Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Paul Smith is at the Design Museum.
You are very welcome to pop in too.

It's always nice to receive a friendly welcome.

What you see is what you get.
There's none of that rushing around tidying up, pretending that your office doesn't usually look like this, crammed full of stuff; books, bicycles, cameras, robots, letters, knick-knacks, and everything and anything else that he is sent on a regular basis by fans and friends.

He keeps everything, anything can be inspiration.

As he says himself,
"I have a desk which I have never sat at because it is totally covered in things".

For those of us wondering why we shove bits and bobs into the kitchen drawer,
where we keep all those things that "one day might come in useful",
be heartened by Paul Smith.
"From all the things accumulated in my office,
one idea will form and be the inspiration for a new collection or the design of a new shop."
See, you knew there was a reason!

His current studio...
...still contains things to inspire; photos, colour, vintage fabric and wallpaper samples.

Perhaps though, when you have more pictures, prints, photos, posters, record covers, paintings, birthday cards, post-cards, drawings, maps and framed pairs of socks than you know what to do with,
it's time to share them with everyone else, at the Design Museum.

This is a very small part of his collection from the walls and basement of his office
in Covent Garden.

Paul Smith is always personally involved in the design of his shops,
giving him more opportunities to display all those things he has collected.

One of which appears to be buttons...

and more buttons...

...a whole wall of buttons.

But let's not forget the 'collections' he designs.

Paul Smith loves colour.

"Colour makes people happy".
It's also pretty cool to feel like you're walking down a Paul Smith catwalk.

Overheard by an older visitor,
"You'd need to be brave to carry that off!"
These two were my 17 year old's favourite pieces.

"I love the way the buttons get smaller as they go down the cape."

"We are famous for adding colour" Paul Smith.

Paul Smith has also collaborated with other makers and manufacturers,
contributing to their designs.
Who in their right mind would turn down the chance to design the paintwork for a mini?

A chance to design for the ultimate group of collectors.
Stamps! Perfect!

 What comes across in this exhibition, is Paul Smith himself. Who he is.
He comes across as a very generous man, not afraid to show you a bit of mess in his office and his enthusiasm for collecting weird stuff.

In his generosity, he even gives you a chance to take a 'selfie' with him.
This may look like a kind of ego trip but it really didn't come across that way.

You really get the feeling that he's saying, look at me, if I can do it, grow from a three metre square shop in Nottingham to a global company, then you can too.
He takes the mystery out of it.
It's just about noticing things, being curious, never standing still, exploring new places, acknowledging the people who have helped you along the way,
and always carrying a notebook with you. 

You leave with the largest post-it note of encouragement, words from the man himself.

is on at the Design Museum until 22nd June 2014.
Details on the Design Museum website here

Top-tip from the lovely guy in the cafe.
Design-types don't get out of bed until lunchtime at weekends, if you like a nice quiet museum visit, go in the mornings. Especially good when visiting with kids.

Saturday, 24 May 2014


Answering a question with another question can be really frustrating, especially when people do it to avoid answering one.

Topeng Jauk Mask, Bali, Indonesia

However in museums, it can help kids work out and discover things for themselves. Help them to 'get it', to answer the questions they ask in the first instance.

Cham Mask, Tibet

When I was asked by some kids what this blue mask above was made of, we took at look at the back.

"Have you ever broken a bone?"
"Oh yeah!!! It's like the bandages they put on you in hospital."

It was indeed made of fabric and plaster.
"So you mustn't get it wet." I was advised by a well-informed child.

Topeng Sidar Mask, Bali, Indonesia

I don't know what he's finding so funny!

Ogre Mask, Java, Indonesia

Do you ever look at the back to see what something is made of?

This half-term you can check out theses masks.
And touch them, they are not behind glass.
They are in the Hands-on Base in the Horniman Museum. Find out for yourself what they are made of in the handling sessions, Discovery For All, on Sundays and in the school holidays. For opening times and more details, check out their website here.

Monday, 19 May 2014



Bones from seventeen hippos were found in 1965 when the Honiton bypass was being built.
The perks of building roads!
They're fossilised now.
Lost between 70,000-130,000 years ago.

Found in gravel pits near Axminster.
Multipurpose tools for cutting, chopping, digging and butchering.
Lost between 230,000 and 290,000 years ago.

Found dotted around many parts of Devon, lost around 6,000 years ago.
We saw a film of a man making one. Flint shaping flint.
It inspired some making back at home. They're sharp enough to cut up an apple.

Found in Trichay Street and by the Acorn Roundabout, Exeter.
Lost around 800 years ago.

It is now too late to claim this lost-property.
Their owners are long deceased, but in finding these objects, we have the opportunity to learn more about our ancestors and life in Devon, 800 years ago and throughout prehistory.

Hippo bones, hand-axes and arrowheads, all evidence of life in prehistoric Devon.
What was life like in prehistoric Devon?
Here's a mock-up. Whilst your kids spent their time lying on the grass, your sheep warmed themselves by the fire.

