The first an auction at the PZ Gallery with prosecco and canapés, and art by Rose Hilton, Jessica Cooper, Sam Bassett and others…

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The second, with another covetable poster designed by Pirrip Press, takes place the gardens of the comprehensively gorgeous B&B Venton Vean (which temporarily fulfils a wish I expressed 3 years ago on this blog: for them to open a tea garden!).

 

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Tomorrow is the last day of Jessica Cooper‘s show at the Belgrave Gallery in St Ives – a quite rare solo exhibition on home turf, fittingly called ‘About Home’. It was a real pleasure to be asked to write the introductory essay for the show, which follows below.

Much of the inspiration for this piece of writing came from attending her two-day course at Newlyn School of Art entitled ‘Essence of Form’ back in March. It provides not only a thoroughly absorbing insight into how she works but also encourages a micro awareness of what switches you on visually – even if you’re a total beginner like me. Scroll down for a slideshow of pics from the course, bookable here for September.

Jessica Cooper: About Home / Introductory essay by Ismay Atkins

Like the comic silence that treads a thrilling fine line; the pregnant pause in a bar of music; the short line of poetry that gathers emotion in refrain, Jessica Cooper’s apparent simplicity on canvas is her most courageous and impactful tool.

The temptation might be to call it minimalism, with its implication of stripping away – or simplicity, with its suggestion of naiveté – but more accurately this is mindfulness of art: a honing of awareness; an attentiveness of mind; and an openness to meaning, wherever it might be found.

To watch Cooper at work is to observe a tireless quest for this all-important meaning. As she prepares for a painting in her ever-present sketchbook, she explores and distils the subject until finding what she describes as its ‘core’: the part or parts in which she finds value, essence, emotion, substance or significance, impact or import. Once found, all else falls beyond the borders of the canvas, the noise of life is turned to fade, and she focuses with a rare clarity: on a shade of green, a line, a curve, a leaf, a corner, a tree, a house.

While Cooper has long been an artist who breathes emotion into the still life, never perhaps has a collection of her paintings been more emotionally resonant than this homecoming show in her native West Penwith, composed as it is of objects and landscapes that have shaped, and continue to shape, her life. Whether it’s a cup made by her grandmother, used by four generations; an acutely reminiscent view from the coastal road from St Just to St Ives; or a commonplace modern kitchen chair, Cooper seems to elevate the domestic and the personal to greater significance.

While the effect might be one of effortless clarity, the filtering out of extraneous detail isnotoriously demanding in any art form. It requires well-honed skill, but still more, it demands conviction and courage. Denied the props of supporting structures, and freed from the restraints of dogged detail, Cooper’s paintings place themselves in a bold position of vulnerability. A wedge of lemon on the kitchen surface. A house on a hill. An oval of soap next to the bath. How can she know we will care? Artistically, Cooper leaves herself as precarious and protruding as a tree on the moors of West Penwith.

Yet this vulnerability, for me, is the very thing that imbues this body of works with strength and meaning. It is the thing that makes a painting of a humble bowl of pears strong and important.

In short, we care because she cares. We believe in it because she does. It is a confidence that is quite contagious.

‘About Home’ shows until 28th June at Belgrave Gallery Belgrave St Ives, 22/22a Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1HE. T (01736) 794888 W www.belgravestives.co.uk

Jessica tweets at @jcooperpainter

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‘They were beautiful, the most beautiful skies as a matter of fact. Um, the sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire, and the clouds would catch the colours everywhere’.

Ahh, anyone else remember this ambient 1991 track by the Orb? One bite of a pillowy Cloud 9 marshmallow took me straight back to this song of my youth. These “little fluffy clouds” are handmade gourmet marshmallows made in Port Eliot, adapted from a traditional French recipe and made in beautifully executed flavours like Crème de Violette, Lemon Meringue and Double Raspberry, then finished with details like crystallised flowers, rose petals or crushed pistachios.

They bear virtually no resemblance to the chewy shop-bought marshmallow – this falls somewhere dreamy between a soufflé and a meringue. File under ‘very special occasions’.

£6.95 per pack, available at Selfridges, St Michael’s Mount and online at http://cloudninemarshmallows.co.uk 

Lemon meringue Cloud Nine marshmallows

 

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A battered Jubilee Pool after the 2014 winter storms

The Jubilee Pool in Penzance is a thing of great beauty – with smooth deco white lines, a cool triangular shape and views out into Mount’s Bay. Or at least it was. It took an unprecedented hammering in the winter storms and it’s now a desperately sad sight on the Penzance seafront: strewn with rocks and debris, and its future seriously in jeopardy.

