Wednesday 30 April 2014

Kernow Forever! Barbara Kirk Samplers @ Auction in Kernow (Cornwall) * 6 May 2014

Lot 202 is a pair of samplers from the mid 19th century, one (RHS) is a pictorial sampler stitched by Mary Ann Kerkeek, aged 12 years, February 11, 1840. Another similar pictorial sampler featuring a monkey climbing a tree. I can't say for sure that these are Cornish samplers but Kerkeek looks a Cornish name to me. Interestingly, there was a Kerkeek Gold Mining Company in Adelaide, South Australia. The Cornish were famed miners and Cornish gold and tin were mined in antiquity. The estimate for this pair of sampler is £120 - £180.
Just this week we heard that Cornwall (Kernow in Cornish) has been granted minority status which puts it on the same footing now as Wales and Scotland. Cornwall has an ancient and strong sea-faring Celtic heritage which places it nearer in language and culture to French Brittany than England. Grand Bard of Cornwall, Maureen Fuller, said: Cornish people have a proud and distinct identity and a genuinely democratic society respects the ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity of people belonging to a national minority. We are proud of our history and our unique language and look forward to the day when these feature as regular subjects on school timetables and are spoken of by Cornish people as a way of life. Here you can see the flag of Kernow flying. I am looking forward to enjoying my first Kernow Pasty, Kernow Clotted Cream Tea and Kernow Ice-cream...
I am not sure I have ever seen a Cornish sampler for certain before - so here at last - not just one, but two. The largest sampler on the LHS is not only Cornish by make but Cornish by name, stitched by A F Cornish in 1834. The larger sampler on the RHS is by A Hitchens at Duloe School (between Looe on the coast and Liskeard inland). In the group is another piece signed Jane Hitchens and A Hitchens. The set of 3 is for auction with 33 more sampler lots at Barbara Kirk Auctions, Cornwall on 6 May 2014. It is Lot  214 with an estimate of £70-£90.
Lot 202 above is a sampler by Elizabeth Fawcett dated 1831 and has an estimate of £120 - £180.
Above is Lot 224 - A pictorial sampler stitched by Jane Wray, 1824 featuring Adam & Eve. Its estimate is £80 - £100.

A pictorial, wool embroidered sampler by Jane Peckitt, Burythorpe, 1859 is Lot 228. Burythorpe is in the Yorkshire Wolds, a long way from home! The estimate for this sampler is £70 - £90.
Last but not least is this charming sampler by Eliza Etherington, aged 12, 1861, featuring a globe, an anchor, a sailing ship & horse rider. Its estimate is £60 - £80. For more details of the auction and to see the other samplers in the sale, click here.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Around The World In 80 Textiles * ULITA Exhibition * Leeds' Flax Mills' Strange Temples & Towers

This exhibition celebrates the 10th anniversary of ULITA and runs from 30 April - 25 July 2014 and again from 30 September - 28 November 2014 at St. Wilfred’s Chapel and showcases the scope of the archive by presenting costume and textiles from all the countries featured in ULITA’s collections. All the items selected for display have not been exhibited since the opening in 2004 and include a lovely beaded sampler. Highlighted will be the amazing embroiderer Louisa Pesel, whose work was inspired by her extensive travels.
While you are in Leeds do take time out to explore the historic textile centre just south of the city and rail station, by the canal. It is now a thriving area of artistic lofts and super eating places mixed in among the old cobbled courtyards of the former textile mills, so you will be comfortably catered for. Look out for John Marshall's Temple Works built in the Egyptian style between 1836-1840 and boasting that it was the biggest single room space in Europe.
This building is a former flax mill and comprises an office block and factory, the office block based on the temple at Antaeopolis and Temple of Horus at Edfu with a chimney designed in the style of an obelisk.
There are a number of details to make you smile - these asps and their smiley faces can only be appreciated side-on - from the front view they appear to be part of a traditional bead and dart frieze. Oh, yes, and you may also want to know that sheep used to graze on the grass-covered roof. This served the purpose of retaining humidity in the flax mill to prevent the linen thread from becoming dried out and unmanageable
Across the road, take time out to wonder at the chimneys (yes, chimney stacks) at tower works built on the model of Italian towers, one resembling a tower in Bologna.
Even now I, after decades of familiarity, I never cease to wonder at the ingenuity, the reverence for the past and mistaken belief that they were building for centuries to come, of my textile forefathers. But why settle for three Italianate towers, when you can build a fourth? This view below brought a big smile to my face when I got the joke. The new cylindrical building in middle of the picture, with its cunningly staggered windowed storeys recalls the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Lovely Leeds. And if you want to visit the ULITA exhibition, just click here for more details

