London | Staircases

The house that I grew up in, in Kenya probably grew out of a doodle that my father handed to a company of local builders. They in turn probably knocked it together out of wood and cement in next to no time at all and we probably moved in before the paint was dry. 

Thinking about it now, it's quite amazing that it took about a decade for the house to begin to crumbling at its seams. But the staircase being made out of cast concrete, well that was the most solid thing in the house!  It had 8 steps of varying depth that lead from my “room” to my parents room. I say “room” because I realise now that it was actually little more than broad corridor with a bed in it. Anyway. The staircase was my favourite place in the house. It was the best place to play on rainy days. I would leap from it, pretend it was a mountain and when the time came that I  begun to get homework, I’d sit on the second to top step and use the top step as my makeshift desk. Call me romantic, but I'd like to think that this is where thing with staircases begun.

These days I live in a flat and I always take the lift to my floor – because stairs and buggies will never be great friends. However, when I do see a beautiful staircase – I marvel at its form and secretly feel the urge to climb to the second to top step, sit down and read a book. I imagine that would get me into all kinds of trouble.

There are plenty of well-liked staircases in London. The Tate Modern, Tate Britain, V&A, Somerset House and other famous tourist destinations never fail to impress on Instagram. I like them but not quite as much as I do the staircases hidden away it the realities of everyday local London. In places like tower blocks, office blocks and public services like libraries and town halls. I was quite hypnotised by this splendidly sinuous timber one that I came across in the library in Canada Water.

Do you have a favourite staircase?

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Instagram seems to be evolving so fast these days. I'm kinda loosing touch with what's going on in its fast lane. I have no idea what people are talking about when they say things like; "engagement", "algorithms" and "influencers". Truth be told, I don't care. 

Instagram started of as a bit of fun for me. I then accidentally got lost in a hashtag jungle and discovered, much to me heart's content a bunch of people who also saw the world through it's details and creativity. I found accounts free of selfies, fast fashion, momentary trends and who's pictures didn't feature dozens of branded tags. 

Hashtags have their limits

Hashtags are how I meander my way through Instagram in my journey to connect with other observers and appreciators of the overlooked details in everyday life. But as with Instagram swells in popularity  and money making angles, hashtags tire and my time is increasingly spread thin across other priorities, it is harder to find those golden nugget accounts that make me catch my breath at their perspectives. It's like sifting through a mountain of books for that rare overlooked gem you've been hoping to find. Or flicking through aisles of records to find that misplaced bit of amazing that hasn't ever made it to the top of the pile. What I'm trying to say - rather badly, is that a lot of good stuff gets lost in the abundance of pictures floating around in the Instagram universe. After all - not everyone is specific about their hash tagging and Instagram does weird secret banning things. 

More than just for editing 

This is where VSCO get's my thumbs up. In a nutshell, their newsletter, VSCO Issue and their Journal's archive offer real stimulus for inspiration. And more pertinent to this blog post, VSCO opens new paths for me to explore on Instagram by finding the creatives they highlight on Instagram and looking into the hashtags that they use.

A lot of VSCO users also have instagram accounts, many of them are flying under radar on Instagram for one reason or another (perhaps its because Instagram have different visual inclinations to the VSCO crowd).  It could just be me and my preferences- so don't go quoting me, BUT from my point of view - VSCO users impart a more sensitive and artistic air in their digital photography. I feel  that this is a place for observers of life and spurring creatives. Even the selfies seem to be more creative. 

Last week, something cool happened on VSCO. I use VSCO to edit my iPhone pics but I don't publish all my pics here as, quite honestly I keep forgetting to and more often than not, run out of time everyday. So I was a bit surprised why my phone suddenly began buzzing with new follower alerts on VSCO. Turns out that one of my pictures was curated to VSCO SELECTS which in their words is a "showcase of exceptional content from around the globe". To be honest - I have no idea what this really means. I'm yet to figure out the whole VSCO thing. I just publish pictures and kind forget it. 

But, I have to admit, it felt good to get a little recognition and encouragement on a platform that I regularly look to for inspiration and schooling. You can take a look at my mention here.

IN SHORT. I Like VSCO because:

  • I like the camera 
  • I using it to edit pics before I post them to Instagram or here
  • They have an inspiring newsletter and journal archive
  • I use it to find and follow amazing people on Instagram
  • I would like to be able to use the platform properly. One day.

Do you publish pics on VSCO? What are your thoughts on it. Got any tips? I'm awakes grateful for the learning.


