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!
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.
01 July, 2015
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.
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
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.
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!
01 May, 2015
01 April, 2015
01 March, 2015
01 February, 2015
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.
31 December, 2014
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.
01 December, 2014
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.
01 October, 2014
10 September, 2014
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.
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!)
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.
01 September, 2014
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.
01 August, 2014
01 July, 2014
01 June, 2014
01 May, 2014
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.
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.
Thanks again to Ralph’s owners for letting us feature him here.
01 April, 2014
01 March, 2014
01 February, 2014
17 January, 2014
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.
See more of Jeff’s work at www.jeffcottenden.co.uk
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
“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!”
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.
“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."
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.
"The Cats are an integral part of the mill team as they patrol the mill deterring unwanted guests!!”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The 1960’s ‘Popular’ penknife.
The 1960’s 'Camper’ penknife.
The 1960’s 'Tinker’ penknife.
Rare 1960’s Pioneer penknife
01 December, 2013
01 November, 2013
01 November, 2013
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.“
"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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
Albert Jenner making a trug for R.W Rich, another local manufacturer of Sussex trugs.
Bill Dooley sat on his making horse, shaving the chestnut with his draw knife.
Eddie Smith, last of the Smith owners.
Hazel Pilbeam finishing a Royal Sussex Trug.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The blanks are then ready for sanding.
Hornworker Graham sanding the blanks. Graham has been with Abbeyhorn for over 30 years.
Spoon blanks ready to be heated and moulded - and some comb blanks ready to have their teeth cut.
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.
The warm spoon blank is sat in its mould and then pressed into shape.
The moulds of various shapes and sizes are produced by another local company.
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.
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.
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.
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.
01 October, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moulds ready for filling with slip.
Factory owner Zamir overseeing the filling process.
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.
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.
Fettled and unfettled pots.
Like all processes in the making of a Brown Betty, the fettling is performed by hand.
The finished pots waiting to be fired. The red clay of the Brown Betty gives the pot its distinctive look ( and its distinctive name ).
The kiln loaded and ready for firing.
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.
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.
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.
The clear glaze of the lid contrasts with the darker Rockingham of the teapot body.
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.
15 September, 2013
01 September, 2013
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 -
17 August, 2013
August, and our Tools of the Trade tour brings us to Suffolk, home of Footrope Knots and Des Pawson MBE.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
01 August, 2013
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“The cardboard flapper is then used for patting down the filaments of the brush into the cement.”
“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.
“Finally, the comb is just used to tease out loose strands which for what ever reason haven’t penetrated the cement.”
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”.
Our thanks go to Alan and Robert Russell, and to the Gentle Author for allowing us to use the Spitalfields Life photographs.
01 July, 2013
07 June, 2013
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.
From this small studio workshop we stock a selection of hand thrown pouring bowls, in three sizes and two glazes.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“The wooden rib on the right is for smoothing throwing rings - especially on the inside of bowls."
Each bowl is hand thrown and hand finished, before being stamped with The WP mark that signifies the Winchcombe Pottery.
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.
The original Winchcombe team of Michael Cardew, Sid Tustin and Ray Finch.
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 email@example.com.
For more information on Bernard Leach and studio pottery you can read our story about the Syussai Pottery here.
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.
01 June, 2013
20 May, 2013
May’s Tools of the Trade takes us to Great Yarmouth, where Yarmo have been manufacturing their Fisherman’s Smock since 1898.
This classic piece of workwear has been an essential outerlayer for British fishermen for over a century, but it has also been popular with painters, sculptors, potters, craftsmen… and shopkeepers; most of us here at Labour and Wait have one. So what is it and why do we like it? Let us explain.
The fisherman’s smock is a classic example of functional, utilitarian clothing. This Folkestone fisherman is wearing the traditional pocketless version - cut from sailcloth, this garment was a strong and sturdy extra layer that kept the wearer warm and dry, protected his woollen jumper, and was comfortable and easy to work in. The short sleeves prevented the cuffs getting wet - a feature also seen on guernsey jumpers and breton shirts - while the tight fit and high neck ensured maximum protection from the elements.
The Yarmouth Stores supplied this and other items of clothing and chandlery from their harbourside warehouses on the outermost tip of the east of England. By 1914 they had opened up branches in ports all around the coast, from Brixham and Padstow in Cornwall to Grimsby, Hull and North Shields all the way up to Lerwick in Scotland. The fishing fleets moved around the coast, so a shop would be opened up for two or three months and as the herring shoals moved on the shop stock would be put aboard a drifter and transported to the next port.
By 1910 and the heyday of the herring industry Yarmo were supplying smocks to fishing communities throughout Great Britain. But it wasn’t just a uniform for fishermen to work in - the practical, utilitarian nature of the fisherman’s smock meant it was adopted by many artists and artisans.