Shakespeare's Dark Lady * Identity Revealed Through Embroidery

Some theories suggest that the Dark Lady was a man - Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, and William's sometime patron. However, in 1978, acclaimed historian A L Rowse, having studied the papers of the court apothecary Simon Foreman came up with the name Emilia Bassano. Not only was Emilia the love of Shakespeare's life, but she also appeared in his plays as Cleopatra, Beatrice, Ophelia, Portia and Lady Macbeth. At some point the link was made to a miniature limned by Nicholas Hilliard, now in the V&A. Formerly titled Mistress Holland the woman was first identified as Angela Bassano, Emilia's elder sister and wife of Joseph Holland. However, the dates did not match. Angela died in 1584, but Emilia, her half-sister, was exactly the right age in 1593. (The inscription states the likeness was painted in 1593 when the sitter was 26). Born in 1570, Emilia Lanier was the illegitimate daughter of Baptiste Bassano, a Christianized Venetian Jew and one of the foremost musicians in King Henry VIII's court, Emilia was left without means upon her father's death. Emilia became the mistress of the Lord Hunsdon, the patron of Shakespeare's theatre company. But on becoming pregnant, an unavoidable but bad career move for a consort, she was married off for appearance's sake to another musician, Alfonso Lanier. The clincher for researchers is the sitter's bodice, which is decorated with silk worm moths and mulberry trees - the Bassano coat of Arms - and the stag of the Earl of Essex, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth in the 1590s, in whose service Alfonso Lanier had at one time been.

Monday 28 April 2014

Meetings With Remarkable Women * Rachel Bach and Her Sugar Flowers

This post is a little off topic but I so want to introduce you to Rachel Bach. I met Rachel by accident a few weeks ago. Her brother-in-law is the famous South Korean ceramicist Changhyun Jeon and the Rachel and her husband had kindly and very graciously acted as intermediaries when I purchased some pots from him. Rachel has one of those special natures so full of grace in every word and movement but little did I know then of the skills of her artistry.
Here you can see both Rachel and her artistry. The images are from her FaceBook Page. I thought at first, what an exquisite arrangement of flowers! and wondered if Rachel might have been involved in their composition. Her reply knocked me off my chair. Yes, she had arranged the flowers - and they were of SUGAR. And she had made them!
I don't think anything else I can say can add to this achievement. Just a softly breathed and great gratitude for Rachel's being in our world.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Veil and Adornment Medieval Textiles and the Cult of Relics * Abegg-Stiftung Museum, Berne, Switzerland * 24 April - 9 Novermber 2014

Today is an historic occasion - two former Popes, John Paul II and John XXIII, are declared saints. In the past the bones of saints would be shrouded in fine textiles and this new exhibition in a completely refurbished Abegg-Stiftung Museum gives an insight into how textiles were used in the cult of relics. The items on display include large cloths in which the bones of saints were wrapped, finely worked pouches made to hold smaller relics, and fragments of costly silk used to package tiny remains of a revered saint or cut from a garment worn by a canonized person. The eleventh-century vestment of Saint Bernard of Hildesheim, moreover, provides graphic proof of how garments were cut up into fragments of cloth which then served as keepsakes.
The mortal remains of saints are a church's most treasured possession. For centuries, relics have been painstakingly preserved, wrapped in the most exquisite fabrics available. Textiles protect and adorn. They also become relics in their own right by virtue of having touched venerated objects. Others count as relics because a saint once wore them: robes, head coverings, stockings or sometimes just fragments of the same become greatly sought after mementos of their former owners.
There is also a large permanent display of sumptuous textiles from Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and regions along the Silk Road. Arranged in chronological order from the 4th century BC to the 18th century A.D., the pieces illustrate the development of textile art in both East and West (see above). The museum is open daily from 2.00 to 5.30 pm. For more details of the exhibition, click here.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Quilts & Color : The Pilgrim/Roy Collection * Museum of Fine Arts, Boston * Until 27 July 2014

