Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 48 seconds
Everyone onÂ Islington Faces BlogÂ has a story.Â Â How well do you know London? Not just the quickest way to get to the Angel or down to the river, but all its layers of history? Holloway local Jane Parker helps us see whatâs special about London through her photos, blog and unique designs made from things sheâs found on the shore of the River Thames.Â Â InterviewÂ byÂ Nicola Baird
âIf someone says âcan I speak to Ameliaâ then I know they mean the clay pipeÂ me,â says Jane Parker as we sit down with coffee and biscuits at the Resource Centre off Holloway Road (just by Waitrose).Â On the wall behind are photos displaying another part of her working life – the ‘history her’ which can be found atÂ www.janeslondon.com. These photos were taken as part of the Postcards of Holloway exhibitionÂ –Â definitely worth a look to see how well you know that road.
Janeâs originally from Romford, Essex but after taking A levels in maths, art and technical drawing she took the train to London and stumbled into the advertising world. Since the 1990s she has worked as a freelance graphic designer but over that time sheâs developed so many business skills â including photographing London, a huge bank of history knowledge and recycling old bits of leather as well as clay pipes she finds on the River Thames beaches. Jane has two personae â Jane and Amelia. Jane is the London observer and photographer; Amelia is the designer-maker and recycler.
IÂ met Jane when she had aÂ stall at the Holloway Festival (Hornsey Street 1 June 2014) where alongside her Holloway prints she was also selling hand-made necklaces and earrings made from the old clay pipes Londoners used for a smoke before cigarettes. For this venture Jane calls herself by her middle name, Amelia Parker, explaining that “it helps to keep things separate. If someone calls and asks to speak to ‘Amelia’ then I know they mean the clay pipe me. Prices start at around ÂŁ20 so if you are not a cash-carrier, or are unsure where her stall will be next, a good way to buy them is via her website, http://www.amelia-parker.com/Â âI donâtÂ think of my designs asÂ jewellery,â she says firmly, âitâs Londonâs history recycled.â Â She also sells a range of leather holders, purses, wallets for mobile phones, cards and spectacles, plus some amusing greeting cards featuring Clay Pipe Pete and his lazy friend Joe.
Making jewellery from the curios she finds while foraging on the foreshoreÂ is the obvious use of Janeâs practical skill set. âI teach myself to do most things,â she admits, âitâs from my mum â I look back and realise she made everything. She was cooking, decorating, fixing â a one woman DIY centre. My Nan used to crochet. When I was seven I taught myself by copying her! Then I taught myself how to knit and was constantly knitting jumpers for friends.â
She moved to Islington in 1988 and eventually settled in Holloway. âI wanted somewhere I could afford that offered good travel connections to and from Covent Garden where I worked. Plus I wanted to be within Zone 2 as there werenât so many night buses back then and a taxi journey was only ÂŁ5.â Sheâs become such a fan of the place that not long ago her sister Anna moved here too.
Places Jane Parker loves in Islington
“My recommendation is to look more.Â If you open your eyes you see delightful things.”
- The rowan trees in Windsor Road and at the lower end of Sussex Way near where I live are so beautiful especially with their red, orange Â and yellow berries. And I love the shadow another tree throws on to a building off AxminsterÂ Road.
- The Swimmer is my local pub â itâs more like a community centre and is full of a good cross-section of open-minded conversational people. Thereâs always someone I know there.
- One of my favourite places is the New River Path (behind Essex Road that follows the old New River route through to St Paulâs Road). Itâs a beautifulÂ park and so evocative.
- I like sitting and watching people on Highbury Fields.
- The hot chocolateÂ from the little El Molino, Hornsey Road (opposite Holloway tube) is the best Iâve ever tasted. Itâs so good you have to have more.
Settling in Holloway gave Jane the chance to explore London properly â and it wasnât long before she was drawn to the River Thames. âSince I was little Iâve always picked up things on beaches â I find a plain sandyÂ beachÂ ratherÂ dull. I have always liked to collect interesting stones especially if they resemble other things like faces, animals, sweets etc.. And if I find artefacts then Iâm in heaven!â
âOne day IÂ went to the Museum of London with my friend Micky and then because the tide was low we went down to investigate the Thames foreshore. The access stepsÂ were beautifully colouredÂ with bright green algae. The beach was littered with so many textures including worn bricks and bits of rope. I was taking photos. I remember thinking Iâve got to stop picking up stuff to take home because what can I do with it? Then I saw some nice bits of clay pipe, all 30-40mm long and worn beautifully by the tide. I picked them up and said âIâm going to make a necklaceâ. Micky just laughed.â
That first necklace received great feedback, soÂ Jane made three more necklaces as gifts for friends she was visiting in New Zealand and Malaysia. âThey all liked themÂ and each immediately went to lookÂ up more about clay pipes in history on the internet and encouraged me to make more.â Back home thatâs what she did and so the range expanded. The result is Londonâs history recycled by Amelia Parker.
âMy best customer is the American tourist â usually a middle-aged woman. She totally gets it and wants to take home more than a London mug that was made in China,â says Jane. People who love Londonâs history love her stuff too, after all how else can you get to âwear a piece of London historyâ first used in the 1600s?
- If you want to see what the fuss is about for yourself then find Jane at one of her stalls. Market dates are listed on her website.Â Amelia Parker will beÂ at the Whitecross Street party, EC1, on 19-20 July 2014 http://www.wxstreetparty.co.uk/
- Amelia Parker for Londonâs History Recycled, see http://www.amelia-parker.com/
- Jane’s London observations at www.janeslondon.com
- Holloway photos at the Resource Centre (cafe just by the large Waitrose on Holloway Road), seeÂ http://www.makinginroads.org/exhibitions
Over to you
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This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.