“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait”.
That is the very last verse of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s rousing poem “The Psalm Of Life”. You will find a shop in Rechurch Street, Shoreditch in London that is the apogee of all hard work, functionalism, utilitarianism and practicality, and its name was inspired by this very verse. If you love old hardware, utility rooms, garden sheds and the butlers’ pantries in National Trust Houses, this is your mecca.
Labour and Wait was established ten years ago and yet its stock, philosophy and branding is timeless. Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins found the new home for their beautiful collection in what was an old pub, whose front elevations are tiled in shiny, racing green rectangular tiles, a year ago.
As you enter you will be struck by what a beautiful space is in front of you. To your right are racks of overalls, stripy Breton-style T-shirts, aprons, satchels and a long shelf of enamel teapots, mugs, pots and pans. In the centre there is a stainless steel table on which rest a collection of very good quality brushes and household goods by Turner and Harper.
To your left there is a gardening section that brings together tools, string, garden seeds and leather gauntlets. In the household section you will see cleaning cloths, soap, brooms, ladles, hand towels and Kilner jars. A very colourful collection of Welsh blankets will certainly catch your eye, as will the vast collection of different spoons and kitchen utensils. You will come in looking for a packet of pencils and leave with a hessian basket, pie funnels, soap flakes, glass bowls and a shovel.
They have certainly pinned the zeitgeist down and rendered it fashionable and fun: in these recessionary times home is the new sanctuary, cooking and cleaning programmes are on every channel and domesticity is the new cool. Frugality and thrift are back in their rightful place, at the core of all our spending habits and conscientious, educated consumers are buying fewer but better made goods.
Labour and Wait espouses a new philosophy of slowing down, editing and paring life down to its essential needs, eliminating waste and too much choice. The shop has achieved a cult following and that is no surprise: in life you often reap what you sow.
Labour and Wait
85 Redchurch Street