Thursday, 8 December 2011

We spent most of our time based in Osaka and travelling from our Hotel there to the surrounding cities of Kyoto, Kobe and Nagoya. I used to live in Birmingham which is considered the second city in the UK to London, but Osaka the second city seemed twice the size of London !! We travelled on the bullet train from Tokyo which certainly lived up to it's name !!! The picture in the cafe is, reading left to right. Eriho,

Monday, 5 December 2011

This is the view from my room in Osaka. I love this place. Everything seems to go on at different levels !! And it's great to see people of all ages riding their bikes on the pavement - a lot safer than in London !!!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Big snowman in big city !!!

I have been in Japan for 5 days now and this is the first chance I've had to post. I was in Tokyo for 4 days and yesterday we moved to Osaka (the photo above shows just a small part of it !!!).
I have had quite bad jet lag and at one point I thought my body had forgotten how to sleep !
What can you say about Japan ? It makes New York look quiet and London a village ! It is intensely busy but everything is so thoroughly organised that it runs like clockwork. The people are really polite and gentle which is the best thing about it.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Old charcoal !

Last week I went to visit the parents of an old friend. Directly above their bed they had hanging up a large charcoal drawing I must have made 25 years ago. It's funny because I don't have any great memory of doing this and have no visual record of it except this camera phone picture.

I'd forgotten how much I used to love drawing with charcoal - and drawing cats too !!!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Vase of wonder !

This crazy vase by Carla Peters is covered in lots and lots of little

Ceramic trinkets, made in Thailand for Dutch company Wonderable, there is something about the sheer quantity of fun going on here on this vase that reminds me of being enchanted by intensely detailed pictures when I was a child - and of spending hour after hour

poring over illustrations in my ladybird books discovering new things in the same picture I had never noticed before, I recently felt this sensation when spending a long time enjoying a huge Grayson Perry etching and thanks to our new vase this is pleasure I am rediscovering once more again!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Today is the day !

Today is my birthday and my wife Lorna gave me a beautiful patchwork quilt she had been making all this year. There is lots of very nice corduroy in there (my favourite fabric !) that will keep us warm all winter long.

... And if you are reading this

Thank you my darling

If you're ever in Oslo !

Recently me and Lorna took a short trip to Norway to see her favourite band Anthony and the Johnson's play. We were only there for two nights but we tried to have a good stroll around Oslo in the short time we had to try and get a feel of the place. My friend Jeanette Lee said to make sure we visit the City Hall ! From the outside this huge dark brown modernist building isn't particularily beautiful by any means though it is certainly imposing looking, however on the inside it is a different story. It is full of light and color, a total contrast to it's rather drab exterior. (Not unlike the new British Library building in London.

The central part of the building is a huge hall, this is where the Nobel prizes are presented, and all around it are many ante rooms which are decorated with the most wonderful murals depicting aspects of norwegian life, stretching from floor to ceiling they are painted on a quite epic scale.

But even though they are massive they still remain feeling very human and all about the people and all the things they get up to in every aspects of their lives.

There is no pomp here at all and no references to kings and governent and power, if you saw these paintings in a building from the Soviet Bloc or China you might sceptically consider them as propaganda as if representations of people living together in harmony could only be a lie.

But here you believe that these pictures were painted with the best of intentions, and you feel that this City hall was planned to make the people of Oslo feel that it and the whole city was theirs.

The gig was great and the people of Oslo were very friendly. The hotel put on a buffet supper in the evening and there was a girl who worked there who was so friendly and welcoming to everyone that came in that it really did fill up your heart, the giant murals were incredible, as was the wailing American singer at the Spektrum arena - but she was by far the greatest thing in Oslo.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A Lemon tree is for life !

I received a beautiful gift of a handsome lemon tree recently ! What a treat! The leaves smell lovely and lemony when you rub them and it already has one big green lemon on it.

We've made a special home for it on the big desk upstairs at work, it sits on a little turntable and we give it a quarter turn every week so all of it's leaves get a fair share of the sun's warmth. We were inspired by a job we are working on at the moment designing the Christmas windows for a bank in Central London, behind the 14 metre high windows is a full sized tree that slowly rotates !

