Less than 30 minutes away from London is the rather beautiful Down House, home and work place to Charles Darwin, father of evolution (although I'm sure I've come across people who think that goes to David Attenborough). With the excuse of going to see the Tobyboo range in the gift shop this morning had the perfect weather for it.
Photography isn't allowed in the house itself but as you can imagine it's a vision of Victorian curiosities, the staff there are truly passionate and knowledgeable - I had no idea about Chagas disease and might have missed the deadly bug in the case if it wasn't pointed out. The garden was just amazing in this weather (as you read this today was the first and last day of British summer, still there's always next year)
Cafe check - yes it's a giant sausage roll
and the gift shop...?
The collection is exclusive to Down
Mini glass engraved decanter
Engraved glass paperweight with mayfly
Thank you to the staff at Down House. Down House is an English Heritage property in Downe, Kent.
Yes, yes I've been a neglectful for a while - but school holiday for Toby is just coming to an end and so I'm just getting back into the swing of things... having said that I have no words so as Toby is here I've decided he can speak instead.
Have you had a nice holiday Toby? Yes I did it was very fun.
Do anything exciting? Yes I went to Disneyland Paris IT WAS AMAZING (do that in capitals) I'm eating my dinner you can write my story instead.
OK, this is Toby's Story (he wrote it for the BBC 500 Words Competition)
Climbing, climbing is all I could
I had to climb desperate, tired,
weary were all I could say.
Dark, dark gloomy dark covering the
mountain like a blanket.
Fear, fear all around.
Flowing through me in the air, fear,
Tired, tired my only feeling.
Never ending, never resting.
Murky, murky everything is murky.
Gloominess and darkness is all I
Dull, dull everything is dull.
Rocks stones even me all dull, just
I failed. I couldn’t return home.
I had to stay here, but I can’t stay
here it’s a mountain.
I would die of starvation.
I have to go back.
I can’t. I have to.
shook off the thought but some of it remained. Home is on the other side of the
mountain. I was tiredly walking back to my failure but if I turned back I’d
still walk to my downfall. I still would keep on walking even if it took me my
life I would still keep walking, walking. Even if I had to go round the world I
would still keep walking and walking. Even if I died I would still keep walking
and walking, then I would stop.
can’t fail, they’ll laugh at me and throw it back in my face the words I said.
The boasting I did if only I could take it all back but I can’t. The past is
the past only the future can be written. I still can write the future, well, I
can’t write it it’s up to fate to decide. I think I should rest. As the
crackling of the fire died down I prepared myself for the journey ahead.
woke in the morning, still tired but there was no time to loose. I walked
without stopping for three whole hours until I saw the break of dawn which
meant I had reached the top of the mountain where the dark and light side met.
I could have a picnic! I could make
a daisy chain! The light has come to me and filled me positivity. I’m free! I
never want to leave this place.
still have to walk the distance between here and the light side I’m not quite
there yet it’s so long I can’t make it. The rocks are closing in on me, what’s
happening? What’s happening? My mind is being pulled apart. The light side is
running away from me. I have to make it.
branch of positivity reached back to me
can I can make it and I leapt, and collapsed.
done it I’ve out run the dark side but it’s chasing me. I’m still on the run
but I’m in the lead but not for long.
have my own house on the light side of the mountain and I’m still running. The
dark side will catch me some day.
Toby Crawford Wednesday
24th February 2016
It felt like I was the character, but I wasn't - but I've felt what she has gone through and it was in my mind. I find it amazing I wrote it.
Do you think you'll write anything like it again?
Yes, but not this soon.
What do you like to read?
I like Harry Potter and I'm reading The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman - I love this trilogy nearly as much!
And now you can finish eating... Toby is 8 and his dinner has been pasta in a bacon, cheese sauce (and no he didn't get anywhere in the 500 Words Competition)
As much as Croydon gets punched down it gets up just never as far as it was, consistently the joke of London my home town will forever be a concrete land of little taste and poor hair styles.
Well I'm proud to say that my first solo exhibition is in Croydon and (please don't think me big headed) it's worth the 15 mins from central London to visit.
The private view of An Unnatural History was last week at Rise Gallery, the bar was run by The Oval Tavern and the framing was Image all Croydon businesses who I couldn't thank more. I've dribbled on about Kevin and the Rise Gallery team before so I won't bore you again but I have to say just how marvellous Denise and Del at Image Framing have been.
