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It Isn’t Always Easy, Is It?

It isn’t always easy, is it?

I’ve always admired the easy breeziness of greengrocers. And I know no-one is without their troubles but some people manage to rise above it all and bring a little unlooked for happiness into people’s lives whatever’s going on in their own. Market traders, corner shop owners, delivery staff, they seem to have this straightforward way of serving with a smile and moving on. I remember getting to know a restaurant owner in Greece one year and feeling bold enough to ask how he kept his sparkle even at the end of a long day. After a moment’s thought he said maybe he had been lucky enough to be born with a sunny disposition? In fact he knew of no other way to be and was delighted to find himself the right occupation suiting his natural abilities. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do MORE than the thing we were born to do? Is that even possible?

Although I’m ever so grateful to have the natural ability to enjoy lots of alone time painting and drawing, I do find myself sadly lacking in the ‘easy breezy’ department. I often think of that tune in The King and I… ‘Make believe you’re brave and the trick will take you far, You may be as brave as you make believe you are.’ I’ve certainly found that when I imitate more socially confident people and copy what I’ve seen them do, I can often surprise myself. Like learning the tricks of their trade! But bless my cotton socks, I’m a slow learner.

I’d like to tell you a story of something that happened in my late twenties when I was working as a catering manager in a theatre. I was never really good at the job but I did work hard at it. I was a great waitress, and could do the cashing up fine but I was HOPELESS at managing people and chatting to the public. There was a major ‘easy breeziness’ deficit. O how I envied those delivery drivers and their casual friendliness, as they helped each other back huge lorries into the small space behind the kitchen. And I decided there and then to try and emulate their chirpily cheerful way of talking to each other (even if at first it involved a clumsy adoption of their accents) and see how far that would take me. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m not a driver but I had a few lessons from my great uncle Bernard when I was in my teens. I was alright with the pedals and the gear changing, but it was the steering that always let me down and apparently that’s quite important. But you don’t need to be a driver to assist other people and although I lacked confidence I was keen to test drive my new skill.

Fast forward to my Golden Opportunity.

I was with a friend in a car and they said, Why don’t you just hop out and see me back into this parking space?

Omigosh, thinks I, I don’t think I’m ready.

The understanding friend says, Go on, just stand out there where I can see you and help me back into the space.

O dear, I really don’t think I’m ready for this kind of responsibility, I’m not a driver you know.

O come ON, says the friend getting impatient now. It’s not hard. Just stand where I can see you, wave your arms and say “Keep Going” kind of things.

Okay okay yes I can do it. I remember now (thinking of those delivery drivers and how I’d practised in the mirror until I was just as good as them).

I was so proud to be trusted with the task. It didn’t seem difficult at all. The driver just needed to back up slowly and turn the steering wheel a bit. And I could help! So I stood there – well out of the way of danger – and started with the casual arm-beckoning movement I’d studied so hard. And in my best Uxbridge accent I began the casual “Keep goin’ … kee’ goin’ … yeah righ’ keep goin’” and all the time the car backed slowly and obediently into the space. I was more than delighted (and dare I say ‘easybreezy’)… this was BRILLIANT! All that worrying and it was literally this simple! A bit of effort, some bravery and the opportunity to practice my skills. It’s all I needed. Just saying things in this new, calm and efficient way and everything was falling effortlessly into place. So I continued with the “Keep Goings” until they backed right into a wall.

And before you ask, of course I wasn’t looking. I was concentrating on saying Keep Going and waving my arms (which in my defence is all that was asked of me). And yes they were cross.

Well you live and learn (in my case rather slowly with the learning). And it helped me realise that as I was so bad at my job anyway and relatively better at drawing, I could decide to move away from those funny accents in Uxbridge and live in Liverpool with my sister to do an Art Course (no funny accents in this part of the world at least).

The rest, dear reader, is history. And that neatly brings me to the present where I spend my days on my own writing and painting and working with clay. And organising little online exhibitions, to which you are cordially invited.

Little Joys opens on Saturday 6th August at 6pm BST at www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk …There are 13 paintings and 9 drawings.

As you may have noticed, if you are interested in buying, there is usually a bit of a jam. Thousands of people try to access our website at exactly the same time (or earlier!) and it means that nobody can get in at all. It’s frustrating for everyone involved, not least of all myself. I spend months and months working hard to make something special then I get disappointed emails.

My problem is that I want things to be nice, and I’ve thought of many ideas: auctioning work to the highest bidder, tripling prices, selling only through large galleries, having a big corporate website, working much harder… but none of these options sounded any nicer to me. Instead we are keeping things SMALL by starting a Priority List of just a few hundred members. And as my 7 previous shows have sold out within a few minutes, being on the list may be the only way to buy an original piece direct from me.

What can you expect, as a Special Priority List member?