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Grayson Perry at the BM

Went to see Grayson Perry at the British Museum on Thursday afternoon before turning up for my own book launch that evening in Portland Place. The show is a mixture of his own beautiful and thought provoking work and a variety of exhibits he has chosen from the British Museum collection. The brilliant thing about this show is that for the first time it made me see that all of the things in the BM were made by modern people, people just like us, and also it made me see or helped me realise that their needs were not primitive but really not much different than ours - or that our ideals are just as primitive if not much more so.

So much for progress. It is a great show and along with 'the coral reef' currently on at the Tate Britain really worth visiting if you are in or planning to visit London
I was going to intersperse this post with photos of my favourite things in the show but picture taking was forbidden, although guards with really loud walkie talkies (are they still called that?)

disturbing your concentration is obviously not a problem. I do intend on returning and I might try and get a sneaky snap or two!
In the absence of images from the show for this post I an including a photo of a sample for a new and very long silk scarf that arrived at the studio yesterday.
The book launch was good too.

Friday, 30 September 2011


This morning in our little bedroom in Rye a single beam of light shone through a gap in the curtains lighting up all the tiny pieces of dust.

When I was very young I used to be entranced by this kind of magic that sometimes used to happen in our front room, especially on days when the curtains would be drawn on a bright afternoon so we could watch an old film on tv and my parents would have what they called 'a little nap'.

Watching these little dots float around on the air I realised that without the light shining on them they didnt disappear but would still be there all of the rest of the time, only just not seen. But I would still be moving around amongst them and I would still be breathing them into my body but I just wouldn't be seeing them again... until the next time when their beauty shone once more.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Taking Raphael lying down!

Yesterday I went to the V and A (what again !!! Ok it's near to where I live) to see the post modernism exhibition which just totally depressed me .... But the big empty room that holds the giant cartoons by Raphael was filled with one big giant soft furnishing and that totally cheered me up again !

People of all ages and types were lying around taking it easy. I've been saying this for years though, trudging around museums, though spiritually uplifting, is bloody knackering ! We need more beds in galleries ! We need more beds ....Everywhere ! It's never a bad time for a little kip.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A day off in Swindon is good for you.

A couple of weeks ago I took a day off from the studio and drove across to Swindon to see an exhibition that my friend Ray was curating at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.
When I got there Ray was installing into a glass cabinet (see below) a LOT of limescale on behalf of a local artist that had made it her job to collect. (...Don't ask !!)

The ancient study of Alchemy was obsessed with the quest to turn base metals into precious ones, ridiculous as this sounds to us now I think that a similar kind of strange magic happens today in the world of modern art, in which valueless scrap can be turned miraculously into fantastic treasure merely by its proximity to an art gallery's wall or floor.

Looking at this collection of limescale in all its variation of shade and the subtle differences in color and shade I did become transfixed by its beauty. It did very much become beautiful and precious but mainly because Ray's enthusiasm for art is so cheerfully contagious, real alchemy is at work in Old Town Swindon in 2011 as provided by curator/alchemist Ray ward.

The rest of the day went by in a continuous sequence of wandering around and chat.
The highlights of which were....

Going to Christchurch and seeing a nice stained glass detail of a GWR Train.
Having lunch in a Cafe and Ray overreacting in quite a theatrical way when a lady almost put some milk in his Tea.
Meeting a guy in a Ramones T-shirt complaining there were no pop up books in the pop up exhibition (fair enough) but then accusing ray of being in the pay of Damian Hirst.
Talking about Swindons Fascist (tho not rascist) manager !
Having Ice Cream in a cafe named after RAY and discussing it's future chances of survival in Swindon.

Walking past Don Rogers sports shop. (Don was a great hero of mine in the early seventies when he played for Swindon Town FC).

Walking through Queen's Park and remembering the long gone hot house.

All in all a great day.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Watching the watchers....

On Monday I went to a screening of 'Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy' as a guest of Paul Smith.

I remember my parents watching the Alec Guinness version on tv in the late seventies, not very long after the period in which it was set, 1973.

This version is then very much a period piece, London still looking and holding onto its postwar grubbiness which lasted until the early eighties, the predominant colors in this film are grey, brown and misery - like its characters. But it is worth watching. Spying isn't remotely glamourous but tedious and boring and nasty and all the cheap thrills associated with knowing other people's secrets are here.

