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A New Show!

Wherever They Take Us – This picture will be auctioned in aid of Breast Cancer Now at Tea Time With Sam online at 4pm BST Sunday 24th April. Register to join here.

Hallo friends!

Thanks so much for signing up to my email list.

Maybe you’ve just joined us? Maybe you’re one of my old favourites? Or perhaps you have no idea why you’re receiving this at all?   But I’m grateful that you’re here and I’m sending out a big warm Mustard WELCOME to one and all. 

As has become customary I have a little story to tell you, but please scroll forward to the details about my forthcoming show if it gets a bit silly. I’ll be in touch again in a week or so with details of the competition, giveaways and prizes.

Once, many years ago, I was very interested in making a marionette and was lucky enough to attend a course with the BRILLIANT John Roberts. I took inspiration from a young storyteller I’d seen taking part in a show a few months before. Tall and delightfully gangly with a shock of bright ginger hair and small glasses, he looked rather like a teenage Mr Mustard. So I drew his slim white figure from my mind’s eye, and carved out his calves and thighs, feet, hips, arms and head with a wickedly sharp Chinese chisel. It was a miraculous tool. So smooth and easy to use. It cut through the wood like butter. Carving his face was like preparing Brussels Sprouts at Christmas. It was just THAT easy. It sent shivers down my spine every second it was in my hand. One moment’s daydream and there would be a spare finger on the floor I felt sure of it. The very thought gave me nightmares. I was determined to get over myself but the chisel, once wrapped carefully in many sheets of oiled rags, remained unvisited. And the half-finished puppet rests to this day in an old tin box on a shelf at my studio. Complete with all his accoutrements and my extravagant plans. The marionette was to be the star of his own show. The show was to be called Simon Smith and He’s Dancing Bare.

A while later I found myself again at the very excellent Jane Bombane’s in Kemptown at another event, and I ran into the young storyteller once more. Without thinking ( and that was my mistake ) I approached him, excited to meet him properly. He was a story teller and I had a unique story personal to him. He would love it. What could possibly go wrong? 

It soon became obvious he did not recall ever having seen me before. But I continued regardless.  For I am the Queen, nay the Tsarina, of the awkward situation. 

I will leave you to guess the details of the conversation we had. Less a conversation more of a stuttering monologue, as I dug myself deeper and deeper into a slippery hole with every phrase I uttered. Seeing the surprise, embarrassment then growing horror on this stranger’s face did nothing to slow me down as I bulldozed my way into the foundations of indecency. 

And why do I find myself telling you this story when I can hardly bear to think of it myself without cringing massively? It’s because of the COVID. 

We’ve all had such a terrible scare. It’s made me value my life in all its detail all the more. And to realize that THESE are the days. They are not times to be scared of, embarrassed about, secretive with. This is the very stuff of life and it is to be celebrated, treasured and laughed about. 

And I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. In a way I was only sharing ideas with my muse. And perhaps there was no skillful way explain to a total stranger how he’d inspired me to carve him naked out of wood with nothing to cover his modesty but the smallest smattering of an old fluorescent-orange feather boa.

Possibly I can never visit Bombane’s again. Probably I gave a shy young man the fright of his life. Definitely I felt ridiculous, foolish and awkward. Thankfully it was a dark basement, no one else heard me, and I have never seen him again. And no one else knows, except for you. 

But THESE  are the days… No matter how gut wrenchingly embarrassing, difficult or outofyourcomfortzone something may feel, may I urge you to go ahead and do it? Perhaps not something as ridiculous as I did, but don’t we all need to seize the day? 

And that brings me neatly to the news of my April Show
 

These Are The Days  

17-30 April 2021
In the window at Little Mustard Shop 33 Clifton Hill Brighton, and online here at www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk

Sunday 18th April  virtual show around on Youtube and my Facebook page

Friday 23rd April 6pm BST sales go live at samtoftoriginals.co.uk

Saturday 24th April Afternoon Tea on Zoom (Register here)

  • 1-3pm drawings of your pet live (win your space in our competition – details soon)
  • 3-4pm break for cake (bring your own)
  • 4- 5pm Charity Auction, Q and A, Prizes

Thursday 29th April Breakdown and collection by appointment with Graham 

If you cannot collect we can send out to UK ONLY.

For international sales please sign up on the email list at panterandhall.com for my September show in London.

I will leave you for now with a simple soup recipe and an entreaty to tell no-one about the contents of this email, which may well self destruct in three minutes,

3….2….1….

Sam Toft x

Recipe Time:

Slowly fry a whole head of chopped celery and an onion in olive oil then add 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Next a few cubed root vegetables (a couple carrots, a potato, and half a turnip ?) and simmer with a stock cube, lots of water. 

