Role reversal

Long-Melford-charity

There is a long tradition of the rich elite funding charitable organisations. In the United Kingdom the building of almshouses for the poor is one such tradition and dates from the tenth century. A wealthy individual or family, partly in hope of improving the souls’ lot once their earthly lives had ceased, would provide land and shelter for the poor of their community. A fine example of this type of patronage survives in Long Melford, Suffolk.

almshouses long melford suffolk

Almshouses – The Hospital of the Holy Blessed Trinity founded by Sir William Cordell in 1573. Quadrangle with inner courtyard garden, red brick. Long Melford, Suffolk.

Local landowner and dignitary, Sir William Cordell, founded ‘The Hospital of the Holy Blessed Trinity’ in 1573. During his lifetime Sir William had been Master of the Rolls, High Steward of Ipswich and, in 1558, Speaker of the House of Commons. Residing in Melford Hall he had been born and raised in Long Melford and as an act of piety he provided these almshouses for some of the poor residents of his home town. He also endowed these almshouses with land and property in the surrounding area to ensure a regular source of income for the ‘twelve brethren’ who qualified to live there.

The building we see today was heavily restored in 1847 and the property continues to be administered by the Trustees of the Hospital for the benefit of the poor of Long Melford.

The neighbouring church, Holy Trinity, had been substantially rebuilt with financing from the pious wealthy during the century before the almshouses were established. And, most notably, the church windows had been magnificently glazed with stained glass (also with a view to the afterlife) displaying many recognisable donor portraits. These portraits were accompanied with heraldic information to ensure future generations would be able to identify and pray for those individuals represented.

This surviving visual record and architectural history offers a glimpse of the complex, slippery and slightly dubious relationship between God and Mammon. In our contemporary eyes there appears to be an awkward interdependence for the medieval wealthy to negotiate. Of course, during the medieval period the rich man and poor man believed that God had ordered their world and each man knew his place and acted accordingly.  One earthly benefit arising from this arrangement was employment for craftsmen and builders, and latterly, a glorious record of their skills and creativity for us to appreciate today.

Now here I come to ‘the role reversal’ – an interesting visual comparison, a wealthy medieval woman is shown praying for her soul (15th-century brass, Holy Trinity, Long Melford) and now, according to 21st-century marketing, a modern (wealthy?) woman is shown praying to/for luxury goods!

 

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It’s all about the pecking order

Arrival

Last month whilst staying with my father I hid behind the Venetian blinds and poked my camera lens through to see what was occurring at the bird feeders. There were several phases of activity when several birds arrived at the same time.

Fat-for-me

This very beautiful long-tailed tit, timid and nervous, only really managed to tuck in once the other birds had flown away.

Long-Tailed-Tit-looking

Then a noisy chattering of starlings (well six or seven) turned up to muscle their way in.

Starling-squeezes-in

After initially flying away the long-tailed tit eventually plucked up enough courage to fly back and hang onto the feeder and wait for his turn again. He obviously knew his place in the pecking order.

Pushy-starling

Not all the birds were interested in the fat ball. The greenfinches were happy to peck away at the sunflower seeds. Much to my amusement I did see the starlings make an attempt at landing on the perches, but they were too big, and, after unsuccessfully flapping around and wasting energy, they gave up and returned to the fat ball.

Greenfinch

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Stealing from the past – painting Silvia

Agnes-Ashe-clover-pink-close-up copyLiving in East Anglia there are many parish churches that still retain both medieval and Victorian church art. Painted rood screens and colourful stained glass provide a wealth of inspiration for my silk scarf designs.

I like to steal ideas for motifs and also re-work various colour combinations. Often I will just use a tiny part of a much larger stained glass window whether its from a Tudor pane or details ornamenting a Victorian light.

And, once I have created the whole design and transferred it to the silk I then steal colour combinations from a completely different medium such as the oil on board paintings of local medieval rood screens.

The finished work may not obviously look either Victorian or medieval in style, but if you look closely you may be able to spot a motif or two and recognise the ‘dirty pinks’ from the painting of St Lawrence’s robe.Silvia-square

Available from my online shop Agnes Ashe.

Posted in Scarves, Silk, Visual Culture as Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Glamorous garden flowers – The Iris

Irises

Irises are a great favourite not least with some of the world’s most famous artists. Vincent van Gogh painted several ‘Iris’ pictures depicting clumps of bearded irises.

van Gogh irises

Irises – Vincent van Gogh. 1889. Oil on canvas. 93 x 71 cm. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, US

Then, of course, there was Monet’s garden where irises had been planted en masse.