  • Prior access to all www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk exhibitions going forward. We have two shows remaining in 2022. Little Joys in August and Where to Now in November. Solo shows at Panter and Hall will not be accessed through our list and you’ll need to enquire direct
  • Prior notification when our new (very limited) pocket sized bronze launches October/November
  • Prior access to the last four of the bronze edition Pocket Doris on 5th August
  • Prior notification of our new release of exclusive limited edition prints later in the year
  • All purchases from Little Joys will come with a complimentary 2023 calendar, beautifully printed on Art Paper. I’m exceptionally pleased with my calendar this year. The proofs looked wonderful, so let us know what you think when they go on general sale in September.

Of course there may still be jams but I know you are patient souls. Amber, Andy and Graham will be on hand to help.

How do I join your Specials List?

If you have previously bought anything from www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk you will be on the list already. Thank you!

If you are a Club member you will be on the Specials List. If you join now at www.littlemustardclub.com you will automatically be added before the launch. Amber has just released a few extra spaces prior to her usual ‘first of the month’ release to help finalising our Specials List before my Little Joys show. Thanks Amber, I know it’s extra work for you but it’s really helpful x

Everybody on our list will receive a second email tomorrow. If you do not receive a follow up email (entitled Our Specials) let us know so we can iron out any technical hitches before your priority access on 5th August.

There is no catalogue, so unless you follow us on Facebook or Instagram the work will be a lovely surprise! Several of the pieces may be joining our exclusive limited edition collection at Nan’s Mustard Shop online at www.samtoft.co.uk … nicely wrapped with good old fashioned service and things you won’t find anywhere else. We’ll let our Specials know once we have chosen, and when they will be released. Really small editions, beautiful remarques.

Wherever this email finds you, I hope you are living your life as best you can, with a balance of ease and challenge. Take it easy on yourself. And if you decide to fake it ‘til you make it, stay away from heavy machinery…

Until we meet again,

Big love,

Sam x

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An Exhibition for Summer

Hello friends,

I hope this email finds you well?

It’s a strange old time we’ve been having, many still suffering or recovering from the ravages of the pandemic and just a lucky few of us feeling that things are ‘back to normal’… but these times leave their mark even for us fortunate ones don’t they? For better or for worse I don’t think anything will be the way it was before. And if you’re like me, now more than ever there’s a pressing need to focus on the good things life has to offer. To be real, true, authentic but also optimistic, hopeful and to appreciate the little joys.

In this spirit I am deciding to have an impromptu show. Online, not in person, as things are a bit topsy turvy with me as my little dog is old and ill so I have no idea what state I’ll be in come August. I’ve got lots of help so I can make sure little Stan is comfortable, as well as working a few days in the studio and having big walks with Betty in the woods. Among the trees I have always found such solace and inspiration and it is with much sadness that I accept Stan can no longer join us on our long tramps over the green hills. But he has his daily outings to the park where he can sometimes chase his ball and play hunt the biscuit. There’s nothing at all wrong with his nose and he still manages an amount of mischief which is right and proper for such an independent, opportunistic soul. And, as I’m realising more as I get older, grief can bring us closer to our friends and family. Sometimes the best of us comes out at the worst of times. 

The problem with my recent shows is that there are never enough paintings to go round. I produce much less and the demand is high. So I’m deciding, like most galleries, to operate a priority list so certain people will get the link to the original work before everybody else. This should avoid the log jam as sales go live. I know from the many emails I receive how disappointing and frustrating it has been for so many of you. 

How to join the small band of individuals on the priority list? We will be including all previous buyers from Sam Toft Originals (as loyalty is important) and also members of Little Mustard Club (as I think membership is a good gauge of people really interested in my work).  July memberships are now open at Little Mustard Club so no-one needs to miss out. The small pieces will be the same price as always and the slightly larger pieces (as they take me so much more time) will be subject to a 30% increase in line with  gallery pricing. I’m anticipating a small collection of around 7-10 paintings.

Little Joys goes live on Saturday 6th August. And everyone on our priority list (we’ll call them ‘the Specials’) will get an additional email tomorrow with all the extra details. If you don’t receive it and you think you should be on the list then please let us know by return. And nearer the time I’ll send a reminder too as I know we all have a lot on our minds right now. 

And let’s end with a little story I may have told you before. Even after all this time, the strength of the experience still wakes me up at night sometimes. Although I have the most terrible memory and forget most things quickly, strong feelings always stay with me.

It all started a few years ago when my close neighbours were making a nuisance of themselves. I live in a terrace right next to a block of flats so it’s to be expected, but the noise was so loud over a number of weeks, it sounded as though there was a live band at the bottom of my garden. They would practice the same parts of one particular song time and again. They sounded so earnest it could have been heartwarming, and there was this carefully scripted message repeated over and over -through a microphone- thanking the audience for their loyalty and admiration, followed by something that sounded like a primal scream. Long anguished animalistic cries plagued my Sunday afternoons. But I choose to live in a city so I guess it’s part and parcel.