A few chilli flakes and a generous shake of white pepper

A handful of small pasta when the veg is tender and a bunch each of fresh parsley and basil chopped

Salt to taste

It’s simple and yummy

A Portuguese man in his takeaway café told me it was his mother’s recipe. Tastes of home.

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Anything Is Possible

Black and white photograph of Sam (on the right) and Roberto (on the left) looking at each other.  Between them is one of the pots.

We had our first show. It went incredibly well. Everything sold. Even some things that weren’t for sale sold. I felt inspired to make a few extra new drawings so at least there would be something there if people had set their hearts on buying. They went too. It was like the Marie Celeste on the Sunday in the Little Shop.

So many came to the Opening Reception. Dogs as well as people. It was amazing. We had a tombola and drinks served over at The Crescent pub opposite. We had half-hourly tickets so everyone would get a viewing. It sounds a bit strange doesn’t it, but it all went so smoothly. Team Mustard had it worked out to a tee. Everybody was so kind, patient, understanding, generous.

I always forget that there is so much more to putting on an exhibition than making the work. Maybe I worked too hard as I was tired for weeks afterwards. And every morning when I woke up, I remembered how well it had gone and I felt stunned all over again. From my bed, flushed and giddy from my success, I made an ambitious programme of events to take us through the year as truly I believed that now ANYTHING was possible. And then the Virus hit. 

I know everyone’s experience is different. And perhaps as I’ve got older I’ve gotten luckier. For some, a surprise diagnosis of cancer feels (and is) genuinely devastating. But for many of us it can feel like a gift and a new beginning. Similarly I know so many people have had a really tough time during lockdown. I am in the fortunate position of living and working on my own, having no children to worry about, living in a safe and beautiful part of the world, being in good health. I love what I do and for me little has changed. Went a bit wonky in the head for a while, but otherwise tickety boo. My ambitious programme of events went to the dogs though. Ah well. And I thought it was going to be such a good year…

Never Waste a Crisis, an excellent therapist once said to me, and it has become my mantra. There is always something good to challenge me when disaster strikes I find. And sure enough, in the space left by cancelled shows and broken dreams, there was rest and gardening, house sorting, even spring cleaning. Mostly time for thinking, and wondering how my life could change in the following months. I got a bag of clay from Roberto’s studio, sadly ‘closed because of the Covid’, and started playing. Like during my chemotherapy, when everything was upside down, getting my hands on some clay somehow made things better. Pottery Gagliano has always been a safe haven, even in spirit. Roberto says, leave your problems at the door and anything is possible.

And here we are months later with a fabulous new collection. Well, I think it’s fabulous. But then I know how much work and love and care has gone into each piece. In collaboration with Roberto. Working with friends. Innis has taken some wonderful photographs, Mr Cain has organized the website and all those vital technical bits. We have all done our very best. Who knows what will happen next?

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Love the Little Things

Love the Little Things

When I thought I’d lost my little shop it felt like a death. An inevitable expected death like that of an old dog, but still a cruel shock. One of those deaths where people say, Ah well, she had a good innings, and all you can think is, No no NO, I’m not ready, I want MORE innings. And when people looked at me and tilted their heads in sympathy it was because somehow they knew that this was the way it must be. And all I could do was wish I felt stronger so I could scream and rant and stamp my feet at the very least.

I was not ready to lose my little shop.

So instead I decided to put it on ice. Freeze it over the Winter and look again in the Spring.

As it turns out I will be having a Little Art Show at the shop a year to the day from having a lovely operation to remove some lymph nodes and a lump in my breast. I say lovely because I’ve never been to hospital before and I got to stay overnight with very kind people and someone brought me breakfast in bed. There was no pain and I felt so relieved. The cancer was gone. Chemo- and Radiotherapy to come. But what a difference a year makes. In February I danced for the first time in 12 months at my nephew’s wedding. I’m a clumsy, enthusiastic dancer and I love the way it makes me feel. But for a year I have not had the luxury of energy to ‘waste’.

So: I am changed. I have a different take on the useful time I have left on the planet. It’s a real opportunity to consciously build the life I would like. I have a whole lot less energy to go round now and for 2020 I’m focussing on making a success of my little shop. Not by opening every day, but by opening once every 60 days, and by showing things you cannot see anywhere else.

Love the little things. That’s what Mr Mustard says. It’s good advice but it’s not exactly ground breaking. And with a little shop and an imaginary friend we’re not going to change the world. But hopefully we are going to introduce a bit more joy into the proceedings. I have a feeling that this year could be a wonderful one.