Opening Someone Else’s House

I’ve lost count of how many times I took part in the Dulwich Open House event each year (was it 8 or 9?!) until I moved away from Dulwich last year. I’m hoping to be back for Open House 2017 as my new house is right on the edge of the Open House map. But in the meantime I really enjoyed last weekend when I pitched up to show in someone else’s house for the Nunhead Art Trail event.

Printmaker Sarah Capel was lovely enough to invite Liz King, an artist/illustrator, and myself to show our work alongside hers. Our work is quite different and yet complementary in an array of bold colours, and it all came together very easily – although admittedly I didn’t have any of the tidying and cleaning of the house that used to take me longer than the actual set up!

It was wonderful to see a few familiar faces from the Dulwich Open, some of whom I remembered from years ago. It gave me a taste for opening my new house… though of course, first comes the challenge of actually getting it finishing first!

Best in Show

This year’s London Design Festival was upon us before I realised how out of the loop I was… normally I would be part of things, exhibiting in our usual Rivington Street gallery in Shoreditch, but being on maternity leave meant I was free to go and visit places. So one afternoon last week I went with a couple of other design-oriented mums to see designjunction which was in Granary Square in Kings Cross this year.

We stood in the street, buggies and all, looking for Cubitt House, the exhibition space, and somehow couldn’t see what was right in front of our faces…  the temporary exhibition structure had been clad in an intriguing scaffolding (above left) which created a kind of urban camouflage integrating the trees lining the road. I later found out this was a special facade which had been commissioned by designjunction from Satellite Architects but it had the effect of making the building strangely invisible to our baby-addled brains!

Design companies often go to great lengths to create temporary installations just for London Design Week and this year my favourite was the stunning lighting installation in the Central Saint Martins building by French lighting company Blackbody (above right). I’m a sucker for a sparkling canopy of light and this was spectacular.

But ‘Best in Show’ undoubtedly went to our lovely friend and superb furniture designer Bethan Gray, whose stand we dropped in on. I’ve always loved her style, but her new collection is a showstopping culmination of everything else that she has so far designed under her eponymous design label. Her signature style, which brings together a love of materials with fabulous detailing, was expressed in a delicious palette of rich teal, salmon pink and midnight blue.

Nizwa cabinet
Her latest collection is a collaboration with Iranian artist Mohammed Reza Shamsian who has spent many years crafting unique pieces for the Sultan of Oman. Bethan’s husband, Massimo, told me how the biggest hurdle in the production process was not the fabrication – in fact the collection was created from sampling to launch in an unbelievably quick five months – but the packaging. I guess if you supply the Sultan of Oman, your furniture goes straight from workshop to palace and packaging is not really a consideration! Massimo explained that the packaging problem was solved by putting each piece in its own soft fabric bag – and I just love the idea of a piece of furniture coming in it’s own velvet pouch like a precious jewel.

My favourite piece was the Nizwa cabinet, made of maple wood marquetry in a teal ombré with an overlay of solid brass. It is absolutely stunning and I want one!  I can’t wait to see what Bethan comes up with next.

Dulwich Surprise

Being between houses, this is the first time in eight years that I have not had a house to open in order to participate in the Dulwich Open House! I thought (briefly) about finding someone else’s house to show my work, but then decided that I would instead enjoy the freedom of spending entire weekends go off and looking at other open houses.

It’s a wonderful experience to be able to mooch in and out of random houses in Dulwich and see how other people live (as well as the art, of course!). It is such a quirk of the Open House that you can be standing in an empty room looking at some prints and then you look up to find the room is suddenly packed with a crowd!

I love that you can walk into a room that literally looks and feels like a nightclub with a glitterball and neon artwork adorning three walls and then you turn around to the fourth wall and realise it’s just an ordinary Dulwich kitchen!

And where else would you stumble upon a headless mannequin in a 9 foot display case in a beautiful garden without questioning it?!


London Lights

Sometimes there are moments which remind me how much I love living in London. I was out for drinks with my friend when I realised it was the last night of Lumiere: the Festival of Light in London, so after our evening we ventured up Regent Street to see the sights.

An illuminated elephant standing within the pillars of a building at the Piccadilly Circus end of the street was shifting from foot to foot and – with full sound effects – emitting the occasion grunt. The wonderment continued further up the street, which had been pedestrianised for the event. Enormous coloured fish floated ethereally above the crowds in the freezing London night.

