Category Archives: WeNo blog

WeNo Guide to…Hobby’s!

It’s Spring and FEAST is back! And so our intrepid reporter set off once more to explore the streets of West Norwood, meeting local traders.

Presenting Hobby’s, a family business for model makers and hobbyists since the 1950s. Stray behind Knight’s Hill into the quiet streets of the industrial area to find their large warehouse – the location of Hobby’s retail and wholesale since the 1970s. Following the sign to the shop entrance reveals a bygone era showroom with a hotchpotch of doll’s houses, matchstick models and power tools for model making. This belies the fact that beyond the counter and out of view of the customer, lies a comprehensive selection of model making and hobby stock. Behind the scenes, there is a 15-strong team busy servicing the mail-order side of the business, sending out goods nationwide and internationally. So if you have popped into the showroom to browse, make sure you look at the annual catalogue. Ask, and a member of staff will source what you choose from the warehouse. To give you an indication of the shelves and shelves of items nestling in West Norwood, the 2017 catalogue boasts 324 pages, ranging from model planes, boats, railways, crafts such as glass engraving and candle making, and a large section on the fittings to create a doll’s house – everything the dedicated model enthusiast could desire. But also lurking amongst the specialist model making goods, there are items for the gift hunter or budding hobbyist – wooden self-assembly kits, remote-controlled toys and 3D puzzles to name just a few.

The origins of the business go back to the glory days of hobbying. Owner Mike Crossland explains how his father WF Crossland, who was station master at Tulse Hill, was persuaded by a Swiss relative to sell 50 musical movements (for the uninitiated, these are the musical parts that can be used in toys, boxes, clocks and models). He first placed an ad in Practical Householder, the business took off and eventually he opened a shop at 202 Tulse Hill. When his father retired from the railways, he took new premises at 109 Norwood High Street trading under the name of Swisscross, playing on the Swiss connection and family name.

Eventually they expanded to 62 Norwood High Street and changed the name to Hobby’s to reflect the widening of their stock. Mike comments that those early days of the business were an era when people made things in their leisure time, pre-digital revolution if you can recall or imagine life then. Now, he says sadly, some of the model making high street shops Hobby’s supply are closing – a sign of the times. Mike expands: “People also made things because they couldn’t afford them”. Nowadays, model making is a niche market catering for a distinct community. It’s a labour of love to create and decorate a doll’s house – you don’t do it because you can’t afford one. Indeed, the components available for the larger scale doll’s houses have become more sophisticated, with designer wall papers and carpets, and even electric light fittings!

So, who are Mike’s customers in the here and now? Not surprisingly, many are older generation. A lot of regulars have worked with their hands all their lives and now they have retired, immersing themselves in a making project. Then Mike smiles sheepishly, there are quite a few living courtesy of Her Majesty, either buying direct or via the prison shop! A fact confirmed by a heartfelt “thank you” from a former prisoner on their FB page. And what are their most popular items currently? Well, the biggest seller is matchstick kits, where you stick matches onto card templates to make a model. In fact, Hobby’s create and package the kits themselves; sometimes using the design suggestions of their model making regulars. Galleons are very popular – model ships such as the Cutty Sark. And musical movements still feature in the catalogue as a throwback to the company’s origins. There are some sweet self-assembly wooden music boxes for children. Mikes smiles – in the 1970s, they used to supply musical movements for ice-cream vans.

So how about tech… the digital market? Mike comments that they don’t stray too much into tech as you need to service enquires when a customer gets stuck. Also, it’s a highly competitive market. He is content – they have expertise in physical model making and have the know-how to support their customers, but they are on a continual quest for new stock. Mike has been a regular at Nuremberg Toy Fair, staying at the same hotel over a 20-year period. Now, his son goes to what is the biggest toy fair in the world. Fairs provide a great opportunity to meet suppliers and search for latest toys. Mike remembers with satisfaction stumbling over 3D foam jigsaw puzzles at an American toy fair. It was a totally new concept at the time and he promptly bought £8000 of stock from the small Canadian supplier, sold it all and ordered another 11x 40ft containers worth. Eventually, Hasbro broke up the party by taking over the supplier!And then it was time to leave Mike behind the shop counter. Our reporter left musing over a quote from the catalogue: “Happy is the person with a hobby for they have two worlds to live in“.

