This month, you’ll be able to find Bert & May in Bloomsbury, central London. The new store is on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit Street and Rugby Street, nestled between the monochrome skincare brand, Aesop, and the technicolor homeware store, Pentreath and Hall.
Photography Kim Lightbody | Words Nell Card
The temporary shop – which will be open until Christmas – stocks the full Bert & May homeware range with a focus on fabrics, soft furnishings, ceramics and reupholstered vintage furniture. Shoppers will also find an edited selection of pieces from high-end interior brands such as elegant wooden designs from the award-winning studio, Pinch, hand-antiqued mirrors by Reid & Wright, and pendant LED lighting by Tala.
To celebrate the opening of Bert & May’s second store, we asked artist Caroline Popham to create a window installation that reflects the aesthetic and ethos of the brand. Caroline is an established graphic designer who has spent the past 20 years working for companies such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Jimmy Choo. Last summer, she studied for a postgraduate qualification in fine art at Chelsea College of Art and is now exploring her own perception of beauty through the idea of imperfect repetition.
“My starting point is always colour,” explains Caroline, crouched in the shop window, brush in hand. “I also have a thing about repetition that comes from being a graphic designer. As a designer, I make one perfect thing and turn it into multiples. As an artist, I make imperfect multiples and turn those into one cohesive work.”
The inspiration for the window installation came from a collection of 3D colour wheels Caroline had created using paper and hand-mixed paint. “I’m always using pantone charts as a graphic designer, but there are never enough colours for me. So, for the 3D wheels, I start with a sheet of off-white paper that is cut into individual discs. Each is then hand-scrunched and hand-painted in a range of tones that are gradually mixed from light to dark. There’s quite a madness to making the work, but when it’s finished, the end result is actually quite calm.”
Shoppers will see this gradation of colour in the window at Lamb’s Conduit Street. “Using the Bert & May paint range, I wanted to create something that would show the blending of colours in a simple, graphic way.” Caroline designed a 32-spoke template and selected three signature Bert & May colourways: yellow, pink and blue. Within each, she has used five tones, starting with the palest, she gradually mixes in the next shade until she has created 15-20 tones in each colour wheel, finishing on the darkest tone. “It’s completely intuitive and instinctive,” she explains. “I might sometimes think it’s going too dark too quickly, so I will just pull it back and go paler.”
At art school, Caroline worked a lot with ceramics and sculpture, but since graduating, she has gravitated towards painted collages and paper sculptures. “I use materials that are readily available to me. Acrylic has a plasticity and shine to it that doesn’t suit my work. I absolutely love the Bert & May paints because they are so matte and chalky. I also love the density of colour they have. We’re used to seeing this with indigo, or charcoal, but with the pale, delicate colours in the range, the strength of tone is really quite unusual.”
In keeping with the Bert & May aesthetic, the finished installation is deliberately painterly. The maker’s hand is apparent in the brush strokes on the window, as it is in the screen-printed fabrics, the hand-poured tiles and individually crafted ceramics.
• Examples of Caroline’s collages are on display in the Lamb’s Conduit Street store. The collaboration will continue in the new year, with an exhibition of Caroline’s work at the Vyner Street showroom; carolinepopham.com | @carolinepopham
If you are an artist, maker or designer interested in collaborating with us, please get in touch via email@example.com.