Sunday, 30 December 2018


I Am Constantly Amazed by the many tasks my cargobike, a Christiania Cargo, helps me with. 

On Monday I discovered a new one: taking my bike for a walk. 
       There I was spending my lovely Christmas gift cards in Robert Dyas, and picking up practical items such as a rectangular bucket (my mop is rectangular after all), stoneware pie dishes for new year and a fresh supply of black sacks. Such was the beauty of the morning I decided to walk home. 
       The bike carried the load while I walked beside it (cargobikes don't need you to balance them). One-way streets? Just keep to the right so that you face and acknowledge oncoming traffic. 
       As the London Green Cycles website says, the Christiania Cargo is a 'solid workhorse with very little to go wrong'. Look here for just some of the tasks this bike can accomplish. 

Many people in W1 occupy what are popularly known as shoeboxes - I am one - and time over weekends and holidays is well spent following New London Architecture's sage advice: Don't move, Improve.
       This is W1 Hardware in Great Portland Street. At No. 18, it's half a block away from Oxford Street itself.

The shop is a total joy to walk in to. Along with the paints, PVA and wallplugs, they offer customised advice as well as reassurance. You can also ask questions, compare prices, and swap tales of DiY derring do with other customers. I'm off soon to calibrate my cable detector. 
       So, key to such endeavours is the presence of such shops as the local DiY, shoehorned in among the many fine buildings, gleaming shop fronts, and magical side streets of London's West End.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

I am finding expected and unexpected benefits now that I've replaced my mattress with one that is bigger and springier (see Medium density foam on top of springy plastic bases turns out to be my back's perfect sleeping surface. 
      My back's entire length - including the bit between shoulder blades and neck that I'd almost forgotten existed - feels lighter, warmer, and less stiff. I sit more upright on my cargobike; I turn my head with more ease; I put on my socks in the morning with nimbleness. 
     Don't put up with an uncomfortable bed a moment longer.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Walk, cycle, sit and contemplate. The beauty of London's built environment, with far less traffic on the roads, is all there for you to enjoy. 

Thursday, 27 December 2018

So-o-o, all rested up now (see pic below) and loving my new bed (go to, I'm truly ready for more effort. Show me work . . .

Monday, 24 December 2018

Season's Greetings to all friends, colleagues and loved ones everywhere and best wishes for a new year worthy of you all

The abstract tree comes from New London Architecture - a shining light in the world of the built environment

Alone but not alone
I am having my first 'Deliveroo' Christmas, alone like those women who go to cinema or theatre bars during times the show is on so that they can enjoy a glass of wine or whatever and catch up with themselves in peace.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Thoughts on the European family

The Referendum cannot be undone.

It was informative (Latin referendum, meaning 'referring') and that was to be expected.

Let us heed it.

Let us proceed as follows:

1  Revocation of Article 50 (more, more to come).

2  Resume our place as a member state of the EU (it gets better). As M. Verhofstadt said this same day (@guyverhofstadt): 'Britain's place should be at the heart of Europe'.

Pay our way with appropriate enthusiasm, inspiration, ideas, governance, application, filial feeling and all monetary dues. 

(now it gets even more interesting) 

3  Acknowledge that many of our countrymen and -women do NOT feel this way about Europe.


4  A relatively simple way of starting this process would be to: Establish EU liaison pop-ups in every town and city. These would be staffed by student ambassadors and the like. EU member states could help the UK establish these - and adopt them likewise if appropriate. Member states, of which we, in our divided state (let's not hide it), would be one, could even establish the modern equivalent of the maisons de la culture so that EU actions could be seen and discussed in every High Street.

Thank you. 

NB: the above is my logical response to reading Sir Ivan Rogers' speech at Liverpool (Saturday 15 December 2018 on Twitter).

