Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers, 1918 Part 2

I decided to look at The Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers (Blount, E. and King, M.E., The Peasant Arts Fellowship Papers No. 10, Vineyard Press, Messrs. J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1918) after finding that Clara Pammenter, one of the executors of the Peasant Arts works in 1896, was a neighbour of Maude Egerton King.  She was just 14 years old when she produced the works for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.  Whilst I have found a reasonable amount of writing about of writing about the works produced by the Haslemere Peasant Industries, there is little describing the impact upon Haslemere residents of the movement.  The tales within The Influence therefore seem a unique and heart warming record of the Peasant Arts movement's success:

Inside The Weaving House, Kings Road, Haslemere
from Studio International, Vol. 43, 5 Feb 1908

"Perhaps one of our happiest examples of the charm and help of handicraft, is an elderly married woman who had reached middle age by a path of patiently performed home duties, before ever she had come into touch with imaginative work of any kind.  She entered the Industries at first as an embroideress, and was immediately happy among the gay colours and designs.

Weavers at St Cross, Weydown Road, Haslemere
from Studio International, Vol. 43, 5 Feb 1908

"But the absolutely beatific life only began for her when was required to put her embroidery needle by and to take up the making of homespun - from the first unscoured wool, through all the processes of spinning, dyeing, and weaving to the shrinking  and perfecting of the cloth itself!  A sudden and wonderful enthusiasm filled her for this work and has never left her, nor ever will.  When at her wheel she says that it is almost impossible to keep from singing- "singing and spinning seem to belong together."  She goes about her daily duties, uplifted, radiant, dreaming daydreams of indigo, madder, fustic, and crottal; the murmur of the spinning-wheel is in her ear, she walks to the rhythm of the weaver's beam, and if her days pass swifter than the weaver's shuttle, they pass as profitably too!  She pretends to spin and weave for necessity and duty, but she doesn't- she does it for pure joy - for she is right in the secret which underlies all real work, and has become, in a humble degree, a creative artist."

 Studio International, Vol. 43, 5 Feb 1908

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers, 1918 Part 1

On February 28 1918, Ethel Blount and her sister Maude E. King presented a paper at the Peasant Arts Fellowship meeting in Caxton Hall titled Our Experience of the Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers (The Peasant Arts Fellowship Papers No. 10, Vineyard Press, Messrs. J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1918).  Their speech began:

"If this paper, the subject of which is one of deepest human interest, proves but a dry cataloguish affair, we would ask you to consider the difficulty of compressing the experience of many years into fifteen minutes...

Interior of Weaving House, Kings Road, Haslemere
from Pooley, B., The Changing Face of Shottermill,
Acorn Press, Haslemere, 1987

"A girl coming into the Weaving Home or the Workroom quickly interested in the work, becomes very proud of her growing skills, and, while gradually mastering a beautiful craft, is also acquiring the splendid patience of the good hand-worker.  If, at the outset, she is less refined than her companions in the workroom we find she soon grows noticeably gentler in her ways and simpler in her dressing.  During the careful processes of craft, much grinding and polishing of human jewels would seem to take place, for many unsuspected treasurers are brought to light.

"For example, one embroideress develops the power of drawing minute reductions of large designs, very fluently and charmingly; another reads a paper in defence of hand - opposed to machine-work at her chapel guild; another gets a loom of her own into her cottage in order to weave the clothes of her dearly loved little son, as well as her own best wear; another stays behind and works overtime to make her own wedding-dress.  "Of course, I couldn't be married in anything but a hand-woven dress." she said, when we expressed our pleasure about it.  Yet another develops a rare sense of colour.  Of some more than usually beautiful arrangement of colour we sometimes learn from her fellow-workers - she is too modest to tell us herself - that she has tried therein to symbolise something of herself or of them, her friends, or the mood of a sweet grey morning or the splendour of autumn woods.

The Tapestry Studio, Kings Road, Haslemere
Art Journal, 1906
"A philanthropic millionaire was watching her weaving in a public exhibition not long since, and - mechanical speed and high pay embodying for him the highest good! - he remarked compassionately, "Well, God help the poor creatures that have to make a living at that!".  "Yes, He does!"" said the little weaver surprised at his simplicity.  Doubtless, had the philanthropist lingered long enough to discuss the matter, he would have asked, "Well, allowing that it is worth a girl's while to weave for you, how is she when busy in her own home ever to find time to weave for herself?"