Here Barbara Hepworth wears a smock as she sketches. In the early decades of the Twentieth Century St. Ives in Cornwall became a popular destination for artists and we can imagine the inspiration provided by the smocks being worn by the local crews - such as this rather motley bunch from along the coast in Mousehole. The cheap, tough, easy to find smocks provided the perfect protection for artists as well as sailors.
These white smocks show their sailcloth origins, and they are still made from the same material today, in particular a blue sailcloth which washes and ages beautifully, very much like good denim. The only alterations for the modern sailor or artist are longer sleeves and two patch pockets.
So what of May’s Tools of the Trade? Chalk, shears and thread, the essential tools of the tailor. But Yarmo’s process has been modernised from the days of chalking patterns by hand. Sharon Bowles, Factory Manager at Yarmo, talks us through the manufacturing operation:
“Patterns are printed via computer to a plotter machine by Barry our cutting room supervisor. We have kept the old card patterns for back-up, as you never know when you might need them.”
“Once the pattern has been drawn up on paper it is labelled with a job sheet ready for laying.”
“The required fabric is rolled out and measured to the lay plan. The quantity is checked and the fabric is laid up depending on the number of garments required.
Lorraine is now ready to cut the lay out, the knife she uses will depend on the depth of the cloth in the lay.”
This is the largest of Yarmo’s cutters, but other sizes are used depending on the size of the lay.
“Once the lay is cut it is then passed to Sue to be fitted up into bundles of work with a work ticket ready for the machinist.”
The ‘bundle up table’.
“These bundles are given out to the girls on the flat machines who stitch on the pockets, labels and collars.”
“After this, the bundle is passed to an overlocker to have the sleeves sewn in and the body sewn together.”
“They pass the work back to the flat machinist who hems the sleeves. The complete bundles finally go to the finishing machines and through to quality control. Once the garments are checked over by Debbie she labels and bags them ready to go to Lionel in the warehouse - and ready for despatch to our customers.”
“Although smocks are still popular today, they are worn more for leisure wear - although I do know of some fisherman who still wear our smocks for fishing.”
Whether for sailor or sculptor, the fisherman’s smock is very much the traditional garment that is as wearable today as it ever was. Our thanks go to Sharon and all at Yarmo for sharing this information and for supplying us with pictures.
The author wearing his smock, yesterday.
Pictures from the National Maritime Museum Archive and the Pentreath Photographic Archives. Photograph of Eli Farrow the fisherman by Walter Clutterbuck, from the Norfolk County Council Library.
01 May, 2013
17 April, 2013
April’s Tools of the Trade have kindly been supplied by E Jeffries and Sons, saddlers and leatherworkers, and manufacturers of the Brady range of bags.
The Brady company can trace its history back 140 years, and is the label of choice for many of this country’s most discerning hunters, shooters, fishers and royals. Chris Hodgkiss from Jeffries explains the tools:
“(At the top) SINGLE CREASE and (at the bottom) DOUBLE CREASE: These tools are used for veining on the edge of the leather to give it a single or double crease. These tools must be heated before use.
EDGE TOOL (in the middle): This tool is used for edging the sides of leather strap work to give a smooth, round edge.”
This finishing can be seen on the leather straps of our Khaki Fishing Bag ( above ) and our Bridle Leather Belt ( below ). Made in Walsall, England since 1928, the Fishing Bags are produced by skilled craftsmen using the best quality bonded canvas and bridle leather. Although the belts can’t trace their heritage back this far, they too are made in Walsall, hand stitched and then veined, burnished and polished by hand.
The sharp, deep crease on the leather is the perfect finishing touch for both.
Each Brady Fishing Bag contains a removable rubberised lining to ensure your freshly caught trout doesn’t get your laptop or newspaper wet. The triple layered waterproof canvas and bridle leather straps and trim are of the highest quality and mean these bags will stand up to many years of hard use.
The Folio Bag is a design we found in the Brady archives, and is made exclusively for Labour and Wait. Originally a post / despatch bag this design has found a new lease of life thanks to its unique dimensions - it is ideal for large laptops, folders, portfolios, etc. The bonded canvas is waterproof and the bridle leather ensures the longest life for this stylish and durable bag.
We love selling products that are hand-made or hand-finished, particularly if they are made in England, so these Brady bags and belts are some of our favourite Labour and Wait items. Our thanks go to Jeffries and Sons for the loan of their tools.
01 April, 2013
31 March, 2013
The good people at Port Magazine came in to interview Simon and Rachel last week. Our normally publicity-shy owners made an exception for this publication, as we are all fans of its intelligent approach and well considered aesthetic. The interview is now online here. ( By Chris Chasseaud with pictures by Liz Seabrook ).
