Surprise trip to Rochester

A great destination for a day trip getaway from London is Rochester –
a small picturesque town on the river Medway, just 50km from London.
I was taken there for my surprise birthday trip this year.

My favourite birthday present is an experience of some kind – better even an exploration trip to somewhere new. So, already for a few years, I have been getting little hedonistic adventures as birthday presents. Last year ending up in the lovely seaside town of Whitstable and this year, the surprise destination turned out to be Rochester!

The excitement was high, as I got taken on the train at the busy Victoria train station, desperately trying to ignore any kind of hints and announcements as of where the train would be heading, not to spoil the surprise for myself. An hour or so of secretly guessing, it was time to get off the train, discovering ourselves in the marvel of Kent.
Being blessed with the first Summery weather of the year, the sun was shining brightly, making everything look even better, as it does.

RochesterThe high street of this cute little town is something to see – lined with small boutiques and cafés with the abundance of antique and charity shops. Wish we had time to search for the hidden treasures!

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Our first stop happened to be at Fieldstaff Antiques – the lovely little boutique filled with wonders of the bygone days, which I left with a few pairs of beautiful vintage gloves.

The historic town has over time been occupied by Celts, Romans, Jutes and Saxons, bearing quite an important role from early times.

As the main points of interest, I would name the gorgeous architectural masterpiece of Rochester Cathedral and the ruins of Rochester Castle.

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The Cathedral originates from AD 604, the current architectural shape was finished in 1343. The gorgeous Cathedral is a masterpiece from inside and out.

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Rochester Castle, with the 12th-century keep, served as a strategically important royal castle in the medieval times. It saw action in the siege in 1264 and has been in ruins ever since. Currently, the castle grounds are open to the public as a park and it is possible to climb up the ruins for a great view of the Cathedral and the riverside. Just remember to wear comfy shoes!

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For the dinner we were recommended to check out Topes restaurant, just next to the castle – the atmosphere looked lovely and relaxed, but unfortunately, many people thought the same – if you want to get a place there, have to book a few weeks in advance!
Instead, we ended up at Elizabeth´s Restaurant at the other end of the High Street.  Although a bit too fancy at the first glimpse with its pristine white tablecloth, the fresh seafood menu, accompanied by the crisp white wine, really indulged our taste buds.

Rochester is especially known for the historic May Day dancing chimney sweeps tradition with the famous parade going down the High Street. Should remember to check it out next year!

Riina O at London Craft Week

The first week of May welcomed the third edition of London Craft Week.

Riina O had an honour to participate in the Leather exhibition, organised by Bill Amberg at the Leathersellers Hall. Hand-picked as one of the fourteen Britain´s finest independent leatherworkers, the selection included saddlers, sculptors, bag makers, bookbinders, cordwainers, etc.

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During three days, between 4-6th of May, the Leather exhibition was held at the place most suitable for it – the freshly renovated Leathersellers Hall. Completed just last Summer, the hall designed by Eric Parry and finished by Bill Amberg leatherworkers team, the interiors include such details as walls and even the elevator interior covered in veg tan leather, combining the Leathersellers Company´s six-century history with modern luxurious interiors. The London Craft Week Show offered one of the first opportunities for members of the public to set foot inside.

Riina O demonstrated the best of our glove collections, where ages old craftsmanship has been joined with modern technological advantages. The making process could be witnessed at the display of the deconstructed gloves and work tools, as well as at the craft presentation.

deconstructed gloves

On Saturday it was even possible for the public to try the glove making at Riina´s masterclass of a modified design of an archery glove with just two fingers.

The exhibition was supported by the Leathersellers´ partner livery companies, including the Glovers Livery and it was a real pleasure meeting them in person again.

Riina with livery master

Riina O exhibiting at London Crafts Week!

If you are in London this week, head over to the Liverpool Street neighbourhood, as 5-6th of May 2017 Riina O is showing at the Leathercraft exhibition at the Leathersellers Hall.

