Category: London

Home is Where the Art Is

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 
― Pablo Picasso

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.

Taco Joint

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” 
― Orson Welles

Hey, you know what we haven’t had in a minute? A good old fashioned food joint post! Come with me to one of London’s most popular markets and we’ll rectify this…

It is rare to find good tacos in London, at least if one is a snobbish American who demands authentic Mexican food who turns up her nose at the pathetic offerings found in most British pubs? Do not smother stale chips in sour cream and canned “salsa” and call them nachos, we are going to fight.

Thankfully, Jeff and I discovered a remedy. Welcome to El Pastor, overlooking one of the more iconic entrances to Borough Market.

Oh look, several of my favorite things!

I am pleased to report that the guacamole is delicious and the tortillas authentic. Jeff nearly wept when the carnitas passed muster!

El Pastor is walk in only, which means that you need to be a bit mindful of your timing since Borough Market is inevitably crowded. But the food is worth the wait, if a bit pricey. If you are feeling particularly flush, there is a robust drinks menu and an entire menu dedicated only to Mezcal. This is precisely the kind of place you want to visit for a summer date night when you don’t want to break the bank, but still want to have an above-the-ordinary-takeaway kind of meal. Eat outside if you can and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the market.

Two words, of immense value to any American in London: salsa verde.

Borough Market is a great spot, even if the vast majority tourists show up to graze on free samples and then leave. There is an excellent brewpub called The Rake around the corner, a whole lane dedicated to street food, and every kind of food under the sun available to you, from boutique bakers to leading dairies. And of course, Southwark Cathedral hovers over the whole thing, boasting the area’s history which stretches back through Shakespeare and Chaucer.

All in all, if you’ve never been to the area, or simply haven’t been back in a while, come on by for a visit. Start with the tacos, but then just wander around a bit. I guarantee you won’t get bored.

The Duchess of Sussex

Image from the BBC

An absolute stunner of a modern dress by Givenchy with protocol-required sleeves…but collarbones on display?

The Song of Solomon in the reading?

MLK, African American spirituals, and social issues in the sermon?

An unabashedly progressive and somewhat controversial Reverend?

A gospel choir?

A bride walking herself up the aisle and giving herself away?

All of the Commonwealth nations referenced in her veil?

The signature messy updo?

The groom choosing to wear a ring?

THAT cello player?

Feelings on display? Publicly?!

The (utterly elegant, lovely, and show-stealing) MoB wearing dreadlocks and a nosering whilst seated across from the Queen in coordinated colors?

Stand By Me and This Little Light of Mine?

The new Duchess of Sussex could have gone quietly into her new life, gone traditional, acquiesced to the frank ugliness of the tabloids, played it safe, and had a perfectly nice and boring wedding. She didn’t.

Color me too-emotionally-involved, but the whole ceremony felt at once deeply personal and also a signal for the kinds of public figures this couple intends to be. Weddings are typically the “bride’s day,” at least when one is not marrying into a firm, and that’s what this felt like in all the important ways.

She might be marrying into an institution and making concessions to do so, but she is clearly carving out a way to do it on her and her husband’s terms. She respected the tradition she is stepping into it while unabashedly–without being brash but also without shrinking–brought her own tradition, family, heritage, and personality along with her. This woman is a smart cookie.

I STAN.

 

Weekend Links

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
— Edith Head

London is still freezing, kittens, and I’m putting the finishing touches on this post from bed. I report to you live, swaddled in two layers of loungwear and four layers of blankets.

It was another wild week of news: the White House is still chaotic, the Brexit process is as opaque as ever, and apparently trade wars are good now? I’ve forced myself to not pile on the gloom for you in the links this week, however, so here is a lovingly curated batch of reading to take you through your weekend, no matter how cold it is outside or how weird your newsfeed is. I’ll be bringing you our favorite fight of the year, the Oscars Gown Rundown as soon as I can get it up!

Happy Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate with the most badass board game I can’t believe I had never heard of!

We LOVE a good missing-art-piece-turns-up-in-an-unlikely-place story around here!

This is a couple of weeks old now, but I just found it and it’s worth a read: what’s been happening over at Facebook for the last couple of years, both in terms of business and technology, and why it all matters to us as a society.

This profile in GQ on the popularity arc of Brenden Fraser answers a question I didn’t realize I’d been asking myself for years.

Well bloody deserved!

Long live the king!

Beauty Instagram has teased a launch from an eyeshadow brand that I love that I can already tell is going to test my willpower not to buy it. I’ve seen a decided uptick in green shadows lately and it’s none too soon as far as I’m concerned.

This is absolute trash. Do better, South.

I have been waiting for this since 9th grade.

Monica Lewinsky has something to say, and it’s well worth the read.

Want to know how to expertly cook salmon? The NYT is here to help!

Hicks is out.

This is heartening.

Girl Squad bat signal, my best mate wrote a thing!

