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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Bruxelles, it's Flea Market and Europe

I'm very sad that today Britain has started the process of leaving the EU.

I was interested to hear stories from my French aunt of fleeing northern nazi occupied France for the south as a child and how a nazi soldier gave her a sweet and her grandmother smacked it out of her hand. I always thought that a union of countries pursuing human rights and moderating each other was for the common good because then a tyrant leader would have all the countries to answer to. It's not unheard of to elect a tyrant! peace hasn't been valued much in the vote.

By timely coincidence I was in Bruxelles recently, hearing a whole mix of languages at every turn. I hadn't been here since I delivered a chandelier to the British Council offices here in 2003 and then spent the weekend scouring the flea market on Place du Jeu de Balle. I was happy to find it hasn't changed much. In London you feel there is no stone unturned - all is developed, but in the St Gilles area that's not happened so ruthlessly - yet - and I hope it wont.

Even if you don't buy a thing it's fascinating to see what people are selling - half a baguette anyone? many of the boxes look like they're from a house clearance and never been sorted and half the stuff is broken. These used to be my favourites and I'd rummage for hours but now I have alot of great stuff to work with already and a generation on the stuff is different.

There's alot of religious stuff and ornate ceramic tureens, it's different to Paris and this flea market is on every day from 7am til 2pm. The days vary and Saturday seems a really good one.

I managed to admire these hangers without having to buy any, must be maturing!

This is the resident cat at the Brocante cafe on the corner of the square - what better combination than cats - coffee - cafes - flea markets - exploring cities, what a happy weekend!

I found plenty of urban collages to feast my eyes on. I'm already looking forward to going back. keep your eyes on Eurostar offers as my trip was only £52 return from London, great value.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Scrapyard Heaven

I had driven past this place over a year ago in deepest Devon, glimpsed it and made a mental note to come back - it did not disappoint! This is my kind of heaven, I get so overwhelmed I cant look properly because it's such a feast for the eyes. I took along visiting sculptor friend Gloria Carlos; a fellow hunter of interesting objects.

I'm already looking forward to my next visit. I need a small heavy object to weight a table standing piece and there must be something here.

I wonder how many old family run places like this there are left. It reminds me of where I started out decades ago searching at the long gone Paramount Metals yard in Brixton, south London. Things I found there dictated how my chandeliers evolved; aluminium bar and ball chain, the latter they always let me have for free as it rusted, it was for pulling blinds and ended up there attached to the aluminium top frame and became such a useful component for me.

Being a countryside scrapyard there was plenty of old farm stuff, a huge plough, rabbit traps, saws, stirrups etc and we admired this handsome 'Perfect' root cutter which sliced beetroot and the like apparently, for livestock.

And this is some of the treasure I came home with; several circular, useful looking objects amongst other stuff and I was so happy to find lots of weathered chain, not too heavy duty. I don't like new shiny chain and it's hard to find old stuff just when I need it, especially the matt figure of eight links - they're so useful as I can open and close the links and use them as hooks and links. I think I shall be visiting this place regularly.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Speedy's Cafe

I'd put this on Instagram but it's worthy of a blog post. If you've watched any of new Sherlock you'll recognise this as the front door to his flat above Speedy's cafe. The cafe appears as it is, in the series, not tweaked by set designers but my better discovery on visiting is that it is a proper unspoiled traditional London cafe. I spent my 20's and 30's frequenting these kind of cafes. I'd cycle to the west end from Brixton, go to the old Arts Council bookshop on Long Acre (remember that!) see what they had in the sale, go round Soho, see exhibtions, have films processed etc., and this was a well trodden path by most art students. Most of these cafes were run by cockney Italian or Greek families. Sadly they have diminished in number over the years and I now cherish the ones that are left. 

This place was super friendly and filled with a mix of regulars and Sherlock pilgrims. There's a dining room menu as well as the usual sandwiches. I had a big dish of tasty pasta with fresh herbs and everyone in my party enjoyed their choices so we'll definitely be going back. It's simple inside and I love the mirrors reflecting the waitress into infinity. It's on North Gower Street near Euston Square tube station.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Lovely Customers