Located at 15 St Helens Place, you can find the best of the British leathercraft.

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I will be running the craft presentation today and the archery gloves workshop tomorrow.

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Don´t miss out!

Riina O in Oslo

Riina O in Oslo

Riina O was invited to Oslo by The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet to run the glove making workshop during their Prøverommet event.

Handcrafting soft leather gloves is a centuries-old skill, going back to the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, during the last half century, the tradition has started to vanish due to the labor-intensiveness and mechanisation.  Only a few skilled professionals around the world are currently practising the art of making gloves by hand.

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It would be wonderful to bring the craft back in wider use and make it last.
I would love to see women and men using more gloves again, adding to their dressing code this mysterious and elegant accessory.

It was a real pleasure being part of this exciting craft event!

glove making workshop with gloves

Wellcome Collection

One of my favourite places in London is the Wellcome Collection with its curiosity cabinets.

Located at 183 Euston Road, London, it explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The venue hosts a museum with permanent and temporary exhibitions, the world-renowned Wellcome Library, the conference centre, a café with some great food and a very cool shop where it is possible to find many unusual gifts.

The Wellcome collection space was opened in 2007, but its story goes a lot further back to its founder Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936). Pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector, he made his fame and fortune by his extensive work in the pharmaceutical business. Being one of the first ones to introduce the medicine in the form of a tablet, Wellcome-funded scientists developed medicines to cure a number of important diseases, from tetanus to diphtheria.
In addition to the pharmaceuticals, Henry Wellcome had a passion for collecting unusual items and curiosities from around the world. His personal collection ranged to over a million of items, stacked away at the warehouse in Willesden. After his death, the Wellcome Foundation was established, which lead to the opening of the Collection over 70 years later.

I would like to specifically concentrate on the “Medicine Man” permanent exhibition, presenting the outright weird items from around the world. The extraordinary objects range from Victorian-era diagnostic dolls to Japanese sex aids, from the samples of tattooed human skin to antique artificial arms and legs.

This is quite a different exhibition to discover in London.

All images by Wellcome Collection / Rama Knight.

I have always been attracted to the mysterious wonders of the world, being captivated rather by the unusual than the well known regular things around us. One of my personal early childhood memories includes the blowfish carcass, from my father´s trips to Africa, displayed in the hallway cabinet. Even now our home is filled with the curiosities from around the world, brought back from my extensive travels. Often these are just random remarkable pieces of nature, such as a piece of bark from an exotic tree, a shell of a specific-looking nut or something more mysterious. If the space allowed, the collection would be a lot wider.
Inspired by the Wellcome collection (and other curiosity cabinets of this kind) I am looking to take this passion of mine further, continuing to collect the unusual items along the way and perhaps sharing the most remarkable finds online.

Tiny gloves for Whoopi Goldberg

Recently Riina O had the incredible occasion to collaborate on the pair of shoes made by the very talented Caroline Groves for the wonderful Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg!

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Whoopi Goldberg, best known for starring in a ´90s movie “Sister Act“, now a co-hostess of the TV talk show “The View” on ABC site, she is known to be a huge footwear fan.

These shoes by Caroline Groves are rather unique. Eash shoe is in contrasting monochrome colour. In addition to the tiny pair of Riina O gloves one of the shoes, it is also bearing a little top hat and a walking stick, while another sports a veiled bowler hat with a little scarf.

Caroline says, the inspiration for the shoes came from her earlier work that Whoopi was infatuated with. She suggested the one white and one black shoe. One with top hat to represent her show business background and a bowler hat on the other toe in memory of her mother who used to wear a bowler.

The other collaborators on this pair of shoes were the milliner Louise Pocock  and a silversmith Jessica Hickman-Woolcott , who made the tiny cane.

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Riina O mini gloves, seen in several of our recent Instagram posts, made it to the top of the shoes and onto the screen at “The View”.

See them live: