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Canary Wharf: Discover Patricia Volk’s vibrant clay sculptures with Cornucopia

Artist’s mid-career retrospective at One Canada Square brings more than 40 of her works together

Artist Patricia Volk with some of her pieces
Artist Patricia Volk with some of her pieces – image Matt Grayson

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“It annoys me slightly when someone describes me as a ceramicist or a ceramic sculptor, because I don’t think the fact I’m working with ceramics has anything to do with the pieces I produce,” said artist Patricia Volk.

“I have no interest in doing glazes or anything like that – I’m not a potter.

“I also have no interest in repeating things – I like to keep changing and developing. I like things to look as though they’re slightly unsteady, as if you would have to put your hand underneath them to stop them falling over.”

Cornucopia, a mid-career retrospective featuring more than 40 of her sculptures, is currently filling the lobby of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

The exhibition, which will remain in place until June 10, 2022, is free to visit and open every day.

The brightly coloured forms, often twisted and curled in on themselves, present a stark contrast to the marbled hues of the tower’s ground floor space.

“When I’m making the piece, I never think of how people might respond at the other end,” said Patricia.

“But I would like to think that people would enjoy seeing them, and maybe that the work would give them something to think about as well.

“I hope people are moved and might pick things up that I might have been thinking about subliminally. There is a series of pieces called Source – very simple forms – that I really liked doing.

“They’re a contradiction with the totem pole pieces, which are quite complicated, because they are very simple forms with a drip.

“They have to be made properly because the drip won’t go where it’s supposed to if they aren’t – I can’t tell you how much satisfaction I get from doing those drips.”

As we talk, it becomes clear there’s a real connection in Patricia’s life between the work she creates and her own and others’ reactions to it.

Born in Belfast, she wanted to be an artist from an early age.

More than 40 of Patricia's works are on display
More than 40 of Patricia’s works are on display – image Matt Grayson

“It was what I always wanted to do – I can remember when someone asked me when I was five years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said I wanted to be an artist,” she said.

“My father was a member of the Ulster Arts Club and, when my mother wanted to get rid of me on a Sunday morning, I was packed off there.

“I remember walking around and looking at the paintings on the walls and the beautiful sculptures. It was a fantastic place and it was something to aspire to, definitely.

“I’m very dyslexic – I can remember starting school at the beginning, drawing a picture of a wedding and my teacher calling in another teacher to have a look at what I’d done – that’s where all my self-esteem came from. 

“I was completely obsessed with drawing – people would come up and ask me to draw a picture. I always won the prizes.”

With no portfolio, however, art college was an impossibility and Patricia got a job in the textile industry before moving to London at the age of 17.

Again unable to get into art college – something she admits would have been a remote possibility for someone of her age – she nevertheless found work and stayed.

“It was when everybody believed that London was the most exciting place and two of my friends decided to leave home,” said Patricia.

“We were very, very young, and I thought I’d just do that as well. My mother was delighted to see me go and I just stayed.

“Things happened, circumstances happened. I got a job very quickly here and I got married very young and had a child.

“I came over in the April and the Troubles started in the August.Then there was no going back.

“It was a bad time, but people here were very kind to me. I got a job as a typist and then went to work in advertising and met my husband.

“The group he was with had all been to art college – they’d done film and TV.

“Then, one night, in my mid-30s, after 16 years of not drawing, I picked up a pencil and thought that I could still do it.

Patricia's early work focussed on heads
Patricia’s early work focussed on heads – image Matt Grayson

“I said to someone that I had always wanted to go to art college, so I took a year out, went to adult education classes at the Camden Institute and Islington Institute, and did life drawing and clay modelling. 

“I remember someone walking in and seeing a figure I had done, and saying that I’d got something – that I could do it, and it gave me such pleasure.

“Looking back, there’s always been someone who has said something like that when my confidence has been at its lowest, to pick me up and make me look forward.

“In that year out I got a portfolio together, applied to Middlesex Poly because someone said I had to do a foundation course.

“I went to a party and someone asked what I was doing, and I said that I wanted to go to art college but I’d never get in because I was shit, and they got my address, got an application, sent it off and, although my husband said I’d never get in, I did, and that day was the happiest day of my life.

“For the first time, I hadn’t told any lies about my qualifications and I’d got in because of what was in my portfolio.

“So then I started my education at Middlesex Poly, and went on to do three-dimensional design. After I’d done my degree it was my mindset to go out and earn a living.”

And to a certain extent, that’s what she did.

Constantly altering and changing her approach she’s progressed from making monumental heads to writhing coloured forms and vibrant totem poles.