There is one great scene where an ex-agent, now a school teacher, says to a fat, bespectacled, lonely and bullied boy 'You notice things, lonely people like us are good at watching', and loneliness is everywhere - washed down as usual with big glasses of alcohol, mistrust of friends, mistrust of enemies, mistrust of entire countries and so it goes on. The despairing lesson here is 'Don't trust anyone'.

You yearn for a politician from either side to have the nerve to say 'some of your ideas are good and some of ours are bad, can't we take the best from each other and scrap the bad ones', but instead it's the usual we're right and you're wrong. Today it is ten years exactly after 9/11 and it might as well be the day after.

Friday, 2 September 2011

A day off...

Today I had a day away from the studio, feeling a bit on the cusp of getting a cold, and spent the morning at the V & A. It doesn't take much wandering away from the beaten tracks of the ground floor to find yourself completely alone (except for the odd drowsing guard) in huge rooms and long beautiful corridors.

I don't know what it is, but being alone in this type of place somehow helps me to think more clearly about my work. I just think maybe it's as simple as it being nice being alone. Of course I have a look at a few things here and there and feel inspired, seeing excellence always fires me up creatively and when I leave I always have pages and pages of thoughts added to my notebook. I think the trick is to just

wander around aimlessly until you see something that captures your fancy and then have a really good long look at it, at least 10 minutes - it's all about the quality not the quantity!

One of the really nice things that they do at the V & A is to put sculptures on free standing plinths and not against walls as if they were like paintings, standing alone in the centre of the room you can walk all the way around them and see and work out how they were constructed, you really get the feeling from it's rear that this amazing carved wooden sculpture was for many many years before it was cut down, a small part of a giant living tree.

Seen from behind this pieta is just a bunch of crude rough shapes thrown together,

But on closer inspection you can see the thumb sized impressions in the clay where the artist roughly formed the shape he

needed not bothering to smooth over what he thought would never be seen by me hundreds of years later.
I met my daughter Barbara for lunch in the garden. Of course the best thing about any kind of gallery or museum visiting
is watching the other people, even the most amazing Canova sculpture is no match for the real living, breathing thing.

And being alive and feeling the sun on your face in the open air.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The season for . . . .

Now that September is here it all starts coming back to me, this is what you do in autumn. You cycle home from work in the wind and the rain looking forward to the stew that you made yesterday that tastes better every day. You get into your pyjamas and drink tea and watch telly and go to bed early to read your book, something you've been looking forward to doing all day. You go for drinks in warm, cosy pubs that make your glasses steam up as soon as you walk in the door. You start going to the cinema again on week day evenings and you go and see bands play like last night when I went to see Pulp at the Brixton Academy to hear Jarvis sing 'Mis-shapes' .... "Brothers, sisters can't you see the futures owned by you and me. There won't be fighting in the street. They think that they've got us beat but revenge is going to be so sweet. We won't use guns, we won't use bombs, we'll use the one thing we've got more of and that's our minds."

And you know that everything's going to be alright....... Alright!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Not even September yet blues

I've been feeling out of sorts all day today but couldn't quite work out why. I put a post on my work blog about Nick Ashford dying last week and that made me feel quite sad, my eldest daughter Maria went back to Nottingham this morning and Barbara her younger sister moves away from home in a couple of weeks time . Me and Lorna started our family 22 years ago and now that phase of our life is over. Changes in life are generally good things but this just makes me feel sad, sad, sad. And today felt like the first day of autumn, summer seemed to have disappeared overnight, riding my bike home tonight the river felt grey and miserable and at only 7 it was beginning to get dark, maybe I felt down because I felt that summer was over and it had been such a nice one but really I felt as if the summer of my life was over and would never come back again, only autumn and winter to come and then the end.

Monday, 29 August 2011

My first post.

This blog is going to be about my life. I already have a blog all about work and I'd quite like to keep that as it is but sometimes I really want to write and post more about how I feel and what I see and what I like and what interests me rather than write about the things I draw and make.

Today is bank holiday Monday but it feels like a Sunday before going back to school again tomorrow. I took Friday off from the studio so it's been a nice long lazy weekend and here are my girls watching 'Only connect' on telly. Left to right - Lorna (hiding behind the knitting needles !), Maria (just got back from hols in Lake Como and going back to Nottingham very early tomorrow) and Barbara.

And that's that.