But then the food missiles started. Just chunks of stale bread at first and I hardly noticed them as I think my dogs hoovered up the evidence. Always mysterious trails of breadcrumbs and quite a lot of drooling, but I let that pass. And then they started with empty tubes of Pringles and tubs of half eaten hummus, dirty tissues and baked bean cans. I found the remains when I went outside in my garden but never actually saw them being thrown. I looked up at the blank grid of windows from the neighbouring block. Was there someone sniggering behind those curtains?

And it went on. One day I found my little dog trying to swallow a leg of fried chicken, raw inside and from the foul smell not too fresh. Boy, was he sick that night. There followed weeks of clearing up meat bones in red sauce, fast food containers, rotten eggs. And each time I felt myself getting more and more angry. This is the feeling I remember so clearly. I was absolutely livid. And as the mature adult I am I decided -rather than talk to anyone face to face- to post a strongly worded note on the front door of the flats. I’m not proud of myself. Every night I went to bed fuming. 

If I look on the bright side, one good thing that came of all this was discovering how many lovely people lived in those flats. They put kind notes through my door or came round to tell me it was not them. Then one wise person came up with a solution. I really didn’t see it, but I bet you’ve guessed already?

After weeks of seething, we found out it was the seagulls. They had been nesting on my roof. I discovered a rare treasure trove of rotting food and rubbish when I climbed up there. The items in my garden had merely been their overflow. All that energy wasted feeling hateful. I still wonder how I was capable of such righteous anger. And I was so wrong.

So what I learnt from that is to take things with a pinch of salt and not be too ready to jump to conclusions. And to do something to stop those pesky seagulls nesting in my chimney pots. 

I’ll be in touch tomorrow with those Specials on my list and wish you a grand weekend,

Big love,

Sam x

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The Merry Month Of June

It’s the right weather isn’t it?

It’s something someone said to me n Betty as we were walking across the golf course up at Hollingbury on a sunny day recently.

Truth is, I DON’T like it too hot personally, but I LOVE that it makes so many people happy and chatty. For me a sunny day always seems like an extra thing to do. I know I should get out and enjoy myself, but a colder day just let’s me BE… And then I got to thinking, he’s right that man on the golf course. It’s actually always the right weather! When the sun is too warm it’s a welcome reminder for me to be resourceful. When nothing is uncomfortable, there is no incentive to change.

Most of my life I’ve felt the pressure of being too busy, and it’s motivated me to make some changes. And when there’s a hot day I’m reminded I can do that then as well. Instead of feeling grumpy with the weather, I can walk the dogs early and keep the blinds down. I can open all the windows and dry my sheets outdoors. I can appreciate people’s sunloving smiles and feel slightly less worried about the those who live on the streets in all weathers. It makes me especially grateful for the trees and the cool of my studio.

So to help manage the stress I can feel when I’m over busy, I’m going to take the advice of so many of you out there – thank you – and start doing less!

I’m going to raise the prices of original work as I’ll be painting fewer pieces. Which is a lovely reward for anyone who has bought my work over the last 30 years … It’s about time your investment paid off, eh? I’ll be healthier and happier and able to spend more time writing, sculpting and walking the dogs.

But this price hike is not undertaken without some feelings of guilt, a fair bit of awkwardness and a little shame. Why should I charge so much more when many people can’t afford it? Why shouldn’t I fulfill the desires of everyone who wants to own an original Sam Toft?

So I’ve thought about this long and hard, and here’s the ‘half way house’ that will help both myself and my nearest and dearest.

The ‘almost original’ experience: For people who want artwork with original sketches in the title line, we have the remarqued prints. For those who like things you can’t get anywhere else, there are self published prints, signed books and even Studio Proofs that come with a complimentary original drawing direct from my own Mother’s garage in Cornwall. Visit MUSTARDSHOP at www.samtoft.co.uk and find the Exclusive Limited Editions.

For people who miss my own little shop in Brighton (now closed) or who weren’t able to visit because they live far faraway, during 2022 there’s a new Members’ Club! Here you will find an exclusive membership pack, monthly emails with competitions, prizes and giveaways plus a chance to hobnob with fellow Mustardeers. You can even give a Gift Membership. There are little films, interviews, bits of gossip, lots of social media content (@littlemustardclub) AND I don’t have to lift a finger. Little Mustard Club is run from my private studio in Hove by the fabulously brilliant Amber Elise. It’s the nearest you’ll get to ‘an audience with Sam’ without me actually having to be there. You can find it at www.littlemustardclub.com

For people who want to visit an actual shop in the UK or buy mail order with real customer service I can heartily recommend The Braithwaite Gallery in York They have a dedicated SamToft room, a HUGE range of Toftie goodies and all the latest designs from limited editions to framed cards, mugs, treasures and all things Mustard.

