Art Supplies | Stuart R Stevenson shop, Clerkenwell Road
In our shopping guide, Isabel Hope-Urwin introduces the retailers who supply Clerkenwell’s creatives and art lovers – starting with a traditional store stacked with pens and paints…
The distinctive Stuart R Stevenson shop in Clerkenwell Road has been supplying artists and designers for almost 25 years. Stepping inside to the tinkle of the old shop bell, the impact of the jam-packed, floor-to-ceiling stock is instantaneous. Towers of paints, pencils, brushes and utensils give the impression that whatever you are looking for, Stuart R Stevenson (right) will have it somewhere. Stevenson, his daughter and eldest son dart from a snug counter tending to a stream of customers. It’s business as usual. Clerkenwell is now a hotspot for creatives, but this was not the case when Stevenson opened in the Eighties. “At the time, Clerkenwell was the ends of the earth – no one knew where Clerkenwell was,” he says.
Having started the business in 1980 from the boot of his Volvo estate, Stevenson acquired the building in which his shop still stands in 1985. Those years driving round London earned his reputation and client base, so the shop drew in existing as well as new customers – once it had undergone renovation. Stevenson says the building had ceilings hanging down and “looked like a bomb site”. It required an ambitious restoration that included the replacement of the shopfront. He finally opened in 1990 following a redevelopment that was designed “to match what was here originally”.
While the shop’s traditional aesthetic is a little at odds with the looming, glass-fronted developments that are coming to characterise the area, it is unquestionably authentic. Stuart R Stevenson has even been recognised with a royal warrant of appointment as a supplier of artist and gilding materials. Stevenson’s first job was in an architect’s office, but he confesses to having little artistic leaning. His daughter and wife design the window displays, but artistry is mostly left to clients. The thing that “still gives me a buzz,” he explains, is facilitating customers’ creativity.
“What surprises me about the big stores is the people at the top have no idea who their clients are,” he claims. His shop has drawn “all sorts of people” over the years, and he admits to having witnessed studios and work by some fascinating artists. With a smile, however, he relinquishes no names.
Despite Clerkenwell’s changing landscape, the family’s friendly, personal service has helped to ensure the longevity of the shop. Their parting request to customers to “phone us” – they feel that email reflects social rejection of verbal communication – speaks volumes about their unhurried, helpful approach to the artistic community in Clerkenwell.
68 Clerkenwell Road – 0207 253 1693
LONDON GRAPHIC CENTRE
Celebrating its 40th birthday last May, London Graphic Centre has four stores and is one of the capital’s main suppliers to the art and design community. It also runs in-store events to inspire creativity. The Clerkenwell branch closes on weekends, but purchases can be made online for delivery.
86 Goswell Road – 0207 253 1000
Cass Art’s six outlets are favoured by art students across the capital, but its flagship Islington store is equipped for all ages. Basement workshops for children emit clouds of glitter and adhesive sludge, while parents peruse the patterned paper and Moleskine notebooks on two additional floors of comprehensive art supplies.
66-67 Colebrooke Row
0207 354 2999
STOCKS PICTURE FRAMERS
Family-run Stocks has been in business for more than 35 years, offering ‘quality, bespoke picture framing’ behind its art deco-fronted workshop. Frames are handmade onsite, while the original framed maps and motorsport posters on sale reveal the family’s interests as much as their skill.
172 Clerkenwell Road
0207 278 6209
If you’ve a need for speed, the Newgate Gallery (founded in 1975) boasts an impressive one-hour framing service. Prints, paintings, posters, football shirts and even 3D trinkets are mounted in beautiful, bespoke frames at lightning pace. There’s also a collection of prints available for sale.
66 Clerkenwell Green
0800 234 3726