A Toast! To our Irish makers for St Patrick's Day

This Saturday, 17th March, is St Patrick's Day, and he, of course, is the patron saint of Ireland. As this is the moment (according to my google research) to 'celebrate the heritage and culture of the Irish in general' what better time could there possibly be to raise a toast to our IRISH makers.

The history of craft in Ireland is a long one, often bound to the land and enforced by geography, generations of wood turners, weavers, potters and lacemakers picked up their skills from their parents and grandparents. There is a great pride in these cultural-ancestral skills which coupled with the western global desire to make work by hand has seen a wonderfully design-aware resurgence in Irish craft and design.

It was essential to me to have Irish makers in the Simple Shape stable.


 Woody the Superfolk dog (and quite possibly the boss?!)

Woody the Superfolk dog (and quite possibly the boss?!)

SUPERFOLK

Dog Days: 'Simple and beautiful homewares for lovers of the wild outdoors' - that's what this husband and wife team make. And they do so, brilliantly.

They live on the West Coast of Ireland in the midst of a dramatic land and seascape (check out their Stories for staggering images from their doorstep) and this is fully embraced in their work. 

We asked them 10 questions, which you can read here, we held an exhibition last September with them (there's more on that here) and you can view the Superfolk things we stock here

They're busy as bumblebees!


 Actually spinning the plates; Tony Farrell's lathe in action.

Actually spinning the plates; Tony Farrell's lathe in action.

TONY FARRELL

Seasoned Maker: I haven't done very many workshop visits (I really must do something about this!) but I did manage to visit Tony Farrell on a fleeting but jam-packed visit to Ireland. Tony was so generous with his time and gave me a full tour of his workshop, talking me through the stages from seasoning the wood through to a demonstration of one of our oak plates being turned. I loved the visit. To read it, click here.  

This visit was certainly one of my highlights since starting Simple Shape highlights.

Take a look at our Tony Farrell wooden plates and boards.


  Fox & Rabbit  are part of the Saturday Workshop menagerie.

Fox & Rabbit are part of the Saturday Workshop menagerie.

SATURDAY WORKSHOP

Family Values: Quite possibly one of the very nicest partnerships in business. Edward and his daughter Iseult started their business Saturday Workshop together, mainly because Edward was thinking of retiring and Iseult had other ideas for her Dad!

The O'clery's have complimentary skills, Iseult is an architect and she brings her design skill to her fathers engineering background and together they make a joyful collection of wooden toys and other small homewares, many of them with a nod to their Irish roots: the Dublin Bay Tug, the Irish River Fish and the Irish Elk.

And all are made from sustainable Irish Beech. 


 Getting your hands dirty...trade mark of a maker it seems.

Getting your hands dirty...trade mark of a maker it seems.

BTU STUDIO

Liquid Sand: Well...as he's not actually native Irish born Scott Benefield might be seen as a bit of an imposter but he's made Northern Ireland his home for many years and certainly his furnace, kiln and studio are there, so there's no doubt to me that a celebration of BTU Studio is fair enough on St Patrick's day.

Glass blowing is one of the most difficult crafts to master and Scott described 'trying to persuade this amorphous material to conform to your ideas of proportion and symmetry' as a daily task / struggle! The Maker Interview that we did with Scott is one of my favourites, read it here. Dry humour flows like molten glass. 

Scott there's still time to find the 'white collar' profession...but we'd rather you didn't


We seem to have covered some decent geography with Saturday Workshop based in Dublin, Tony Farrell right down in Cork and Superfolk nestled on the beautiful west coast in County Mayo. And, because St Patrick and his day are appreciated in Northern Ireland too, we also have BTU Studio in Belfast.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY IRELAND

Concrete Workshop - in pictures

Well...last week was a challenge. The Beast From The East + Storm Emma made for all the fun and no fun at all, in many cases (...our overly enthusiastic puppy broke his toe in a whirl of snow-filled excitement!). However, despite what looked like poor odds, we hosted our first workshop with Havelock Studio and it was great fun! Our studio was toasty, we had wonderful guests and the concrete set beautifully. To be repeated!