For people who’d like free postage and overnight service there’s amazon & eBay, or for nice wrapping and slow service there’s my Sister’s hamper company at www.mustardhampers.co.uk or Nan Mustard’s little mailorder shop again at www.samtoft.co.uk

For cards, limited editions and the full SamToft merchandise collection visit the publishers direct at ArtPressCollierDobson or Artgroup. And for the big London gallery experience there are those lovely people at Panter and Hall. For double basses, violas and cellos visit www.timtoftviolins.com and for excellent help coping with life and it’s many challenges my sister has just launched @louisetoftcoaching … with over thirty year’s experience (although you’d not know it to look at her) in a whole host of techniques I don’t understand enough to explain. You can contact her currently only through Instagram until she gets her web page up n running. She offers free Clarity Sessions to find out if you’d be a good fit to work together. If you’re not on Instagram (why would you be if you didn’t need to, I’d say!) drop me a line and I’ll forward your messages.

So I’ll close by sending you all the love from this tired heart. I’m very much looking forward to a quiet June celebrating my birthday month with a few little trips, some time off and a fair bit of sketching. The next opportunity to buy (VERY expensive) originals paintings will be in November from www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk where we have just received new stock of all the small edition bronzes. And do visit the shop at www.samtoft.co.uk SOON where the new self published prints have just landed. The Studio Proofs are selling fast!

Warm wishes,

A very grateful Sam Toft x

PS for those Club Members who signed up for Pet Portraits… I’m getting through them very slowly. Remind me not to offer 12 at a time again. It’s taking me blummin ages!

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A Horse Ate My Bag

I must admit I’m a little scared of horses. Because I don’t understand them and they are so big. And generally I’m a little afraid of children because I don’t understand them and they’re so little. To me dogs have always seemed more straightforward. But back to this bag eating horse.

A couple of weeks ago on one of my intrepid weekend walks, I found myself needing to cross a field where there were three horses. It was a public footpath and I put my dogs on their leads, but when I looked up I noticed they’d already started ambling towards us. They looked friendly enough but very big, and it soon became obvious they would reach us before we got to the stile. Instead of running (which my brain was screaming at me to do) I slowed right down and worked on calming the dogs and myself. I had no apples or carrots. Eeek.

As they got closer I saw that two of the horses looked quite old with bowed backs and cloudy eyes. The other one was a fair bit friskier. I’d heard that horses (and cows) can be more interested in dogs than anything else, so I picked up little Stan so he wouldn’t get trampled, and let go of Betty. She promptly ran to the side of the field and pushed herself under the gate. One safe. I looked back at the horses. They had quickened their pace and were making a beeline straight for us. Double Eeek.

And you know how life is all about expectations. And how managing your expectations is a good way to help with disappointments and disconcerting surprises. Well I had certainly not expected to be trampled to death by three blind horses that day. I suddenly had this strong vision of the orange wall flowers and the frothy blue forgetmenots I’d just planted in my garden. I’d never live to see them bloom again. But this can’t be how it all ends, I reassured my racing heart. And as they surrounded me, nuzzling at my jacket and pockets, I inhaled deeply and smelt their grassy breath. I know I’m pushing 60 but I’m too young too die, I whimpered. Stanley let out a warning growl.

Brave as I am, I continued walking slowly towards the stile where I could see Betty was hiding in the shadows beneath some trees. Still safe. They started nibbling at my shoulders, tugging at my sleeves. I realised they were actually going to eat us alive. And then I remembered a happy song. I’ll go down singing, I thought.

Inching closer to the stile one of them pulls off my hat. It’s not one of my favourites, I decide, I can sacrifice the hat. And if they start on my hair that’s fine because it’s all short anyway. I start singing a bit louder and push Stanley’s curly head inside my anorak. And I feel new empathy for all of the people I meet who are so afraid of Betty, my German Shepherd, that they would rather jump into the road than share the pavement as we walk by slowly and calmly. At least I’ll die a kinder person…

But you know how this story ends already, dear reader. Although you were probably scared stiff I’d be mortally wounded at the very least? I remember looking around at those three long faces and I really appreciated their gentle softness from the other side of the fence. I couldn’t resist a little tickle on one of the soft grey muzzles held outstretched. Getting bolder I tried wafting away the flies from their eyes at which point the frisky one pulled at my shoulder bag and chomped right through the strap with his yellow crunchy teeth. I’m left with slightly greenish slimy strings.

Well as I live to die another day, I’d like to share with you the dates and times for our May events.

15th May 12-4pm Pet Portraits & Afternoon Tea on Zoom
18th May 6pm Sales go Live for my new collection of original pictures, drawings and bronzes at www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk

15th May : A Virtual Afternoon Tea with Pet Portraits and Prizes!
If that sounds good to you we’d love to have you join us… you can drop in, have the whole thing running away in the background, or tune in to specific events… Register here to get the link.

Here’s what to expect (times in BST):

12-12.15 Get a pot of tea on, plate up the sandwiches and enjoy a warm welcome from our sofa in Brighton. There’ll be a bit of a meet and greet from Sam, Graham, Betty and Stan. And most probably Almondine the budgie, as he never likes being left out

12.15-2.15 Eight 15 minute Portraits drawn live, for the people who have booked already.  ?Mr Mustard and your pet, imagine that!

