“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Tucked away discreetly on Bermondsey is an absolute gem of a find if. Step with me into Pure and Applied: a workshop, antiques shop, print sellers, and gallery combined.
We first discovered this place during an annual street festival, which Bermondsey throws every year and in which all the shops and sellers throw open their doors and plenty of others join in to hawk wares ranging from homemade to high design artisan. Bermondesy Street is home to several restaurants and stores and is delightfully free of brand franchises–although this may change as its popularity has risen and development works near London Bridge have made it more accessible. But nevertheless, it remains downright charming and fun to visit and we look forward to the summer shindig every year.
Because Pure and Applied is so unassuming, we nearly missed the door opening to its wonders, and what a loss that would have been! Step inside and you are instantly bundled in an eccentric cocoon of old paper and wood, with the glorious attendant scents. Piles of historic prints are stacked everywhere with a mix of antique frames crowded on every wall. Print drawers and glass cases house some treasures, but most are free to rifle through as you, the happy wanderer, deem fit. A few walls serve as an artist gallery where you can purchase current art, and all the way in the back sits a huge, iron hand printer that’s worth a peek if you ever stop by.
While the shop look may be bohemian, they service all kinds of clients from humble household jobs all the way up to world class museums and galleries. I fell in love with it and return to it whenever I’m on Bermondsey Street, but it’s taken me years to finally get around to my own framing projects.
Naturally there was nowhere else I wanted to go when I was ready to bite the bullet. One of my long term goals was to begin framing all our pieces, not least of all because some of them have literally be carted around the world at this point and it was starting to feel like I was risking danger by not having them properly mounted. After major leaks damaged every single ceiling in the flat and resulted in gallons of water pouring through it, I decided it was time to begin putting things under glass.
I’ve been collecting antique prints for years. My goal is to have a gallery wall in my someday house that’s a perfect jumble of all the random things I’ve found over the years. This includes several old maps (I want to eventually own an antique map of everywhere I or Jeff have lived or traveled), a sheet of early modern parchment with marginalia art, hand-colored prints cut out of 18th century books, and magazine covers from the 1920s. On our recent trip to Portugal we chanced upon the most incredible bookstore I’ve ever seen in my life, and walked away with a Portuguese automobile advert from the 1930s, and after spotting an original print in a bar in Athens, I tracked down a reproduction of an aperitif advert that I fell in love with. Some are big, some are small, and none of them match one another–I love each one dearly.
Jeff and I always wanted to own proper art someday, sourced from artists local to our cities or neighborhood, and got our first piece from a London artist last year for our anniversary after seeing her work at an East London market. Charlotte Gerrard’s inspiration is animals and she did a wonderfully charming series based on cows…which you would not think would stop either Jeff or I in our tracks but managed to halt both of us at once, which was a pretty good sign we should buy from her. It was the first “art” we purchased and the first piece I had framed, followed recently by a reproduction printed map of Dublin in the early 20th century made by temperance workers trying to name and shame every pub in the city. Needless to say, there are a LOT and Dublin is no dryer for their efforts.
Both of these projects were custom frame jobs, where the Pure and Applied team made recommendations to help make each piece look unique and fun. I’d love to purchase one of their antique frames someday, but I’m pretty sure these would be massively out of my pricepoint, and of course you need the serendipitous match of a similar sized piece of art. In any case, the prices were on par with what you would pay a quality framer anywhere else I looked, with the benefit of proprietary frame designs. I’m very much a snob in that I like things that not anyone could just find or pick up (see also my love of vintage clothing, irritatingly niche perfume, or custom anything), so this place suits me down to the ground.
Each piece framed is very much a project, however, and I budget for them one at a time without rushing. Our cow print was my Christmas present and the Dublin map was my birthday treat, six months later. So far they are sitting under our kitchen bar awaiting their fate. I don’t want to hang any of them up and put holes in our walls when there is a likelihood of us moving in a couple of months, so at the moment they are carefully wrapped up. But whether we sign another lease or move to a new apartment this fall, I know they are not rolled up in our spare room somewhere and will be properly displayed very soon.
It’s going to take me a long, long time to frame our collection, but it’s been so fun to start the process. To have found such a cool place to do it through is the icing on an already decadent cake. Seriously, check them out if you’re ever in Bermondsey and want to revel in some shameless artistically, expert eccentricity. You won’t regret it.