Recognised as a Royal West Of England Academician and a fellow of the Royal Society Of Sculptors, her work can be found in numerous private, national and international collections including the Swindon Museum And Art Gallery.

Perhaps her success can partly be explained by the forces and inspirations at work within her pieces, absorbed throughout her life.

She said: “As a trainee designer in Belfast, the lady who ran the company had come from Vienna with absolutely nothing and had certain ways of doing things.

“She taught me how to do patterns so no material was wasted. Even now when I roll out a big slab of clay I’m thinking ‘100% economy’. 

“It’s interesting how the things that happen to you when you’re a lot younger have such a dramatic effect.

“What’s important to me about my work is that it keeps me sane when I’m feeling down in the dumps. 

“It’s fascinating that pieces I’ve done which people find uplifting may have been done when I’ve been feeling depressed.”

Patricia's pieces are made from clay and often hollow
Patricia’s pieces are made from clay and often hollow – image Matt Grayson

Read more: Ian Berry set to create denim artwork for Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How cryptocurrency exchange CoinJar gives investors choices

Co-founder Asher Tan talks cycles, assets and why dipping a toe into crypto is something to experience

Physical currency is increasingly redundant

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This image is a great big pile of old tech (albeit American in this instance).

While coin has been around for thousands of years, there’s a growing sense that physical money has had its day.

Go to an ATM – machines once used on an almost daily basis. Try and remember your PIN and extract some cash.

See how odd the plastic notes feel, how strange the idea that they might be taken to a shop and broken down into small metal discs representing value. 

Currency was digital before the pandemic but now physical euros, dollars and pounds seem increasingly otherworldly.

That’s one reason, perhaps, why cryptocurrencies seem less and less exotic. 

If wealth is simply represented by numbers on a screen, maybe changing the logo next to them with the hope of making money on the trade is a little less scary than say, walking up to a currency exchange counter and converting a familiar set of notes into something completely alien. 

Maybe it’s why about a fifth of British people have owned cryptocurrency as of March this year – up 103% on 2018.

Statistics like these will doubtless be welcome reading for Asher Tan, co-founder of CoinJar, which operates from bases in Australia, and Level39 in Canary Wharf.

He created the company with business partner Ryan Zhou in 2013 after the pair took part in an incubator scheme in Melbourne as interest around Bitcoin, which emerged in 2009 grew.

“CoinJar is a simple way to buy, hold and sell crypto assets,” said Asher.

“We also have tools, such as a debit Mastercard, so that people can go to any ATM and convert their crypto to any currency they want or spend it where the card is accepted.

“That part of the business has been a long time coming – we’d had previous versions, but we were a small company and nobody wanted to work with us until now when we’ve partnered with Mastercard.

“Most people use CoinJar for some form of asset investment, to just buy and hold crypto.

“The popularity of doing that comes in waves every two or three years.

“You have a huge upswing as crypto rises in value, then cryptomania resumes, but that’s just the nature of the cycles. It’s been easing off in the last three months.”

CoinJar co-founder Asher Tan at Level39 in Canary Wharf

Such fluctuations are not unusual and Asher exudes the air of a business owner content to play the long game.

Bitcoin, the most well-known and first cryptocurrency is famed for its rapid fluctuations in value, having gone from a few pence in value in 2009 to more than £30,000 per coin in 2022. 

It’s still about 50% of the total crypto market but has since been joined by a bewildering array of digital coins – Injective, The Sandbox, Synthetix and Bancor, for example – many of which can be bought on CoinJar for a few pounds.

Ethereum, perhaps the second most well-known, can be bought for about £2,300 at the time of writing.

Doubtless people will continue to buy and sell the stuff in the hope of a big pay day.

But there’s another way to make money from crypto and that was the niche Asher and Ryan spotted.

“Being a startup in 2013 was a good vintage – we travelled quite a bit, saw other companies being built and, in the UK, saw the fintech bubble beginning,” said Asher.

“The message was already being pushed out that London was the fintech capital of the world and Level39 – Canary Wharf’s tech accelerator – was created about that time too.

“That was a bold move by Canary Wharf Group, to combine the existing financial infrastructure with fintech and it’s one that has really paid off.

“Being part of that early group, crypto was a movement – we were all trying to figure out this piece of technology.

“Everyone was trying to push for something but not everyone knew what that was yet.

“Everyone was trying to build services – some people created crypto point of sale businesses, others wallets to keep crypto in and some exchanges so people could buy it.