We just managed to make our way through to Piccadilly to see that the elephant also had a backside – a huge elephantine bottom illuminated between the pillars on the other side of the building – which we glimpsed just before the lights were switched off at the stroke of midnight.

Christmas Dish and Spoon

Dish and Spoon

My whole life was packed into storage in November and it has remained there ever since, so the best I could hope for this December in terms of Christmas shows was going to be very low key. The Dish and Spoon, a cafe in Nunhead, offered a lovely opportunity to come together with some other local mums to put on a pop-up.

I spent a lovely morning hanging a colourful window display with Sarah Capel of
Sarah Capel Printing and Peggy Mends of Peggy Bamford and an even more enjoyable Saturday selling to locals in the lovely warm atmosphere of the Dish and Spoon.

MADE London

Made London took up residence in the church at Great Portland Street four years ago and has gone from strength to strength since then. I have had Made London on my exhibiting radar for quite some time as I had heard good things about it as a central London selling show. Particularly since the demise of Origin – and its predecessor, the Chelsea Craft Show – there hasn’t really been a large regular show in London curating contemporary crafts for a dedicated database of customers, but Made London seemed to be confidently claiming that position.

When curating our own show Designed | Crafted last year, we picked up a couple of makers from last year’s Made London who we thought were a great fit and one of them turned out to be Sarah Young, who also happens to be one of the organisers of Made London. It wasn’t until I spent a day invigilating our own show with her partner Jon Tutton that I heard about Made London direct from the horse’s mouth, as it were, and I decided to apply this year.

I was happy to have made it past the selection panel, as there is now a long list of disappointed applicants who try to get in to exhibit each year at One Marylebone,  the wonderful venue that is used for the show. Originally built in 1826, the Holy Trinity Church was one of only three churches designed by Sir John Soane but it was considered the most architecturally distinguished. It was sympathetically renovated and reopened in 2008 as a leading London events venue, and Made London has been occupying it for a weekend in October for the last four years. It is a magnificent space, with four levels each having its own feel which adds to the atmosphere that this is a unique selling show in the Craft calendar.

I took a large stand on the first floor galleries which had beautiful tall arched windows all the way along. Having a lovely big stand meant I had space to exhibit my Global Treasury lightboxes which I rarely display because of the space required. Hiding the electrics is always a bit of a faff, but it was well worth it this time as I mounted twelve lightboxes on the back wall plus a new piece based on the Global Treasury range but made much larger at 60cm square.

Good sales of the lightboxes during and after the show made me reconsider my Global Treasury lightboxes. I realised, with some nostalgia, that these were in fact my very first collection of retail items – they were the first pieces I thought about in terms of a product range with distinct patterns designed to be replicated. I enjoy making batches of these lightboxes as there is enough scope within them to play with colour so as to make each one unique even though they follow an overall design. Also because the cost ratio of materials to labour is favourable it means I have been able to keep the retail price consistent over the years. Although I have streamlined both the number of designs in the range, as well as the making process, the one thing I have never managed is to hone the making process down to the bone to supply them at trade prices, despite having had numerous requests from my stockists over the years. Maybe this could be a challenge for next year?

Glass Sellers Dinner

A few months ago I applied to a competition run by the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers. My competition entry was highly commended and as a result I was invited to the prizegiving dinner at the Ironmongers Hall in the City. Being accustomed to the other guild, the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters, it was interesting to find out that the Glass Sellers don’t have their own Hall so they use various venues for their events. I was told the Ironmongers Hall was the most grand of all their dinner venues, and it was indeed a beautiful building, a 1920s Tudor style hall rather incongruously surrounded by the modern architecture of the Barbican.

However once dinner commenced, the customs of the Worshipful Company were familiar from dinners I’ve been to at Glaziers Hall, most notably the tradition of the passing of the Loving Cup.

In this communal act of conviviality, a silver gilt vessel is passed down the table from which each attendee is to drink. Harking back to times when drinkers may have been attacked by sword while they were otherwise engaged, the deep rooted custom of the Loving Cup is for each member to sip from the up with one member standing behind, back to back, and another standing in front, face to face, to protecting the drinker from attack.

After dinner we withdrew into a side room where the display of of competition entries were for sale to the assembled members. I was delighted to see that both my samples had been sold.

