Artist's Journal

  • In The Time Of The Changing Of The Seasons

    Hallo Lovelies!

    Greetings from a busy busy studio by the sea!

    How’ve you been keeping?

    Well, I hope?

    Me? I’m feeling healthy, strong, and very grateful for that.

    I’ve been working away, keeping my head down, focussing on making things rather than the social media, so I’m sorry for the lack of postings.

    My newest newest News is that I have just (2 weeks ago) decided to make a new book… self publishing some of the quick little pen and ink drawings from this year’s sketch book diary for the first time. It’s a bit mad because I have so much else going on, but I couldn’t resist. Available from late November. And at the Show of course, more of that later.

    I always find it a strange, sad and exciting time, this change of Seasons. Is it just me? I’m never ready to move on, but I know I’ll love it when I get in the swing…

    Every day I walk with my dogs down to the studio. A short walk with the sea at the bottom of the hill. It’s a bit lovely. But every day I witness the plaintive cries of the almost-grown baby seagulls as they pester their parents to give them food. I know it’s nature but I always find it heartbreakingly sad. It has not yet occurred to them that a change is coming. They are only asking for food as they always have done, and it’s always worked before. But it’s time to move on. Things will never be the same for them again, and that jump from babyhood to adulthood can be a brutal one. It reminds me of the changes we have all been through over the last 18 months. It’s been shocking and awful and we’ve had little control over it. We’ve all been through it. And I’m hoping in time we will soar again. I feel it coming. But in the meantime I offer you a big virtual hug. It’s a time for finding pleasure in personal treasures. And I hope looking through some new pictures may brighten up your day too.

    I feel I should add a fanfare here as I am DELIGHTED to be back at Panter and Hall again this November. This solo show (cancelled once for cancer, once for Covid) feels like a comeback even though we’ve never really been away. Do you know what I mean?

    And as I have had to cancel my Little Mustard Shop show, this is the only opportunity to view original work in a gallery this year. Paintings Drawings Bronzes. And I’m planning a little book of drawings, sketching my life and times in the run up to the show. I’ll know more in a few weeks when I’ve finished the drawings. Neither have I finished the paintings. But three brand new bronzes are on the way. Blummin exciting.

    The London show runs from 23rd November to 3rd December. The work will be so fresh and new! I will be in the gallery two of the days and I really hope you can make it for the Private View on Tuesday 23rd and/or for the Grand Day Out on Saturday 27th. But if you can’t, there will also be a short film and an ecatalogue… Contact Panter and Hall direct if you are interested in buying and you’d like to receive the ecatalogue in advance. Or if you’d like to attend one of the open days. Once I have finished the paintings in a few weeks I will have some time and space to dream up some fun things for the Saturday event and I’ll send another email with all the details.

    I’ll leave you now and get on with my sketchings. I have Milo coming to make a short film Thursday and Innis coming to take some pictures Friday so obviously the most important thing is deciding which frock to wear and giving the dogs a good brush,

    All the very best,

    Sam x

  • These Are the Days

    Hallo friends!

    As has become customary I have a little story to tell you, but please scroll if it gets a bit silly. I’ll be in touch again in a week or so with details of the competition, giveaways and prizes.

    Once, many years ago, I was very interested in making a marionette and was lucky enough to attend a course with the BRILLIANT John Roberts. I took inspiration from a young storyteller I’d seen taking part in a show a few months before. Tall and delightfully gangly with a shock of bright ginger hair and small glasses, he looked rather like a teenage Mr Mustard.

    So I drew his slim white figure from my mind’s eye, and carved out his calves and thighs, feet, hips, arms and head with a wickedly sharp Chinese chisel. It was a miraculous tool. So smooth and easy to use. It cut through the wood like butter. Carving his face was like preparing Brussels Sprouts at Christmas. It was just THAT easy. It sent shivers down my spine every second it was in my hand. One moment’s daydream and there would be a spare finger on the floor I felt sure of it.