This is dramatic and disheartening news about the scope and scale of foreign money that may be influencing powerful forces in our society: we need far, far more transparent money records in politics.

Long before Google, librarians.

Because librarians are bosses.

Weekend Links: We Aren’t Even Halfway Through January Edition

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” 
― James Baldwin

Kittens, what a week. This could be written about any week for the past calendar year and a half but once again, it was a doozy and I’m not even going to attempt a recap. Who would have thought we’d get Oprah trending and yet more vulgarities from our vulgarian in chief? As I put the finishing touches on this post I glimpsed something from the Washington Post about an adult film star and Trump hush money? Whatever, I’m not clicking.

God, this man is humiliating. NPR had to send out a briefing memo to its news team today instructing them on the proper usage of the word “shithole” throughout the day. What a world.

MUST READ: If you wanted to avoid our rage, perhaps you shouldn’t have left us with so little to lose.

Many women wore black gowns for the Golden Globes as a statement of solidarity, protest, and attention direction this year. And to anyone who naysays fashion as frivolous, I say it has always been used as social and political statement, especially by women. As Tom and Lorenzo point out, far more articulately than I could, fashion and style choices are some of the most potent weapons some of these women can use in an industry that traffics in their images. I loved that several women also brought activists as guests. More of this in 2018, please.

Oprah Winfrey’s speech knocked it out of the bloody park at the Golden Globe Awards.

WGSN’s trend forecast for beauty this year is nicely optimistic to me.

I am poised and ready for the future discoveries of these documents in someone’s attic or in some abandoned vault. You all know I LIVE for those stories.

For your reading consideration this year.

Bad feminist confession, I adore the film The Women and love but have always questioned the technicolor fashion montage that appears halfway through it. Well, color me educated (see what I did there?).

David Frum cautions that the real threat to our democracy is not in, “…corrosion, not crisis. In a crisis, of course we’ll all be heroes—or so we assure ourselves. But in the muddy complexity of the slow misappropriation of the state for self-interested purposes, occasions for heroism do not present themselves.”

So help me god, 2018, if you take Trebek from us

In Mormon news, the president of the LDS church passed away last week, and this write up from Harvard Divinity School is an excellent explanation as to why his ministry was important to the faith, what happens next in the organization, and what happened during his stewardship of the church.

Truly, which of us couldn’t use some more executive time?

This story on literal muckraking is great.

Senator Feinstein released transcripts of the interview of the man whose research firm was behind the infamous Steele Dossier, it’s a long read but political junkies should read it. Here’s ongoing NPR analysis for the pressed-for-time.

This take on the whole Fire and Fury situation and what the book reveals (he argues, whatever errors or faults in contains) by Ezra Klein of Vox *feels* fundamentally correct to me. It’s also weirdly sad, or it would be were not the stakes so damn high.

Wow, Steve. 2018 came at you fast, huh?

Hey! Some good news about the planet!

I like this list of things to declutter from your life in 2018.

A while back, as the sexual assault conversation was ramping up, a list made headlines. Created by an anonymous founder it was called the “Shitty Media Men” list and documented anonymous woman-to-woman heads up about potential bosses or work situations they might want to avoid. It broke into wider consciousness when it was discovered and shared on reddit. The thinkpieces, attacks, and defenses flowed. This past week on Twitter reports surfaced that the magazine Harper’s intended to publish a piece that revealed or “doxxed” the identity of the original creator. Feminist Twitter flew into a frenzy with writers pulling their pieces from the magazine and calls to protect the identity of this woman since backlashes against women have been so historically vicious and awful (see: Gamergate). But then…the creator of the list unveiled herself instead in The Cut. I have no idea what the backlash is going to be but I choose to read something into this decision and attribute it to the moment where women are collectively deciding that past terror cannot dictate future action.

And finally the president managed yet another revealing statement when he apparently referred to immigrant hopefuls from the global south, and Haiti and African nations in particular, as undesirable candidates for citizenship. I’m of course cleaning up his own language which was news-breakingly vulgar. 

All I can say is that I’m thrilled Mr. Trump cancelled his visit to London, as I was fully intending to protest and now I don’t need to request time off for that. I’m also endlessly bemused at how he lacks even the most basic grasp of history and facts (in this case regarding the plans and timeline of the new US embassy). I didn’t expect much from him, but does no one on his staff brief him on anything? At least one ambassador has resigned and several more have been summoned to their various host governments to explain the inexplicable.

And finally, Roxanne Gay has a word of warning.

London Glossier Pop Up and Power Branding

“Touch your customer, and you’re halfway there.” 
– Estee Lauder

Excuse the dive into marketing, ducklings, but since that’s what I do for my actual job, I couldn’t do a post about this fun summer event without talking about some of the technical aspects of the company behind it.