I make my quilts as fast as I can so my children won't freeze and as beautiful as I can so my heart won't break. Quilts and Color features nearly 60 distinctive quilts from the renowned collection and is the first to explore how, over five decades, trained artists Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy searched out and collected quilts with bold, eye-popping designs that echoed the work of mid-20th century Abstract Expressionist and Op Artists. There is also a book to accompany exhibition.
For more details of the exhibition, click here.
Gerald Roy talking about his collection on video

Friday 25 April 2014

SOLD The Strawberry Sampler by Darlene O'Steen of Needle's Prayse * £10 €15 Including Shipping

My praise, respect and esteem for the work of Darlene O'Steen just couldn't get any higher. She was a stellar designer of beautiful needlework. This is a delightful traditional running stitch sampler and it will give hours of pure enjoyment to any stitcher.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Happy Birthday Mr Shakespeare - Happy 450 To You!

Though we don't know for certain the date in 1564 on which our William was born, 23 April is the date we celebrate - and that is today. I feel quite sad when I remember my relatively enlightened schooldays when we were dragged kicking and screaming, full stop by semi-colon through the works of Shakespeare. But in spite of that unsympathetic introduction, I was never totally turned off, and my love of the bard blossoms and grows all the time, the more I read and visit the theatre. You might like to Google to see how many embroiderers he has inspired. Here you can see a locally made silk bookmark celebrating his tercentenary. Below are some embroidered buttons by Not On The High Street at £5 each. Which play?
Olympia Le-Tan designed the stylish embroidered clutch below and it can be purchased for £995 click here for more details. Perhaps you have a favourite piece from Shakespeare you would like to share? Here is mine - Sonnet XXIX
When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
If you would like to find out more do visit the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Remebering the Great War * The Sampler of Marleen Meersserman

I am grateful to Marleen for showing me and telling me about her sampler commemorating World War I which started 100 years ago this year. Marleen lives on the battlefront of the Great War and thinks it important that the memory of this war is passed on. The idea for the sampler came to her in 2009. She says: I couldn’t find one single pattern that matched the theme. So I started off with photographs that my husband and I turned into sketches. By using an overhead projector and an erasable marker, we traced the sketches onto 36 count linen. Later on, a pointy needle proved useful to embroider the curved lines. I only used two colours: dark green and vibrant red. The difference in shades is the result of the variety in stitches. The many horrors with which the soldiers were confronted are listed (sometimes in four languages) and depicted in the right border. The word GAS is only three letters - yet this is a weapon by which thousands of people were killed or crippled. So I made the word longer by adding more s’s, and then I pondered for a while about how I should portray the gas: With clouds? Fluorescent green? Covered eyes? … I opted for a skull. The eye sockets hold the letters G, A and S. In the lower center, I embroidered the Stone of Remembrance. On its right, trenches, with our devastated landscape above. Between the burnt-up trees, symbolically, the Cross of Sacrifice. Our region is strewn with war cemeteries that are administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This is depicted in the left bottom. Above, poppies with stalks of barbed wire make up the left border. Soldiers and their families on both sides shared a common fate. Hence the sculpture “Mourning Parents” by Käthe Kollwitz. They mourn for their son on the German war cemetery of Vladslo, near Diksmuide. Above, the ruins of the Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) of Ypres, symbol of a destroyed region. On its right, the world-famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by John MacCrae, in which the symbolic use of poppies has its roots. Men are literally drowning in the mud, in the blood, in distress and misery. They scream for help, for rest, for peace … Hence the hand in the upper right. I think of my work as a condemnation of the horrors of war and I hope that everyone who tries to take it in, will realise how precious peace is..
Marleen's heartfelt work made me look again at two young men I knew briefly who served and survived the Great War. Here you can see my Great-uncle John and my dear Grandad, his brother. My Grandad was gassed and was carried on the back of German soldier to within crawling distance of a first-aid tent. Had it not been for this kind German, I would not be here today to tell you the story. After the war both my Grandad and Great-uncle had a predilection for meticulously polished shoes - I used to love helping brush their shoes - even though they were very strict about getting it just right! They also both needed a garden shed where they spent much of their time smoking and in quiet contemplation. Again I was allowed to be with them on condition I was quiet. My reward was being taught to sing Mademoiselle from Armentières (probably not all the verses) and how to roll their cigarettes in some strange mechanical gizmo - my Grandma would have been horrified had she known! When I was 13 my French exchange for 3 weeks was with a family in Bois Bernard in the Pas de Calais, not far from Armentières, I was taken to the Menin Gate at Ypres, the staggering memorial at Vimy Ridge and through the subterranean trenches of the war. To see the numbers of dead, the little ground lost and gained for such a toll brought me to tears, even then. Have any of you been to see the stage production of War Horse? If you have then you will know why Marleen chose also to depict a horse on her sampler - it represents the many animals that died as well.

