Thursday 16 December 2010

'Artisans at Dimbola' : Connections with the Past…

It was touch and go whether we would get to Dimbola for the Artisans Sale, but when Saturday morning arrived the snow had completely disappeared. We set up our tables in the Dining Room, a spacious bright room with tall windows, looking out to Freshwater Bay, Compton and beyond. I knew I had to have the place next to the mantelpiece - in this now bare room, empty of almost all it's original features - the mantelpiece offered a real connection with the past.

Julia Margaret Cameron may not have actually dusted the mantelpiece (she had plenty of servants to take care of such things) but surely she would have placed small treasures here? Ornaments, gifts bought back from foreign travels by her family, possibly a miniature likeness of them or even one of her own photographic prints. She may have arranged these curios in much the same way as I arranged my felt work on this same mantle piece.

I'm mindful of connecting with a past line of women, all going about their work, both domestic and creative, within the walls of a particular building. Their efforts and energy leave a strong presence behind, permeating the fixtures and fittings of rooms, worn down by their dusting and arranging.

Julia's presence is very much in evidence at Dimbola. You can imagine her skirts rustling as she rushed down the wooden staircase to greet her guests in the hall. In this Dining Room, in the 1860s, she would have entertained the celebrities of her time. Tennyson, Thackeray, Darwin, Ruskin and Edward Lear would have all sat around her table.

She was a strong, purposeful woman and her strength of character exerted great force over everyone she encountered, especially if she wanted to photograph them. The famous faces didn't escape, nor did her long-suffering servants. However I have a copy of Gernsheim's book, published in 1948, which tells a different story. It has this inscription written inside : 

If Miss Westlake hadn't been quite so shy she would have been immortalised amongst all those great faces of the day.

As we all packed away, after a wonderful weekend at Dimbola, and left the room bare again, I could imagine and almost hear Julia's chattering guests around her dining table, and the sound of music and dancing in the hall. Dimbola really is an amazing house, full of atmosphere, which brings the past alive.  Many thanks to Shirley and all the volunteers and staff whose enthusiasm and hard work help keep the spirit of the house very much as it must have been. And a very special thanks to everyone who braved the cold to come and see us there.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Christmas Crafts at Quarr

With just a week to go before our Christmas event I visited the Abbey today to check over final details. I always find visiting Quarr an uplifting experience. It looked particularly beautiful today. The red brick structure of the Abbey really glowed in the November sunshine, surrounded by the colours of autumn. The pigs are always pleased to see any visitor, they charge towards you as soon as they hear you crunching along the pathway from the car park.

I hope many of you will be able to come to our crafts event. It's an opportunity to leave the bustle of town behind for a couple of hours and come Christmas shopping for those special gifts, in this peaceful setting.

The Abbey, the Pilgrims Chapel and the Bookshop will be open and you can enjoy home-made teas & lunches in the Monastery Garden CafĂ©. Admission and parking are free. You can check out the times of daily services on the Quarr Abbey website.

Don't forget to bring a couple of windfalls for the pigs. Not sure whether I should be saying this, but they are beginning to expect them! 

Monday 1 November 2010

First steps...

I had been thinking about putting a blog together for a while and I'm really pleased to have finally done so, especially as this first post is all about my first felt making workshops that took place this October in Freshwater.

The idea materialised during Open Studios in the summer, when over 30 people asked did I do workshops? I'd never considered it, but I took their details anyway.
Then West Wight Landscape Partnership asked if I'd like to make use of premises available through Cuckoo, their empty shop project, where these temporary spaces are utilised as studios by local artists - so I jumped at the chance and let everyone know.


I organised a series of one-day workshops for beginners, in which the basic techniques of felt making were explained, with everyone aiming to make one or more pieces of flat felt, experimenting with blending colours & textures.The results were truly amazing! The sheer inventiveness of the participants, in their designs and end-projects, are here to see on my flickr pages. Some had a really clear purpose in mind, most just enjoyed using the vibrant coloured fibres to create stunning pieces of fabric. But everyone seems keen to continue making felt…
...So, hopefully there will be more workshops to follow in the New Year. More for beginners, as well as for those who wish to progress on to more advanced projects - making 3-D shapes, soft pots & bowls, as well as felt jewellery & bags.
Watch this space!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...