A chance to mass-produce Christmas cards
All similar but all different
The theme for the last watercolour session of the year at St Marks during the Plumstead Community Market was how to capture winter scenes. It was a particularly well-attended session with just enough room for everyone who came. There was a selection of suitably snowy pictures for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t brought their own to work from. Several people used candles to create a wax resist while others used masking fluid as they had been taught several workshops ago. Luckily for us, the heating was working more effectively than in the main hall with the consequence that everyone who came into the room exclaimed at how warm it was.
Andrew showed how he had produced his Christmas card for this year by basing his composition on a standard landscape scene and then imagining it covered in snow, inventing the colours. Usually there is an air of intense concentration but as it was the last class of the year a more lighthearted atmosphere prevailed with a bit more good-natured chatter than usual. In spite of this a number of accomplished paintings were produced. Now that most regular attendees have built up a body of work, the idea of participating in the Open Studios during Plumstravaganza was mooted.
Not a woodcut, but a watercolour, showing the source material
Based on another picture, but with new colours imagined
A relaxed atmosphere at the last watercolour class of 2018
With half an hour to go before the end of the market, homemade spicy apple cookies, shortbread and a selection of chocolates were produced, all washed down with a bottle of sherry and a bottle of port for the benefit of anyone who fancied a festive drink. A couple of regulars who hadn’t been able to participate this time also dropped by and socialised, before we all packed up and went home in the perishing cold and rain.
A Maxfield Parrish moment, but not based on one of his pictures!
Local street scene after rain, working from mobile phone
The Spiral Garden hosted a drop in swap and share session as part of Plumstravaganza 2018. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, sunny without being oppressive, and its location next to Plumstead Common Nature Reserve added to the pleasant ambience. A steady stream of visitors came by, either to try the different herbs that grow on the site, or to donate or sell their produce. Many were visiting the Spiral Garden for the first time or remembered it when it had been a children’s play area.
There were two huge bags of conference pears (Maggie took some at the end to make pear pickle for the Plumstead Pickle Festival in December) and home made raspberry jam for sale, packed with fruit. There was a box of very large eating apples and home grown spuds, and plenty of organic garlic and onions from GCDA’s garden site at Woolwich Dockyard, one of several run as part of Growing Greenwich. Someone brought several sprigs of ginger rosemary which encouraged those present to take some home and try to strike cuttings from it, by placing tips in water. The rest will be dried and the needles rubbed off for experimenting with, probably to make a syrup for flavouring drinks.
For refreshment, every visitor was offered three drinks on arrival; the first being water flavoured with salad burnet to give it a light cucumber taste. Next, apple juice to which sweet woodruff had been added. Sweet woodruff when crushed quickly develops an almond flavour and is a key ingredient in May Bowl, a traditional German recipe. Finally, an infusion of Moroccan Mint, as served in Turkish restaurants. Meanwhile there were small savoury biscuits made with chives and winter savoury which proved popular. Also well liked were the oriental mustard leaves growing freely in one of the beds. Small pots of herbs, including some used to flavour the drinks were available to take away. As if that weren’t enough, there were several home made lavender bags and packets of seeds to take home and try. The new banner for the Community Market at St Mark’s Hall was briefly unveiled while packing up and pronounced splendid. It will have its first official outing on Saturday 15th September when the Market recommences.
See Good Food in Greenwich for more details.
A number of Plumstead residents, whose families have lived in Plumstead for generations, will no doubt recall tales of the heyday of the Badge Queen of Plumstead told to them by their grandparents and great grandparents. Although the tradition began in Victorian times, it was not until after the First World War and through the 1920s that Badge Royalty reached its peak and even rivalled the Pearly King & Queen tradition in popularity.
Naturally, at the forefront of the scene was the Badge Queen of Plumstead and there are many a tale of wild Whit Mondays when the Queen and her entourage would meet up at the Green Man pubic house on Plumstead High Street. There they would partake in a morning tipple before boarding their fleet of charabancs to take them out into rural north Kent, just shy of Sevenoaks. It was on a hill at this point that the Badge tradition had begun in 1878 and Whit Monday was the day that Badge Royalty from all over London would meet up to celebrate the event…. and consume a considerable amount of alcohol too. In fact, Beasley Brewery of Plumstead began to produce their Green Badge Milk Stout specifically for the occasion. Sadly, the tradition died out during the Depression, as badges became a form of currency for local transactions. Back then you could purchase three portions of crushed avocado on toast with poached eggs and tomatoes, which was the staple food in these parts, for just one badge, with or without its fastening pin. Nothing of the site in Kent remains today, with the exception that it is still known as Badger’s Mount.
