Monday, 10 December 2012

Small becomes slightly bigger in the end

Now the main project has come to an end, we thought it best to make a comprehensive website, expanding on the field frames shown on this blog. The Small is Beautiful? project has grown into A Celebration of Repair. Schumacher's adage had gradually become a little inappropriate somehow, and it seems apt–now that the research project has finished–for the work to have a more conclusive and positive title.

So on the site you can find much more material on the places we visited, the people involved, and the exhibitions and other output that we've produced from this body of work. Hopefully it will be a resource that people will enjoy visiting and could potentially lead to new and interesting avenues for us to explore. Do let us know what you think of the new site and stay in touch. Let's keep on mending!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A sad story about scrap pianos

Even those who take a business-like approach to piano disposal, don't always feel happy about it.

"I'm not going to tell them I'm going to chop it up and put it in a hopper," says Blake Cooper at Cooper Piano in Atlanta, Georgia, who regularly throws out pianos which are beyond repair.

"It's an emotional thing," says Cooper, whose family has been in the business for four generations.

"The piano is like a form of expression, and all of a sudden, you're dealing in a strange situation.

"All those pianos had somebody happy at some time. All those pianos did that. They really don't owe us anything.

"People were happy, even if only for a moment. Did the piano smile?" he asks. "I don't know - it might have."

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Seems it's all happening in the world of fixing.. Found out about the seemingly wonderful Fixperts via reading about Daniel Charny, who was speaking at the 100% Design conference in September.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Makers by Chris Anderson

Interesting.. more about this new book here.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Where's the nearest repair café?

Repair cafés seems to be popping up all over the place, and the movement now has its own website. As far as we know, our nearest café is about to kick off in St Austell. It will begin with the repair of things fabric, with a 'Stitch and Mix' event on 11 July, but the organisers have plans for expansion into items electrical and otherwise. 

Friday, 29 June 2012

In the middle of nowhere / In the middle of everywhere / In the middle of something

Currently, the SiB travelling show finds itself in the middle of the Lake District at the inaugural Mend*rs Symposium. A wonderful affair; every far view yields green valleys and hills, and every view closer to hand is someone busying themselves with mending or fixing or tinkering with things - laptops included inevitably.

It will be very interesting to hear all the other speakers (and they've come far and wide to be here - Italians, Swiss, Irish, Americans, Spanish) and it will be good to share our little project with them, and point them to the new Small is Beautiful website. It's not quite finished, but hopefully gives a pretty good overview of the project.

Field frame #18: Stick of Lostwithiel

Site: Stick 
Location: Lostwithiel, Cornwall
Date: 1 March 2012
SiB team: SB and JR
Image: Everything has its place

Stick of Lostwithiel was the first business that we visited as part of the Small is Beautiful? Project. So it seems fitting to return there in a final fieldframe. This trajectory was in large measure shaped by the floods that arrived suddenly in Lostwithiel in November 2011, shortly after our first visit, ruining many businesses. Stick, a specialist shop repairing all kinds of leather goods and selling shoes, belts, hats and walking sticks, was particularly badly hit by the floodwater, depriving Graham and Rosemary Mitson of their shop and home for over a year. 

The space now feels welcoming and settled; certainly not like somewhere that was dramatically deluged so recently. This workbench, where Graham Mitson examines and fixes the numerous objects that customers bring to his shop, now sits squarely in the main shop space. Its design and arrangement of neatly organised implements and materials reflects the craftsman’s affection for the hand-made and utilitarian. The brightly-coloured metal and enamel Dunlop Boots advertisement, like the museum cabinet with antique shoes on the back wall of the shop, reminds the visitor that this is not simply a place to buy new things, but an opportunity to learn from accumulated knowledge of crafting and repair. 

