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Please note that our shops and Workroom will be closed on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd of June. Additionally, our website will be down for maintenance from the evening of Wednesday 1st June until the evening of Thursday 2nd June.

01 August, 2018

A balloon whisk in stainless steel contrasts with the exquisite delicacy of a Japanese tea whisk. The Japanese ‘Chasen’ is used to mix green matcha powder with hot water, and is an essential element of the traditional tea ceremony. The ubiquitous Western balloon whisk does not carry connotations of refinement and formality.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 July, 2018

    Two traditional lunch boxes. The marbled enamel example is from France, where lunch boxes of this type were used by labourers and schoolchildren alike. The interior reveals a small, lift out tray for bread. The circular box in Japanese cedar likewise has a removable inner tray. Its smooth flawless finish makes it a joy to handle.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 June, 2018

    This simple Japanese ‘Yunomi’ is an everyday cup for tea drinking. Sensibilities towards crockery can differ between East and West. The Western ceramic traditions tends to favour smooth, shiny surfaces. In Japan, uneven, often matt textured surfaces are not uncommon. The classic British ‘Berylware’ cup and saucer reminds us of summer fetes and vicarage tea parties!

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 May, 2018

    These paintbrushes, though superficially similar, are constructed in quite different ways. Is it just familiarity with the Western example that makes the Japanese brush so interesting? The single piece handle divides to grip the bristles tightly and has an undeniably Eastern line.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 April, 2018

    The ‘Tawashi’ scourer is made from Hemp Palm fibres bundled together around a wire core. Highly tactile objects, these scourers are still commonly used in Japan. In Western kitchens, the knitted, metallic scourer is a more familiar sight. Seen here out of context, each scourer assumes characteristics of a surrealist art object.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 March, 2018

    These two caddies are similar in form, but on different scales. Since the 1930s, Cornishware has been instantly recognisable in Britain, with its coloured stripes evoking the sea and skies of Cornwall. The size of this caddy makes it a perfect container for tea bags. Meanwhile, the traditional Japanese example is used for loose tea. It is handmade from raw tin and is intended to develop a weathered patina with use. Also shown is the copper scoop, which normally lives inside the caddy.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 28 February, 2018

    Introducing the E2 jean, exclusive to Labour and Wait.

    Specified by us and manufactured in Walthamstow, London, these jeans are cut in a relaxed heritage fit, with a straight leg.

    They are made from 14.5oz selvedge denim, with great attention paid to the detailing and construction. This includes hidden rivets, a reinforced back pocket and a patch made from our iconic canvas apron fabric.

    Our jean is suitable for both men and women.

  • See more: 2018


  • 01 February, 2018

    Here we find two opposite approaches: The Japanese saw cuts on the pull stroke whereas the traditional Western saw cuts as you push. The different methods have evolved because of the types of wood they were required to cut. The refined Japanese saw works well on a soft wood like cedar; the more robust European saw tackles harder woods such as oak.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 January, 2018

    Tea is considered a national drink in both Japan and Britain. The aesthetic of both teapots is redolent of their culture. The traditional Brown Betty is a common sight on many British breakfast tables. This classic round teapot, made from the red clay found in Staffordshire, is considered the ideal shape for producing the perfect cuppa. In Japan, the iron ‘Tetsubin’ teapot is favoured for both heating and brewing, partly because the iron changes the taste of the water, making the tea mellow and sweet.

  • See more: 2018, Calendar, East and West


  • 31 December, 2017

    Now that our 2018 Calendar is sold out, we will be sharing each monthly image on our blog throughout the year.

    For this calendar we are comparing domestic items from the Eastern and Western worlds. Whenever we visit Japan, we are fascinated by the way in which our different cultures approach similar tasks, and the way in which generic products have evolved in consequence. Our choice of calendar subjects is unashamedly esoteric, but we hope you will enjoy a very personal appreciation of the singularities of East and West.

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, East and West


  • 01 December, 2017
    How long is a piece of string? An essential item, no home can function without at least one ball of string. There is an abundance of different types of string for numerous domestic chores and we love them all! A beautifully wound ball or spool is a sight to behold and who can resist brown paper packages tied up with string?

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 November, 2017
    How can we extol the virtues of the lowly bucket? This basic vessel is found in every culture and is indispensible. The bucket is a perfect form, which has evolved over the centuries and cannot be improved. Early buckets were made from wood or leather. So long as it remains watertight a bucket is the go-to object in many an emergency. We speak from experience!

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 October, 2017
    We have always admired the tactile qualities of handmade ceramics despite their ‘socks and sandals’ associations! Today there is a renewed interest in all crafts and pottery is therefore enjoying a revival. The combination of earth, fire and natural minerals can produce objects of great beauty, and display evidence of the maker’s hand.

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 September, 2017
    Who can forget going back to school armed with a new set of freshly sharpened pencils? Today surrounded by technology there is still something reassuring about a simple pencil. Even the process of sharpening a pencil and the smell of the wood shavings can be a joy. Pencils come in many guises; it seems there is a pencil available for every task!

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 August, 2017
    Utilitarian buttons are an ongoing fascination. Military and workwear buttons are resolutely fit for purpose. Vintage button cards catch our attention with buttons in serried ranks, all ship shape and Bristol fashion. Material, colour and proportion are key to our appreciation. Running your hand through a box of buttons is soothing, but not if you suffer from koumpounophobia!

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 July, 2017
    Paper products have always appealed to us, and labels are emblematic of this. The humble brown luggage tag has been used to label our products in the shop from day one. Bold graphic postal labels and stickers with their direct informative statements are particularly pleasing. Traditional gummed labels with handwritten inscriptions remind us of dusty museum cabinets full of catalogued artifacts.

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 June, 2017
    A teapot is somehow comforting, reassuring and always a welcome sight. They come in a surprising variety of forms, each seeming to possess its own personality. The basic teapot form is unmistakable: spout, handle and lid, and has remained thus for 300 years or so. A ‘good pourer’ is essential; a dripping teapot is a no - no! At LABOUR AND WAIT it’s always time for tea.

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 May, 2017
    This simple square of cloth is imbued with many strong associations, from catching a sneeze to surrendering a battle. Classic spotted handkerchiefs are often featured in traditional gentlemen’s outfitters, but equally they are redolent of Dick Whittington’s bindle. Morris dancers may be seen waving handkerchiefs, not to mention the British affectation of knotting a hanky on your head at the seaside!

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 20 April, 2017
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     Our first shop on Cheshire Street was fitted out with a set of vintage enamel industrial lampshades, which we had found at an antiques fair. Customers would always ask to buy them, so we decided to put them into production. These iconic factory style shades quickly became one of our best selling lines. That was around fifteen years ago!

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    Although there are now numerous industrial type shades available, we feel our high quality enameled steel shades offer amazing value and are still the pick of the crop.

    We also sell a range of twisted fabric covered flex and metal bulb holders which complete the look.

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  • See more: 2017, Enamelware


  • 01 April, 2017
    These have been an obsession for many years! We even have a Brush Museum on display in our shop. There seems to have been a brush developed somewhere at sometime for every cleaning opportunity. Often considered a rather humble ‘everyday’ object they display a great degree of craftsmanship. We are always fascinated by the skill of the brush maker.

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 29 March, 2017

    Labour and Wait is delighted to collaborate with The Gentle Author to present a Spitalfields Life Bookshop for 10 days at our Bethnal Green Workroom. This will be a rare chance to take a look at all Spitalfields Life Books titles in one place and have a peek behind the scenes at Labour and Wait.

    The bookshop will be open between 11am and 6pm everyday from Wednesday 26th April until Saturday 6th May, except for Sunday 30th April.

    On Tuesday 25th April at 7:00pm, we shall be launching the latest title from Spitalfields Life Books, A HOXTON CHILDHOOD & THE YEARS AFTER by A.S. JASPER and we hope you will join us in a celebration. There will be drinks and readings from the work of A.S. JASPER, as well as some live music entertainment from fiddler Dan Mayfield and singing by Henrietta Keeper.
    Click here for ticket availability.