2.15-2.30 Sam has a break to rest her fingers … she’s getting quite a lot of cramps nowadays. Take this time to do your drawings on the theme of Afternoon Tea. Later you’ll be asked to hold them up and there’ll be PRIZES for our favourites!

2.30-3pm Two 15 minute pre-booked portrait slots (all sold out now)

3-4pm During this hour we will have plenty time for a bit of fun, Mustard-style. The two FREE ‘nominate your friend’ Portraits awarded to Little Mustard Club members will be completed offline (and all of the portraits will be sent to you the following week). In no particular order, here’s what we have in store:

  • Get your Afternoon Tea drawings ready… we’ll be giving out PRIZES for our favourites!
  • Do you have a Question for Sam? Write it in the comments box on Facebook during this hour and Andy will get them together for our Q & A sesh
  • Over to Amber, Executive Director of Little Mustard Club!
  • A special Members’ giveaway and her chance to show off June’s BIG COMPETITION prize. June is Sam’s birthday month so she has been extra generous. There will be THREE prizes. And if Doris Fruit Salad means anything to you, it’s time to get excited. Little Mustard Club will always be small so there’s a very good chance to win prizes and competitions. The Club runs for the whole of 2022, offers a Welcome Box (a perfect surprise gift), monthly giveaways and priority booking for the next event. You can join or buy a gift membership at www.littlemustardclub.com
  • Over to Nan at our online shop in Cornwall with news of our self published prints and a special Nan Mustard giveaway
  • Any other ideas of what you might like to see??

18th May from 6pm BST we are opening up sales for Sam’s new Exhibition: We’ll Know Where We’re Going When We Get There We’ll have a new collection of paintings, drawings and bronzes. You can collect from the studio by appointment or we can send to any UK address for £30 (It is so very difficult to send abroad since Brexit, import duties are horrendous and postage to the US in particular has leapt up in price. Possibly you could have something sent to a UK address and organise your own international carriage?)

Anyway I’ll love you and leave you. I’m off on a trip just now to see Nan in Cornwall. A train trip and some Cornish air. Marvellous.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Big Love,

Sam
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We’ll Know Where We’re Going When We Get There

Hallo lovelies,

It’s nearly May already!

Such a lovely month for a holiday I always think. It feels fresh, not too warm and still the opportunity to be wearing hats and scarves. Which will always be my favourite attire. But if you haven’t got it together to book that little trip you’ve been dreaming about, I hope you’ll be joining me and Team Mustard at our Afternoon Tea Event Sunday 15th May.

For me May is all about the different yellows. There are still daffodils in the supermarkets although the woods are full of bluebells, and I do so love a cut flower. The ranunculus are splendid at this time of year too and I always keep mine until way past their best. After all their blazing colours I can’t bear to throw them away. And every time I think I must have had the last, I find another bunch of yellow tulips to display in my old silver-glass vase. And whenever I can, I feel I must have a sprig of yellow freesia for by my bed, so if I wake up in the night wondering where I am (it’s a thing!) I am calmed by their peppery scent: my Grandad’s favourite. The yellow calla lily I’m keeping inside as long as I can. And when it goes outside I think I’ll do a big display of fat lemons instead.

Yellow has been my favourite colour for as long as I can remember. I’ve always found it a constant comfort when everything changes so fast. Like the yellow wool blanket I have wrapped around me on the sofa as I type, it make me feel safe. I know there are so many awful things going on in the world today. So much horror, sadness and shortage I can do nothing about. I just sit here and work hard to make myself feel strong and positive, so I can make more Mustard…

So yes it’s nearly May already, and I feel I’ve hardly done a thing. It’s like I’ve spent the year so far trying to make space for whatever’s coming next. Grieving the changes and trying to find the energy to plan something special. When perhaps I could spend more time accepting and appreciating what I have already. Feels like I’m always playing catch up.

I was planning to have an Open Studio Event in May to coincide with Brighton Festival. But when it came to it I didn’t have the heart. After all the ups and downs of last year, I really feel like having this one to myself. No big shows but instead little online events and nurturing our new little Club. Keeping things small, manageable, inclusive. And if you are around this May and fancy a bit of sunshine, Mustard style, we have a few things to share with you.

Tuesday 3rd May we will be opening up the memberships again for Little Mustard Club. If you’d like a delightful little box of goodies, a monthly newsletter, smashing competition prizes, giveaways and updates from Brown Dog Studio, then this could be the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one.

During May I will be doing an online Pet Portraits Day, where I will draw your pet with Mr M with the aim of raising £1000 for Macmillan Cancer Research. I’ll be offering 10 spaces at £100 each, available first to our Little Mustard Club members, who will also have the opportunity to nominate a friend for a chance to receive one of two Mustard Pet Portraits completely free. The Pet Portraits will be part of our Afternoon Tea Zoom Event 12-4pm BST Sunday 15th May, where I’ll be drawing live 12-3pm and then there’ll be an hour free for random fun and games (you supply the tea and cake). And if you’d like to make a painting yourself for our Zoom Gallery on 15th May (hold it up to show us all) then please get creating your splendid masterpiece on the theme of Afternoon Tea and win a prize! All details of how to join and where in my next Newsletter, early May. I’m still working out the details!

