indian-restaurant

The Great Taj, a longstanding relic of the Norwich Restaurant, has closed it’s door indefinitely.

Whilst this may be bad news for the Asian foodies in our great city here ( I especially enjoyed dining on the Sunday night scraps that were left in their juicy bins) this does mean that a new establishment will be moving in to their vacated premises.

For Art Scavengers such as myself, this presents a magnificent opportunity to get hold of some truly unique materials that hold a real story.

indian-restaurant


Around 5 years ago, when long-standing Italian eatery Gesppaco’s shut down, the entire restaurant was completely gutted out. Tables, chairs, sheets, cutlery, decorations, wallpaper. All the trappings of a typical Tuscany style restaurant were ripped from the building wholesale and dumped in a massive skip out the back. For a good three weeks a constant stream of wonderful materials appeared and disappeared from that skip: a veritable treasure trove of one-of-a-kind textiles and objects. The construction workers there must have been confused by the seemingly endless amount of space in that skip, for the entire build they didn’t once have to empty it.

The walls of my studio are still adorned with the white checked table cloths from that particular establishment, charming rural frescoes of Italian life line my toilet room and I hope the novelty sized pepper grinder never runs out of pepper – because God knows, I don’t have enough money to buy any more.

I grew close with the Rajmapurras, who owned The Great Taj, over the decade that they ran the place. I like to think they admired my entrepreneurial spirit paired with my debonair charm, but I think they probably saw me as somewhat of a charity case.

gepaccos

From my brief travels in India, I recall that the local people I met there had very kind hearts, their charitable demeanour went hand-in-hand with their strong sense of morality: this is something the Rajmapurras took with them to Norwich, and something I’ll always be grateful for.


I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to those people. Their van, packed with all their worldly possessions, left Norwich at some point during the evening on a Saturday – whilst I was halfway through a Weekend Visitation with an Art Fan.

skipPushed out by the rising demand for High-End Hipster Style Restaurants and, unwilling as they were to adapt to online delivery systems, hopelessly outdated – they were wonderfully friendly people who were simply in the wrong business.

On my Sunday morning reconnaissance walk, I stood for a few minutes outside the front of the restaurant. Before the construction crews got in to tear the place apart, I wanted to see what it was like on the inside. All these years, taking the scraps from their kitchen, I’d never stepped foot into the restaurant. After a quick look around, I slipped a card through the lock and let myself in for the first time.

cutleryIt was as if the place was still waiting for service to begin. The Rajmapurras must have forgotten they were leaving, because they’d cleaned and tidied the place as if they were going to be returning that day for another evening service. Shining cutlery lay, ready for use next to the thick embroidered place mats that covered each table.

My hands automatically reached out and started touching everything. Every shining surface, engraved frosted glass divider, table cloth and laminated menu. I was eager to start taking art materials, but something stopped me.

I had no qualms with breaking in to the place, it was empty and nothing of real value was left there, but it still felt wrong – disrupting the perfect order that had reigned there for so many years before.

After taking one last look, eyeing up some things to grab from the skip on Monday night, I let myself out and shut the door behind me.

oxfam

Used clothes make for magnificent textile cut offs.

In the throes of mid-winter, they also make wonderful components for blankets, towels – as well as larger versions of the aforementioned objects.

oxfamWhen living an alternative lifestyle, such as myself, it’s important to take advantage of absolute advantage of anything the streets throw at you. You never know what wonders are lurking around the next corner.

During winter, whilst rummaging through bags outside Oxfam, I made one of the biggest finds of my treasure hunting career thus far. All I was hoping to find was maybe a woollen cardigan, or perhaps some blanketing materials. What I discovered would go on to change my perspective on the fashion and art world in a  very real way…and would also provide me with some blanketing materials.

pile-of-bagsHunting through bins might seem like dirty work to some, but there’s really a knack to it that many don’t understand.

Once you’ve opened up as many bins as I have, you’ll understand that, within the myriad patterns of creases and folds, there is a language. A language that tells us just what is inside that bag and whether or not it’s worth cutting open or not.

donations-clothesSoft bulges indicate clothing, a sure thing. Where as peaks and deep troughs in the polyethylene usually suggest glass, or cardboard – things that should be generally avoided unless you’re looking to create a mixed-medium project.

On a recent hunting trip, I was hitting up the charity shops on an early Monday morning.

Most people drop their unwanted clothes off on Sunday afternoon, although the majority of well meaning philanthropists are a little too late, so they end up dropping big bin bags of lovely stuff on the front doors of these shops. If you get to these establishments before the staff arrive at around half 8, then you can peruse the bags at your leisure and take the best items for yourself.

This particular morning, I hit the jackpot.

happy-dude
Three massive, doughy looking sacks were waiting for me when I got to Oxfam. Stuffing the rest of the Steak Bake into my mouth, I eagerly started cutting open the sacks, to see what goodies I had earned. The contents were initially puzzling. Tiny versions of expensive looking things filled the bags – brand names tugged and pulled at my eyes.

BOSS. Kenzo. Billybandit. Karl Lagerfield. Oilily. Ermanno Scervino. Little Marc Jacobs. Timberland.

smart-kids
All these names jumped out at me. As I started to run my fingers through all the tiny outfits, I was overcome with a giddy sense of accomplishment. These were the finest materials I’d had my hands on for a very long time. My mind boggled at the possibilities of blanket designs that I could realise with this stash of goodies. I quickly gathered the mass of clothes in my arms and scurried back to the studio to begin my work.bin-liners

When I got home and hung out all the tiny dinner jackets, parkers, baby-grows and blazers – a pang of guilt somehow made it’s way into my heart.

These clothes were beautiful, they didn’t deserve to be hacked up to create my bedding. They deserved to be worn by kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. I almost took them back, before I considered consulting the Internet. After logging in at the Library, I discovered that not only were high-end children’s clothes flooding the market – but children were better dressed today than they had ever been.

col-kidsFrom an online version of Oxfam’s used clothes store, to an entire online shop dedicated to childrens designer wear, kids have never had more options as far as clothes go. Of course, the price of the goods were more than any child would reasonably afford, but that’s what parents are for, right?

After assuaging my guilt, reminding myself that my warmth and security is probably more important than some child’s street cred, I happily tore every single outfit to shreds and spent the next two week stitching together an unholy brand-aware Frankenstein of a blanket.

I sleep in it every night and I’ve never felt more fashionable.