The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
Click the picture to visit my other blog

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A very famous Welsh Folk Art quilt

This coverlet created in 1842 by James Williams, a Wrexham tailor was featured in our book MAKING WELSH QUILTS.

It is such a famous piece that I wasn't certain about featuring it yet again and of course it is not a quilt but a coverlet.  It is also a complete one-off and unlike any other Welsh quilt that I know of. However, my friend Philip said that no book on Welsh quilts would be complete without it - it must go in he said and he was of course right.

We were very fortunate that we were allowed to exhibit it in our gallery of Welsh quilts at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham in 2007 and it was also on show last year at the V&A Exhibition.  When we Welsh "girls" stood in front of it at the exhibition we felt so proud, we wanted to shout out to everyone that it was WELSH as well as fabulous.

In my opinion it is the best folk art quilt ever!  Every time I study it, I marvel at the workmanship, the dedication of its maker and the time it took to make and where did he start?  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we knew how he went about it because I certainly can't work it out!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Walled Gardens

A walled garden - the very name conjures up contained delight?  It also suggests sheltering and cherishing something special - a place away from prying eyes.

Of course the children's book "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett has perhaps influenced our feelings about walled gardens, making them seem romantic. This book was first published in serial form in 1910 and it went on to become a classic which has spawned many TV and film adaptations.

The garden that inspired it is said to be Maytham Hall in Kent, where the author had lived for a few years.  This is an early cover, isn't it lovely? 

Over the years I have walked around many lovely walled gardens and only last week I visited a super newly designed one at  Alnwick Castle which the Queen visited yesterday. 

 Another top two are -
West Dean in West Sussex -

and Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk -

Of course all of these are maintained by a staff of gardeners, as they were in the past when they needed to be the productive powerhouse that supplied each estate. Today they are mainly visitor attractions which we can only dream of owning - but oh we can dream!  To walk around one in mid summer is just magical!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A little exhibition

I forgot to mention that there is a display of my little quilts at the Jen Jones Quilt Centre in Lampeter.  The main gallery has Jen's wonderful exhibition of old quilts entitled "OH THAT SUMMER WOULD LAST FOREVER"  but in the little gallery you will find mine.

This is another picture which was taken when I taught there in April which will give you a flavour.

I also had quite a surprise when I found it on this blog -

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Wales and Pennsylvania

This lovely red and white quilt which is now on exhibition at the Jen Jones Quilt Centre is product of  American and Welsh quilting influences.

It belonged to Jennie Rambridge of Merthyr Tydfil whose relatives emigrated to Pennsylvania at the end of the 19th century, the men to work in the coal mines. One of them, Jennie's Aunt Martha, who had married a James Treageo of Gilberton, Pennsylvania, is thought to have made this quilt which was brought back to Merthyr as a gift for Jennie.  The quilting is Welsh but the block pattern is American - a true blending of quilting cultures?

The Welsh were among the first to settle in Pennsylvania. They arrived in two waves, the first at the end of the 17th century when they were fleeing religious persecution and then a second wave in the 19th century when many left Wales in search of work in the coal fields of  Pennsylvania.

The first wave settled and integrated and had quite a lot of  influence in their new country.  Eleven early Presidents had Welsh antecedents, including John Adams the second President, whose family came from Pembroke (my family territory).  The second wave weren't as influential and though many settled permanently, others returned home because there was by that time plenty of work in Wales. The above quilt fits into the second wave. 

Sadly the Welsh connection with the USA seems to get overlooked and it is the Scottish and Irish influence that is celebrated.  My theory is that it was probably because they were a sober lot and didn't party like the Scots and Irish?  Singing hymns, though wonderfully uplifting, can't really compare to Scottish and Irish celebrations!

Thank you Jen for allowing me to use this picture of your quilt and to Hazel for sending it!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Visiting the North Country

I have just returned from a weekend tour of gardens in Northumberland.

For those of you reading this who don't know where that it, it is in the very far north of England just below the border with Scotland. I have passed through it on route to Edinburgh a few times but have never visited this county before and was especially keen to visit Alnwick Castle and Garden.

Alnwick is the home territory of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland who have played a significant role in British history. For example, it was a Percy who first romanced Anne Boleyn before it all went pear shaped.  However, they managed to survive that episode and many others and are still one of the wealthiest titled families in the UK, owning large estates in the North as well as Syon House in London.  

Ten years ago, the new Duchess imagined creating a beautiful public garden for families to enjoy, and from her bold vision, The Alnwick Garden project began. She made a very good job of it as this is a top class visitor attraction and has certainly put Alnwick on the map.  The Queen is visiting later this month so everything was looking wonderful, not quite in full bloom for us, but by next week all will be perfect.

