Cornish life, cut with a creative knife...

Inspired by our Cornish surroundings, local events,

By Lexis Place, Mar 17 2017 05:02PM

I often have a lot to say about big corporations and why I am not overly fond of them! Having worked as a chef for many years I got to see some truly remarkable small businesses selling genuinely loved produce, whether it was a veg man that could talk for hours about why Seville Oranges are the only ones for marmalade or the cleaning chemicals man that would mix solutions to suit our particular restaurant, safety being paramount of course. I found sole traders and small businesses to be a group of people you wanted to talk to, it often felt more like mutual brainstorming than a necessity preferably avoided.

It would be wrong of me to wax lyrical from a one sided opinion, so I was also fortunate enough to work for a larger business that had more corporate traders, still from an independent position but as a high quantity buyer looking for the perks that come from larger companies. The experience was frustrating and mildly tenebrous, small ‘perks’ were laden with minute changes of cost that when spread through thousands of items ultimately added up to thousands. To keep on top of each daily financial change could have been a full time job and thats before taking into account “sales”, flash specials and substitutes. Don’t get me wrong some of the sales people we had visit were really friendly and a joy to know, but the subtle inner workings had to be checked and double checked at every turn. If they could cut a corner and save a few pence, regardless of the consequences, they would. For example I regularly had to check that meat products weren't Halal because it was cheaper to buy and could be sold for a similar price of it’s more ethically sound equivalent. The same applies for non perishable products too, the small glass vials that cost about £2.00 for twenty are a wonderful price for an independent trader, but if it comes from a distant land where a six year old is stood for fourteen hours over burning stove making them, I have to question whether thats a faceless cooperation looking to make better margins from exploitation or whether it’s legitimately providing an income for desperately impoverished families.

I learned to respect that such companies had their place in business, they do employ a lot of people and they do give businesses a regular sustainable supply chain for higher volumes of turn out, businesses can only grow as fast they can replenish goods and services. On occasion they may even help with cash flow and allow you to borrow from ‘Paul to pay Paul’ to turn a phrase, making the whole process easier all round.

However, I feel like there is a disconnect happening with ‘big business’, they’re no longer trading goods for money, they’re trading money for more money. It’s not even hard cash anymore, it’s just an infinitely evolving series of numbers being shot through rubber bound wires, anchored by decimal points and being regurgitated thousands of miles away as binary glimpses from that hours action. It’s a cold way of dealing with products that go to people, products that can be life changing, life affirming or just a moments respite from the world around them. A good example of this disconnect is Coke, it takes three litres of water to make one litre of Coke, that water has to come from somewhere and more recently it’s coming from large lakes in Canada and America, but there is a lesser known story of a village in India that is in the process of court proceedings against Coke because they drained the entire water supply through bore holes and wells. This case has been rumbling since 2001 and only as recently as 2014 had some form of result, all be it nothing quite as substantial as the losses the villagers suffered. Coke Cola has repeatedly denied any wrong doing, but have provided little conversation on the subject. I cant help but feel had the process not been so ‘black and white’ a solution more mutually beneficial could have been found and the suffering avoided.

Small and Local business have a fairly symbiotic relationship with both customers and the surrounding area. An Art shop in a south western UK town for example is a place where passionate conversations can be had over meanings and uses of colour. The local coffee shop in a rural village can be a place where people get together in a warm welcoming environment, feeling better connected in an otherwise isolated environment. The independent hardware shop that if they don't have it will get you the best one all while sharing with you the little tips that are like finding gold nuggets in a panning dish. First hand opinions and experiences with products where they may advocate not for the most expensive item, but the one that best suits the person or situation. Captivating stories about how a piece was made take it from being just another self soothing purchase to something incredible, inspiring and uniquely fit for purpose, it’s value in years to come may not be enough to buy a new car or family holiday, but it will hold an eternal spirit that money doesn’t understand or hold court over. It can become something that will be passed along with subtle changes to its story until eventually it has a life all of its own, one day that story might inspire a young ‘daydreaming’ soul to break their shackles and make something amazing themselves. I doubt that will come from poorly re-printed, painfully generic, few quid knock offs that can be found almost anywhere with more than twenty parking spaces on the doorstep!

My good fortune is that I get to photograph these incredible pieces, lovingly made and uniquely presented. So I can say from the heart and after minute levels of inspection they are worth every penny!

