Carboot shabby chic: Vernon Ward

I’m keeping this one. It’s by 1940s/50s kitsh commercial painter Vernon Ward. I got it for 30p and it’s worth about £12 but I believe it’s an antique of the future.


Chinatown round-up in Area Culture Guide

Cheeky monkey cake from Caffe Chino

Cruise cake from Caffe Chino

Caffe Chino
Best place for cake
Describing itself as a mystical place where all of your dreams come true, Caffe Chino does indeed have it all (with much more discerning decoration than a mere cherry on top). Delicious, delectable, delightful – and these words only begin to describe the staff uniforms and decorum. The cakes here are so cute they could melt the heart of the most misanthropic Birmingham-bashing national journalist. Couture cupcakes, sugary bespoke bakes and edible designer decorations fill this mint and powder pink boutique-café’s shabby chic shelves. It’s the perfect place to come with friends for a slice of something fancy.
Unit B107, Arcadian Centre, 70 Hurst Street 0121 622 1144

Chinese Cultural Xchange
Best place for jewellery
A real treasure trove for magpies yearning for something more upmarket than a Claire’s Accessories headband. Amid gold lurid boxes of the Rolls-Royce of Chinese teas are trendy scrunchies and diamanté head-pins that’ll make a classic yet culturally diverse cover star out of any Brum belle. There are also Susie Wong dresses, pretty paper umbrellas and lucky cats – which will all add a glamorous, glittering touch to wardrobes and desks respectively. Come here for the more classic, traditional Chinese paraphernalia embossed with horoscope signs or vibrant carnival dragons. Visit also for the jewellery and fashion, many of which are well crafted time pieces.
Pershore Street 0121 666 6838

Best place for stationary
The newest edition to Chinatown, MuMu’s sells the cutest stationary. Hello Kitty cameras that do credit card size snaps. Chinese fashion magazines such as Milk (it was the 3D edition complete with free 3D specs at the time of going to press). Many of the products on sale here are imported from Korea and China and all boast that naïve, candy-floss quality of South East Asian commercial art – much seems to derive exclusively from Japanese pop culture. Ichiban! It’s a great place for students to stock up on the sweetest stationary, or local creatives can get inspired by cute bits of philosophy that you just won’t find in Paperchase.
Unit B102, Arcadian Centre, Ladywell Walk 07411 671 520

Sing Fat Chinese supermarket
Best place for sake
For the best spring rolls and sake head to the Sing Fat Chinese supermarket which is conveniently located close to Chinatown and on the fringe of Digbeth. Impress your friends with a bottle of fine sake (which comes complete with bottle and cups). Simply warm it in the microwave for 20 seconds and you’ll have the perfect tipple. Serve with wasabi peas or biscuits in refreshingly bright, non-British packaging. The great thing about the Sing Fat is that it’s very quiet so you won’t find any pushing and shoving over the produce! Just have a look around and see if you can’t find a new Oriental dish to cook at home.
334 – 339 Bradford Street, Digbeth 0121 622 5888

Glazy about pots

Cindy Big Yu Chan, my friend from John Lewis, does pottery in her spare time.

Isn’t the bowl above beautiful?

She tells me: “My influences range from beautiful ceramic and glass objects like New York artist Ted Meuhling’s work to Barbara Hepworth’ pure sculptural forms.”

“I like pottery that isn’t perfect in form. As you can see from my work – the shape doesn’t conform to a perfect circle and I like to finish it off with splashed glazes to give it an immediate feel; so you can almost feel the energy of the artist at work.”

Above is a piece inspired by Tanaka Ichi-En-So splash ink calligraphy, and the original for reference.