The Weaving House, Kings Road, Haslemere c. 1902
from The Craftsman, January 1902

"Let this story answer him.  In a remote Sussex village lives a young girl, trained in our Industries, whose father is a small farmer, baker, and miller.   The mother is a very busy woman, constantly called into the little shop, and this, the eldest daughter, must help with the cooking and home-work generally.  And yet on Christmas Day last she gave her father a suit-length of tweed which she had spun, dyed, and woven herself.  Now she is making a dress for her mother, and clothes for brothers and sisters are to follow.  All this, be it remembered, is done in the spare times of a busy, dutiful life, where, as a Highland woman once said to us, "she has a great deal to do all amongst everything, indeed!"  She has a little workroom, where with loom and wheel and the fleeces from her father's South Down sheep, she sits and works wonders like any little princess in a fairy tale!  And here she holds a weekly spinning circle for her sisters and friends, doing her utmost to kindle other flames from her own bright torch.  We are all very proud, I am sure, to acknowledge her as one of the first members of our Peasant Arts Fellowship."

Blount, E. and King, M.E.,
Our Influence of the Influence of Handicraft upon the Workers,
Peasant Arts Fellowship Papers, No. 10,
Vineyard Press, Dent & Sons, 1918

Friday, 22 March 2013

Haslemere's Peasant Hanging at the V&A

When I finally saw the 1896 Haslemere Peasant Industries hanging at the Victoria & Albert Museum recently I was proud to see that it is prominently on display in the Arts and Crafts section of the British Galleries.  Despite knowing of it's measurements, I was struck by the size of the hanging.

The Haslemere Peasant Industries Hanging (1896),
in the British Galleries, V &A Museum
Next to the hanging is an information stand titled "Arts and Crafts 1860-1910" which suggests that the V&A feel that the Haslemere hanging epitomises the Arts and Crafts movement.  The V&A's explanation of Arts and Crafts provides an excellent concise explanation of the movement.  The stand reads:

"In the 1860s progressive thinkers began to develop radical new ideas about design but the Arts and Crafts style was not fully recognised or named until the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was founded in 1888.

"Central to Arts and Crafts thinking was a new appreciation of the artistic skills of the workers and a belief that makers should derive satisfaction from their craftsmanship.  Supporters opposed large, impersonal factories and set up small workshops, often in the countryside.

"Arts and Crafts designers valued the natural beauty of materials.  They simplified forms and structures.  Ornament was designed to enhance construction rather than to mask it and was based on handicraft techniques.  Later, commercial manufacturers and retailers adapted the style for production by machine."

The Haslemere Peasant Industries Hanging (1896),
in the British Galleries, V &A Museum

The Haslemere hanging is displayed with:

  • a Liberty & Co washstand c.1894, "probably designed by Leonard F. Wyburd"
  • an armchair 1892-1902 "designed and possibly made by Ernest W. Gimson"
  • a Morton & Co. 'Omar' woven furnishing fabric (on the wall to the right) 1896-1900 "designed by Charles Harrison Townsend"

The Haslemere Peasant Industries Hanging (1896),
in the British Galleries, V &A Museum

The Arts and Crafts stand next to
The Haslemere Peasant Industries Hanging (1896),
in the British Galleries, V &A Museum

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Teaching the local girls in 1896

In my previous post we can see that in the 1896 Arts and Crafts Exhibition there were a number of items exhibited by Mrs Joseph King of what was then called "Lower Birtley, Hand-weaving Industry, Witley, Surrey".  Of the 4 items exhibited, two cloths were listed as being "executed by Clara Pammenter" and one pair of curtains were "executed by Ellen Shenton and Clara Pammenter":

  • exhibit 228 - hand-woven dessert cloth
  • exhibit 235 - hand-woven sideboard or dresser-cloth
  • exhibit 14 & 15 - pair of hand-woven curtains
Looking on the 1901 census, there was only Clara Pammenter in the UK, she was then 19 years old, making her just 14 years old when she made two and a half of the exhibits for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1896.  Clara was living at Shoelands Farm in 1901, this is right next door to Lower Birtley.  Clara was living with her father who was a farmer, and she herself has the profession of parlourmaid (domestic), suggesting that the weaving was either a hobby, or something she no longer practised by 1901.  

