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Sunday 27 May 2018

Flea Markets in Paris

Marche d'Aligre is one of the lesser spoken about flea markets in Paris, in fact no-one ever told me about it, I found a small mention in a magazine years ago. The three well known markets (more info on those below) are all next to the periferique, the main road that circles Paris and they are all weekend markets - some are open Monday too - but the brocante at Place d'Aligre is open every morning except Monday so you have more opportunity to visit it.

At first it looks like alot of antiques but get further in and there are stalls like this with boxes and boxes of stuff - far more promising for bargains!

This market shares the Place with an amazing fresh food market and an indoor food market. There are cafes around so it's a good morning out with lots to look at and buy and a coffee stop; it's about 5 minutes walk from Metro Ledru-Rollin on Line 8, a little south east of the Bastille area in the 12th arrondissement.

I can really recommend a morning in this neighbourhood. I went on a Tuesday that was actually a public holiday (victory day) and lots of places were closed so I was happy to turn a corner and find everyone busy and working as normal.

Puces de Montreuil

I really like the grubbier markets because I'm looking for old kitchen stuff for my work and so the Marche aux Puces at Porte de Montreuil in the south east is a favourite. It's open all weekend and Monday though most will pack up at Monday lunch time. Warning - This is not picturesque Paris. Go to Porte de Montreuil metro, line 9 then walk east (follow the crowds) on the left around a portion of a huge roundabout (Place de la Porte de Montreuil) and you'll come off at the start of some stalls. For the brocante walk down it's hill, turn left and follow the bottom aisle all the way north til it ends - the other aisles are all new stuff. When you get to what appears to be the end do continue 40 yards or so up Avenue Gallieni as there is a yard on the right with alot more stalls; proper scruffy stuff here so good for a proper rummage. I found quite a few things for my work here. There are no collectibles and trendy stuff up this end, it's like boxes of stuff found on the streets or from house clearances so it's not chic at all and regular tourists would not come here. I read some reviews on the link and see some people felt scared here and one got pick-pocketed - well you need to be careful of that in every big city but yes this is more edgy and may not be for you but I've always felt fine here as I don't look like a tourist or ever have a ladylike handbag etc. 

Marche aux Puces de St Ouen also known as Marche aux Puces de Porte de Clignancourt

There  is plenty online about this the most famous flea market in Paris so I'll not write too much but you need to get to the heart of this market and then go to the west end of it where the real bargains are; the banana boxes of junk but at the high end there are shops of ornate baroque furniture so this place has an amazing range and feast for the eyes. Orientate yourself from Rue des Rosiers. I love the Marche Vernaison off that road but it's too expensive for me though lovely to look at everything here. I love these town houses on one of the roads near here, the whole market is like a small town itself.

I wouldn't say I'm a hat person particularly but I couldn't resist the displays in this shop. And if you come here be sure to have lunch at the amazing La Recyclerie which is right by Porte de Clignancourt metro line 4, the market is 5 or 10 mins walk from here.

These coffee pots were in the Marche Vernaison; there are many named markets within the whole market area.

And here are some of my finds from across these three markets. I presume the bigger metal disc is a stencil to sieve an icing sugar pattern on a cake - I may even use that in my kitchen! I cant wait to rewire the little turquoise glass stand and see if I can do something with that.
I only ever went to Porte de Vanves market in the south once, (Sat/Sun only) it was mostly antiques, hardly any bargains so I never gave it another go, but it's great to look at and maybe there is a bargain in there somewhere.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Plastic Potting

I've decided to embrace the aesthetics of plastic. Disposal of our household containers is a hot topic thanks to David Attenborough (and a government of very late adopters!!) and I don't know how much energy is used in recycling to collect, sort, wash, shred, melt? etc but certainly alot. So if we can re-use as much as possible at home and in that way save on the recycling and change our idea of it as "waste" then that must surely be better.

These containers aren't ugly are they?  By the way I'm rooting and potting on spotty leaved begonias here. I see alot of great styling and photography online with beautiful objects, and interiors but sometimes I think the styling is too good and wonder where they hide all the "ugly" or off trend or un-photogenic kitchen stuff. I don't see why we cant have our beautiful ceramics and glass alongside reused plastic quite happily. We may need to re-jig our aesthetic ideas though. Fashion re-jigs that for you regularly anyway; it often only takes a few influential people and a wave of images to make our taste evolve.

The council used not to collect the lids for recycling so I started keeping them. I always think collections of these sort of objects can go to a (enlightened!) school for kids projects if they haven't found another use. I think alot of us makers hate throwing things away because we appreciate how things are made - the mould, the screw thread etc. My plan for these is to make some Xmas decorations with them next winter and the challenge is that they must not be naff and rubbishy looking! So here's my inspiration below.

These were given to me by the artist Lucy Casson who had found a collection of them in a charity shop. The blue and white decoration is made from 2 detergent bottle lids, 4 beads and a piece of a plastic flower - genius! So by incorporating the lids with a few other things I think you could make some acceptable Xmas tree decorations. Mine are an eclectic selection that's evolved over many decades and I love the quirkiest ones best so these two fit in perfectly.

If you need any more convincing about the dangers of plastic take a look at more of this work below by Chris Jordan. When I first saw these photos about 4 years ago I was shocked by the horrific beauty of them - as an abstract collage - but then the reality kicks in of these birds killed by our debris - devastating but important photographs.

Photo by Chris Jordan from his Midway project

And I spotted this plastic bottle mudguard extension in Paris many years ago. I borrowed the idea for my own bike by making holes in the mudguard and attaching a section of bottle by stitching it on with galvanised wire. I love simple but brilliant ideas like this.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Champagne Challenge

I had never come across hollow stemmed champagne glasses until someone asked me to make a chandelier from their collection. It's quite a large collection so I don't know how their existence had passed me by - clearly I have lots more to learn, that's good.

My main task was how to make the chandelier not look just like a load of glasses. As I'm sure I've mentioned here before I'm not a fan of wacky upcycling that screams at you about what it used to be. The other task was to work out how to join them to a frame in a satisfactory way aesthetically. They are much bigger than the components I'm used to working with.

So here's the finished piece which is just under a metre long. All the stems are held by spring clips so they can be easily taken out for transportation and cleaning and then just slotted back in. I prefer this way of joining things than a permanent way, it allows flexibility in handling and repair. I never try to disguise the hardware in my chandeliers - I love all the little clasps, hooks, nut's and bolts, my style is very much like that of old Meccano.

The clients took a risk in commissioning something new to me because it meant they didn't know exactly what they'd be getting. I did some drawings to show them but really the possibility was in my mind and not easy to put on paper. So much can change once I start drilling holes and assembling. I'm happy to say they are very pleased with their chandelier and we shall soon be installing it in their conservatory.

Monday 12 June 2017

Open Studios June 2017

Looking forward to opening our doors in Bromley by Bow this weekend. Some fellow artists are showing work on the theme 'Small is Beautiful, More or Less'

Amongst lots of other pieces this Salmon Pink and rich Turquoise (it looks bluer in the photo) Duet for 3 candles will be for sale here. I just finished making this last week inspired by the colour combination.

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!
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