    A.S. JASPER’S tender memoir of growing up in the East End before the First World War, A HOXTON CHILDHOOD, was immediately acclaimed as a classic in 1969 when it was described by the Observer as ‘Zola without all the trimmings.’

    In this definitive new edition, it is accompanied by the first publication of the sequel detailing the author’s struggles and eventual triumph in the cabinet-making trade, THE YEARS AFTER. Illustrated with line drawings by James Boswell and Joe McLaren.

    Ticket holders will be entitled to a £5 discount on A HOXTON CHILDHOOD & THE YEARS AFTER during the event.

    Labour and Wait Workroom
    30 The Oval, London, E2 9DT

  • See more: 2017, The Gentle Author


  • 01 March, 2017
    In our view packaging can make or break a product. We often remove packaging from our stock, but we leave it in place if we feel it enhances the object. We are drawn to simple graphic treatments. In many cases this is packaging that has remained unchanged over the years. Well-designed packaging is often hard to throw away!

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 02 February, 2017
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    We are very excited to announce the opening of our Labour and Wait shop in Tokyo. We have enjoyed a longstanding association with Japan over many years, and have several concessions there in different cities. We are always impressed by the level of interest and product knowledge of Japanese customers, who really seem to appreciate the detail, and share our enthusiasm for timeless functional items.

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    The opening this week represents an exciting opportunity for us to bring the complete Labour and Wait story to Tokyo. The new shop is situated in an area called Sendagaya, just a short walk from Harajuku station. The area has a definite ‘neighbourhood’ feeling, much like that which we experienced when we first started in Shoreditch seventeen years ago.

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    We are indebted to our colleagues in Japan for making our vision a reality, and are looking forward to the next chapter of our story.

    Labour and Wait Tokyo
    1-1-12 Jingumae Shibuyaka,
    Tokyo, Japan
    Opening hours: 12pm - 8pm
    Tel: 03-6804-6448

  • See more: 2017, Labour and Wait Tokyo


  • 01 February, 2017
    A jug is a very handsome object, its function is proudly displayed. Who would think such a simple combination of a lip and handle could produce so many variations. This iconic object appeals to artists and often features in still life artworks. And after all what would a calendar be without jugs!

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 01 January, 2017
    The contents of a toolbox are always intriguing. The distinctive smell conjures up memories of sheds and workshops. A well-loved tool develops a character all of its own, the worn handle taking on the imprint of its owner’s hand. We have come across many curious tools during our travels. We find ourselves attracted by their shape even when we have no idea of their purpose.

  • See more: 2017, Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 27 December, 2016

    There are certain objects with which we find ourselves endlessly fascinated. Our mutual admiration of these, helped form the basis for LABOUR AND WAIT, and in many instances feature in our product assortment to this day. Just what is it that makes these objects so appealing to us? Why do they capture our imagination in such a powerful way? For our 2017 calendar, we are exploring these questions further.

    Throughout the year we will be sharing each monthly image and accompanying text.

  • See more: Calendar, Object Lessons


  • 08 June, 2016
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    We have always felt an affinity with workwear as it is a perfect expression of utilitarian aesthetics. One of the most timeless staples of the modern wardrobe derived from workwear is undoubtedly the denim jean. From the pioneering frontier Americans of the 1800s pushing west following the gold rush, to James Dean making them ‘cool’ in the 1950s, denim jeans have an unmatched, redoubtable reputation in the world of trousers, being both sturdy and reliable.

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    Here at LABOUR AND WAIT we have always appreciated the hard-working denim jean, and we have at last found some that exemplify our values. Blackhorse Lane Ateliers was founded in 2016, with the intention of creating authentic, premium quality selvedge denim jeans manufactured in Walthamstow, London.  We are proud to say that we are their very first stockist.

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    Blackhorse Lane Ateliers was founded by Han Ates, a veteran of the East London clothing and textile manufacturing industry; and Toby Clark, a recognised and highly-regarded designer. They strive to create a business that connects nature to industry and which invests into the local community with an eye for sustainability and ‘the long game’.

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    Han and Toby are keen to promote close relationships with like-minded, creative individuals in the neighbourhood. To this end they have created studio spaces within their 1920s factory building for individual makers who share their vision. This encourages collaboration across different disciplines such as leather working, weaving and dyeing, similar to the approach of the Bauhaus.

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    The jeans we have chosen from Blackhorse Lane Ateliers are made from responsibly sourced 14oz raw denim with a red selvedge edge. The fit is a straight leg, relaxed ‘1950s’ heritage style.

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    Both modern and vintage machinery are employed during the manufacturing process to attain an authentic finish.

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    There is great attention paid to detail, with over 16 different processes involved in the making of each pair of jeans.

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    The finished jeans are presented in a hand-stamped potato sack, bearing the factory silhouette. This shape is also used on the traditional leather patch and on the back pocket stitch detail.

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    Blackhorse Lane Ateliers jeans are available in our Redchurch Street shop from June 2016 and will find their way into our Dover Street Market London space from mid-July.

    Photos by David Rowswell

  • See more: 2016


  • 01 April, 2016

    Spring is here again, at least some of the time! Longer, lighter days inspire us to shake off the dust, blow away the cobwebs, and reach for the broom and the floor cloth…

     In celebration of Spring cleaning we joined forces with Vitsœ to envision The Modern Scullery. This could be a room all to itself or just a couple of shelves beside the back door. The classic Vitsœ 606 Universal Shelving System provides the structure; Labour and Wait household essentials are the content. The fusion of our ideas with those of Vitsœ resulted in a floor-to-ceiling installation at our Redchurch Street shop, which visitors have been admiring since it went up in March.

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    Creating the display brought pleasant surprises. A harmony between the Vitsœ shelving and our products meant that brushes and dustpans somehow arranged themselves. A line-up of feather dusters never looked so good. Like our sturdy housekeeper’s bucket, the 606 system promises a lifetime of use.

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    Talking to the Vitsœ team, we found we had ideals in common. Like them, we admire discreet and durable design based on common-sense principles. The collaboration has been a highly rewarding one for Labour and Wait. Thank you, Vitsœ.

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    Simultaneous displays at our Redchurch Street shop and at the Vitsœ West End showroom have perhaps inspired visitors to attack their spring cleaning with fresh energy!

    Photos by David Rowswell

  • See more: 2016, The Modern Scullery, Vitsoe


  • 03 March, 2016


    01 December, 2015

    The colour of the earth. A rich, dark, peat brown, evoking leather, wood and even chocolate. We always find ourselves drawn to this colour; its depth has a graphic quality like black, but with a warmer, more natural feel. We even fantasise about opening a shop where all the products are brown!

