Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fabulous Frome

On Monday, headed back East to London, we stopped off in Frome. We expected that quite a lot of shops would be shut on a Monday - and they were! No matter though, despite the grim and gloomy weather, we enjoyed our first visit to this charming town. This is the famed Catherine Hill where all the little individual shops are. A welcome relief from the modern high street. It was not looking its best on Monday!

(All photos courtesy of 'phone, as I forgot the camera - duh!)

There are quite a few shops selling vintage items, this one looked splendid with two vintage 1940's dresses in the window. The shop front itself is quite superb and a rare sight these days.

Just to confirm this shop's credentials, what do we see but stunning hats by the very talented Clare of Daisy Darling! Indeed, it was Clare's last post which made us think of making a little detour to Frome (thank you!)

At the top of the hill, I rather liked the look of this very minxy shop, sadly closed too! Well, there's nothing like a little tease, we'll just have to return!

Off then to somewhere which I had checked was to be open, the Black Swan Arts Gallery. First off, we had a fantastic lunch here of delicious homemade food. On a detour from the loos, I could not resist the shop! This is probably the best gift shop at a gallery/museum type place that I have seen. I mean, it had things you would actually want to buy! Stunning creations from some very talented crafts people.

Including these. I know some of you will instantly recognise this work.

Upstairs then into the gallery space to see the "Smile" exhibition. It certainly put one on the Munchkin's face. I was so pleased to see that he enjoyed it, I had wondered if it was going to be "his sort of thing". Several of the displays were interactive which he liked. It impressed me that it was permissible for the children to touch the displays. I think children do know how to behave themselves around things which they perceive are special.

He was the only one who thought to open the little door in the middle of this (fetching) vintage table; he was rewarded by some "borrowers" type creatures inside!

More had taken over this (once lovely) chair!

It was all I could do, meanwhile, not to rush straight to the far end of the gallery. There was the display of work by a woman whom I've been quite fascinated by for some time...

Have you heard of Julie Arkell?

She is a folk artist who works with papier mache to create these fantastic creatures. I most love her fabulous attention to detail; look at those vintage fabrics, little trims and brooches, those embroidered words.

Julie doesn't have a website of her own but you only need to Google her to find a wealth of wonderful photos and blog entries of those lucky enough to have attended one of her workshops (that shall be me later in the year!) Get yourself a cuppa and a slice of cake before you start and prepare to while away a few (oh so pleasurable) hours...

I have a very strong urge to make little embroidered pinnys!

You've got to love Stanley!

Although he seems to have upset these ladies!

Not forgetting the two aunts. These reminded me of me and my sister!

On the far wall, there were many papier mache frames displayed, with photos of Julie's creations inside. Julie was inspired to create these by a book she found (I think it had belonged to her aunt), in which pages had been stuck together and then apertures cut out.

I liked this framed picture. My favourite papier mache doll had been sold though.

A book has been published about Julie entitled "Home" which is well worth a read. It can be tricky to get hold of but the Black Swan Gallery has copies in its shop at £12 (you will likely pay much more than this online, as I did!)

There was also a very interesting article about Julie in Selvedge magazine a few years ago (although I only picked this up as a back issue at the International Festival of Quilts because the article caught my eye). Julie apparently lives in a family home in Islington and uses her staircase to display her collection of belongings.

I must just show you a few snaps from "Home" of Julie's studio. Now you know, she is a woman after my own heart!

Do visit the exhibition if you get the chance, it is wonderful (entry is by donation) and is travelling the country so look out for it near you if you cannot make it to Frome.

The Munchkin and I are now feeling truly inspired this half term and it's fair to say, we hope to have some crafty creations of our own to show you. (Yikes!) However, if you would like to see some more really fantastic papier mache creations, you should look at the very talented Vanessa's beautiful blog.


  1. I haven't been to Frome for ages, but you've persuaded me with your lovely post that a trip down the M5 might be in order!

  2. Oh gosh we're going to have to head to Frome one weekend soon. I did a vintage fair the other day and met a lovely lady who had an amazing stall. She was based in Frome too - obviously the place to be!

  3. What a beautiful post, firstly enticing pictures of Frome, and then an amazing exhibition, I've admired Julies work on peoples blogs for a while now, and to see so much in one go is truly lovely, as well as snippets from her book and selvedge, I shall certainly make the effort to see the exhibition if it tours near me. It makes a lovely change from the exhibition I saw yesterday where there were large notices saying no photography!!!

  4. Frome looks lovely. I'm going to plan a trip soon

  5. Ah I could look at those little creatures all day. I believe the Smile exhibition is making its way to the Harley Gallery near Welbeck shortly - i will be there to admire. Julie's book is wonderful I browse through it all the time and I was lucky enough to have her sign it for me when I attended one of her courses making it even more special. Thanks for sharing. Debs X

  6. What an insight into Frome and the exhibition. They both look very interesting.

    I'm loving that Welsh Lamb! x

  7. What wonderful creatures,can't wait to see what you make.

  8. I really enjoyed a jolly jaunt through Frome when we went but we didn't spend very long there and I'd love to go again.
    Love the exhibition!

  9. Lovely creations, especially "Bo-peep". I shall have to look and see if the exhibition is coming our way.
    Thank you for another beautiful post, Hen.
    Carol xx

  10. Completely and utterly in LOVE with that pink hat in the window. Lush, lush!!!!.....and Julie Arkell..........her work is soooo delicious and downright GORGEOUS!!!!

    Fantastic post to tickle the taste buds!!!!!!!