Another 'FOUND' poster needed...
Found in a prehistoric dwelling.
Answers to the name of 'De Li'.
Lost around half an hour ago.
No child in the immediate area seems to lay claim to her.

This dwelling may actually be more representative of life in Roman Devon.
But that's what happens in museums, you get the chance to compare life in different times.
You get the chance to dress up as a Roman
and give a talk on 'your pots' from the thirteenth century.

This is particularly true of the 'Making History' gallery in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
The gallery takes you from prehistoric Devon right through to contemporary Devon and Exeter.

We saw some fabulous film footage of seaside holidays in the 1950s & 60s.
I was won over by the double-deckchairs. I want one!

Visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum open Tuesdays to Sundays each week.
We did try and go on a Monday! Do check the website here before you go.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Tea and Portraits?

Should you ever admit to popping into a gallery just for a cup of tea?
Well it wasn't just for the tea.
"I know a cafe with beautiful rooftop views", I suggested.

We had tea and pastries at the National Portrait Gallery, on our way to this exhibition,
where there was no buffet car.
Anyway Crossrail weren't providing refreshments, only archaeology. 

I was feeling a little guilty,
not paying any attention to the portraits, 
heading straight to the Portrait Restaurant,
intent on breakfast with a view.

Then we came out of the lift on our way down and spotted this.

We got sidetracked.
Nearly three and a half meters high.
Four small people in a huge room?
A painting with an air of informality yet King George V is standing to attention?
Why is the Prince of Wales standing behind the sofa?
A family portrait not commissioned by the family themselves?
And where are the other three princes?

I felt better, less guilty.
I had looked at a painting.
So the visit hadn't just been all about breakfast after all.

Paintings and breakfast are available at the National Portrait Gallery.
Details on their website here.

Remember to keep your eyes peeled when coming out of the lifts!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Things We Do In Bed

not my words but the title of a quilt exhibition in Danson House, Bexleyheath.

Wait! before you stop reading because needlework isn't your thing...
...I give you stories of Birth, Sleep, Sex, Illness and Death

The quilts are made by many different people:
The anonymous to mark a birth, the carers of the dying, the sufferer of depression, the widow, the wife, the daughter, the grieving, artists, prisoners, men, women, makers from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Looking at this list, there are some pretty significant events in people's lives that have been marked by the making of a quilt.

Quilts can provoke debate. Here Grayson Perry responds to the abortion debate, and perhaps the messiness of giving birth. Mind you this quilt is incredibly ordered, rhythmical and symetrical.
No mess, no disorder. 

This quilt was made for a baby in the 18th century.
This photo only begins to show how incredibly fine and delicate the stitching is.

This quilt was made later in the 19th century, again for a cot.
Each piece of fabric probably has its own story to tell.

Like the patchwork squares in the last photo, these squares also tell stories, each one made by a different person, men and women.
Exhibited on a prison bed.

Each square was made by a prisoner, taught to sew by Fine Cell Work (a charity).
They work with prisoners to give them a skill and a chance to earn an income.

In this project they considered sleep, getting a good night's sleep in prison,
which can be quite problematic.

The green thread in the pillow in this square was picked apart from the prison sheets,
' there is a bit of the prison in my square'.

This blew me away...  the skills, the dreams!?

Fifteen quilts with words, the connections of sex.
On a chaise longue!

By the time Karina Thompson gets to 70, her heart will have beaten unnoticed 2.6 billion times.

Quilted images inspired by her echocardiogram. 

A quilt made at her husband's bedside.
The making of it, keeping her company when he could no longer communicate.

Again a quilt made in response to tragedy.
Encouragement sent to her son following his car accident, sewn into hexagons of hope. 

Stones and painkillers sewn into a quilt.
Intending to feel the weight of all this,
the experience of lying under this quilt of stones and painkillers turned out to be,
"not too heavy at all, it felt quite nice".  

 A 19th century widow's quilt.

These two quilts, grey and white, were made by a daughter in response to her mother's dementia.
The grey fibres resembling her mother's hair and the crazy patchwork design, her skin...

...eleven years later, remembering her in white.

As I said, these quilts, essentially bedcovers,
were on display in the bedrooms of Danson House.
These two displayed where the original bed would have been,
underneath the ceiling from which drapes would have hung.

Whatever your thoughts on needlework,
it certainly doesn't shy away from addressing the big things in life.

Things We Do In Bed is housed in the bedrooms at Danson House, a Georgian Villa.
The quilts were chosen and brought together by the novelist Tracy Chevalier.

Things We Do In Bed is on until 31st Oct 2014 in Danson House.
Not open on Fridays & Saturdays,
and learnt by experience, not open until noon each day.

Tracy Chevalier quilts too
 Buy a rafflle ticket to support Danson House and you may win a quilted cushion she has made.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...