Fiona started up Soma Gallery in 2005 as a place to show up and coming artists, and thanks to her good eye she picked up on the likes of Rob Ryan, Anthony Burrill and Gemma Correll early on in their careers.
Soma Gallery used to be housed in a tiny space inside the Clifton Arcade but last year Fiona moved into a bigger shop across the road and it was in the upstairs gallery that we held the ACOFI Book Tour gathering just over a week ago.
When I arrived (last minute, slightly flustered, again. must learn to manage time better) Kate Gover from Lahloo Tea already had the kettle on. She was joined by Vicky and Stu, who were both excellent people to have helping out. Kate came to the tea trade via restaurant retail, but it was a slightly strange career path to choose because she hates normal builders’ tea.
Kate Gover shows Fiona some of the tea.
Due to her inquisitive nature she decided to find a tea that she did enjoy drinking and spent many years developing her palette by training with some of the best tea masters – through them she met with the small scale producers who now supply her with the very best quality teas from their estates. Lahloo Teas can be bought in Chandos Deli and Arch House Deli in Bristol, as well as in fine food stores across the UK. I particularly love Kate’s dedication to the way her teas are presented – she has developed some lovely flyers to promote the tea, her logo features a great fat red heart, and larger quantities come presented in a wooden box. Each tin is decorated with an old shipping map that was inspired by the travels of a famous clipper that her great grandfather sailed on, after which the tea brand is named. Clearly she is a lady for whom attention to detail is important and it certainly pays off with her fragrant teas. Choose from such delights as Amber Oolong Tea, grown on a misty mountain in Taiwan or Guricha Green Loose Tea from China.
Lahloo Tea is the perfect accompaniment to a very good hand made biscuit… and on the table were three expertly packed boxes of the most stupendously gorgeous biscuits from Hart’s Bakery: as promised Laura had hand made heart shaped custard creams, iced gingerbread hearts and the cutest hand iced shortbread bicycles. Honestly, I am flabbergasted at pâtissière Laura’s skills – she’s trained with the best of them and it shows. Good folks of Bristol, if you want to try something really special then you should visit her in her shop in Hampton Lane for some artisan delights, where you can also try rhubarb and almond danish, eccles cakes alongside savoury delicacies such as olive and rosemary bread and filled croissants. It really doesn’t get better than this. I am jealous of you Bristol folks.
At my Bristol leg of the tour I was lucky enough to be joined by two of the illustrators who are featured in ACOFI – Bex Glover of Severn Studios, whose work just keeps getting better and better. She’s just done a mural for a cafe in Harrods and she is currently featured in several other magazines including The Mighty Pencil – combining two of her favourite things: fashion illustration and animals.
She has also been doing tutorials for the likes of Digital Artist Magazine, so you can catch up with some of her techniques there. I’m sure you’ll be seeing much more of Bex’ unique style.
Bex Glover with a Hart’s Bakery bicycle biscuit.
Katie checks out the Lahloo tea – she’s a big tea fan! Hence her moniker Teabelle!
Jasper Conran A/W 2011 by Katie Harnett. She has also been experimenting with some new techniques and animal drawings.
She came along with an old school friend and fellow UWE student Lilly Allen, but sadly no one else from UWE came along. I put it down to the frantic time of year…
It was a pleasure to meet Kat and Rog of Howkapow, who stock a delicious range of goodies on their website. Kat is a girl after my own heart – a lover of bright colours and patterns with an 80s flavour. All good things I say! She was wearing an eye-catching Gonzalo Cutrina Extinct necklace from her website. It’s a mere £55 – what a bargain:
It was lovely to finally meet illustrator Ben Newman, who illustrated for two issues of Amelia’s Magazine back at the start of what has become a very successful career. What a lovely smiley chap he is!
Lauren Neko, Bonina Silvestre and Charlotte Pain.
There are countless good reasons to visit Soma Gallery, either at Fiona’s space in Bristol, or online from anywhere in the world: Soma Gallery stocks Lesley Barnes prints, and also Lesley Barnes dancing bear badges… and tote bags.
Fiona has an old specialist printer with which she makes these adorable badges: I couldn’t resist buying a metallic pair of brightly coloured rodents. Also stocked at Comma Shop.
Soma stocks a wide range of one off and limited edition art, including this lovely screenprinted wooden piece from Tom Frost.
Ben Newman reads my Anthology of Illustration.
Rog, Fiona and Kat.
I sat on the floor to give my talk, it was all very informal!
You can read Fiona Hamilton’s marvellous account of the night here.
Don’t forget that I have one more date on my ACOFI Book Tour – if you live in London please do join me at Tatty Devine, Brick Lane, on Tuesday 7th May. I’ll be talking from 7.30pm and there will also be the opportunity to learn how to make iced biscuits with Biscuiteers! Read about my first tour date a few weeks back at Tatty Devine, Covent Garden. Lovely stuff. Join the facebook for the event here.
- Announcing: The ACOFI Book Tour. Please join me as I visit some of the UK’s best design shops!
- The ACOFI Book Tour visits Castor and Pollux in Brighton
- The ACOFI Book Tour closes at Tatty Devine in Brick Lane
- The ACOFI Book Tour: visiting The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh
- An interview with Cat of Howkapow!