12 March, 2013
March; and Elvet Woollen Mill take their place as our calendar pin-ups. And from them we have an oil can and a cone of red yarn, both of which are used to make our Welsh Tapestry Blankets.
Elvet Woollen Mill is one of the last remaining working woollen mills in West Wales, and has a history dating back over 120 years. For the past 30 years it has been run by Mike Tolputt and his family. And Mike is the best man to tell us about his tools:
We have sold these beautiful blankets for years at Labour and Wait. We source vintage and antique blankets from all over Wales, and we never fail to be astounded by the brightness and variety of the colours. However, as their popularity has increased, so has their price, and it becomes harder to find the spotless - and the mothless - examples we are looking to sell. So we were very pleased to find Mike and his mill producing high quality modern versions.
At the moment we sell the blanket in the red, white and black colourway, but there are rumours of new colours being prepared just for Labour and Wait…
“The cone of red yarn is a sample of dyed yarn used to make our Welsh Tapestry Bedspreads. It is a blend of 100% pure new English Wools spun specially for us by a long established firm in Huddersfield. It is then sent onto Bradford where it is dip-dyed using well established traditional methods.”
“The natural yarns used in our Tapestries are from Wales and are, of course, the natural colour of the fleece with no dyeing involved.”
“Did you know that 7 miles of yarn is required to make 1 Double Size Bedspread, and in doing so the threads will cross over each other 5.3 million times. WOW.”
WOW indeed, Mike. It sounds like a lot of work, but at least we have something wonderful to show for it.
Our thanks go to Mike and Alison at Elvet for showing us their mill, and for revealing the intricacies of the Welsh Tapestry Blanket.
03 March, 2013
Deep in a valley in the foothills of the Austrian Alps, along the Iron Trail, in the shadow of Ore Mountain, we find the Mile of Forges - and an old Blacksmith’s Cottage.
Inside, sat at the forge hammer, or stoking the fire - as he has done for 500 years - we find the smith himself.
At one time 69 privileged blacksmiths worked in this area, with another 90 who survived without the Imperial Favour. Their products were exported to all parts of the Austrian Empire - to Bohemia, Moravia and Trieste, as well as further afield to Germany, Prussia, Italy, Poland, Russia… and out to the Middle East and beyond.
The Alpine streams provided the power, the forested hills the fuel and Ore Mountain the raw material. The valley rang to the clang of metal on metal.
Today the descendants of these ‘Black Earls’ are still in business, with their modern forges and factories still sending their ironwares out around the world. But there are still one or two smiths sat at their forges, crafting their tools by hand in the way they always have.
So deep in the valley in the Austrian Alps, along the Iron Trail, in the shadow of Ore Mountain, in the Mile of Forges, think of the Blacksmith sat at his hammer forge, in the living metal workshop, as he has for 500 years.
01 March, 2013
03 February, 2013
February sees Creamore Mill take their place as the stars of our Tools of the Trade Calendar. Established in 1981 in rural Shropshire, this family-run business designs and hand-turns all of their wooden products in the former corn and wood mill which gave its name to their business. From their extensive range of functional and practical household and garden items we have selected the Wooden Door Wedge, Twine Stand and Dibber.
Sam Buckland, son of business founders John and Cathryn Buckland, kindly gave us an explanation of each of the tools pictured:
“The goggles should be self explanatory, especially so when you see the direction in which the shavings generally leave the cutting tools while turning wood.”
“The gouge is a versatile turning chisel, used for both rough turning of blanks from a square down to the finishing cut. The long handle provides good leverage to control the angle of attack. An example of use is turning the bishop twine stand bases – square blanks are band sawed into discs and then mounted on a lathe. The gouge makes the straight roughing cut at the circumference, a finishing smooth cut and the adjacent bevel profiles.”
“Our hand chisels are made in Sheffield from high speed steel; an excellent balance between edge sharpness and durability for wood turning.”
“The roll of sand paper is one of several with different grits, of graduating coarseness. While the work piece is still turning on the lathe the sand paper is used to smooth the final profile, knocking off the wood fibres from the end grain and corners. Sand paper also introduces a more uniform surface in preparation for certain finishes.”
“The bronze brush is used in general tool cleaning. The release of wood resins during working can leave a build-up of grime on the tools. The softer bronze bristles avoid damage to the cutting edges.”
With three decades of experience and a simple collections of tools, Creamore Mills are justifiably proud of their artisan approach. Our thanks go to them for allowing us to photograph their tools, and for Sam’s explanation of their use.
01 February, 2013
Allow us to introduce our new range of enamelware colours - Riess for Labour and Wait.