The material memories present in the shop almost two years ago seem not only present but also amplified. Like a pair of favourite shoes, Stick has been lovingly repaired; its place in the local universe restored. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Survival is a team sport

My sister just sent me a link to an article in the New York Times about Amsterdam's 'repair cafes', and yesterday a friend sent through an essay by Ernest Callenbach that included these comments on 'practical skills':

"With the movement into cities of the U.S. population, and much of the rest of the world’s people, we have had a massive de-skilling in how to do practical tasks. When I was a boy in the country, all of us knew how to build a tree house, or construct a small hut, or raise chickens, or grow beans, or screw pipes together to deliver water. It was a sexist world, of course, so when some of my chums in eighth grade said we wanted to learn girls’ “home ec” skills like making bread or boiling eggs, the teachers were shocked, but we got to do it. There was widespread competence in fixing things -- impossible with most modern contrivances, of course, but still reasonable for the basic tools of survival: pots and pans, bicycles, quilts, tents, storage boxes.

We all need to learn, or relearn, how we would keep the rudiments of life going if there were no paid specialists around, or means to pay them. Every child should learn elementary carpentry, from layout and sawing to driving nails. Everybody should know how to chop wood safely, and build a fire. Everybody should know what to do if dangers appear from fire, flood, electric wires down, and the like. Taking care of each other is one practical step at a time, most of them requiring help from at least one other person; survival is a team sport."

Friday, 20 April 2012


The workshop went well, the exhibition looked good, and best of all lots of interesting and interested people came together to discuss makers, menders and their materials. (I've put a personal take on the event on my own blog, here.)

We're currently working hard on getting a website up and running which will showcase the weekend gathering, the Exeter exhibition and many of the photographs from the duration of the project. Shouldn't be long now...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Field frame #17: Helen Warren Porcelain Repair

Site: Helen Warren Porcelain Repair
Location: Budleigh Salterton, Devon
Date: 27 February 2012
SiB team: CD and SB
Image: Battered Beauty

The photograph captures her reaching upward, looking inward, only air where her right hand should be. A faint smile plays on her lips. She wears her wounds lightly, a cap and shawl of masking tape somehow only accentuating her causal elegance and the flawless plane of her bared midriff. What happened? A knock from a high shelf, a carelessly packed shipping carton? She has come to Helen Warren’s workshop to be repaired, to be made whole again. But there are decisions—aesthetic, ethical, and practical—to be made about how the repair will be done, and what our lady will look like when she goes home. Helen’s own words best express the distinction between ‘conservation’ and ‘restoration’, display and disguise:

“Conservation techniques aim to preserve and stabilise items for later use without seeking to disguise evidence of the original damage. A typical 'museum' type of repair would include cleaning and re-assembling broken shards to reconstruct the original shape. Some re-touching may also be necessary but the break lines would still be visible.

Restoration aims to disguise damaged areas and bring an object back to its original state by re-building or modelling missing areas, repairing and repainting. This must be carried out sympathetically with materials compatible with the object. Ethical considerations and use of reversible products are a priority in all cases of restoration.”


London's Oxford Street McDonald's, 8.30am on a Monday morning, in the basement dining area with sleepy workers and their e-devices. What do we see? Sleek backlit portraits, set into recessed wall panels. Someone's been indulging a tool fetish, it seems (we know something about this), but this time the tools aren't honest pliers and antique sewing machines. French fry servers and grease traps have never looked so good. Amazing what the camera can do. (Apparently the object behind the plexiglass is a 'salad wheel'.)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Makers, Menders and Materials: Part 3

All are invited to meet the Small is Beautiful? researchers and shop proprietors at a public view on Saturday, 14 April, 1.30-3.30 pm, in the Street Gallery.

The gallery is located in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus (number 16 on the campus map, available here). From 11-25 April the gallery will be open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


We've been invited to talk about the project at the Inaugural MEND*RS workshop at the end of June. The opportunity to spend a few days musing on mending is fantastic, but to top it off the venue is the Lake District barn where artist Kurt Schwitters did his last bout of inspired scavenger alchemy. Here's some context from the workshop organisers:

Context: The Potential of Mending

It has been suggested that we inhabit a ‘throwaway society’, in which material objects are consigned to the dump with increasing rapidity and apparently little thought as to alternative or further use. While the environmental implications of a culture of disposability are now well documented – growing resource scarcity and energy consumption as well as pressures on waste management – there are also important socio-cultural implications, such as the growing alienation of individuals from the material worlds they inhabit, and the disappearance of lay knowledges as well as whole livelihoods as manual craft skills die out.

