Of Cabbages & Kings Turns 10!

Founded in 2008, Of Cabbages & Kings is delighted to be celebrating its 10th anniversary this May.

Owner Jessica Widdows fills us in on the story so far …

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Photograph by Leah Band

Perhaps I always wanted to run a shop? As children, one of our favourite games was ‘villages’, whereby various make-shift camps were erected around the garden selling sticks, leaves and mud-pies under the banners of ‘Post Office’, ‘bakery’ and ‘café’. Later, I remember my mother returning from a trip to Bali with an antique puppet and thinking; what an amazing job – to travel the world collecting weird and wonderful objects and to sell those in a shop. I went on my travels. I didn’t set up a shop. Not for a while at least!

Art college took me to Bristol for 6 years. We made friends, we put on some shows, we talked a lot, we drank a lot, we worked hard and we had a good time. In 2006, after a year in Suffolk caring for my mother, I moved to London. Life had been on hold. It was all change. No plan. I took a job in a book shop and then tried banging on the doors of the publishing industry, but those doors remained firmly closed. It was at this moment I decided to go solo.

My principal strategy was ‘the more people I tell about this project, the less able I’m going to be to back down’. I scoured North and East London for a suitable premises. I had no money, but this didn’t seem to matter. Eventually I came across the little space on Kersley Road in Stoke Newington (just off Church Street). I rang the number in the window, persuaded my godmother to give me a cash advance and the bank manager that I had a viable business idea. To this day, I’m not sure anyone truly believed it was, but I was determined, and still am, to prove us all wrong!

The aim of the shop was to provide a ‘bricks and mortar’ selling space for emerging designers and makers. I knew a lot of creative people making interesting and beautiful things, but their outlets seemed limited. I picked a name – probably the hardest decision. After re-reading both the Alice books I settled on a quote from The Walrus and The Carpenter:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said

“To talk of many things:

Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax—

Of cabbages and kings

I filled the space with some brightly painted 1950s kitchen cabinets on loan from a friend and set about gathering stock from all the local designers and makers I could find. We stayed at Kersley Road for over 4 years, at the same time hosting regular Market Days at Abney Hall. The markets were the perfect way to meet makers and source products, and this sense of community carries through to the shop today. We still have brands that have been with us since day dot: Mister Peebles for example, or Tom Pigeon (formerly Lovely Pigeon) who I’ve carried for years and who seem to evolve and reinvent themselves just as the shop does.

While the little space on Kersley road was perfect for finding my feet, I soon ran out of room. My toilet doubled as a store cupboard and over-stock was wedged in every available cranny. Not only did we need more space, but also a better and more attractive location. Things had to change.

In October 2012, Of Cabbages and Kings took up residence at 127 Stoke Newington High Street with new housemate Knit with attitude. Following a fruitful evening down the pub with owner Maya Bang, we came up with the inspired idea of ‘moving in together’. Art and yarn? Why not? Like me she was in a tiny spot off the main drag and looking to expand.

The challenge was to make these two shops sit seamlessly side-by-side. We adopted an aesthetic that suited us both. On one side of the room a wall of wool; boxes filled with brightly coloured balls of yarn stacked one upon the other. Mirroring this my wall of products, pictures and prints. Of Cabbages and Kings has always been colourful, but we got bolder and brighter.

One of the biggest advantages of moving into 127 was the new big white wall with a gloriously high ceiling: the perfect gallery wall! Over the past 5 years we’ve held numerous exhibitions with a whole bunch of talented artists from Hackney and beyond. Those years at art school did come in handy after all!

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The community aspect of running this business is still the bit that matters to me and that I enjoy the most; feeling part of something much bigger than myself: the local community, the creative community, the shop team, etc. And it’s through working with local charities, hosting workshops, exhibitions and knit nights that we feel connected. The last 10 years have certainly been a challenge. There have been some incredible highs and terrible lows in this process, but the sense of achievement when it finally comes together makes it all worthwhile.

Yet again it’s all change! Well perhaps not all change. Our little shop has taken quite a beating from all this activity, and so to celebrate Of Cabbages and Kings’ 10th anniversary we’ve decided to have a bit of a spruce up. Then, on Friday 25th May we will be hosting an official 10th Anniversary Party, to which you are all officially invited. Please come and join us for drinks and nibbles and a goose at the new refurb from 4pm – 8pm at 127 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0PH.

Thank you so much for all your support – we couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

 

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Here Comes A City

An Interview with Marc Gooderham

As the face of London changes seemingly overnight, local artist Marc Gooderham has made it his mission to capture these views of the city, the architecture of crumbling and faded grandeur, that are beginning to vanish before our eyes. In the run up to his exhibition Here Comes A City, opening February 8th 2018, we took the opportunity to ask Marc about his paintings and his project.

What is your artistic weapon of choice? Pencil, pen, paintbrush, digital….

There are two. Naturally the paintbrush, but also the highly underrated yet extremely versatile piece of chalk!

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How long have you been painting and drawing? When did you start out?

As far back as I can remember. As a child I would sit and draw for hours. Still lifes, portraits, intricate buildings using pen and ink. The first piece of art I sold was to my art teacher at school. He kindly parted with £150 for a still life piece. As a kid, this was all very exciting. I tried not to let that first sale go to my head…honestly.

All your pieces come from real locations, mostly in London. What is it about the urban landscape that appeals to you?

I’ve always lived in London, so it’s a place I know and love. A place of intrigue and new experiences. It’s the contrast of old and new and glimmers of a forgotten time that really appeal to me.

Buildings with a fallen, crumbling exterior always hold an evocative beauty. Cities are a physical thing, they’re made up of lines and interesting forms, and the complexities of architecture and perspective can be challenging at times. But it’s all these things that make it the perfect subject to paint. Buildings command our attention. They’re our homes, places of work, places we admire and fall in love with. They help us navigate our way through life.

What is your process for working on a new piece? 

The only real way of getting to know a city is by walking it. Familiarising myself with the street level views. Making preparatory sketches and photographs. Revisiting a potential location at different times of day – sketch as much as possible! It has to have all the right components, which help make the final composition. Light and shade, suggestions of human life, a glow or reflection in a window, lights shimmering in the distance. These all give harmony and unity to a picture. Once these are in place, I begin work in the studio.

You are now working more with chalk pastels instead of painting, was there anything in particular that drew you to a new medium?

Working with charcoal and chalk pastels has been quite a liberating experience. I am still painting, producing large canvas pieces each month, again of the urban landscape.  I will always paint, however the pastel/charcoal lends itself to working quickly and more instinctively, 50% of the picture is created using my fingers.  There isn’t a lot of room for mistakes which adds to the excitement of this medium, speed is of the essence! It’s about capturing a certain feel or atmosphere and ultimately exercising the art of freehand drawing. It gives the artist a sketch – like fluidity.

Do find yourself returning to locations?

All of time. The locations are very familiar to me. Old haunts or places I have lived naturally become the subject of my work. The city is changing at such a rapid pace, there will always be a new discovery.

What is your favourite takeaway?

 Quite simply ‘Babur To Go.

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