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 November, 2015
    An esoteric choice, this is not really one colour at all, but rather a mélange of blacks, greys and natural tones. We appreciate this colour in many materials: stone, flannel and asphalt, to name but three. It brings to mind the grey felt sculptures of Joseph Beuys, whose work we have long admired.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 11 October, 2015
    There is something immensely satisfying about the classic Sussex trug. It is still hand-made from coppiced willow and chestnut in Sussex - a county with which we feel a strong affinity. The trug is a staple feature of many great English gardens. An object of simple beauty, a genuine Sussex trug will only mellow and improve with age.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 04 October, 2015
    The quality of old linen is hard to beat. We always have a selection of vintage tea towels in stock. Most are sourced from France, though we have also found beautiful examples from Hungary. Many display the finely embroidered initials of their original owner, to help identify them during laundering. These tea towels will become softer and more absorbent with use.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 01 October, 2015
    Drab in name but not by nature! We like the functional aspects of this organic colour, which makes us think of army kit and outdoor clothing. It is a difficult shade to define, ranging from greeny brown, to browny green. We also enjoy its association with the clays and glazes used by studio potters.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 27 September, 2015
    The perennial striped shirt. This garment was traditionally worn by French sailors and was later adopted by the creative cognoscenti. It almost became a uniform for artists and bohemian types. We love its timeless quality and unisex appeal. It seems to suit everyone and has thus become a wardrobe staple.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 20 September, 2015
    Made from olive oil, this mild, totally naturally soap has all the credentials of a classic Labour and Wait product. It is pure, economical and astonishingly versatile. You can use it to wash your home, your laundry, yourself - and even your pets! The city of Marseille has an association with making soap which dates back to the 17th century.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 13 September, 2015
    This now iconic milk pot caused something of a storm when it was given a full page in a Sunday supplement. We were taken off guard when the readers took it to their hearts as we had done. A deluge of enquiries resulted in a waiting list of almost 200 customers! The milk pot is now available in exclusive colours and remains a favourite.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 06 September, 2015
    This rope doorstop is hand-made by Des Pawson MBE, a leading authority on rope and knot work. It takes the form of a giant Monkey's Fist knot. Hidden inside are two half-spheres of solid lead. Weighing in at over three kilos, this doorstop has often caught the eye of overseas visitors, but usually common sense prevails!

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 01 September, 2015
    A colour associated with straw, wood, dried grasses and wicker. It also evokes brown paper and cardboard. Its neutrality makes it a good background for typography. It is entirely at home in the world of craft items, and is a signature colour at LABOUR AND WAIT.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 30 August, 2015
    We couldn't find a decent loo-brush set, so we created our own. We knew that it would have to feature a wood brush, but what to store it in? We really like galvanized steel, so what better than a florist's bucket? This combination has proved very popular, and indeed has spawned imitations - but ours is the true original!

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 23 August, 2015
    Our canvas aprons have become a Labour and Wait classic. We made the prototypes ourselves, as our staff uniform. Soon customers were wanting to buy them, so we found a factory in the UK and started production. From these humble beginnings, we now supply the classic brown apron to restaurants, coffee shops and bars worldwide. Hundreds more have been sold to individuals via our shop and website.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 16 August, 2015
    This simple glass tumbler takes us right back to school dinners. These glasses have 'mystery' numbers embossed on the base, providing lunchtime entertainment. Although we associate these tumblers with our childhood, they are the perfect size for a decent glass of wine at the end of a long day. Their pleasing, rounded shape and simple, functional design make them a joy to hold.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 09 August, 2015
    We bought one of these dustpans in America and, once we used it, became even more convinced of its great design and practicality. It has been produced for many years and is widely used in the building and carpentry trade in the USA. On more than one occasion, customers have come back to buy a replacement after the builders had appropriated the first one!

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 02 August, 2015
    These blankets evoke fond memories of holidays in Wales and of mill shops selling items made from traditional tapestry fabric. These could be anything from complete outfits including bags and hats, to coasters and placemats (well, this was the 1970s!) We have collected and sold hundreds of vintage blankets. Today, we work with one of the few remaining Welsh mills, who continue to weave this fabric.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 01 August, 2015
    Crisp white cotton, cool white linen and soft white chalk – they all confirm our passion for this colour. We like its severe, clinical connotations, though softer bleached or faded whites are no less pleasing. After all, what is more satisfying than a fresh sheet of white paper?

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 26 July, 2015
    A good pot of paper glue! We remember this product from our childhood. It has a distinctive almond aroma, redolent of primary school art classes. Customers always respond to this product. One lady memorably told us that she used to eat it as  a child! This, however, we would not recommend...

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 19 July, 2015
    This classic item of workwear has been an essential outer layer for British fisherman for over a century. The practical, utilitarian nature of the smock makes it popular with painters, sculptors and craftsmen. Most staff at Labour and Wait seem to own one! Our smocks come from Norfolk, where they have been produced since 1898.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 12 July, 2015
    As ardent tea drinkers, we believe that a good teapot is indispensable! This classic teapot is still made in Stoke-on-Trent, as it has been for generations. We specify a clear glaze, to allow the colour of the local brown clay to shine through, as this gives the Brown Betty its name. Successive generations have sworn that these teapots make the best pot of tea in the world.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 05 July, 2015
    This was the first broom on our wish list when we opened our original shop. Its humble design and good looks appeal to us. This type of broom originated with the Shakers in 19th century America. It is practical and hard-wearing - and of course it features in Tom and Jerry cartoons!

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 04 July, 2015

    We have selected fifteen products which embody the Labour and Wait ethos, which we will feature here each week for 15 weeks. These items have been present in our offer since the very beginning.

    We believe that they are as essential today as they were back then; timeless products that are forever useful.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 03 July, 2015

    We celebrated our fifteenth anniversary in style on Thursday 2nd of July.

    Getting the final touches on our window display sorted.

    Looking good from the outside...

    Staff preparing the playlist for the evening. Those Swedish bucket bags make perfect vinyl carrying vessels!

    The booklets produced showing our inspirations, philosophy and products, since 2000.

    A thoroughly engaging read; Alfred here, our supplier of handmade wooden bath racks, only wishes he'd been supplying us earlier so he could've featured!

    Food and drink flowing. Simon at the back pointing out something on the pegboard that has gone wonky.

    Rachel and Simon receive a cake for all their hardwork over the last 15 years. Happy Anniversary Labour and Wait!

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 02 July, 2015

    From the outset, there was only one typeface in our minds for Labour and Wait: Gill Sans.

    These classic letterforms were designed by Eric Gill and first appeared around 1928. For us, Gill Sans perfectly embodies a graphic simplicity; clear, informative and timeless. Naturally, our choice was influenced by the iconic covers of the first Penguin books.

    Gill Sans was also widely used for industrial supply catalogues from the 1930s through to the 1950s, which we enjoy collecting. In addition, we appreciate traditional stationery such as rubber stamps, embossed cards and school exercise books. We like to reference all this material in our branding.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 01 July, 2015
    A strangely synthetic shade of blue. Applied to many functional everyday products and frequently found in toolboxes. Rawlplugs, electrical wiring, and screwdriver handles often come in this striking shade. Plastics and other man-made materials give the colour a special vibrancy.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 July, 2015

    Our goods come from many different sources. We endeavour to search out specialist makers who in many cases manufacture products to the original deigns, using traditional methods.

    Our suppliers range from highly skilled individual craftspeople - like rope work Des Pawson or Sussex trig maker Robin Tuppen - to small family-run workshops such as R. Russell, brush makers. We also work with larger factories like Riess Kelomat in Austria, but this again is a family business. More recently, we have begun collaborating with our makers to develop products which are exclusive to Labour and Wait. It is a real pleasure and privilege to work with these companies and hopefully to ensure the continuity of traditional industries.

    We stock vintage items too, always carefully selected. Again, these are objects which have a timeless quality, but all must be fit for use, not just for display. We keep a constant lookout for favourites like stoneware marmalade jars or Lovatts coffee pots, which sadly are no longer made.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015, Eco-Friendly


  • 30 June, 2015

    "Fifteen years ago, I made the pilgrimage to Labour and Wait - seeking out the first shop in Cheshire Street on a busy market Sunday - and since then, barely a month has gone without a return visit, to admire the magnificent displays of hardware.

    It always raises a smile to wonder at the heroic arrangements of everyday objects, but I realise now that it has been an education too - Labour and Wait has taught me an appreciation of both the poetry and the humour of these modest household goods.

    If, like me, you seek perfection in small things - shiny kettles, enamel pots and pans, galvanised buckets and watering cans, proper bristly brushes and balls of string - Labour and Wait will never disappoint you."

    The Gentle Author, Spitalfields

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015, The Gentle Author


  • 30 June, 2015

    Labour and Wait is 15 years old today.