The Friends of the Jubilee Pool are currently lobbying Cornwall Council to match-fund their application to the Coastal Communites Fund, and they need your help. I quote, ‘Without this match funding it is highly unlikely the bid will be successful and the pool will be in real danger of closing for ever.’

It’s easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of security that someone else will sort this out – that someone somewhere high up will make sure that Penzance doesn’t lose one of its finest assets – but unfortunately this seems far from guaranteed.

Time is of the essence, so please register your support at the following online petition. It takes less than a minute.

www.jubileepool.co.uk

Just discovered this quietly addictive little video from Rough Island Band, channelling their Scillonian charms into the epic Paul Simon tune ‘You can call me Al’.

Complete with oilskins, beanies and the backdrop of some unmistakably Cornish weather – the sort that falls somewhere indeterminate between dry and wet.

Forthcoming album ‘On all Sides’ released Saturday 19th April. www.roughislandband.com

Outside, the weather was doing this. Again. We all know the drill by now: sheeting rain, gale-force winds, couple of feet of mud in areas not usually classed as the countryside.

But inside Mount Pleasant Ecological Park’s music venue on Friday night, it may as well have been Jamaica, such were the sweet tunes and warm, unbuttoned atmosphere at the Cornell Campbell & the Soothsayers gig.

Thank you for the excellent, warming food Cafe Irie and to the main man Cornell for having one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard – a sweet, clear falsetto. And for wearing sunnies in the midst of one of the foulest Cornish winters on record.

What a great venue – check www.mpecopark.co.uk for more gigs. I’ve signed myself right up for updates on their world music programme.

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My next discovery in January was the truly fresh-thinking Strong Adolfo’s, recently opened right on the Atlantic Highway. That’s the A39 to those having a more functional day.

The idea of an American-style roadside joint is very clever for Cornwall. This is somewhere where the road-trip rules – even if it’s just from one end of Cornwall to the other, as in my case. We spend our lives fiddling about with miniature parking spaces and one-way streets, so the excess of easy parking at Strong Adolfo’s is – interestingly or boringly – a big draw.

John and Mathilda Friström Eldridge have clearly put heart and soul into opening this place, where the spanking new building and aspirational detail throughout reveal energy and commitment.

The Finisterre-jacket-and-vintage-furniture crew were occupying all available tables on the Saturday I went, so I think we can safely say that this cool cat is out of the bag.

www.strongadolfos.com

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In this most dead of seasons in the far west, it’s a struggle to find somewhere open for any sort of refreshment, let alone somewhere cosy or chic. All the more fun, then, to discover not one but two interesting new cafes in the space of a few weeks. First up, the Dog & Rabbit in St Just. As befits a cafe in this most herbal and tight-knit of towns, it’s mellow and hand-knitted, with recycled cardboard for clipboards, vintage furniture, and a table selling home-made jam and properly free-range eggs.

(Marks deducted for being about to close in February!)

18 Bank Square, St Just, TR19 7HJ Penzance, Cornwall. T 01736 449811. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Dog-and-Rabbit\

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I’ve messed around with wave pics before but some events call for the professionals – and the Herculean storm that battered Cornish shores this January was one of them. So it is a treat to feature the work of PZ photographer and pasties & cream friend Mike Newman during these brine-soaked days. These two pictures also made their way to the Guardian, the Times and Telegraph.

Here’s what Mike had to say about the experience. “Shooting the Hercules storm was an amazing but busy day for me as a photographer. The hype surrounding its approach was as large as the predicted waves and my photographic anticipation was further increased by my interest as a surfer. Howling winds and heavy seas meant Porthleven was a misty, windy, apocalyptic spectacle when I arrived, somehow reminiscent of a film set dotted with photographers and storm watchers, under a watery half-light and scurrying clouds.

The ground was shaking at the top of the cliff as solid waves hit the shore, always preceded by an ominously heavy ‘crump’ as they unfolded onto the beach. I’ve seen bigger waves but these ones were so thick, they carried a massive amount of power, sending huge plumes of spray over the houses on top of the cliff.  And over expensive camera equipment if you didn’t get covered up in time.

Later, a mile offshore at Land’s End, waves were also breaking over the top of Longships Lighthouse. Reaching the cliffs at Pedn Men Dhu which protect Sennen Cove from the Atlantic, they still had enough power to cascade up to the top, about 230 feet above sea level.  The amount of spray in the air was phenomenal, there was only a short window of opportunity to get a shot after cleaning my lens before it got wet again, all the time battling the gale force winds which were rattling the stability of both me, and my tripod.”

mikenewmanphotography.co.uk; Mike also ‘raves and rants’ about Penzance life at http://ocean-image.blogspot.co.uk.

