I consider it a necessity to put Green and Stone at the top of my list when visiting London. This Chelsea gem is like no other art supply store in the world.
Living in the States, I've resigned myself to mail order when I run out of a certain tube of watercolor or need special watercolor board. The only decent store near me closed years ago, and I shudder if I anticipate an emergency run to Michael's for some pencil leads. They probably won't have my leads. I do not want yellow #2 pencils kids use for schoolwork. For those of you who don't know, Michael's is a chain that caters to scrapbookers and people who collect fake flowers and candles. Not that there's anything wrong with these things. But when I need my Sennelier ochre paint, a coloring book with paint palette attached won’t do. Nor do I want to be directed to the happy face stencil aisle in a place where do-it-yourself Christmas decorations go up in June.
What I crave is Green and Stone on King's Road.
Before you even walk in, the storefront displays tease with assortments of antique drawing supplies and paraphernalia.
The first thing you see when you enter is a giant glass display case filled with museum quality art making relics from the past.
Drawing notebooks and assortments of pencil sets surround the ledges.
If you can make it past this seizure-inducing display, you pass by antique flat files filled with such oddities as vellums, including my favored Kelmscott, and other extremely dear surfaces to draw and write on. At Green and Stone you can go up to a salesperson and ask where they keep their Kelmscott vellum and not get the look. Rather, "Oh yes, we did have some some squares over in this drawer." And they did. I bought some. It is not cheap. This is real vellum, and a 4 x 6" square piece will set you back about £60. What's so special about drawing on vellum? That is another post, but nothing can compare to the luminosity of painting with gouache on vellum.
Their drawing pen selection is extensive, and more wonderful drawing implements hang on the walls. I see an easel that would be just right for my drafting table, a tilted table-top wonder in the perfect size.
You never know what you will find here, but suddenly realize you can't live without whatever it is. You can browse in peace and know the staff is empathetic to your altered state of consciousness. I leave my treasures up at the till as I continue to shop. Near the back of the store is the section of fountain pens and inks.
The packaging is beautiful in its own right. I feel more than welcome to pick up the bottles to see with my hands, caressing the glass curves of glorious pigment with my fingers as I anticipate the joys within.
Browsing for the right supplies is a religious experience for me. I cannot be rushed.
Hmm - what can I liken this experience to? It's like savoring a decadent meal you have been looking forward to for years. You must take your time in order to enjoy and appreciate every bite.
Immediately my imagination takes me to an atelier in Florence where I create beautiful landscapes of the Tuscan countryside.
Sumi brushes take me on an adventure to Japan to paint cherry blossoms with swift strokes of ink in the spring landscape.
Wax seals bring me back to medieval castles where I seal a letter to a lover with a drop of hot red wax.
And the gold leaf. I imagine the miniature paintings from Persia and India, and make notes of how I will do some of my own in that style.
There's a woman with her dog underfoot troubling a clerk over the right glittery paint to paint her homemade papier mache Easter eggs. She is American, but has the accent of a lost soul caught between two worlds.
Every kind of easel you can imagine lives downstairs, each one carefully assembled waiting to be put to use.
If you happen to glance on the walls in just the right spot, you will see stacks upon stacks of antique art boxes.
They’re beautiful, with well-worn patinas created by generations of artists who used them before.
Knowing it would be a while until I return, I need to stock up on some staples (or so I tell myself). "No, you really cannot get that at home."
The thing about art supplies is that they are easy to tuck in amongst your clothes in a suitcase. Even my vellum, which they wrapped up in board, will fit between a couple of books I purchased.
It was getting crowded. I guess others were intrigued by an art store that showcased drawing/painting antiques in its front windows. Some managed to come in beyond the first display case. I did overhear this.
"Where is your glitter?"
"Downstairs, off to the left, you will see a small room called 'crafts' - it's in there."
A small room. Because art is serious business, and I can go my entire life and not once have use for a happy face stencil.
Thank you, Green and Stone, for understanding what we need.
I was dying for this pig ink brush.