in on itself as bodies project from all sides, floor and ceiling all at odds with one another. The works are perpendicular to the rectangular architecture of the room, the effect as you move between them is disorienting.

            A more recent work is Cave, it is a sculpture on an architectural scale. The work can be walked into or you can walk round it. Inside it is dark and the viewer or participant has to feel their way through relying on senses other than sight.

            Another 2019 work is Host. A room filled with an expanse of clay and seawater. Described by Gormley as ‘an invasion of the inside by the outside’, the work provides a stark contrast to the gilded ceiling of the nineteenth-century gallery

This is a breath taking awe inspiring exhibition well worth a visit.

Blog, Exhibitions

Queer Portraits by Sarah Jane Moon

Currently on Show at the Gallery Downstairs at The Department Store 248 Ferndale Rd London SW9 8FR

2nd -14th November 2019 Opening hours 10.00-17.00 Nearest Underground: Brixton

I happened to be walking in Brixton last Sunday when I came across a sign advertising an exhibition of portraits. What a piece of serendipity, these are colourful joyful and an outstanding collection of portraits.

Sarah Jane Moon is an award winning professional painter based in London, who exhibits and teaches regularly in the UK and abroad. Her portraiture frequently explores identity, sexuality and gender presentation.

Moon’s portraits represent a cross section of contemporary queer LGBTQ+ life and love. Her subjects are often people close to her or whom she admires greatly for their commitment to live authentically and forge ahead in their chosen industry.

Those depicted include writers, landscape designers, doctors, lawyers, artists and more, and together they create a powerful statement on contemporary life lived with pride.

Moon has been gaining increasing attention this year and this solo exhibition follows swiftly on from her inclusion in the prestigious Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition(9th -24th May 2019, Mall Galleries, London and the internationally renowned and highly competitive BP Portrait Award Exhibition (National Portrait Gallery London- Currently touring to Edinburgh and Belfast.)

The subjects in Moon’s earlier portraits are presented in their backgrounds, offices, sitting rooms etc. You get a glimpse of that person’s life, their choice of furnishings, books and their style. The backgrounds in her later portraits are abstract with bold colourful marks, your eyes are drawn to the subject who has been painted, rather than the peripherals of their life.

Insta @sarah_jane_moon

FB @sarahjanemoonart

Twitter @sarahjane_moon

Blog, Exhibitions

An Exhibition of the artist Clyde Hopkins

It’s a shame about Ray

An exhibition  to celebrate the life and work of Clyde Hopkins has just gone on show at a Linden Hall Studio, a contemporary art gallery, in Deal Kent.

Acid Country 2014

The exhibition includes the work of his many friends and fellow artists, however for this blog post, I am concentrating on his work alone, as it is so much bolder than the work shown along side of it.

Hepworth and BB King

I am not going to write many words here, as the work speak for itself. So look at the images and enjoy.

About the Orinoco 2013

This is a free exhibition and well worth a visit. His work  was shown in various galleries around the UK, as well as in the US and Europe.

Bordeaux Mix 2011

He was also a visiting artist in many art schools during the 1970s until becoming head of painting, then of fine art, at Winchester School of Art in 1982.

From Gorky’s dustbin

From 1990 to 2006 he was head of painting at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, and he retired as emeritus professor at the University of the Arts London. He died aged 71, in 2018.

Another Bally Earache
Blog, Exhibitions

The Royal College Art graduate shows 2019

Last week the RCA opened their doors for the public to view the degree shows. As one would expect it was a mixed bag of styles, standards and end results. It was all fascinating. Here are some of the offerings from students studying in many different disciplines including, print, painting, photography and video, ceramics and glass, and contemporary art practise.

What do you feel is the purpose of art ?

Coming to a show such as this it raises many questions.

Is the purpose of art to hold up a mirror to society?

To open people’s eyes?

To add beauty to a dying world?

To give a new perspective on what exists?

To show skill and craftsmanship?

Here are just a few examples of the work that was on show.

MA Photography Antonia Attwood

The first artist shown above has developed her practise to show in visual terms what poor mental health looks like. She has made insightful video’s of people on the edge. Her work informs, enlightens and and educates the viewer.

MA Photography Mirielle Chambre

Having lost her partner to a freak accident, and already embarked on her MA, Mirielle’s work explores grief in its various forms and and attempts to to embody a sense of a personal and universal loss. The work considers clouds as feelings and a metaphor for grief.

MA Painting KonstantinosSkiavenitis
MA painting Jhonatan Pulido
MA Print Aoife Scott

The work of the artist shown above is about plastic pollution and its environmental impact.

MA Print Ying Yu
MA Contemporary Art practise Ao Jing
This art work is both a thing of beauty and a musical instrument
MA Ceramic Art
Anne Lykke

MA Painting Soaking in her sacred Waters by Kate Bickmore