Oxymoron or not?

Here’s a little question. Can a High Street retailer such as John Lewis, in all seriousness, offer ‘Modern Rarity’ through it’s 34 department stores across the UK? Maybe I am a bit too old-fashioned, but to me rarity means uniqueness, scarcity perhaps one of a kind.

JL-rarity1Something may always have been rare

The-Laughing-Cavalier

One of a kind – ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ – Frans Hals. 1624 Oil on canvas. Painting size: 83 x 67.3 cm Wallace Collection

or simply a lone survivor of a once common everyday item.

1960s-bauble

Now scarce – 1960s Christmas bauble originally mass-produced in their hundreds of thousands.

Perhaps it was a Friday afternoon at the branding/advertising agency when someone suggested ‘modern rarity’ and they all thought ‘Mmm, sounds intriguing, not too edgy, but maybe just unsettling enough’ – for a clothing collection. You might have guessed that I am rolling my eyes!

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October Park – still looking rather green

Magnificent-oakLast weekend I took my camera with me on a walk round the local park to photograph the seasonal changes.

Beginning-to-turnSurprisingly, autumn has been slow to arrive. I am used to living further inland, but here in Ipswich, on a clear day from the ninth floor, you can see Felixstowe down on the coast 11 miles away.

Holywells-Park-OctoberI have concluded that being closer to the sea has kept temperatures slightly warmer in the local park and hence without a run of adequately cool nights the leaves are still to significantly change colour.

So far the most noticeable change is seen in the horse chestnuts. The leaves have turned crispy and brown, and many have dropped already. Sadly, I suspect the trees are suffering from bleeding canker disease caused by  Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi.

On a more positive note there’s still plenty of colour in the wildflower meadow drifts.

Still-bloomingAnd, self-seeded here and there, the umbels of wild angelica brighten up the shady areas edging the bottom lake.

Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris)

Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) found edging the bottom lake in dappled shade.

I wasn’t the only industrious individual stalking the park, the squirrels and jays were busy collecting autumn berries and acorns.

Jay-with-acorn

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The Weavers of Magic

The-Caged-Birds-SongEarlier this year between 26 April to 28 August in the Sunley Room of the National Gallery in London, woven art was celebrated. The exhibition was called

Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic

and the finished tapestry, ‘The Caged Bird’s Song’, was the artist’s creative work realised in wool, cotton and viscose by the weavers of the Dovecot Tapestry Studio, Edinburgh.

Preparatory-sketchesThe exhibition displayed the preparatory sketches and watercolours produced by Chris Ofili as he developed his ideas.

The tapestry was commissioned by the Clothworkers’ Company of the City of London and the final preparatory watercolour (below) was translated by hand and eye into the finished tapestry.

Finalised-watercolour

Made mostly of wool, with some cotton and viscose, the tapestry took nearly three years and over 6,000 hours for the Master Weavers to complete using 250 different colours.

The Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Edinburgh, where the weavers worked, was mentioned in all the accompanying literature as well as in the 15 minute video shown at the exhibition. In the National Gallery Press Release there was obviously a quote from the artist, Ofili.

“’The Caged Bird’s Song’ is a marriage of watercolour and weaving. I set out to challenge the weaving process, by doing something free-flowing in making a watercolour, encouraging the liquid pigment to form the image, a contrast to the weaving process. With their response, which is an interpretation rather than a reproduction, the weavers have paid a type of homage to the watercolour that I gave them as well as to the process of weaving.”

There were also quotes from Dr Minna Moore Ede, the Curator of ‘Weaving Magic’, from Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the Director of the National Gallery, from Peter Langley, Chair of the Clothworkers’ Collections and Archives Committee and from David Weir, the Dovecote Studios Director, but there were no quotes nor a single namecheck for the actual weavers!

This beautifully and skilfully blended work creates a rich colourful tapestry interpretation of the Ofili watercolour.  And, I think the Master Weavers should be clearly named. After asking my sister when she visited the National Gallery to check, again, for their names as I thought I’d missed the obvious credits somewhere and she had had no luck, I asked on Instagram ‘Who were the weavers?’ Very kindly @Cherry_Stalk directed me to the information. The weavers were

Freya Sewell

Jonathan Cleaver

Louise Trotter

Emma-Jo Webster

Naomi Robertson

The permanent home for this contemporary art collaboration will be in the Clothmakers’ Hall in the City of London. I hope they, at least, will clearly acknowledge the weavers.