    Our aim from the start has been to offer a selection of simple, functional products for daily lie, which not only 'do the job' but look great as well. It had become increasingly difficult to find good-quality 'undesigned' articles, which by their very nature do not date. In fact, we believe such objects actually improve with age as they develop a patina through use.

    This philosophy, which has always guided our choice of household products, applies no less in other categories. Classic practical clothing, for example, has been part of Labour and Wait since we began - from striped Breton shirts to genuine Guernsey sweaters.

    We aim to source or create products which have a universal appeal and are not bounded by age or gender. In our fifteenth anniversary year, our original concept and beliefs remain unchanged.

  • See more: 15 Years of Labour and Wait, 2015


  • 01 June, 2015

    A bold and cheerful orange. This colour works well in typographical elements and paper products, but also when used for shiny enameled surfaces. A striking highlight, evoking building paraphernalia and warning signs. And for us a Penguin will always be, not black and white, but orange!

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 May, 2015
    This rich dark blue is a true classic, originating from naval uniforms. It is often contrasted with white or ecru. The classic striped Breton T-Shirt has become a LABOUR AND WAIT favourite. Textiles take this colour particularly well. It is also effective when used for typography, instead of the more obvious black.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 April, 2015
    An optimistic colour which heralds the start of spring, promising a wealth of things natural; the yellows of beeswax, mustard seeds and egg yolk. But not for us! Instead, this colour makes us think of rubber gloves, dusters and protective oilskin clothing.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 March, 2015
    This shade of green reflects our appreciation of an industrial aesthetic. Whenever we visit factories, we notice this particular colour all around us. It seems that much industrial machinery of the past as painted in this shade of green. This is not a natural colour but rather a mechanical one.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 24 February, 2015

  • See more: 2015


  • 01 February, 2015
    A true red which demands attention. Historically a colour of passion and power, red also has strong associations with danger. For us, it is a very British colour, redolent of London buses, telephone boxes of old and regimental uniforms. It also lends itself to utilitarian products and tools.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 January, 2015

    Deep and dark, black gives objects a sculptural quality, as it defines their shape. We often choose black products for LABOUR AND WAIT; the density of the colour can create a dramatic effect. The bold, graphic combination of black with white always has impact.

  • See more: 2015, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 31 December, 2014
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    Now that our 2015 Calendar is sold out, we will be sharing each monthly image on our blog throughout the year.

    Our calendar this year takes the form of an imaginary chart showing twelve of our favourite colours. We find that we are naturally drawn to certain shades, often those which resonate by reminding us of some particular object. These colours reoccur in many of the products which we select for the shop. We have an aversion to all things ‘pretty’, preferring solid, durable tones. We asked ourselves: ‘What would a LABOUR AND WAIT colour chart look like? What would we name the colours…?’

    Until then, here are some behind the scenes images taken during our shoot.

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  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Colour Connections


  • 01 December, 2014
    Warm, comfortable and protective, wool is the cosiest material of them all. We particularly like natural, undyed shades and their many variations, which result from the breed and location of the sheep. We are ardent admirers of artist Joseph Beuys. You may detect a nod towards his work in our 'felty' still life.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 01 November, 2014

    At LABOUR AND WAIT, we seem to spend our days in a sea of cardboard. Shipments arriving, orders leaving and a great deal of unpacking in between. Here is a material that really deserves its place in our calendar. Our mail-order team in particular have grown to love cardboard and its infinite possibilities.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 01 October, 2014
    The sheer weight and robustness of iron demands particular respect. Iron has a 'no-nonsense' sensibility. From heavy machinery to small kitchen items, this material is more versatile than one might suppose. We love its sculptural qualities: in the right hands, iron can take on surprisingly sophisticated forms.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 10 September, 2014

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    We put our bench outside each morning and wonder who might happen by, looking for a sit-down. It could be tourists or locals, couples or families, dog-walkers, picnickers or simply Shoreditch flâneurs. On a Sunday, it could be shoppers from Columbia Road who need to rest their jasmines or their cheese plants.

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    Bench-users from far-away places are a particular joy. (Thanks again, Rita and Reesi from Estonia and Harry and Jiwoon from South Korea, for letting us take your picture!)

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    Now that misty mornings are back, we’re thinking about folding it away for another year. It’s all rather sad – like seeing the swallows heading south. We hope you’ll be flying back again next spring, looking for a place to perch.

     

  • See more: 2014


  • 01 September, 2014
    From shiny glazed china to rustic hand-made pottery, ceramics are a part of our everyday lives. We are very enthusiastic about studio pottery in particular, and have studio jugs, bowls and mugs in daily use at home. Our still life for September has a calm serenity which might almost recall a painting by Giorgio Morandi.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 22 August, 2014

    Our two styles of Blackwing Pencil are now available online. 

    The original Blackwing was introduced in the 1930’s and was available up until 1988, when it was discontinued. This caused an outcry, with many fans across the globe bidding against each other on auction sites in order to obtain them. In 2010, the historic pencil makers Palomino revived this stationary classic.

    The Blackwing Pencil

  • See more: 2014


  • 01 August, 2014
    Soon after opening LABOUR AND WAIT, we realised that we were not alone in our love of string. We pride ourselves on keeping a wide selection in stock. Humble and versatile, a ball of string should always be within arm's reach.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 01 July, 2014
    We have always enjoyed the comic potential of rubber objects. More seriously, whether as a pair of protective gloves or the business end of a sink plunger, rubber offers flexibility, water-resistance and insulation. We enjoy its matt surfaces, and subdued colours.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 01 June, 2014
    What would LABOUR AND WAIT be without enamel? We were determined to champion this material from the very start. Overlooked for many years, enamel has recently enjoyed a revival to which we like to think we may have contributed. Enamel is again prized for its functionality as it was in the past, but now also for its green credentials.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 01 May, 2014
    The innate beauty of natural linen is enduring. Rustic, yet at the same time sophisticated, this must be one of nature's most refined fibres. Soft but incredibly strong, linen has many applications. We love the texture of upholsterers webbing and linen scrim. A pile of freshly-ironed linen tea towels is a pleasure to behold!

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 29 April, 2014

    Dogs are welcome at LABOUR AND WAIT when they are as well-behaved as Ralph. Ralph is a cross chow and Australian cattle dog and he has a beautiful russet coat.

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    That said, he doesn’t like having his picture taken so we had to catch him unawares.

    Of interest to Ralph and others like him are our classic ceramic feeding bowls, handkerchief (for walkers or walkees), our soft but sturdy rope dog leads, purpose-built dog whistle and our scrumptious felt slippers with chewy rubber soles. 

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    Thanks again to Ralph’s owners for letting us feature him here.

  • See more: 2014


  • 01 April, 2014
    Though often shunned as a cheap material, plastic, we believe, can be beautiful. We have always admired the earlier types of plastic, with their mottled and marble-like appearance: Bandalasta, Bakelite, the poetically named Linga-Longa ware and Beetleware to name but a few. More recently, we have come to appreciate newer recycled plastics.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 01 March, 2014
    Cold and clean, metal combines strength with precision. These steely objects mean business. Even archaic forms take on a modern, industrial look when made from steel or aluminium. Brushed metallic surfaces reflect light in a unique manner. 'All that glisters is not gold' ... indeed for us, a steely scene as far more allure.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 14 February, 2014

  • See more: 2014


  • 01 February, 2014
    We particularly relish the clinical, 'laboratory' connotations of glass. We find its clean lines and transparency very appealing. Plain glass catches the light and can take on surprising colours when viewed from an angle. Brown apothecary glass is a particular favourite, though a plain glass tumbler is also a joy.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 17 January, 2014

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    Friend of Labour and Wait, photographer Jeff Cottenden, recently borrowed a selection of our products for a personal project - He’s kindly shared some of the resulting shots with us. We always enjoy seeing items so familiar to ourselves from another point of view and we hope you will too.   

