Goodbye LLO: The Last Post and a Giveaway

 

Please note: Little London Observationist blog will no longer be updated. Please find me over on Little Observationist instead.


On May 17, 2009 – exactly five years ago today – I started Little London Observationist with a single photo of a corner shop window on Kilburn Lane. The message in the window said: “Newspapers, Stamps, Sandwitches”. It was the beginning of my hunt for the little things, the small observations of life in this city that was still very new to me at the time.

Delivery by Broomstick

Over the next five years, LLO grew and grew to the point where I was posting seven days a week at one point. The posts grew longer, full of stories as I explored more of London and got to know some of the people who have called this city home. One of my favourite parts of building this blog was the people who brought it to life. I interviewed 87 artists for the London Art Spot series and 83 additional Londoners for Listen to a Londoner and all of them inspired me in one way or another.

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I wrote 1,084 posts, just about all of them full of original photography. I met many fascinating people through LLO and blogger events, some of whom I became friends with in the real world. It has been an incredible way to discover my adopted city as an expat.

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It is bittersweet to announce that I have decided this will be my last post on Little London Observationist.

Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, London

When I first moved to London in 2007, I spent every single weekend, spare moments after work and sometimes even lunch breaks running around the city with my camera, hopping on to buses heading to destinations with which I was unfamiliar and alighting at the most random stops. I wanted to find the hidden gems, the tiny quirky cafes and the colourful back streets. And I did.

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And in making those discoveries, I carved out the parts of the city that I really connected with and that helped me to change my London from the sprawling metropolis that it is to a place I can call home. Now, after living here for seven years, I still crave new discoveries, but I also long for familiarity – places that are mine, that I can return to over and over again, where the people making my tea know my order by heart, where people in my favourite shops welcome me back with a smile, where I have a seat by the window in cafe that always makes me feel inspired every time I sit there. I have these things now and I’m really enjoying them. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 in December, but London feels cosier now, less intimidating, but still exciting with the world at my fingertips.

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The honest truth is that running all over the city on public transport every second of my free time no longer appeals quite as much as it did to me before. Sometimes yes, but not enough to create enough compelling content from all over the city for LLO as consistently as I used to. I also find that I travel a bit more these days, I have other projects I’m working on and different interests that I’d like to focus on that don’t fit in with the content and vision of LLO.

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I’ve had a blog on one platform or another since 2002 and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. It’s a real passion for me (and possibly an addiction). And so, this is simply a change of direction to match my change of focus. As most of you probably already know, I started writing Little Observationist in April 2013. I update three times a week. I post London content there, but there’s also photography from my travels, the little things from everyday life and recipes too. I welcome you all to follow me there, say hello and let me know you came through LLO.

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What of the content from the last five years of Little London Observationist? It will stay here. The blog will stay live as people stop by every day for the archived posts. I also hope, at some point after my wedding this year, to start compiling some of the best bits into a book. If you are or know of an editor / publisher who would like to work with me on this project, please get in touch. You can reach me at littleobservationist@gmail.com.

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Most importantly, I’d like to end this last post by saying thank you to all of you who have contributed to LLO through interviews, guest posts or photos and to those of you who have followed me on my journey here for the last five years. Your comments and friendship have made it all entirely worth it and I hope to see you over on Little Observationist as well!

THE GIVEAWAY

As a thank you to those of you who follow me over to the new blog, I’m going to give away one of the canvas prints that was featured in my solo exhibition in November. It’s a photograph of Big Ben and the lamp posts South Bank, worth £300. The link will take you to Etsy where you can see the measurements and the story behind it. A winner will be selected at random from those who enter and notified by email.

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TO ENTER

1.) Subscribe to updates from Little Observationist either through Feedly or another RSS reader or by entering your email address in the box at the top right of the blog.

2.) Like Little Observationist on Facebook.

3.) Leave a comment and let me know you’d like to enter! Be sure to leave your email address.

DEADLINE

Saturday, May 24, 2014 (This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Ian of London Unveiled!)

Cheers,
Steph x

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LLO Meet Up Plans and Street Art Books Up for Grabs

How’s everyone? Sorry to leave you guys hanging for a while. It will be a bit of a quiet month around here as I’m travelling as well as preparing for my exhibition so time is tight for exploring and writing until mid-November. If anyone wants to volunteer to write a story and share some photos over the next few weeks, please get in touch. Last week, I went up to Dublin for work and to attend TBEX, the big travel blogger conference. What an experience to be surrounded by 600 travel bloggers and some inspirational speakers. Exploring Dublin was fun too, but I’ll write more about that on my other blog since LLO is all about London. So tell me what’s been happening while I’ve been away?

THE LLO MEET UP

I’ve been writing LLO for more than four years now and I have yet to meet most of you. I thought since I have the gallery space for my exhibition, it would be a great opportunity to organise a meet up, so mark your calendars!

