Home About Portfolio ♐ Shop ♐

Category: london

Boro at Somerset House

Boro at Somerset House

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:

Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.

Boro at Somerset House

You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.

Boro at Somerset House

This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

V&A Friday Lates

V&A Friday Lates

Josh and I made the trip to West London on Friday to check out the V&A Friday Lates. They open the museum extra late and put on installations, talks, exhibitions and interactive sessions to complement the shows that are going on in the museum. Last Friday’s theme was “Adornment’ to coincide with the current Pearls show (I saw this last weekend too, it’s excellent) and it covered fashion and tattooing as well as jewellery.

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

Sadly I missed the talk I wanted to see due disorganisation, but we swung by the Skin Deep session put on by Brothers of the Stripe, where you could watch the collective doing a live drawing installation and make yourself a rubber-stamped tattoo poster to take away.

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

We also saw a fashion show by E Wha Lim in the Medieval & Renaissance hall. Her surreal work was beautifully complemented by the surroundings.

It was also just great to roam the museum ‘after hours’. We popped to the Japan section…

V&A Friday Lates

Happy chest is happy

V&A Friday Lates

Embroidery detail on samurai robes

… and my favourite place, the jewellery hall.

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

Is it just me who likes to play pretend I’m shopping and pick what I’d most like to take home?

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

Beautiful wheel of gems

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

I think this was the last Lates of the year, but check the site for next year’s events.

London Transport Museum Depot

TFL Acton Depot

Not much will drag me out to West London, but one that definitely will is the promise of transport nerdery. This Saturday (after spending the morning viewing the Cheapside Hoard with Kathryn – phew, culture all over) we trundled way over to Acton Town to visit the London Transport Museum Depot‘s open day.

TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot

Emerging from the attractive 1930s tube station, the museum depot is directly opposite. The first big clue is the vintage buses giving tours in and out of the entrance.

TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
Feather dress
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot

In the giant warehouse space, upstairs houses a huge collection of station signage and maps dating from the 1920s up the present day. It was fascinating to see how the map changed over time.

TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot

Some nice type specimens to spot along the way, including a plan chest stuffed with the Johnson Underground typeface blocks.

TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot

Downstairs is an assortment of cool old machinery: ticket machines, whole kiosks, signal boxes, clocks and so on.

TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot
Feather dress
TFL Acton Depot

And there are a load of old buses and tube carriages – reminding me of the Brooklyn museum. But cooler ;)

TFL Acton Depot
TFL Acton Depot

I don’t know if this is a regular fixture, but on the day we visited there were a bunch of stalls selling ephemera: postcards, old maps and brochures, decommissioned signs and stickers, and so on. We scored some great stuff: old place nameplates, a deadstock moquette seat cover and some postcards and stickers, all for very cheap.

TFL Acton Depot

I’m so glad that such an effort is being made to store all this historical stuff and show it off to the public. If you fancy visiting – and I highly recommend it – there are monthly open days and regular guided tours. Check out the site for the next available dates.

Grain Store, Kings Cross

Grain Store

It’s great to see all the redevelopment in the Kings Cross area recently: it’s quickly becoming a really cool hub for food (see also Caravan, The Gilbert Scott and Kerb), arts (the new St Martins college campus is there) and fun (pop-up skate rink!). The beautiful new station concourse and renovation of the canalside area is making it a destination in its own right as opposed to just a thoroughfare. We tried to get into Grain Store – the latest addition from chef Bruno Loubert and the people behind the Zetter Townhouse – a couple of weeks ago but it was full, so we made do with Caravan but vowed to come back.

Grain Store

The menu is pretty unique, and seemed utterly delightful to me at a glance because vegetables really take front and centre. There are meat and fish dishes too but they are written as if the meat is the incidental part which is refreshing. There are even dedicated vegan options – pretty rare for a mainstream restaurant, never mind from a French chef. For the indecisive or adventurous diner, they offer a completely surprise menu devised by the chefs on the day for £35 a head, which is what we went for. In retrospect unfortunately I think this decision slightly marred our meal. Firstly, there was a loooong wait between each of the five dishes, explained by the waitress as the place being particularly busy that night. Secondly, I felt a little like the collection of dishes we were given all clashed and fought with each other rather than flowing and creating a cohesive whole, leaving us with quite an unpleasant sensation of our palates being assaulted and ultimately overwhelmed by the end.

Grain Store

Grain Store

There were definitely high points however: warm onion bread started the meal promisingly and I loved the first dish of rich and gooey little fried mushroom balls, served on a cute bed of pine needles.

Grain Store

Beetroot with goats curd and pickled onion is a modern classic combination and didn’t disappoint.

Grain Store

As the tasting menu wore on however, we started to get that unpleasant clashing of extreme flavours, and I started to crave something bland like chips to offset it all! Some dishes just didn’t work for me at all: radishes were served with raw red onion, a cream with no trace of the promised horseradish and, bizarrely, padron peppers with a gazpacho sauce on the same plate.

Grain Store

The main dishes were probably the most disappointing, and by this point two hours in we were starting to lose interest anyway. Lentil dal was fine but ruined by overly bitter green peppers on top. A dish of corn husk stuffed with corn and quinoa was oddly sweet and decorated with more unnecessary padrons. Most bizarre of all, we got a third plate of literally just cooked onions, slivers of courgette and samphire – the lamb was missing because we’d asked for a vegetarian tasting menu, but I assumed we’d get proper veggie options rather just missing the key component off another dish. A horribly chalky tapioca pudding for afters didn’t serve to remove any of the lingering aftertastes and was left barely touched by both of us.

Grain Store
Grain Store

To end on a positive note though: the cocktails, curated by Zetter and 69 Colebroke Row’s Tony Conigliaro, were most definitely the high point of the evening. We started on a cedarwood sherry concoction for Josh and a Campari champagne cocktail for me, and then moved onto the excitingly unusual Greco Roman wines: I had a honey one and Josh had smoked paprika. They were well priced at £6.50-£7.50 each and really saved the day.

Grain Store

This review is written in partnership with match.com‘s London dating guide, and they requested I write about the restaurant’s suitability for a date night. In theory, I think Grain Store would be a great date spot because the unusual flavours and sharing plate concept mean you have plenty to talk about and interact with. Josh and I usually love to go to places like this because we can try twice as much food by ordering different dishes and sharing. The super cocktails will mean you feel relaxed and can begin and end the meal with a leisurely drink – there’s a nice dedicated bar space bar space to unwind in. The whole space is elegant yet informal with an outdoorsy vibe, ideal for a warm evening.

Despite my misgivings about some of the menu – especially as a vegetarian hoping for a revelation – I still think Grain Store is a unique and interesting restaurant with something new to offer. The veg-first menu concept is a great one and I suspect we would have enjoyed the meal much more if we’d picked our own dishes and had something more to our personal tastes. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back and try the delicious sounding brunch menu either.

Grain Store

Grain Store, Granary Square, Kings Cross.
My meal was paid for by match.com in exchange for this unbiased review. Thanks, Match!

Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Dalston House

Dalston House

Dalston House is a new temporary art installation by Leandro Elrich in association with the Barbican Centre. It’s right by Dalston Junction station, a short walk from my house, so my sister and I jaunted down there the other day.

Dalston House
Dalston House

Dalston House
Dalston House

The mind-bending installation is a perfect replica of a period house facade, laid out on the ground with a huge mirror set at a 45-degree angle above it. So when you view it straight on it appears that the house is standing upright on the street. Then of course you can have all sorts of fun with seemingly gravity-defying poses, all from the safety of the ground.

Read the rest of this entry »