I do have a date however for the launch of my new exhibition at www.samtoftoriginals.co.uk There’ll be 15 small paintings, 12 drawings and 7 bronze sculptures on display in my virtual gallery come 18th May. I’m aiming to make a few more ceramics too but they may go separately or later in May as we totally crashed the website last year when we tried selling it altogether and there were so many disappointed faces. So I am not promising anything except 27 brand new framed pieces all completed in the last couple of months, some of which will be featured on social media during May but none will be for sale until 18th May. Exact details in my next letter early May. I’m hoping it will all come clear in the next couple of weeks. And I’m trusting We’ll know where we’re going when we get there. It’s the title of the new exhibition and my most ambitious bronze sculpture to date.

Wishing you all the shades of yellow you could wish for. Or any colour you like actually. Why don’t you go out a buy yourself a nice little bunch of flowers?

Big love,

Sam Toft
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Hello From the Woods

Since I’ve been here I’ve lost two hats. And one dog.

I found the dog.

And upsetting though it is to mislay my very favourite berets, this heartache is truly tiny in comparison with the temporary loss of my dear old Stan. The Theory of Relativity in action. But I’m hoping that the next time my (snackhungry and selectively deaf) little Doodle Dog decides to do a bit of sneaky unaccompanied sandwich surfing I’ll choose to poke myself in the eye to help me feel Relatively better, rather than rushing hither and thither discarding fistfuls of head gear with such high sentimental value. My poor heart aches at the thought of the handmade velvet one with the satin lining and a blob of white paint on the back… And the burgundy striped knitted one with a tiny turquoise stalk going a bit bobbly with age… Is it so wrong to miss them so much?

Hat loss aside, I love being here in a little cottage on the edge of the Wild Woods. It’s such a luxury to be able to spend this month away from it all. Valentine’s Day will pass me by in a flurry of thoughts and sketches as I promise myself to be a bit more organised next year. And the space I’m giving myself is already being filled with some delicious new ideas. I won’t write about them yet. They are as precious to me as a ‘fresh-baked’ pink puppy, eyes shut tight and tiny paws flailing. And you know they’ll need to be at least 10 weeks old before I could even think of sharing them with you…

As you may have heard, changes are afoot.

Little Mustard Shop, Brighton has now closed for good.

March 1st sees the launch of my new dream, the Little Mustard Club.

MUSTARDSHOP online at www.samtoft.co.uk will be slimming down and firming up. From May 1st onwards Nan will be selling only unique and exclusive items such as limited editions with hand drawn pictures in the title line, self published prints, cards and books. Things you cannot get anywhere else. But more of that nearer the time. There is pressing news from the Little Club!

Little Mustard Club has been a dream of mine for such a while, but I’ve never had the time to make it a reality until I met Amber Elise. Together we have created something pretty special. She will be Head Honcho, Club Secretary and Executive Producer/Director, as well as Editor in Chief of the Tunnocks Wafers stores. Worry ye not, each batch of Tunnocks will be tested for freshness. Amber is the kind of woman who goes that extra mile. She also curates Dog & Bone, the smallest gallery in Brighton and Hove. And creates bespoke murals, chocolate wrappings and dazzlingly colourful art in her own time ( check her out at www.amberelise.com ).

I see our little Club as a way to offer a little extra to those who really want it.

For some people, the paintings of my Wonderful World of Mustard offer something whimsical to hang on a wall somewhere or to buy as a gift. For others the Mustards have become something of a lifestyle choice! There are mugs and stationery and cushions and calendars and cards and limited editions the whole world over. And also there are aprons and tea towels and bags and books. I’ve become one of those people who Googles themselves and thinks, “Well I never!”

So, our Little Mustard Club will appeal to those of you who would like more of an exclusive insiders’ view. A small Members’ Club running throughout 2022 with limited memberships offered on a first come first served basis each month ( sign up to receive details of exactly when these opportunities arise at littlemustardclub@gmail.com ). For me, the main idea of the Club is to offer prizes, competitions, giveaways and small scale events to the people who are super keen. I will still be writing several newsletters a year to you all with general news and major events, plus I’ll be doing bits of social media as and when. But going forward Amber will be offering more regular updates and answering all Club queries, Rachel will be dealing with general Mustard business and Originals enquiries, and I will be losing hats and painting pictures.