At the show there were so many comments about the finish on the pieces, and that's down to them, Image don't just frame and do as they're asked they suggest alternatives and crikey what alternatives. We went in thinking plain frames were the best option but Denise had a glint in her eye and showed us more, Gothic style ornate finishes and heavy thick distressed bold outlines - Denise was so, so right.
Framing is 50% it can make or break a picture and more so when cloth is involved because the stretching or pinning is integral. My point is, don't just go for the cheapest framers, go for the ones that really sound like they know what they're talking about the likelihood is they'd be able to compliment your work better than you could.
Esther's team from my local The Oval were in charge of the bar, no one has a bad word to say about her or the tavern - she is one of the vital organs of Croydon.
My point is it felt like a real marriage of Croydonness coming together to present to everyone outside our concrete walls and that was a great feeling, this isn't a local show for local people this is one heck of an exhibition to show the rest of London and beyond. Go visit to see for yourself. An Unnatural History is on show till March 10th
And to tease you here be a view pics of the evening...
Image, don't have a website their work is their reputation here be their detailsWhitgift Centre, East Croydon, Croydon CR0 1XB Phone:020 8680 9472
I was very lucky to be invited to HULT international business school last week, as a case study in sales Tobyboo was looked at through the eyes of the next generation of business stars.
After hearing my strengths, weaknesses, plans and hopes teams of 4 or 5 had less than an hour to come up with an Apprentice style pitch. I had no idea what to expect but my expectations were blown away, and each were so so much better than anything I've seen on The Apprentice.
These young students are major bright young thing, each team had something to use, something I hadn't thought of or something I'd been putting off.
Between the students I felt like they covered the globe from nationalities and languages spoken, their determination and confidence was inspirational.
I was asked early last year if I would like a solo exhibition, I said yes but I did think it was a joke. Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison is not only the owner of Rise Gallery but has managed to change peoples perceptions of my home town, Croydon. Bringing in international street artists, commercial darlings Damien Hirst, Banksy alongside new artists Kevin has bought art and interest to CR0.
So when St. Kevin asked me, of course I said yes. Here I am a couple of weeks away from the opening and shockingly I'm actually pleased with some of the body of work. The name of the exhibition is An Unnatural History, on the surface it's pretty obvious I've looked at 'sewing together' skeletons to create mythical creatures but that's not where it stems from. When I became ill in 2000, I was in a wheelchair and first had the labelling disabled as much as I was interested in what was underneath the skin none more so then. Strip everything away and for most of us it's the same. I then found some fascinating and tragic diseases that were harder to believe than any made up creature. The beauty that you can find when you look at the bear bones. I was lucky enough to go to the Natural History Museum in Paris where I got to see pretty much every bone example I could want, over here the Grant Museum of Zoology was a fantastic source of inspiration.
It's a huge step for me putting out my artwork for all to see, having a design on a teapot is one thing but to have literally the skeleton of my work on show with no flesh to support it - so be kind to me if you have a look.
So it's that time of the year stress kicks in and everyone rushes around trying to please everyone else... I really wanted friends round, Toby just wants the 3 of us, Dave wants to be on his own... you get the picture. Meanwhile all my married friends have the "oh hell we're round at the outlaws this year".
The only way of (some) people having a good time at Christmas is to be selfish and yet we're flooded by "it's a time to think of others blah blah blah" well I do that every other day of the year so I figure that for 24 hours I can forget anyone outside of this house and think about us.
The reaction I've got from most people has been one of envy when I say its just the 3 of us, "we're off to my parents/her parents... I wish we didn't have to" well you don't.
Before we got married I had quite a few years of spending Christmas on my own, I got really pitiful reactions when some found out - actually I loved it I just lounged about in PJ's watching whatever rubbish I wanted and eating egg and chips. It's such a great feeling to have a guilt free day, spending every second panicking about work or something Christmas day is the one day that I can truly do nothing.
Having Toby made me realise the importance of family, our family the 3 of us creating our traditions you can't do that if you go to your parents or the inlaws you end up in doing what they do and obeying their rules, being on edge because its not the way you'd do things or reverting to a teenager because you're going backwards.... as much as I said it was selfish it's not because I'm thinking about our child and how that impacts on him.
