December 02 2011
The wares produced by the designers at Great Western Studios, west London’s complex of studios, are reliably eccentric, a quality that comes delightfully to the fore during its annual Christmas Open Studios event (held this year on December 3 and 4). Various surreal sideshows, courtesy of several local businesses, reinforce this impression: on the Saturday at 5pm, Tom Hodgkinson – proprietor of bookseller-cum-coffee house The Idler Academy – will be leading a carols singsong while strumming on a ukelele (just one quirky skill taught at his shop, along with embroidery and Latin). Harbour Club, a fitness club, will lay on tennis and Zumba fitness-dance classes and massages – free of charge.
On a more practical note, architects Threefold Architects and Pitman Tozer, which have studios in the complex, will hold an “Architect’s surgery” (a half-hourly consultation, £35), advising people on how to achieve more with their homes.
Yet this genially boho vibe shouldn’t obscure the fact that the event is commercial, with many artists and designers touting work – much of it jewellery on the assumption that, being small and portable, it lends itself perfectly to Christmas shopping. Bee Gregson’s silver dancing skeleton earrings inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead (£29), however, conjure up very non-Christian celebrations. But then the designers here are generally marvellous mavericks. Claire Coles, maker of such arresting images as black galloping horses and surreally oversized roses screenprinted on to vintage Liberty floral wallpaper (£35), is a case in point. So is Tessa Macgregor, creator of an oil painting depicting a reindeer incongruously surrounded by hibiscus flowers (pictured, £1,200).
More overtly Christmassy are Alexandra Myers’s charmingly 1950s-looking snowflake- and bauble-shaped biscuits, made of orange and cinnamon or ginger and vanilla (£3 to £5 each).
And sure to fuel the feverishly festive spirit will be an abundance of barbecued sausages served with red onion (in rolls) and piping-hot mulled wine.