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A freehand drawing of a projected Lady Tower in the City of Westminster in juxtaposition to the male towers of the City of London

Artist's impression of The Lady Tower on the London skyline
with thanks to CNN.COM for the original image


Have at you, gentlemen. I love the way cities give their tallest, often most priapic, buildings descriptive names. We have our share in London. In The Hague, the parallel triangular gabled towers of the Ministry of Health building (a magnificent structure imo) gets called 'Tits of The Hague'. Well, that celebrates womanhood. So, here in London, how about sponsoring a building that celebrates the female genitalia (technical term) to balance things out a bit. 

So may I submit model v.1, top, of how it might look in situ, with a close up, bottom, of the viewing platform. The structure could be called The Lady Tower, a viewing space from within the vulva.  Thank you.

Monday, 12 November 2018

A picture! A new Mr Blobby? Alas, no. It's a picture of failure. In testing my plastic-making skills, you can see my little polymeric spheres have aggregated: they've gone from being separate to sticking together. But they have not yet reached a point where they will fuse to make a single mass that can be moulded. I'll melt them down again next week and try to get the temperature right this time. However, there's something else I forgot to do. Can you work out what it is? Learning note: much better to fail on this small scale than on a larger scale.

Not long ago I attended an open day on the subject of plastic. I know, I know, but not the disposable kind. Plastic is one of my favourite building materials and now that it comes in a thermal form that melts and sets at relatively low temperatures (think 62 degrees C), I couldn't wait to get my hands on some.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Like many Londoners, I live in what architects are wont to call a 'shoebox'. Since it's also central, that suits me fine. The shoebox, however, is part of a late nineteenth century terraced house that's built on a wooden frame. And, well, the floors sag and slope a bit. When I moved in, the slope in the upstairs living room was such that if one moved too quickly across the room there was a distinct possibility that enough velocity would be gained to deposit one at the bottom of the stairs.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Miki Art is in the studio today. Come and say hello, I've asked him to do some blogging.

Hi, how are you - good I hope. I just got back from my favourite arts cafe. It's where I do some thinking and sketching so that when I come into Salon Crawford I have a plan. Today I'm flashing my Jean Nouvel-inspired Swatch (the black and white 'Once Again'). We're on the look-out for a bigger studio (think zone 1) and it can be a 'meanwhile space' so send us a text if you know of one.  X

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

There's something about autumn that turns on the work gene, which is all creativity is really: work. There, does that puncture the grandeur of the term create for you? It's ordinary, we are all blessed with the ability to do it, to work at it until it becomes second nature.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

A small yard adjoins my studio (the studio itself is miniscule). The yard is marvellously uncluttered because of Fire Regulations. Aha, but at the end of the yard a small outhouse holds the clutter that would otherwise be in the yard. 
       Today I cleared it out.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Monday has begun. How can the mind be awake and the body still asleep? This could be the state Monsieur Descartes was in when trying to work out his theory. I can just see in my mind's eye Monsieur Spinoza thumbing his nose at him.

Monday, 6 August 2018

When days involve a lot of decluttering a cat is an excellent companion.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Part of good interior design is smart avoidance of undue expense. I will be more than happy to pay a registered plumber to fit an extra washbasin - but paying to have a chimney breast removed is a dream too far. My alternative plan is to use the fireplace space (which is blocked in, its floor area fitted with lino its walls painted white), as storage space. The plastic-wrapped pillows and duvet for the new bed are going in there. Then I will cover the opening with a large Daler board which I have previously painted to match the walls. Done. 

I managed to fulfil a little part of my dream yesterday. Art and life 'merged' and were one. They jolly well have to. 

pencilled in some of the horizontal triangles I'm painting above the bathroom washbasin and filled in one of the smaller triangles in just the right blue. All while loading up the towels etc. to go to the launderette. Today's task is preparation, painting on primer to some Daler boards. 

Monday, 30 July 2018

Re washing the kitchen floor yesterday

Well, I have to say, that floor was very surprised to get washed. But the nice thing about being surrounded by work is that I'm always thinking about my projects on some level and it's actually quite easy to fit in other things. Do contribute your own thoughts on how you manage to fit real life into art/design practice.