Handmade is generally more expensive it’s worth questioning why though, is it expensive because the maker drives a Bentley and their children all go to Eton? Is it expensive because they go home and sit on a toilet of fine bone china, using gold leaf toilet paper? Is it expensive because they were watching X Factor and so charged you for the inconvenience of coming out? No, its expensive because it pays for a family to eat, stay warm, buy school shoes, go swimming, holiday and live. It’s expensive because it took time to imagine, research, learn, create, present and distribute, it’s expensive because it has care and attention to detail at it’s heart and whatever form taken it will be awe inspiring for years to come in ways unimaginable to us now. It’s also expensive because of customers, the fewer customers the extra a seller needs to charge in order to make ends meet. The more people that buy into artists, crafters, bakers, restaurants, builders, plumbers, carpenters, tailors and independent traders alike the cheaper they can get because of financial security and even just the drive to make and do. Most people selling their wears want to keep selling what they make whist providing for whomever relies on them, paying their way, living a normal life, and contributing something thats special and time immortal.

Supporting Small and local business can bring people together in a way that oligarchs playing real time Monopoly will take them apart; to support small/local business is to breathe new life, inspiration and connection to a society thats being prised apart by the unemphatic surge for bigger margins with relentless sales.

If you have a small business or would like to recommend one then please let us know, we love finding out about new sellers and service providers.


By Lexis Place, Jan 17 2017 11:29AM

Much like everyones handwriting is unique and revealing of a persons character, so too are drawing styles. Tiny, personal details of an artist are sacrificed as ink seeps into paper. The slightest wrist click from a badly timed ‘piggy back’ is secretly, indelibly inscribed on the page. This is a uniqueness that no other can replicate and no algorithm can automate. If paper is the mouthpiece of an artist then a good pen is the tongue, adding depth and individuality to an otherwise ordinary piece of work.

Thats why we use this particular type of pens, but what did we think of the Uni-Ball ones? Well, they were really very good. The little jet black chariots full of ink came in various nib thicknesses, which is great as a 0.8 was too thick for delicate facial features, but a 0.1 is laborious for larger structural sections. They came in four different sizes, 0.1, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8 and we found a lot of what we do falls into the middle ranges, but the flexibility of different sizes makes for a more detailed and individual final piece.

We were recently sent a collection of Uni Ball fine liner pens to test out and give some feedback on. As a family we all like to draw, although with varying degrees of style and ability.

As a graphic designer though, Vicky uses all sorts of different pens, pencils and strange objects with comedic nick names; I still giggle whenever she asks to me to pass her the bibbly bobbly, neither of us can remember why she calls it that.

A small metal clasp is helpfully imbued to the pen lid for when a flight of ideas takes off and we end up in random places throughout the studio. I’ve also discovered it reaches perfectly between my shoulder blades, the bend in the clip has made hard to reach back scratching a one man job now!

They are comfortable to hold, with a slight mottled, matt finish that means the pen stays comfortable to grip even when palms get a little sweaty. They have a nice thickness, I personally find that a thicker pen feels clumsy and lethargic to move. Too thin and I feel like I should be at the top of a beanstalk waiting for a young man called Jack. That being said they do have a slightly harsh ‘set of steps’ that lead down to the nib this, after a time can become uncomfortable. Perhaps a smoother gradient and a touch more of the matt/mottled finish would help, you might have guessed I am strangely fussy about how pens sit in my hand.

The ink has lasted well and after a month they are still going strong, I am pleasantly surprised as Lexi discovered them shortly after they came and now insists on using them for everything from her latest masterpiece to doing her homework.

Have fun and by all means feel free to share your drawings with us, we’d love to see your work. Facebook is the best place to share you work with us.

Written by:


Photographer at Lexisplace

*UPDATE* I forgot to add a weblink to Uni-Balls officail page. Added Below.


By Lexis Place, Dec 4 2016 01:30PM

Technicolour beams of light pierced the misty air inside the Mediterranean Bio-Dome at Eden. Ethereal music filled the cavernous space where the light could no longer reach and a small crowd gathered to watch the band create a complimentary and all consuming ambience. Light and Sound woven together to create a rich tapestry that settled effortlessly on the senses of spectators.