Monday 21 April 2014

The Needleworking Women of Leonard Campbell Taylor

Although Leonard Campbell Taylor, born 1874 and died 1969, painted many of his works in the first half of the 20th century, there is a timeless clarity about them that recalls the women painted at their tasks by Vermeer. In many of his paintings (not shown) women are portrayed in their solitude at ends of corridors, halls and galleries, with that interesting recession of internal planes that is characteristic of Dutch painters of the Golden Age. The painting above is titled The Patchwork Quilt, and sadly I couldn't find a better image of it.
The portrait above is titled The Sampler and some describers have called it two women at a drawing board - but we know differently, don't we? With its triptych space and centrally placed framed Madonna and oriental-style carpet in the foreground, it recalls quattrocento sacra conversazione.
By contrast many would consider a women at her sewing machine to be a far more prosaic topic, but again, with the recession of planes in a simple domestic interior and with the side-lit subject at her work, Vermeer comes to mind.

Of all the portraits of women at their needlework, this is my favourite. We do not see the window to the left that is lighting the scene, but we see its magic through the illuminated embroidery on the frame and the light on the colonially made mother-of-pearl open workbox. And, as in Dutch paintings, we are left unsettled by the thought that has just entered the stitcher's mind. What is it that has caused her to pause and look up from her work?

Sunday 20 April 2014

The 1623 Hungertuch of St Clemens, Telgte, Westphalia

Telgte is just a few miles to the east of Munster in Germany and in the Church of St Clemens at this time of year, the fasting month of Lent, since about 1623 was displayed a Hungertuch - literally Hunger Cloth. The cloth measures 7.4 metres by 4.4 metres and is composed of 66 linen panels, half of them being open work panels depicting scenes from Christ's passion.

Arranged like a chequer board, each image panel alternates with a simple linen panel. The technique is stitching across a square on a grid of twisted linen threads running horizontally and vertically and was carried out by noble ladies of the knightly families of Vos, Droste, Hausen, Bischopping and Münster.

The first four lines depict the suffering of Christ, the fifth row shows the symbols of the evangelists and the Lamb of God as a symbol for Christ, the sixth row displays motifs from the old testament.

The Wiedenbrück Pastor, Bitterus Willge, who is represented in the bottom row of the image with his initials, was probably the initiator. This cloth replaced an earlier cloth which had been a victim of the wars. The cloth was hung every year until 1905 and now it can be seen next door in the Westfälisches Museum für Religiöse Kultur.
To give you some idea of how this was displayed in church, we can see, below, the similarly famous Hungertuch of Freckenhorst.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Winterthur Embroideries On-Line

Apart from samplers, Wintherthur also has some splendid embroideries in it on-line collection, like this early sweet bag above with a label referring to it as a Knitting Bag which belonged to a Lady at the Court of Q. Elizabeth.
I think we are all familiar now with stitched globes - they were de rigeur items in the curricula of young ladies of the Enlightenment. Westtown School in most famous for its stitched globes.
This is just one of the 18th century stomachers in the Winterthur collection - do find the others when you visit.
I really must make a pocket one of these days - I have been promising myself for some time now - along with many other projects still to complete! I love the dated and initialled pocket below.
You will need several hours to enjoy all the embroideries on-line at Winterthur - so pace yourself. Click here and enter embroidery into the search box.