If you find yourself being stressed this Christmas then make it your new years resolution to break the habit and do what you want to do and think about 'your family' wether it be your cat, partner, kids whatever, it's those that you need to consider and look after.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a self indulgent time!
Another look at a rather lovely Tobyboo stockist, and only a hop over the river from St Paul's is The Globe.
The shop is unlike any other visitor place I've seen bold designs, edgy tongue in cheek pieces and a very distinct style it does feel more like a contemporary independent shop.
In contrast to the bold and the beautiful are my pieces that are more on the delicate side (although I think I can still say beautiful!), from the portrait mug to the engraved decanter which is a nod to the poison bottle in Romeo and Juliet.
The 'Plays' tea set has some new pieces to add soon to.
Possibly my favourite London landmark is St Paul's Cathedral. The cathedral is a hive of inspiration obviously the dome is the most recognisable but inside just numerous nuggets of history and artist juice.
The latest range that I've created for them was inspired by one of the Grinling Gibbons wood carvings on the choir stalls. The collection was a real joy to design and means so much - Toby now goes to St Paul's Cathedral School and although not a chorister himself, obviously mixes with the boys that are and sit right by the inspiration! The range itself are fine leather accessories - all fully made in England and using beautiful soft hide with natural dyes on the print, presented in a black gift box these pieces are truly luxury items that you'll treasure for a lifetime, particularly for any past or present chorister.
Luxury luggage tag, card wallet & journal are all available now from the St Paul's shop.
The expanded 'Feed the Birds' china now has a teapot - the design comes from the snow dome in Mary Poppins when Julie Andrews sings the song.
As already written about, the limited edition 2015 bauble is still available - for now - each with a hand numbered tag and letterpress gift box.
This year St Paul's Cathedrals limited edition bauble has a very different look to last years. For a delicate embroidery it comes across as a bold design. The design came about when I was walking away from the cathedral over the Millennium Bridge, as I looked back and could see the dome
dominating the skyline.
The original embroidery- on display in the shop.
The colour scheme was Toby's suggestion and I never thought it would work but I love it!
The bauble comes in a gorgeous letter press gold box, ready to store for years to come. I've had messages of what a lovely gift it makes for people outside of the country too. Make sure you get yours before the sell out - and sorry no, I don't sell them direct they are exclusive to St Paul's Cathedral.
Very proud of my illustrations on The Great British Card Co/Almanac cards. They've created beautiful range with a raised line surface that shall be in the shops soon. For the full collection have a look at the Pinterest board here.
The Museum of London have some unique exclusive textile art pieces, including the pair of corgis and the London pigeon now has three Big Ben towers made in the Museum of London's very own tweed. To those that can't make it to the shop itself you can call and order over the phone. Each piece is embroidery signed and only 1 of 1.
This weekend I felt honoured to be selling at Bart's Bazaar in Grade II listed Bart's Pathology Museum. The museum is only open during events and I'd never been before. You can't take photos of the specimens as they are from humans and let's face it we need to have some respect - so can't show you what you missed but on every level it was just brain badgering. You'd be hard pushed to find someone that would have to suffer with some of the aliments because of medical science and just what can be done - so the museum really does feel like another world.
The niechness of the market meant that for some sellers it was their first time - this was one heck of a way of loosing your flogging virginity I can tell you.
Ok first things first - CHOCOLATE, seriously!! this is chocolate!!!!!
not chocolate - but this bat cushion I made is (wait for it) glow in the dark! (yes I know, its not amazingly sculpt chocolate but...)
There be me table
OK ONE MORE TIME - IT'S CHOCOLATE!!!
LOOK! LOOK UP!
My neighbour Emily Manning - Terminator Bambi! He'll be back (I hope)
Toby showing even his book choice was in keeping (he's Skullduggery mad)
This is another Tina who I plucked to pose with Lydia - both tattooed ladies! (thank you Tina)
Well done to Carla and all those that organised this event, markets are a pain at the best of times but one in this setting ... I can't bear thinking! Big well done to those that came and queued, some up to 2 hours because only a certain number could be allowed in it was a case of 2 out 2 in but to all those that waited in that heat... yes well done ... again - that chocolate in the heat!!? I shall shut up.
I know some of you wanted to buy breakables from me and were off out in the evening and so couldn't - or to those that couldn't make it feel free to get in touch for mail order.