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I wanted to share with you a feature I wrote about a new Cornish cookery school, first published in Cornwall Today.

In which pasties & cream learns how to make, er, pasties and cream (more pictures below the fold):

You can hardly swing an artisan baguette in Cornwall without hitting upon a specialist bakery course, a filleting masterclass or a foraging walk, with everyone from chocolatiers to fishmongers to high-end restaurants now running niche cookery lessons on the side to meet our seemingly insatiable appetite for food education. The flourishing market for food skills and selectively sourced ingredients is, I like to think, part of the nation’s long journey back from the anonymity of the supermarket to the origins of our food.

If ever there were somewhere to help us reconnect with the land without forgoing modern sensibilities, it is Philleigh Way, a dedicated new cookery school on an old farm amid the pristine pastures of the Roseland Peninsula.

The business is the brainchild of brothers-in-law James, a long-time foodie who has left a 15-year career in law, and trained chef George, who earned his stripes in the kitchen at Bustophers in Truro – and their aim is to teach ‘new generation country cooking’.

It’s a back to basics approach, drawing on generations-old recipes and precision-sourced local ingredients, combined (and this is the really attractive bit) with the comforts of a state-of-the-art contemporary kitchen. Unlike the predominantly demo-based courses on the market in Cornwall, Philleigh Way stands out for its custom-created space, with workstations for up to ten people and no expense spared in the fit – marble surfaces, Neff ovens (à la Great British Bake Off), Robert Welch knives and Le Creuset cookware in the kitchen – not to mention the satisfying crunch of gravel on the approach.

No rough and ready farm experience, then, but nor is this an operation that shies away from the necessary mess, mud and blood of real food. One of the courses on its calendar is called, quite simply, ‘Pig’, Read the rest of this entry »

Good to see a full house at the Acorn last night for Ruarri Joseph supported by Lily & Meg. This was my favourite track of Ruarri’s and Lily & Meg were at their most stirring singing this song, High Weather (from their new EP, just out):

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With Penzance town centre perennially under attack from the faceless threats of supermarkets, parking charges and high business rates, it’s a joy to watch how Chapel Street is turning into a real little vintage and design enclave.

It is an atmospheric street at the worst of times but now it has the likes of Lost & Found cafe (my new cafe favourite with vintage shop attached), one-week-old No.56 (a touch of London’s Labour & Wait plus hand-crocheted cushions), newly relocated Daisy Laing – as well as oldies like Newlyn Books, Fishboy, Steckfensters and the cigar shop – it can genuinely call itself a shopping ‘enclave’.

I also like the way the businesses – all independents – are coming up with shopping extras. See above a poster for a vintage fair at Lost & Found next weekend. Also hark that shops on Chapel Street are opening late on Thursdsays up till Christmas (until 7pm! And yes, if you are reading from afar, that is most definitely ‘late’ & very useful for Cornwall).

The Jeanne Gougy 1962, courtesy of Sotheby'sSeine, courtesy of Sotheby's The Jeune Hortense 1888, courtesy of Sotheby's high res The Mildred, 1912, courtesy of Sotheby's Tripolitania, courtesy of Sotheby's

These awesome (trad meaning) pictures of shipwrecks off the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – and hundreds more – have just been purchased by the National Maritime Museum, London branch, for £122,000.

They are from the family archive of the Gibson family, assembled over 125 years and four generations, who made it their mission to record shipwrecks off the Cornish coast.

I wish I had the locations of the wrecks pictured here but the names provide interest enough – wonderful titles like Tripolitania, Minnehaha and the Mildred.

The museum says that they will be digitising the material then lending it out to museums across the South West, so by rights I’m sure there will be a Cornish airing soon.

Images reproduced on pasties & cream courtesy of Sotheby’s. www.rmg.co.uk

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…shop on industrial estates.

I only realised this fact relatively recently and now my theory is gathering momentum. There’s the Frugi warehouse in Helston’s Water-ma-Trout; previously blogged Baker Tom’s cafe in Pool; there’s Ruby Junes newly opened in Hayle; and Shivermetimbers reclamation yard near Crowlas. All heart-sinkingly desolate outside, but harbouring treasure within.

A recent addition to my industrial estate hot list is Celtic Sheepskin, Cornwall’s answer to the Ugg boot, based on Treloggan industrial estate in Newquay. This (mainly online) business specialises in highest-quality sheepskin boots made sustainably with British sheepskin sourced from the last remaining UK footwear tannery.