Detail-irises-in-monet-garden

Le jardin de l’artiste à Giverny. Claude Monet. 1900. Oil on canvas. H81.6cm x L. 92.6cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

And, it’s not just Western artists that have been inspired by the iris. The iris’s complex, sculptural form has been exquisitely represented in Japanese Edo Period woodblock images.

Hokusai-woodblock

Grasshopper and Iris. Katsushika Hokusai. Late 1820s. Woodblock print, ink and paper. H 24.8 x L 36 cm Metropolitan Museum, New York, US.

I recently cleared all my father’s tulip display and noticed the irises were just about to bloom, unfortunately he couldn’t see them from the house. It feels sacrilegious to cut them in their prime, but better to appreciate them fleetingly indoors than not at all.

Arrangement-irises-tulips

If bearded irises are cut with full buds they will then open over two or three days.

And, I thought these particular colours as well as the irises’ luscious form combined well to make a design that I could possibly develop further sometime in the future for some silk scarves.

irises-square copy 2

Or perhaps this less muted more fresh combination.

iris-ideas copy

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Sèvres at the Wallace Collection, London

Sèvres-marronnièreAt the Wallace Collection, located a few streets north of Selfridges in London, there are fine displays of Old Master paintings, 18th-century French art, arms and amour and a treasure trove of Sèvres 18th-century porcelain.

The Wallace Collection is a national museum, but as these artworks are held and displayed in a majestic, London town house, the exhibits are enhanced by being placed within elegant, well-proportioned rooms.

In particular, the extensive world-renowned collection of French 18th-century Sèvres porcelain benefits from being displayed within these rich domestic interiors of a former private residence.

This porcelain is known as Sèvres as Sèvres, Hauts-de-Seine, France is where the royal factory was relocated to in 1756 and where it remains to this day. Although originally the factory had been founded and supported by King Louis XV in Vincennes in 1740 to produce china in direct competition with Meissen porcelain produced in Saxony.

Sèvres china is made from soft-paste porcelain which is extremely fragile in the kiln. Many of these pieces have been fired five or more times depending on the complexity of the glazing, the painted decoration and their final gilding.

sevres cup and saucer Micaud

Sèvres cup and saucer porcelain, 1767. Decorated with a rich frieze of roses, garlands and rosettes by Jacques-François Micaud. Acquired by 1834.

The displays include the expected tea wares as well also porcelain vases, candelabra, the odd inkstand and even an ice-cream cooler, but it was specifically the beautiful, delicate cups and saucers that I found most charming. Originally they would have been used for tea, coffee or chocolate and what a delightful treat to have sipped a thick sweet chocolate from one of these.

Sèvres-wave-pattern

Sèvres porcelain cup and saucer, 1765, (height 8.3cm, diameter 15.3cm), with a rare and an unconventional shell-like decoration. A design that reflects the thirst for novelty which inspired much innovation in the decorative arts of 18th-century France. The shell-like pattern was probably painted by Méreaud le jeune.

 

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Spring sunlight, apple blossom and photographing my work

Hetty-Blue-Apr-ModelFresh spring weather and I have been making the most of the late afternoon sunlight.

Valeria-viva-model-twoRe-photographing a few scarves with different styling.Hilda-jade-model-twoAnd, almost capturing a smile!Mayme-model-two-square

 

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It’s Real Bread Week

Bread-rolls-ovenThere is a movement to celebrate ‘Real Bread’. It is encouraging people to buy bread from a local, traditional master baker that bakes real bread or even for people to make their own bread. For those interested, you can find out more from the Real Bread Campaign.

Cinnamon-loaf

Cinnamon brioche loaf

Making your own bread is easy. People often think it’s very time consuming, but that’s mostly the time needed for proving the dough. Basically that’s when you leave the dough to do its own thing, rising in a warm, humid place.

Currant-buns

Currants buns

I’ve been making bread since I was 19 years old. I spent the year before I went to university employed in the labs attached to a flour mill and part of my work schedule was to bake bread three times a week.

Walnut-loaf

Walnut loaf

Over the years I have experimented more and more, and, I as I like nuts there have been more and more nutty loaves of various shapes and flavours.

Nut-loaf

Almond loaf

And, of course, I can’t finish without mentioning the influence of the Great British Bake Off, along with judge Paul Hollywood, which has done so much to promote yeast cookery for the home baker. I would never have ventured into Italian breads without seeing it on the GBBO and it has been well worth it. Olive breadsticks are a bit tricky (and sticky) but absolutely delicious and well worth the effort every time.

Olive-Bread-sticks

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Ah Etsy – that perennial conundrum: How to appear personal and local when you’ve become global and indifferent.