Detail-bird-cage

And, here is a 44 second video showing the Master Weavers in action creating the tapestry.

 

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Long gone favourites

Autumn-colours

Autumn is most definitely in the air. We’ve passed the autumnal equinox and the late summer blooms are looking ragged and at the end of the their displays. I have found myself choosing colours from the warmer end of the spectrum, adding more images that feature browns and oranges to my Pinterest board ‘October Living‘. Early autumn is also the time when craft folk start preparing for the Christmas Fairs they will be attending. I have been reviewing my current stock and remembering some of my favourite scarves that have been sold.

Considering how long it takes me to paint a scarf, strangely, once they have been sold I can hardly remember what they looked like. It has been surprising to rediscover them whilst searching through various memory sticks seeking suitable images to use for my Christmas promotional material.

A quick review suggests that black and pink designs have been appreciated by others as well as being a personal favourite and scarves featuring blues and greens are also popular. All my work pictured above has been sold, but this long crepe de chine ticks all the boxes, pink and black and blue and green, and is currently for sale on my shop.

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Bag ladies for London Fashion Week

Bag-ladiesIt has been London Fashion Week again and to mark this kaleidoscopic event a Sunday newspaper printed a special, big fat, bumper edition of their fashion magazine. Flicking through the 182 pages there wasn’t much about the up and coming bright young things, but instead there was plenty from the major luxury fashion brands launching their autumn ad campaigns. Is it me or do the ad people have a tin ear? Okay, I have been a bit naughty and photoshopped the top picture (original photo below), but, really, what are the Burberry folk signifying?

Burberry-bag-ladies

According to the charity ‘Streets of London’;

8,000 people sleep rough on the streets of London every year. They come from every walk of life, and many of them want to find work.

Maybe I have misinterpreted the images, but sitting on grey city steps in oversized winter coats and knitted hats with what looks like giant shopping bags, (okay I note they all look pristine), reminds me of homeless, bag ladies. Surely that can’t be right.

Burberry aren’t the only ones with brittle, nonstandard photos. In need of something a little different Gucci have stepped off planet – literally.

Gucci-aliens

Yes, look closely and it’s aliens now modelling for Gucci.

Mind you the most startling ad in the whole magazine was, now wait for this, modelling for Louis Vuitton, an OLD person. And, she is the only old person in the whole 182 pages.

Catherine-Deneuve

Admittedly, this beautiful old person is the internationally famous, French film star Catherine Deneuve. At 73 years old she is over three times the age of the other models featured in the various campaigns. And, as a final comment, according to this Sunday newspaper’s own circulation data for 2017 (so far), 70% of its readership are 45 years old or older, with nearly a third of its readership Senior Citizens!

Age

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Stealing from other people’s gardens

OsteospermumAs you may already know earlier this year I left behind my Norfolk home and garden of 12 years and moved south to Suffolk. In actual fact it is a return to Suffolk after 21 years away, but, as yet, I am still in temporary accommodation and it’s a flat with no garden.

Sea-kale-Crambe-MaritimaAs suggested by fellow bloggers I’ve been out and about stealing from other people’s gardens, local parks and even from the shoreline on the Shotley Peninsula. No, not digging up precious specimens in the dead of night, but stealing shots of all the different blooms I’ve spotted on my wanderings. Braving the salty breeze, along with the naturally adapted sea kale (above), I found these petunias and osteospermums surviving at the bottom of a local garden close to the estuary shore.

It has been good for me as I’ve had to identify all kinds of plants that have been new to me rather than just relying on the old favourites. The flora in the local park has moved on from the early to the late flowering plants with this sweep full of bee favourites.

September-park-flowers-for-beesThe bees have introduced me to new wildflowers such as the Devil’s Bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) as well as reminding me that some standard garden shrubs, for example this purple hebe, are also a good source of nectar.

The drifts of perennial and annual flowers were truly buzzing in the September sunshine.