There will be a lovely little membership package sent to your door, with exclusive items and personal favourites from the Mustard Vaults should memberships sell out in March, there will be opportunities to sign up in April and so on throughout the year. Also – through monthly email newsletters and Instagram posts – Amber will be awarding monthly competition prizes, a monthly PRIZE DRAW for our book package giveaway, and there’s a chance to nominate a friend each month for a free gift membership. Plus there’ll be priority booking for a pet portrait event tbc in May or June, and special offers at Open Studio Events (covid permitting). The membership fee for Little Mustard Club will be £60 for 2022 including UK postage. For international postage please contact Amber at littlemustardclub@gmail.com … AND if you have Instagram or Facebook and follow @littlemustardclub , you will have FREE access to the photos and stories from my private seaside studio brought to you by Amber Elise. You can also join in with all of the competitions. But only members will receive Amber’s monthly email newsletter, exclusive offers and competition prizes. You have to be in it to win it. I think our members will be very lucky indeed.

But back to the present moment. Here, from my little cottage in the woods, I’m sending lots of good thoughts to you this February. Life has dealt us some hard blows of late. There have been sad losses and COVID has left its mark on countless lives. So many are still suffering. But for those of us still here, it’s the month of snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and LOVE. SO however you choose to spend this Valentine’s Day, I hope you are kind to yourself. Love yourself up. You are blummin wonderful, unique and very special. The world would be a sadder place without you and your gifts. You are one of life’s treasures after all.

Until the next time,

Big love,
Sam Toft x

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Snowdrops for Grandpa Ray

I’ve just finished reading The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman and I feel much better thank you. It was an easy and compelling read, which is good as I don’t have the hugest concentration span. I found it inspiring, grounding and comforting at a time when I’ve felt lost and adrift. And I was delighted to find that there were so many extra gifts in the acknowledgements, where the writer shares how hard it is to write a novel and how many people helped him knowingly or unknowingly along the way. I absolutely love my job but I find it hard to do what I do. It’s sometimes so hard that I need to find new ways of doing it. And at times like these I really am grateful for all the love that surrounds me. The kindness, help, support and good fortune that snuggles me up like a favourite blanket.

So, there are changes afoot. And Oooooh I don’t like changes! There’s so much comfort in the familiar, and shaking things up makes me feel quite wobbly. But I really do need this and if I had a superpower I think it would be my way of finding different ways of doing the same thing… 

It’s not News but I will say it again. January has seen the final closure of my dear Little Mustard Shop in Brighton. There’s heartbreak there as many of you will know. And as I’m cutting back there will be fewer new works available through Sam Toft Originals and no Big Show planned for 2022. Furthermore after the loss of Grandpa Ray, there’ll be a paring back of items available from Nan’s MustardShop mailorder in Cornwall 

But just so it’s not all gloom ‘n doom, I’ve had a few new ideas I’d love to tell you about. There will be further details in my newsletter mid-February, so if you know someone who may be interested you could ask them to sign up to this email list? Rachel and Nan are running out of time to be answering so many direct messages…

This is what we have in store:
 

LITTLE MUSTARD CLUB

One of the things I am learning is that I can’t be all things to all people. And if I am to continue to effortlessly create pictures, sculptures and stories for The Wonderful World of Mustard, I need to find a way of doing less (but offering more). Following the sad closure of my Brighton shop, we are creating something more. As the song goes (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?), from the ashes of destruction grow the roses of success. 

Introducing Little Mustard Club!

We will be using the social media accounts from the little shop (Instagram @littlemustardclub and Facebook) to host our Little Mustard Club. But as I’m an old fashioned sort, we are also planning a lovely little welcome pack to be sent to your door. There will be monthly prizes online (via email and Instagram), members only offers and hopefully one or two exclusive events with us at my own private studio near the sea. We have no idea of what to expect this year in terms of face to face meetings, so our ‘in person’ plans may be subject to change. But the LittleMustardClub online will initially run for 2022 and then we can review for 2023.

We have no wish to be super busy with thousands of members. Little Mustard Club will be a very limited affair and run from my studio by a wonderful woman called Amber Elise (whose name some may recognize from the social media). A talented painter, print maker, mural creator, designer and until recently she ran her own shop, Little Shop Bristol. Amber now lives in Brighton and alongside her own creative pursuits she also curates my Dog & Bone Gallery (recently featured in the Guardian!). Working together we will bring you exclusive content (via social media and email newsletters) and studio events where possible. Right now, as we begin to dream up welcome packs for our 1st March launch, you could register your interest by emailing TELL ME MORE to littlemustardclub@gmail.com. We are firming up the details and I will send another email mid February with all the news and then it’s over to Amber, you lucky people! Our initial thoughts are that we could take about 50-ish members a month, costing you around £50 a year whenever you join, the welcome pack would be worth around £40 and comes with monthly giveaways, at least one studio event, insider info, exclusive content and dare I say it, this would be an perfect gift.
 

THE NEW MUSTARDSHOP ONLINE

We are planning to scale down the items available at our online shop at www.samtoft.co.uk Focusing more on bespoke items, exclusive remarques and self published prints. And we will be launching 4 more exclusive prints in tiny editions in the near future. I believe there are thousands of outlets online where you can buy SamToft products the world over. We can’t compete with the quick service, free postage and keen prices you’d get from Amazon and the like, and neither do we want to. Nan will continue to offer beautifully wrapped packages with little extras and genuine authentic Sam Toft products but she wishes to be less busy, so we will be phasing out all of the products you can buy elsewhere (we will be suggesting alternative mail order retailers). My sister who runs Mustard Hampers now has a very successful coaching business and will be spending less time and energy in Mustardland. In my next newsletter I will lay out our plans more fully.

