How Beryl became the Paisley Peddler

How do people choose their blogging name, company name or pseudonym for any other reason?  I chose Paisley Pedlar in a flash of inspiration (or maybe not) based on an old bicycle, some work I did for a textiles designer and the fact that I was looking at starting my own business.  The Paisley part came from when I had been working for a printed textiles designer producing paisley patterns for the fashion industry, easy.  The Pedlar part was more problematic.  My small business venture was making fabric handbags and selling them online, so I was a pedlar of sorts, and I also like riding my bike (even if I don’t do it as often as I should or would like) so using a play on words I became the Paisley Pedlar.

So who is Beryl?  Well she is not me, she is a vintage BSA Ladies Safety Shopper bicycle dating to the early 1950’s, so a real old lady!  I came across her in 2010 while I was desperately seeking an old bike to use as part of my Fine Art degree show.  Looking back the whole idea was completely insane (and not necessarily in a good way); I had become fixated on the ever increasing amount of roadside signs, boards and posters advertising Olde Time Fayres, Vintage and Heritage days, Village Fetes etc.  Many of these events were being billed as ‘traditional’ yet they had either only been in existence for a couple of years or they were a brand new event, all were complete with the required shopping experience, fast food and ‘spectacular’ of some sort to amuse the masses.  It occurred to me that something was happening in the English countryside, a sort of subversion and hijacking of genuine tradition in favour of a Spectacular of some sort.  As one is required to do, I read all sorts of nebulous theory from Susan Stewart’s ‘On Longing’ narratives on the miniature and the gigantic to Guy Debord and ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ and the Neo Peasant; (via various other worthy dead French philosophers) before settling on exploring Debord’s ideas though my own work.

The end result was the idea of a little wooden caravan which was towed by a bicycle touring around the English countryside stopping off to promote a new way of being – Neo Peasantry (basically those people who had nice comfortable lives but who wanted to hark back to days of yore when apple cheeked children played happily on the village green watched by jolly yokels chewing on straw.)  An idealised existence, a shared fabricated past history.  The little wooden caravan was the first hurdle to jump over as I had an idea in my head what it should look like, and that was it should be tall, with a narrow base and on small wheels.  I had seen something similar in a local garden centre but when I came to try to purchase one it proved impossible, no-one had one to sell, only for display purposes and when I did manage to find one on the internet (hurrah for the internet!) the delivery date was set for 2 days after my degree show was to open!  No good to me then.  Sitting in a pub garden feeling despondent, husband rode to the rescue – he would build me one!  I drew out what I was seeing in my head and off we went to B&Q in Bognor Regis to purchase the required timber.   The next problem was the wheels, how to attach them?  My solution was a steel frame chassis on which the wheels were mounted and then on top of which the shed-a-van could be bolted.  Genius!  So we had the beginnings of an artwork, but wait, what about the bike?  I had an old mountain bike I could use, but somehow it didn’t look quite right.  I trawelled the local newspaper ads, eBay and bike shops for an ‘Old School’ style bike but no success, either they were far too expensive or too far away geographically.  Oddly enough I was just about to give up and use the mountain bike when I happened to pop in to Stable Antiques in Storrington (see more about them on the Jamjar Bizarre blog –  I simply asked the owner if he ever got old bikes in while he was house clearing and he replied “how old, mens or ladies?  Follow me”  We wound our way through the shop, out through the yard and down a little lane to a lock-up garage.  The door flipped open and there was Beryl.  Looking a bit sad and sorry for herself, but that didn’t matter, I would love her and bring her back to life.

This is Beryl as she was when I first got her, bald and perished flat tyres, worn out brake blocks, wood worm riddled wicker basket, mildewed saddle bag and badly oxidised paint, rust spots and popped chrome on the rear wheel.

A programme of restoration commenced and Beryl was soon transformed into a beautiful, sleek transporter to spread the Neo Peasantry word!

  Beryl in British Racing Green with black livery

  Beryl ‘towing’ the Neo Peasantry Shed-A-Van

                           Above and below Beryl with the Neo Peasant Shed-A-Van in my degree show installation at UCA Farnham, June 2010

Above Beryl at the Bargehouse Gallery, Southbank, London SE1 July 2010

Once the art thing was over, what to do with Beryl next?  I am ashamed to say that I abandoned her for over a year in a shed in my garden before getting her out again a few weeks ago and doing some more renovation work.  I experimented with painting her cream – yuck; then what was supposed to be purple but dried a hideous mauve.


  I knew then it could only be Navy Blue. So after more rubbing down I repainted her navy blue, designed two small paisley motifs which I had made into stickers by the amazing Diginate ( ) along with a Paisley Pedlar logo decal.  After much polishing with Autosol cream chrome polish, buffing with spray polish, replacing the wheel rim tapes, inner tubes and new lovely white wall tyres, new brake blocks and chain and Beryl is once again road worthy.  This grand old lady is rideable and took part in the recent cultural Olympiad with her bell – All of the Bells by Martin Creed (

And that is how Beryl (the BSA) became The Paisley Peddler!


About paisleypedlar

Artist, Sewist, sometime Cyclist and Arm Chair Activist
This entry was posted in advertising, Art, Crafty things, cycling, Expeditions and adventures, Fashion, memorabilia, Museums and Galleries, My Work, Out and about, Quirky things and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Beryl became the Paisley Peddler

  1. I wondered how Paisley Peddlar came about, i love your Beryl in all her colours, i quite like the cream?! You should go on a vintage bike ride, there is a nice one soon in Devon……

  2. It’s funny how names come to us in those flashes, who’s to say from whence it comes? But such a great name! what happened to the shed-a-van?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s