Sunday, October 25, 2009

Columbia Road Market on a Sunday morning

This is what I was doing last Sunday morning - sketching the people, plants and flowers around the stalls in Columbia Road Flower Market just off the Hackney Road, on the borders between Bethnal Green and Shoreditch.

Columbia Road Flower Market
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Every Sunday morning, at 4am a street market starts to be set up in Columbia Road. What's very special about this one is that it totally devoted to plants and flowers. The website has a page devoted to some of the Columbia Road Flower Market traders and what they sell.
Every Sunday for over the last 100 years an array of flower sellers have had pitches on both sides of columbia road. They are specialists in plants, bulbs, trees, herbs and flowers. It is a unique and amazing place and is cheerished by all who visit...
Flickr group - Columbia Road and Flower Market
Columbia Road is also lined with some interesting shops selling all sorts of things, many of them art and craft replated. This is a map which allows you to locate individual shops and galleries.

The shop exteriors are certainly more interesting than many seen in a modern shopping street - it's one of the few streets I know in Tower Hamlets which still has old shop fronts - complete with shutters. See their background on their Twitter page to see what I mean. Which means it's a great place to sketch even when there isn't a flower market!

The Columbia Road Shops and Flower Market also have a Flickr group - and I need to get my photos uploaded so I can join it!

I find it ironic that I am writing this post at a time when I'm also spending a vast amount of my time working on a representation to Tower Hamlets Council explaining why their ideas about development and regeneration don't accord with those of the local population in the area where I live. This particular market would have been obliterated if the Planners had got their way! Now it is famous all over the UK (it gets featured on television programmes) as being a wonderful place to buy good quality plants and flowers at very reasonable prices. People come from all over London to visit it - although it's not the easiest place to get to (how to get to Columbia Road)!
The whole area went into a decline in the 1970’s. Indeed demolition was mooted, but the locals fought back and the area and market were saved.

Since the 1980’s the market has grown into one of international repute. Today a wide range of unusual shops complement it, turning the whole area into one of the most interesting shopping experiences to be had anywhere.
History of Columbia Road
"A big armful of sunflowers for a fiver!"
(the constant refrain to this sketch while I stood next to the chap holding the bunch of sunflowers)
10" x 8", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I've included a sketch where the coloured pencil work is less developed (mainly because this was a standing sketch and the disability in my feet dictates a strict limit on how long I can stand still).

This shows a bit more of the sort of pen and sepia ink structure which frequently underpins my sketches. I have two methods with pen and ink. One is mapping out the shapes and line design of a sketch - as in this one - and the other is a more definitive pen and ink sketch (as in my recent sketch Sunday afternoon in the Jardin des Plantes)

Tips for those wanting to sketch in Columbia Road Market
  • it's exceptionally crowded from when it opens to when it close; the bulk of visitors arrive in the morning.
  • sketching from either end gives you a view of the market without getting in people's way
  • standing inbetween stalls means you're out of the traffic flow either side of the stalls and should be OK so long as you don't take up permanent residence!
  • look for spots where a stall holder hasn't turned up where you sit on a stool without getting in anybody's way
  • make sure you leave space for people to get around you
  • try getting there very early or late when the crowds are thinner on the ground!
  • or visiting in the week when you can see the shp fronts more easily.
  • come with a big bag if visiting on a Sunday as you won't be able to resist either plants or flowers!
While being green and using public transport is a good thing, getting home with masses of flowers and/or a six foot banana tree can be really rather difficult. The good news is that there is now a new car park for 200 cars in Haggerston School playground off northside of Hackney Rd.

PS Sketches from my travels with a skdtchbook in France return soon - it's just I need to get a bit more work done on the content of the posts - including links to my videos!


1 comment:

  1. Katherine - Thanks so much for coming by my blog to see my sketches of France. I really enjoyed seeing your sketches and reading your commentary...funny that we were there around the same time. Sketching in plein air is a challenge at times, but I love doing it even if I end up standing the whole time. I hope you got to Monet's Gardens...That was such a treat and was the reason I went to France in the first place. As a 60th birthday gift I wanted to visit his gardens. I missed the l'Orangie Museum, but saw lots of his works at the d'Orsay. I will be back to check on more here.


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