Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Although he wasn't the first to sell vintage in Crystal Palace, for many years, Andy Stem was its sole standard bearer on Church Road. He has had a presence on the street for 22 years now, which surely earns him the title of the Triangle's Vintage Godfather! Having spoken to many locals in the course of writing this blog over the last 18 months, his influence, and that of his shop, Bambino, is indisputable. Where he started, many others have followed. As well as running the shop, he has been very much involved in setting up Church Road market, and the annual Crystal Palace Festival. After so many years in the business, he might be forgiven for wanting to put his feet up, but as all the recent changes indicate, he seems to be moving up a gear. The shop has doubled in size, and it now includes the Triangle's coolest cafe run by Ant West, aka the Anarchista Barista. Next on the agenda,  Andy is installing wonderful old pharmacy cabinets and an old fashioned cash desk. He's also planning to don  shopkeeper's overalls in the manner of Ronnie Barker. "Fork Handles" anyone?

Andy Stem, Vintage Godfather

Like many others I've interviewed, setting up shop was a complete break from Andy's previous life as a scientific editor, and again, like many others, the stepping stone was learning the ropes on a market stall. Predominantly selling bikers' leathers, he also showed a taste for the quirky objects that are now the staple of vintage interior shops, but there is no formula at work in Bambino. It's a shop that ploughs a very individual furrow. Andy's biggest buzz to this day, is matching an obscure item to a customer. Over the years, he has seen Church Road change from a semi-derelict backwater to the thriving destination it now is, and is a firm believer that locally owned independent businesses are the way to regenerate the area in a way that retains its personality and individuality. Getting the cinema opposite reopened, would also provide a valuable boost, he adds.

The recent caffeine injection on the premises is clearly having its own regenerative effect. Like Vivienne's tea room down the road, it provides a reason for people to hang out, animating both the shop and the street. Ant, a recent settler from New Zealand, takes his coffee very seriously, and is on a mission to reeducate our palettes, sullied by years of coffee  chain mocha-chinos and corporate marketing. Having operated from various establishments on the Triangle, it seems that as part of Andy's vintage emporium, Ant has found the perfect blend.

Ant West, Anarchista Barista

So, if you're not sure what you're after, head along to Bambino this weekend, and chances are Andy will have just the thing.

28-30 Church Road
020 8653 9250
Open, Thurs-Sun 10-6pm

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Tine & Lene Bladbjerg

I've just realised, this is now my fourth post from Cooper's Yard. Perhaps the title of the blog needs to change to reflect this. The Triangle is full of interesting people, but this is a definite hotspot! Upstairs from Allbone & Trimit in the Overspill, is the studio of two Danish sisters, Tine & Lene Bladbjerg. They have been ploughing their own creative furrows there since 2004; Tine in jewellery, and Lene in Graphic Art. Their space is a simple loft divided roughly in two by the staircase coming up from below, with easels on one side and metal tools on the other. However, the spatial divisions are only for practicalities. You get the sense that they  thrive on being in each other's company to the benefit of their work. Lene recalls how she hated working on her own at home, and Tine was equally disaffected by her daily commute from Southeast London to a studio in Clerkenwell.

Tine (on the left) & Lene

Although originally from Denmark, the sisters had grown up mostly in Belgium, so when Tine decided to study jewellery, it seemed just as logical to come and study in the UK as it would have been to return to Denmark. Also, there was just a better choice of art college here, added to the fact that in Denmark you are required to do years of apprenticeship in addition to studying. Tine began her studies in Rochester, and was soon followed by Lene, who came over to do a graphics course at London College of Printing in Elephant & Castle. Their choice of art colleges was to be a major reason for them both settling in SE postcodes, first in Forest Hill, and now, both with partners, in Crystal Palace, where they feel very at home, and enjoy life in such an artistic community.
Tine's work with precious metals and stones, steers a path between classic and modern. Rather than producing a fixed range, the designs are constantly evolving, with new designs produced for every craft fair or exhibition she is involved in. A busy month lies ahead preparing for a crop of shows in November in Great Missenden, Teddington, and Bury St. Edmunds, not to mention their very own open studios weekend of 2nd/3rd/4th November. In addition, Tine also offers courses in jewellery making for beginners or people with more experience, for which vouchers will be available at their open studios event.

A solid grounding in graphics is clearly apparent in Lene's work. Wordplay, calligraphy and repetition of form are all themes she plays with to great effect. From large canvases to tea towels and cards, the images are both humorous and striking. Recycling is another recurring theme. I particularly like the giant swirl of discarded scalpel blades, but Lene will use anything from paper clips to cigar bands. So not only being creative, but keeping Crystal Palace tidy too! Lene also shows at art and craft fairs, including Spitalfields Arts Market and Urban Art Brixton, while also selling through the Catherine Miller Gallery, and online via Etsy.

During the Open Studios weekend, the work of creative friends is also on show. There are the lovely decorative fish by Sara Drake, who used to live locally but now lives slightly further south. Australia to be precise.

Also exhibiting is Justine Smith who makes a range of bags, and who is based in not quite so distant Dorset.

Curtains, blinds and upholstery by Clare Dunne will also be on display.

Finally, although the girls don't come from a particularly artistic background, their father took up painting in retirement, and now produces a Crystal Palace calendar every year, of shopfronts and buildings on the Triangle. 2013 will be available from the studios during their open weekend, and will also be on sale at Bookseller Crow.

Tine & Lene Bladbjerg
The Overspill
4 Coopers Yard
020 8670 6639