Since we first started selling enamelware from Riess over ten years ago, we have found it to be one of our most popular and in-demand ranges. And as enamelware has experienced its rebirth as a practical and functional material so our range of Riess goods has expanded.
This Pink Milk Pot featured in the Telegraph Magazine in 2002 and led to Sunday morning queues along Cheshire Street and an overload of our fledgling mail-order service.
But as we saw other shops and online retailers selling the same range of milk pots, pans and jugs, we thought we should offer something fresh and new - we pride ourselves on staying one step ahead - so two years ago we created our own range of milk pots in black, green and airforce.
and each with our Riess for Labour and Wait backstamp -
So who are Riess? And why do we like them so much? In a large part it is due to their history. Riess have been producing steel goods in the same location deep in the heart of Austria since 1550 - and high quality enamel items for over 80 years. This heritage ensures the best knowledge producing the best quality goods. It also helps to shape the company’s future, as they know that with such a proud past they must also look after the brand for future generations.
These beautiful illustrations are from Riess’s 400th anniversary celebrations in 1950 - although the factory floor looks much the same today.
Many of the products we sell here have been in constant production at Riess for over 60 years; this heritage and history ensures the highest quality, especially in comparison to the cheaper, far-eastern made enamel ranges that are appearing more frequently these days.
We have been visiting the Riess factory for many years now, to work on new products and colours, and also to see their fantastic archive, from where we have taken these pictures.
Riess’s knowledge of steelworking also means their kitchenware is of the highest quality, although here our Professional Ladle is used in a more industrial manner.
Simon and Stuart from Labour and Wait and Andres Riess outside the door of the Riess factory.
Riess are also very proud of their environmental policy, aiming to make the smallest ecological impact possible. To this end, in the 1930s they built their own hydro-electric plant, which still to this day powers their entire factory.
So if you are lucky enough to buy or receive some Riess enamel, you can know that you are in possession of a product of quality and history, all the way from the 'Mile of Forges’ in the foothills of the alps.
01 February, 2013
11 January, 2013
Thank you to everybody who bought our 2013 ‘Tools of the Trade’ Calendar. We really enjoyed putting it together and found it fascinating to see some of the tools which are used to make our favourite products. However we didn’t have space on the calendar to explain exactly what these tools were - so here we present the first in a series of twelve blogposts about our Tools of the Trade.
Our first set of tools are used to produce one of our most popular products; our Letter Postcards.
Each one is handprinted by Chrissie and Vicky in 'The Corridor’, their narrow workshop in Tufnell Park, North London - at 1.2metres wide ( or 244 pica ems ), it is just wide enough to pull out a case of type.
From this workshop, using their collection of Adana presses sourced from all around the country, Harrington and Squires produce our cards alongside their own range of printed material, including cards, bookmarks, badges and magnets, as well as offering a bespoke design and printing service.
“The name Harrington and Squires is a homage to Bob Harrington and Horace Squires, ex-compositors and letterpress tutors at Hornsey College of Art in the late 60s and early 70s, and it conveys the bespoke quality of our work.”
The first Tool of the Trade is a sample of Gill Sans Titling wooden type. As used on our cards, this classic typeface has been used by Penguin Books, LNER, the BBC and Labour and Wait. Gill Sans is these days seen as a short-cut to mid-century Britishness, but we first loved it for its clean, clear lines and its quiet typographical authority.
Next to the type we have the Cornerstone quoin key and under that an 8x5 Adana chase, which is the frame in which type is secured or locked up ready for printing. The type is padded out with furniture ( pieces of wood or metal ) and tightened up with the quoin, which is a locking device to keep all the items in position in the chase.
And finally next to the quoin and chase we have a tin of rubber based ink and a roller for inking up the type ready for printing.
All of these tools are used together by Chrissie and Vicky to make our Letter Postcards.
For those who would like to learn more, Harrington and Squires run letterpress workshops to introduce the art and technique of typesetting and printing.
Our thanks go to Chrissie and Vicky for supplying us the tools to shoot, and for allowing us to share their pictures.
04 January, 2013
We’re back from our Christmas break, and the first thing to do is clear out our storeroom, which has accumulated another 6 months’ worth of samples, seconds and shop soiled goods.
We’ve sorted through everything now, so if you don’t mind a slight chip in your enamel, or fancy some end-of-line bargains why not to pop down to Redchurch Street this weekend?
01 January, 2013
28 December, 2012
Throughout the new year we will be sharing each monthly image from our 2013 calendar.
At LABOUR AND WAIT, we have always been keen to support craftspeople. In our opinion there is nothing like an objet made with care in which, you can detect the hand of the maker. These objects have life. The hand is, of course, the most important tool of all, but each maker has shared with us some of the faithful tools used in their everyday work. Ranging from the highly specialised to the humble and improvised, these still-lifes provide a fascinating insight into their worlds.
