An ‘in’ with a stranger & flora residency

Another trip to Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre to see a couple of exhibitions.

As soon as I walked into the gallery I had a feeling of excitement. Aidan Moesby has curated  a selection of artists,  Catrin Andersson, Joanne Mitchell, Zoe Preece and Tim Shaw using the weather as a metaphor for the human condition.

On first glance there seems little to unite these four artists but the skill of the curator has found communality. The weather is a safe topic to spark conversation yet none of these works are safe – all are thought provoking leading onto deeper discourses.

Catrin Andersson is a Swedish artist working directly with the landscape.  She had captured such delicate markings on the paper but with such forcefulness of image.

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BETWEEN THERE AND NOW, 2015

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Joanne Mitchell skilfully traps air bubbles into blocks of glass

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Legion kiln formed glass air entrapment 2015

Zoe Preece is a Cardiff based ceramic artist and, although I admire her work (the condition of being in between states), it has left wondering how it fits in with the metaphor of weather, although that too is continually between states.

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No Tangible Object I, porcelain, wood, 2015 (Detail)

Tim Shaw added the dimension of sound to the exhibition. A fan softly blows onto cups designed to measure wind speed, these in turn are wired to an electronic circuit causing three bells to be struck periodically.

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Gust  2016

The catalogue for the exhibition.

After a delicious lunch in the Arts Centre Cafe it was time to visit Caroline Dear’s Flora exhibition which is the result for her time as artist in residence at Llantarnam Grange.

The catalogue is a series of bulletins documenting her time in Cwmbran, it is interesting reading. However I was disappointed with the exhibition as, although beautifully set out, it didn’t whet my curiosity. I felt it relied too much on the setting out of the materials, something I’d seen several times before. I wanted more connection with Cwbran, although a shopping trolley was included!

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Artist’s Talk, Exhibition, Artist’s Talk

After days of rain I was able to walk down to Craft in the Bay in the sunshine for a talk by maker Alys Wall of The Pocket Pirate.

Alys was very generous sharing her background, method of working, sketch books, samples of both made and unmade work with us. She uses materials that are often discarded; leather and fabrics from sample books, old belts and buttons and magics them into purses, bags and wallets. The matching of the pieces together may take days or even weeks and Alys carefully considers the placement of colours, textures and patterns together. It is this attention to detail that raises her work from recycled craft  into a high quality item, the stitching (done on a machine passed down from her mother) is perfect.

I particularly like her bags.

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After the talk I went into the gallery to look at Ooze:  an exhibition by Brendan Stuart Burns. Brendan was one of my tutors on my degree course and I considered him to be a painter so it was with great interest I walked into the space to see his new body of work….in porcelain.

Brendan has continued to use the Pembrokeshire coast, in this work a walk between Solva and St David’s, ” to develop a personal visual language that often plays with the real and the illusionary, the figurative and the abstract.”

By taking moulds from the cliffs the clay has been manipulated and added to with mark making of various kinds. Some pieces have been laid flat but the one with the most impact for me was many pieces attached directly onto a wall. These images have been taken from Brendan’s facebook page.

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With detailed images from Craft in the Bay website.

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In the evening I attended another talk by the ceramist Ann Gibbs arranged by CASW. Ann took me on a wonderful journey starting at St Fagan’s Museum, onto Philadelphia (a report of her time can be read here), to the the wilds of Scotland ending up in Japan to investigate Ikebana before settling in Stoke on Trent for the Ceramic Biennial.

Household objects displayed at St Fagan’s Museum

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Household Objects, Mercer Museum Philadelphia

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Ikebana is a very precise form of flower arranging, with about ten different schools or styles. The influence of Ann’s study of the art is reflected in her work. every piece has an exact place for it to be displayed as can be seen in her most recent installation Crossing Boundaries shown at the British Ceramics Biennial.

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Again I am so grateful that I able able to experience such rich and informative culture all for free.

Relaxed knitting for a serious cause.

It’s difficult for me just to sit and do nothing so when I came across twiddle muffs I knew I’d found the perfect reason to knit. Twiddle muffs are given to people with ‘restless hands’ – often caused by dementia  – and are similar to the sensory play mats babies have; items are attached to the muff to be stroked or twiddled with.