Amongst my customers last year I had 3 that I can think of who were slow brewing customers - I love this and it's been common throughout my 'career' (ha). One lady saw my work around 15 years ago in a recycling exhibition called 'Transformations' at the wonderful Pitt Rivers museum, another saw it  - we think - at Cockpit Arts where I'd completed the professional development course they used to run and we all got to show with their own studio artists; this was about 12 years ago. Then in December the above Duet Chandelier went to the home of an ex student of mine when I used to teach black and white photography in Tooting - we reckoned this was about 22 years ago - as my first exhibition was in 1994, so I think she wins the prize of my longest brewing customer. I had no business cards or website in those days. What is so gratifying for me is that my work can lodge in someones brain for so long and them find themselves able to buy a chandelier long after they initially wanted one. Lovely, I love to see my work go to happy homes.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Moody Blues

I'm always very sceptical of trends at first - after all who wants to be a sheep and just follow? At the same time it interests me how fashions permeate us and make us look at things differently or anew and why we start liking things that we didn't before. I've seen a gazillion tasteful interior photos with dark, moody blue walls. At first I thought why would you paint your walls so dark? - my middle aged eyes need more light. I've had many colours including a dark blue in the past and always ended up painting them white after a time because I want the light back. However I recently wanted a nice dark background to photograph my clear chandeliers against so I sought out a rich, moody blue.

The fancy paint companies do some beautiful colours but if you're on a budget they may be out of the question. I usually just believe there is something adequate at the local merchants - I've compared Dulux colour charts to Farrow & Ball and there are some close equivalents. For this panel I just bought off the shelf at B&Q rather than having something mixed from the chart, it's Dulux and called Sapphire Salute. I painted a thin MDF panel first but I'm thinking of doing the actual wall as I liked it so much - even though I'm usually resistant to feature walls. It's always great proving yourself wrong and turning your ideas around!
Objects and plants I had in front of this colour all seemed rejuvinated by the contrasting background and looked enhanced which made me understand why these shades have become so popular.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Southend On Sea

In October I made the trip to Southend on Sea to see a wonderful exhibition. Here's the sea front with the longest pier in the world - apparently. The Beecroft Art Gallery was hosting the touring show Radical Craft organised by Craftspace showcasing work by self-taught artists. It's now on show in Scunthorpe, you can check the tour schedule here. It's good to see it's going to places that aren't saturated with culture and usually get forgotten by major exhibitions - so none of the big cities.

I loved this textile piece by Lasmin Salmon, the colour mixing was fantastic with lots of small areas that drew you in to the detail and then the whole piece worked beautifully in full view too.

This tram was made by Willem van Genk from collaged,  recycled objects. There were a few trams by him, and so many great and varied pieces - too many to  show here - by so many talented artists, so do look at more here. I also loved these monochrome textiles made with a sort of knotting by Atsushi Yoshimoto.

Southend is only an hour from London on the train but didn't appear to have been changed by 'down from London' types like Brighton, Whitstable, Margate etc. which all have cafes and trendy and vintage shops and are full of people who've left London. It's surely only a matter of time though before it gentrifies in this way?  So the charity shops were very cheap and there are loads of fish and chip places on the sea front.
However by chance we found one place which would appeal to those looking for a visual feast, this  cafe and restaurant San Fairie Ann was really styled amazingly.

They have gone for the Paris flea market style in a big way. I loved the scale of their decor, a buffalo head on the wall and sizeable objects hanging from the ceiling - none of your mini, pretty, vintage tea time style stuff, this was done with bigger, bolder brush strokes and was so full of character.

The menu looked amazing though we just had tea and cake - I say just, the cake was about 5 layers high! They don't do things by halves here.

And they had a large chandelier by the fire place, it looks great but of course I always look at these and want to take them apart for the glass pieces for my chandeliers!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Exhibited in Plymouth

This was my first time exhibiting in Plymouth - my home town. I left it aged 18 desperate to get to London. Decades later it has a fast growing arts scene - thankfully - and Plymouth Arts Weekender is in it's 2nd year. Six Caroline Place is the project of Charlotte Squire who selected 8 artists for Uncanny World of Interiors. The setting has layers of domestic unspoiled-ness (I loathe all those super modernised interiors you see when perusing rightmove etc.) - a perfect backdrop.

Holding their own against the funky wallpaper are the skillful, intriguing paintings by David Edmond.

A curious corner created with a sculpture (made from interior items) by Charlotte Squire and paintings by David Edmond against the wallpaper that Charlotte and inhabitants haven't decided whether to keep yet or not; lovable and livable are different things aren't they?!