Living, as I do, surrounded by my work I think my aim really must be to make it such a part of routine that it becomes not much different to doing the washing up. 

. . . doesn't matter how you look at it

my little studio is topsy turvy and A Mess

it's something that is a normal part of the creative process, at least I think so. In any case, chaos is energy - don't fight it. Yesterday I washed the bathroom floor - I'm painting a mural in there on one section of the wall. This morning, after doing some work on the mural, moving some stuff I'm selling off to make more room and cutting some Daler board for another project, I washed the kitchen floor.

Clarity, minimalism's most inspiring aspect, has taken over my guest bed space. Good. But the mess and disorder have been transferred to my sitting room. Not so good. Time for a before and  after pic (check back later).

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Command, cajole, persuade . . .

plead, pretend . . . buy yourself ice-cream and/or a whole tray of Starbucks iced mocha. 

Whatever it takes, finish the work.

Today I'll be finishing off an artwork

If this sounds a trifle blasé, it's because I try to think of it as not much different to building something - no big deal. It should stand up, and it should have impact, two important requirements of art as well as architecture. 

It needs a little bit of fiddly stuff with red ink so I'm off to the shops.

As a previous post touched upon, context is often important when making art- or design-related decisions 

Now that I have my guest bed up and running, I have chosen an installation piece that fits the space perfectly. This will be my next task: finishing it and installing it securely.

Has everyone seen 'badly photoshopped Timmy'?

The bed is now stripped of its springy new duvet and shiny pillows

In fact it's entirely covered with a dustsheet and of course the reason is that I have two studio cats.

After an intense work day, I like to think I can take a few hours off: go to the launderette or something. What I call keeping the systems running in the background. 

I often start a project by running through the steps of its making in my head. Time well spent. 

As I started to make the bedhead I realised I had lost my reel of nylon suspension line needed to hang up the bedhead. A lot of my design clobber has had to move into the main room to make room for the bed. I was very tempted to 1. go to the park (but finish the washing up first). I know from experience that to choose 2. search high and low until you find it can lead to so much time lost that it qualifies as displacement activity. 

Anyway, I was lucky yesterday and spotted the nylon in the right pigeonhole. The shelf had moved but not its contents.

My background by the way, before i took up art and design in a big way, is publishing. The deadlines are so tight that whenever i couldn't find my box of staples I'd have to choose 3. run to the shops and buy a replacement. The complete answer to the how to handle a delay in the making process is actually 1., 2., or 3., depending on the context.

The bedhead is up

(Full story [and answer to the puzzle posted earlier] later.)

Remind me what we're doing today?

Only joking. My design project today is to fit the bedhead to the new bed I'm building.

Unexpected delays, interruptions, or too little sleep are completely normal, even givens, for any project, small or large. And, oh, distractions . . .. How do we deal with them all?

Well here's a multiple choice puzzle:

A designer (the undersigned) has mislaid a vital piece of stuff needed to make the bedhead.

What does he/she do?
  1. go to the park (but finish the washing up first)
  2. go to the shop and buy a replacement
  3. search high and low until he/she finds it
Which is  'correct' 1, 2 or 3?

Bedmaking, part 1
Cleared the area (see pic below), built the bed. Now to dress the bed. 

Progress on building a bed

We're halfway there. The bed frame and mattress are in. The bedhead is not in. As a designer I reserve the right to make that a surprise. Conventional bedheads are boring, have you noticed that? New pillows are on order. My spare pillows have all been sat upon at one time or another by my two cats. Lights, space for storing clothes and a dressing area are all in the planning stage. 

Here's a sight of the 'before'

If you notice some Felix cat boxes it's because they're made of the kind of firm cardboard you can upcycle as containers. By the way, you know the joke about minimalist living, don't you. All you need are two apartments, one for minimalist living and one for storing your stuff. 

Thursday, 12 July 2018

I've been reading some Dutch blogs (thanks Dutch News for the recent list). 

Almost my first memory of Holland was being given lovely fresh Dutch bread and butter with chocolate sprinkles on top.