The Sound of Light Ensemble were the perfect accompaniment to Chris Levines visual spectacular, gently carrying us all on a journey of subtle reflection through their tempered melodies and celestial choir. Time slowed and catharsis settled in, some took to laying down, a further escape into the delicate intersections created by the celestial light and imbued sense of calm. For others feet stopped shuffling, children sat still and chatter dulled to a faint whisper as the effects became more tangible.

On the outer edges of Edens hemispheric bubbles are lasers that caress the entire of the former quarries landscape, light touches all it can reach from the highest tree tops to the often shadowed sculptures. The outer surfaces of the bio domes are cloaked in lights also, giving them perspective and simultaneously offering a perfect framing for the abstract symposium emitted from within. The overall effect was a multi-coloured vision that few could conceive let alone realise. Even the WEE Man sculpture got dedicated roving streaks of green, casting it into a futuristic silhouette that made it’s presence all the more prominent and explicit.

Eden is already somewhere that has a special place for us, we have spent many days there and we all find it a place of equal parts wonder and inspiration. Somewhere that learning happens by accident and curiosity is nurtured and emboldened as carefully as the huge variety of life that surrounds Eden.

We all look forward to many more such events and will definitely be returning for more of the Light and Sound experience.

By Lexis Place, Nov 27 2016 01:49AM

After a nerve racking year the Truro light festival went ahead and was superb. The theme “tell me a story” was encapsulated perfectly by the resident artists and attending school children alike, combinations of gigantic willow weaved marvels and gentle mood setting smaller pieces coming together for a procession of lanterns that is truly a sign of Cornwall residents creative flair.

Layered in between the lanterns were light lashed dancers, marching bands and even a lady twirling curved light batons as though she was a 21st century Samurai.

Huddled in bustling groups the spectators mingled an hour or so before the parade, the rows only got deeper and deeper as we waited. Old and young stood in the bracing coastal wind drinking hot chocolates, chatting idly and cuddling fur lined coat collars.

Funding difficulties had left the future of the twenty year event hanging in the balance. Costs of £42,000 for crowd controls and other costs had left the event looking like it wasn’t going to ‘be’ back in August this year, but with the injection of funding from local businesses and other notable outlets like the Truro City Council and the Business Improvement District it did, to the relief of many. An option had been floated earlier in the year to hold the event as a static festival in the local Victoria Park, although a pleasant location the theatrical brilliance of a parade is what makes this community event really special.

The support offered by the public for the parade was humbling and very much appreciated. I watched as a homeless, bongo playing gentlemen who had earned a few silver ‘nuggets’ stopped one of the bucket rattlers to offer his share towards the evening. Many revellers happily stopped to chat with the ‘Bongo’ man, stroke his dog and wish him well, his thanks was also touching.

Gazing around the scene in front of me the troubles of daily life melted away for this night and its message of beauty in tradition and the importance of creativity in adversity. Three generations of our family watched and were left with an indelible impression of the magic light and community can create, leaving us with our own story to tell many times over.

The City Of Lights Festival organisers are hopeful that the charitable donations from this years event will go someway to enabling its return next year. Much the same as this year it’s future is still uncertain, although hope remains that this fairly infant tradition will be around for generations to come, inspiring the children of tomorrow to realise the great big dreams they harbour inside their wonderful minds.

By Lexis Place, Nov 18 2016 09:30PM

View From the Sound and Lighting Stage at the Minack Theatre
View From the Sound and Lighting Stage at the Minack Theatre

Rowena Cade

On the cragged edges of an exposed cliff peak sits an agonisingly almost finished odeum, grand in stature and unassuming of nature. The Minack theatre has been a sought after venue for many productions, the unheard of aspire to play there and a venue of choice for more seasoned theatrical productions.

It has a story of success through adversity that would rival many of the great playwrights best efforts, a love story flecked with moments of quiet elation and equal parts bitter loss. The tame crescendo being a marriage of balanced books and powerful lasting memories. A journey covering 80 years of dogged grit and determination, culminating in something truly remarkable with an essence of eternal life.

