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 …

Blopost
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!

Whole

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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Abney Park Trust Fundraiser

Do you remember the legendary Stoke Newington Midsummer Street Fair? How would you like to be the proud owner of the original artwork for the 1995 and 1996 Festival Posters?

Of Cabbages and Kings are very excited to announce an exhibition and charity auction of original framed art by John Gosler to benefit the Abney Park Trust here in Stoke Newington. We have two framed artworks up for grabs, which will be on display at the gallery alongside the original illustration for the map of Abney Park Cemetery, which you may recognise as it is still in use today. 

If you should miss out on the auction do not fret as there are a limited quantity of signed reproductions of the Abney Park map and signed 1994, 1995 and 1996 festival posters available for sale.

In keeping with the original spirit of the festival, our exhibition will run from Monday 12th June, culminating with an event and the end of the auction at 4pm in the shop on Sunday 18th June.

Final bids must be placed by 4pm on the Sunday and we’ll be announcing the winners the same day. To get everyone feeling nostalgic, we’ve got some old programmes to look through alongside other festival memorabilia, we’ll be playing some familiar tunes and serving up some homemade lemonade. See you there from 3pm!

Place your bids here!

FRAMED-1996-LOW-RES
1996 Poster Artwork
FRAMED-1995-LOW-RES
1995 Poster Artwork

John Gosler is a freelance illustrator and former Stokey local. In 1994 John was asked to contribute a poster for the new Stoke Newington Street Festival. He says: ‘It was so brilliant (the festival, that is) that I joined the committee and did the design and artwork the first three posters in 1994, 5 and 6′.

The Stoke Newington Festival began in June 1993 as a small one day celebration on Church Street. It was such a success that by the following year it had grown into a week long event culminating on the final Sunday when the street was closed. With it’s focus on art, music and the local community, it ran for several years from 1994 to the early 2000s. Several stages were erected along the street hosting local bands and the numerous cafes and restaurants had stalls on the road running right up to Clissold Park.

John’s original images for the posters were worked in scraper board, a card surface coated with china clay and then a layer of black ink. Tools are used to scrape off the ink, revealing the white surface beneath, producing an image that looks similar to a woodcut or engraving. He then applied the colour over that with an airbrush.

Abney Park Cemetery is one of the original ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries opened in the mid 1800s to service London’s booming population. It was founded on the principles of renowned non-conformist Isaac Watts and became the burial place of choice for religious dissenters and radical thinkers of the time. It has a non-denominational chapel at its heart that was open to all, regardless of religious beliefs. Another unusual feature of the cemetery is that it was set up as an arboretum, with a wide variety of trees and plants as part of its original design. This meant that when it was abandoned in the 1970s it became completely overgrown and developed a uniquely wild atmosphere. Today the cemetery is maintained as an urban wilderness and is home to a variety of wildlife, as well as operating as a public park. It has also been the setting for open air theatre events and was among the venues taking part in this year’s Stoke Newington Literary Festival, an event that has it’s roots in the original Midsummer Fair.

1.ABNEY-PARK-01-John-Gosler-ofcabbagesandkings

All Postersf you have any old photos or other bits and pieces at home please do let us know as we are hoping to put together a festival archive. Contact Maureen Diffley at maureen.diffley1@gmail.com

Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant

Our new exhibition opened today at the shop. Samples is a collection of stories about fabric, collected from people in Hackney and Newham, told through sound, text and images.

House&fabric2

 

Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant
Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant

Samples aims to explore the textile objects we hold onto and reveal the stories and meaning they carry. Jessica put together a book, along with a sound montage and a series of images, which aims to bring these stories and communities together. Featured stories were collected from members of the community at workshops, which took place at local venues including; Hackney Museum, Rosetta Arts and The View Tube.

Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant
Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant
Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant
Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant
Made-to-Measure, Dogtooth Suit, 2011
Made-to-Measure, Dogtooth Suit, 2011

Samples was devised by Jessica Plant as part of an MA Arts and Design by Independent Project at the University of Brighton in 2012. Jessica has also made a series of designs inspired by the Samples project; these limited edition prints, postcards and textile images will be available to purchase throughout the exhibition. The exhibition continues until Sunday 3rd November 2013.

Here are a few images from the preview:

Glass of Wine?

Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant
Samples; stories about textiles and people by Jessica Plant