Mending offers a means to address these challenges. Mending allows personal material possessions to be recovered, offering them a unique second life. Mended objects bear visible traces of their histories, embody stories of past and present owners, and are imbued with deep emotional value. Mending is an activity which fosters personal knowledge, values, skills and self efficacy – and thus can be a source of profound satisfaction. Finally, mending provides individuals with the means to foster deeper and longer lasting relationships with the artefacts of their everyday lives.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Field frame #16: Jessica Rance Woodwind Instrument Repairs

Site: Jessica Rance Woodwind Instrument Repairs
Location: Thornmoor Cross, Devon
Date: 21 February 2012
SiB team: CD and SB
Image: Grenadilla

A ring of rare black wood, harvested from the African Grenadilla tree. A bit of old wine bottle cork. A cutting from a sheet of industrial nickel-silver. An eyeless needle. An ivory billiard ball, and the green baize cloth from the table it may have once travelled.

In Jessica Rance’s workshop these things are reborn. Tenons for a broken clarinet. Trill key bumpers. New keys, and the springs to hold their tension. Ivory mounts for a bassoon or an oboe. Felt pads to protect the wood from the pressure of the keys. The transformations are accomplished with the help of an extended family of tools and machines—Leonard the lathe, Mildred the milling machine, Einstein the jig tool, the screwdriver with the blackwood handle that Jess made (forging the steel herself) in college, a battered and beloved mallet. Repair is collaborative, a joint project of matter and machine, musician and mender.

The instruments have names as well. Basil the bassoon, Clarence the clarinet, Arthur the upright piano. They share the workshop with Leonard and Mildred, and also share some their functional identity. ‘At the end of the day these beautiful things are machines, and if they are well-made machines they will last’.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Meanwhile, in Manhattan

This past Saturday a group of geographers and others gathered in the (we can only assume) airless environs of the 'Nassau A' conference room at the New York Hilton to discuss the 'Geographies of Craft and Crafting'. The session in the Annual Association of American Geographers conference ran from 8am to 6.30pm, and included papers on scrapbooking, urban homesteading, reskilling, slow farming, soft technology, performance art and yarn bombing. We're sorry that SiB? couldn't make the trip over to join in, and look forward to hearing a report on the proceedings. Clearly the (academic) age of craft has arrived (again?).

Session abstract: From provisioning (sewing, knitting garments, woodworking and ironmongery etc.) to communal forms of socialisation (quilting bees, knitting circles) to local markets (craft fairs, farmers' markets), crafts and crafting have been variously regarded: as peripheral (residual, non-capitalist) forms of production; as the locus of anti-capitalist politics; as an ideal model for cottage-scale entrepreneurialism; and, as the essence of vernacular material culture. When kept from public view, crafts have also long operated as a means of personal fulfilment, self-expression, domestic decoration and sometimes even to celebrate and commemorate notable events in the life of family or friends. As such, the practices and politics of craft encompass a wide variety of forms of social reproduction and have been at the centre of a range of social movements for centuries. A critical awareness of these politics and practices has also informed the cultural appreciation of craft in the creative arts, and its more traditional variant of 'folk art'. The emergence of 'third wave' crafting in the 1990s, and the meteoric rise of technologies and applications associated with it - from Etsy to DIY videos on YouTube - has seen the craft movement re-emerge as a social, economic and cultural movement of significance and scope. To date, however, there has been only limited work by geographers or other social scientists that has aimed to grapple with the complexities and contradictions of crafting. This session asks: What are the geographies - cultural, political, feminist, localist, aesthetic, economic, racial, urban, rural - of craft and crafting?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Field frame #15: Mount's Bay Electrical