Me and my friend M. were staying at the Amsterdam student hostel spending our days in the Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt and hagelslag - we girls wanted for nothing. 

So when I saw that Stuart, the author of Invading Holland, had made his own hagelslag using m&ms, that Dutch memory flooded back in full colour and I thought I'd give hagelslag a try.

Maybe blue and green would be too dazzling first thing in the morning I thought (especially since Eng had just lost to Cro). So I poured them all out onto a dinner plate, grabbed a polythene bag, and picked out the paler colours.

I toasted the bread, It's easier to fit more butter onto hot bread. :-D

My chosen instrument of destruction was a rolling pin. Over and over the bag it went. That sugar coating is so crunchy and sharp it actually made holes in the bag. 

Really yum though. And of course after breakfast for the rest of the morning I crunched through all the 'other colours' as well.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A parade of London buses driving (on the right - hurrah) down Great Portland Street yesterday. Some protest or other. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

Not a big red London bus but a big red KitchenAid. 
Think of the amount of artisanal butter you could 
make with a machine that size.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Would you call the street shown in the link below beautiful? I think I'd call it beautiful even without the flowering vine. I'd call it clean, harmonious, well proportioned. It's the kind of street I'd like to start my day in - and my own local neighbourhood, thanks to an enlightened local authority, is 'getting there'. This is the Netherlands. From the blog Amsterdamian.

I recently flew the EU flag by visiting The Hague, marking the second anniversary of Brexit (Londoners, of course, voted to Remain). Nothing turned out quite as I expected. Here talk about my trip with fellow journalist Jan Henselmans.

What brought you to The Hague?
I've loved The Hague since my first visit three years ago. But I come for the art mainly. And the architecture. The Hague is my idea of a balanced city: beautiful nature; beautiful buildings, and a certain majesty that comes from people's very own endeavours, the Dutch sense of purpose, that I like a lot.

What was different since your first visit?
A bit more traffic noise (for the first time in the Netherlands, I heard emergency vehicle sirens: they don't need to sound them normally); more traffic tailbacks at the lights; more speeding between the lights.

Any family connections with the Netherlands?
No. But my maternal grandfather and great grandfather were engineers, so there may be a cultural link.

What surprised you?
Something went wrong with the cargobike hire I'd booked before leaving London (that was the first surprise) so I did a massive amount of walking. I also got lost several times  a reminder of my Asperger's side  but I did come up with a startling new theory on the Dutch tronie* and I finally got to eat stamppot.

* a painted head or bust that represents a stock character or type rather than a real person  Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' is a famous example.

Can you describe your Asperger's side?
Asperger's is a high-functioning form of autism and it's for life. Like many women, I try my best to fit in with everyone else but there are certain things I can't do, like ride a bike  oh, and 'small talk'. I've learned to cope with things I'm uncomfortable with  crowds, echoey noise, bright lights  by avoiding them. On the way back to London, taking a train from The Hague to Amsterdam to connect with Eurostar in Brussels, though, I ended up in Amsterdam Zuid. 

What happened?
I had a meltdown, i.e. my senses overloaded.

Can you explain?
It's a wonderful station, full of designer shiny metallic surfaces and the latest in lighting (It's undergoing a massive refurb and the platforms are being lengthened). I tried 3 times to catch the correct train before appealing to Informatie. I was in tears. Thank you, Dutch Rail. Your man at Amsterdam Zuid was an angel from heaven. I was put on the right train and arrived safely at my destination. I was  am  so grateful.

How did you discover stamppot   it's usually a winter dish?
In the supermarket! It was a bit cold and rainy that day and I had walked my feet off so I reached for it instinctively on the shelf. 4 minutes in the microwave for a really authentic tasting mélange of mashed potato, grated carrot, meat jus, speck (cooked pieces of streaky bacon) and herb butter. 

What about your tronie theory?
Well, it came to me standing in front of a Rembrandt in the Mauritshuis. Appropriate enough you could say  I've always loved Rembrandt. 