I am sure even more of you would have known about all of this if there had been a shred of truth in anything written above. However, Art Plumstead are not going to let any of that stop the revival of a tradition that didn’t exist for which we need your help. We have located the last locally living relative of Plumstead’s last Badge Queen, Madge Coxwell, and the lady would be delighted to carry on the non-existant family tradition. Unfortunately, the cloak, which Madge wore has been lost and so we need you to supply badges for the new cloak that our future Queen hopes to wear at events around Plumstead later in the year.
Please note: The New Badge Queen of Plumstead made her first public appearance at
Plumstead Make Merry
on Saturday 9th June 2018
which is where the photograph at the top of this page was taken. Keep your eyes open for other appearances in the future.
Regular returners to the watercolour workshops faced a new challenge when they were given a still life to paint. This gave them a chance to build on the skills they had learned in the last workshop. (see previous blog to see how they did).
The objects in the arrangement were chosen to resemble the solid shapes of the previous exercise. Fruit – including a superannuated pomegranate – stood in for the spheres, a Victorian flowerpot was a truncated cone, a bamboo utensil holder gave practice in depicting a cylinder while the tines of the fork had the perpendicular planes of a cube. Behind it all, a richly coloured cloth invited the participants to show texture, while in the foreground there was the challenge of representing reflective surfaces. Andrew provided tips on how to show colour bouncing off adjacent objects, to show objects relating to one another, and to think tonally. Everyone admires the gorgeous colours of a painting, but it is held together by the tonal structure.”Tone does all the hard work, but colour gets all the glory!”
Luckily, the weather was sufficiently bright to allow the artists to work using natural light only, since artificial light ‘flattens’ all the objects. There was an atmosphere of intense concentration, as the pictures below show, in contrast to the lively atmosphere of the community market outside in the main hall. This workshop was useful practice in drawing from life for the forthcoming trip to Erith Yacht Club, where Art Plumstead have been invited to attend to sketch and draw the sights on view there.
A blustery day at the last Community Market saw numbers down, but while squally showers deterred visitors, the back room was a hive of activity for both watercolour sessions.
The morning session was geared towards introducing participants to some useful painting skills. For the remainder of the first session they were able to put their new skills into practice, selecting from a range of source materials before taking the plunge and ‘going large’ on a full sized piece of paper. By lunchtime, all attendees had a completed picture and four introductory exercises which, with a little judicious tweaking can form the basis of images for home made cards.
The afternoon session was set up to encourage existing artists to come along and work on their own watercolour project, whilst benefiting from Andrew’s advice and encouragement. Some people had enjoyed the first session so much, they elected to attend the second one as well. There was an atmosphere of intense concentration as everyone set to. Joe showed two paintings he had painted previously, see below. By the end of the day, everyone was pleased with what they had achieved.
Note* To smooth a watercolour painting that has cockled (dried bumpily) dampen the back of the painting and leave it to dry on a clean, flat surface.
There was a mixture of first-timers and others with acting experience at Erik’s introduction to Acting workshop on the last Community Market until the Autumn. It was a whistle-stop tour of the kinds of activities actors use to prepare themselves for their roles, with Erik explaining the relevance of each exercise to the craft of acting. It was also great fun!
As soon as each person arrived, they were instructed to move round the room, greeting each other using a particular set formula. This, Erik explained was to help everyone get used to learning lines. From there, we moved onto loosening the body with a series of exercises – this was to trick the body into feeling relaxed, when the actor would naturally be keyed up for the performance. There followed a section on using the space, moving faster and faster without colliding.
The next part of the workshop involved selecting a character from a number of pictures displayed at the side, ‘getting into the character’ of the person depicted and improvising answers to questions asked by the other participants. This moved onto juxtaposing two characters and having them interact in role. The final part concentrated on voice and speech, loosening the diaphragm and mouth to be able to deliver lines effectively. It finished with a quick round of word association. Throughout, Erik guided and supported the participants in a safe, non-threatening environment. By the end of the session, even the ones who had never tried it before had acquitted themselves admirably, and all had enjoyed a fascinating glimpse into the secret life of actors.
Business was steady to brisk at the second Christmas Plumstead Community Market, and the Art Plumstead stall had its fair share of customers.
The newly cleaned Art Plumstead cloth, having been purged of the post-competition residues of the Pickle Festival was (mostly) sparkling clean and set off the wares to good effect. A range of festive wreaths in two sizes to suit all tastes occupied one of the side tables and attracted buyers from the outset.
We were selling right up to the end of the market and as a result will face 2015 with a healthy balance to finance our activities in the New Year. We will be repeating the ideas we know are popular and successful, giving a new spin on others, and trying out some completely new ones. Come along to find out what we are doing and to be part of the Plumstead creative vibe!