Site: Mount’s Bay Electrical
Location: Penzance, Cornwall
Date: 10 February 2012
SiB team: CD and SB
Image: Needs and Solutions

‘Understanding your Needs; Innovating the Solutions’. The needs presented at Mounts’ Bay Electrical on one rainy Penzance morning are various. A vacuum cleaner isn’t sucking properly. A small motor needs looking at. An electric shaver is making a strange noise. A woman brings in a friend’s kettle that ‘keeps blowing the trip off’. Jeff unfastens the base to look at the kettle element and breaks the news that repair, in this case, is not going to be worthwhile.

The measure of worth while: a calculation made swiftly, dozens of times a day, a different answer every time. Relevant variables include the quality of the appliance, the expense of parts (if they are even available), the time required to carry out the repair and fuzzier metrics of customer habit and attachment. One Hoover in for servicing—slack-bagged and beige—has been returning periodically to Jeff for close to 25 years. Another unremarkable vacuum cleaner specimen is collected by its owner for the cost of a £20 repair: ‘Wonderful’, she says.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

More than just digital quilting

Thanks to Mike for passing on this article about the recent 'Maker Faire' in NYC.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Field frame #14: Cane Corner

Site: Cane Corner
Location: East Budleigh, Devon
Date: 30 January 2012
SiB team: SB and CD
Image: Nature/culture

The bundles of unworked rushes fill a stall-like space in the back room of Brigitte Graham's workshop, a former chicken coop repurposed to house her chair repair business. The bundles are rough, varied in hue, the stalks carrying a faint trace of their silty bed on the banks of the River Isle. In this state, the rushes seem earthy and unremarkable, unsure of how they could be useful. A makeshift toy spear? Padding for a swan's nest?

Then comes the transformation. Brigitte selects a rush from a bundle, testing it for the requisite pliability and strength. She draws the rush through her hands and twists it swiftly, then brings it towards the chair she is working on. The new rush is fastened to a loose rush from the worked seat, and twisted further as she works it into the pattern. She occasionally runs her hand down the as-yet untwisted trailing length to squeeze air pockets out of the spongy pith--they give way with a sharp pop. When the rush is bound tightly against others, what had been raw matter a moment ago is suddenly tamed, tucked into a neat formation. But the faint green of the new against the old signals the addition, the once-growing rush seeming somehow startled to find itself set into the seams of a human world.

Thursday, 16 February 2012



We've recently been alerted to the existence of a growing 'hackspace' movement in the UK. Here's the mission statement for the Bristol group: "Bristol Hackspace is a social enterprise which aims to open up technology to anybody who takes an interest in it. We want to ‘open’ technology both in the sense of taking things apart to learn how they work, and how to mend or adapt them; and in the sense of sharing the knowledge we gain from doing so."

Field frame #13: The Bath Typewriter Service

Site: Bath Typewriter Service
Location: Cynthia Road, Bath
Date: 5 December 2011
SiB team: JR and SB
Image: Work station

Bath Typewriter Service sits in a narrow building tacked on the end of a terrace of sandstone houses. Bill Collett has inhabited this workspace for more than three decades, servicing and mending typewriters as well as fax, adding and dictation machines of all shapes and sizes. His main work station consists of three long desks, made by his father from three salvaged school blackboards. He used to work here with two colleagues, but their desks are no longer occupied. Bill works alone at the desk furthest from the door in a space resembling a homemade aircraft cockpit, where every implement, machine or tool is arranged within easy reach.

Machines once full of words and messages are now silent. The mechanical writing and recording machines of the past have been replaced with digital technologies, which are designed neither for servicing or repair. Much of Mr Collett’s workshop is now taken up with old but perfectly operating machines which, rather than maintaining, he is breaking up into their constituent elements for scrap value; repair in reverse. Shelves that once held working machines now struggle under the weight of assorted aluminium, steel and plastic. A lucky few, the most beautiful or rare, find a home with appreciative collectors. Many others sit on shelves, their fate undecided. It would be wrong not to honour them by at least taking their photograph.