    The very thought gave me nightmares. I was determined to get over myself but the chisel, once wrapped carefully in many sheets of oiled rags, remained unvisited. And the half-finished puppet rests to this day in an old tin box on a shelf at my studio. Complete with all his accoutrements and my extravagant plans. The marionette was to be the star of his own show. The show was to be called Simon Smith and He’s Dancing Bare.

    A while later I found myself again at the very excellent Jane Bombane’s in Kemptown at another event, and I ran into the young storyteller once more. Without thinking (and that was my mistake) I approached him, excited to meet him properly. He was a storyteller and I had a unique story personal to him. He would love it. What could possibly go wrong?

    It soon became obvious he did not recall ever having seen me before. But I continued regardless.  For I am the Queen, nay the Tsarina, of the awkward situation.

    I will leave you to guess the details of the conversation we had. Less a conversation more of a stuttering monologue, as I dug myself deeper and deeper into a slippery hole with every phrase I uttered. Seeing the surprise, embarrassment then growing horror on this stranger’s face did nothing to slow me down as I bulldozed my way into the foundations of indecency.

    And why do I find myself telling you this story when I can hardly bear to think of it myself without cringing massively? It’s because of the COVID.

    We’ve all had such a terrible scare. It’s made me value my life in all its detail all the more. And to realize that THESE are the days. They are not times to be scared of, embarrassed about, secretive with. This is the very stuff of life and it is to be celebrated, treasured and laughed about.

    And I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. In a way I was only sharing ideas with my muse. And perhaps there was no skillful way explain to a total stranger how he’d inspired me to carve him naked out of wood with nothing to cover his modesty but the smallest smattering of an old fluorescent-orange feather boa.

    Possibly I can never visit Bombane’s again. Probably I gave a shy young man the fright of his life. Definitely I felt ridiculous, foolish and awkward. Thankfully it was a dark basement, no one else heard me, and I have never seen him again. And no one else knows, except for you.

    But THESE are the days... No matter how gut wrenchingly embarrassing, difficult or outofyourcomfortzone something may feel, may I urge you to go ahead and do it? Perhaps not something as ridiculous as I did, but don’t we all need to seize the day?

    I will leave you for now with a simple soup recipe and an entreaty to tell no-one about the contents of this email, which may well self destruct in three minutes,


    Sam Toft x

    Recipe Time

    Slowly fry a whole head of chopped celery and an onion in olive oil then add 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Next a few cubed root vegetables (a couple carrots, a potato, and half a turnip ?) and simmer with a stock cube, lots of water.

    A few chilli flakes and a generous shake of white pepper

    A handful of small pasta when the veg is tender and a bunch each of fresh parsley and basil chopped

    Salt to taste

    It’s simple and yummy

    A Portuguese man in his takeaway café told me it was his mother’s recipe. Tastes of home.

  • A Short Greeting Of The Season

    Hallo Friends,

    I felt like writing even though I have nothing in particular to say. I wanted to share just three short random paragraphs, and a hope to uplift with words and pictures without any clear knowledge of where any of it is going, or whether any of it is connected or makes sense at all. I’m sure you’ll let me know.

    I’ve been sitting with a mug of hot coffee listening to the crackles of sunlight sparkling on the waves at my local sea front café. Watching an adolescent herring gull as he desperately tries to coax a tasty morsel from his mother’s mouth. She flies away. He pecks at beach pebbles, fluffs his feathers and awaits her return. But again she moves away and pretends not to care. His cries are plaintive. She stands firm. The time has come for him to live or die by his own efforts. It’s a hard lesson that he does not want to learn. It’s painful to watch. And the natural world keeps on turning as if there were no huge crisis happening at all.

    It’s been a strange year, hasn’t it? There has been so much hardship, loss and suffering. And worse still there’s so little many of us can do about it. But I am naively optimistic as ever. And I’ve been trying to find space in my heart and mind to send out loving thoughts and wishes to those who don’t quite deserve it. You know the ones.

