In the three years I have had the studio, I have never managed to fully engaged with the area where my studio is situated. I have usually rushed into the studio printed and rushed home. My New Years Revolution was to make more time for my studio. Now that I am keeping to my word and spending more time here I am thrilled to be here. Christmas Steps Arts quarter is a creative and vibrant part of Bristol buzzing with independent shops & creative businesses from galleries, cafes & restaurants, a bookshop & florist, antique and jewellery shops, clock shop & apothecary, vintage clothes & independent hair dresser, music & art shops.
Bristol Fine Art
In a major clear out of my studio I find a small paper bag of unused purple pigment. It must be about 10 years old. I pull it out of the cupboard and lay it on the table. I'm not sure what's the best way to use this so decide to pop up to the nearest art shop for some advice.
Usually I cycle everywhere in Bristol. It's the fastest way to travel through town, speeding past the traffic, knowing you will make it to your destination in time. But today I decide take my time and walk. I walk slowly from my studio to Bristol Fine Art I look over into the skyline over the rooftops and my eyes follow the chimneys of the tall victorian buildings as they wiggle their way down the hill towards the centre of town.
I arrive at Bristol Fine Art and ask the owner, Nick, about the pigments. Nick advises me to mix the pigment with gum arabic so I can experiment printing with the pure pigment instead of my cheap watercolours. He opens up a box on the floor with bottles of pigments that have just arrived. He shows me a bottle of blue rocks which have been hammered into small pieces at the factory. It's cobalt blue. Beautiful iridescent glowing rocks. A moment to wonder at the magic of this planet. This is cobalt blue in its natural source, luminescent in the jar like treasure. Nick will go through the box later and see what other colours have arrived. These are for display only. I can't wait to discover the rest of the pigments he has ordered. I buy the gum arabic and head back to my studio.
Amelie and Melanie - Japanese Antiques
On my way back I am looking in the windows of the shops on Park Row. (Put in right order) A hair dresser, a Kimono shop, ceramic gallery, and behind the glass of the next shop on a shelf sit a group of tiny netsuke. This Japanese antique shop is across the road from my studio, right on my doorstep, and I haven't taken notice before. Was I really rushing around that much?
I ring the doorbell. A young woman answers and lets me in. I introduce myself and ask if it is possible to see the netsuke collection. Her name is Mel. She brings me into the back of the shop, disappears for a moment and comes back through with a box full of tiny Japanese netsuke. They are beautiful and delicately carved objects. I mention Edmund De Waal's book. Of course she has read it and agrees the netsuke play a crucial yet small part in Edmund's search for his roots. I ask if there would be a possibly to draw the netsuke. She sees no reason why not but they will be busy at Antique fairs over the the next couple of months. She gives me her card with contact details.
Later I pop back over to give her a card with my details. I ring the bell. A woman opens the door. It's not Mel. It's her business partner and mother Ammy. I ask her to pass on the message to Mel. Ammy goes into the back of the shop and brings out a red photo album. Inside are photographs and sketches of netsuke. These are her sketches. She hasn't looked at this album for years and hands the photo album to me so I can draw from these while they are away.
I am so grateful and extremely excited and head back to my studio. I sit down, make a cup of tea and flick through the album of netsuke. I'm drawn to the photograph of the netsuke man with a fan.
Photograph of Man with Fan netsuke
These tools are new and extremely sharp but soon they will be in need of a good sharpen. A few doors down from Amelie and Melanie is Bristol Design - they sell wood cutting tools. I open the door and am greeted by a woman behind the counter. I ask her for help with sharpening stones. They have many second hand sharpening stones. The other customer waits patiently as Gail gives me advice on the sharpening stones. Most of them are oil stones in handmade wooden boxes. After much deliberation I finally find one I like. The surface is smooth and flat and is a fair price. The conversation sparks interest from the other customer as we all discuss sharpening stones and ultimate frisbee championships.
I get back to the studio and find the purple pigment sitting on the table. I spoon some of the pigment on a saucer and mix in the gum arabic and nori paste and brush the colour onto an experimental carving of a fish. It's a delicate colour that prints, not the strong purple powder in the bag but mixed with a little nori gives it a little translucent softness.