Bee-friendly

Drifts of blue cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) and corn marigold (Glebionis segetum).

Busy-Bee

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Evolution of a favourite motif

Agatha-Pink-2It started as a design worked partly from an aquilegia

and partly from a showy lily. It is an easy motif that flows across the silk.

And it has evolved and evolved into a very loose flowery shape I have used over and over again in various sizes, from the large

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-scarf-Silvia-clover-square-hgg copy

A 90 x 90 cm crepe de chine square with the motif over 50 cm across.

to the small. A pocket square 30 x 30 cm with the motif barely 5 cm across.

Pocket-Square-12-inchAnd I’ve reworked the motif with various colour combinations.

 

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The three ‘R’s – 18th century style

WroughtPut “reading wr” into Google, and before you’ve completed typing the word “writing”, ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ appears in the top five most popular searches. Also known as ‘the three Rs’, the expression ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ was a great favourite with the Victorians. Within the English school system it has been shorthand for the basic essentials of education. But all is not quite as it seems, not least as it is obvious to a competent six year old that only one word of the ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ actually begins with the letter ‘R’!

One suggestion for the derivation of this concise gem was put forward by the late Professor Bruce Archer following some research into design practice. He proposed that it evolved from a similar expression commonly used in the eighteenth century. The three Rs then were considered to be ‘reading, reckoning and wroughting’. This was where reckoning was the usual term for mental arithmetic and wroughting was the word used for making.

The value of making, physically creating with one’s hands, was considered of more value in the past than it is in our ‘cerebral’ contemporary times. The process of forming and fashioning in a material way was about acquiring skills but also at the same time it was seen as a means to learn about culture. For fortunate folk of the eighteenth century educating their children was not simply an education in how to make a living, but how to live a cultured life.

Then, along came the Victorians with ‘The Factory Act’ of 1833, that imposed a duty on employers to provide half‐time education for employees under 13 and then ‘The Education Act’ of 1870 which aimed to provide education up to the age of ten on a national scale.  Here is the opening statement made on 25th July 1870 by Earl de Grey and Ripon when introducing the Elementary Education Bill, second reading.

EARL DE GREY AND RIPON

My Lords, it is a satisfaction to me, and a circumstance which will very much shorten the observations it is my duty to make, that in moving the second reading of a Bill, the object of which is to establish a system of national education throughout England and Wales, I need not, in the present political and social position of the country, detain your Lordships by any arguments as to the importance of the spread of education, or as to the advantage to be derived not merely by those immediately affected, but by every class in the community from the establishment, as speedily as possible, of a system by which the means of elementary education may reach every home, and be brought within the reach of every child in the country.

There is absolutely no doubt that mass education was a positive development, but it was mostly the rote learning of the ‘Gradgrind’ type and the ‘3Rs’ were most definitely reading, writing and arithmetic with wroughting considered manual work eventually confined to the world of the apprentice. A contemporary version of learning through wroughting is this submarine pictured below. It is a replica of the Victorian original built by trainees.

Resurgam replica submarine

This is a full sized replica of the original submarine ‘Resurgam’. The original ‘Resurgam’ was the world’s second mechanically propelled submarine designed by Reverend George Garrett (1852 – 1902) and built in 1879 by J T Cochrane, Cleveland St, Birkenhead. Interestingly this replica was built in 1997 by the trainees of Rathbone Community Industry (AMARC), Birkenhead in 1997.

Since the Victorians the value of art and craft and learning through wroughting has gone in and out of fashion with educationalists. The famous Maria Montessori was a great believer in learning through doing and considered that it was essential for nursery aged children to learn through physical activity and hands on pursuits.

Frayling-textEarlier this year, for the Crafts Book Club, the value of including art and crafts and making within an educational system was debated as part of an intriguing discussion on craft. The interview with Sir Christopher Frayling (below) was recorded following the recent launch of a paperback version of his 2011 book ‘On Craftsmanship: Towards a New Bauhaus’ .

And, if the book and/or the interview are too long here’s a link to a pithy summary article penned by Frayling setting out his eminently valuable views.

As I have been writing this post I have reconsidered the 3Rs in the light of computers and Google, and think that perhaps for the 21st century we should instead have the 3Cs, Comprehending, Coding and Creating!

