Feeling creative in London? Looking for that hard-to-find craft tool or artist’s medium? Want to gild or sew something? Then I highly recommend stopping in at two stores that you will find VERY Inspiring: L. Cornelissen and Son and the Liberty London department store.
Located at 105A Great Russell Street, just down the road from the British Museum, L. Cornelissen & Son is a serious artist’s paradise. The store is stocked from floor to ceiling with paints, brushes, papers, and varnishes. For both serious and student painters, they carry a good range of Schminke Watercolors, as well as Schminke and Winsor & Newton Oil Paints. But that is not what they do best. L. Cornelissen specializes in hard-to-find materials, gilding supplies, art restoration materials and professional paints and pigments.
I love this stuff. Conservation, restoration, bits of pigment, glues and resins, feathery brushes, colors so deep you want to weep. Art supplies are as fascinating as the art that is made with them. I could not stop looking around L. Cornelissen and Son. Upon entering the store, I happily dove into a box of discounted single sheets of watercolor paper and came up with some beautiful pieces.
Then I surveyed the brushes and stood in awe of the assortment of hard-to-find Michael Harding Oil Paints and painting varnishes lining the wall.
C. Roberson & Company and L. Cornelissen house brand offer some hard to find varnishes and spirits for painters and conservation specialists. I’ll have to do some research on exactly what “Venice” Turpentine is.
Don’t be deceived by all the colorful bounty that surrounds you. If you can’t find what you need just by looking at everything, be sure to ask one of the sales clerks. They are helpful and know their trade. While the store is visibly packed with both necessities and hard-to-find materials, it takes a sales clerk to find the impossible for you. I have been on an odyssey to find silverpoint materials for about three years now. While silverpoint grounds are readily available I could not find the stylus or the metal filaments to draw with anywhere…until I arrived at L. Cornelissen. I was used to silverpoint rejection, so I was expecting the usual blank stare or regretful grin of the numerous clerks I have asked at many US art supply stores. But something different happened here. Upon inquiring about silverpoint, the clerk reached up into the large wall of numbered drawers and brought down a drawer filled with silverpoint materials. Eureka! It was such a clever thing to peer into that drawer and see everything an artist would need in that single medium organized together. Bundles of metal filaments, boxes of styluses. Everything lined up and tidy. I ended up purchasing 2 styluses – one metal, and one wood, as well as several thicknesses of silver to draw with.
I can only wonder what other amazing materials lie inside these unassuming numbered boxes. In total, I bought a lot of watercolor paper, my silverpoint materials, and a beautiful dove gray sketchbook. LOML also bought a very nice full tin of drawing pencils. We left the store reluctantly, glancing back at all the treasures we left behind.
The next day we stopped in at Liberty on Regents Street. Well, ok, we didn’t just happen by. I have a “thing” for Liberty prints… don’t you? Fuddy Duddy chintz looks oh so chic when Liberty does it! I have been used to drooling over the Liberty Fabric at PURL Soho in NYC, but nothing beats seeing hundreds of bolts of Liberty side by side in their London home. Let the fashionistas fawn over the clothes, jewelry, and perfumes on the lower floors of the department store! Um, ok, well don’t let them have everything, because I’ll be stopping down there later. LOML and I headed straight to floor three: Haberdashery.
If you like to sew and stitch, this is the place for you. They have awesome stuff! In the center of the department’s floor was a big long table filled with discounted remnants. Not brown corduroy! Liberty Prints, hallelujah! It was a crafty gal’s dream. Be sure to look across the floor at all of the bolts of fabric you have yet to encounter. In a long window-lined room, you will find bins of sewing tools, housed in Liberty print holders: small sewing scissors, clever cushioned boxes that fold down to reveal everything you could need on your next sewing projects, patchwork Liberty pincushions in the shape of pears and mice, and little snap needle cases with scissors in a pouch in the back. They also have larger Liberty print sewing boxes agains the wall. And for Liberty…everything is affordable. Which means that 60% of my souvenirs for my artsy friends came from Liberty’s sewing department. Delightful.
I left the bigger sewing boxes behind, reluctantly, because how could I pack it. If you are local, you lucky lady, be sure get one.
Originally, I was hoping to find lots of embroidery threads and transfers here. I didn’t find them, but if you do Needlepoint or Tapestry, you are in LUCK! The haberdashery floor was lined with Elizabeth Bradley and Primavera needlepoint kits that made me…well…want to take up needlepoint. The pillow kits were amazing!
Maybe I could make these pillows? In between everything else? Eh?
Probably not. But that’s ok. I bought these lovely Liberty fabric covered button sets to restyle some of my coats and sweaters.
Finally, I succumbed to vintage graphic design at the Merchant and Mills table, loading up on some thread wax, push pins, and tailoring tools. They also carry Merchant and Mills patterns for clothing, so you know what to do with your Liberty fabrics now.
There was one more stop in London that I wanted to make: Green and Stone Art Supplies in Chelsea. Unfortunately, there just was not enough time during our four-day stay in London. But rumor has it, they have “Turner’s Blue” paper here. If you get a chance to visit the store, let us know it is so! Happy Creating!
L. Cornelissen and Son – 105A Great Russel Street London WC1B +44 20 7636 1045 Liberty Department Store – Regent Street London, UK +44 20 7734 1234