20 December, 2012
Our opening hours this Christmas are as follows:
Thursday 20th - 11.00am to 6.00pm
Friday 21st - 11.00 am to 8.00pm
Saturday 22nd - 11.00am to 6.00pm
Sunday 23rd - 11.00am to 6.00pm
Monday 24th December to Tuesday 1st January - CLOSED
Wednesday 2nd January - 11.00am to 6.00pm
Please note that during this period there will be no mail order service. You may place orders, but they won’t be picked and posted until the 3rd January.
Thanks to all our customers for their support this year, and have a happy Christmas!
16 December, 2012
The Christmas Mail Order Elves are working flat out, so have asked me to tell everyone that it is now time to place your last orders.
Today is the deadline for EUROPEAN ORDERS to be placed - if you are placing an order please make sure we have a contact telephone number as your local courier may need to contact you.
The deadline for UK orders is Wednesday 19th December. Our courier service is next-day, so if you must have it before Christmas please make sure to select UKMail rather than Royal Mail First Class.
Please bear in mind we are very busy, to please place your Christmas orders as soon as possible!
12 December, 2012
11 December, 2012
06 December, 2012
Christmas must really be getting close - we see now the arrival of brightly coloured wrapping paper, cheering up our grey December afternoons.
This Christmas we welcome back our traditional range of patterned papers, featuring designs from Eric Ravilious, Enid Marx, Edward Bawden and Jonathan Gibbs.
And joining them for the second year, we have papers from young London designer Esme Winter. Surely a must for every well-dressed present.
Available in store now.
05 December, 2012
Meet the Labour and Wait Mail Order Team.
Every order that gets sent out from the subterranean Labour and Wait dispatch centre is expertly picked and packed by Jasper and Dominic - with help from old friend Brian during the busy Christmas period.
Orders are received in the nerve centre of the Admin Department. Each one will contain a unique mixture of products requiring the careful selection of the appropriate box from our cardboard mountain. We recycle as much of the packaging we receive as possible, so although your package may not look perfectly new, it is helping to save the planet.
Each box has any existing tape or stickers removed before it is repurposed. Although the packaging is recycled, the Mail Order Team pride themselves on sending out beautifully neat and tidy boxes.
Many of our items are delicate so require careful wrapping in ( recycled ) bubble wrap.
The Housekeeper’s Bucket is a particular favourite with the Mail Order Team. They love carefully wrapping these to prevent damage from any possible mishandling in transit - why not order two, and brighten up their day?
Boxes are often cut down to size, to ensure a snug fit for the contents.
Other packages require more inventive solutions. Take the Large Feather Duster, for instance, which often finds itself in the most unusual of places.
The lifeblood of any hard-working team is tea. Here it is used as inducement for Dominic - no tea until these orders are finished!
As Christmas approaches, the basement is taken over by cardboard - wall to wall, as far as the eye can see.
The Mail Order Team’s Tools of the Trade.
At the end of the day, the boxes are ready to be picked up. Some of these packages will travel as far afield as Clitheroe, Newport, Los Angeles and Slough - we imagine the excitement of the recipients as they receive their package and tear it open. This is the all the motivation that the Mail Order Team require. That, and lots of tea.
If you require delivery for Christmas, please ensure that we receive your order by Wednesday 19th December.
04 December, 2012
01 December, 2012
30 November, 2012
Christmas is traditionally the time we find lots of new gift ideas, and this year is no exception. So let us introduce our Christmas 2012 line-up:
For the older outdoors enthusiasts we have a Survival Tin, which includes a compass, fishing kit, sewing kit and mini knife, while the stainless steel Mini Multi Tool can be used as a screwdriver, wrench, ruler, bottle opener, can opener, wire stripper, wood saw and knife.
The Survival Tin includes an emergency whistle, but we thought we’d supplement this with the classic Acme Thunderer. And while you wait for your rescue, why not make a nice brew with the Storm Kettle? A favourite with outdoor enthusiasts worldwide, this formidable device will boil water in even the foulest weather.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without games, and we think a set of Playing Cards ( and a game of Newmarket ) is a great way to spend an evening. We also welcome the return of our page-a-day Pocket Diary.
We know many of customers are dog owners, so we have put together a great range, including this rope Dog Lead, made by the master rope makers at the Chatham Dockyards, and this professional Dog Whistle.
And for the person stuck in the kitchen on Christmas Day? Why not treat them to an Enamel Stewpot or an Enamel Casserole - made in Austria by Riess these versatile pots can be used on the hob and in the oven, and are perfect for turkey stew on Boxing Day ( and the day after, and the day after that… )
All of our Christmas products are available in store, or on our website.
