Saturday, 2 December 2017

Haslemere Educational Museum's Peasant Arts Christmas Card

Haslemere Educational Museum have made the bold step of printing a European Peasant Arts Collection Christmas card, of a slipware bowl from Germany.  It's a lovely festive card, which I hope they sell many of.  They are being sold in the museum shop at £4 for 10 cards.

Haslemere Museum Christmas Card, 2017
Slipware bowl from Germany

Haslemere Museum Christmas Card, 2017
Slipware bowl from Germany

Friday, 1 December 2017

Decorative Arts Society - Arthur Romney Green

The new issue of the Decorative Arts Society Journal, no. 41 (2017) includes a marvellous article by Neil Hyman on Arthur Romney Green 'Obscure Geometry: patterns of influence in the work of Arthur Romney Green'.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Neil during a number of his visits to Haslemere when he was researching this article including photographing the Arthur Romney Green (ARG) panelled oak chest at St Bartholomew's Church and visiting ARG's old workshop.  Both of which are shown in the article.  Neil believes that ARG's time in Haslemere had a significant influence on ARG's artistic style, which is a fascinating insight.

The Decorative Arts Society Journal 41, 2017

There is more on the Society and Journal, which is published annually, on their website here.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Haslemere Arts & Crafts Weekend has Begun!

Eric Knowles' lecture this evening was great and very entertaining.  It was interesting to see him have some slides on our Haslemere peasants!  I'm looking forward to tomorrow's lectures in the morning and my Peasant Walk in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Gospel of Simplicity by Godfrey Blount - Part 3

from Arbor Vitae, Godfrey Blount, 1899
Godfrey Blount goes on to describe his Gospel of Simplicity: A Plea for Country Life and Handicrafts (1906) “It would lead a reaction against the selfish commercialism and unspiritual philosophy of the present day, and preach in their place the charm of content, the pride of true independence, that is to say of living for other people, and not on them, and the sweet unreasonableness of Faith.

"We must do things be cause they are wanted, love things because they are alive, and believe things because they are obvious and beautiful.

"We must return in some sort to ideas and methods which the modern world considers effete and superannuated, because it cannot understand their underlying principles, or that they can be any principle at all or motive for work other than that of getting the largest and quickest return for the least immediate trouble taken.

"We must return to Simplicity, but not to innocence; to simplicity, not because we are childishly ignorant ho complicated and confused and cruel we can make our lives, but because we know it only too well, and are determined to prevent their remaining so any longer; and so we must wage war against all useless and cruel fashion (for useless fashion must always be cruel), extravagance in dress, food, and service, because it hides the light from others as well as from ourselves.  If this is asceticism, it is asceticism for the sake of our own higher comfort and humanity’s good, it is in fact supremely aesthetic – sensitively susceptible to the higher claims of Beauty which is finally but another name for Simplicity."

from Arbor Vitae, Godfrey Blount, 1899

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Gospel of Simplicity by Godfrey Blount, Part 2

The Gospel of Simplicity’s influence can be seen in John Chiene’s book Looking Back, 1907-1860 
 “We want to get back to the time when we make the whole boot, and don’t spend our days in punching the eyeholes.  We want to get back to the gospel of simplicity, as preached by Godfrey Blount in No. 8 of the “Simple Life Series,” and by Dr Geo. Keith in his most valuable book, “Plea for a Simple Life.”

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903

In the extract of The Gospel of Simplicity (Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903), in my previous post here, Blount continues “Politics can only seal, never initiate, reform.  They are therefore quite incompetent to cope with the increasing danger of substituting everywhere machinery for hand labour, dangerous because a nation’s prowess must consist in the number of her sons who can win their living from Nature unaided and direct.

What armies of the sword or plough do we imagine these fetid hives of manufacturing cities, which destroy the countryman in his third generation, will produce?

The truth is that the majority of us, in and out of Parliament, are too compromised with machinery in some form or other to question its necessity, to abstain from its convenience in private, or try to control its growth in public.  Hence our revolution must proceed on individual lines, by the conversion of persons here and there to the wisdom of ultimately adopting the more primitive, slower, simpler, but in the end more satisfactory and humane, methods of labour; and for a long time to come our movement must be ethical and patriotic in the best sense of the word, and appeal to sentiments with which politics have practically nothing to do. 

