Tools for Success

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution.’ John Ruskin

Recently, we have discovered some very talented people who make and create in London, Brighton and Oxford of course!

More specifically, a cultural visit to London involved traversing through Camden’s ‘Stables Market’ where the sound of laughter, repartee and industrious activity intrigued us. A shop front adorned with an array of leather bags and satchels in every imaginable hue showcased an effective and impressive display of hand made artisan goods. It transpired that the owners of M and M Leather Workshop were equally as vibrant as their beautiful hand made bags.

The enthusiasm and pride they had for their amazing bespoke leather products (aprons, purses, Macbook sleeves, ruck sacks and satchels) was evident and the narrative of their journey to establish a successful family run business showed a tight knit team of artisans driven towards the success of their enterprise. What also became apparent was how their skills and craftsmanship was undeniably encapsulated in the high quality finish of their products.

We watched in awe as the craftsman went about stamping the distinctive embossed stallion logo onto the front panel of a satchel. He went on to add a personalised name tag to the inside of the bag and crafted 2 leather key fobs for his already enthralled customers. His industry attracted spectators who were fascinated by his craft and observed him work the leather with flair and dexterity as if it was the most natural and easy thing to do, when it clearly must have taken many years to achieve that level of expertise and confidence in his creative endeavour.

It became evident that there are three key elements to M and M Leather Workshop’s success. The first is creativity and skill, the second is enjoying the interaction with their customers and the third is the production of a first class quality product. This struck a chord and made such an impression that we would very much like to thank the guys at M and M and wish them every success for 2018.

More on the other finds to follow…

Building Visit

RIBA Award Winning Warwick Hall, Burford

Recently, we were fortunate enough to attend a fascinating talk and tour of Warwick Hall in Burford that was part of the RIBA’s Great British Buildings tour.

We were impressed with the effective use of materials that connected the old with the new creating both an attractive and functional space. Every room was unique and slightly askew which was a refreshing departure from the cliche of municipal spaces being uniform and repetitive.

Our erudite and enthusiastic guide presented the client’s perspective with a fastidious attention to detail and enormous sense of pride. What came across is that the brief and final outcome really focused on the diverse requirements of the local community.

Every element was carefully considered from play areas, a space for family events and a large hall with fantastic acoustics for musical concerts. Amongst all this provision for vibrant activity, Warwick Hall remains a warm and peaceful sanctuary for all who visit.


Running a business requires a multifarious approach at the best of times. In The studio, we are constantly thinking ahead to new projects whilst remaining fully focused on the demands of current ones. However, it is also important to find the time and space to reflect upon the past year to evaluate the process of our journey and accomplishments.

The process of contemplation often presents questions and one key point that constantly emerges is how do we ensure that we have a healthy balance between business and creativity in the studio. It’s true that in order to be productive there needs to be a sense of energy in the work place and often this is born from experiences and stimuli that happen outside of the 9-5 working day.

Often, these seemingly random musings become tangible with the celebration of the passing of time. In our case this sense of substance came in the guise of the renewal of our membership to the Oxford Playhouse Business Club. What on the surface looks like a subscription to a series of networking events actually evolved into something so much more thought provoking and culturally enriching. We took time to reflect upon how these gatherings have punctuated our year and also how they have fed into our creative energy.

In September we were delighted and captivated by Moira Buffini’s fast funny and feisty ‘Hand Bagged’ which took the audience through 21 years of political satire. We had barely recovered when along came Sandy Toksvig’s ‘Silver Lining’ which was both hilarious and poignant in equal measures, tackling the often avoided issue of aging and the role of women in theatre. In July Abigail Graham’s production of ‘Death of a Salesman’ offered a bleak and enduring message about disillusionment and the dangers of living in the past. Nicholas Woodeson’s powerful portrayal of Willy Loman still llingers in our minds like the ghost of Christmas past. More recently, Max Stafford – Clark’s interpretation of Andrea Dunbar’s ‘Rita Bob and Sue’ demonstrated that plays from the past can be reinvented and reinterpreted with moral, political and social hindsight.

All our ideas, thoughts and appreciation of these productions were shared, demonstrating that art has influence outside of its own time and physical space. Another fascinating aspect of live theatre is that even if you know a play you can never know what to expect in a performance. Therefore it has a dynamic energy that is only intensified by a life audience. So we would like to say thank you to the Oxford Playhouse for injecting shards of inspiration and vitality to The Studio and helping us keep that balance.

The Studio Launch

The idea of launching a studio within the curtilage of your own home triggers visions of weeks of anxiety induced nightmares where your guests have an expectation to visit, take in and be inspired by an innovative and creative workspace along with sartorial elegance, exquisite hospitality and all round coolness. So the gauntlet was thrown down in early summer and the pressure was on for the team to deliver.

The reality of the run up to the event involved a fusion of insomnia with brief interludes of frantic dreams of standing next to an ill conceived and preposterous design that seemed like such a good idea at the time. This is without the endless deliveries of garden lighting and seating along with the epic mission of procuring plants, obsessive grass watering and back breaking landscaping essential to creating the ambience required for a late summer garden party.

The guests looked forward to the impending event with polite curiosity and excitement, anticipating a slick and glossy gathering with a clan of black clad creative types with an impressive array of avant-garde spectacles and over confident body language reminiscent of Lord Flashheart of Black Adder fame. On the other hand, the team nervously considered how to approach navigating the sea of guests without the usual set of drawings to hide behind or the armoury of steel toe capped boots, hard-hat and high visibility jacket.

Joking aside, the public face of any architectural practice should showcase all the key concepts associated with the idea of credibility. Buzzwords and phrases such as ‘social purpose, sustainability, inclusivity and creativity’ are often banded about as core values, but ultimately what we do is far simpler than that and is epitomized by the idea that architecture is about people and honesty. More specifically, it’s about the client and their needs and how we can help them make their vision become a reality. On a broader level, honesty feeds into all aspects of a practices ethos from the use of materials to the culture within the team.

So back to the story… our friends, clients and collaborators came to eat, drink and be merry and proved that architecture really is about connecting with people. The live music, Moroccan feast and mobile cocktail bar certainly helped but it was the laughter and warmth that really made the event a success. Another fascinating revelation that I would like to share is that the over confident body language of architects is not always due to aesthetic arrogance or bravado but a physical manifestation of the absolute truth that they are always the last ones standing.

The Studio – Progress

The exterior envelope of the Studio is taking shape and now blending in to the Village setting. The landscaping and decking area is all that remains with works planned for the next few weeks.

The Studio

The studio concept floating over the garden, both emulating and inverting the Listed Building adjacent and its setting within the conservation area.