“Would you use it to pay for coffee? There was even a Bitcoin ATM in Old Street. Back then it was underground, people looking for consumer services.

“Now, in 2022, after the pandemic, crypto is almost accepted as an asset class, not just Bitcoin.

“There’s some debate about how you use it, but no-one argues that this isn’t the status quo.

“The premise has shifted and the imagination continues to grow.

“It might seem crazy to some people, but it’s the job of entrepreneurs to make these things happen. We’re trying to create an alternative financial system for the whole world.”

Bitcoin remains about 50% of the total cryptocurrency market

While the currencies it trades in are very different, CoinJar operates in a similar way to a conventional exchange, charging a fee to change money from one currency to another.

It also levies a 1% fee on in-store and online purchases and cash withdrawals for those using its debit card, available in either physical or digital form.

Having operated consistently in Australia, CoinJar has maintained a presence in Canary Wharf, deciding in 2018 to expand its business in earnest overseas. 

“It’s been nine years since we started the company,” said Asher.

“In that time there have been so many peaks and troughs about Bitcoin – it’s died a thousand times. In the early years, you were wondering if this was a fatal step or whether cryptocurrency even needed to exist.

“At some points the overriding opinion was that crypto was just going to evaporate. So you do need belief and it takes time.

“Like with most good things, you have to wait. When we first came to Level39 we never fully launched and there were questions about whether we should just focus on Australia, but we always kept the membership even when we weren’t operating in the UK.

“So, in 2020 we had a proper launch and now we have six people based at One Canada Square. I think the UK market has always been slightly under-served in terms of crypto services.

“But there are some things it has in common with Australia, such as strong regulation.

“It’s always been a market we wanted to enter because the two countries have a unique friendship. It’s a good place to come for Australian startups.

“In terms of the future for CoinJar, the product is always changing.

“We started this business to provide consumers with an alternative way to use finance, so that means we’ve also got to keep up and change as the industry develops.

“As a business, we’re first generation crypto – we now have staff who are much younger and their views are very different – everything’s going to change, right?

“Now it’s Non-Fungible Tokens and these seemed very strange to me when I heard about them in 2017, but nine years ago crypto was very strange to everyone. It’s important to keep challenging yourself about the reality of the online world.” 

The question all those teetering on the brink of their first investment want answered, is whether it’s worth it?

“Different people have different strategies,” said Asher. “Personally, I’m not a trader day-to-day – I don’t really see crypto as get rich quick.

“With fintech there’s no cap to what it could be, so it captures the imagination and then the sky’s the limit.

“In the early days there were a lot of predictions around crypto – everyone would be using it, the banks would all take it. But, come on, seriously? It might happen.

“The premise of crypto has always been about choice. You can opt for something different – you don’t have to choose one of the big banks – you can use alternative platforms in terms of investment. Right now, that means there are more options.

“Crypto has always been something for people who want to try different things. Right now, I do believe the promise has benefit for everyone in terms of buying and holding cryptocurrency – an experience most people should try. 

“You can get into it for £10, so it’s not a huge financial commitment to try to understand what this movement is about.

“Use it, try to make sense of the technological mystery behind it, and I think that’s the first step to a better understanding of why it even exists.”

  • Cryptocurrency remains a very volatile investment. What you do with your money is your own affair and this article should in no way be seen as recommending the purchase of cryptocurrency.

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Canary Wharf: Shutters opens doors at two sites in One Canada Square’s marble lobby

Restaurant, cafe and bar aims to offer hotel-style service to workers and visitors to the estate

Taskin Muzaffer of The Happiness Cartel
Taskin Muzaffer of The Happiness Cartel – image Matt Grayson

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Organised crime syndicates are in my mind, having just binge-watched the latest series of Netflix drugsploitation epic Narcos: Mexico.

Fortunately The Happiness Cartel, which recently opened Shutters across two sites in the lobby of One Canada Square, bears little resemblance to the brutal mobs of Sinaloa, Juarez, Tijuana and Guadalajara.

But its creative director and founder, Taskin Muzaffer, does want Wharfers to keep coming back for more.

It’s one of the reasons why the group’s latest establishment is really three venues in one.

Firstly, Shutters itself has taken the shell of what was ETM’s One Canada Square, stripped out the walls, opened up the windows and painted everything white to form a welcoming, accessible restaurant and bar.

Secondly, head up its diagonal stairways and there’s Cartel – a separate bar space tucked away on the mezzanine, specialising in spirits and cocktails. 

Finally, look round the corner and there’s a cafe space called SuperNatural that shifts seamlessly from breakfast bar and lunch joint to wine bar after 5pm.