I’ve been resisting the Ugg boot vibe for some years. God knows we’re all slouchy enough in Cornwall without wearing slouchy boots day and night. Plus, when I’d tried them on I’d found the foot support lacking. But most importantly, I’ve observed that once people own a pair, they DON’T EVER TAKE THEM OFF.

But I couldn’t keep it up, so I’ve capitulated on the grounds that Celtic’s boots have decent heel reinforcement; it’s a great Cornish company; and – frankly – who wouldn’t want their feet to be permanently wrapped in wool and supple suede?

As if to make sure you really never take them off, Celtic has now designed a new boot that is water-resistant, called the Aqualamb, pictured below.

Boots from £120, www.celticandco.co.uk

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How neat is this? It’s by budding Cornish design studio Jetty Street Press. It’s like a 21st-century re-imagining of the wonderful Great Western Railway posters, which are well-loved to the point of cliche. There’s even a touch of Hockney’s clean-lined Californian swimming pool in there… offset nicely by the Cornish cliff-side flora.

‘The drawings are developed from doodles in my spare time,’ Sal from Jetty told me. ‘I wanted to create contemporary illustrations of Cornwall without being too twee or sentimental, focusing more at the nooks and crannies of a place not the obvious postcard views.’ Penzance could be getting the Jetty treatment soon… I’ll keep you post(er)ed.

Jetty prints are currently for sale in Brocante, Mevagissey; £60 for framed print. Or you can buy directly from Sal at Jetty; get in touch by twitter or facebook; an unframed print is £25 plus postage.

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I’ve never made it to Cornwall Film Festival, despite good intentions, as it’s been mainly based up the line in Newquay or Truro. Well, this year, a mini film festival in Redruth is in the offing for next week. (In case you didn’t know, Redruth has a surprisingly cool art deco cinema, which I blogged about a little while back here).

www.cornwallfilmfestival.com

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There is something slightly dull about other people’s pictures of sunrise and sunset – a bit like other people’s dreams or drinking stories, you really have to be there (or, alternatively, for it to be a highly significant day, as with West Cornish company The Day That). But the joy of the self-publishing revolution is that it’s my blog party and I can post what I want to!

So if you’ll pardon the pictorial gush, here are some photos of dawn this morning over Penzance prom, which was the beginning of a fresh, clear autumn day that made the Lizard look like it was just round the corner.

 

The thing about Cornwall is that it is very long. So a happening at one end can feel positively foreign to someone who lives at the other. More’s the shame, as this art event near Bude looks like something discriminating and different (‘bring your own ale‘ certainly bodes well).

It’s curated by the people at Hickory Nines, a surfy collective of writers, artists and assorted cool-sounding people, and is all about the dark side of the coast – ie the bit where there’s no Kelly’s whip *shudder*.

I asked nicely and Cai at Hickory Nines has allowed me to reproduce this mini selection of art on pasties & cream. But for the whole shebang, make your way to National Trust Stowe Barton near Bude on Friday 27th September or Saturday 28th. Full detailage on the poster below.

Friday 27th & Saturday 28th 2013, 6.30pm-9.30pm, bring your own ale (corkage applies). Free entry. Stowe Barton, Nr Bude, Cornwall, EX23 9JW. www.hickorynines.com

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The Yacht Inn Swim is an ever-growing annual sea swim from Newlyn to the Jubilee Pool (next to the Yacht Inn, hence the name). It is traditional for me to talk about doing the swim every year yet never quite manage to train or make it to the start line. But it’s a classic Penzance event even for spectators and a stirring display of (other people’s) human endeavour – Penzancers of all ages can be found crossing the finish line.

I saw these pictures on flickr and loved their black and white realism, so I asked the author, Julian De Courcy, if he’d allow me to post them on pasties & cream. He kindly said yes; if you like what you see, you can view the full 2013 set here.

I enjoyed the unedited expressions on people’s dripping wet faces – smiles, grimaces, relief, exhaustion – and the refreshing lack of Cornish ‘colour’.

“I do approach this type of subject as documentary,” says the photographer, “I love the old photographs of a gone age – with as much reality as photography allows.”

http://juliandecourcy.weebly.com

Click here to see my video of the 2010 swim.

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This is happening tomorrow and describes itself as ‘not your usual craft fair’. You have my attention!

www.outlawcraftfair.co.uk

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I​ have been snapping up cards and prints by Pirrip Press for a couple of years now – everything produced by this small print studio is so perfectly clean-lined and well-spaced, with a classy wit about it. There is a stylish economy to their work that I much covet – just the right amount of white space, never too many colours or words.