Lobster Sandwich

Sandwiched between a week of running workshops on my school project and a week of making the final work for the project, I had a three day show in West Dean. Had I known my timetable at the time of booking, I probably wouldn’t have attempted to do my first show in a couple of years right in the middle of a commission! So, unbelievably, it was not until the actual morning of the set up day that I even got round to thinking about my stand. But with years of experience at trade shows and selling shows and a full selection of furniture to fit stands of all sizes, it wasn’t the huge challenge that it used to be.

A few hours later I arrived at West Dean College where the sight of two massive lobster claws emerging from the building set the surreal celebratory tone for the weekend. Set up was unbelievably easy, with access straight into the workshop which had been transformed into an exhibition venue. Nevertheless I was feeling a bit rusty at talking to the public about my work and I had a slow first day at the show.

I was staying at the college as a paying guest and for the first time in nine years of visiting West Dean College I actually felt like a guest rather than an employee. My evenings were my own, to wander the grounds or to relax in the Oak Hall. At least they would have been were I not also having to prepare for a talk and demonstration that I had been asked to give on the second morning in the Creative Hub marquee. I had a full house (or at least a full tent!) with about 60 people coming to hear my talk about “Printing Stories on Glass” and I was filmed demonstrating the making of my next product which involves a few different printing techniques.

Getting back to my little stand in the exhibiting area, it was an enormous relief to only having to be talking to the one or two people that squeeze onto my stand at a time!

Two Sunny Weekends in May

The weather has been unusually capricious – yesterday there was bright morning sunshine, torrential rain at lunchtime, a warm sunny afternoon followed by a sudden spate of hailstones (!), and then a sunny but absolutely freezing cold evening. And it has been this changeable for the last two weeks, but somehow – for once – the Dulwich Open House event struck gold with two weekends of balmy summer sun.

My house looked gorgeous – even if I do say so myself! The walls were adorned with Charlotte Kessler’s exquisite paintings and my glasswork and until the art was up on the walls we hadn’t quite appreciated how well our work goes together.

Bees and butterflies had a strong presence in the house and our combined work created a very feminine spirit in the space, picking up on universal themes of love and nature.

Colour is very important to both of us, and it was wonderful to see how the colours seemed to reflect

On the second weekend I managed to get out and have a look at some of my neighbouring Open Houses. Read about them here

Artists’ Open House

In less than three weeks 200 artists’ houses in and around Dulwich will be opening their doors to a stream of visitors as part of the Dulwich Festival. The Artists’ Open House is now an established event in the calendar and people come from far and wide to visit the artists and see (and buy) their work in the context of their own homes. Local businesses are now involved and so you will find art installations popping up in estate agents or local cafes, as well as a handful of markets and fairs which centre around the Dulwich Festival.

Over the last couple of years there has been a coordinated effort by the Dulwich Picture Gallery to invite twenty of the world’s leading street artists to study their Baroque paintings and reinterpret them in their own style on walls and pavements around Dulwich, and during the Festival there will be a guided walk with the organiser to take in this Dulwich Outdoor Gallery. There are also numerous talks, walks, recitals and demonstrations happening all around the area which draw thousands of visitors to the Dulwich Festival.

Charlotte Kessler | Alex R
I am celebrating my tenth year in business and so I thought it would be nice to open up my space to some other work. Charlotte Kessler of Lemonstone Art paints mesmerising images in oils and acrylics, drawing on themes of love, nature, dreams and freedom of spirit. I fell in love with her work just before Christmas when I bought two of her prints for my family, and as they sat so well with my own work I have invited her to co-exhibit with me during the Artists’ Open House. Together we are showing a captivating collection of work across three storeys of the house and studio which will explore the magical interplay between glass and paintings in a space bursting with poetical imagery and wonder.

Five Houses
We warmly invite you to come and visit, and as further encouragement we have joined forces with four other artists’ houses in the immediate vicinity to create our own cluster of exciting work within the larger event. Open across two weekends, our ‘Five Houses in Five Minutes’ is a mini trail which will take in jewellery, print and collage, upcycled craft and mixed media, and fine art as well as my glass. We hope you can come and bring your family and friends to enjoy a day out in Dulwich.

Artists’ Open House: 9th-10th May and 16th-17th May, 11am-6pm.

 The Glass Studio | 47 Pymers Mead, London SE21 8NH