Rowena Cade was a slight lady with big ideas and a knack for creating something extraordinary from the humblest beginnings. Born in 1893 to a cotton mill owner, she spent her childhood in Devon, a self confessed ‘tom boy’ the outdoors presented the perfect setting for an enigmatic mind. She told a story of climbing through her bedroom window onto waiting tree branches only to fall from top to bottom landing with a thump. Her first taste of theatre came when her mother cast her in a production of “Alice Through The Looking Glass”, it was a resounding success drawing crowds of 27 and 43 across the two performances, though a far cry from the sort of audience sizes she would later attract, it cemented her love of theatre and productions.

The Cade family moved to Cheltenham in 1906 when her father retired, they moved to a small village where James Cade bought a house that was previously owned by the great novelist Sir Walter Scott. It was considered inevitable they would move to there as her fathers brother was Headmaster at the Cheltenham Junior School and her mother was born there. They lived an idilic life, quiet, comfortable, nothing of any significance happened while there. It was the outbreak of war in 1914 that shattered life as they knew it, like many others the family was cruelly splintered. Rowena worked at the Sir John Gilbey estate as a selector and breaker of horses destined for the front line in France and Belgium. Her father went off to fight alongside his brothers in arms, sadly he didn't return. The Cade family were left in mourning and missing its patriarch, her mother sold the family home and moved them back down to South West England, with a family line dating back some 300 years it seemed fitting to return. The next few years were fitful and restless, never staying long in any one place, renting all the while.

Whilst living in the village of Lamorna she came across a cliff top section of lower Cornwall, just a stones throw away from Lands end. She paid the relatively grand sum of £100 (around £11,000 in todays money) and she brought Minack Head. Rowena set about the building of a house for them using granite sourced from the local St Leven Quarry, she would later extend the house to accommodate her sisters return from Australia.

She joined a drama group, entertainment that far down south was mostly ‘homemade’ and they put on a production of “A Midsummer Nights Dream”. She didn’t have a speaking part in the play, instead immersing herself with all the important goings on backstage, decorating, sewing costumes, she had a flair for creative crafting. One of the plays faeries recalled a time when Rowena was in a field hurriedly altering costumes with her sewing machine nestled in the grass at the eleventh hour. The play was a success, enough to inspire them into putting on another performance the following year. With a new found confidence they decided on “The Tempest”, but having thoughts that the same venue might not have the same feel for this particular works and other potential venues being potentially too small, Rowena tabled using Minack Head. The serious, dramatic backdrop would be more fitting and space for seating was ample. Everyone agreed and work began creating the first theatre for their play. It took Rowena and the others six months to build their first crude staging, it was lit with car head lights powered by Minack House fed through long wires and whatever batteries they could find. Hurdles clambered over, another successful performance ensued. Rowena and her gardeners, Billy Rawlings and Charles Thomas, set to work building something bigger and more permanent. Rowena became an apprentice and labourer, together they ferried rocks, sand, soil and stone to create a seating area and the stages. Every winter for the next seven years Billy, Charles and Rowena would make progressive changes and touch ups to their ever evolving venue. Rain, wind or snow didn't hinder the ceaseless growth of the Minack. Years of performances had earned a good reputation as a unique theatrical destination.

However, Rowena was to be dealt another blow as war had broken out again. She took on the role of billeting officer this time around, consoling children and parents alike as they were moved to relative safety outside of London. The Minack was in a prime location for mounted sea defences in case of German invasion, the land was seized and cordoned off to the public with barbed wire. A pill box was erected and manned constantly, if the opportunity presented itself she would crawl under the barbed wire and tend the grass. At the end of the war a film company wanted to use the sight for a new project they had. They had heard of the Minack prior to war starting and felt it would be perfect for their film “Love Story” with Stewart Grainger and Margaret Lockwood. They were plagued with storms and eventually abandoned the site in favour of a replica studio mock up with less problems to overcome. Prisoners Of War were sent in to dismantle and clear away what was left of the Armies defences. A combination of so many people and forced neglect had rendered the theatre almost unrecognisable, it was likened to its earliest stages of set up. Rowena and Billy were left with a shell and the prospect of starting from the beginning. Tackling it with the dedication and tenacity of sculptors they began the hard process of rejuvenating their labour of love. The reputation was spreading again with more visitors and many groups were looking to perform there, it had become something of an iconic location for amateur dramatics societies. With its ever growing crowds Rowena and Billy decided that it was time separate the Minack Garden from the Theatre. A 90 step pathway was constructed that led from the shoreline to the penultimate head, huge granite rocks were hauled to the top throughout the early fifties, finally separating the two parts.

