It Comes and Goes

February 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

For everything we sell we provide a back up service which isn’t what many people do nowadays… but at the current time its very hard…Independent shops are going to be a thing of the past and I think everybody, once they are gone, is going to realise how important they are but its going to be to late.

Yesterday Lucy from Mid Pennine Arts and I moved the As It Comes work to St Nicholas Arcade as the project was commissioned to tour to different sites in Lancaster. At the same time we dropped into see some of the traders who had been part of the project and I was reminded of some of the conversations we had about the intangible aspects of knowledge and skills (which is feeding into our new programme Public Goods).  Whilst I was drawing and interviewing traders I tried to work out what were the tools of the trade, and what were the unspoken skills of the independent traders. The obvious tools were not necessarily the only or main ones,  there were many unspoken less obvious tools – things about how people talk to customers, their body language, how they use their hands, their knowledge of the tools, food and produce they sell and their experience;

Its the knowledge, you go to B&Q and you just pick it off the shelf but if you come here you can ask and we’ll tell you about it… you can come here with a description of what you need and we will disappear into the back shop and reappear with one single screw.

We had a lovely hardware shop but he has gone. They can’t compete with the chains, but you go into those places (chains) and ask for help and they are running away from you, they don’t want you to ask “what size screw?” or “what kind of glue?”..

He’d go, “Just a minute…” and he’d go in the back where he had hundreds of drawers and then he’d come out with it and you’d go, “Thank you so much how much?” and he’d go, “5 pence please”.”

Trading drawings, tea and mince pies

December 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment 


My time in Lancaster on As It Comes is drawing to a close this weekend with our final event this Saturday when we’ll be hosting a stall at the Vintage and Handmade Market at Storey Gallery in Lancaster from 11am until 6pm. Instead of a financial exchange for one of my drawings (with a brew, mince pie and piece of cake), I’ll be asking for your memories about independent shops. So bring me a memory and we will provide a drawing and some tasty refreshments. Directions are here.

At 1pm I’ll also be doing an informal talk about the work and weather permitting we will walk down to the hangings in 18 New Street and talk about Lancaster’s independent traders. You’ll also be able to pick up the set of storycubes and the project publication.

This week we had Caroline Maclennan in the studio using bookleteer to create a download-print and make sketchbook of documentation of As It Comes. We’ve been lucky to have Caroline as a placement on the project and she has also been documenting its progress. You can download her book here:

As It Comes

November 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

For the past few weeks I’ve been heading up and down from Lancaster working on As It Comes. It was commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts and Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce and is inspired by both the heritage and future of local traders and shopkeepers.

I have been interviewing and drawing with some of Lancaster’s current shopkeepers and traders to understand more about their businesses and talk about; craft and knowledge; communities and friendships; and the relationship with commodities, food, and people that is different from chains and supermarkets.

The project is continuing my work on markets and shops exploring the people and communities they engender.  I’ve been continually inspired by the skills, crafts and care of traders I’ve met in Lancaster – whether selling fabric, repairing tools or butchering meat. The As It Comes blog is recording some of the thoughts and conversations as the project continues.

Next week I am hanging some large scale work in New Street that combines traditional embroidery with drawing and digital printing on fabric, inspired by these conversations, the history of trade, development of textile technologies and history of cotton weaving in the area.

On the 4th December I’ll be leading a walk around of Lancaster talking about some of the issues raised by the project and thinking about the future of independent traders and town centers. NEF (New Economics Foundation) have published a follow up to their 2005 Clone Town report, entitled Re-imaging the High Street: Escape From Clone Town Britain which supports the need for independent traders; and the Transition Town movement – among others is gathering pace – so I am wondering what we want the new ecology of the high street to be? If you believe that supermarkets and large chains are unsustainable environmentally and socially, but we need some of what they offer, what new retail ecology might we build in the future?