You’ve heard me mention Glossier a few times around these parts and and probably also stumbled across it out in the real world too. It’s a beauty brand that launched in 2010 and proceeded to casually take the editorial and online beauty world by storm. From their initial launch, they’ve rolled out product after product and are apparently expanding their line to include more “lifestyle” aspects to beauty in the future; their next product is going to be a candle, for example.

Glossier is launching in the UK later this year and I cannot wait to finally (hopefully) be able to have regular access to the items of their line that I genuinely adore. A few weeks ago I actually got to go to a pop up shop event they threw in Marylebone which was an opportunity for UK beauty nerds to meet some of the team, and test products that they may have not been able to try before. For a company that doesn’t even ship to the UK yet, it was amazing to see how many people (my humble self included) showed up just to celebrate the brand, for lack of a better term.

Which is extraordinary when you think about it. There was nothing to buy, we just wanted to say hi to team members that (due to Glossier’s social media presence) it feels like their customers know personally, or enjoy a beautifully curated space.

Because Glossier, excuse my fangirling, is genius at what they do.

 

I mention the brand and the products separately because while inexorably intertwined, they are different things. Where Glossier has set the bar in marketing has been in the solid curation and dissemination of its brand: its visuals, the people it has chosen to make its promoters, and its products all go hand in hand. It’s no mean feat to make something that must at some level be very well and intelligently controlled look and feel effortless.

From a marketing perspective, I routine point to them as one of the most interesting examples of brand and marketing work I’ve seen in years and I honestly would give my right arm to work with them at some point. It’s probably the most out of reach freelance goal a girl could have, but true nonetheless. Entrepreneur even featured founder Emily Weiss recently, with some of the numbers around the brand’s rise to success. They are damn impressive.

 

It doesn’t hurt that most of the products are pretty great and priced so as not to break the bank. I think they’ve had a few missteps, but they seem to be in the spirit of experimentation so I’m often eager to try products even if feel like a bit of a needle scratch. For instance, I’m really keen to try their new Wowder, but I also feel like it’s a bit of a strange choice for a brand who built their look and core product offerings around the “dewy” skin look. However, I expect that they created this powder…because their customers asked for it. So, in the end, probably smart move.

The whole of Glossier brand really is based on this conversational element–between the customers and the business, between individual customers themselves. Which makes sense for a company that grew out of a blog: Into the Gloss. ITG/Glossier routinely crowd sources feedback on what products their customers want them to develop, what elements of those products would be important to them, and how customers would use them. They have one of the best and most thriving comment sections on the internet (delightfully BS and troll free), and a friendly but authoritative editorial voice.

Guests to the pop up went away with a goody bag of full sized products to tide us over until shipping commences later in the year–a nice change from sample size bits and bobs that many brands hand out for promotions. Another smart move, in my opinion. For actual beauty bloggers and editors, there was an event with Weiss herself and the Beauty Director of Glamour UK on another day (the video interview is quite fun, if you’re interested in all things skincare).

This is a brand I’m not just going to continue to buy, but I’m also going to continue to watch. I believe strongly in the power of branding and am fascinated by organizations, creators, and producers who do it well. Glossier is up there.

Weekend Links

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
[Remarks on the 20th Anniversary of the Voice of America; Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, February 26, 1962]”
― John F. Kennedy

So. The news. By Wednesday of this week, this whole mess had gone down. Things haven’t gotten much clearer since. Then there was an attack on my beloved adopted hometown of London the same day, seemingly the actions of a lone wolf assailant.

As I put this list together, the American political system is arguing with itself (on a fundamental level) as to whether healthcare (or rather its watered down version of “access to healthcare”) is a right or not. There’s an actual and interesting ideological basis to this debate, but we long ago spun into vitriol and obstruction and I’m not sure that we’re any closer to finding our way out of either. Apparently the leadership is going to force a vote on it today, we will see what happens.

Thus far 2017 seems to be doing its darndest to up our collective rates of cardiac stress and fatigue. Here are your links this weekend, and they are designed to be a politics-lite batch for to give us all a bit of a break.

 photo nightwatch4_zps43fb3ad9.jpg

The importance of understanding shifting language and context in our culturally ongoing discussions about sexuality and identity.

Relatedly! An interview at Man Repeller about the changing language and communication expectations of our current age.

Female writers on books that influenced them.

The great and good Margaret H. Willison (oft of Pop Culture Happy Hour fame) defends libraries!

Escaping the guardianship laws placed on Saudi women.

Speaking of Pop Culture Happy Hour, this post from NPR’s Monkey See about the podcast Missing Richard Simmons is an interesting exercise in pondering fame.

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her. And then the murders began.”

This article on how ISIS is changing and evolving is worth a read.

The latest trailer for The Handmaid’s Tale is chilling and gripping. I can’t wait for it and am simultaneously a bit chilled.

Why Jane Austen is Wrong for the Alt-Right. I may never have click on an article link this fast in my life.

Album of the week: Paradise by ANOHNI