    I’m so grateful to have the companionship of my little budgie Almondine. This tiny bird has so much presence and spirit. He lives and plays, enjoying each moment without overthinking it, going about his daily business without seeming to worry what others may think. So small and powerless, fragile and fearless, his boldness is inspiring.

    I have lots of dreams for 2021 and hope you do too.

    See you on the other side,

    Stay safe,

    Sam Toft

  • What Have I Got To Say?

    What Have I Got To Say?

    Be Who You Be animated by

    What have I got to say?

    Well, I popped into a Turkish Barber on impulse last week. I noticed they were open as I was passing with my weekly shop in the wheelie trolley, and so I walked in. In general, I’m a bit scared of new hairdressers, but I suddenly felt an urgent need for a post lockdown tidy up. I sat in the unfamiliar chair with the proffered disposable mask and tried to look at ease. My barber had kind eyes and alarming eyebrows that were made all the more prominent by his huge white mask. The eyebrows were hairless and looked as if they’d been coloured-in with a thick stick of charcoal. Far too high on his head. And immovable. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

    He didn’t have much English, and what he had was muffled behind the mask. He seemed eager to get started though, clippers in hand, even before I’d had chance to discuss the intricacies of my New Look. Somewhere between a Rosemary’s Baby Mia Farrow and a Jean Seberg in A Bout de Souffle. I hadn’t got a lot to work with but I was definitely hopeful of something more sophisticated than a 1970’s skinhead. My eyes scanned the price list. A dry cut would set me back nine pounds, cash only. The barber was busy plugging in the clippers. I looked at the back of his head which was nut brown, mercifully devoid of eyebrows and instead shaved dangerously close. Was I in the right place?

    Sitting here now, safe in my little garden haven writing this, let’s just say I can definitely feel the wind around my trossachs. I’m starting to wonder whether I should’ve splashed out on the £10.99 Deluxe Service.

    I’m sorry, I felt I just had to share that experience. Especially as I’m bothering you with another email so soon after the last. But I see quite a few have joined the list since last time and I wanted to remind you of what’s coming up, and a little new news besides.

    First off, I’m DELIGHTED that our Anything is Possible Collection was so well received. The wooden crates for the ten large pots are being stenciled as we speak at Pottery Gagliano, and the entire collection - a collaboration between myself and master potter Roberto Gagliano - will soon be shipped out. The Pottery Studio is open once more at limited times with new precautions, so soon I will be there again starting work on a fresh collection of small dogs for our October Show at Little Mustard Shop Brighton.

    I have donated two from the Doris Fruit Salad Collection to a Pottery Gagliano Crowd Funder which (unlike the ceramics at the October show) can be sent straight to your door by Roberto. Keep your eyes peeled on social media to find out when that goes live. Or contact them direct to ask about details of all the amazing pots donated by the Pottery Gagliano family at

    Big Love,

    Sam Toft x

  • Anything Is Possible

    Hallo dear reader,

    It’s a long time since I last wrote and so much has happened to all of us. I hope you’re okay?

    Here we are, at the end (-ish) of lockdown, and the beginning of something different. Whether these changes represent an opportunity or a disaster, we are living through uncertain and challenging times. I’m aware I’m one of the fortunate, but I’m hoping this email finds you well too, happy even, or at least with some things starting to go your way. Like my new friend Roberto, I am one of those people who says Anything is Possible. But then I’ve always believed in magic and fairies at the bottom of the garden. I’m lucky like that.

    Let’s be clear (lest you think I am mad) I’m talking of the kind of fairies you can’t see but who will grant you wishes nonetheless. I truly believe anything is possible IF you can decide what it is you really want, or more precisely how you will feel once you get it. If you are clear enough to ask for it, the invisible ones will grant you any number of wishes. It’s a big IF you may say, but I believe in a lot of things I can’t see. Like the flip in my heart at the smell of fresh coffee, the airy space in my head when I think of dear friends now passed, and, as I sit here writing this in my little garden, the certainty that there are one or two tiny blue tits squabbling over a fatball even though when I turn my head they’ll be nowhere to be seen.