The popular cult of machinery is the saddest evidence of that hallucination that we can beat down the price Nature asks us for her fruits. 

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903
If we cheapen her on one side, however, she is bound to compensate herself on another.  In spite of all the labour-saving inventions of the past century, one may venture to doubt if the ultimate cost of production has been lessened, when we come to calculate the social and moral condition their influence has had on the country, when we take into account our dependence on foreign nations for our food and clothing, the depopulation of the country, the growing danger of our big towns, and the increasing discontent, ignorance, and savagery, of the population that infests them.

In actual cost alone, it is doubtful if wholesome living, good food, clothes and accommodation are any cheaper to-day than they ever were; doubtful indeed if beyond a fairly defineable limit machinery can possibly lighten the average labour or conduct to the average happiness.

We tamper at our risk with a certain standard of effort, of personal hard work that Nature asks us in return for her gift of Life, just as we tamper at our risk with the physical and spiritual mysteries of that gift.

Machinery, in fact, has been making slaves and savages while it has been making fortunes.  It is owing to machinery that unskilled labour is superseding skilled, that the countryman has forgotten his lore, and the craftsman his cunning. 

In bringing this broad accusation against machinery I recognise of course that it is itself a result and not the cause of the disease we are suffering from, and the evil we have to fight against; the sin of greed, the love of money, the wish to gain more of the world’s wealth than is natural or healthy for us, this is the real root of the trouble, whether it takes the form of monopoly in land or capital, the means of distribution and production, or any other method in the vast field of human selfishness which remains to be exploited…

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903
We cannot preach the faith that is in us unless we act it as well, by practising in what we do, and in how we live, that simplicity and directness which will keep us in loving touch with the great Nature of which we are a part.

There are many ways of doing this, of which agriculture must always come first.  But while land is difficult to come by, tools are easy to buy, and while the tenure of land is surrounded by uncertainties, there are no restrictions to our making things by hand.

We can all help to encourage the revival of handicraft without waiting for Parliament to protect us, and help individually to hasten a better day, or avert a worse.

"We conceive at present of labour as a disagreeable factor in our existence; our main object is to avoid the necessity for doing any of it ourselves and to shuffle it by hook or crook on to somebody else’s back, or to get it done by “labour-saving” machines, whereas it is labour alone, backed by a good conscience, that keeps us healthy, happy, and sane."

from The Herald of the Golden Age, November 1903

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Gospel of Simplicity by Godfrey Blount, Part 1

The Herald of the Golden Age journal,
November 1903

In November 1903 the journal The Herald of the Golden Age (online here) wrote about ‘Books Received’ on Godfrey Blount's ‘The Gospel of Simplicity’: “This powerful plea for a return to country life and handicraft, written by one of the Members of our Order, sounds note that is much needed at this present tie, and it deserves the widest circulation.  In order to give our readers a comprehensive idea of the contents of the booklet, some lengthy extract are printed on page 129.”

In fact the edition prints devotes over two full pages to the work.  This is where I have taken the extract below from.  Blount's The Gospel of Simplicity was printed as part of Arthur Fifield's "The Simple Life Press":

“A gospel of simplicity is obviously what age of complexity requires.  But it is not easy to define simplicity: to put it onto practice is the hardest task in the world.  The greatest art is the simplest and the most uncommon.

The Herald of the Golden Age,
November 1903

Could we dare to suggest an epitome of the Sermon on the Mount it might be, “Blessed are the simple for they know what Life means.”  And in his own way Socrates said, “The less we want the nearer we shall be to the gods who want nothing.”

But do not credit what I mean by Simplicity with bad manners and want of sensitiveness or taste.  On the contrary it is for its very want of taste that we condemn society.  Simplicity, because it faces the problems of Life and knows what can be known about Nature, sets eternal fashions.  Society, losing touch with these things, plunges into the bottomless pit of ever-increasing luxury.  But that is prostitution, not good taste. 

