Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Crazy Man Crazy

Some people have a gift for sales. They will analyse the market, spot the business opportunity, and turn their hand to flogging almost anything. For others, the route to selling will be via a particular passion or hobby that outgrows their freetime. For Paul Davies, a local carpet fitter by trade, it was the latter. He'd always had a thing about bold patterned shirts of the 40s and 50s. In fact it was not just the clothing of that era, but also the music, dance, cars and design in general.

Over the years, Paul had noticed than many of his favourite clothing haunts in the Kings Road or over at Greenwich, had closed down or moved elsewhere, usually replaced by ubiquitous chainstores, more able to afford the ever increasing rents. Meanwhile he discovered that demand for retro clothing was stronger than ever. He sold a few old shirts through a market trader in Merton, and then again through a shop in Whitstable. It gradually dawned on him that he could make a business of it, and set about finding premises. Though our high streets may be littered with empty shops, often the difficulty, as he discovered, was finding out who owns them. 18A Church Road had once been occupied by his friend Andy, of Bambino, and at other times by an undertaker and a graffiti artist. Most recently it housed the offices of Croydon Enterprise, who duly awarded Paul a grant to restore the shop's exterior.

Since opening 18 months ago, the shop has become a mecca for people into all things 1940s and 50s. The stock mixes vintage originals with new retro styles, from labels including Dickies, Pike Bros and Rockmount. It didn't take long for me to find a shirt I just had to have.

My favourite shirt

From talking with Paul, I was amazed to discover the huge market that has grown up around this genre. Clubs catering to lovers of lindy hop and jive have sprung up all over the place, including several in SE London. There's the Diamond Jive Club at the Prince Regent Pub in Herne Hill, Swingin' at the Royston Club in Penge, the famous Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, and The Cat's Meow at London Bridge. Chances are that some of the bands performing at these venues have got kitted out at Crazy Man Crazy, such is the shop's growing reputation. And word is getting out, in the various magazines dedicated to the style, such as Men's File and ├╝ber cool Jocks & Nerds, in which Paul was recently featured. 

Crazy Man Crazy
18A Church Road

Monday, 10 October 2011

Joanna Charlotte, Artist

I first came across the work of Joanna Charlotte in Do South, where her prints of silver birches and magnolias are big sellers. Then, by chance, I bumped into her while having a nose around the Gipsy Hill Workshops during the Overground Festival back in August. Joanna's style is very exacting, finely detailed and polished, but for years she struggled to find the right direction, both in terms of style, and in her career.

After failing to find a college course that suited her, Joanna actually gave up her dream of being an artist, but found artistic expression designing interiors when she got into property developing. After completing a couple of development projects locally, she got her fingers 'burnt', and staring hardship in the face, she decided it would be better to be poor doing what she loved. So, in 2004 she picked up her paintbrushes again. Where before she had struggled with acrylics, she now discovered a love for oil paints. Her first commission came from her sister, who had just bought a new flat. The large empty wall in the living room was crying out for some art. By her own admission, her style was a lot less polished back then, and she has spent the intervening years honing and developing her talents. Her influences range from Stubbs, clearly evident in some of her beautiful equine portraits, to Klimt, to traditional Japanese art. Her birds, butterflies and flowers, while stunningly real, are often set within striking abstract backgrounds of gold leaf. Her former career working with interiors has also had a significant influence. Her paintings are as much interior pieces, as they are works of art.
Since moving her studio from home, to the workshop off Westow Street, where she is surrounded by other artists and makers, her career and confidence have leapt forward, with her work now exhibited on a regular basis. 

In addition to her beautiful paintings of flora and fauna, Joanna is regularly commissioned to paint portraits, not only of people, but pets too!

Joanna is represented by Four Walls.
Forthcoming exhibitions include Hampstead Affordable Art Fair & The Coltbridge Gallery.
Gipsy Hill Workshops will be having an Open Studios event on October 28-29th.