28 November, 2012
Our 2013 Calendar is now in stock online and in our Redchurch Street store.
This year’s theme is ‘Tools of the Trade’. Each month features a still life composition of the tools used by the craftsmen and women who make some of our most popular products. There is a limited stock of these calendars, so make sure to order yours in time!
23 November, 2012
20 November, 2012
We are shamelessly using last year’s pictures ( in a different order ) to say that our Irish Cottage socks are back in stock. The perfect treat for winter feet.
Available in our Redchurch Street store now.
18 November, 2012
We see that Truman’s have announced the site of their new brewery.
As reported by the blog with its ear to the ground and a correspondent on every street corner, the new home of the Truman Brewery will be in Hackney Wick, and should be brewing by early next year.
Labour and Wait’s home is an old Truman Brewery public house, and shares its distinctive green tiles with many of the old Truman pubs, some still in use, some converted to homes, some now shops and others derelict and forgotten. But the Truman name can be seen all over the East End, and the name is now synonymous with the old brewery on Brick Lane, long one of the cooler hang outs of this part of town.
A before-and-after of Brick Lane and the Old Truman Brewery.
When we held our party to celebrate the opening of our new store, we served a couple of barrels of Truman Runner, so it’s great to see the opening of the new brewery and the appearance of more and more pubs selling Truman Beers - one hundred and fifty at the last count.
One of our barrels of Truman Runner in place.
Michael-George of Truman, who has overseen the rebirth of the East End brewery.
Taking advantage of the last few drops…
So we wish the best of luck to Truman’s and hope that by next year we’ll be enjoying another Hackney-brewed beer.
18 November, 2012
We’re very pleased to be one of the founding members of the East End Trades Guild.
The East End Trades Guild logo, designed by James Brown.
We’ve been in this part of London for over 12 years now, and although not as long as some traders, we feel like one of the old guard. And we love to see all the new independent shops and businesses opening up around here, run by people who have recognised this area as the best place to start their small business, safe in the knowledge that customers are discerning and enthusiastic, and prepared to put their money into the hands ( and tills ) of the ‘small guy’.
Paul Gardner, local trader and inspiration behind the EETG.
Yet we’ve also seen the steady upwards creep - and often the rapid upwards shoot - of rents, as the success of the area has brought its own problems. In what we must call the 'Covent Garden Effect’, a somewhat shabby, tired market area is reinvigorated by exciting independent businesses before being 'discovered’, publicised and gentrified, before finally the big brands arrive, rents rise, and the original traders are moved on.
Topman 'General Store’ on Commercial Street.
Lest this sound like snobbery about the 'wrong type’ of shop moving into the area, let us look at the reasoning behind the EETG; to protect the commercial interests of small independent traders, often exploited by landlords, agents, big business and government, despite being the best businesses for a local area. For local businesses reinvigorate local areas, where big traders anonymise an area and suck the money out - take for example a quote from the manager of a local chain store, dressed as a cool independent store -
“My favourite place to eat would have to be either Wagamama’s or Nandos a few doors down… or Pret, I could go on forever.”
As small businesses we don’t have the financial backing of the chains, so as rents inevitably rise, we are competing with operations with deep pockets and little regard for anything other than the bottom line. Without the work of groups like the EETG, what is feared may become unstoppable, and then how long before Leila’s becomes a Nero, or Cafeand a Starbucks? Or if Pellici’s were forced out and replaced by a Pret a Manger? What then will happen to Shoreditch and the East End?
So let’s all wish the East End Trades Guild the best of luck as it launches this week, and lets hope it can inspire traders in other areas, towns and cities to unite, to work together to support the local economy. As their logo says - Together We Are Stronger.
As part of the EETG project, all the members are being photographed - our thanks to Patricia Niven for this great picture.
The East End Trades Guild will officially launch on Monday 19th November at Christ Church Spitalfields.
01 November, 2012
14 October, 2012
10 October, 2012
And so to Spitalfields Life, where the Gentle Author continues the quest to capture all of East End life in one compendious website, the modern Human Comedy in all its varied and various colours, shades, sounds and shapes.
Last weekend the Gentle Author joined local man of letters Clive Murphy for a tour around his Brick Lane flat. Visitors to our Redchurch Street shop will recognise Clive as the author of such works as “The Good Deeds of A Good Woman”, “Four Acres and a Donkey” and “Oiky, The Memoirs of a Pig Man”. A Gentle Author himself, Clive took to recording the stories of those people he saw around him in 1970s Brick Lane, capturing a demotic human history in the way that many of today’s writers, bloggers and tweeters will recognise.
We are glad to see Clive’s books attracting attention today, not least because it allows the author to pursue his interest in writing his Ribald Rhymes - not for the faint-hearted, although an ideal present for a favoured in-law.