    Little has changed for me during the lockdown. I work alone, I live alone, I have my health, I like cooking and I don’t like shopping! I have even appreciated the break in routine encouraging a focus on recuperation and regaining my strength. A time for quiet contemplation has allowed new ideas to surface and I have found some precious spare time for playing with clay, and to collaborate with Master Potter Roberto Gagliano.

    Pottery Gagliano has been closed during lockdown so I have been working away in my kitchen with Almondine budgie on my shoulder, two dogs at my feet, while Roberto has been creating 5 vases and 5 urns inspired by his Sicilian origins. The shape of the vase, he says, was inspired by the architectural columns of Greek temples built in Sicily. And the classical urn shape was influenced by Ancient Greek Pottery. Carefully applying glazes with multiple firings, Roberto has created natural earth and clay tones. The textures are different on each individual pot and compliment my hand-built figures perfectly. Who’d’ve thought that two such different cultures and styles would come together so harmoniously? From Stoke and Sicily with love. As Roberto says - anything is possible.

    I am thrilled with the results. These are real one-off pieces. They take ten times longer than doing a picture. It’s been such a labour of love. Roberto is having wooden crates made to present them in. Marcella, his wife, is stenciling a little logo on them. I’m making hand-drawn certificates of authenticity. It’s such a group effort, and I think it shows in the care and love we put into each piece. There are just 10. We are not planning to make more but we don’t rule it out. They are real conversation pieces. I would display mine in the fireplace, or on the landing halfway up the stairs. But any alcove or good sturdy coffee table would do them justice. The pots can be displayed lidded or separately, back to front, front to back. Perfect for a milestone birthday, an anniversary or an incredibly generous gift for the Mustard Lover in your life. You can tell I’m pleased with them, can’t you?

    I wish you peace, strength and love at this strange and challenging time. I might suggest a bag of clay, or plasticine, and an hour or so to squish things about? Who knows what would happen? Anything is possible!

     Big love, and see you soon,

     Sam Toft

  • Life In the Old Dog Yet

    Hallo friends,

    I hope your Spring is coming along just fine? Snowdrops in the woods and budding leaves on the trees. I know a lot of people don’t like the cold and the wet, but it is one of my favourite times of year. Fresh shoots. Lots of possibilities. And I’m writing to introduce you to my new project!

    I was unwell last year and in October I closed my Brighton shop. I was very sad about that. Little Mustard Shop was a childhood dream. A tiny shop selling little gifts I’d made, cards and prints, along with treasures sourced to complement the World of Mustard. While renovating it from a long closed sandwich shop, we found a quaint shop frontage. We picked out the iron work in gold and painted the rest a luscious shade of dark green. I planted little trees in pots either side, put in a checker board step and commissioned lovely hand painted signage. My work is sold and distributed all over the world. But Little Mustard Shop was always a small corner where I felt I could present my work in the way I wanted. Something very personal to me. Like I said, a dream come true. And I couldn’t bring myself to give it up.

    During my recovery I realised I may not be able to do as much as I did before and set about deciding upon the things that were most important. Like painting, friends and family, my dogs, my health, my pottery classes. And my Little Shop.

    It would be far too much work to run the shop as it was, open 5 days a week selling cards and gifts, employing lots of different staff. Instead we will open for a weekend every couple of months selling original work. Myself and my partner Graham will run it, with help from dear friends. Over the last year, I have not been producing work and the galleries have been selling the last available originals. But this year I cannot have the stress of producing lots of pictures for a big gallery show. Instead we will be bringing you a series of small collections every few months. Little Mustard Shop and our soon-to-be launched website will be the only place in the world to buy new paintings in 2020.

    Whilst I have been ill I have been attending pottery classes. I have managed to make a few small pieces I’m proud of. They take me ages to do but it’s so therapeutic. They are precious, there won’t be many and due to breakages they must be collected not sent. They will be available exclusively at my Little Shop.

    At time of writing I have very tight blonde chemo curls. I am told I resemble one of the Marx brothers. You have been warned.

    Big love and all the best,

    Sam x