Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bunnies in the attic

In a previous post (April 2011) I reported on a Lion in the Attic in the Tapestry Studio on Kings Road.  I have now acquired a copy of Country Life ('Rustic Renaissance: Arts and Crafts in Haslemere', April 1982), and whilst I was disappointed to discover that the article's photograph's were printed in black and white, the photographs are of a much better quality than the photocopies I have previously seen.

The better quality enables details of Godfrey Blount's plasterwork, not previously noticed, to be seen.  My favourite being the pair of rabbits hiding in the corner behind the deer.

Godfrey Blount plaster frieze,
from T.D.L. Thomas, ‘Rustic Renaissance:
Arts and Crafts in Haslemere’, 
Country Life, April 15, 1982
Amongst the various 'tree of life' forms in the deer plasterwork detail below, the typical Peasant Arts motif of the grape and vine can be seen.

Detail of Godfrey Blount plaster frieze,
from T.D.L. Thomas, ‘Rustic Renaissance:
Arts and Crafts in Haslemere’, 
Country Life, April 15, 1982

Bunny detail, Godfrey Blount plaster frieze,
from T.D.L. Thomas, ‘Rustic Renaissance:
Arts and Crafts in Haslemere’, 
Country Life, April 15, 1982
The Latin wording below is reported by Thomas in Country Life  to read as “We owe our knowledge and inspiration to the Greeks and the Barbarians", and I am unable to refute his interpretation.

detail of Godfrey Blount plaster frieze,
from T.D.L. Thomas, ‘Rustic Renaissance:
Arts and Crafts in Haslemere’, 
Country Life, April 15, 1982

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Al Fresco Working on Kings Road

Now that we have a respite from the wet and the cold, let us imagine what the workers at the Weaving House, Tapestry Studio and St Cross would have been doing on such warm days.

Weaving a hand-knotted rug on a tapestry loom at Haslemere,
Art Workers Quarterly, 1902
(from Haslam, Arts and Crafts Carpets, David Black, London, 1991)
The steep slope behind this weaver is a sure sign of the location on Kings Road or Foundry Meadow.  The large tree trunk glimpsed in the top left hand corner, and the small section of building behind have not been positively identified!  This is the only photograph I have seen showing hand-knotted rug-making in practice at Haslemere.  The design being executed is likely to be by Godfrey Blount.  I have found no evidence of known Haslemere carpets in existence today.

Group of spinners and weavers at St Cross, Haslemere,
The Studio, XLIII, 1908
(from Haslam, Arts and Crafts Carpets, David Black, London, 1991)
The ladies in the photograph above can be clearly seen to be working on applique 'peasant tapestry'.  I have another version of this photograph on my blog, but this one taken from Haslam's excellent Arts and Crafts Carpets (David Black, London, 1991) is infinitely clearer, and shows the detail of what they were working on.  On the left we have a recognisable spinning wheel, on the right, the lady in white is working on what seems to be an different type of spinning wheel, one I have not seen before.  *Amended in September 2012*  The "different type of spinning wheel" is actually a hank winder – not a spinning wheel. The yarn is made into a hank on a hank winder before being dyed, then put back on the hank winder before being wound onto a cone or bobbin.  Sitting in the middle of the photograph may be Ethel Blount, she certainly has the hair colour but it is difficult to be certain.

I wonder if the photographs were staged outdoors or whether they depict routine outdoor working?

'Miss Flora Synge at her spinning wheel at Kings Road, Haslemere in 1917'
from  Janaway, John,  Surrey: A Photographic Record 1850-1920, Countryside Books, 1984

Finally we have a photograph which I have posted before of Flora Synge.  When I originally posted this photograph I had a comment made by her great niece saying that Flora "used to take her spinning wheel on the train when she returned home to Liverpool to visit her parents" which gives an interesting insight to how attached some of the members of the Peasant Arts movement were to their craft.  Behind Flora may be a wall of perhaps a building with some sort of climbing plant against it, or a very steep slope cut into the bank.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Selfridges, Hinduism & the Peasant Arts Guild, 1921

Last year I tracked down the location of The Peasant Arts Guild in central London, on Duke Street which runs alongside the famous department store, Selfridges.  Sadly the original Duke Street building was no longer there, likely having been bombed during the war.   I recently found a reference to the Duke Street operation in an article in a book called Democratic Hinduism (Sastri, 1921) which has an extract from The Bombay Chronicle (11 December, 1921) titled 'The Hand's Genius'.  The reference to working conditions is still a contemporary observation:

The Peasant Arts Guild header

“…An education that shall uphold the Hand’s genius as nobler than the greatest invention of Machinery, will be won only through, -in the first place, a conviction of national sin.” – The Vineyard.

“Few of the visitors, fewer probably of the natives of London, who are almost invariably drawn towards the glare of the shops in Oxford Street pause to reflect, overwhelmed as they are by the surrounding mass of glittering objects, on the conditions that make such gorgeous display possible, conditions that have dragged human beings into mire.  The crowd madly rushing in and out and fluttering round the shop windows is not expected to realise the true price of their purchases.  On the contrary, as they, for instance, gaze at the news-telegrams of the world on Selfridge’s huge glass panes they are not only overawed but look as if they were personally responsible for encouraging the “enterprising” firm.  Have they not been told by the Press about Mr. Selfridge’s brilliant ideas for fashioning Oxford Street as a “shopping centre of the world?”
extract from Democratic Hinduism

“Would it not be, under the circumstances, sheer madness to suggest a different kind of enterprise directed not solely towards the increase in profits, in output and brilliance of merchandise and the outward improvement of the shopping locality but also towards the improvement of the lot of those who have brought the glories of the shopping centre into being?  Assuming it s necessity, is the novel enterprise possible, is there any use fighting against tremendous odds?  Has not the present commercial enterprise come to stay?  Those who are hypnotised by its dazzle and magnitude have no doubts about its inevitability.

“And yet, in point of fact, not far from Selfridge could be seen in a shop-window of comparatively insignificant dimensions, the beginnings of the new enterprise.  The carpets, rugs, metal and wood-work and other artistic handicrafts displayed there, at once remind one of India where the Western hypnotism has turned the apathy of modern Indians to similar things, that have been for ages their proud heritage into despair.  The shop has been organised by “the Peasant Arts Guild.”  Its primary object has been defined as “The strengthening of the ancient worth of the Hand, because of its inalienable correspondence with thought, with desire to help, with affection, with Nature herself; in a word, with all the fundamental simplicities that are inseperable from what we mean by religion.”

Democratic Hinduism, Sastri, 1921

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Peasant Arts Society Shop, Haslemere

I have not conclusively identified the site of the Peasant Arts shop that had the address of No. 1 The Pavement in Haslemere High Street.  There is no shop on the High Street that looks the same as the shop in the old photograph below kindly supplied by Sarah from the Weaving House.  Note the Three Shuttle weaving sign hanging outside the shop.

Peasant Arts Society shop,
No. 1 The Pavement, High Street

The closest looking shop is now Gascoigne Pees on the High Street, although the upper level is not tiled, the door frame is more deeply set and the door itself is of a different design.   The shops a few doors away have the same tiled upper level, but different and much lower windows.  My daughter found the window display of the estate agents less interesting than the girl in the old photograph, the Haslemere Sweet Shop a few doors away however was of great interest.

The site of the Peasant Arts Society shop in Haslemere?

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