Where the wallpaper is gone there are many different coloured patches of plaster wall; gorgeous colours and textures. I loved showing my chandeliers here because the texture of my tarnished and rusty metal items felt so at home in a space that also showed it's history. It was a fantastic weekend chatting to the many visitors doing the Plymouth art trail - thanks to all who took part!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Uncanny World of Interiors

Please excuse my absence from the blog - I got distracted by joining instagram! I really don't know how people keep up with using all the social media, the networking is fun but time consuming. Now I'm about to dip my toes in the Plymouth art scene at Plymouth Art Weekender. I was a foundation art student here aged 16-18; several decades ago, in an age before drastic cuts when we actually got given boxes of pastels, paints and a drawing board on arrival, oh happy days. 
If you are in this neck of the woods at the weekend please come along to 6 Caroline Place, Millbay, Plymouth PL1 3PR. Curated by my friend the artist Charlotte Squire the Uncanny World of Interiors, 'showcases the work of 8 artists and designers working with everyday materials, transforming the mundane into objects of desire'.  Sat & Sun 24/25th 11am-6pm

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Large Chandelier

This is a large 12 Cup chandelier recently happily installed in it's north London home. It's the result of this colour palette choice by my customer from my available components. The owners are very keen on LED bulbs and luckily now you can get dimmable candle bulbs - very neat and delicate which suits decorative and antique lighting. These are 3 watts each, there are 6 bulbs and the light given was ample.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Car Boot Treasures

Early morning sunshine drew me to the nearby car boot sale today. I often try to avoid going because I don't need more clutter - you know the feeling - but then what if I miss something? - and today was a good one and each item I bought was £1. Above is a silk Braque/Picasso inspired scarf in good nick. It's going in the box of potential presents. 

Then I found some little silk hankerchieves that look 1930's so I bought four of those.

They really are a dainty size and I thought I'd use them to wrap small presents, but folded on the cross they do reach round the neck and can be knotted so I could wear them - well I'm definitely not going to be blowing my nose into them!

I think this one might be my favourite because I like the mark making as if it's been coloured with pastel crayons.

CAR BOOT FIND OF THE DAY - Feeling lucky! - I couldn't come home without my Zoltar the Gypsy Lottery Fortune Teller also for £1.  Do click play as the image resolution sharpens in play. Listen to him roll the R in Thunderball, I love his accent and will definitely be taking his advice!
(sorry this doesn't seem to appear on ipad - had a week of techy nightares so I wont attempt to resolve, but it's on my instagram page)


I think all my time in the Penny Arcades at Dingles Heritage Fairground awoke my eyes to him. I was just playing the machine below a few days ago.

Occasionally you win! and I won 20p on one of these which is loud tumbling out as 10 x 2p pieces and that means 10 more plays - all good fun and I'm happy that all the fairground's winnings will go to preserving the collection of rides and machines. They are currently fund raising the buy and restore this Moonrocket - I can't wait to go on it.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Happy Distractions

 To cheer myself up since the Brexit vote I've been looking at the twitter account of the lynx who escaped from Dartmoor Zoo (Zexit?) a week ago; very amusing.

Flaviu the escaped lynx, photo copyright Dartmoor Zoo

They say he's stayed near the zoo but it's a little way from where I am and there were helicopters circling here the other evening. I hadn't realised that the story of the owner of this zoo is what the movie 'I bought a zoo' with Matt Damon is based on.
Another great antidote to the tumultuous political weeks has been to take some of my summer guests to Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre - my 3rd visit this season and one of my favourite places on earth. We always go on the dodgems twice; as their slogan says "everyone's favourite ride".

And I loved the spelling mistake below on the Super Sonic Skid!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


The Channel Tunnel     Photo from Bechtel.com

I thought the Channel Tunnel was one of the modern wonders of the world when it was built. Travel to mainland Europe without having to fly and in just a few hours is fantastic. I have often gone to Paris just for the day to scour flea markets for treasures for my work. It's unlikely it would be built now as the spirit in which it was built was tied up with unity of the European countries. I grieve for the loss of that spirit. My heart feels heavy like someone's died when I see ordinary British people interviewed and they start talking about fishing (quota problems etc, yes the EU is not perfect) and then go on to say they should send all the foreigners home! I am ashamed to be associated with these people, I do not want to be a little Englander.
By chance I watched the best ever antidote to my misery and anxiety about what lies ahead. It was Coldlplay at Glastonbury, didn't know I was a fan but watching a massive crowd of different people come together (in the cold and mud) and find common ground in a song they all knew all the words to was so moving, overwhelming. The band were so generous in giving a great show including my favourite ever Bee Gee song with Barry Gibb (Stayin' Alive - I put this on in my studio to get me going on a grey day). Also the tribute to Viola Beach, the young band who all died when their van crashed was such a beautiful idea. Do watch it - it restored my faith in humanity and reminded me that my community are still out there.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Lovely Immigrant

