SIMPLE SHAPE'S 14-DAY HOLIDAY GUIDE / day 02

This is the second day of our seasonal guide. Today, ceramic gifts.

DAY TWO: Conversation crisis? Ceramics to the rescue!

The transformation of clay, from waterlogged mud to considered, useful design, bearing the visible signs of the makers hand, make ceramics a really wonderful, individual gift.

Conversation piece, tea pot, pourer and strainer by Sue Pryke

Conversation piece, tea pot, pourer and strainer by Sue Pryke

The days of the 'dinner service' are long gone which is a huge relief, because now, no-one knows if you chipped the plates or broke the lid for the sugar bowl. It means that tables are free to look collected and interesting.

Naturally tactile and visibly one-off, pottery made in small batches - wheel turned or slip cast - seem to me to be in the 'perfect present' category.  Gathered pieces chosen specially make a unique, individual gift. Who doesn't want to unwrap something like that?  
(...and the bonus of giving & receiving pottery is of course, if the dinner-party conversation dries up, at least you can tell the stories about where your pottery was made and by whom!)

Open Pour, the perfect pourer

Open Pour, the perfect pourer

White Christmas, hand-thrown crucible by Luke Eastop

White Christmas, hand-thrown crucible by Luke Eastop

Pimp your pottery, just add food

Pimp your pottery, just add food

Sweet like...Jono Smart sugar bowl

Sweet like...Jono Smart sugar bowl

Taking the strain, ceramic tea strainer

Taking the strain, ceramic tea strainer

Gradient: A weekend of Pottery & People

Simple Shape's first exhibition Gradient: Experiments in Clay happened as part of South East Makers Club and the London Design Festival. It was a weekend of pottery and of people. A combination that turned out to be truly wonderful.

Simple Shape Studio: We have officially moved in. If the beautiful ceramics aren't proof enough, the sign on the door says so.

Simple Shape Studio: We have officially moved in. If the beautiful ceramics aren't proof enough, the sign on the door says so.

The exhibition came about, as things so often seems to, by accident. Over coffee with Jono on a chilly Sunday in early spring I commented that the test tiles, the gradients of his colour palette, that were nailed to the wall in a perfect grid were so beautiful together, they were like an art work. A seed lodged, and an idea began to unfurl (these things happen in spring!).

Luke Eastop: Creme Anglaise

Luke Eastop: Creme Anglaise

Jono Smart: Anatomy of Greys

Jono Smart: Anatomy of Greys

The resulting exhibition was an opportunity to display the incredible work of two of our talented makers, Luke Eastop joined Jono Smart and Gradient became an exploration of their different approaches to ceramics, to tone, colour, size and scale.

It also gave us an excuse (and a deadline!) to open the doors to our Studio for the very first time. And it provided a moment to meet hundreds, quite literally, of lovely, interesting and creative people, who successfully tracked us down, tucked away on Ashby Mews (sorry, we must get better signage for our dirt track...)

Small scale: The miniature barman opened 26 bottles of Prosecco (not bad for a beginner!)

Small scale: The miniature barman opened 26 bottles of Prosecco (not bad for a beginner!)

Crowd scene: view from the 'mews'

Crowd scene: view from the 'mews'

We held a 'Private View' on Friday night, as a sort of 'launch' and a celebration. It was a resounding success, largely down to a number of unwavering (and marginally underage) bar staff, and the generosity of local Greenwich business, Meantime Brewery, who so kindly supplied the beer simply to support a local business.

The weather was beautiful all weekend, the doors were wide open and people came: locals, artists, makers, families, Instagram followers, collectors, designers, friends (and quite a few dogs) made the journey to Brockley to find us. I've never spoken to so many interesting people in such a short space of time in my life.

Still Standing: Jono Smart & Emily Stephen

Still Standing: Jono Smart & Emily Stephen

Invisibility Cloak: Firsthand Collective disappear into the room and quietly record what they see. This, one of their 'live illustrations', is easily one of the coolest things about the whole weekend.

Invisibility Cloak: Firsthand Collective disappear into the room and quietly record what they see. This, one of their 'live illustrations', is easily one of the coolest things about the whole weekend.

Keeping Up Appearances: I temporarily forgot the basic rule, 'don't believe your own PR', and had a rapid reminder lesson and reality check... when the vinyl 'titles' were installed the conversation went like this: "...this isn't a mews, this is a dirt track". "Yes, but a dirt track with a gallery, right. Come on!" "If you insist love."  

Keeping Up Appearances: I temporarily forgot the basic rule, 'don't believe your own PR', and had a rapid reminder lesson and reality check... when the vinyl 'titles' were installed the conversation went like this: "...this isn't a mews, this is a dirt track". "Yes, but a dirt track with a gallery, right. Come on!" "If you insist love."
 

White trainers: Not obligatory.

White trainers: Not obligatory.