Hobby’s Ltd

2 Knight’s Hill Square

SE27 0HH

Mon-Fri 9 to 5pm and Sat 9 to 1pm

www.hobby.uk.com – online catalogue

West Norwood Foto – the winning photographs!

Our thanks to all contributors

Thank you to everyone who sent in entries to West Norwood Foto. One hundred and thirty eight photographs were submitted. And some more have just arrived! Our judges viewed the online gallery to make their decisions based on relationship to theme and composition. Age wasn’t taken into account and some of our winners/special mentions are under 16. The youngest entrant was 7 years old.

After careful consideration, our judges have made the following selections;

Category: Street Scenes

Category Winner and Overall Winner

Catriona Gilchrist, Dog outside Ladbrokes

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“An interesting and melancholic photo, with almost surreal elements to it. It also makes a social commentary.It touches upon the concept of street photography, which is seeing, and putting together elements as disparate as a dog, a broken pole, and a gambling den to create a visual message to goes out to the viewer and offers itself to multiple interpretations”

– Street Scenes category judge, Pierre Alozie.

“A classic documentary photograph in the sense that it captures something both fleeting (doggie) and unmoving (architecture).  It also allows the viewer to ponder on the folly of gambling!”

– Fantastic & Strange category judge, Hermione Wiltshire

Street Scenes: Runner Up

Ciaran Bradbury-Hickey 

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“It is the dynamic composition of this photograph that attracted me to it. It seems to embody the essential components of street photography (spontaneity, composition and wit among others), and best interpreted the street theme of the competition.”

– Street Scenes category judge, Pierre Alozie.

Special Mention

Janet Haney for mobility scooters and John Nott for St Lukes Church. Janet’s photo is full of humour and could have been second, and John’s photo is technically sound, although it is the kind of photograph seen in many photography magazines.

Category: Community

“It was a very difficult balance between choosing a great looking photo and one that really said community – some of the images that were visually strong didn’t really say community to me. Also, as it is community there were often pictures with lots of people and lots going on in them, which sometimes made for an images with no obvious focal point. There were some strong images though and it was a hard choice”

– Community category judge, Anna Hindocha.

Winner

Jenny Ochera, Tug of War

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“It was a very tough choice but I kept coming back to this image. I love the fact that it is a proper community effort – literally everyone pulling together. A great interpretation of the theme. I love the strong diagonal which means that the image works despite the number of people in it as the eye is guided through it. This, combined with the people’s positions which show the effort they are putting into pulling, also adds dynamism and excitement. While the strong sunlight does in some ways make the image less “perfect” I find the texture of the road, the strong shadows, the purple lens flare and the burnt out sky all make for a visually compelling image. Overall, I felt this image had a balance of saying the most about community while also being very visually interesting”

– Community category judge, Anna Hindocha.

Community: Runner Up

John D Haney, Cemetery Tour

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“Thematically I really like the idea that the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery are keeping the dead involved and part of the community by their events. Visually, I love the pose of the speaker and the composition of the thin band of people surrounded by the greenery.”

– Community category judge, Anna Hindocha.

 

 

Category: Fantastic and Strange

Winner

Seb Hilditch, Angel of Norwood

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“The Black & White takes out realistic greens of lichen, blues of sky and greys of stone making the photograph become more of an imagined picture and less of a documentary shot.  The composition is poised and gives the impression of a graceful portrait of a real woman dressed up as an angel not unlike an old Victorian photograph by for instance Julia Margaret Cameron”

– Fantastic & Strange category judge, Hermione Wiltshire

Fantastic & Strange: Runner up

Kes Young, child and plant 

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“This picture bravely places an unusually slight moment at the centre of the picture there by taking the viewer’s attention to a sight easily overlooked.  A child’s encounter with spiky plants suggests a schism between the internal place suggested by their expression and a spectacular plant perhaps not native to West Norwood.”