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    Featuriung our Mustard Coffee Pot, British Army Knife, Sailor’s Whisk, Work Apron, Enamel Tumbler and Fisherman’s Sweater.

    See more of Jeff’s work at www.jeffcottenden.co.uk

  • See more: 2014


  • 01 January, 2014

    The natural, tactile qualities of wood speak for themselves. Warm to the touch, wooden objects tend to mellow over time. In fact, they often look better the more they are used, displaying their scuffs and scratches as badges of honour. Wood is a truly timeless material. We would never be without a wooden scrubbing brush or ruler.

  • See more: 2014, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 28 December, 2013

    Throughout the new year we will be sharing each monthly image from our 2014 calendar.

    Among the key criteria for selecting our products is the type and quality of the materials used. Each must be fit for purpose and long lasting. We appreciate the tactile surfaces and innate qualities of the different materials we come across; many seem to crop up again and again. In this years calendar, we celebrate the unique characteristics of twelve of our favourite materials. They appear in a series of still-lives, in which utilitarian, sometimes overlooked, objects are given closer scrutiny.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Material Matters


  • 11 December, 2013

    And so we reach December, and the final entry in our 2013 Tools of the Trade Calendar. We take a trip once more to Wales, where we find Tom and Anna, proprietors of the Solva Woollen Mill, and makers of our Welsh Tapestry Rugs.

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    Nestled deep in the Pembrokeshire countryside, the Solva mill has been in operation on this site for over a hundred years, weaving tweeds, flannel, rugs, blankets and stair carpets, and warping wool for knitting. 

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    Originally established in 1907 by Tom Griffiths, Solva was passed down to his daughter Betty and son-in-law Eric on Tom’s retirement in 1950. Betty and Eric ran it for another thirty six years before passing it on to Cynthia and Robert Grime, who in turn passed it on in 2006 to their son Tom, and his wife Anna. The continuity provided by family is important at Solva, as Anna explains:

    “The mill has only been owned by two families since it was built and Tom’s family history is intertwined with that of the previous mill owners all the way back to the early 1900s. His grandfather went to school with one of Betty’s brothers and they have always had close family ties. Tom was doing his A-Levels when his parents decided to buy the mill and he jumped at the chance of learning new skills associated with engineering and manufacturing.”

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    Eric at work ( above ) and Tom ( below ). Eric stayed on at the mill after retirement to help Tom and Anna learn how to run the mill and how to operate the complex machinery, and in particular how to work the Dobcross looms used to produce the tapestry rugs. 

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    The Hattersley Dobcross Box Loom was the workhorse of Twentieth Century British weaving, producing countless thousands of metres of wool, worsteds and tweeds, and although many hundreds were destroyed as mills around the country closed down, there are still a handful of producers who keep and maintain these hardy machines. 

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    “The Dobcross was designed in the 1880s but the dates of ours range from the 1920s, with the newest one being built in 1957. None of them are original, they all have previous lives in other mills. Saying that we do still have an original but its not built at the moment.”

    “Nobody carries new spares anymore. The original supplier retired in 1987. We hold a large stock ourselves from looms we’ve bought just to use for spares.”

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    “The shuttle in our Tools of the Trade picture is probably 35 years old and is brand new – one of our spares! We now use nylon versions of these shuttles which became available in the 1950s and are more robust than the older wooden versions. We still use a pair of nylon shuttles that Tom fitted to a loom when his family bought the mill in 1986!”

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    And what is the wooden tool on the top left? “Aha that’s no wooden tool! It’s an old buffalo hide picker hence why it’s not on the loom anymore - it’s worn out!! It slides backwards and forwards at the end of the loom throwing and catching the shuttle. Made from riveted buffalo hide, the modern equivalents are now made from nylon.”

    We have come across the Dobcross before in Tools of the Trade, in March, when we paid a visit to Elvet Woollen Mill. This machine is the perfect loom for weaving the traditional Caernafon ‘Welsh Tapestry’ pattern that has seen such a resurgence in popularity over the past few years.

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    “The Tapestry design is the oldest pattern we weave here and was adapted from one of the traditional Welsh bedspread patterns. The rugs and runners woven here were originally of a much simpler design, but in the 1950s Eric noticed how many people had been using the tapestry blankets on their floors, and so he adapted the design using heavier yarn to produce a tapestry rug." 

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    Our Tapestry Rugs are available in our own Labour and Wait Airforce and Olive colours, as well as as in standard Black and Red colourways. The rugs are 'double cloth’, being two layers of cloth woven together, making them weighty and durable as well as fully reversible. Solva use 100% British wool, spun by a family company in Yorkshire.

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    Tom winding the yarn from the creel onto a warping mill and, below, a warp of one of Solva’s striped floor rugs.

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    "The Cats are an integral part of the mill team as they patrol the mill deterring unwanted guests!!”

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    There were once 26 mills in Pembrokeshire; now Solva is one of only two. Anna and Tom feel proud to maintain the family history that is so closely entwined with the mill: “For my part being able to carry on the family owned tradition with Tom is of huge importance. Breathing new life into the mill and encouraging visitors to appreciate the importance of heritage is one of my reasons for enjoying owning a mill.”

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    We are very pleased to be able to sell these handsome Tapestry Rugs, woven by Tom and Anna in their Welsh mill. In doing so we feel we are playing our part in preserving a traditional industry, one that has been practiced in this mill for over a hundred years, and which will keep on going for many years yet.

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    Tapestry Rugs are available in Airforce, Olive, Red and Black from our Redchurch Street store or from our website. Our thanks go to Tom and Anna for their pictures and for sharing their story.

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    Our thanks also go to all our suppliers who have shared their tools and their stories with us this year. We hope to have shown a little of the companies still proudly making their goods in Britain, many in a traditional manner, all of which we are honoured to sell at Labour and Wait.

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  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 03 December, 2013

    A friendly farmer sold a collection of chainsaws and farmyard tools to a friend. Unfortunately, that friend didn’t have the cash to pay for said tools, so he traded them for his stash of unsold Swiss Army Knives from the early 1960’s.

    That farmer kept hold of those knives for a good few years before contacting us here at Labour and Wait, with a view to selling them. Needless to say it didn’t take us long to gleefully take him up on his offer.

    We are delighted to introduce our very limited stock of collectable Swiss Army Knives in our Redchurch Street store. 

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    The 1960’s ‘Popular’ penknife.



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    The 1960’s 'Camper’ penknife.



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    The 1960’s 'Tinker’ penknife.



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    Rare 1960’s Pioneer penknife

  • See more: 2013


  • 01 December, 2013
    SOLVA WOOLLEN MILL was established in 1907. It is the only mill in Wales specialising in flat weave carpets, rugs and runners. This family business still uses traditional weaving skills and original 19th century looms. Amongst many prestigious commissions they are proud to have supplied the Landmark Trust for many years.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 29 November, 2013

  • See more: 2013, christmas


  • 01 November, 2013
    SMITHS TRUGS are makers of the Sussex Trug, which was first created in the 1820s. This lightweight garden market is made using sweet chestnut and cricket bat willow. To this day each trug is completely hand-made using the same traditional methods and personally signed by the maker.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 01 November, 2013

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    November’s Tools of the Trade come to us from the village of Hurstmonceux, home to The Royal Sussex Trug Company. For nearly two hundred years this small village on the high weald has been home to generations of trug makers, crafting their willow and chestnut baskets in the same manner as Thomas Smith, the original Sussex Trug maker.

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    The traditional ‘trog’ had been used since Anglo Saxon times for storing and measuring grains and liquids, but these medieval vessels were made with solid timber and were heavy and cumbersome. Thomas Smith reinvented the trog as the trug, using Sweet Chestnut and Willow to make a basket which was light yet strong. There was an immediate demand for Smith’s trugs, and he quickly set up a workshop to supply the demand from houses and gardens throughout the country.