There is a basic pattern but any yarn and stitch can be used. This is the joy of making them as small oddments of yarn can be employed, different colours and thickness and any stitch you like. The emphasis is on the tactile nature of them so beads, buttons, ribbons or anything  that can be firmly attached is sewn on.

There are  many examples on the internet but here is my pattern.

Materials

Size 4 mm circular needle         If you don’t wish to use a circular needle  work the piece flat then join the long edges after decorating the knitting.
Oddments of double knit yarn
Beads, ribbons, buttons etc
Sewing needle to darn ends in and to sew on beads, buttons etc.

Method

Cast on 60 sts. I use this number as I can knit patterns made up of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 stitches. Many different stitch patterns can be found on Knittingfool

P1010014 (800x600) I work in blocks of 8 rows. i.e. 8 rows in stocking stitch, 8 rows in pattern A, 8 rows in a different coloured yarn etc. I use a loop of different coloured yarn to mark the beginning of a new row – here I’m using a loop of cream wool.
Knit until the piece is approximately 12 inches or 30 cms – it does not need to be too precise. The outside of the muff is completed.
Knit for a further 12 inches or 30 cms. This is the inside of the muff so should be the same size as the outside. It does not need to be so fancy as the outside in terms of stitch pattern or colours.

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When the correct length has been achieved cast off loosely.

Darn in the loose ends of the yarn and decorate using the beads, buttons, ribbons etc. They must be sewn on securely. The pieces on the inside need not be so fancy as those on the outside as they won’t be seen, just felt.

When completed pull the outside over the inside and sewn round the edge so forming the muff.

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The Times Newspaper 1851

 

January 30th 1851

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I was itching to turn this newspaper over so I could read the classified adverts but left it on the table at Lacock Abbey. I had to wait to return home to discover the following.

As with the previous entry here the start of the front page advertised sea journeys. mainly to India and California.

Just one from person-to-person followed by a number of ‘Lost’ advertisements.

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The Times Newspaper 1849

I usually trawl through the classified advertisements of The Times at random but when I saw the date on two copies laid out at Lacock Abbey I had to investigate what had been published on the days.

November 14th  1849

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As usual, up until 3rd May 1966, the front page was packed with small advertisements.

Sailings to Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Adelaide for both passengers and  cargo were plentiful. There was just one listings the costs to New Zealand.

For each passenger:                 Chief                           Fore                   Steerage

7 years old and under 14           27                              15                       10
1 year old and under 7              18                               10                         8
Under 1 year old                          0                                0                         0

A guinea was worth £1/1/-  so 45 gns = £45 + 45 shillings = £47/5/-.

Today the prices                      £2750                          £1500                 £1200

But less exotic destinations seemed to be in demand, Madeira, Calais and nearer home Margate and Ramsgate.

Then several “Lost” items. Most of them give the address of a local shop for their return.

A bunch of keys  (5/- reward), one large and several small.
A gold chain (£2 reward), in or near Chancery Lane.
A pearl brooch (10/- reward), with hair and the name of Emily on the back.
A mourning ring (£1 reward), with the name of Tooke in enamel.
A candlestick maker’s envelope containing papers (no reward but expenses paid), addressed to Mr Gough.
A  small gold Geneva watch (£2 reward), near London Bridge.
Smooch – an Isle of Skye terrier (£2 reward), black eyes, cinnamon colour.
Double ivory opera glasses (2 gns reward), made by Dixey.
A yellow canvas bag containing £23.6s.7d  in silver (£10 reward), from Mr Knight’s wagon, marked “Mansell”.
An oval shaped straw basket with lid, (3 gns reward) containing red Morocco leather case, key box, blue envelope case, all containing letters and papers. Left in a first class carriage at Maidstone. Please return to Bloxley House, Maidstone; it is used as a wedding venue today.boxley house

Only one item found, to be collected from The Engineer’s Arms Camden, a liver-coloured setter dog which would be sold if not claimed within the week.

The rest of the page consisted of adverts for exhibitions, books, loans & mortgages along with legal notices.

