Thursday, 12 January 2012
The Lion Roars in Rye
William Morris's epithet of having nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful has never seemed more apposite than in the case of The Lion Street Store in Rye, East Sussex. Owned and operated by former milliner Sarah Benton, the shop has been open only a few short months, but it has clearly already attracted a huge following which spreads far beyond the ancient Cinque Port town. Situated just down from the historic St Mary's church which crowns the Rye skyline, Sarah has created a light and airy space and stocked it with objects of desire which are a feast for the eyes and the senses. The best in contemporary-designed items effortlessly blend with carefully-chosen vintage pieces, all of them bought together with an assured sensibility which makes the shop such a mecca for all who hanker for the unique and the unusual in their home. With all the panache of a Bawden vignette for Fortnum and Mason, Nicholas Frith's masterful logo of the sailors and the friendly lion perfectly captures the mood of the shop, as elsewhere, fabric dolls by Jane Foster and textiles by Lisa Stickley sit alongside one-off toy theatres by Emily Warren. Knitted creatures by Donna Wilson become the outriders in a vintage Triang truck, whilst distressed children's desks open to reveal their treasures. Sarah shares with her customers a passion for the miraculous images of the likes of Robert Taverner and Edwin La Dell, and the card racks overspill with the cream of British 20th-century printmakers. Wire baskets are packed with handwoven Irish blankets, fashioned from recycled wool, whilst elsewhere are screen-printed boy and girl-shaped cushions that somehow evoke the days of 'Look and Learn' and the Ladybird series of books so beloved of our childhoods. In the coming months, Sarah hopes that the store will become a regular venue for literary and musical events, and is keen to organise one-off specialist exhibitions of artists and craftspeople. With a contemporary eye fixed firmly on the sensibilities of similar institutions such as St Jude's Gallery, Loop in Islington and Old Town in Holt, Sarah's conviction that people deserve to have the very best in British art and craft is everywhere evinced at the Lion Street Store. The ancient town of Rye has never seemed so fortunate to have this newcomer in her midst; I urge you to beat a path to its' lovely painted portal.
The Lion Street Store. 6 Lion Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7LB