There's a reason why..

A lovely film about the making of a Louis Vuitton shoe.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Another kindred spirit:

"Futuremenders is fun and deadly serious art activism. It sidesteps the traditional art world, cutting to the real business of art in an age of crisis – to futureproof our lives. It prepares us for barely imaginable but plausible futures where forgotten skills are vital for survival. Futuremenders is the lifelong project of UK artist Jonnet Middleton who took a pledge in 2008 to acquire no more clothes, ever. The monumental scale of the Futuremenders mission is to subvert our addiction to short-term shopping by spreading the joy of making and mending together."

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Object Ethnography Project

If you happen to be in NYC, an interesting object-opportunity:

"The Object Ethnography Project investigates how objects accumulate stories as they move from one life to another. We are looking for donations of objects—any kind of object—and the stories that come with them. Members of the public will then adopt these objects during a week-long event in March, 2012. Participants will explain how they will use their adopted object in its new life before they take it home. Each story will be recorded, and the final online exhibit will include a photograph of the object, biography, and its adoption story."

Monday, 19 December 2011

Parting shots: the death of a factory in pictures

Wonderful series here from photographer Chris Coekin. Staging the shots in a Russian constructivist style is certainly an interesting take on a well trodden path (which we tread too, of course).

Photograph above: © Chris Coekin

Friday, 16 December 2011

Field frame #12: Michael Fook Small Engine and Bicycle Repair

Site: Michael Fook Small Engine and Bicycle Repair
Location: South Molton,Devon
Date: 30 November 2011
SiB Team: CD and SB
Image: Spares

Farley Water, Hawkridge Ridge, Halscombe, Whiterocks, Veraby Brake, Venfield Common. An Exmoor geography dangles from each antler, marked on a neat white tag. The stags drop their antlers in March and April, and Michael Fook tries to be there to retrieve them. He can tell the stags apart, and recognise the distinctive patterning of each individual’s antler structure from year to year. If only one antler is dropped he will wait, and search for the missing mate. Sometime he finds it miles away, and once he swapped with a local acquaintance years later to make two matched sets.

The antlers return, in pairs and singly, to Michael’s shop in South Molton, Devon. In the front of the shop a dozen prime specimens are mounted (on fibreglass skulls) around the walls, sharing space with spare bicycle tyres and rims. More cluster around the edges of the floor space, the handlebars of parked bicycles echoing the antler forms to odd effect. In the high-ceilinged workshop at the back antlers hang above the strimmers and mowers in for repair. And in the attic, up a steep flight of stairs and through a hatch door, the dim light discloses more antlers, in serried rows alongside boxes of spare engines and salvaged parts.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

How Americans build

In 1960, the Chevrolet division of General Motors and the Handy (Jam) Organization produced American Maker a half-hour film about craftsmanship, creativity and how Americans build. More than a mere vehicle of patriotic propaganda, the film is beautifully shot and offers stunning footage of life and work in that era for a fascinating cultural contrast to the “Swinging London” of the 1960, going on at the same time across the pond.


Apt for quite a few reasons, here's something very interesting that our ever-discerning friend Jestonbury came across.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Too many shops?

'The High Street', that catch-all term for the trading places of a town. Now, to me, it suggests as much as anything else a counter to the 'out of town' trading places that have sprung up over the last decade or so. Lots of changes have happened, lots of changes on the way no doubt. Our project is somehow bound up in these changes. Heard this today on the radio, an interesting viewpoint from one 'retail expert'.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Four candles

Recommended now by two people (one of them my aunt, a linguist with a professional interest in non-disambiguation), so here you go. And you're right, Jon, they could be in Biggleston.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Field frames #10 and #11: Barnstaple

Sites: New Life Upholstery and The Cycle Centre
Location: Cross Street and Bear Street Arcade
Date: 10 October 2011
SiB Team: CD and SB
Images: Light and Leaf

