Wednesday, 28 July 2010

BBC London radio show 28th July

It all began with Clara Francis. Under no circumstances are we to call her a 'bead weaver', because this gives entirely the wrong impression. Such a title might imply, she protests, that she is an old lady with a beard. She is not. Once this is established, we discover that Clara spends many hours of her days and nights threading the teeniest tiniest of little miniature beads together to make very beautiful things.

Reindeer necklace, £140

She regaled us with tales of her unlikely introduction to weaving beads - Clara was an actress who beaded in her downtime, and then realised she was having much more success in her downtime than her up time - and her times in Spitalfields Market, which speedily led to her jewellery being worn by A-listers and featured in the V&A.

 Hummingbird earrings, £130. There are cheaper things than the two pictures above, but I do like these ones.

All in all, a very charming customer. For more things of wonder, have a look at her beautifully constructed website. And I must at this point, on fear of death, say a thank you to my sister who pointed me in Clara's direction. (For more such interesting tips and thoughts, have a look at my sister's site Hawk & Fallow.) 


And then on to The Secret Arcade. It's a new enterprise, launching on 1st August, and promises to be just as good as The Shop Floor Project, which I've long been a fan of. Denise and Sam Allen, the creatives behind both, are a mother and daughter team (we've spoken to them on the show before) who sell wares from independent designer/makers. As well as their careful choices of designer, it was always the layout of the website that attracted me to The Shop Floor Project. It looks like a little shop! I'm afraid that sort of thing appeals to me.

Here it is, an online shop that looks like a shop. Satisfying.

They've branched out now, creating The Secret Arcade, which looks similarly pleasing. 


The design, they say, is taken from Parisian shopping arcades from the 19th century. So when you visit, there will be eight passages leading off from the main entrance, each enticing you to some sort of fabulous collection of uniqueness. The actual retailers are shrouded in secrecy until opening day, but we do know they will be independent, British, and will include hand printed wallpaper and textile designers, perfumeries, jewellers, and an antique children's furniture shop. 

I anticipate virtual queues of shoppers this weekend!

Speeding along, and we discarded all things technological (aside from a computer) so that we could embrace an Analogue Life. Or at least have an online peek at how life could be if we were all minimalist and able just to surround ourselves with beautiful accoutrements. The shop is Japanese, and stocks very beautifully crafted everyday objects. This sort of criteria, by the way, makes it mostly out of my financial reach, but I like to look at such things and imagine.

 Copper scissors start at $62.79

The scissors above are produced, for instance, by Tajiki Haruo Ironworks. Founded in the Showa Period, this company has been making them by hand for over four hundred yearsI think it would be quite a nice thing to cut with those instead of the virtually disposable ones emblazoned with my local supermarket's logo. But, again, I appreciate the whimsy this represents.

Crashing on, they also do a great selection of wooden items. These mugs - despite not being allowed in a dishwasher - would fit nicely into my idealised existence:

Kami Mug Cup, $37.67

 And so on. Just a selection of beautiful things from another country, worth googling at for their form and function.


We obviously couldn't go through a whole show without mentioning the words du jour, Pop Up Shop. So that's where I headed next, this time in Clerkenwell.

From 5th - 7th August, 97 Clerkenwell Road is hosting a temporary shop that will sell interesting goods from new talents. With the list of sellers the have, the organisers don't need to bribe us to come, but luckily they're bribing anyway, with the allure of free makeovers from The Chapel salon and make-up artist Anne-Marie Simak. (There's also going to be food from cordon-bleu trained Rachel Davies.) But cash in brown envelopes aside, it looks like a good place to rummage around, find interesting handmade products, and discover designers you didn't know about.

At the Christmas Bust Craftacular (we talked about the summer one a couple of weeks ago), for instance, I bought a great t-shirt from the independent designer Pureharte. Pureharte is actually Katie Harte, and - pleasingly - she'll be at Pop In. 

 'Mia' strapless summer dress, $55 from Etsy

The dress above, available in the Etsy store Pureharte, comes with a poem:

Mia is tiny
She floats like a bubble
but don't be deceived 
as she often brings trouble.

'Chloe' skirt $60. "Chloe loves parties / She throws one each night / Her outlook on life / Is eternally bright."

All of the clothes do, in fact. Which is a boon, in my opinion.

