New beginnings

I love this time of year. I’ve probably written it already in the last couple of weeks; I’m sure if you delve back through previous blogs written around about the mid-September time, you’ll find me saying the same thing again and again.  

I sometimes wonder, in retrospect, if every time of the year is my favourite (that moment when the first buds of spring break; that precise moment of May when the countryside is vivid green; even that darkest moment of the year, in the depths of January or February, when it seems like Winter will never end?)… but I make no secret of the fact that the shift from late summer to autumn really is one of the moments when I am most content.  I think what I enjoy is the luxury of that combination of something ending and something new starting at the same time. The end of summer, but the beginning of a new school year (which I still adhere to)… it’s autumn – but I’m about to order spring bulbs.

Talking of new beginnings, on Friday I had one of the most inspirational days I’ve had in a long time.  

I well remember, a few years ago now, being approached by a lovely crazy girl, Catherine Lock, at one of our early shop parties, who wanted to start an exciting venture discovering the further extremities of the world of British craft.  Could we collaborate? We began to chat – but – can I be very honest? It was pretty clear to me that logistics were immediately going to get in the way.  It was a brilliant idea – searching out makers of interesting things and bringing them to new markets – but I just couldn’t see – if you will excuse me talking so early on about the dirty subject of money, how there could possibly be room for a middle woman (Catherine) bringing stock to a middle man (me) before finally these beautiful things arrived in front of you (the customer).  In order for each of us, starting with the chair maker or basket lady, to make a living, I think those things would have had to be so very very expensive that you would have looked, and enjoyed, and quietly moved on.

I didn’t think a great deal about Catherine’s idea after that, although we kept in touch and chatted from time to time. So  I knew that things were beginning to happen, and that made me very happy, and I confess I don’t often meet someone with quite so much passion, so I wasn’t surprised when the idea got off the ground. And the other day, out of the blue, I got an invitation to lunch. The lunch was on Friday and it was being held in the New Craftsmen Garage, 14 Adams Row, Mayfair, at 12.30.

Oh dear oh dear.  Friday turned out to be a bit of a manic day – did anyone else encounter the crazy London traffic that I suppose is what happens if you combine the first day of London Fashion week with the closure of Hyde Park for some cycle event with Friday 13th? 

Well, suffice to say, I was at least an hour late. I arrived at the garage (sorry, I forgot to take a photograph of the outside), and gingerly opened the door. This is the scene that greeted me.

A beautiful stable, a giant kitchen table. A lot of happy guests – and thankfully – it appeared, the food was only just being served. All was not lost.

Immediately of course I was distracted. Bunches of flowers above. In a little room to the right was this:

What was this place? Incredible. I took my seat.  Opposite Catherine – here she is:

I was still in a different mindset. A bit too much to take in all at once:

The butter: perfect. The cider jars, perfect, the hand blown glasses, perfect:

The lunch, perfect:

Honestly, things like this don’t happen to me very often.

Natalie Melton, one of the three co-founders of the New Craftsmen, in the middle of the picture, makes sure everyone’s food is on the table and starts a fascinating discussion about what craft means today and why. The sort of thing which in other contexts I can find, I don’t know, a bit worthy. But this was fun. Real fun.  An amazing group around the table, and the conversation flowed.

The time flew, and eventually people had to move on, back to real life.  I wasn’t ready to leave.  Here are some views of the stable:

I am happy to say I left with this beautiful hand woven cushion

And with some of these buttercup yellow napkins.

I fancied a trug, and a cushion by Cameron Short

who really must be one of the names to watch these days?

Catherine, and one of the lunch guests – maker and weaver Catarina Riccabona – describing the throws that Catarina makes from some bizarrely rare sheeps wool from some outlying islands of the Scottish Isles (forgive my fact checking: enthusiasm and cider get the better of one sometimes).

And then it really was time to leave.

Now – for the sad news, insane but true. For some reason to do with our daft planning system their stay at this beautiful setting, on the Grosvenor Estate – who, I understand, as landlords have been nothing but encouraging – is coming to an end very quickly… in a matter of weeks.

So if you are able, can I urge you to get yourself to 14 Adams Row within the next two or three weeks and enjoy the fantastic environment that has so fleetingly been created by the New Craftsmen here? I know you will not leave empty handed. They are closed on Mondays but otherwise you will find them there.

For those not able to dash to Mayfair, there is a lovely website: The New Craftsmen – which itself is beautifully, simply, and plainly designed – just like everything it displays.  Part of the lunch conversation was how cutting edge technology can team with hand made, small batch, local producers for the benefit of both. You see what I mean.


Well. That would almost be enough, but I came down on the train to Dorset and have had the happiest weekend – catching up, sorting out, and a wedding to go to in the pub last night.  I won’t bore you with any more text, but just as I was leaving to head down there the late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and there was a moment of great peace in the garden. Something told me it would be one of the last of those moments before the first of the autumn storms blew in. So I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge me (or perhaps I’m indulging you?) with more garden photos one more time. 


Not to completely change the subject, but there are new changes afoot inside too. I’m finally honing in on the pink that I’m going to paint my sitting room this autumn (Mr Patrick Baty of Papers & Paints is on the case… mixing something just in between the two sample colours that have been living on the wall for a few months now). 

And even more controversially. Check out what I’m doing in the Dining Room. Guys – I’m bored of tasteful greys. THEY ARE OVER.

(The colour is Plum, from Patrick Baty’s 1960’s range… read this blog and scroll down to the bottom).  Well – I like it. And a different sort of New Beginning!

Back outside for the last rays of the sun.

It’s an exciting week this week. On Wednesday evening – please come to the shop for our party launching my friend George Saumarez Smith’s beautiful new book – A Treatise on Modern Architecture in Five Books. Bonkers. Details on the shop home page. But even more exciting for Bridie and me… the arrival of our new patterned papers… and a new look for the shop… on which – more news very very soon.

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