London Craft Week 2016: Walking Tour

Martyn White

Posted on June 12 2016

Highlights from the walking tour of London's very first Craft Week, experiencing everything from guilding to antiques and furntire design.

London Craft week returned for a second year in May, putting on an incredible show of craftsmanship and talent in the windows of many stores across Pimlico road. After visiting last year, I was very excited to witness and learn the skills and tradition behind many of the UK's iconic and long-standing trades. This year's walking tour allowed us a more detailed look at this fascinating world by meeting with store owners, witnessing the crafts first hand and having tours of the showrooms. 

Man gilding mirror with gold leaf for London Craft Week at OssoqskiHighlights from London Craft Week 2016 at Ossowski specialist dealers in English 18th Century antique mirrorsgold leaf gilding at Ossowski for London Craft Week

Our first stop was Ossowski, a specialist dealer in English 18th Century antiques to learn more about gilding. As you can see from the short video above, the process is extremely delicate and time-consuming. Large pieces can take months to complete and they have to be perfect. I found it fascinating that to pick up a sheet of gold leaf and apply it to the mirror, the craftsman uses a paintbrush and the oil from his skin as the best method of application. 

We also had a tour of the showroom and workshop to discover new, old and refurbished designs, each with a fascinating story to hols. It is truly amazing to witness the workmanship, detail and time that is applied to even the smallest of items, reaffirming just how important these skills and crafts are to have.

Traditional upholstery at Howe London for London Craft WeekHowe antiques and upholstery Pimlico road for London Craft Week

It was time to move on to our next stop and brand, Howe. This beautiful showroom contained an eclectic mix of treasures ranging from 17th - 20th Centuries. Whilst we did not get to see the live demonstration, we were able to take a look at the processes and steps of the traditional chair upholstery. There were no staple guns or foam insight as many of us now associate with upholstery, instead, quality materials such as horse hair, tough linings and individually placed nails upholster a chair to such a high standard, that it will last several lifetimes. 

Parrot taxidermy display at JambJamb store Pimlico Road London Craft Week exotic bird taxidermy art on display at Jamb Pimlico Road, London

Internationally renowned for it's antique and reproduction fireplaces, Jamb is the go-to place for gorgeous design but, there was something on display during London Craft Week that made it even more intriguing, the exotic taxidermy artwork. Knowing very little about the process, I tried to keep an open mind on a subject that many people feel strongly about. Each animal used in this project has died of natural causes and are predominantly sourced from zoos. What makes this display extra special is the frame used for each animal. Whilst most taxidermists use a template frame, these ones have been custom made for each bird to suit its body shape, style and maximise its natural beauty. 

Traditional horse hair upholstery on display at London Craft WeekRose Uniacke london showroom displays for London Craft Week

It was time to continue our London Craft Week walking tour and make our way towards Rose Uniacke where there was a live horsehair upholstery demonstration taking place in their shop window. Having never touched horse hair in my life, it was definitely a memorable moment and very interesting to learn just what it takes to produce the one seat cover demonstrated by our talented craftsman above. This beauty and focus on luxury were echoed around the showroom across the designs on display from Rose Uniacke. It was fantastic to see such a combination and connection between traditional and contemporary items. 

Creating a luxury floral display for London Craft WeekJoanna Wood store London Pimlico road floral demonstrationLuxurious floral display and demonstration

Our final stop for the tour was definitely the crowd pleaser. Many members of the public joined us as we gathered outside the Joanna Wood store to watch the floral demonstration. There were bunches of flowers piled high and the smell was absolutely beautiful. Arranging the flowers through and around a central crown, we could all not believe just how large and impressive the finished product looked! A bouquet fit for a queen was the perfect way to finish the walking tour. 

Throughout the walk it was discussed and showcased just how how much skill and time it takes to learn an incredible skill such as the ones featured above. It is becoming increasingly hard to find and train young apprentices to continue the legacy that is so vital to our furniture and interior industries. This pride and passion for craftsmanship is at the heart of London Craft Week and it is their aim to expose and showcase these skills to help people understand what luxury is truly about. With what has been an incredible learning journey for me, I hope that everyone can walk a way with a little more understanding about these inspirational crafts and the skills required to complete them. 

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