RAAR World Blog

St. Ives Seagulls May 13, 2016 14:54

We left St. Ives the other day (we hear you ask why? Why would you leave St. Ives ever? Why? It was really, really, misty so we ventured out okay!) to visit some friends in Falmouth. It was after a few minutes of eating outside, in the open, on a sunny day that I jumped and quickly covered my food as saw a shadow above, standard practise in St. Ives. Luckily I was in Falmouth where the gulls still go to the sea for food otherwise I would of lost my scone straight away.  

The St. Ives gulls have got so use to being fed human food they expect it, they are also very clever animals and some have become experts at 'acquiring' it straight out of human hands. During the winter months there are only a few gulls around which on the whole get their food from natural places, if you go to Tregenna you might catch them dancing on the lawns to get bugs! Large numbers return again just before Easter for their holidays, nesting and feeding from the visitors that convenient arrive shortly after...... Coincidence, we think not! ;) The St. Ives gulls, love or hate them are always a talking point and some of their characters are represented in our handmade in St. Ives RAAR Cornish Seagulls, from the more refined Cornish tartan bow-tie wearing polite gulls to the cheeky, pasty-pinching Pirate Seagulls we have a gull for most occasions.  

Yes we know their actual name is Herring Gulls for most of them, but as they have evolved into their own type here we call them their more common name. Our favourites are actually the Great Black-Backed Gulls which so far seem happy staying away from human food; they are a bit bigger so hopefully they will remain classy, as one of those trying to pinch your food would be too frightening.

Cultural tour of St. Ives July 30, 2015 17:26

Recently I took part in a day organised by Charlie and Fiona from Cornwall 365, funded by the Arts Council and Visit England. Their aim is to generate cultural tourism. Our rich artistic heritage here in St. Ives is available for all of us to experience but sometimes we don't know what is out there; I certainly learned lots that I can now pass on to others. We started the day at Porthmeor Studios which was built in the early 1800s and used for pilchard fishery and net making. The ground floor cellar is a Grade 2 listed fisherman's cellar and we were treated to a special behind-the-scenes tour, followed by lots of amazing cultural experiences. 



The St. Ives School Of Painting sits above this cellar and is the oldest artists' studio in Britain, opening in 1938. It was formed on a promise from the trenches of the first world war, 2 experienced artists who survived the Western Front came to St. Ives to live and paint; their names were Borlase Smart and Leonard Fuller. As the pilchard industry declined, the redundant net lofts were turned into studios, which were spacious and overlooked the north-facing Porthmeor beach with its amazing quality of light. Julius Olssen, one of the most famous artists of his time, came to paint here. The new School was an instant success and attracted many influential artists, becoming a huge part of the international Modern Art movement in the 50's. The whole building has been sensitively renovated and is still used by artists and fishermen. They have professional artists as tutors, run 2 courses a week, evening classes, weekly 3-hour 'Sketch and Stroll' lessons and work with schools.



We had a cup of tea, a chat and then a tour of the cellars where we learnt about the 'Pilchard Palaces'. Shoals of pilchards would be seen by the Huer as it came into St. Ives Bay, then the mile-long nets would be rowed out to collect the fish. They would be brought in gradually and cured in layers of french salt by Salt-Maidens, left for weeks, then pressed in barrels with stone weights to produce oil. This was mainly sent to Italy, and the Methodist fishermen had a poem giving thanks to the Catholic Pope for Lent! We moved on to see traditional net-making, a process which can only be done by hand.


We toured the studios upstairs where artists were at work, under the huge sky lights. Then we started our 'Sketch and Stroll' with an exercise called blind drawing. We looked at Mark Dion's installation, 'The Maritime Artist' and drew without taking our eyes off what we were looking at!