My father came here from France as a baby in the 1920's. He grew up to become a really talented architect. I'm glad he didn't live to see the outcome of the vote today. Anything that gets the thumbs up from Trump and Putin has got to be a bad thing hasn't it! let alone our home grown xenophobes. I am absolutely shocked to learn what I learned today about the island I live on. I consider myself lucky to have friends here from all over the world.

Friday, 17 June 2016


Clear and white 8 Cup Chandelier

I finally got round to photographing my clear chandeliers against a black back ground. The switch to digital definitely made photography easier; back in the day I had a range of flood lights with 1000's of watts, had to blackout the daylight and shoot on slide film over-exposing by 2 and 2.5 stops. I'd then get the film processed in Soho, edit them and press into slide frames. Then I'd post them to magazines etc. That seems so elaborate and lengthy now but I used to really enjoy the analogue way and was a really late adopter of digital - no going back now!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Andrews Restaurant

This beautiful, old style cafe on the Grays Inn Road (near Theobalds Rd crossroads) is guess what? Yes - under threat of being knocked down and replaced with luxury flats. Are there any developers out there who aren't bonkers? I mean even the people who move into London's new flats might still like a bit of texture, character and places to go to.

So, pay them a visit and ask for the petition they keep behind the counter and sign it. Fingers crossed! A mug of tea and toasted cheese, tomato and onion sandwich was £3.50 - central London, that's lunch for less than a fiver. You can also drink in the atmosphere and character or sit outside and admire the mosaic frontage.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016


Arriving at the car boot sale in Devon shortly after the rain made shopping easy - most people had packed away, so a with a quick look round I found a nicely tarnished metal filigree dish for £1, it was probably more before the rain, and a collection of old pulleys for £2.50. I wonder of I'd have found these in a large sea of bric-a-brac. 
I use pulleys for my candle only chandeliers (scroll down) but I've never been keen to with electrical cable because of any movement in the connections, however it is perfectly possible if you use the right fixtures and you can buy electrical cable that also has a support cable in it to take weight.
I may use these for industrial effect rather than hoisting, I absolutely love all useful looking fixtures even if I haven't a clue what they do!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Credit Where Due

Are you watching Thicker Than Water on More 4? I love this Swedish series from the Walter Presents selection. It's a gripping story with great mix of characters, I love the teenagers, location, photography and music; it concludes next Thursday but you can watch it all here on 4 on Demand. I love the opening sequence with the credits and the music throughout which goes from jaunty with a banjo to very dark and suits the series perfectly. I wanted to know who the music was by but it's not credited on any of the sites about the programme - how mad is that!! So I kept looking at the opening sequence to write it down, when I paused the screen it showed a still advert so I had to keep re running it until I had it all down and found out it is by a group called Flaskkvartetten - Fleshquartet in English. It turns out they did the music for Wallander too and that's available but Thicker Than Water doesn't seem to be yet.
This reminded me of Pia Jane Bijkerk's campaign poster for crediting image makers on the net.
Poster by Pia Jane Bijkerk

If I cant find who to credit an image to for Pinterest then I wont pin it. It really annoys me that the creators can be so easily dismissed. It happens all the time on TV - have you noticed how they shrink the credits to a corner to run a trailer and there's no chance of catching who the costume designer was. It's so unfair to all the talent and effort that went into the making. I know there's alot of image re-use without credit which is why Pia started the campaign, but it surprises me because I would have thought it normal to want to credit artists rather than just thieve - surely!!!   Really recommend that series - enjoy!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stuff Matters

I finally started reading Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik. Having heard him speak at Making Futures conference last year I had his book on my to read list and bought it here. One fantastic thing about it is that it's written in easy to understand English - not always so amongst academics. I've just read about the structure of metals and it is SO fascinating presumably because it's written by someone who is fascinated by how materials behave. 

I hadn't bothered to stop and think where we might be without the discovery of metals - back in the stone age using flint, wood and bone - so I'll just take a moment to honour the ancestors who discovered metal ore which lead to my massive collection of tin and aluminium treasures.
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