The designers in question are Alexandra Higglett and Georgina Hounsome, previously based in Penzance and still maintaining strong ties with the area. Hence their annual limited-edition poster for the Newlyn Fish Festival – a two-colour silkscreen print, this year featuring circling gulls over the harbour wall. I’m not one to romanticise seagulls (if I ever did, then it stopped dead with the theft of my Callestick Farm ice-cream on Porthmeor Beach, summer 2011) but I love this image, printed on thick mushroom-coloured paper.

It’s already a bargain at £10 and they give 20% of the money to the Fishermen’s Mission. Which is why my print has been firmly checked out of their online shop before I click publish on this! They only make 100. You can buy one here.

You can also catch these guys at the Outlaw Craft Fair (tagline: ‘not your usual craft fair’) in Penzance on 14th September.

www.pirrippress.co.uk

I’ve taken the King Harry Ferry twice in the last month – so I decided to post a short clip of this meditative little journey across the Carrick Roads.

I can never resist a ride on this chain ferry (can you hear the clicks?) rather than drive the long way round to the Roseland, even if I am £8 poorer per 10-minute return trip as a result. It isn’t really acceptable pricing as a functional part of Cornwall’s transport system, is it? But I’ll leave that rant aside for now as it’s just so beautiful, and is a particularly calm and woody treat for a West Pewithian, where trees and calm water are both somewhat rare.

King Harry Ferry, £8 return day trip. More details & timetables here.

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… and I shit on it!

After listening to me rant on last weekend about Cornwall Council’s parking charges – the stranglehold they have on towns and on local residents’ ability to make an impromptu trip to their local beach – a visiting friend took this picture for me in Marazion. August in Cornwall seems to bring out the rant in me: next up, when I can bear to, the monster Sainsbury’s currently rising from the heliport.

Up-and-coming English folkies the Staves are playing a rather special gig on Sunday in Cornwall – by the sea, presumably alfresco, at the Hidden Hut on the Roseland (enjoying much foodie cachet en ce moment; Stein even recommended it last week in the Times). Seems like a pretty inspired collaboration to me – and one of their hits is even called ‘Facing West’.

As luck would have it, Read the rest of this entry »

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The view from the Bay, Penzance, on Saturday – a perch worth noting in a town so curiously short of alfresco eating and drinking options, and yet so very well-furnished with views. Afternoon tea wasn’t bad, if lacking in leaf tea (boring old Twinings was served).

www.thebaypenzance.co.uk

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Penzance Skate ‘plaza’ opened today on the prom and I’m going to offer the (uneducated in skate) opinion that it looks extremarily cool. The undulating concrete skatescape even looked tempting enough for this ultimate novice to ponder the consequences of attempting that satisfying-looking smooth bump to the right of the picture. Power to the prom.

If you live in these parts, and are into such things, you will probably have heard about a little seafood restaurant down an alleyway in Falmouth called the Wheelhouse. Despite actively shunning publicity, it is booked for months in advance and seems to get choice mentions regularly in the media as a den of great awesomeness. Last week, finally, a table had my name on it*.

When restaurants become this desirable, a whiff of pretension can creep in – a subtle revelling in the lack of available tables, or complacent service, contributing to a feeling that we should be so lucky. But despite my tentacles being out, I found the mellow, candlelit scene to be a down-to-earth pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, the Wheelhouse is certainly confident – waitresses take a seat and chat assuredly about the merits of spider crab, the size of mussels and seasonality – but thankfully it is still eager to please.

So, you might ask, what’s the biggie? Well, the story is this: Read the rest of this entry »

For a couple of years I think I didn’t quite get Golowan. I was busy trying to find out what was happening where, searching the scant printed information for details – it all seemed too scattergun to get a handle on. Now of course I realise that this is absolutely the point of it, and its beauty.

It’s about the chaos and the wandering, the random discoveries, with mini stages and micro events on every street – some planned, some not. As Old Mike rightly said in his column in The Cornishman last week, Golowan is not supposed to be anything as divisive or elite as an ‘arts festival'; it’s a community festival and it represents Penzance perfectly in all its fruity glory.

This guy, who was kicking up dust on Greenmarket at a mere 10.30am, was a particular highlight – anyone catch his name?

 

A good Golowan is being had by all this week, with Mazey Day as giddy and chaotic as ever yesterday. Here’s the beginning of the morning parade for those who missed Mazey or who enjoyed it so much they already want to relive it. Quay Fair Day is cranking into action today on the prom – check website below for events.

www.golowan.org

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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