Outside 2 doors down is the house of artist Alfred Wallis. Tutor Hilary from Porthmeor Studios told us about him:

Alfred Wallis had a long association with the sea. He started painting in his 70's from loneliness after his wife, who was older than him by 20 years, died. He painted from memory what he knew was there rather than what he could see. He had no formal art training so was a genuinely naive artist. He made up his own style of painting but it was actually quite sophisticated. He would unfold a story from an aerial view, i.e from the crow's nest. Larger items were more important, smaller ones less significant. He always painted the ships and rigging perfectly and in detail as he knew them first hand. He was poor and used cardboard to paint on and ship's paint or emulsion, whatever was to hand. When Ben Nicholson and and Eric Ward arrived from Cumbria and discovered his paintings they were amazed. Picasso and cubism was occurring in Europe, and Nicholson was rebelling from his classical training and working towards the same style of art. What appealed to him was the intense light of the bay, Wallis's large flattened planes of colour, abstraction of shapes, lack of perspective and painting from memory.

Then we went to Bethesda Hill and drew in the line-drawing style of Ben Nicholson, without taking the pencil of the page. I really enjoyed this technique and will try it again.


Our third exercise was up on the wet and windy Island where we learnt about Wilhelmina Barns-Graham who frequently drew the sea from Porthmeor Beach. We tried to capture the motion of the waves in as few lines as possible which is harder than you'd think...



We had a fabulous lunch provided by The Digey Cafe then trotted off to the Barbara Hepworth House and Sculpture Gardens. Hepworth bought Trewyn Studio in 1949. Arwen from the Tate showed us around the beautiful garden, which she enlarged as she got more famous, and designed around the sculptures. She worked in wood and marble at first, then made chicken wire forms and covered them in plaster and sent them off to a specialist foundry to make the forms in bronze; they are hollow. She wanted to see how people responded to her art and how she could make you inhabit the piece, using holes to make space move through a sculpture. She was a fierce socialist and supported local businesses. She went to art school with Henry Moore and was his contemporary, although he got more public commissions (perhaps because it was the 60's and he was a man?). They both made their art for the public and she wanted people not to be afraid of modern art. There is a permanent exhibition upstairs in the house, the very room in which Barbara died after dropping a cigarette in her sleep in 1975.


St Ives Ceramics (near Sloop Craft Studios) was set up in 1990, 25 years ago, by John Bedding, a student of Bernard Leach. He wanted to present studio pottery in a gallery setting to show pots as works of art, equal to paintings and sculptures. It is part-museum, part shop and has lots of excellent ceramics on show. John told us that there are 3 types of ceramic – earthenware, stoneware and porcelain, and myriad ways of making and decorating. He explained various techniques to us, including throwing, hand-building, salt-glazing, raku firing and his own technique of using light-sensitive clay slip on his pots, then projecting geometric patterns onto them. It was a privilege to meet him as I studied ceramics at university and love his gallery.


We got taxis up the hill to the Leach Pottery and were given a tour of the pottery and kilns by David Griffiths, one of the trustees. He told us so much about Bernard Leach and the history of the pottery, which was saved from being demolished when a few local potters fund-raised to save it. The workshop is now a museum and we saw the first kick-wheel and the important Japanese-built kilns (the only ones outside of Japan). There are resident potters working to produce commercial pottery on site, as well as an exhibition room (currently showing Emmanuel Cooper's work) and a brilliant shop where you can buy a range of ceramics.



Tate St Ives will be closed for 7 months from this October for phase 2 of their development, however Porthmeor Studios, the Barbara Hepworth, St. Ives Ceramics and Leach Pottery are well worth a visit, and the Barnoon Workshop (just behind the Tate) run art and craft courses for all ages if you need an art fix.










Our fantastic local area July 09, 2015 16:05

It would be great if you popped in to see us in our shop in St. Ives; it is inside the Drill Hall, an undercover shopping arcade on Royal Square. We have free activities for kids to do on our craft table inside.

Sometimes missed by visitors, the area around Royal Square is well known by locals and has many wonderful independent shops, cafes and galleries and activities for all ages. It is the home of the Royal Cinema, Library, KidsRUs theatre, Cohort's Hostel, Post Office and the Drill Hall. We're really proud to be part of this community.