This is our evening in (pretty poor it has to be said*) pictures
[*the event running at all was touch and go because of the weather...remembering the good camera and tripod went out of the window!]

 The Scales, critical for getting the concrete recipe 'just so'. And sitting on top is the mold for the  Concrete Paperweight .

The Scales, critical for getting the concrete recipe 'just so'. And sitting on top is the mold for the Concrete Paperweight.

The set up was simple, relaxed and informal. People arrived, Jack talked. He is incredibly knowledgable about the material and was detailed and interesting. People asked questions, selected their mold, followed the precise recipe, stirred, poured, mixed and chatted whilst the concrete set. 

 Boxes lined up next to the molds and 'students' taking instruction.

Boxes lined up next to the molds and 'students' taking instruction.

 Jack Havelock surveying the weighing, pouring and mixing processes.

Jack Havelock surveying the weighing, pouring and mixing processes.

 Mixing in the perfect containers...cut up milk bottles, of course.

Mixing in the perfect containers...cut up milk bottles, of course.

 Molds being tapped to release the air bubbles

Molds being tapped to release the air bubbles

The exact recipe and the considerable hours of time testing, tweaking, adjusting that has gone into perfecting it is, frankly, pretty intense. The actual process of pouring, mixing and allowing the concrete to set is satisfyingly fast. Within 45 mins the first pieces were ready to be taken out of their molds. There was a collective intake of breath as the first was attempted and spontaneous clapping when it came out. A concrete birth someone described it as!

To see our collection of concrete homewares, visit our Accessories section

 Each person chose what size tea light holder they would like to make (small, medium or large), these are the drying molds, the examples of finished one and, oh, a finished glass of wine too, it seems.

Each person chose what size tea light holder they would like to make (small, medium or large), these are the drying molds, the examples of finished one and, oh, a finished glass of wine too, it seems.

 And the moment of truth, small tea light holder being un-molded.

And the moment of truth, small tea light holder being un-molded.

And, because last week's snow simply has to be documented...

 The puppy who LOVED snow...

The puppy who LOVED snow...

 ...but loved it a bit too much...and broke his toe by skidding into the garden wall :(

...but loved it a bit too much...and broke his toe by skidding into the garden wall :(

What We Saw: Collect 2018

Late February and we are back round to this landmark in the British 'craft' calendar: Collect. Actually, it's right to acknowledge that Collect, isn't only significant in the British craft calendar, this 'art fair for contemporary objects', presented by The Crafts Council, is extremely important for craft internationally. 

 Sea 2017 (blue and white porcelain on canvas); Lee Eun. The Korean Craft & Design Foundation.

Sea 2017 (blue and white porcelain on canvas); Lee Eun.
The Korean Craft & Design Foundation.

Standout galleries presented staggering objects by established names in wood, ceramics, glass and textiles. Of note, Sarah Meyerscough Gallery, Jaggedart London, Officine Saffi and one of my personal favourites this year, the Oxford Ceramic Gallery which showed a collection of work including pieces by Lucie Rie and works of combined media and talent by Julian Stair and Simone ten Hompel

 Rainforest (white porcelain with some black on charred wood flooring); Valéria Nascimento Jaggedart London

Rainforest (white porcelain with some black on charred wood flooring); Valéria Nascimento
Jaggedart London

 The Wash (wall) 2018; Abigail Booth  Burnt (floor) 2018; Max Bainbridge; Forest + Found Collect Open

The Wash (wall) 2018; Abigail Booth
Burnt (floor) 2018; Max Bainbridge;
Forest + Found
Collect Open

 Numen 2018; Oma Space Collect Open

Numen 2018; Oma Space
Collect Open

But, as I so often find, the really super interesting work comes when artists and makers are encouraged and enabled to break away from their usual practice and present something experimental and different. Up on the top floor of the Saatchi Gallery the Collect Open show held some really thoughtful, dynamic, interesting (Forest and Found's foray into large scale work - quilted wall hanging and four statement green oak and sweet chestnut pieces - were particularly beautiful) and, in the case of Mella Shaw's piece, tragic, heartbreaking work.