    But it was the 1851 Great Exhibition that made the Sussex trug famous. Queen Victoria saw Thomas’s trugs and ordered some as gifts for members of the Royal Family. Thomas made the trugs personally and and then he and his brother walked the 60 miles from Sussex to Buckingham Palace to deliver them. The Queen was suitably impressed and bestowed her Royal Warrant on Smith - hence the Royal Sussex Trug.

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    There are a handful of trug makers still based in Sussex, but only one can trace its descent from Thomas Smith and the original Royal Sussex Trug. Robin Tuppen, proprietor of the Thomas Smith Trug Shop explains the tools and the process involved in the manufacture of a trug:

    “The two tools we supplied were a draw knife and a cleaving axe (also known as a froe).  The cleaving axe is used to split the chestnut that we use to make the handles and rims of the Royal Sussex Traditional Trugs.”

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    “The Cleaver uses a special axe, which is placed on top of the Sweet Chestnut pole (also known as a cooper pole or a Trug Bat) and this is hammered in with a wooden maul (also made of Chestnut). He then works the axe through the length of the pole, using the natural grain of the wood to split it in two. These halves are then cleaved again to produce smaller sizes which then go on for shaving as handles and half rims.”

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    “The Royal Sussex Trug handles and rims are shaved by the Craftsman on a “Shaving Horse”. The draw knife is used to shave them down to the correct thickness and width.“

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    "There are many different shapes and sizes to remember and the Craftsman has to do all this work by eye alone. The wood is then ready for steaming.”

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    “Any wood left over from the making process is burned on a wood fired boiler to raise steam to soften the chestnut for bending. We use our wood to fire our boilers because, when wood is burned, it gives off no more carbon dioxide than the tree from which it came absorbed during its lifetime. Truly carbon neutral! The chestnut is placed into the steamer, around which steam circulates freely (not under pressure), thus making the Chestnut pliable. It is then bent round the “former” to make the handle or rim.”

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    “The Craftsman has only a few seconds to do this before the wood becomes stiff once again, so he has to be quick as well as skilled. The handles and rims are then nailed together to make the “frames”, which are then sent to the Maker to have the boards placed inside them.

    "Assembling the trug is done sitting on a “Making Horse”. The Craftsman receives the frame and fixes the boards into it. The boards, made from re-cycled Cricket Bat Willow are also steamed and are then bent on the ends in the Steam Shop before being sent to the Maker. This makes them springy and stops them splitting when they are shaped within the frame. The boards are placed inside the frame and fixed securely into position using solid copper tacks.”

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    “Once the Trug is made, the legs are nailed on to the bottom and the Trug is then ready to go for the final quality inspection before being signed by the craftsman, stamped and given a unique reference number on the bottom before being despatched.”

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    Robin and his team make over 100 different shapes and sizes of trug, and their uses are limited only by your imagination. Our trug, however, is the perfect size for use in the home or garden - and it has the all-important stamp and signature on the bottom, proving that it is the original Royal Sussex Trug.

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    Albert Jenner making a trug for R.W Rich, another local manufacturer of Sussex trugs.  

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    Bill Dooley sat on his making horse, shaving the chestnut with his draw knife.

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    Eddie Smith, last of the Smith owners.

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    Hazel Pilbeam finishing a Royal Sussex Trug.

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    Our thanks to Robin and all at the Thomas Smith Trug shop for their photographs and information. Sussex Trugs are available online and in store now. 

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 23 October, 2013

    Our Tools of the Trade tour of Britain continues in Lancashire. Here, nestled in between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District National Park lies Holme Mills and the factory of Abbeyhorn, bone and horn carvers for over 250 years.

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    Two of our perennial Labour and Wait bestseller are from Abbeyhorn; our Horn Egg Spoon and our Horn Comb:

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    Abbeyhorn can trace their history back to 1749 and the Humpherson Hornworks in Bewdley, Worcestershire, “Manufacturers of Foresters’, Holster, Drenching and Powder Horns and Flasks” as well as “all kinds of Combs, Shoe Lifts, Scoops, and Spoons, Salt Cellars, Pepper and Tobacco Boxes, Lanthorn Leaves, &c., &c.”

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    The use of horn as raw material or tool extends much further back than the 18th Century, though, and so we must start this month’s blog with a brief historical and archaeological discursion. The use of animal horn by mankind must be as ancient as our use of any tool. Our distant ancestors were thrifty in making use of every part of an animal, and the horn would have been no exception; many antique civilisations used animal horns as calling or musical instruments - and we still use the word ‘horn’ as synonym for brass instruments such as the trumpet today - while their shape and constitution made them perfect for carrying goods or liquids. Drinking horns were in use throughout Europe by the Iron Age and Julius Caesar later described the much sought-after 'Gaulish horn’ being used at great feasts as a drinking vessel. Horn artefacts have been discovered amongst the treasures of Sutton Hoo, and the Taplow Horn ( below ) was one of five cow’s horn drinking vessels discovered in the burial mound of a Saxon Chieftain.

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    But it was not just the natural shape of the horn which made it so useful. Heating the horn allowed it to be shaped and moulded, and as it cooled it retained its new form. This meant that horn could be used for many new purposes and over the centuries hornworking techniques such as heating, pressing, splitting, filing and moulding came to be refined and perfected. And so, by the time of Humpherson and Sons, horn was being made into combs, pipes, scoops and spoons, boxes of all size and purpose, spectacle frames, brush handles, lantern leaves and many, many other functional and useful items. It is no wonder horn is now known as the plastic of the Middle Ages.

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    Abbeyhorn still use these traditional processes to make many of their products today. The horn is heated, bent, and set, and sanded, polished and buffed, all by hand and all by their skilled workers.

    Now we normally hope to visit the factories ourselves to take pictures and explain the manufacturing process, but we were unable to visit Abbeyhorn on this occasion. Luckily for us, however, Adam Thompson - writer of the fascinating Manufacture & Industry blog - took a trip to Lancashire recently, and he has kindly allowed us to use his pictures. And so we can follow the manufacturing journey, from animal horn to egg spoon.

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    The raw material comes from Africa, where the horns are a by-product of the Nigerian beef industry - domestic British cattle have long had their horns bred out of them.

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    The horn is then flattened in a pressing machine before the blanks are die cut. Our calendar picture shows the spoon die, a flattened sheet of horn and the two stamped spoon blanks.

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    The blanks are then ready for sanding.

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    Hornworker Graham sanding the blanks. Graham has been with Abbeyhorn for over 30 years.

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    Spoon blanks ready to be heated and moulded - and some comb blanks ready to have their teeth cut.

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    For heating small items such as spoons Abbeyhorn use a deep fat fryer. It is a delicate process though; underheat them and they won’t retain their new shape, overheat them and the horn is ruined.

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    The warm spoon blank is sat in its mould and then pressed into shape.

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    The moulds of various shapes and sizes are produced by another local company.

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    Once the bowl of the spoon has been shaped it is dipped in dust to remove any excess grease, and then it is ready to be buffed to a shine.

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    The finished product. Each horn will have its own particular colouring and pattern, meaning every item will be unique - no two spoons will ever be alike. Colours can range from solid black to completely translucent, with every shade and stripe inbetween. These spoons are incredibly beautiful tactile objects, and provide a little bit of luxury to everyday life - we can assure you that there is no finer way to eat a boiled egg than with a horn spoon!

    The horn comb is made using a similar process. Horn makes a perfect choice for a comb, as hair and horn are essentially the same material - keratin. A horn comb will thus be kinder and more comfortable to your hair than a plastic comb, and will help keep your hair nourished, healthy, sleek and shiny.

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    Abbeyhorn is currently in the safe hands of The Cleasby Family, the fifth owners in the company’s long history. From its base on the borders of the Lake District Paul Cleasby and his small team of co-workers continue to hand craft their horn, bone and antler -wares in the same way as all those generations of hornworkers before them.