Perhaps it says something about both of these places that they are known not by their business name, but by the name of their sole-proprietor. We met both Mike and Gordy on a grey day in mid-October. Mike was waiting for us in his tiny workshop, which is wedged in under the wing of a former church, now antiques shop. The sign out front said 'Upholsterer, Mike Tulk', in white on red. And other teapot-shaped sign said 'Tea Room: Sorry no tea, but upholstery gladly done'. Mike was having a slow week, his 'bread and butter' business of recovering motorbike seats having temporarily dried up. He showed us the tools of his trade: a pair of pincers to loosen the seat cover staples, a screwdriver to pry them out, and two venerable sewing machines. The one in the image above is a crank-operated Jones model from the 1930s. Mike has fixed a £1.99 torch onto the working end so that he can see the piping foot clearly as he stitches up seams, but the light flickers and fades. He thinks it may be the damp in the stone-floored room.

Gordy's work space is also occasionally damp, though it's a damp of a different order altogether. He works outside, in all weathers and all seasons, on the pavement in front of a shop premises so clogged with bicycles and bicycle parts that there's only a tiny clear space left by each door. Gordy has been fixing bicycles in Barnstaple for 47 years. He started out at the age of 11, after the Lynmouth floods left an array of parts and bicycles strewn along the riverbank when the waters receded. He taught himself how to assemble a working bicycle, and took on an apprenticeship in a Barnstaple shop when he was 15. Now the local 15 year-olds hang around his en plein air workshop on their bikes, watching Gordy fix other bikes. A collection of frequently-used tools leans against the curb, and a leaf drifts down to keep a ball bearing company.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tools for living

Many years ago I saw a poster with the most amazing paper-cut illustrations on the wall of a friend's house. It's since become a bit of a tradition to gift Nikki McClure's creations to family and friends around this time of year. The above is a new one with particular relevance here. I hope the artist doesn't mind. You can find such loveliness for yourself here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


What would Fritz have made of Steampunk, I wonder?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The man himself

Although our association with his ideas goes only go so far, E.F. Schumacher, and his famous tome, is always going to be a touchstone for our project. Following on from our April post on the topic, here is a thoroughly interesting look at him and his work in the context of the state of the UK's current political notions. Fascinating.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Field frame #9: The Tool Box

Site: The Tool Box
Location: Colyton, Devon
Date: 23 September 2011
SiB Team: CD and SB
Image: Apprentice piece

Engineers use scribing blocks like this one to etch lines at set heights and to judge the level of the surfaces they are working on. They fall into a category of ‘tools that are used to make other tools’, though someone needs to make them in the first place. Mike Hill probably made this particular scribing block as an ‘apprentice piece’ during his training.

Many of the tools in this shop are marked with the names of the people who made them (the maker’s mark) and the names of the places where they were made. An idiosyncratic industrial geography can be read in the rows of clamps and planes, chisels and drill bits. The tools carry marks of their origins, and their working lives. They arrive battered and grubby, and undergo a transformation at the hands of Michael in the back room workshop. Repaired and ready on the shop’s display shelves, they await their next posting.

Image © Steven Bond/University of Exeter

Adding value

Monday, 26 September 2011

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Makers, Menders and Materials: Part 2

SiB has been resting this summer, but we're about to kick off again with an exhibition at the Bridport Arts Centre. Please join us on Friday, 23 September, for a free-ranging chat with the project team and participating mender/makers.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

This photo of blacksmith Steve Willdig (Field Frame # 2 ) by R. J. Whittick won first prize in a 'Dorset Eye' competition in 1985. Steve shared it with me when I visited a couple of weeks ago. Steve's isn't the first business to have drawn the eye of another photographer--about half of the places we've visited have been previously documented. The attraction, apparently, is mutual.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

When is a photography gallery not a photography gallery?