Our thanks go as always to the Gentle Author for this story and for use of the photographs.
01 October, 2012
30 September, 2012
Well its that time of year. The summer clothes are being packed away and we search out our woolens as the evenings close in. We hold out hope that we may yet see one of our much-beloved Indian summers, but we are well prepared for the onset of autumn; and so we have now got a shop full of slippers, blankets, wooly socks and jumpers. And we are also pleased to see the return of the Pea Coat, one of our favourite winter staples.
The Schott Pea Coat is, we believe, the finest quality example of this classic style. A true design original, this heavyweight jacket is one of the many reasons to welcome the arrival of colder weather.
Originating, as many menswear staples do, from the needs of military service, the Pea Coat was standard issue for British and American navies before being de-mobbed into civilian service. The heavyweight 32 oz Melton Wool is the original windcheater, being thick, warm and durable; the wool is mixed with 25% nylon and other threads which are interlocked and pressed together before being cut, to ensure maximum protection against the elements, whether you are battling your way against the high seas or up the high street.
The classic Pea Coat derives from the Royal Navy Reefer Jacket, originally intended for ‘reefers’ ( Midshipmen ) on board sailing ships, whose job was to climb the rigging and unfurl, or 'reef’, the ship’s sails. The jacket was short, to allow ease of movement through the rigging, while the double-breasted front, which displaced the buttons to each side, helped to reduce the chance of them getting caught on ropes as the wearer maneuvered the sails.
The classic Pea Coat has ten buttons; four pairs in the double breasted style, plus two at the collar. This allows the coat to be buttoned fully to the neck which, with the wide, heavy collar, ensures complete wind and weather resistance.
Richard Crenna exhibiting classic Pea Coat style in 'Wait Until Dark’
So why 'Pea Coat’? As ever with these stories, there are different explanations as to how this name was arrived at. The classic version is that these are 'P’ coats, as worn by the ship’s Pilot, although an older story has the name coming from the Dutch Pijjeker, where Pij is the coarse, heavy wool from which the jacket was made; this material itself became known as Pilot Cloth or P Cloth, hence the P Coat.
The longer, thigh length version is known as the Bridge Coat.
This year we are also offering this style in children’s sizes. As all well-dressed ladies know, the men’s cuts are often superior to the female and the Pea Coat is no exception. The female version has a shaped waist which offers a more feminine profile, but which also lacks the silhouette of the original style, so losing that classic look. The children’s Schott jackets offer the classic Pea Coat style even in smaller sizes.
Serge Gainsbourg showing how to wear a Pea Coat
Heavy but wearable, durable, and classic - the Pea Coat is perfect Winter wear and a wardrobe essential.
A Bridge Coat in a supporting role in 'On the Waterfront’
Robert Redford in a Pea Coat. You can’t get much cooler than this.
25 September, 2012
These are all hand-stitched so there is a lot of work there, but I can speak from experience when I say that this leather ages beautifully, and I am sure there will be some very happy Japanese customers very soon.
20 September, 2012
Many thanks to Ed and Joe at The Travelling Gin Company for their appearance at Redchurch Street on Sunday. Unfortunately we had to wait until at least the end of the day before we could test their wares, but we are pleased to report that it was worth the wait. Perhaps we should do this every Sunday?
Their appearance was to celebrate the launch of Design Week, and our celebration of the Tala Cook’s Measure.
07 September, 2012
A kitchen classic which is as useful today as when it was first introduced, the Cook's Measure is still made by hand in England, by a skilled workforce of only two people.
Join us in store as we celebrate throughout the London Design Festival from Saturday 15th until Sunday 23rd September.
The Travelling Gin Company will also be providing a rather unique bar experience straight from their bicycles throughout the day on
Sunday 16th September.
Exhibition Open Saturday 15th - Sunday 23rd, 11am - 6pm. Closed Monday.
01 September, 2012
01 September, 2012
Due to recent legislation regarding the sale of lightbulbs, we would like to make clear to all customers that we sell our bulbs as ‘Rough Service’ lightbulbs, suitable for industrial or outdoor use.
In selling these bulbs we declare that they are not suitable for household illumination. However, we can not prevent customers using them whichever way they choose.
19 August, 2012
We recently took a trip to to Austria to visit the factory of Riess, one of our enamelware suppliers. Inspired by this visit, we thought we should share some of the secrets of enamelware and spread the word about this durable and versatile material.
So here is the Labour and Wait three part guide to enamel:
Our Airforce Milk Pan is a traditional Riess product in our own custom colour.