 Harvest 2017/8 (smoke-fired ceramics); Mella Shaw Collect Open This was the saddest, most thought provoking piece at Collect. Noting that the sea bed is a resting place for ceramics discarded over thousands of years of human history Shaw's ceramic replicas of platics and of fish mark the approaching tipping point for our oceans. Unless we act, it is thought that in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish.

Harvest 2017/8 (smoke-fired ceramics); Mella Shaw
Collect Open
This was the saddest, most thought provoking piece at Collect. Noting that the sea bed is a resting place for ceramics discarded over thousands of years of human history Shaw's ceramic replicas of platics and of fish mark the approaching tipping point for our oceans. Unless we act, it is thought that in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish.

 Collect 2018; Saatchi Gallery, London 

Collect 2018; Saatchi Gallery, London 

CONCRETE: BRUTAL or BEAUTIFUL? Talk, demo & workshop. 1st March.

We are delighted to be holding our first talk, demo and workshop in the Simple Shape Studio on Thursday 01 March.

Please join us and the supremely talented designer-maker, Jack Havelock Bailey, founder of HAVELOCK STUDIO, for a small, intimate and easy-going talk, demo and have-a-go workshop on the material that Jack is a master of: CONCRETE. [tickets just £8, all details below]

 Concrete Egg Cups

Concrete Egg Cups

 Origami Concrete Paperweight

Origami Concrete Paperweight

date / THURSDAY 01 MARCH
location / SIMPLE SHAPE STUDIO, ASHBY MEWS (behind 106 Manor Ave), LONDON, SE4 1TE
time / 7pm - 8:30pm
tickets / To book a place, click here CONCRETE TICKETS. Tickets cost £8

Jack will talk about his concrete designs and the vagaries, complexities and excitements of working with concrete, a material that is cold, industrial and practical but also buttery soft and in the right hands (Jack's!) extremely beautiful.

PLUS, you will have the chance to get your hands (only a little bit) dirty when you mix and pour (using one of Havelock Studio's molds) a concrete piece of your own to take-away.

 Origami Concrete Coaster

Origami Concrete Coaster

Jack established Havelock Studio after graduating as an architect in 2013. He has applied the rigour of architecture and his own unrelenting eye for considered design to the pieces he makes. Using a material that is widely considered to be 'brutal' Jack works to ensure that every element of every object is scrutinised, purposeful and aesthetically perfect.

Tickets are £8 and include drinks, posh crisps and the chance to hand-mix and pour a concrete object to take away. 

 Origami Concrete Trivet

Origami Concrete Trivet

The Simple Shape collection of Havelock Studio work will be available to buy.

SIMPLE SHAPE'S 14-DAY HOLIDAY GUIDE

DAY FOURTEEN: An Alternative Pudding for Christmas

This is the very end of our Holiday Guide...and it's an edible entry for the last one.
I'm sure that everyone has a folder or notebook of collected recipes, favourites that have been enjoyed and passed on, a book of 'edible heirlooms'. In mine there is this dogeared one for Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding. We first had this almost two decades ago (good god I'm so old) when we ditched traditional Christmas dinner for an alternative menu. It was loved by everyone. Now, instead of being a renegade pudding it's become quite a tradition in our house at this time of year. 

ingredients.jpg

Rich, aromatic, incredibly simple and super delicious pudding.  What you need and how to do it...

Ingredients:
300g Panettone
20g butter
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
250ml double cream
500ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g amaretti biscuits
1 orange (optional)

 Minimum ingredients, maximium taste

Minimum ingredients, maximium taste

 Well worn; Grandma Wendy's Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding Recipe

Well worn; Grandma Wendy's Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding Recipe

Method:
- Heat the oven to 160° 
- Slice and butter the Panettone
- Put the buttered Panettone into an ovenproof dish
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together, then add the milk and cream and the vanilla extract to form a custard
- Pour the custard over the Panettone
- Cook for 30 mins until the custard has set and
- Crush the amaretti biscuits and scatter over the top and add some orange zest if you like

 Y U M

Y U M