Gillian Rose, who joined us for the opening events in Plymouth last week (seen holding a photograph in the image below), made some interesting observations about the experience on her visual/method/culture blog.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Please touch

The box of white gloves just happened to be lying about in the new South West Image Bank gallery space when we hung the exhibition last week. Usually SWIB's volunteers wear them while handling fragile historic photographs in the archive, but last week we borrowed them to place the aluminium-mounted images on their bespoke aluminium ledges. And then, during Friday evening's reception, many of the 40 or so guests wore them as well--photographs were touched, and appreciated as objects. For the next few weeks (until July 22) you too can touch the photographs, at 25 The Parade, in the Plymouth Barbican, weekdays from 9:30-4:30. Let us know what you think.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Going up

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Cabinet of Curiosities

The couple’s decisions about what to collect are more deliberate than they might seem. “It’s an aesthetic decision,” Ms. Stevenson said. “If it appeals to my eye or my mind, it’s a keeper.” They revel in giving a home to unloved objects, possessions that were once dear to someone and then discarded. “To some people this would be ugly,” Ms. Meyer said. “But to other people, this is kind of earthy and lush.”

One of our fine regular SIB blog readers, J.E.Stanbury, sent us a link to this article in The New York Times. Once again we touch upon the element of this project that is somehow contemporary, almost trendy…

Friday, 3 June 2011

Field frame #8: Star Shoe Repairs

Site: Star Shoe Repairs

Location: 2 Falmouth Road, Redruth, Cornwall

Date: 11 April 2011

SiB Team: JR and SB

Image: Wren’s shoe polish display case and assorted shoe repair items

Steve didn’t have his best camera with him when we visited Star Shoe Repairs, but his eye was as sharp as ever and the resulting photographs do a beautiful job of evoking a rich working space. In particular they seem to respond neatly to the way this place invites one to pay close attention to details and, above all, to look at things differently: a large pair of scissors secured to back of the side of the worktop by an improvised leather holster; the wire brush drill-bit resting on a shelf; racks of keys and metal cutting blades pinned to a wooden panels; a stripy window display of handmade leather belts; a women’s shoe secured in a home-made heel-clamp. There is so much to look at in this place that it is hard to remember all the details; the photographs show things I had noticed and forgotten, but also things I’d not seen at all. I had spotted the wooden display rack for ‘Wren’s super-wax shoe polish’, with its gold-lettered strap-line: ‘Keeps Shoes Supple’, for example, which resonates with a sense of old-fashioned quality and craftsmanship that permeates everything in Star. But I’d not appreciated the quality of its setting against the pink paintwork, alongside a lonely single shoe, a roll of cotton, and assorted leather bits and bobs, on a high shelf in the corner of the workshop. The photograph conjures up a miniaturised landscape; the wooden sign resembling some mid-twentieth-century wayside advert set in jumbled ground and bathed in the evening glow of a permanently setting fluorescent-light-bulb-sun. Such aesthetic games are of course an effect of the frame imposed by the camera’s operator. But the invitation to play with a sense of scale and perspective comes also from the multi-sensory and visually fecund quality of such workplaces, with their abundance of juxtapositions and associations of shapes, textures, colours and objects.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

J. W. Evans Silver Factory

Look familiar? More images here, and a column in today's Guardian by Ian Jacks.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Show and tell

Here's the invite for the latest SIB adventure.. an exhibition of our images and texts, at South West Image Bank's gallery in Plymouth. Showing from June 24th – 22nd July. (Click on the image to make it more legible).

Friday, 20 May 2011

This all looks very interesting...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Vault

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Today's topic indeed

Mary Portas, 'Queen of Shops', is to conduct a review for the government into the future of the local English high street. Here she is on Radio 4's Today programme explains how she plans to bring the bustle back to British retail.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Reskilling for river-dwellers

We recently spent a Saturday on the banks of the River Fowey building a coracle frame out of hazel rods, inner tubes and baling twine. Now the finished article is sitting in our back garden waiting patiently for its covering of canvas and roof paint. Polwheveral Creek launch date TBC.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Owl knows from Steven Bond on Vimeo.