Other sellers to look out for include EaK design, who do a cute range of prints, cushions and bags:

Twit Twoo print, £15 unframed

Foxy Tote, £8

Many other talents will abound there - check the website for a list.


I then careered on to The Food Room and Library just round the corner from Victoria station, where a lady called Jane Lunzer Gifford has one of the most comprehensive cookery book libraries you could hope to find. If you're on the hunt for something, you can be assured she will have it, or find it for youJust a thought, in case you want the tactile experience of walking somewhere to hand purchase something, as opposed to click clicking online.

And if you're interested in cooking generally, Jane's Food Room is primarily designed to host cookery classes. What is novel about her business, though, is the nature of the courses. All short - they're only for an hour, maximum; some are only 45 minutes - and reasonably priced (£25), they're organised so that whatever your level of culinary skill, you should find something that interests you. From the howtoboilanegg sort to 'Advanced and Ambitious - you know what you're doing but perhaps don't experiment as much as you should'.

Oh! And the bookshop also sends cookery themed cards, which fits in nicely with my and Robert's obsession with stationary.


From Victoria to just off Brick Lane, and to Shelf. An old favourite haunt, I haven't spoken about them since I returned to the show, and since then, they've totally revitalised their website

Sheet of 12 printed tin bird badges, £9.50 

It used to be that you could only use the website to buy the plaster letters they're so famed for, but now yahooo there's a whole host of their products up there. I'd still urge you to go to the shop, but it's good to know they are in the ether as well. 

There's a little sale going on at the moment, which includes Moomin mugs reduced to £13 and - I hesitate to put this up here, because I really want it - this stationary set, only £5:

Shinzi Katoh Lion stationary set: 10 sheets, 5 envelopes, stickers.

I also like the bumper Vintage stationary gift set, which at £25, may seem a bit pricey for bits and pieces - but to one such as I, those bits and pieces are a source of joy. Must add that to the birthday list along with some Clara Francis jewellery, I feel (I wonder which one I'm more likely to get). 

 Includes a card of French brown darning wool, coffee bags from the Old Spitalfields Market, assorted tickets, a tiny wooden lucky black cat from Germany, and more completely odd delights.


And then... a summer sale from Goodone, a small ethical fashion business that has one awards for its recycled clothing. Starts on 1st August, and with 20% off, it would be a good introduction to the collection if you don't know about them. 

...Peter Jensen's sample sale this Saturday (10am-6pm) and Sunday (12-4pm), which promises 20% off menswear and womenswear, as well as bargain bins with £5 goods. It's at his studio, 18-24 Shacklewell Lane E8 2EZ; look on the website for more.

...private sale website Koodos is selling Ray Ban sunglasses at sale prices (25% off) from 9am today until midnight on Friday. Sign up for free, and buy from £85. clothes store by Liam Gallagher will be opening in Carnaby Street on 30th July. Pretty Green will be investigated, but given that the opening page of the website has said owner wearing a Union Jack, maybe that says it all...

So long until next time!  

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

BBC London radio show 14th July

So! Today's show started off with a great interviewee. Eliisa Makin is The Wardrobe Consultant, a stylist and creative extraordinaire who will give you a "sartorial second opinion", and ensure you are free from clothing crises. 


Mary Portas, no less, has described her as "Brilliant. Really calm and helpful", and she has high recommendations from Jo Jones, the Fashion Editor at the Observer. Today we mostly spoke about her (amazingly) free service where you can email her a picture of you in an outfit and she'll tell you if it works or not, via her blog. But she also can be hired for a full or half day to whizz around the shops with or without you, picking up every conceivable outfit that would suit you. She remained unfazed when Robert suggested he may need a pair of tights.


Crashing on, it was straight to TokyoBike, the very latest in bikery. The number one brand in Japan, TokyoBike is a small independent company that works out of Yanaka, an old Tokyo suburb. This summer, the bikes have made their way across to the UK, to much applause and appreciation from cyclists and stylers. 

a TokyoBike, from £420

What makes these bikes so feted is that they're designed for urban cyclists - simple and streamlined, they're made from chromoly steel, which is stronger and more flexible than the aluminium alternative, and makes for a more comfortable ride. 