The weekend was such a fun and rewarding (and exhausting) experience. The seeds have certainly been sown for future projects, quite what yet, I'm not sure! But that's the fun. 


And finally, I cannot thank all those involved enough for the relentless hard work, time and effort that was put in to make this happen. Jono, Luke, Emily, Sophie, Jay...(and the miniatures E, S & F)...thank you all.

Getting Perspective: my favourite photo from the whole weekend. It's not perfect but it says so much, taken from the side window, in a 'before the madness' moment.

Getting Perspective: my favourite photo from the whole weekend. It's not perfect but it says so much, taken from the side window, in a 'before the madness' moment.

South East Makers Club

The South East Makers Club is a trail through the creative streets and studios of South East London, beginning in Deptford, heading up to Brockley, taking in New Cross and ending in Peckham. It is a brand new trail for London Design Festival 2016, and Simple Shape are part of it. This is the story of how it all began....

Luke Eastop, potter. Showing new work at Simple Shape's Gradient: Experiments in Clay exhibition

Luke Eastop, potter. Showing new work at Simple Shape's Gradient: Experiments in Clay exhibition

The LDF iconic logo

The LDF iconic logo

Sebastian Cox, furniture maker. Exhibiting alongside photographer Yeshen Venema at Deptford Market Yard

Sebastian Cox, furniture maker. Exhibiting alongside photographer Yeshen Venema at Deptford Market Yard

A bit of background:
I have lived in South East London for what is now alarmingly close to 20 years and have always loved it, the space, the people, the sense of community, and the creativity, but it was when I started Simple Shape, a little over a year ago, that I really began to appreciate the scale and more importantly the calibre of the local designer/maker community.

The intention for Simple Shape had always been to research, source and stock the very best of British and Irish handmade and crafted homewares, what I realised when I launched with a tiny collection from a handful of makers was that without intention a number of those makers were based less than a mile from home.  

The London Design Festival:
The London Design Festival's aim is to "promote London as the design capital of the world and as the gateway to the international creative community". I have been to so many wonderful LDF shows and exhibitions and watched the festival grow over the years and it has always seemed a shame that South East London didn’t get a look in on the Design map. Clearly I'm biased but the South East pocket of London is a wonderful incubator of design talent, with exceptional people living and working here but the real story is how much work is actually made here. Great studio spaces that remain just about the right side of affordable make this possible.

I decide that I would hold a Simple Shape exhibition Gradient: Experiments in Clay during the London Design Festival, not in the centre of town, but at home. In Brockley, South East London. The London Design Festival were supportive and when I talked to them about an idea for a path, a route, a trail, a showcase, something that demonstrated South East London’s design talent they suggested I talk to Cockpit Arts.

The Dream-Team = South East Makers Club:
In mid-May I met Jodi Moss, then Cockpit Arts PR and Marketing manager. Jodi is passionate about design and was immediately enthusiastic about the idea.  Days later we were having lunch with Forest Hill resident Lucy James, her design knowledge and communication skills are second to none. Lucy added Benji Roebuck’s design skill to the team. The most organised person I know, Claire Stevens, came onboard to help us out. From seemingly nowhere this astonishing group of people had volunteered their time driven by the same desire: to put South East London on the design map for LDF 2016. The South East Makers Club is the result. It is an ambitious trail through the creative streets and studios of the South East and includes, talks, exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops, films, a market, a pub quiz and a disco (even designers have to dance sometimes). Now, go to the South East Makers Club website and sign up for newsletter updates. Immediately!


Thank you:
The sheer level of commitment from everyone, not just the SEMC team, but the designers, the local exhibition spaces, the venues, the contributors, to make this work is testament to the areas pride. The South East of London deserves its place on the design map and the local people have put it there. Thank you. South East London. You rock!

Gradient: Experiments in Clay // An Exhibition.

XS crucible in white, Luke Eastop

XS crucible in white, Luke Eastop

Jug in slate black, Jono Smart

Jug in slate black, Jono Smart

Gradient: Experiments in Clay
Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th September 2016. 10am - 6pm
Simple Shape Studio Shed, Ashby Mews, London, SE4 1TE


I am absolutely delighted (and really very excited too) to announce our first Simple Shape exhibition.
Gradient: Experiments in Clay will showcase the work of two very talented potters, Jono Smart and Luke Eastop. Both ceramists will be making limited edition pieces which will explore their individual making processes in a joint show. Colour tiles, glaze recipes and final forms will fill the space.

The exhibition is part of the South East Makers Club* a brand new design trail for London Design Festival 2016 that will put South East London on the design map. 

The exhibition will also be the perfect 'christening' of Simple Shape's newly renovated work space (see previous Journal entry on the project). We have reclaimed our outbuilding from the edges of ruin and it is now (well, nearly) a light, white work space. 

[*more on the SEMC soon - for now, go to the website and sign up for newsletter updates.]


For more information please do email: hello@simple-shape.com