We are looking for contacts, local community groups, interested individuals, routes into funding, places to exhibit, support, volunteers, publicity and people to network with in order to develop our projects.
Please contact us by emailing milesanddacombe@virginmedia.com.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Up-cycle, Recycle, Life Cycle

I’m a bit of a Magpie with too many collections and a serious addiction to domestic china – I love cups and saucers, plates and bowls and constantly kid myself they are coming home with me because they are functional. I love the look of a cake stand heaped high with tasty treats and am equally tempted by the many and various shapes, patterns and eras of the wares they are served on, oh yes, and I can never resist investigating a back-stamp!

There are also items picked up along the way that have great shape but disastrous decoration and even they have been smuggled over the threshold to be squirreled away for some unknown purpose. So when I heard about Esther Coombs and up-cycling, I was intrigued. I just missed her workshop at the V&A but then I heard she would be running a course in a tea shop I was on that train / bus for High Tea at Highgate.

Esther Coombs

First there was excellently brewed tea and a fascinating talk about low-fired ceramics and the long history of recycling in the ceramics industry.

Then the 10 tea drinkers started drawing on their cups and plates and a dreamy hush fell over the room.

The air was heavy with the smell of baking cakes, which tasted as good as they smelt.

At the end of the morning we had our firing instructions, carefully wrapped wares and a goody bag with a discount voucher to spend at Esther’s Etsy shop, an up-cycled Esther brooch and two sample packets of tea. It was an excellent morning of generosity and simple pleasures; we all left vibrating with the vintage vibe.

Distracted by reissued '50's classic fabric designs in the a shop close to High Tea at Highgate.

Then it was back on the bus to Liverpool Street Station and a wander through inviting alleyways and undiscovered streets with my dérive buddy for the day, Elaine.

Love tea but prefer coffee

We headed for the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery stumbling across some small gems along the way.

The Ward of Candlewick

Tracey Emin Room 1 of the show was the most satisfying, the great thing was to see the blankets and the pier structure together, to see the textures and fading colours of the blanket and assorted textiles – the ugly beautifulness of fabric, text, context and content. The final rooms left us feeling sloganed out, annoyed and aggravated. Two things did pull at me – the framed blanket with the words “Why be afraid when I will be the one to carry you to heaven” and a print with a half naked woman and the words “I wonder if you remember me?” , it’s hard not to connect with such vulnerability.

Outside the Festival Hall
there were beach huts, bunting

and an installation with arcs
of suspended paper planes.

Inside, on the lower floor, was The Museum of 1951, a celebration of The Festival of Britain and the seen everywhere at the moment 50’s revival.

Even in 1951 fifty women were piecing together history out of bits of blanket and old fabrics.

In the 1951 map above places were defined by local conversations.

People in Northamptonshire today rarely talk of boots and shoes ,
that industry has all but disappeared in the county.

In one of the cases were silk Festival of Britain ties, I had once come upon a set of these in a bundle of old clothes on Wellingborough flea market, whilst I dithered someone else spirited them away. I wondered if these were in fact those very ties!

Towards the afternoon’s end we wandered into the South Bank Shop only to find some of Esther’s work on display in the window, our journey had come full circle.

Almost time for tea.


  1. This makes our day seem as important as it was; but for perfection we should have been wearing beatster big skirts and petticoats to blow around in, Elaine

  2. Enjoyed this blog and interesting to see the commentson the Tracy Emin exhibition - I am going to see it next week. Lesley


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