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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Lick Brane

This post is just a rant really with an art bargain thrown in at the end.

Went out to London today with the intention of going to the Cypher exhibition put on by a friend of a friend of a friend in Hackney somewhere, which I was a bit like 'err... Hackney?' about when I found out where it was. For Americans, think Harlem before it was cleaned up and that is similar to the reputation Hackney in London has earned itself.

I'm a well spoken, middle-class, preppy-boho, vintage-tweed-jacket wearing person who would not be seen dead in any form of 'street' gear or tracksuit and who associates the word 'garage' with cars and junk-storage rather than a genre of music. I'd stick out like a sore thumb. From what I've heard about the place, I might as well walk around with a big flashing neon sign above my head saying 'I'm posh, mug me'.

Anyway. We got a little sidetracked by a random place en route, which I am very grateful for because it meant that Hackney was given a miss. My friend and I got a little sidetracked by Brick Lane, which I'd never been to before. Honestly, I personally don't see what all the fuss is about - everyone is like ooh it's so kooky and indie and boho and asian and cultural - especially after the film 'Brick Lane' hit the cinemas last year.

Kooky and indie and boho and asian bollocks. To put not too fine a point on it. Basically, what it is is a grotty street with a whole heap of rundown buildings housing indian restaraunts where the owners stand by the door and try and bribe you to come in- it's more like a curry-scented cattlemarket than a street. I'm guessing they do this because competition is fierce and their food isn't all that good - and supposedly 'vintage' shops selling things like 80s cast-offs and cowboy boots where the sole is practically worn through for £70. I mean, it's ridiculous! Crap quality things and ludicrously overpriced. If you want 80s cast-offs, you'd be better off going to a charity shop and buying the same thing for 50p, and take comfort in the knowledge that your money is going towards a worthy cause and doing some good to someone who actually needs it.

I really don't think Brick Lane deserves it's 'cool' reputation. You want cool, indie and kooky? get yourself to Camden Market. Tons of random vintage shops and indie jewellry and crafts and stuff, all incredibly cheap. Ok so there may be a few druggies along the way trying to flog you weed and liquid gold and hash lollies, but the army surplus shop and the random punks more than compensate for that. Where 'random' is concerned, my heart belongs to Camden Town.

Brick Lane seems to be the place where people who think they're cool go to be seen - you see tons of 'emo/indie' kids standing around, or sitting on the floor outside these open fronted bars with cushions everywhere and fairylights, sucking on shishas (or however you spell it) in their flourescent skinny jeans, tennis shoes and floppy straw hats, desperately posing with a 'look at me, aren't I cool, interesting and individual.. even though I'm dressed like an absolute pillock and look just like EVERYONE ELSE HERE' attitude.... it's rather tragic really how hard they try and how badly they fail. I don't think they realise how stupid they look. I can't wait until they're all in their 40s and go through their photo albums going 'oh my dear god, what was I thinking'. I shall point and laugh.
A mannequin in a shop window nearby:

So. I can safely say, crumbly old buildings aside, Brick Lane is a bit rubbish.



HOWEVER

What made my day was.. a WONDERFUL art shop called Cowling & Wilcox. It's fantastic! For a start, it's absolutely massive and you can get pretty much anything you want in there in at least 2 different sizes, and secondly it's beautifully cheap! it's not like one of these crap 'we sell oil paint really cheap' places where it turns out the oil paint refuses to get off the brush and actually stick to the canvas, but it's the brand name stuff but cheap! for example - system3 acrylics - a pack of about 6 in Sussex Stationers (which is purportedly selling things at discount knockdown prices) will set you back about £26. In THIS place, same thing will cost you £14 (I can't remember the exact price, but I remember getting very excited by how cheap it was and a little miffed that I'd just stocked up on all my acrylics and spent a fortune when if I'd known about that place before I'd have saved a packet!) A4 hardback ringbound daler&rowney cartridge 50 sheet sketchbook was just over a fiver, in sussex stationers it costs me about £8.

I know where I'm going to be doing MY art shopping in future!

Details of this wonderful establishment of magical art goods are as follows:

Cowling & Wilcox Ltd
26-28 Broadwick Street. London W1F 8HX
Tel 020 7734 9556
Fax 020 7434 4513

112 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JN (think this is the one I went to)
Tel 020 7033 3685
Fax 020 7033 3648

Soho W1 020 7734 9556

www.cowlingandwilcox.com
www.portfolioplus.com

This post is rather over entheusiastic, but the wonderful art bargain and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Bitter fuelled day was all a bit much for me. (Side note: the food in the Cheshire Cheese is reeeeeally good!)

Absolutely wiped out - I must have walked at least 6 miles today.

2 comments:

Kristine said...

Love, love, love Camden. It absolutely made London for me. Stayed in Camden my first time in London and will make sure I always visit anytime I go back.

Tash said...

I adore Camden too! there was a thing a few years back where the powers that be were wanting to 'develop' it, and plans were drawn up to basically turn it into another topshop/superdrug/primark infested oxford street. Everyone was up in arms against it. First of all they put up the prices of the rent so the stall sellers were forced out because they couldn't afford to keep their stalls, then about 2 or 3 years ago there was, conveniently, a huge fire, which meant that plans to develop at least some of it and modernise it could go ahead. Sacriledge if you ask me! I haven't been there for about 4 years, so I don't know how much they've ruined it, but I hope to go there in a week or so to get an RAF jumpsuit to use as painting overalls, so I'll no doubt make a report on here when I do go! I hope they've not totally obliterated it - a very unique place in London will have been lost if they have.