Category Archives: Art

I’m a non-believer

For a fairly devout non-believer I’ve spent a relatively large amount of time in churches over the past month. Firstly for my inaugural enrolment as a godfather (fingers crossed at appropriate times) and then twice in 12 hours over the cusp of December 24th & 25th – midnight mass in St Laurence’s in Ludlow and the Christmas morning service in our village church. Feeling non-festive at the close of the shop on the 24th I thought that midnight mass might engender some spirit of the season in me.

Today, on a rare day trip away from both work and home, we had 2 rural churches in the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire border lands in our sights. There was also the additional impetus of a visit to the wonderful Butcher’s Arms in Woolhope for lunch.

All Saint’s in Brockhampton is that rare beast, an Arts & Crafts church. Completed in 1902 and designed by William Lethaby it’s a complicated piece of architecture; making use of thatch, stone and timber, but all executed to such a high standard and sitting so neatly next to each other.



The craftsmanship and attention to detail continues inside: beautiful light fittings (both electric and candle), altar tapestries by Burne-Jones and these amazing hand stitched covers to the prayer books.

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The second church on the list was St Mary’s at Kempley was more ancient; boasting the oldest roof of any building in Britain and the most complete set of Romanesque frescoes in Northern Europe. Sadly . . . . those that are habitually programmed to not look for opening hours for churches will find that it is closed until March. So both frescoes and roof will require a re-visit; but the Norman exterior (with add ons) was enough on a sunny January day.


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Filed under Art, Buildings, Food

Posters with a purpose

If you happen to find yourself in and around Piccadilly anytime soon (up to August 24th) I can recommend a trip to see Posters with a Purpose, a preview exhibition of London Underground posters due to come up for auction later in the year. All duplicate copies, they are being sold by London Transport Museum and demonstrate the wealth of talent that has been employed by London Underground over the years; from Man Ray and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy to Edward Bawden. Christies is shrouded in scaffolding at the moment so probably not drawing the passing crowds so, as I did, you may have the galleries to your self.

NB, the sale in October will be at Christies South Kensington, but the current exhibition is at Christies, King Street, SW1

I also stuck my head around the door of White Cube, Mason’s Yard where Damian Ortega is exhibiting until September 8th. The piece, Hollow/Stuffed, in the downstairs gallery is great. In the darkened gallery his sculpture of a submarine made from industrial aggregate bags is hung from the ceiling and is gradually leaking its stuffing of salt on to the gallery floor like an ever deflating balloon.


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Natasha Laflin – charity auction/raffle

My recent blog posts have all included personal anecdotes; at the risk of over-sharing, this one is going to top them all. This Friday a charity auction and raffle is being held in London to raise funds for my friend Natasha Laflin. A hugely talented craftsperson, Natasha’s life (and those of her family and friends) took a sudden shift 4 years ago when she had a massive brain haemmorhage. Initially admitted to hospital in Paddington and then to the Royal Neurological Hospital, Natasha’s prognosis was pretty grim. It has since got much better. She was moved to the National Hospital for Neurological Disability (where she staunchly suffered the indignity of being sung to by the Great Western Singers – I apologise, we were on less than good form that day!) and from then to two successive rehabilitation homes. The past 4 years have been far from easy, or indeed smooth. Natasha’s health has improved and then regressed again on a number of occasions but, following the withdrawal of one of her drugs she has moved on massively and consistently. Her family and friends now believe that the best place for Natasha’s further care is back at her home and that . . . good reader . . . is the reason for the raffle/auction.

Natasha has always been a community person. Great Western Studios was one of the communities that she played a huge part in – often by means of being the first person at the café in the morning (peanut butter on toasted bagel from memory) – and by valuing the friendship and support of her fellows artists and craftspeople and repaying that friendship and support similarly.


I have three pieces of Natasha’s work at home. The watch seller was a commission for Alex – her research was impeccable – Alex can name the make and model of the millimetre high watches. The rabbit was a gift – my first semi-house rabbit had his own cushion and was treated royally. Alex bought Amor Perdido from Tash at an Open Studios. Natasha’s artistic output is seeing light again. An exhibition of the works in the auction has already been installed at the new Great Western Studios by her partner Sid and Tash tweeted on Monday that she was going to see it on Tuesday and with typical self-abasement that she was worried about seeing her own work.

The raffle and auction (which is being taken by Anne Robinson – her of the telly) includes some great lots and some great prizes (the odds on the raffle are pretty good as well). If you fancy your luck, or indeed fancy contributing to the appeal to get Natasha back living amongst her community, family and friends then the website for all of this can point you in the direction of doing so.

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Patrick Procktor

I’ve recently dug out my copy of Patrick Procktor’s Self Portrait and am working my way through it.

Patrick was quite an unmissable figure – standing at 6′ 6″, routinely wearing a fez and green-painted fingernails. He hung around with Jarman, Cecil Beaton, Stephen Spender and Ossie Clark – for a great pictorial record of these people you need to find A Chequered Past; Peter Schlesinger’s photographs of the time – being Hockney’s boyfriend for much of this time he had great access.

Patrick writes of 1968: “the year when everybody wanted pink suede shoes, high heels and beads”.


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In the spirit of collaboration

One of the things that I most miss about my previous (more metropolitan) life is the contact with artists – they’re a unique proposition; mostly funny, mostly adroit and mostly fully entrenched in their practice. Unplanned Magic, our collaborative exhibition with Material of the work of Kate Gibb and Marcus Walters gave me the opportunity to hang around in a studio again, to be in receipt of more interesting e-mails than usual and to feel the dizzy breeze of a plan coming together.

Kate and I had often pored over World of Interiors together and from the outset we knew that, although the timescale was short, that we would put together a small range of products to accompany her exhibition. It’s been a bit like a pass the parcel game of product design. I sent blank tea towels to Marcus and Hayley in Stroud, Marcus and Kate came up with a design, Hayley printed it, Marcus made the paper bands and come opening night we had them in store. The notebooks operated similarly; I ordered the paper and card from Paperback, sent it to Kate in London, she printed them and sent them back to me in Shropshire where I sliced, stitched and bound them.

They’re a limited edition so come and get them – either in store or on-line at both Material and Black Bough.


Filed under Art, Books, Craft, Design

Kate Gibb Notebooks

After Marches Supper last night I’ve finally managed to crack on with making up the notebooks to go alongside Kate Gibb’s show at Black Bough. I think I’ve just about mastered the art of the most basic form of bookbinding – have bookbinders tools and thread, will make books . . . of a sort. They’ll be available from the shop and online soon in both A5 and A6 size, 40 pages of unlined recycled 110gm stock. A5 notebooks shown in the pictures below . . . from beginning to end.

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Unplanned Magic

Ludlow will not know what has hit it. In a combined pincer style movement Black Bough and Material are hosting concurrent exhibitions under the same title. Kate Gibb will be exhibiting at Black Bough and Marcus Walters will be exhibiting at Material.

Kate and Marcus are friends, we’re friends with Material, it all seems so sensible!

As well as their artworks we are working on a range of items to go alongside the show – tea towels, notebooks, novelty erasers, tins of fudge and pencils with an extended label on the end of it stating ‘I visited Unplanned Magic by Marcus Walters and Kate Gibb at Material and Black Bough in Ludlow’. Some of these products are an untruth, some are not. You’ll have to visit to find out which is which.

The private views are both on Friday October 7th, Marcus Walter’s at Material is from 6-8 and Kate Gibb’s at ours is from 7-9 – so everyone can go to both of them. Please come along. If you can’t make it we’ll be showing the works on our respective websites.


Filed under Art, Design