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Magic Mundane | Pavement Patois

I don't know about you, but I can't help wondering what all these doodles that we stomp all over are about. These psychedelic doodles that appear on our pavements like cryptic modern hieroglyphs.

Thanks to Bloomzy, Jack Spicer Adams and the BBC, I've learned that these markings are the work of surveyors, utility and construction companies. A sort of "pavement patois" that helps to navigate the unseen convolution of  pipes, cables and other stuff that lie beneath. From what I've gleaned off the internet and talking to friendly locating company staff:

Red = Electrical cables.
Blue = Water mains
Yellow = Gas
Green = Communications
White = Misc notes

For a colour obsessed observer like me, this is really interesting stuff and as weird as it may sound, I'd like to be able to read a bit of pavement squiggle. 

So if you by chance, spot me stood transfixed, staring at the pavement, scratching my head, please DO ask me what I am doing! I cannot wait for the opportunity to say; "Sorry, can't chat right now. I'm very busy reading the pavement".

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Objects | Little Coffee Cup

There I was mooching around Cotogoto in Koenji, Tokyo. I'd spent months and and months adoring their Instagram account, I had a mental list of things I wanted to check out... and now that I was finally right there, I was a bit overwhelmed. 

Cotogoto is a small but conscientiously curated homewares shop. The sort of place that if you aren't really that into the provenance, simplicity and minutiae of the objects that you choose to introduce into your home, well, you'd most probably scoot around the shop and right out again in under 15 minutes. 

However, if you are more like us, then it's a very lovely place to be indeed. 

But. Like I said at the start. I was a bit overwhelmed by every tiny little thing in the tiny little shop. 

Then, my eyes settled on this espresso cup. I held it. It felt right. I wasn't going to leave without it.  And here it is, back with me in London. Charming me everytime I look at it. 

I've decided that It's the colour of sea mist with a hint of storm clouds swirled in. And there's definitely some milky fog and duck egg in there too. It's just so lovely. And truly lovely things make you stop for a moment to regard them and remember something about their story - no matter how long they've accompanied you in your day to dayness.

Embroidery is something I'm working on for STRANGER LONDON SHOP.
The nippers are another treasured item of mine. You can read my story about them  HERE

It is made by Yumiko Iihoshi, a potter, creating beautifully tactile  hand crafted ceramics from her studio in Tokyo. 

"It is my ideal to make pieces that are infused with nostalgia.
Inspiring people to reflect and reminisce about time gone by...."

  • Yumiko's maintains that her handmade line is not overly stylised, but is made with function and purity in mind. Her goal is to create a range of pieces that stand on the boundary between handmade and conventional goods. 
  • Each piece of Yumiko Iihoshi porcelain is meant for everyday use and will get better with age.

  • | Links for the curious |
  • Yumiko Iihoshi's website (English)
  • Cotogoto Shop Japan Website
  • If you are looking to buy some of Yumiko Iihoshi's porcelain here in UK, look here.
  • Yumiko happens to be having an exhibition in Marylebone till mid November 2017

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    Architecture | The Seagram Building

    I wish I could have been with Hiro as he stood in front of this building. For years upon years, I've seen him flick through and refer to this book. The Seagram Building emblazoned on the cover.

    The Seagram Building in Manhattan, New York needs little introduction. It is an architectural masterpiece. With its heavyweight design background, provenance and sublime delivery, it created a precedent in modern architecture. The architect was the maestro Mies van der Rohe. Philip Johnson oversaw the interiors and the lighting designer was Richard Kelly (the godfather of architectural lighting design).

    Completed in 1958, this 38 story structure of steel and glass was the most expensive building in the world.  Understandable when the  materials used included bronze, marble and travertine.

    The Seagram Building is an elegant and exemplary masterclass of design at any given moment. But at night,  when the external fabric is revealed in silhouette, the building with the exuberance of a lantern - glows with refinement. Dieter Rams highlighted timelessness as being a vital principle of good design and the Seagram is precisely that. Timeless  even in the midst of progression. I'm sure every architect attempting to make their mark in New York, tips their hat in respect when they pass this building. 


    The Structure of Light by Richard Kelly

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    From My Phone | Barbican

    The Barbican has grown in popularity over the years. it’s no wonder that umpteen photos of the striking skyward-bound perpendicular Lauderdale House or the oasis like entrance to the Barbican Centre sweep across Instagram.  These days, not even its lofty conservatory can claim to be a secret sanctuary in London. The last time, I visited, I questioned if there were more people than plants on show.

    But the Barbican still has its secrets, in the form of pleasing perspectives for those that drift away from the crowds.
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