Charles Dickens had a letter published that day. He had witnessed the execution of  Marie Manning, a servant, and her husband Frederick, a publican, after they had been found guilty of murdering her lover, Patrick O’Connor, a money lender. They buried his body under the flag stones in their kitchen after dismembering his body. She then went to his lodgings to steal his money and processions.

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Here is an extract from the letter…..

I believe a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd  collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun, the horrors of the gibbet and the crime which brought the wretched murders to it, faded in my mind before the atrocious bearings, looks and language of the assembled spectators. When I came upon the scene at midnight the shrillness of the cries and the howls that were raised from time to time, denoting that they came from a concourse of boys and girls already assembled in the best places, made my blood run cold.
As the night went on, screeching and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies of Negro melodies, with substitutions of “Mrs Manning” for “Susannah”, and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned thieves, low prostitutes, ruffians and vagabonds of every kind flocked on to the ground. With every variety of offensive and foul behaviour. Fighting, fainting, whistling. imitations of Punch, brutal jokes, tumultuous demonstrations of indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by the police with their dressed disordered, gave a new zest to the general entertainment.
When the sun rose brightly – as it did – it gilded thousands upon thousands of upturned faces, so inexpressibly odious in their brutal mirth or callousness, that a man had cause to feel ashamed of the shape he wore and to shrink from himself, as fashioned in the image of the Devil.
When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgement……

 

Also in the paper was a detailed article about the murder and the execution.

 

 

 

Trip to Lacock

Along with 15 others from a family history group I went to Lacock to explore the Abbey. One of the members had a 4 x great grandmother living there and, not like the rest of us whose ancestors came from below stairs. this lady was part of the aristocracy.

We were taken on a whistle stop tour by a very focused guide then I had an opportunity to have a wander on my own.

A walk round the cloisters and I was soon attracted to the light falling on the cobwebs

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I was also captivated by the various windows and closures.

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The slow decay.

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The bottom of the red baize door – leading from the servants quarters to those waited upon. It was lined with a copy of The Times newspaper dated November 14th 1849.

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There is a separate blog entry here describing what was in the paper and also of the one below which was displayed in the library.

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Not everything was in a bad way – this beautiful petite point is as fresh as when it was stitched.

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The dining table was laid with a printed white cloth detailing how it was set out and who might have dined there.

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I expected to see rooms like this one, set up as William Fox Talbot may have used it, warm, comfortable with many objects to handle just for the joy.P1000864P1000863

When I went to Abergavenny Market a few weeks ago I purchased, for £3.00 a similar pair of ebony glove stretchers.P1000845

Other parts were more intimate. I imagined a young lady pressing the bell to summond her maid.

P1000853P1000861And I was reminded of my childhood – not that I lived in a grand house but the brass stair rods still had to be polished.

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And the cold, damp bathroom in need of repair.P1000848

Time to go out into the garden but no time to read the magazines left on the bench.P1000867 P1000868 P1000869 P1000874 P1000877

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The gardeners had down tools for lunch – a sign for me to head back and join the party.

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This was not my first visit – I went in September 2011 as write about here.

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I can’t believe I’ve spent the afternoon stitching text onto cloth after vowing I’d not do it again. The last time was such a mammoth task I abandoned it. But I read on India Flint’s blog an invitation to make a pennon from pre-loved natural fabric then ‘stitch on it a word or a phrase or a sentence that might act as a wish for peace or an acknowledgement of beauty, imply a sense of stillness or simply something that  gives you solace.’

I found an old pillow case I’d been saving for such use – too worn to use but I didn’t want to throw it out. I used some cotton thread I’d dyed with beetroot several years ago and chose the phrase ‘and I’ll never have to read between the lines again.’ It’s a slightly altered line from Van Morrison’s song  Sweet Thing.

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The pennons will then be tied together in the order they arrive during June 2015 so making up a circular poem then on the winter solstice placed into a vat of indigo to be over-dyed. The circle of pennons will  be hung up  in the tradition  of Tibetan prayer flags and their dispersal documented over time. India has requested that no plastic is used for packaging the flags and that the papers used will be integrated into another art work she’ll be doing later in the year.

This will be happening at the Observatory,  Andamooka, South Australia.