    Vanessa xxx

  11. Oh dear, what a wonderful post. I would give my eye teeth to see these things in person. Thanks so much for taking the time to share all of the photo's and art work, I want to see if I can find a book on JULIE ARKELL, Thanks again. HUGS MARY

  12. I have never been to Frome but i would really love to pay it visit now looks like a lovely place, and the exbition i adored those rabbits. Thanks for sharing i lovely post, dee x

  13. I can't think why I have missed visiting Frome on my travels!Such a wonderful place.
    Those papier mache dolls are indeed charming and very unusual,
    Julie is a very talented lady.
    I can see you've been inspired..I wonder what you are going to make next?! Oh.. and thanks for the info on my flowers,very sweet of you. ;0)

  14. Firstly, I want one of those hats!
    Secondly, I love the exhibition...Julie Arkell's artwork is fab. Pity it's not coming to Scotland!

    Dawn x

  15. thanks for the introduction to julie, hen.....and frome looks really interesting will have to get there on our visit to bath next month...just love those little borrowers

  16. Hello Hen
    What a wonderful post (I love your blog anyway!) but I love love love Julie Arkells work and your photos are fantastic! Its brilliant to see some of her new creations. I am lucky enough to be going on one of her courses this year which I'm so excited about. I'm so see pleased to have seen your post as I have realized she is coming with the exhibition near me! Will definitely be revisiting this post to look at the lovely photos again! With you on Vanessa's blog too, her paper mache figures are stunning! Don't you just love Evangeline!
    Sally xx

  17. Great post!! have not heard of Julie before, her work's amazing...will definitely get to Frome, not far from me. Friday and Sat the vintage shops are open, I did the same thing...... nearly killed me when they were all shut!!
    Sophie x

  18. Fabulous post - I love Julie Arkell - great to see her stuff as you did - thanks for sharing!

  19. Hi Hen - I posted about Julie Arkell recently too (and I paid £18 for her book from Loop!!) Drat. Thanks for the tour of Frome - definitely looks like the place is worth a re-visit but not on a Monday x

  20. Frome looks so interesting...I really fancy a mooch around those shops. And amazing papier mache figures...she's ovbiously a very talented artist.

  21. Hi,

    Have just found your blog, I live in Frome and am a very lucky girl!

    Its a great town to live in and i love it when i stumble across someones comment!

    Catherine Hill is amazing, once a month in the spring/summer months they have a street market which is v cool!

  22. ooo, how gorgeous Frome looks! Thank you so much for posting this; we are moving to Somerset in 8 weeks time and now I know of at least one town in the near vicinity that will tickle my fancy!

  23. thanks for a fantastic post - i love her work but like you i do think Vanessa's characters are great too - fancy going on julia's course like she did!

  24. Wow her work is just so inpsirational, am going to look and see where else Smile is going to be exhibiting - thanks for the great photo's even if they were taken on your mobile they have certainly captured her work beautifully.

  25. 10 years back
    made a radical life choice
    between moving to frome or france
    france won!
    still love frome and bath and surroundings
    great post
    cheers a plus

  26. Hen, thanks for the Monday tour of frome. Please do get back there on another day, and please do take along your camera. Although, must say that you take fine photos with your phone!

    Julie A's work is very inspirational...lucky you to be able to attend one of her workshops. If I were on your side of the Atlantic, think that I would find a way to sign up for one, too.

    And, on the subject of artistry, I cannot agree more with you about the talents of one Vanessa, of Do You Mind if I Knit!

    Before I click to send this comment, let me also tell you again how much I do love reading your posts, and staying in touch with your zest for life, textile taste and unique creative eye.


  27. Thanks for sharing Julie's work, I've never seen it before, it's beautiful :)
    Frome looks good, I feel a visit coming on! x

  28. I've not seen Julie Arkell's work before, but it's absolutely stunning. I'm off to do some more research. Thank you for your lovely post.

    PS I'm quite taken with your son. He's lovely. I have two sons of my own and have a special place in my heart for polite, well behaved little boys.

  29. I love Frome...wonderful to see photos and looks like an excellent exhibition...ah to be an artist!!! xxx

  30. Frome looks lovely - like you say, so good to see somewhere without all the identikit High Street stores.

    Love Julie Arkell's work, looks like a wonderful exhibition, I shall definitely try to get along to see that. Love Vanessa's creations too, they are just so darling.

    Hope you and the Munchkin have enjoyed your half term - don't they whiz by these holidays ?!

  31. Fantastic Hen! Thank you thank you thank you for showing us this exhibition, a great big thank you, and I shall definitely be looking out for this exhibition and hope it comes near us. And thank you very much for mentioning me, that's very nice of you! Love Vanessa xxx

  32. Hi Hen I'm so sorry I didn't get your message! fro me is closed Mondays well the good shops are! I'm glad you saw the exhibition though! Maxine from the wool shop bought the framed picture with no.13 on his jumper for her shop....fabulous!

  33. These are great. Such inspiration. Can't you just picture a proper English tea with these characters? They remind me of the characters in Caulder's Circus, not the way they look, but the stories that go with them. I stumbled onto it at the Whitney with my son when he was little and spent an hour pouring over the set-ups. (The Caulder's Circus children's book is great, too!)

  34. i have never been to Frome, but it looks so lovely, I think we might just have to visit sometime soon. That vintage shop...!! Oh!!!! :)

  35. Thank you so much for sharing that! I just love her work, and I never would have seen it otherwise, I'm sure. I so wish I could visit the display...

  36. Hello again!

    Ive just looked at the Tana Lawn fabrics on Liberty website but couldnt find the rose one that is part of your quilt, did you buy it from there, OOoh I lovbe it just what im after to use as a front panel on a cupboard for my little girlie!

  37. Love your blog, and I have serious cottage envy. BTW, saw the name "Poot" on one store, in America poot means when a girl farts....a little almost silent girly fart. Just sayin'.


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