– Fantastic & Strange category judge, Hermione Wiltshire

Special mention

Freddie Witchell for a compelling portrait of a stone face.  The effect drew the judges attention for a long time.  For his next pictures, Hermione would recommend working on composition.

Feast volunteers’ vote!

This went to Hetty Lalleman’s charming photo A Tight Knit. The photo was taken at Feast on the Tea & Talk Table, a space where people can sit and have a free cup of tea and a chat. It embodies all that is lovely about Feast!

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Our thanks to our local business sponsors for providing the prizes

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WeNo guide to… Mosaic Workshop!

 

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Turning into Chestnut Road, just past the fruit and veg stall, our Intrepid FEAST reporter found Harry Day Mews. This handsome former furniture warehouse built in 1922 is now flats. Once you’ve buzzed the intercom, metal gates glide open and the Mosaic Workshop, London’s only specialist mosaic shop, is across the courtyard.

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If making is your thing, a visit here is like being a five-year-old in a sweet shop, drawn to an array of baskets and inviting jars full of coloured tiles. Noticeable are the edible-looking millifiori, glass with a patterned interior, reminiscent of seaside rock. Then there are the packets of handmade smalti, traditional, richly coloured mosaic glass imported by owner James from the same Italian family for 20 years.

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Here also are ‘the treats’ as James calls them – bronze, copper, silver and gold leaf tiles that an artist uses sparingly to embellish a piece. They shimmer when sunlight passes across them. The urge to touch is strong.

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The shop is a large space with shelves containing all the workaday tools to make a mosaic: tile cutters, grouts, tiler sponges, adhesives and wood bases in various shapes and sizes, mirrors and table tops. But it is the unglazed ceramic and vitrified glass tiles sourced from Mexico, China, India, France, Portugal and Italy in every colour imaginable that leave a lasting impression.

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So why is Mosaic Workshop in West Norwood? The business was launched in Holloway by mosaic artist Emma Biggs in 1987. Back then the focus was on mosaic commissions. Selling mosaic materials evolved into an additional income later. James joined in the early 90s, eventually taking on the shop side of the business. Being local to West Norwood, he set up in the current premises nine years ago. He recalls some of the commissions they did in those early days – mosaic pieces for Sir Terence Conran’s flagship restaurants Quaglinos and Mezzo, restoration work at the National Portrait Gallery, and a pair of boxing gloves for the bottom of Frank Bruno’s swimming pool! One of the highlights has been fixing a mosaic in a 13-storey cruise liner in Germany. James describes it as a floating tower block – from the top the people working below looked like ants. The mosaic was 20 square metres and took a week to install.

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Who frequents the shop? About 10 per cent of customers are in the building trade. And, of course, Mosaic Workshop has artist regulars professionally working on commissions, community projects or running courses. Tessa Hunkin, a trained architect, also part of the original Mosaic Workshop team and responsible for some large-scale mosaics in Westminster Cathedral, now runs Hackney Mosaic Project. This group has created some of London’s finest community mosaics, often working therapeutically with people in the process of making. Examples of their work can be seen at London Zoo.

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But the majority of customers are people undertaking decorative projects for their home – a hearth for a fireplace, garden paving slabs, bird baths, feature mirrors, and splashbacks for kitchens and bathrooms. Because it’s important to see the colours in person, makers will often visit deepest West Norwood, despite the mail-order service. What James enjoys most is meeting his customers, hearing about their projects and sharing ideas. It’s a bonus when they send in photos of the completed project. James comments that there has been a resurgence of interest in mosaics as an art form. Maybe this is due to the fact people are enhancing their homes rather than moving house. He ponders, “but also making requires concentration – it’s a good way of blocking stress, it’s a moment of peace”.

That sums up the experience of Mosaic Workshop. There is a kind of serenity in the space and …something oh-so-deeply attractive about those colourful tiles.

 

Mosaic Workshop

Unit 2 Harry Day Mews

1 Chestnut Rd

SE27 9EZ

www.mosaicworkshop.com

 

Tue to Fri 10 to 5.30pm

Sat 10 to 4pm

Monthly Late Night until 8pm (1st Wednesday of every month)