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    Many thanks to all at Abbeyhorn for sharing their tools with us, and thanks again to Adam at Manufacture & Industry for the use of his pictures.

    Horn Egg Spoons and Combs are available at the Labour and Wait shops in Redchurch Street, Dover Street Market, and from our website.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 01 October, 2013
    ABBEYHORN can trace its history back to 1749. This family run business produces traditional horn products from a variety of ethically sourced raw materials mainly by-products of the meat industry. Every item is unique, bearing its own distinctive markings.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 25 September, 2013

    Our Tools of the Trade calendar 2013 has so far taken us to Suffolk, Norfolk, Sussex, The Cotswolds, Shropshire, Wales, the West Midlands and London ( twice ). September sees us arrive in Tunstall, Staffordshire - home of Cauldon Ceramics, makers of our Brown Betty teapot.

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    Tunstall is one of the six towns which form Stoke-on-Trent, colloquially known as ‘The Potteries’. 

    The local abundance of clays and the easy access to coal made Tunstall, along with Fenton, Hanley, Burslem, Longton and Stoke the perfect location for a rapidly expanding ceramic industry, with local names like Spode, Doulton, Wedgewood and Minton establishing their manufactories in the area. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the growing industrialisation of the manufacturing process lead to the establishment of Stoke-on-Trent as one of Britain’s industrial heartlands, creating products to be sold throughout the country, the Empire and beyond.

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    But while Wedgewood, Doulton and Spode were looking to refine their china clays and porcelains to cater to the booming middle class, the local red clay of Tunstall was perfect for manufacturing cheap and durable domestic ware, and, in particular, teapots; the clay retaining the heat and the large rounded shape allowing the tea room to brew to perfection. This simple, functional pot became known as the Brown Betty.

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    2 Cup Brown Betty

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    6 Cup Brown Betty

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    8 Cup Brown Betty

    Cauldon’s Brown Bettys are made in the traditional slipcast manner where slip - a clay and water mix - is poured into plaster moulds. As the plaster absorbs the water from the slip the clay forms and hardens inside the mould. After the slip has been inside for a certain amount of time it is poured out, leaving a thin layer of clay - in this instance in the shape of a teapot.

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    Moulds ready for filling with slip.

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    Factory owner Zamir overseeing the filling process.

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    Filled moulds waiting to be emptied - the amount of time the slip is left in the mould before emptying determines the thickness of the finished pot. Too short and the pot will be brittle and breakable, too long and it will be heavy and ungainly.

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    The moulds are opened and the leather-hard pots are removed. The raw pots will have moulded seam marks on them, so require trimming or 'fettling’ to ensure a smooth finish.

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    Fettled and unfettled pots.

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    Like all processes in the making of a Brown Betty, the fettling is performed by hand.

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    The finished pots waiting to be fired. The red clay of the Brown Betty gives the pot its distinctive look ( and its distinctive name ).

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    The kiln loaded and ready for firing.

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    As the clay pot is dried and fired it shrinks in size, by a factor of up to one tenth. Here, a fired Betty is seen next to an unfired pot to illustrate the shrinkage.

    The final step in the process is the glazing, where a decorative and protective natural coating is fired onto the bare clay at high temperature. The traditional Brown Betty finish used a Rockingham Glaze to produce a deep, dark, rich brown colour.

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    Teapot lids waiting for their dip in the glaze.

    Many modern versions of the Brown Betty, however, use a somewhat flat and lifeless brown glaze so from this year we will be selling a clear glaze version of the Brown Betty.

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    Not only does this show off the natural colour of the clay, returning the Brown Betty to the natural, lighter shade that is seen in many vintage examples, but it ensures that any teapot bought from Labour and Wait will stand out as a unique item. 

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    The clear glaze of the lid contrasts with the darker Rockingham of the teapot body. 

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    The functional and utilitarian nature of the Brown Betty has ensured its popularity from generation to generation, and so how pleasing it is to know that they are still being made by hand in Stoke-on-Trent to this day. 

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    The Brown Betty Teapot in a clear glaze is available in 2, 6 and 8 cup versions from the Labour and Wait shop or online.

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  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 15 September, 2013


    Our London Design Festival exhibition is up and our Heritage ‘Ball’ Jars are now available to buy!

    Visit our Redchurch Street store to take a look or if you can’t make it down the Jars are now available to buy online.

  • See more: 2013, London Design Festival


  • 01 September, 2013
    CAULDON CERAMICS is situated in Stoke-on-Trent, where the original Brown Betty teapots were produced at the end of the 17th century. The teapot takes its name from the distinctive brown clay from this area. Each teapot is handmade by a small but skilled workforce.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 23 August, 2013

    In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first true ‘Perfect Mason’ jar, Ball have issued a limited edition Pint jar in the iconic aqua blue glass. 

    These Jars will be available in store and on our website from Design Week onwards.

    For more information -

    Icon Design Trail
    Shoreditch Design Triangle

  • See more: 2013, London Design Festival


  • 17 August, 2013

    August, and our Tools of the Trade tour brings us to Suffolk, home of Footrope Knots and Des Pawson MBE.

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    From his workshop, and with the assistance of his wife Liz, Des makes our Rope Doorstop, Rope Keyring and Sailor’s Whisk Brush.

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    A founding member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers, Des is known and respected the world over for his knowledge of knotting and ropework, and his enthusiasm and expertise sees him in demand at festivals and boat shows throughout the country. With his bright red cap and bushy beard Des is a popular and instantly recognisable figure, whether demonstrating ropemaking, or tying keyrings, bellropes or fenders. For his Tools of the Trade Des chose to share with us his Heaving Board and Heaving Mallet.

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    These tools are used in tensioning rope to ensure the tightest knot; essential in the making of a Monkey’s Fist. Traditionally used to weight the end of a line, allowing it to be thrown, the elegant interlinking rings of the Monkey’s Fist make it an attractive ornamental knot, and the perfect form for our doorstop and keyring.

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    Des explains his tools for us: “I cannot recall exactly how old the heaving board is but it is based on one I saw used by a rigger on the Cutty Sark a good few years ago. It is made from a piece of beech that I found floating in the river Orwell, although it has been broken and repaired once.”

    “The heaving mallet is also of my own make using some gas pipe with an Oak head. It is based on a Royal Navy Issued item.”
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    "These tools must have made something like 1000 door stops over the years, but they get used on other jobs as well such as splicing very heavy ropes. They give me the chance to tighten things much tighter than my body will allow.”
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    It is Des’s experience making these doorstops - more than a thousand over the past thirty years - which reassures us that these are the best-made doorstops available. Built around two half-spheres of solid lead, and using 18mm Manila rope, these hefty weights will hold open the heaviest door, and will last for many years. Other lighter, cheaper ( and foreign made ) versions are available, but none can match those handmade by Des in Suffolk.
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    Des’s other tools include the large Swedish fid, used for splicing rope, a hammer, for hammering the turns, and a dolly for heaving tight.
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    The Swedish fid in action.
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    Hammering the turns.
     
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    Heaving tight using the dolly.
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    The Swedish fid again…
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    … and using the heaver to tighten the loop.
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    Des trimming the end with his favourite knife, bought 30 years ago in Boulogne.
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    The rope keyrings are made in a similar but smaller way by Liz, and based around a wood rather than lead core. Our other product from Footrope is the Sailor’s Whisk Brush.

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    Made by sailors from odd ends of rope, this brush was used for swabbing a boat’s deck, although our smaller version is perfect for brushing down your table or worktop. Although simple looking, this brush is very labour intensive, as straightening the strands to produce the distinctive ‘whisk’ involves controlled soaking, combing and drying. Available in limited quantities, this is a great alternative to a dustpan brush, and is a classic Labour and Wait product - timeless and functional.