Who: LLO readers
Where: The Chance Gallery, 123 Sydney Street, London SW3 6NR (nearest tube, South Kensington; buses 49, 22, 211, 19)
When: November 12, 2013 from 6pm onward
Why: So we can connect and you can all come see my exhibition too!

Please bring your own drinks! (If you want a free glass of champagne and some nibbles, come to my launch party the night before. You’re welcome to join us for that celebration as well.)

Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in an LLO meet up so I have an idea of how many people. Looking forward to it!!

THE STREET ART BOOKS

Garry Hunter, author of Street Art: From Around the World, has contributed 10 copies of his brand new book Urban Art: The World as a Canvas as an additional reward for backers of the Little City Observations exhibition.

There will be a draw for the 10 books among anyone who has supported the exhibition with £25.00 or more.

Each book will be signed by Garry as well as two of the featured artists – Ben Wilson and Paul “DON” Smith. Garry, Ben and DON have all been featured on LLO in the past.

ABOUT GARRY | Besides being an author, Garry has spent many years in his career as a photographer and is now heavily involved in the street art scene, bridging artists in the UK with international opportunities and bringing artists from abroad to paint in the UK. He works from his fascinating studio in the Trinity Buoy Wharf area of South East London.

ABOUT BEN | Ben Wilson is known as the “Chewing Gum Man”. He’s been painting small masterpieces on discarded chewing gum for 10 years. Sounds gross, sure, but check out the NYTimes feature on Ben. He even made a special chewing gum piece for my LLO, which you will see if you come to the exhibition.

ABOUT DON | DON is one of London’s most prolific street artists these days. He’s been on the graffiti/street art scene for more than 27 years now. His love of music and his past working in the film industry for more than a decade influence his work and he’s well known for his image of The Banker. One of DON’s street art pieces in East London features in one of my prints that will be in the exhibition. DON recently posed by a large version of the print that is hanging in the new cafe of CAPA International Education on Cromwell Road.

Good luck to all of you who’d like a book and thanks a million to Garry, DON and Ben for supporting this project.

Ben Wilson Designs Chewing Gum Art for Little London Observationist

On Thursday last week, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the famous chewing gum artist, Ben Wilson while he was at work on a King’s Road piece. I have some transcribing to do but you should see the interview up in the next day or two.

Ben then very kindly came round on Saturday to create a customised piece of chewing gum art at the Little London Observationist headquarters!

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It was late afternoon when my phone rang. It was Ben. “I’m just downstairs. I’ve been working on your piece for a little while now!” So I made him a cup of tea, milk no sugar, and headed downstairs.

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He had chosen a lovely blue-green colour for the base with a black outline and was already working on the design.

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On Thursday, Ben had asked me what I’d like on the chewing gum. My first thought was a camera. So he took a photo of my hand holding my camera for inspiration.

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Ben is sprawled out on his paint-splattered sleeping mat. He’s surrounded by his backpack, an open tool box full of paint, a torch and some lighters, a scraper, lacquer, paintbrushes, a cup of water and his paint dish where he mixes colours.

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He also has a packet of crisps and a mug of tea.

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Ben lapses in and out of silence when he works. Sometimes he’s lost in concentration. Other times he sits up telling me animated stories of his family, his three children, other artwork he has painted around the world and his general love of creativity and nature.

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He works on such a tiny scale, but detail is very important in Ben’s work. He looks at me before he dips his brush in a spot of red paint and says, “Now this will really bring it to life!” I watch as he paints my fingernails on the hand holding the camera.

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He must have a very steady hand and great eyesight. He’s been painting chewing gum on the streets of London – thousands and thousands of them – for almost 10 years now. October marks a decade.

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He invited me to his studio to see some of his other projects so I am looking forward to that.

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Ben paints full time, as you’ll read in his interview in the next few days. Sitting next to him on the pavement is a small flip notebook. While he’s working, people often approach with requests and he writes down what they would like as well as their contact details. He loves to connect with people and he takes these requests for free. To Ben, this is the beauty of his work and what he most enjoys.

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Of course, an artist also has to make some money to survive. To this end, Ben also works on some commissioned projects like his new gum art trail that follows the King’s Road as part of Chelsea and Kensington’s InTransit Festival this month. Ben is following the “Route of Kings and Punks“. But more on that in the interview post this week.

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Ben is working on the Little London Observationist lettering when the sky goes dark.

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We feel a few drops, but Ben is well prepared to work in any weather – rain or shine, even snow. He digs his umbrella out from his backpack and pulls on a pair of reflective trousers.

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And he carries on.

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Ben works for a few hours. During this time, people at the pub across the street and passersby watch curiously, look backward as they walk past. I know many will come back to see what on earth he was doing painting on the ground – not a sight you often see around here.

Once the painting has been finished and it’s been set with a flame from a lighter, it’s time for a protective lacquer coat. Ben has a few cut outs in his toolbox which he uses to protect the pavement surrounding his work when he sprays the chewing gum.

