Monday, July 8, 2013

Day #1: Eel Pie Island

This time last week I was just getting home from my trip to London! My mother, sister and I went for a summer adventure and spent a little over a week exploring with an old friend of my mother's from grade school who lives there now. The following posts are going to be quite a bit about the things we did there...

In Twickenham, set in the middle of the River Thames is Eel Pie Island. The private island is accessible exclusively by footbridge and is only opened to non-residents on a few rare occasions. The island used to be home to the Eel Pie Island Hotel, which was once famous for performances from many infamous groups such as the Rolling Stones, The Who and David Bowie. The hotel mysteriously burned down in 1967, after which the island became known for being the largest hippie commune in the United Kingdom.

Now Eel Pie Island is mostly home to artists and their eccentric studios. The week we were in London happened to coincide with one of the island’s rare ‘Open Studios’ day and our gracious host took us down along the Thames to see this strange place. 

Read more about our Eel Pie Island adventure after the jump...

There is only one path, not even road, that goes through the island passing by all of the residents homes and studios. Some of the homes were fairly bizarre, one know as the 'Loveshack' featured a crocodile head hanging next to the front door.

After the residential homes comes the artists’ studios which are held in a range of spaces, from small garages to grounded boats. All the artists work in different mediums, there were painters, ceramicists, sculptors, framers, printers, a glassblower and even a sketchy looking (and fortunately closed) tattoo parlor. The content of the studios was fairly normal, it was the debris all around the island that was extraordinary. There were presses buried under vines, garbage piled up in the woods, and everywhere you would turn people had made odd little sculptures out of rusty metal. You would turn the corner in the path and find a clearing in the woods where there was a mannequin in a cage or a tree covered in red fabric. It was all very surreal and added immensely to the odd nature of the island.

Our favorite studio belonged to ceramicist Judith Rowe. Everyone in our group couldn't resist leaving with a mug or some other small piece. The wacky little drawings on the ceramics were so endearing and everything quite affordable. We learned from our host that the mugs sell in posh London boutiques for much more, so we were happy to be right at the source.

Our purchases and Judith's card.

For more information on the artists of Eel Pie Island and any upcoming Open Studios visit their website:

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