19 August, 2012
Enamel consists of natural raw materials. Glass, potash and metal oxide are combined in a furnace and heated to between 1,000°C and 1,200°C. The resulting liquid enamel mass is then poured out between two water-cooled rollers, forming a thin plate which is then broken down into enamel chips, known as ‘frits’.
This raw enamel is then finely ground with additives and pigments before being mixed with water. Almost any colour can be created through this process, which creates the coloured slick.
Enamel can be applied to metals such as cast iron, aluminium and copper, although Riess use rough sheet metal. This is then either cold pressed or turned in a number of processes which create the base vessel.
These metal blanks are then dipped in an acid bath to burn off any impurities before they are ready for the first coat of enamel.
This first coat is the bisque, the plain undercoat. During the drying process these jugs will pass through the drying furnace at approximately 80°C.
At Riess each item is hand-dipped in the enamel slick.
A series of ingenious Heath-Robinson devices are then used to turn the pots after the enamel is applied. This allows the viscous enamel to slowly and evenly coat the surface, while a quick flick with each turn shakes off drips which can then be collected and reused.
Each item will require at least two or three coats, including a grey undercoat, a base coat and the final colour, before the contrast interior colour is added.
Hand finishing ensures each item is up to standard, with an even covering and no drip marks.
Each coat requires a trip through the furnace to fully dry, before the finished product is finally baked at a temperature of around 860°C. It is this final baking that creates the finished product - the vitreous coating and the steel base fuse together to create a new and unique material: enamel.
19 August, 2012
Enamel is a unique material, sharing the characteristics of glass and steel while offering more versatility than ceramic or plastic.
Enamel can be used on gas, electric or induction hobs, and can be taken straight from the hob to the oven to the table.
Premium enamel is distinguished by its exceptionally tough, cut- and scratch resistant surface.
The surface is resistant to dirt and bacteria and is easy to clean. The natural raw materials used in its manufacture means it is safe for all food uses, and it will not flavour or colour the food.
Enamel will not emit any harmful or noxious fumes, even when heated to very high temperatures.
Enamel’s high heat conductivity ensures hot food cooks quickly and thoroughly, while cold foods keep cool for longer.
Enamel’s qualities make it ideal all around the home, and not just in the kitchen.
19 August, 2012
Looked after with care, your enamel product should last a lifetime. However, to ensure the best performance, please note the following instructions.
- Boil all enamelware with water before using for the first time.
- Rinse out briefly with water before filling with food that is prone to leave deposits behind ( e.g milk ).
- Never apply heat when empty - the base is liable to become deformed.
- Do not rinse enamelware when hot - allow to cool down first.
- Always soak stubborn food residues before cleaning. Never scrape burnt-on food away with hard objects or scourers. If necessary, boil saucepans using water and washing-up liquid.
- Do not place enamelware in the dishwasher, as the combination of the soap and washing action is abrasive.
- Enamel is extremely tough and highly accident-resistant. However, the enamel coating can be damaged if dropped onto a hard surface
01 August, 2012
29 July, 2012
Shhh, don’t tell LOCOG -
We can’t help but be swept up by the sporting spirit in London at the moment and, despite our usual seen-it-all-before cynicism, we all agreed that the opening ceremony was a spectacular event - and the Heatherwick cauldron was an amazing piece of work. Good luck to Team GB and all the athletes taking part.
21 July, 2012
Please excuse the mess in our mail order department, but we’d just like to show you some of the vintage enamel that has recently arrived.
If you haven’t been in to our Redchurch Street store you may not know that we sell a selection of vintage items. This ‘new old stock’ is all in perfect condition, and can range from stoneware pancheons and flagons to enamel stewpots and glass measuring jars. We have sold these items for many years and, although they are becoming harder to find these days, we still manage to unearth some great examples.
Vintage enamelware is particularly hard to find, as it can chip or crack so easily if not looked after. So this hoard of perfect pots and jugs was a lucky find.
The speckled enamel in particular is something we really love here; despite searching all over Europe, we can’t find a factory that produces modern examples like this, and to the same standard.
Until then, we just have to rely on finding vintage examples like these. Available now in our Redchurch Street store.
14 July, 2012
Pop in store Today & Tomorrow to catch our Weekend Sale. End of Line, Samples and Shop Soiled stock. Bargains galore!
03 July, 2012
01 July, 2012
These hard-wearing tote bags have been proving popular in our Redchurch Street store so we’re very pleased to introduce them to our Online Catalogue.
Originally made from leftover fabric from the Swiss Army, these bags are still hand-crafted in Germany from a military grade canvas. Adjustable leather straps, reinforced corners and zip pocket mean this is one ‘tough tote’.
As mentioned earlier on the blog, we now stock a range of locally made leather goods, these are all now available to buy online .
The Key Holder, £55.
iPhone Case, £55.
Card Holder, £50.