Brahms-quoteEarlier this week on Tuesday, 2 May 2017, Chad Dickerson, the Chief Executive of Etsy, quit his job following unexpectedly poor results for the first quarter of 2017. Etsy made an unpredicted loss of $421,000 (£325,000) during the period. The business is now under investor pressure to restructure – mmm, I wonder how many of those investors are crafters too?

Etsy-Nasdaq-listing-2015

Chad Dickerson applauds as Etsy listed on the Nasdaq in 2015.

I admired the original premise of the Etsy founders and the platform has certainly been extremely successful for over a decade. Dickerson once commented “Etsy is very much a community-based business. What we’re really trying to do is build an ‘Etsy economy’ that’s about connecting people.”

And from .  .  .

A handcrafted beginning (from the Etsy homepage)

Etsy was founded in June 2005 in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York to fill a need for an online community where crafters, artists and makers could sell their handmade and vintage goods and craft supplies. In the spirit of handmade, founder Rob Kalin and two friends designed the first site, wrote the code, assembled the servers and spliced the cables to get Etsy up and running. In 2008, Chad Dickerson joined Etsy as its first CTO, and created the company’s foundational engineering culture, treating “Code as Craft”. Chad became CEO in 2011 and began championing the “reimagination of commerce,” a transformation of every aspect of how goods are made, bought and sold. Under Chad’s leadership, the website that began in an apartment in Brooklyn has evolved into a sophisticated technology platform that connects Etsy sellers and buyers across borders, languages and devices, a company that spans the globe and a business that is committed to creating lasting change in the world.

Etsy has burgeoned into an enormous global ‘marketplace’. The successful original idea has grown and grown.

However, back in 2013 significant changes that broadened what was accepted as handmade work were introduced much to the concern of many Etsy crafters. These changes permitted the hiring of help to make your work and the opportunity for wholesaling your work.

thelma-progress-wordsI must admit at that time I was a newbie to Etsy and was more perplexed about ‘wholesaling my work’ than annoyed about it. I simply couldn’t imagine how I could create and physically paint enough silk myself and then offer it wholesale to be resold (mark up of at least 100%) at a price to even cover my costs let alone make a small profit. For me the wholesale idea didn’t fit with my craft. And, this is the rub – truly handmade, craftwork is neither cheap nor high volume. As you may remember just about a year ago I decided to close my Etsy shop as my one-off, handmade work was difficult to find, swamped amongst the thousands of laser printed or amateur silk pieces offered for sale.

The Etsy craft platform business model appears to have a hit a bump in the road as those 2013 policy changes have eventually resulted in less one-off original pieces and many more ‘me too’ products.  And, if you are fine with the ‘me too’ world why not simply go elsewhere to buy/sell on Amazon Handmade or eBay. Etsy has ridden the crafting wave successfully, but nothing grows for ever and if, in the world of handmade, you water down your standards to achieve volume, quality will inevitably suffer.

Slow-craft-hooking

Handmade – work in progress hooking a textile wall hanging. There’s nothing immediate and speedy about making this type of artisan piece.

I used to think that Etsy helped promote craft, but now I’ve realised that the resurgence of interest in craft and the ‘so-called’ boom was well underway at the grass roots before Etsy came into being. (If you are interested fellow crafter and early member of the Etsy craft community, Grace Dobush, has written a superb article about craft and the Internet.)

And, finally back to Chad Dickerson. During the 947 days that I had my Etsy shop, I watched several Etsy ‘live chats’ with Chad Dickerson and his Etsy staff. He came over as an interesting, thoughtful guy.  He certainly appeared to believe in his quoted wish to champion ‘the re-imagination of commerce”. However, perhaps, at this point in time, we’re re-discovering that authentic craft has more local than global appeal.

Posted in Contemporary Culture & Design, working | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Outside it’s grey skies, but inside it’s . . . . . . more grey?

Grey-bathroom-antique-styleFashions and trends, and, what’s in and what’s not, isn’t just for clothing, but also interiors. Now I suppose I am a little old fashioned as I have never invested either time or money in the idea that your home needs refreshing every five years or so. That’s my excuse for not noticing that along with the recent weather, it’s all gone grey inside too.

contemporary-grey-bathroom

A contemporary bathroom white with grey.

Curiously, the marketing algorithms have gleaned that I am in the process of moving and I have received a slew of emails showing the latest paint colours, wallpapers and soft furnishing fabrics available. Does anybody actually take notice of this type of approach? Personally, I think there’s a whole lot more to rooms than mere products.

Grey-reception-raspberry-sofa

A grey reception room with a raspberry sofa as the accent colour.

