Saturday, December 29, 2012

Memorial amaryllis

Those who know me well are only too aware of the loss I have felt since my dear friend Maeve died in December 2011. Fortunately, she has left many legacies in my life, from a Slightly Foxed tea mug, tin of string, a Persephone notebook which she insisted should be my commonplace book, a little cardboard box from Venice with lovely pink marbling, to knowing the importance of warming tea cups before pouring and, above all, the value of courtesy and kindness.

She had a special friend and neighbour who was her rock during her last months, Pauline, a feisty, down to earth fellow nurse, whose humour and strength made such a difference to that difficult time. In fact, my last meeting with Maeve was with Pauline as well, and typically all I can remember is how much we laughed.

Maeve was no horticulturalist. So, when her amaryllis went over, Pauline took it on and grew it to flower the next year. This year she gave it to me. Flower it has, spectacularly, with the added joy of remembering Maeve every time I admire it.

I decided to paint it in my usual rather slapdash style, one which Maeve admired (but, then, she always admired everything with 'what a girl you are!').  So, here it is, to you, dear lady.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Birch bark and sticky buds

Trees of childhood.

Birch, particularly this one with its glorious apricot lined bark. Surely any children lucky enough to live in the country has peeled the bark and used it as paper? I've been told that it makes wonderful kindling for the fire.

Horse chestnut, picking a leaf and stripping it down to a fishy skeleton - small pleasures. Now, I love the way the sticky buds start to appear to soon after the leaves drop. So optimistic.

This morning on Radio 4 there was a delightful programme about the magic of trees. There is more than you think to hugging a tree.

Ditchling - Ethel Mairet & Tadek Beutlich

Having remembered Ditchling in my last post, recollections of houses and people have bumped around my mind since then. So, I have decided to write short posts on some of the people and their houses, as I remember them, either in myth or reality. During the twentieth century, Ditchling became a remarkable centre for arts and crafts and many notable artists have lived and worked there over the years. There is still a lively crafts scene as well as the notable Ditchling Museum (closed until next Spring for refurbishment).

Firstly, two weavers.

Ethel Mairet (1872-1952) was a craft weaver who moved to Ditchling in 1916, to a house she had built in the Arts & Crafts style. It was called Gospels. Here she created a vibrant hub for the craft scene, welcoming other influential weavers as well as the potters Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada. Of course, the Guild of St Dominic and St Joseph, founded by Eric Gill and Hilary Pepler was the focal point, but Ethel Mairet was one of others working in the village at the time, not directly associated with the Guild.

A student weaver, Tadek Beutlich (1922-2011), visited Mairet at Gospels with his tutor from the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts.  In 1967 he bought Gospels. This was when I knew the family. Our sons, my James and his Matthew, were pals at the village school. Many of my friends worked with Tadek as assistants, making it very much a village industry as it had always been. I believe there was a covenant which precluded anyone other than weavers from owning Gospels which was lifted after Tadek moved to Spain in 1974.

Tadek's work was created off the loom and this was the sort of wall hanging which I saw there. Bird of Prey (1972). They were magnificent and huge.

I remember Gospels as a lovely house with high ceilings for the main workshop room: Ethel Mairet had large looms there but Tadek needed the height  for these large wall hangings. The Lutyenesque details were superb, leather thongs for the wooden latches, high quality hinges, brackets, windows, doors, and yet with an overall modesty. Most impressive were the huge wall hangings being produced using hunks and loops of wools, and large woven baskets overflowing with glorious coloured skeins of hand dyed wool.

Next post? I'll decide later. Quite probably it will be lettering.

There is a plethora of information on the web - here are just a few links.
For more information and image - Ethel Mairet
Obituary of Tadek Beutilich
The University of Brighton has written about Arts and Crafts in Ditchling
Ditchling A Craft Community