A day’s jolly to the Country Living Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington was just what the doctor ordered. A car, a tube and a walk in the spring sunshine and a chance for a natter en route. Back to the old hunting ground of North London, where we counted four artisan bakeries (including a sugar free one), gorgeous independent fashion shops and Ottolenghi and Wahaca restaurants on the way. Very Islington.
Although I live in the country now my roots are deeply buried in town. And once in a while its good to breath some good old bus fumes, jump out of the way of a taxi or fight with the Oyster Card machine.
The Country Living Fair sponsored by Country Living Magazine of course is a showcase for designers and makers around the country to display their wares. And although I love to look at the sumptuous cashmere wraps and paisley jackets, and soaps and unctions, and sample a few lotions and potions. I’m really interested in the makers themselves. Their stories and their inspirations. The interesting ones are easy to find, their products just leap out at you.
So I’ll share a few here. These pink beauties are from Miranda Weston Shoes. Fran Peck makes shoes for ladies who have…how can a put this…challenging feet? They’re extra wide with concealed stretch, flexible leather soles and padding under the ball of the foot, and suitable for bunions. I wonder if Victoria Beckham slips into a pair? They’re beautiful styles and colours and made in Spain. Delicious.
I have to express a special interest in Norfolk artist Lottie Day. She feeds my slight obsession with tea towels. Lottie’s workshop is based in the Noverre Gallery at the Assembly House, a Georgian mansion in the centre of Norwich she’s local to me you see (or loocal as we say here).
And I have a pristine collection of lemon, turnip, lobster and feather and egg printed on tea towels which hang on a peg rail because frankly they’re just too lovely to use.
Little, functional works of art. You can see Lottie screen printing away most days.
After an interesting career as a producer for Advertising Photographers Jan Davis decided to take things a little more slowly and literally smell the roses. Her experience with photography led her to start her business English Accent which supplies the most luxurious wrapping paper, greetings cards and stationery items as well as scented candles. The images are flowers and plants, some from her own London garden, and vases she fills to decorate her home. Some of her wares are now being sold in the Chelsea Physic Garden and the images are so beautiful I swear you can smell the perfume.
How about some tea enriched alcohol? Jasmine Vodka, Earl Grey Gin? Doesn’t that sound amazing. Distilled in Cambridgeshire by Sophie Hudson at T.E.A. Now I imagine Sophie can throw a good party. The bottles looked beautiful and the flavours were delicious, and as for their website – so classy.
And last but not least meet the lovely lady who runs Red Hen Originals from her studio in North Yorkshire. Julia Burns started her business in 2008. She studied at the Slade and loves working in abstract. But her day to day job involves the humble potato. Her delightful original works and prints are potato printed. Yes, like you did in play school but oh so much more skilful. Apparently the larger the spud the better, a big surface area to pare away at. Some pictures are built up like a silk screen print with each little bit of the picture cut out of a separate potato. This is a woman I would really like to spend a day with in beautiful Yorkshire and a potato.
So these are some of the designers and makers who made my day. You can check out their websites and learn more about them. And there’s still time to visit the fair which is on until Sunday. Meanwhile I’m off to admire my tea towels.