Designing and decorating any room, for me, isn’t simply carried out over a weekend on a whim following a perusal of the homes column in the Sunday newspaper and a quick flick through a couple of interior design magazines. It takes time. I don’t know what type of rooms my next home will have, but I know I will be months living in them before I figure out how to use the space efficiently.

Grey-kitchen-units

Painted grey kitchen units in a country style kitchen.

During this time the gradual process of generating solutions of how to incorporate most of my old furniture into some kind of coherent whole will proceed one room at a time.

Grey-Inspiration-from-John-Lewis

Grey inspiration.

I like most of my old stuff and have no intention of buying anything new unless replacing items that no longer work (sometimes washing machines seize when in storage for too long).

grey-bedroom

A contemporary bedroom white with grey.

From a bedsit, whilst at university, through to my last home invariably there have been space and light issues. But colour has always been important for me and I use it to set the general tone of any room. However, at the moment I appear to be very out of step as the most fashionable look is all about grey.

Blue-wall-bedroom

My old bedroom with a very, very blue wall and my old furniture.

Yes, I know grey is a colour, but it doesn’t spring to mind when somebody says colourful, does it? Looking at the above ‘grey’ adverts I can’t image I will be decorating using contemporary greys with my old furniture and handmade rag rugs.

Kitchen-green-walls

My old kitchen with green walls, old china and a rag rug.

 

 

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I may be temporarily gardenless but . . .

Bouquet-kitchenFor the first time in 22 years I am not spending spring weekends both coaxing and at the same time taming a garden from its winter state. It is a strange sensation to be without even a windowsill of outdoor plant space. Dare I say it, for the moment it makes me feel rootless!

Here is my old garden last year on the 26th April 2016 . . .

26-April-2016And, here is my last photo of the garden taken on 27 February 2017 before the pots were loaded onto the lorry.

Back-garden-27-Feb-2017B&W

So it is thank goodness for the odd bunch of seasonal flowers.

seasonal-flowersFor me certain colour combinations are simply crying out to be tweaked and developed into some form of textile work .  .  .

sp2watercoourHere, above and below, are a couple of ways I have manipulated the images to emphasise the colours and the shapes in preparation for possibly a silk scarf or a hand hooked cushion cover.

sp2-sketchAfter working on these photos saving some and deleting others, I pondered my gardenless state. Reminiscing I scrolled back through hundreds of old photos featuring the gone garden when I came upon this strange picture. If you were wondering just how odd some people can get here’s proof. No, it wasn’t April Fool’s Day either when I concocted this visual yarn!

A-moment-of-whimsey

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Inspirational medieval stained glass

medieval-painted-glass-Long-MelfordLast year when I visited the Great Church of the Holy Trinity, Long Melford, I knew it had some of the finest surviving fifteenth-century stained glass in England. Naturally, I made sure I had plenty of time to photograph the beautiful windows.

I’ve previously blogged about the outstanding glass filling the north aisle windows of this Suffolk ‘wool’ church. I’ve also examined the single donor portrait of Elizabeth Talbot, wife of John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and the possible link to the John Tenniel illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

donor-portrait-windows-long-melfordHowever, there are many more medieval folk represented in this collection of stained glass. Today, almost all of the surviving portraits of the original donors can be identified by visitors as, when the portraits were re-glazed to their present locations a small lite bearing each name was inserted beneath. These labels are a modern addition.

Modern-name-litesExamination of original fragments of medieval gothic script legends, together with any related heraldry and further evidence from the historical record, has enabled accurate contemporary identification, hence the useful labels.

frays-windowThe use of heraldry not only aids modern identification, but in medieval times confirmed the various family connections and associations, and, would have maintained the significance of these people in the eyes of their contemporary congregations. However, the principle reason the wealthy aristocracy commissioned these glass portraits was piety. They wished to be remembered in the prayers of the clergy and congregations for a long while after their deaths in the hope of shortening their time in purgatory. Heraldry-for-Elizabeth-Annes-Margaret

fraysLittle were they aware that the very notion of purgatory would be rejected within the next 100 years following the Reformation and the establishment of English Protestantism. And, never would they have dreamt that 500 years later visitors to their church would be just as interested, if not more interested, in the skills of the talented yet nameless artisans who created this costly and elegant glass.

I have found the windows a great inspiration and have used the colours and some of the motifs to develop a silk scarf design.InspirationBut somehow I still can’t quite capture the tone of the original creations!

stained glass medieval portrait

Anne Darcy sister-in-law of John Clopton and wife of John Montgomery. Late fifteenth-century stained glass, Holy Trinity, Long Melford, Suffolk.

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