East London Food & Culture

Hooksmith: ‘My 6 fave artworks’ – and E20 Journal interview

The Leytonstone artist talks us through his most popular artworks

If you’re occasionally partial to a little stroll round Westfield – and who isn’t? – be sure to grab the latest copy (Issue 4) of the glossy in-house magazine E20 Journal (tip: there’s a huge rack of copies right outside John Lewis on the top floor).

Inside is a double-page spread on cult Leytonstone hero Hooksmith (disclaimer: written by yours truly) otherwise known as Russell Frost, with beautiful photography by Ollie Radford.

In the interview he tells me what exactly it means to be a letterpress printer, why he changed careers, how he got his unique name, and what he loves about the area.

He also explains how he came across that quirky little spot on Church Lane. “I started selling in different craft fairs like the Crafty Fox, and then moved to Leytonstone in 2012,” he says. “I was looking for a local spot, and this unit had been derelict for five years – it was previously coal cellar, greengrocer, and florist. Now I’ve been here eight years in November.”


Hooksmith on Church Lane. Photo: Stephen Emms

For those who have enjoyed browsing the stall on a lazy weekend morning or six, here are a few explanations – in his own words – of some of his favourite, and best-selling, works over the years.

Sourdough Makes You Rich

Photo: SE

“This is a homage to Amos Kennedy, an American letterpress printer who created a famous print “Coffee Made Me Black.” People laugh and sort of get it, without realising the story or reference behind it, as with many of the prints.”

Plant More Trees (see main image, above)

“This harks back to my landscape architectural days, as well as a nod to my dad, a botanist and forest conservationist. The typeface itself is 1860s, with little flourishes invoking foliage and fresh buds.”

Look After The Forest

Look After The Forest. Photo: SE

“I live on the edge of Epping Forest, which almost comes into my back garden. Note the lovely little hatchet, a Kentish axe. The font is almost Helvetica, but it’s old, around 1880s. I love the weight of the capital ‘L’; it looks like a different font.”

Lost Rivers

This is a new one, with a stylized Thames and the lost rivers coming out of it, including the Fille Brook in Leytonstone. If you tilt it in the light, the names reveal themselves.

At work in his E11 studio. Photo: Stephen Emms

Full Day Excursion

“Leytonstone has quite grand shops and a past of incredible shopping. In 2022 it’s really coming along, but back when I first moved here there was a plethora of chicken shops, nail bars and hairdressers. And I liked the idea that in the old days, you might also have come on a full day excursion for retail therapy. The bus reminds me of an old railway bus in New Zealand.”

Explore Often

Explore often
Photo: SE

“This one is really popular. I’ve been producing it for the last seven years. It’s a great phrase and gets your attention – but it’s also like a wasp coming to sting you.”

Find the E20 Journal interview in Issue 4 at Westfield while stocks last. Follow Hooksmith @hooksmith, 54 Church Lane E11, shop open weekends and sometimes during the week.

Please support us if you can

Sorry to interrupt your reading, but right now finances are especially tough here at Leytonstoner. Although we are now 7 years old and have a bigger audience and social media following than ever before, with rising Mailchimp and hosting costs, as well as advertising revenues in freefall, both Leytonstoner and our small network of independent online titles are at risk. As readers we need your support more than ever to keep delivering ‘good-news’ cultural stories that celebrate our wonderful neighbourhoods. Every reader or business contribution, however big or small, is invaluable in helping the costs of running the website and the time invested in the research and writing of the articles published. Support Leytonstoner here for less than the price of a coffee and it only takes a minute. Thank you – Stephen Emms, editor

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