Do you need a bakery, butcher's, florist, fruit & veg, local cheap corner shop, a health food shop or a delicatessen? Get jewellery, beauty treatments, hairdressers or a tattoo!  There are several galleries and the Gaolyard pottery, or travel up to the world-famous Leach Pottery. There are also a variety of cafes, restaurants, takeaways and pubs (something for all tastes) and it is the main bus stop for the town, with public toilets available on Dove Street behind NatWest bank. The Guildhall is just over the road where they regularly hold farmer's markets and craft fairs. The Visitor Information Centre is here too.

St. Ives cinema is run by a small independent chain who specialize in keeping small cinemas going, so please support them. It is a nostalgic experience and we love it. Much cheaper than a large multi-plex, they offer the latest new releases alongside alternative cinema, children's matinees and sing-along screenings; you can even hire it for parties!

Not far from us is also the amazing Barnoon Workshop where you can get involved with crafts and arts workshops and the occasional toy making course with us. Have a look on their website for activities all year round.


 Here we are on Google Maps, and links are below to some of the businesses mentioned. Have fun exploring!


Barnoon Workshop: www.barnoonworkshop.co.uk

Kids R Us Theatre: www.kidzrus.net

St Ives Library: http://bit.ly/1RkbyLB

Cohort Hostel: www.stayatcohort.co.uk

St. Ives Cinema: www.merlincinemas.co.uk/cinema/5/st--ives-royal-cinema.html

Osbornes local corner shop: www.facebook.com/OsbornesShop

Leach Pottery: www.leachpottery.com

Steadman Fielder Jewellers: www.facebook.com/StedmanFielder

The Mex, Mexican restaurant: www.facebook.com/MexStIves


Let Toys Be Toys award June 05, 2015 17:56

We are very pleased to say we have been awarded a Toymark award from Let Toys Be Toys for good practice. Let Toys Be Toys is a great campaign working with people within the toy industry, retailers and the public to try to get rid of stereotypes and targeted advertising so as to allow parents and children to choose from a wide range of products and not feel put off by any of them due to the packaging or labelling.


The hope is that by removing the forced stereotypes, kids can grow up believing they can do anything and not be restricted to set roles or types of toys or colours. Often packaging is decided on by adults from marketing and toy companies who use labels or stereotypical packaging to sell products to only one gender. This has become more prevalent in recent years and as a toy shop we aim to buy products which can be for girls or boys and not pigeon-hole them, by letting them choose toys that help them to develop their young minds and learn new skills. Lets try and make sure every child can be whatever they want to be by giving them informed choices and not just single ideas that make a few people lots of money from short-term use toys.


We try to have toys that are long lasting and are multi-functional and teach various skills. We still have lots planned and more products to come, including some art and science products; this is a great way to go forward with clear goals in sight.

For more information on Let Toys Be Toys;




RAAR is here December 06, 2014 10:02

RAAR!!!!! Here we are entering the digital world from our little toy and gift shop in St. Ives, Cornwall. We are an independent toy, craft, activity, gift and lifestyle shop that tries to find new products and slightly different things, from colour-in wallpaper to wooden and classic toys. We also love handmade crafts and have a range of locally produced quirky items. On here we will share ideas and projects we like and info about some of the products and artists we love. We try to have a different free craft activity in store every week and will also put some of the ideas on here. We haven't been around for very long and have lots, lots, lots more in the pipeline and many more wonderful suppliers we will be working with over the coming the year, so even if you don't spot something you love this time keep checking back as there will be much more wonderfulment to come. We aim to have most of our stock available through our website but some limited items will only be in store so if you have visited us or seen something on our social media but can't find it for sale online please do enquire and we will see what we can do for you. Really hope you like and enjoy what we have done so far; stay tuned. :)

RAAR Emporium