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Once he is satisfied with his work, he chips away any paint that may have dripped on the sidewalk and cleans up the edges. He’s very conscious about the impact we have on our environment which is much of the reason he paints on discarded chewing gum in the first place.

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When the piece is finished, Ben hangs hangs around for a few minutes. He tells me a story of how he was once caught drawing mini “gum” pieces inside of street art books that feature his work. This was at the Tate Modern bookshop. He was scolded before the manager approached and was excited by the personal touch he had given them.

Then he picks up his old camera with its cracked screen and takes a few photos of the new chewing gum piece for his collection. He shows me a few photos of his mother and children.

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And then he’s off. Ben loves to cook and is heading home to make a fish pie for his son for dinner.

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For more background on Ben Wilson, here’s a lovely article that was published in The New York Times

Little London Observationist in 2013

Dost thou love life? 
Then do not squander time, 
for that is the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin

I created Little London Observationist in 2009 to remind myself to appreciate the little things about life in London, to encourage myself to step off the pathways carved out by tourists and explore the gritty urban sprawl of this great city and get to know some real Londoners. It was also created to be a platform to share my own photography and writing. During the majority of the last three years, I posted seven days per week. Admittedly, not with the same passion throughout. So it’s time to change a few things and re-invigorate LLO.

I also want to say thanks to all of you who have started following along in 2012 and of course to all of you who have been following for years. To that end I hope to offer more giveaways this year to share my appreciation. So far, in the next few weeks, 10 of you will have the chance to receive a Photo Larks postcard and two of you will get to trial some cool fitness packages for a month. I’m also speaking to another company I did a giveaway with in the past that went over well. Secrets.

So, I have to say that lately I’ve been dipping into other ventures like running my Etsy shops – Photo Larks and Made in Mogotes, writing articles for Townfish and Move Guides and creating a new website for my dad’s side business, Sadler Garden Collections (launching at the end of January). I’ll also be working on a website for my brother who is running his own business, Sadler Fence and Staining, full time from the Spring. I have a number of other freelance projects in mind for 2013 so it’s going to be a busy one to sat the least. I’d also like to spend some time focussing on improving my Spanish (New Years resolutions and such), travelling, cooking more often, enjoying the little things in life with Jorge and spending more time with friends.

Time for Tea

This is great news but also means that because I’ve been so busy, being committed to posting on LLO every single day can simply feel like a chore. That goes against the original vision for the blog and it also takes away from the quality of the posts. As you can see from my own Flickr stream, most of my recent photographs are from my travels, not so many from London. That should also change this year.

I asked all of you to answer a survey in the last post of 2012 and your answers gave me some insight on what you’d like to see here (you can still answer the 3-minute survey if you haven’t yet. I appreciate your input).

The majority of you who answered the survey mentioned that you’d like to see the following on LLO in 2013:

  • More of my own photography (which is great because that’s something I want to focus on more this year anyway.)
  • More interviews with Londoners (also good news as these are always fun for me as well and I already have a few lined up for you.)
  • More neighborhood highlights (I will do my best!)
  • More personal reflections on life in London (I will definitely try to write more along with the photos, but keep it just as colourful!)

With that in mind, in 2013, the name of the game will be quality over quantity.

This means not posting every single day, but coming up with more original ideas, taking my camera out and about around the city and making the time to interview more of you Londoners (please email me if you’d like to volunteer – stephanie.sadler.23 @ gmail.com).

I will of course, still draw from the Flickr pool so please continue to contribute! I’ll also put some more effort into posting additional content on Facebook. Also in the next few months, a new LLO logo and a possible transfer to WordPress.org in the Spring.

Hope you are all having a fabulous 2013 so far!

More soon (and with more photos!)

8 Little London Observations

It’s the little things, as I’ve always said, that make London (and all cities for that matter) unique urban landscapes. These little things detract from the postcard experience (or may add a new dimension to it). It’s the tiny architectural details – the door knobs and paint splatters that largely go unnoticed. It’s the odd rubbish left out for collection that makes you look twice. It’s a random bit of clothing left behind or a funny little sign.

Here are eight of these little observations picked up by LLO readers and contributed to the Flickr pool:

Coffin Cupboard.Photo: Coffin Cupboard by Dennis Owen

Warning
Photo: Warning by Steve Reed

How much is that doggy in the window
Photo: How much is that doggy in the window by Takphoto

mind the poo
Photo: Mind the Poo off of Park Road, West Ham by Judy

Ted's Full Frosty Snowman In Richmond - London.
Photo: Ted (Baker)’s full Frosty snowman in Richmond by Jim Linwood

On Blackheath
Photo: On Blackheath by Dave McGowan

Tile
Photo: Tile by Steve Reed

GWL Dubious Topiary in Kensington Palace Gardens - W2
Photo: Dubious topiary in Kensington Palace Gardens by Malcolm Edwards