I confessed that I'm not really a cyclist - I like riding around on a bike, but I'm no professional. So the words I spoke in description are on the advice of people In The Know. Such folks also say that because the wheels are 650mm, they have a "finer profile" than most road bikes. This reduces the weight so you get a smooth old cruise around town. Real cyclists also admire the straight and compact handlebars - they're said to allow you an upright posture which promotes good bike control. 

The bikes also come in great colours. Now that I am qualified to comment on. Just to prove it, here's another:


Then it was a quick jaunt to London's newest food market. They also call it London's "most exciting" food market, but you will have to judge that for yourselves. (I demurred at the thought, but Robert said he knew someone called Mike the Fish - a nickname for a gourmand - who would genuinely be excited by the Foodlovers Market Soho. So there may be others who feel the same.) It just launched on Saturday, on Rupert Street,which cuts across Shaftsbury Avenue, and is very easily findable. It will be there every Saturday from 9am-4pm. Foodlovers is an organisation that likes local food etc - you know the drill - and so all the stalls, about 30 in all, have been chosen very carefully. Expect familiar names like Neal's Yard Dairy, as well as lesser known independents (Outsider Tart sounds interesting - two Americans based in Chiswick who have made it their mission to introduce the British public to American pies and cakes...). Have a look here for a list of all the suppliers.


Powered up by the thought of so much food, we tramped on to Alfies Antiques Market (no apostrophe), to have a look at the Tin Tin Collectibles. I won't deny that I was first attracted to this stall by its name, but am glad to report that it lives up to it.

Antique and vintage luggage and travel accessories on your wish-list? Ta-da! If they weren't, they may well be now. Robert revealed a love of hat boxes, and I had no idea how much I needed a vintage travel trunk. Putting that on the birthday list...

The luggage, however, is but a little add on to their main concern, which is vintage costume and accessories from 1900-1940. Lace trims, ostrich plumes, silk lame robes, beaded flapper dresses? Add them to the list, and send the present buyer directly to Alfies (no apostrophe). 


And then I should have gone straight on to the other end of the spectrum, to Free Range. Except I somehow missed that bit on my notes. It's an annual graduate art and design show, it's in its 10th year now, and is the place to go to get a sense of what the latest trends are going to be. These are the artists and designers of the future - it's a big deal for them, showcasing their work to potential buyers, and it COULD be a big deal for you, if you snap up the early work of someone destined to be a star...
It's on until 26th July, Fridays - Mondays, 10am-7pm. Have a look here for a list of all the exhibitors from over 100 universities.


Then it was off to The Design Museum shop, where I'd found something I like a lot. It's a practical thing, probably part of the aspirational life I imagine one day will exist for me - where I'm organised and forward plan, and have chic and simple storage solutions:

£13.99 - small price to pay for aspirational living...

Of course, the nub of aspiration is that it doesn't exist just yet, and may never do. Casting that aside, though, I'll dare to hope that I can hasten it along with the Practically Paper Foldaway Box, above, discovered in the Design Museum shop. It looks like brown paper, but that's a trick, because it's actually made from 100% recyclable water resistant material. Use it at home, or for bringing groceries from trolley to  car to house. You can use your own imaginations here for other uses. It's made by The Camouflage Company, a London business set up by two sisters that creates useful things, mostly garden furniture covers that are floral (Vogue liked those) and storage boxes and bags that fold away. Better, they say, than bulky baskets, flimsy cardboard and rigid plastic boxes. And I agree. Look at this thing, for instance:

at £18, it's more clever than it looks 

Doesn't look anything special, but a second before this picture was taken, The Duffel Carrier was merely a flat sheet. Then one pull of the cord, and - hey presto - it's a bag. This is, believe me, a handy old ruse, especially if you're shopping for plants in a garden centre: just put the sheet flat in the base of the trolley, pile the plants in, and then easily transport them. (This is not, I must add, the sort of example that would come naturally to me, but they used it, and it has stuck in my head as, of course, the most reasonable idea ever for this bag. Again, there are multifarious uses which I'm sure you don't want me to list.)


...and then, a really big sale. Designer Sales UK are having their annual one day extravaganza on 23rd July in The Music Room on South Molton Lane.

The wares of any designer you can think of will most probably be there - Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Tom Ford, Dior, Gucci - at amazingly discounted rates. Pay £2 for entry, or take advantage of their new VIP hour, from 10am-11am. Tickets are £25, and for that you get freedom to choose first, as well as a goodie bag worth £45, and a chance to win a handbag worth £345.