BOGUS/FAKE MUSTARDS

There are more and more companies and individuals producing fake merchandise of inferior quality. I have neither the energy nor the desire to follow these up. The fraudsters have a big impact on the legitimate publishers’ businesses and their ability to continue producing high quality items. If you buy from unrecognized suppliers you will be receiving inferior goods, I will not be receiving any royalty and the cheeky chancers will be making money illegally. But hasn’t it always been the way? It is infuriating but I could also choose to view it as the ultimate in flattery. And as suppliers are constantly changing, many resell work unofficially and most do not have the full range, it is not practical for me to offer lists of bona fides. In my next newsletter I will introduce a very short list of my favourite suppliers (who stock a large range of items and offer excellent customer service – let me know by return if you think you should be on my list) and a contact to report suspicious activities to!

In the mean time if you would like to receive a copy of my new book Keep On Keeping On (a limited edition of 1000 self published copies made November last year, a third of which now remain) please contact City Books Brighton for a signed copy. They also have the last of my 2022 calendars and offer mail order. Or if it is part of another purchase (Nan won’t be sending out individual books) there are a small number gorgeous greyboard hardbacks in adorable little cloth gift bags on MustardShop. There is no other way to get these other than through my website. But they may be offered among the monthly giveaways to members of Little Mustard Club. Just for saying.
 



I saw snowdrops and celandines on my walk yesterday. 

Hope springs eternal. 

Until we meet again.

Sam x

Follow us on social media for more regular updates

Sign up for our occasional newsletter at MustardShop or Sam Toft Originals to find out the news about our new Mustard Club and the availability of original work as it comes available. No commissions.

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A Seasonal Greeting from Me to You

It’s nearly Christmas again. These are strange times and sometimes it can be hard. I am always glad to hear when my work brings a smile (or a few tears when they are needed). We are all coping in our own ways, being as brave and hopeful as we can. One thing is certain: we are all in this together. And my main reflection on another strange year is how kind people can be. The people who really matter. You know the ones.

I am sorry this is not as bubbly a missive as is my custom. Like many other families, ours has had a sad bereavement.

Nan has closed Mustard Shop online until the New Year.

Mustard Hampers have sent their last packages for 2021.

And during December we have our final pop up at Little Mustard Shop Brighton.

The little shop at 33 Clifton Hill has been a sandwich shop, a butcher’s, a stationers, a general store, and a dream come true for me: my very own little gift shop. But in January we are handing the shop back to our lovely landlord. I have joyful memories of setting it up with friends. Renovating the frontage, putting in a new tiled step, painting it in luscious shades of dark green and old gold, choosing antique brass handles for the door, fitting the lovely little window shelves, watching the signwriter work his magic. We have so enjoyed our time there. For a while I’ll have a little hole in my heart where the shop used to be, but thank to all who managed to pay us a visit, and to the wonderful staff…. I wonder who (or what) will move in next?

My work continues to sell well all over the globe. It’s such a strange and wonderful position to be in as you might imagine. As a younger person I often felt I was odd and had trouble fitting in. But as I grew I toughened up (a bit!) and created an imaginary painted world where I felt safe. That this communicates itself to so many people around the world is a constant surprise and delights me still. And if there are any budding dreamers out there I’ll say, don’t give up. It took many many years for me to become an overnight success.

There are copies of my new limited edition book Keep On Keeping On and 2022 calendars available by mail order at City Books Hove.

Bronze figures and ceramic Doris dogs are still being sent out from Panter and Hall London. There are lots of limited edition prints at the publishers CollierDobson; greetings cards from Art Press (we have free e-cards); posters mugs canvas prints calendars and stationery at Art Group. But nothing further from us direct this year. There are no more original pictures or drawings available anywhere until I get back to work sometime in the new year. I think it will be a slow one. I may have a little online show at samtoftoriginals late Spring but no plans.

Whatever challenges the new year brings, I know I will be strong enough to take them. At first it will be a time for drawing in and consolidating. There will doubtless be crazy new projects but for now I’m doing nothing more than walking, drawing and putting things in order. It’s a time for reflection and appreciating what has gone before.

Nan Mustard is doing well and wrapping parcels for the new year. And although her online shop is closed you can send condolences for the loss of Grandpa Ray to mustardshop@aol.com

I’ll leave you with this little film (Facebook | YouTube) made by my partner’s son Gabriel Alborough. A talented young film student and mature beyond his years I think. Just before filming I was crying on his shoulder at the entrance to the gallery. And then, from the emotional tatters he managed to come up with something as special as this.

Big hugs all round. Tomorrow is a new day after all.

Sam Toft

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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.