 

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Ipswich Maritime Festival

Ipswich-Maritime-Festival

Every two years the Ipswich Waterfront hosts a Maritime Festival. Held over a weekend the event is a nautical celebration featuring boats, international street food and a temporary fun fair.

Earl-of-Pembroke-1

Visiting boats line up along the quayside and the largest visitor this year was the Earl of Pembroke (1945) all the way from Bristol. Originally a schooner, the Earl of Pembroke was restored between 1985-1994 and commissioned as a three masted eighteenth century barque. You may have spotted her in Tim Burton’s film ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or in the TV series ‘Longitude’.

Another sailing beauty, the slender Essex smack Pioneer CK18 (built 1864), was moored up at the Waterfront joining some of the Old Thames barges (Victor, Thistle and Centaur) recently returned to the quayside for the Festival.

It wasn’t just sailing boats that were flaunting their nautical credentials. One of the last surviving steam inshore craft, Vic 96 (built 1945) was tied up alongside the tugboat Motor Tug Kent (1948).

This year’s theme was the recapture of Ipswich from the Vikings in 917AD and we did eventually spot a small group of folk with their historically accurate helmets and mail vests sitting at the back of the fun fair area. I am not sure authentic Anglo Saxon or Viking food would have been big sellers, but there were wild boar burgers, venison sausages, and a full hog roast available for hungry visitors.

Many of the ships and boats around the marina were decked out with colourful flags, but the best part of the weekend was the closing firework display. My photos were all shot through the rigging of the Earl of Pembroke.

I think the firework finale (below) flashing and banging over the ship gave a hint of what it might have been like in the past in the midst of a naval skirmish.

Finale.JPG

 

 

 

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High summer, really?

Pink-hollyhocks

Well, before all the rain and unseasonal drops in temperature, it was that time of year where many gardens across the towns and villages of East Suffolk had plenty of flowering plants in their grounds and many front gardens were adorned by the splendid hollyhock.

Summer-hollyhocksYou couldn’t miss cottage gardens decorated with these colourful beauties, often self-seeded, thriving in the local free-draining soil.  This very blousy, double pink hollyhock was attracting plenty of busy bees in the sun between the recent showers. And, then the torrential downpours arrived bringing hard times for both bees and butterflies. Apparently, the jet stream is in the wrong place again!!

Bee-double-hollyhock

So, this is today’s weather .  .  .  .  .

Today-more-rain

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The Unconscious Influence of Taking Photographs

Getting-the-shot

Photographer concentrating on getting the shot, oblivious of me who had just missed the shot!!!

I use photographs a lot for my work. I am always looking for inspiration from the world around me and use my camera to capture these moments. Recently, when reviewing and rearranging my current online shop collections, I recognised subtle influences from my photography. I had been searching through my various memory sticks of stored images to freshen up my product listings. It was clear from comparing dates on the files that after a few sessions of photographing some summer garden flowers, shades of peach started to appear in the pink scarf I was painting at the time. Although I was not directly using the flowers photos as source material their influence was quite obvious with hindsight – up until then peach was not included in my work.

Influences-colourful-flowers

I also opened my Bury St Edmunds memory stick.  There were plenty of photographs of the glorious stained glass in the cathedral, both motifs and colours from the glass I have since featured directly in my silk scarf designs. However, after working in the cooler tones of the glass for a few months I can see I gradually moved to a palette of warm, rich colours. This was not the conscious process as before but I think the beautiful rich red windows had left their mark. Looking at the dates on these files I think the autumn weather was also a factor.

Influential-reds

It hasn’t only been colourful images that have unconsciously influenced my work. When you are looking for a good shot you examine your surroundings with more attention and details so often overlooked are literally brought into focus. Shapes I hadn’t thought I had noticed at the time have been added to my stock of motifs such as the details on these sculptures.

Cemetery-shapes

In the end though sometimes there is no obvious inspiration for the colours of a scarf. With one of my favourites, this blue and green scarf below (long sold), I worked up the design layer on layer adapting my choice of dyes after each layer was steamed. A less controlled more serendipitous process.  .   .   .   .   .   .   but I had been recently photographing seascapes!!!

Petrol-blues

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