Nor does Simplicity involve a puritanical asceticism: far from that, it believes that all our pleasures are keen in proportion to their purity, and sacred if they have been honestly earned and involve no unkindness to our fellow creatures. 

Our duty as reformers then has a material and spiritual aspect as well as a person and public one.  No mere reform by Act of Parliament or philanthropic association aristocratically patronised can alter the fact that we cannot lead simple lives before we have simple wants and thoughts, nor hope to see clearly through the tangled social conditions that surround us before we have set our own lives in order.  It is fortunate perhaps that the tangle involves us all, because in trying to tread our way out of this Cretan labyrinth each one of us will be doing his best for all.

Illustration from The Herald of the Golden Age extract,
November 1903

My object is consequently to plead for a revival of Hand Craft, which carried out to a thorough and logical conclusion would involve a return to the country and agricultural pursuits.  These are the first of all handicrafts, for if we could revert to hand labour as the method of gaining our daily bread it would be the fitting counterpart of that desire for simplicity and aspiration which we are anxious to effect in our ideas about life as well as in our domestic matters.

Most reformers would I am sure demur at my inclusion of the land question under the, to them, less important question of a revival of Handicrafts, and would assume that greater facility for the acquisition of land must precede every other material reform.  I venture to partially disagree with them; not that this, too, is not urgently required – I am sure it must be – but that in the present absence of all worthy ambition the mere giving people an opportunity of leading healthy and innocent lives does not, unfortunately, ensure their doing so.

What we have to do is to create the feeling anew, to educate a new peasantry who will come to the country as emigrants to a new land, keen to face new experiences and learn new lessons, with no alternative in the background in case of failure.  The question, in fact, is a far greater one than mere land reform, it s one of education, of building suitable characters for a great nation that is to be.”

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Arts and Crafts Weekend 7-9th July 2017, Haslemere!!!

I'm excited to report that the Haslemere Educational Museum is running a 'Celebration of the Arts and Crafts Movement' on the weekend beginning the 7th July.  There is a packed programme of events, that you can see on the leaflet here.

  • Friday 7th July, 7pm - An Evening Talk by Eric Knowles, a leading authority in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Decorative Arts.  A well-known face in he world of antiques, having graced the BBC's Antiques Roadshow programme for over 20 years
  • Saturday Morning Lectures at the Museum:
    • 9.30am - The Rustic Renaissance, Lindsay Moreton, Collections Manager, Haslemere Educational Museum.  An introduction to the diverse European Arts Collection at the Museum and the craftspeople who inspired the local Arts and Crafts Movement
    • 10.15am - Craft Routes to Ditchling, Donna Steele, Curator Ditching Museum of Art + Craft.  Discussing the appeal of the rural idyll to these modernist artists and craftspeople.
    • 11.15am - The Beauty and Romance of Arts and Crafts Gardens, Dr Sarah Rutherford, Garden Historian.  
    • 12.00 - F.W. Troup - A Scotsman in Surrey, Professor Neil Jackson RIBA FSA, Charless Reilly Professor of Architecture.  About Troup's work whether casting beadwork or designing houses for Joseph King in Haslemere
  • Haslemere ' Peasant Arts' Trail, 2.30pm - with me! - Wander around the outside of the Arts and Crafts industry buildings and houses of Haslemere with the local expert.  
  • Arts and Crafts Dinner at St Christopher's Church, 7pm.  An evening at St Christopher's Church with an informed tour of this stunning example of an Arts and Crafts building followed by music and dinner by candlelight.
  • Sunday morning- Visit to Munstead Wood.  A guided tour of Gertrude Jekyll's iconic garden at Munstead Wood by the Head Gardener Annabel Watts and neighbour Gail Naughton, owner of The Quadrangle, once the working garden of Jekyll's estate.  The tour will also include a visit to Busbridge Church, home to Morris & Co windows and Lutyens' rood screen.  The churchyard is the resting place of Gertrude Jekyll.
There's a leaflet, and a booking form, which I've photo'd below.  The museum website has a small bit of information on the event at the moment, but it says: For more information, please contact or phone 01428 645425

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Set of Valances at the V&A

The final piece that I saw at the Clothworkers Hall was the set of valances that were made by the Haslemere Peasant Industries.  Seeing these up close provided a lot more detail than is visible online.