1901 census extract
Clara Pammenter living at Shoelands Farm, Birtley

Maude Egerton King is recorded as living at Lower Birtley in 1901 with her 4 year old daughter Katharine and Maude's elderly mother Mary Ann Hine.  They are living with a governess, a parlourmaid, a housemaid, a trained sick maid and a between maid.  The between maid is May Pammenter, aged 14, presumably Clara's younger sister.  Perhaps Clara had previously worked at Lower Birtley and that was how she produced the works in 1896?

extract from 1901 census,
Maude Egerton King living at Lower Birtley, Witley

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Arthur Romney Green's mirror for his Sister-in-Law

Along with the chair and table currently for sale by Arthur Romney Green at Haslam & Whiteway, there is also this lovely dressing table mirror (or certainly that is what I would call it).  This was another piece owned by Arthur Grogan, the curator at Standen, the Arts and Crafts National Trust house, described in his obituary as "a discerning collector of late 19th century British works of art and craftsmanship, an authority on the Arts and Crafts movement and a benefactor of public collections in Britain" (Obituary, The Guardian, 27 October 2011).

Arthur Romney Green mirror c.1920
for sale at Haslam & Whiteway

I understand from Haslam & Whiteway that numerous Arthur Romney Green items from Arthur Grogan's collection have been sold by them since October 2011, and that they were involved in Arthur Grogan's original purchase of the items from William Curtis Green's widow, Gwen Curtis Green.   That Arthur Grogan collected Arthur Romney Green's work is testament to the quality of his craftmanship.  William Curtis Green was Arthur Romney Green's brother, an architect who amongst other works designed The Dorchester Hotel in London.  Gwen was his second wife after William was widowed in the early 1930s.

Despite the difficulties in the family, caused by Arthur Romney Green leaving his wife and daughter for a married woman, it is interesting that his brother had so much of his furniture, and a piece like this which must have been used by his wife, was still used.  Perhaps it was a wedding gift, or maybe as it is dated c.1920 and they married in 1936, the mirror was an older piece from William Curtis Green's first wife.

The geometric shaping is trademark Arthur Romney Green.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Arts & Crafts Exhibition 1896

The Haslemere Peasant Arts movement had it's biggest representation at the 1896 Arts and Crafts Exhibition.  It appears that this put the work of the Blounts and the Kings on the arts and crafts map.

Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue

The catalogue (which unfortunately has no illustrations of the exhibits!) includes the following:

West Gallery
Godfrey Blount
Mrs. Godfrey Blount, Studio of Applique Tapestry, Haslemere
Exhibit 13 - Wall Hanging
Designed by Godfrey Blount
Executed by Mrs Godfrey Blount, Mr Blount and, Assistant
Exhibited by Godfrey Blount

Mrs. Joseph King, Lower Birtley, Hand-weaving Industry, Witley, Surrey
Exhibit 14, 15 - Pair of Hand-Woven Curtains
Designed by Godfrey Blount
Executed by Ellen Shenton and Clara Pammenter
Exhibited by Mrs Joseph King

Exhibit 33 - Curtain for Screen.  Applique tapestry
Designed by Godfrey Blount
Executed by Mrs. Godfrey Blount and Mrs. Joseph King
Exhibited by Mrs. Godfrey Blount

Exhibit 228 - Dessert Cloth.  Hand-woven.
Designed by Godfrey Blount
Executed by Clara Pammenter
Exhibited by Mrs. Joseph King

Exhibited 235 - Sideboard or Dresser-Cloth.  Hand-woven
Designed by Godfrey Blount
Executed by Clara Pammenter
Exhibited by Mrs. Joseph King

Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue
It is interesting to note that the hand weaving was taking place at Lower Birtley in 1896, and not at the Weaving House on Kings Road which was opened in 1899.  I wonder whether the 'Studio of Applique Tapestry' is the Tapestry Studio on Kings Road, the date of this building's completion is not clear, or whether the 'studio' was actually an interim building, like Meadow Cottage on Foundry Lane, whilst the Tapestry Studio was being built.

Also, you can see that the exhibits were not routinely made by Godfrey Blount or Maude (Mrs Joseph King) King.  The tapestries exhibited were executed by the Blounts and the Kings, whereas some of the hand weaving was executed by Ellen Shenton and / or Clara Pammenter.

The New Gallery, Regent Street, map,
from Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue, 1896

Index extract for Godfrey Blount and Mrs Godfrey Blount
Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue, 1896
Index extract for Mrs Joseph King,
Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society Catalogue, 1896

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