Well. That was quite a bit to get through in 20 minutes. As always, feel free to use the comment box below to ask any questions or get me to hunt for something you can't find (tangible requests or philosophical musings equally welcome). If not, see you in two weeks' time!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

BBC London radio show 30th June

Aha. So, first off, it was a chat with the fabulous Clare Beaton. She's the illustrator who started out her career at the BBC, working on children's programmes before the age of cartoons encroached upon such creativity. After that, and before her current artistic endeavours, she told us that she authored quite a few books ("written in pen and ink"), but really she was on the show to talk about what she does now - collage. And talk we did (although Robert found the subject a little bit "girly").

I stumbled upon Clare's work thanks to an exhibition in Haberdashery, one of my favourite cafes.

They had an exhibition of her original collages, aimed at children, but immensely pleasing to the adult eye.

They were also selling her excellent children's books, which are actually photographs of the original collages. Predictably, I bought one of those (£5) rather than the original artwork (around £300, framed), but the latter will go on my aspirational wish list. In the real world, though, the Elusive Moose did very nicely.

I'll talk about it in more detail on another show I think, but Haberdashery is found in Crouch End, on Middle Lane. I noted that while I called it a "local" cafe, I actually live on the wrong side of the tracks, in Stroud Green. Just before I signed off to let the news take over at 1pm, someone called Mike (or was it Nick?) from Holloway wrote in to reassure me that, from his point of view, I live on the right side. Thanks Mike/Nick! 

To find out more information about Clare Beaton, and where to buy the books, have a look at her website. And if you fancy having a go yourself, she's going to be running a workshop at her daughter's new enterprise, Oak Studio:

It's just opened in Hampstead, so I haven't been inside - but it sounds like there are great things afoot there. The plan is to host multifarious workshops (writing, baking, making, and a whole squelch of other creative ideas) and occasionally sell things; shopping has become ubiquitously pop-up, wouldn't you say?

Then it was straight on to the Bust Craftacular, which seemed difficult to say, suddenly.

On Saturday 10th July, at York Hall (5-15 Old Ford Road E2 9PJ), there will be fun and frivolity in the form of 60 independent designer/maker stallholders. Selling their wares to a soundtrack of cool tunes and the clatter of china teacups, it's an 'Indie Shopping Mall'. If it's anything like the Christmas one I attended, it'll be good fun.

I went into a great deal of detail on yesterday's show about who would be there, but rather than having to trawl through my opinions, just look at the website for all the information first hand. 

Well, OK, I will quickly mention that I very much like the Make Lounge who will be there.

I like them because a) their shop in Barnsbury St is so colourful  b) they provide cake and drinks at their workshops and c) last Christmas I got a present of a in, a vintage tea-cup filled with wax, sitting on a saucer, thanks to them. The CLEVER thing about it all is that the wax is soya wax, and when you've burned it all down, you just rinse out the cup and hey presto it's ready for some tea. My sister made it at the Make Lounge, you see. Just one of their ventures, along with cupcake decorating, knitting, et al.

BTW my sister is one of the stallholders at BUST - have a look at her blog Hawk & Fallow where you'll get a sneak peak at some of what she'll be selling. I know I'm a sibling, but aside from familial loyalty, I am a fan of her greetings cards, made from vintage playing cards and old council rent books:

 Back to the show. Next I suggested that you buy a radio. Not one that you'll ever see, but it's definitely worth it. Amnesty's latest campaign is to get 4,000 radios into Burma before the elections - the first in 20 years - later this month.

Because of the suffocating censorship, it's extremely difficult for the Burmese people to get a real sense of what is happening politically. Consequently, they rely on daily radio broadcasts put out by a small group of brave individuals. But not everyone can afford a radio. That's why you should click here to donate one (or ten). Amnesty estimate that about 12 people will use each radio, so if they reach their target, that's 50,000 more people who can hear independent news broadcasts, and understand that despite the isolation, there is tremendous international support for them.

For reasons beyond my control, you'll have to wait with bated breath for the rest of the information about the show, which will appear later, I promise. Apologies. If there's anything in the meantime that you urgently want to know, just write a comment below.