Shutters at One Canada Square
Shutters at One Canada Square – image Matt Grayson

That means there’s something available at all hours to keep Wharfers in a state of temptation, something that’s also down to the brand’s lineage.

“We started as a group in London, and, like most people, had a bit of a revelation in lockdown,” said Taskin, who previously worked for Drake And Morgan around the time it opened Shutters’ near neighbour, The Parlour, in 2009.

“Our first venue was Pedler in Peckham in 2014 (now reborn as Pedler Good Fortune) and we have always got a lot of our produce from Cornwall and Devon – in fact most of our fish came up from Cornish day boats on the back of a bike, so there was always that love affair with that area. 

“In 2017, we started looking for a site there, and finally opened the Unicorn On The Beach at Porthtowan in August of 2019.

“That ran really well until March 2020, when everything had to close. We decided we would keep the sites shut in London over last summer and the other members of the Cartel and myself moved to Cornwall, reopened the Unicorn and worked it as hard as possible last summer.

“Then the opportunity came up for us to purchase The Godolphin hotel in Marazion, which we renovated and briefly opened in December 2020, then properly in April 2021.

“We were very fortunate that both the Unicorn and The Godolphin had large outside areas so that was amazing when people could only be outdoors.

“Shutters was born in Cornwall as it’s the restaurant for our hotel there and we wanted to bring a slice of that back to London.

Looking down from Cartel
Looking down from Cartel – image Matt Grayson

“We’ve come to Canary Wharf with that service mindset. We essentially view anyone who passes by or who is working in the offices above at One Canada Square as a hotel guest. We want to be somewhere people can come back to multiple times a day.

“We’ve brought down the walls of the old restaurant and expanded out into the lobby, creating what we call a library area that is almost a co-working space.

“People can sit there with their laptops and have a breakfast or a lunch. It’s not bookable, it’s walk-ins only.

“On the other side of the lobby, SuperNatural serves our own Happiness coffee blend, hand-roasted in Cornwall, as well as fresh juice and smoothies. 

“In the morning you’ll see pastries and croissants – all those breakfast things – until 11am when salads with different proteins, like smoked chicken or smoked trout appear.

“Then at about 5pm it flips and becomes all about natural and low-intervention wines and build-your-own nibbles. Expect cured duck or venison done a bit like Parma ham, all made in Cornwall.”

Tuna tataki with pistachio at Shutters
Tuna tataki with pistachio at Shutters – image Matt Grayson

While the produce is Cornish, Shutters’ core menu has a pronounced American flavour to it, with dishes such as crab nachos and the Vegan Cali Sur burger.

“We wanted to give everything a kind of southern Californian twist,” said Taskin. “Cartel, for example will be doing nibbles and tacos. 

“Down in the restaurant we’ll be serving a lot of seafood dishes with those west coast flavours. 

“Personally I like the crab cakes – it’s the kind of thing you’d see on menus years ago but they’ve kind of disappeared. We’ve brought them back with a little twist – bois boudrin sauce, burnt leeks and anchovy mayo.

“I also really like the nachos, which come with a light cheese, scallions, pickles and a lime sour cream. They’re really, really good.

“As for drinks we have tank-fresh beer from Meantime, brewed about a mile away as the crow flies. 

“Otherwise we’re very much about cocktails at a reasonable price. Good value is something we’ve always tried to offer as a brand.

“We want people to come to us for breakfast, come back for a drink after work, meet their mate or a girlfriend or boyfriend for lunch and come back and have dinner.

“Maybe during the week you’ll have a glass of wine and only one course or a little nibble.

Shutters’ second site SuperNatural – image Matt Grayson

“Perhaps you’ll come back towards the end of the week and have three courses with a cocktail before or after. It’s all about creating different areas, different spaces, to make it exciting.

“You could be here having a chat with me now, then you might go and work over in the library this afternoon.

“Maybe then you’ll go over to SuperNatural tonight and meet friends and have a glass of low-intervention wine and a couple of nibbles on the board.

“Tomorrow you’ll maybe come in for breakfast or for lunch, or you might stick around for dinner.

“Then we have Cartel, which specialises in tequila and mescal with a range of 28 so far. There are some really special bottles to try. 

“We’ve tried to create something going on at all times, whether you want a quiet little corner just to get on with something, or you want to be a bit raucous.”

Shutters is set to reopen from January 9 followed by SuperNatural on January 17. Check opening hours and menus online.

Read more: How Hawksmoor constantly refines its offering

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