This is the sight that greets you as you pass through the beautifully designed entrance complex into the garden proper -

This photo of the new cascade was taken as I sat having a coffee in the spacious eating area -

The sun shone for us and the water in the fountains sparkled as we walked to the top of the cascade and entered the walled garden.  It was magical,  filled with exclusively European flowers -

This is beginning to sound a bit like an advertising promotion, but it really is worth a visit.  I couldn't fault it and I don't say that very often!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Paper cutting masterpiece

If you Google "My V&A" it will bring you to videos of famous designers choosing some of their favorite objects from the collections.  Now generally when asked to list favourite books, films, music etc., I am struck by indecision and have to think long and hard, but choosing  favourite objects at the V&A is easy peasy.

The first one I have shared with you already - The Sundial Coverlet, the second one is this -

Its a cut paper collage by Anna Maria Garthwaite done in 1707 and I think it is absolutely breathtaking in its exquisite detail and workmanship. Anna Maria was one of the most talented silk designers of her generation working in London and she made this collage when she was 17 years old.  It gives some indication of her youthful artistic ability, which laid the foundations for her future success. Some of the trees in this cut-paper work resemble her watercolour textile designs of the 1720s.

This paperwork picture shows a country house of around 1700 surrounded by gardens, with gardeners clipping trees. Huntsmen are shown chasing deer in a wooded park and in the upper right corner is a village with houses clustered around a parish church.  What I love about it is that it is so very English and of course it looks very like a sampler.  It has a dream house, just like the red brick sampler houses, set in a formal garden and surrounded by it productive estate.  Who wouldn't want to live there?

You will find it in British Galleries in Room 52b, Case 1, it is tucked away down in the right hand corner.

These British Galleries are a treat.  They are arranged in exhibits that mix treasures from all over the V&A collections in rooms that put each period in context. You'll find clothing worn by a man or a women near their personal objects, their jewels, the furnishings and wall coverings they lived with and all have detailed and interactive information for you to access.

I have to say that  I haven't actually managed to get through all of them as I tend to get lost by back tracking within the Tudor to Regency part seeking out my favourite things.

I will show you my third favourite thing another time!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

"The Country Wife" - Stumpwork Panel c. 1951

Years ago, when I first became interested in embroidery, I saw a picture of this collage and was very taken with it.  I haven't actually seen it in real life yet, but it is now in the National Needlework Archive at Greenham Park, near Newbury in Berkshire (see link below) and I have put it on my list of places to visit.

It was made for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and designed by Constance Howard and worked by her students at Goldsmiths College.  Some members of the W.I made the more specialised pieces such as the gloves, the basket of knitting and the hobby horse etc.

The commission was intended to portray the activities of the W.I. and it certainly does that.  It also captures the feeling and the fashion of the time when everyone dressed up to go to meetings!  I don't belong to the W.I. but I know it's a force for good with the same high ideals and aims, however, I should imagine its members dress quite differently now?

The panel measures 4.5 x 5 meters and is embroidered in high relief on a flat felt background with padded figures being 5/8 life size. In the centre are the W.I. activities such as baking, embroidery, weaving, basketry, dressmaking and flower arranging, surrounded by others which include hymn singing, gardening and fruit picking set in a small town with outlying farms as a background.  

I wonder if Constance Howard was inspired by those 17th century stumpwork panels and embroidered caskets? The ones that usually depict characters from a bible story at the centre with other scenes and characters around it, all set in a stylised landscape?  Same formula and both raised work?

This wonderful piece of work is undergoing restoration at the moment -

so check first before you pay it a visit!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Hay and Heroes

On Bank Holiday Monday, at what seemed like the crack of dawn, I set off for the little town of Hay-in-Wye which straddles the border with England.

I was going to the Hay Festival to hear Matthew Rice and Emma Bridgewater talk about their pottery in Stoke and about Matthew's book "The Lost City of Stoke on Trent".  I mentioned this book here a while ago and can't praise it enough.

The Hay Festival is world famous, though I had never been before and it attracts some very prestigious names.  In the past Bill Clinton and Arthur Miller have appeared there and I believe that Rob Lowe and the Duchess of Cornwall are due there this week. Well I hope they have a better time that I did weatherwise.      It should look like this -

with everyone lounging around having a good time discussing books and enjoying the sunshine.  However on Monday it was raining cats and dogs and everything looked extremely dismal. We tried to make the best of it but oh dear, after our chosen event we beat a hasty retreat from the Festival field and retired to our favourite pub in the centre of the town.  You can't beat a cosy old pub as a refuge from the rain!

Despite the weather, I enjoyed the experience.  I am not sure if I will go again but meeting Emma and Matthew, afterwards in the bookshop was certainly worthwhile.  They are very nice people and care very much about Stoke and Matthew's book is both a tribute to Stoke's past and a plea for its future.

Matthew and Emma both signed my book - just look at Matthew's wonderful printing -

and of course I had to buy the EB special mug as a momento!