Sunday, 13 March 2011

Teaching Weaving in Haslemere: Spreading the Word

The first step towards the Peasant Arts movement was in teaching, and teaching is one of the cornerstones of the beliefs of the movement.  Teaching features strongly in the literature they produced, for example the Blount’s key books were written to assist others in creating art: Ethel Blount’s The Story of the Homespun Web taking the reader all the way through the weaving process from scouring and dyeing the wool to weaving and waulking, and Godfrey Blount’s Arbor Vitae subtitled as ‘a book on the nature and development of imaginative design for the use of teachers, handicraftsmen and others’.  
Leaflet detail: the Hall of St George is now St George's Flats, Kings Road, Haslemere

The number of different organizations that the movement set up is confusing, as there seems to be a different named Peasant Arts or weaving organization referred to in almost every old leaflet at the time.  They ran at different times at least four ‘schools’ for learning handicrafts: the Spinning and Weaving School at the Hall of St George (Kings Road.  Leaflet in a previous post), the St Cross School of Handicraft (at their house St Cross, Weydown Road) producing wooden toys (a request for craftswomen to carry out woodcarving is covered in a previous post), The Peasant Arts School of Spinning, Weaving and Vegetable Dyeing and The Peasant Arts School of Toy-making.  Greville MacDonald listed one of the Peasant Arts Guild’s operations as “sending into country-places teachers of spinning and weaving”. 

Lower Bertley, now Lower Birtley, Witley
detail of 
A House at Lower Bertley, William Egerton Hine, 1895 (Maude and Ethel's brother)

The origins of the Peasant Arts movement were firmly grounded in the teaching of handicrafts, after all handloom weaving was not an everyday skill at the turn of the century.  Myzelev (Myzelev, Craft Revival in Haslemere: she, who weaves…, Women's History Review, Vol 18, Issue 4, 2009) writes that in 1894 “the Kings moved to Lower Bertley, near Haslemere, set up the Wheel and Spindle Guild, which produced plain and figures materials in linen, cotton and silk.  Maude King taught a few local women to weave in a class run through the HAIA (Home Arts and Industries Association); the products of the class were shown at the annual Home arts exhibition held at the Albert Hall in 1895.  The textiles of the Lower Bertley weavers sold successfully, with the Princess of Wales and the Duke of York purchasing pieces, encouraging the expansion of the workshops…In 1897, Maude and Joseph King moved the weaving workshop to a purpose-built studio at Foundry Meadow (now Kings Road).  By that time, all of Maude King’s students from the Lower Bertley workshop had small Swedish looms in their houses.”

Extract of Blount, Godfrey, Arbor Vitae, A.C. Fifield, 1910
The Peasant Arts Guild at 17 Duke Street, Manchester Square advertised ‘The Peasant Arts School of Spinning, Weaving and Vegetable Dyeing: In which instruction in Homespun Tweed, Linen, Cotton and Rug Weaving is given.” And also “The Peasant Arts Industry and School of Toy-making”  The teaching in an undated leaflet below was advertised as:

“Spinning and Weaving.  Single lesson of three hours                         £0.50
            “            “            Per Week of five days, three hours daily             £1.50…
Pile Carpet Weaving.  Single Lesson of three hours                                    £0.76
Vegetable Dyeing. “                         “                        “                                    £0.76…
Toy-Making.  Single Lesson of three hours                                                £0.50
            “            “Per Week of five days, three hours daily                        £1.50…

Terms for engaging the Guild’s Teachers for Villages and elsewhere.
Per Week                                                                                                £2.00...

Board, Lodging and Travelling Expenses Extra.”

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