A new way forward
April 29, 2022
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?
February 13, 2022
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 firstname.lastname@example.org ). 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 email@example.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,
Sam Toft x
February 02, 2022
It was so sad to make the final visit to my shop. All those memories like ghosts lurking beneath the layers of paint. It was my dream and I did it. I should be proud of that. But I could not bear to close it up myself… I am ever so grateful to Amber who organised it all. And with her help we are creating a Little Mustard Club to take flight in March. It could be exciting …
January 31, 2022
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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