Has there been any reaction?
Not yet but you can read about it on my arts blog The Crawford Arts Review.

Have you visited other Dutch cities?
Amsterdam a few times. I first went there as a student. Delft, Utrecht and Leiden (I still have social science colleagues there), Arnhem and Veluwe for the Kröller Müller Museum. Oh, and Dordrecht, but the new build section is sadly not in the fine spirit of most Dutch architecture I've seen. And I must say, now that Eurostar goes direct to Amsterdam, stopping at Rotterdam on the way, I'll be adding Rotterdam soon I hope.

What art did you see in The Hague?
I'm interested in most art so everything  everything I could.

And modern art?
Of course. The Gemeentemuseum; the galleries in Noordeinde.

Do you have any suggestions for how The Hague could be more welcoming to visitors?
Centraal Station: I wish a designer could come up with a way to link the disparate elements with all their different histories and purposes into a single transport hub. It could be done simply by creating a lattice of LED lights and erecting it above the whole complex. The various entrances could be marked by colour coding that could be seen from a distance. 

Things that could be improved?
I think there's already a study underway (reported in Dutch News) about the effect on the health of people who ride bikes and cargobikes of being in close proximity to scooters and motorbikes. It surprised me that motorbikes and scooters are actually allowed to share the bike lanes  they're noisy too.

Overall strongest impression?
I like how chatty and friendly people are on public transport I think nearly everyone uses it when they're not riding their bikes. When I wasn't walking I was taking a tram.

Any other discovery?
Grolsch special edition.

Would you go back?
I'm already planning to go back.

What's next on your art agenda?
I've just finished Rodin and the art of ancient Greece at the British Museum. And I'd love to take on David Hockney. He's done a digital mashup of Hobbema's Avenue of Trees at Middelharnis. It's his favourite painting. It also happens to be my favourite painting. It's in the National Gallery. Somehow I think he doesn't quite get it. 

Friday, 29 June 2018

As June comes to an end . . .
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has called progress on Brexit talks "apocalyptic". But I think he's just being nice. 

Friday, 13 April 2018

Detail from a 17th century Coat of Arms 

Positioned above a fireplace, it lay hidden under a layer of paint until the last century. Marvellous work: so fluent. I wonder if the herald painter used a template or stencil. I'll post more later.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

A weekend spent moulding plaster

Ha, does anyone want to volunteer to do my washing up?

Did you see my adapted 'apple-a-day' saying on Twitter?
It reads "One creative act a day keeps the doctor well away."
A pic to show progress on 'twigpot' - slow but steady.

A bit like archaeology

Days when you have to make your own fun . . .
They come along, don't they, often unexpectedly. Mine arrived as a result of my plan to make a twigpot - a free-form shape that I can drill holes in to hold spring blossom and leaves.

Now that I've turned off all news media (see below), my phone, and have given Deliveroo the run of my iPhone (not used as my 'phone' if you see what I mean), it's up to me to entertain myself. So, it's on with the plastic apron, out with the spatulas and the great unmoulding can begin. 

This is what it looks like at the moment.

I've turned off all news media - and not just for the holidays
It was easy. I just removed the news media buttons off my iPhone (press until the wobbly crosses come up then hit the crosses on the stuff you want to delete).

And now I have a new and surprising freedom away from the alarums and chatter.

After all, who are these overweening people who seem to have taken over our lives?

Do we owe them a living? Do we like the subjects they're writing about? Maybe we think we need the constant news updates and reports. Do we feel we are owed this as part of the democratic process? Think how it feels from the other side (if I can use that term in a non-partisan way) to be constantly harassed and criticised by the media and followers of the media for doing a job the harassers and critics couldn't do, and that in any case one was elected or recruited to do. Democracy is complicated and that perhaps is part of the problem. Nothing created by man (if I can use that term in a non-gendered way) is perfect. It needs revising; it needs to evolve, to become more functional, to work truer and better.

What do you think? [comments below]