Set of valances,
Haslemere Peasant Industries c.1900-1905
at the V&A here

The colours and cloth seemed to be very similar to other Haslemere peasant tapestry pieces, and I note that since I wrote about these set of valances on December 2014, the V&A have removed their "possibly made" accreditation of the piece to Haslemere Peasant Industries, and now firmly accredit it to Haslemere Peasant Industries.

It was lovely to see the V&A's collection of Haslemere weaving and tapestry displayed together for my visit.  The majority of the works were by Luther Hooper but the valances occupied a special corner of the table.

A table of Haslemere weaving and tapestry,
August 2016 at
Clothworker's Hall, V&A
The tapestry looked very impressive from a far, but looking at it more closely I was reminded of my post 'Peasant Shopping - Part 4 - Sew You Own Peasant Tapestry' here where the Surrey Times (2 September 1899) reported on the Haslemere Weaving Industry "The work is sold at the depot in London of the Peasant Arts Society, and is exhibited at the Arts and Crafts, Homes Arts, and other handcart exhibitions….Specimens of Peasant Tapestry will be on view at the Tapestry House daily where also orders can be received for finished work, or work prepared for those who desire to sew it themselves."  

Looking more closely a pencil outline on the blue backing cloth is visible in numerous places outlining the leaves and chestnuts.  Not being familiar with the method used to create these tapestries, I do not really understand why there would be outlines on the backing cloth of the appliquéd shapes.  I would have thought that the leaves and chestnuts would have been cut out separately and then pinned and appliquéd on, which would not have led to pencil outlines, so that cannot be how the tapestry was made.  Also, the blue backing cloth has been economically used in places, with different pieces patched together to form the main background.

Set of valances, Haslemere Peasant Industries c.1900-1905
with outlines showing around chestnut and leaf
Victoria & Albert Museum

Set of valances, Haslemere Peasant Industries c.1900-1905
with outlines showing around the chestnut leaf
Victoria & Albert Museum

Set of valances, Haslemere Peasant Industries c.1900-1905
with different cloth sections sewed together on the top and bottom right
Victoria & Albert Museum

In places the thread on the tapestry is blue, and in others gold, so perhaps as well as running out of cloth they ran out of thread?

Blue and gold threads on the tapestry

Blue threads on the tapestry
The valances are all different lengths.  I had thought when I saw them online that the valances would have been used for a bed, but perhaps they were for windows instead?  In this photograph the middle valance on the table was a darker colour than the outer two, perhaps due to sunlight, although it does seem to be a more dirty colour?

Set of valances,
Haslemere Peasant Industries c.1900-1905
at the V&A

The end pattern of each valance is different, and I could not work out how they would have fitted together.   The bottom valance seemed to have lost it's ties.
different endings on the set of valances
Haslemere Peasant Industries c.1900-1905
at the V&A
I am no expert but my conclusion on this piece is that it does appear to originate from the Haslemere Peasant Industries, who am I to say that the V&A are wrong(!), but that it could not have been made by Godfrey Blount as it's make up is too amateurish.  Maybe it was made by women in the Tapestry Studio, like in the Art Journal photograph of 1906, or perhaps it was a 'sew your own' kit that was bought and made at home.

Sarah Tyssen, who is the weaver living at the Weaving House, and therefore is much more knowledgeable on this subject has told me: "The colour differences in the ground cloth could be down to the fact they were using natural dyes. It would be impossible to repeat the exact same colour in a different dye batch.  The handwoven cloth would also be very precious, and they would be restricted by the width/length woven, hence the joins in the ground cloth. 

The pencil lines may well have been drawn by Godfrey Blount as a guide? The pattern pieces could then be cut and stitched on by the women?"

The Tapestry Studio, Kings Road, Haslemere from Art Journal, 1906
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