Wednesday 11 January 2012

Derry and Toms, Derry Street W8

The Derry Street facade of Derry and Toms continues the wonderful line of bas reliefs by Charles Mabey, described in the post on the Kensington High Street facade.
From left to right, the series continues with more artistic pursuits. Above, printers bash out the Derry and Toms annual Christmas gift catalogue. Right, silversmiths decorate urns.
Above, potters throw and decorate a pot. Right, builders mix and pour concrete. It's an odd coupling - the potters get respect for their art, good money and it's inside work with no heavy lifting. For the builders it is the complete opposite.
At this point, Charles Mabey seems to have run out of ideas, time or money (or any combination of these essential elements of any artistic project).
We have been here before, on the other side of the building.
Above, bricklayers wearing traditional bricklayers' flat caps. Below, lumberjacks wearing something that is nothing like the hats lumberjacks used to wear in films of the great outdoors.
Pilot and mechanic
At last, a trade that was entirely new when Derry and Toms was built, although the plane with its open cockpit, fixed undercarriage and manual starting (chocks away, Ginger!) already give the image a nostalgic, primeval atmosphere.
Dispatch department?
It is not entirely clear what the guys below are doing. They seem to be baling something, wool perhaps? The worker with his back to us is tending some sort of machine while his mate is hauling a huge bag away.

Postmen heave sacks of mail here, perhaps sending out the catalogues that were being printed further round the building.
And another new trade - motor mechanics work on a rather grand automobile with an early 'cherished plate' DT 1932.
Cherished plates go right back to the early days of motoring. A popular joke in 1914 was:
Motor mechanic
"What does the Kaiser have on his number plate?" "2L."
"And what does the Crown Prince have on his number plate? 2L2!"
They don't write them like that any more, thank heavens.

Road menders
The last pair of bas-reliefs by Charles Mabey are reprises of subjects he has visited before.
Perhaps he didn't care so much because they are round the back.
Top is another couple of men digging a hole in the road. Below, a pair of brickies clad the steel frame.
Despite the repetitions, this set of images must be one of London's least known masterpieces. I certainly never appreciated them until I managed to look at them closely by the wonder of telephoto and digital imaging.

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