Rising costs and dwindling budgets had left Rowena and Billy unable to afford more granite, ever the problem solver Rowena would carry sacks of sand up from the beach at Porthcurno to use in the cement. She had developed a technique of carving intricate patterns into the cement just as it was about to set. This method was applied to shape the many hundreds of seats that adorned the Minack, each had a title from one of that years plays and their respective dates.

Billy died in 1966, Rowena had a single seat with his name carved in by way of a memorial to her visionary assistant. Tom Angrove became her new builders mate, eventually retiring in 1993 some ten years after her passing. He recalled how she would carry bags of sand all day, in all weathers, only residing herself to a car in later life. One story he shared was of 15ft wooden beams salvaged from the shore at Porthcurno, it had washed up from the wreckage of a Spanish Ship. She carried each beam up by hand, again from bottom to top, perhaps attempting to reverse her childhood bedroom escapology attempts. Customs officials came asking after the wood, they approached Rowena and asked if she had seen it. She politely told them that she had and that she had taken it up to the theatre. She invited them to come up and see for themselves. They declined, scoffing that a “frail looking woman” such as herself couldn't possibly have managed such a feat and they left. Whilst carving the wood for use as a changing room she remarked to Tom “well I didn't tell them a lie now did I”.

Year on year the Minack was tweaked and changed, with every nail and step placed to better suit its performers and patrons. Her pioneering cement work is still in use today, a testament to her innovative mind. In the later part of her life Rowena brought a cottage and some land around the Minack, this gave the opportunity to build the ticket office and increase the parking again. She died in her mid eighties leaving all that she had created to a trust fund that had been set up for the Minack. She tried in vain to get the National Trust and a London drama school to invest in the Minack, but no one was biting due to the unattractive takings. She did manage to get a short period of help from The National Council of Social Services, but they withdrew support after three years of negative profits. She carved out her final years work on a meagre budget, using her determination and her acute sense of ‘the show must go on’ to continue.

Her work didn't finish with death either, after she passed sketches and intricate notes were left. Ideas of how to cover the Minack during rain and other inclement weather were left in her stead. As of yet no one has taken up the plans and assert her final designs.

The Trustees took the reigns and built a coffee shop, ticket office and small story board history of this incomparable location. After many years of not making money, Rowena often had to top up the years takings with her own money, the Minack is earning it’s keep, opening up the venue to day time visitors has been a master stroke. With 150,000 visitors each year the venue and its many intricacies are marvelled at by young and old alike. In addition 80,000 people visit each year to watch a play, the backdrop of closing sun and rising moon, coupled with live music and a warm blanket provides a night of entertainment more unique than even its creator could have envisaged. It certainly would have been many a playwrights muse.

The enduring philosophy is to carry on the noble direction Rowena had journeyed, by providing good quality production that is varied and to a high standard. It’s open to anyone who will strive for perfection, whether a small unheard of amateur group or a large theatrical production. Its final goal is to keep the Minack a venue affordable to all, whilst still maintaining the site and improving it year after year.

To have built such a vast, complex structure in an open area of imposing Cornish cliff edge shows a courage of conviction I can only admire, to do it twice after seeing it trampled the first time shows a tenacity and drive that anyone can aspire to. The small, frail lady that built a grandiose, hearty theatre for all to enjoy will forever be cemented into history as a heroic visionary with a back bone of iron and the will to match.

View Down to Porthcurnow From the top of the Minack Beach Path
View Down to Porthcurnow From the top of the Minack Beach Path

Winding stairs roped off to the public
Winding stairs roped off to the public

View from the "Gods" seats at the Minack
View from the "Gods" seats at the Minack

The infinite backdrop of the Minack Stageing
The infinite backdrop of the Minack Stageing

The Minnack Stage
The Minnack Stage

The ingenious incsribed seating area
The ingenious incsribed seating area

It's like a woven concrete tapestry.
It's like a woven concrete tapestry.

Grassed seating that covers the other seating section
Grassed seating that covers the other seating section

Testament to vision, this was hanging vertically on the wall!
Testament to vision, this was hanging vertically on the wall!

Succulent from the garden at the Minnack
Succulent from the garden at the Minnack

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