    As well as making rope products and demonstrating knot tying, Des also runs the Museum of Knots and Sailor’s Ropework. A valuable resource of rope artefacts and knot tying history, Des’s tribute to the art of the ropemaker is a unique collection celebrating the prosaic and practical skill, once commonplace, which is now the province of the specialist.

    “We believe that the world should recognise the art and skill of knots and sailors’ ropework. Such items that have often not been valued or exhibited by museums. For many years we have collected old and recent ropework and ropeworking tools. We hope to encourage greater awareness by creating this setting to properly display our collection.”

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    Des’s knowledge and enthusiasm for rope and knots has also been captured in print, as the author of a number of books and monographs. So if you are inspired to attempt your own monkey’s fist, turk’s head - or footrope knot - Des can be your guide.
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    Our thanks go to Des and Liz for their information and photographs, and to Ann Norman for the illustration ( taken from Des’s Knot Craft ). All items are available in store, and the doorstop and keyring are available online. Des’s Museum of Knots and Sailor’s Ropework is open by appointment.

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  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 01 August, 2013
    FOOTROPE KNOTS was established in 1980 by Des Pawson, an expert in knotting and sailor's rope work. Based at his home in Ipswich, working alongside his wife, he produces traditional ropework articles. His interest extends to a rope and knot museum situated in his garden.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 21 July, 2013

    July’s Tools of the Trade come from R. Russell Brush Manufacturers, a family business with over 160 years experience in brushmaking.

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    From this company we sell a selection of handmade all-natural bristle brushes, including a Banister Brush and a Clothes Brush - available online - and an Indoor Broom and a long-handled Cobweb Brush, available in our Redchurch Street store.

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    That august chronicler of London life the Gentle Author has written about the history of R. Russell on the Spitalfields Life blog, so to learn more about the history of the company and the six generations of brush-making Russells please take the time to visit this fascinating site. In the meantime Robert Russell will take us through the tools involved in the manufacturing process. 

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    “The plastic cup is used for hand mixing the epoxy cement. If only a small amount is required we use this cup, if we need a larger amount it is dispensed via a cement mixing machine. The knife is used to wipe the plastic cup of any excess dribbles when pouring.”

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    “The cardboard flapper is then used for patting down the filaments of the brush into the cement.”

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    “The blue cylinder is a wrap of a polyester material, used for brushes in food environment applications, such as pastry brushes etc.”

    Russell make a huge variety of brushes for many different applications, but all of the brushes for Labour and Wait are made with natural bristle.

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    “Finally, the comb is just used to tease out loose strands which for what ever reason haven’t penetrated the cement.”

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    R. Russell’s long history as a brushmaking company was threatened by the growing availability of cheap mass-manufactured brushes from the far east, but in recent years they have found that their high-quality hand-made brushes have found an appreciative audience amongst discerning customers. There will always be a place in the home for quality products, and so we are proud to sell the Russell brushes, each one branded with the proud slogan “MADE IN ENGLAND”.

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    Our thanks go to Alan and Robert Russell, and to the Gentle Author for allowing us to use the Spitalfields Life photographs.

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  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 01 July, 2013
    R. RUSSELL are in their sixth generation as brush makers. They are believed to be the oldest family run business in Chesham, where brush making was once a thriving industry within the town. Almost all of their brushes are handmade utilising skills passed down from previous generations.

  • See more: 2013, Calendar, Tools of the Trade


  • 07 June, 2013

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    June’s Tools of the Trade takes us on a trip into the heart of the English Cotswolds, where we find the small town of Winchcombe and the Winchcombe Pottery.

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    From this small studio workshop we stock a selection of hand thrown pouring bowls, in three sizes and two glazes. 

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    These beautiful bowls are fired in a wood-burning kiln, and it is this firing process which gives each bowl its unique appearance. Irregular colouring and scorch marks created by the smoke, soot and ash characterise each object, and the resulting depth of colour and complexity means no two bowls will ever be exactly alike. 

    The outside surfaces are left unglazed, revealing to the touch the rough clay surface, while inside one of two glazes is used:

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    The clear glaze reveals more of the natural wood-fired colouring inside the bowl, while the dark tenmoku-like glaze adds depth to the finish, the oxidisation process creating its own irregular patterning in shades of brown and black.

    Customers - and staff - will often deliberate long and hard over which particular bowl to buy, as each one is truly a unique item.

    The Winchcombe Pottery can trace its history back to 1926, when a 25 year old potter named Michael Cardew rebuilt and reopened the local Becketts Pottery. Cardew had trained under Bernard Leach, the man responsible for the rebirth of craft pottery and the Studio pottery movement in the early years of the twentieth century; Leach believed that the potter’s focus should not be on decoration or embellishment but in the tactile and functional perfection of objects designed for everyday use, and Cardew’s ambition was to reopen the pottery as a place where traditional, functional and affordable wares could be made for the local population.

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    To help him in his task, Cardew hired two men; Elijah Comfort, the 63 year old chief thrower at the Becketts pottery, and 14 year old Sydney Tustin, a local lad whose first task was to turn the wheel for the elder potter. As the pottery established itself, the team expanded, Sydney’s brother Charlie Tustin joining in 1935 and Ray Finch a year later. Finch, from South London, had originally travelled to Gloucestershire to find work at the pottery in 1935 but Cardew instructed the young man to learn his skills first, so Finch studied at Central Saint Martins before joining Michael, Elijah, Sydney and Charlie at Winchcombe. Cardew himself, however, only stayed at the pottery for another three years before leaving for Cornwall where he set up the Wenford Bridge pottery, and so in 1939 Ray Finch took over the running of Winchcombe.

    Ray Finch (standing left) and others of the Winchcombe team, 1947

    The team at Winchcombe in 1947 - Ray Finch is standing on the left.

    In 1974 Finch and Winchcombe opened their first wood-fired kiln, establishing the process which defines Winchcombe pottery today. The wood firing introduces the essential element of random to the process, transforming the local clay into functional, practical, unique objects. Earth, water, wood, fire and ash, feldspar, limestone and iron oxide; the ingredients which create the magical transmutation which is stoneware pottery.

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    Ray Finch hard at work building a wood fired kiln, the essential element in Winchcombe Pottery.

    So what tools are used in the production of these bowls? Ray’s son Mike explains them for us:

    “On the left side is a wire for cutting off the pot from the wheel. The top and bottom middle are metal banding strips used in trimming and turning leather-dry pots, as is the paint scraper in the centre.”

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    “The wooden rib on the right is for smoothing throwing rings - especially on the inside of bowls." 

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    Each bowl is hand thrown and hand finished, before being stamped with The WP mark that signifies the Winchcombe Pottery.

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    Sadly, Ray Finch passed away in 2012. He had worked at Winchcombe for over 70 years and trained and inspired generations of potters. A website has been set up to celebrate his life and honour his achievements - Ray Finch 1914 - 2012.

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    The original Winchcombe team of Michael Cardew, Sid Tustin and Ray Finch.

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    Mike and his team are carrying on the tradition established by his father and the original potters, and still make their wares in the same way. Hand thrown, hand finished and wood fired. Our thanks go to Mike and all at Winchcombe for sharing their tools and their story with us.

    Unfortunately due to the unique and varying nature of these items and their limited availability we are unable to sell them on our website. If you are interested in buying one you can visit our Redchurch Street store or email us using info@labourandwait.co.uk.

    For more information on Bernard Leach and studio pottery you can read our story about the Syussai Pottery here.

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  • 05 June, 2013


    We have been selling local author Clive Murphy’s ‘Ordinary Lives’ first editions for many years now. We were delighted when we heard that after purchasing a book from us, Pan Macmillan would be republishing one of the series.

    'Love, Dears’ will appear in a paperback edition, retitled as 'Up in Lights’. The novel tells the dramatic story of former chorus girl Marjorie Graham, as recorded in correspondence and conversation with Clive Murphy. 

    The original first editions of 'Love, Dears’ are available in store and online.

  • See more: 2013, Clive Murphy

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