Archive for museum

Puzzling out a Mexican sampler

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework, whitework with tags , , , , , , on May 13, 2020 by suetortoise

Back in 2015, I was looking at Mexican samplers online, and saved and printed a picture which showed some cut and pulled openwork in the top left of one example. It’s a late 1800s Mexican sampler, but I don’t know any more than that. I don’t know which exhibition or saleroom or museum collection it came from. (I thought that it was the Cooper Hewitt, but I can’t spot it in their online collection, so I am probably wrong. I have been looking, and I will keep looking, because I really don’t like to put pictures on this blog uncredited. If anyone recognises it, please, please let me know!) This is it:

I came across the print while tidying up, just after the start of the Covid 19 lockdown, and thought it would be a good project while I am spending so much time at home. I really fancied some fiddly whitework after finishing Tom. Trying to figure out the patterns from this rather battered and frayed piece, of work is quite a challenge. I decided to use some 32 count Zweigart écru linen, stitched with a matching Sajou Fil Dentelles au Chinoise (which is a size 80 cotton lacemaking thread). This is a thinner thread in comparison to the weight of the fabric than that used by the long-ago Mexican schoolgirl.

There are eight pattern squares. I have now finished the first four. To give you a taste of the fun I am having,  here is my printout of the first of these squares, which is what I have to work from:

And here it is on my fabric:

They are not all quite as bad as that one, but most are quite a puzzle! I didn’t like the chain-stitch silk edging, which has not really helped preserve the edges of the squares, so I did a narrow padded edging instead. That seemed to take forever, but I eventually got to the fun bit. I suspect that the original is leave 3 cut 2, as it looks about right, but it’s a bit of a guess. Anyway, I settled on that. The “squares” on the original vary from 15 x 11 groups of three to 16 x 16. I have used 16 x 16 throughout, for neatness.

Readers of my Facebook page, or of Mary Corbett’s Needle’n’Thread Facebook group, will have seen this project progressing. I am now working on the remaining four patterns, which I am repeating at both ends of the row, to make a longer, more balanced piece, six squares long and two deep. It might turn into a small table runner, or it may stay as a sampler. I wasn’t really expecting it to work out so well, but so far, so good!

Have you got a Lockdown Project in progress?

Update on the Bowdler Picture

Posted in Embroidery, History, museum, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2013 by suetortoise

I promised I’d let people know when I had any more news about the Strange Little Picture  – the apparently 17th century piece with paper filigree and ribbon collage, which I found in Shrewsbury Museum’s stores last year.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

I spoke to the Collections Officer about it, yesterday. She told me that the Bowdler Picture has now been taken out of the old art store at Rowley’s House and into the dedicated conservation store at Ludlow Museum. So it will not deteriorate further. The Museum staff are all very, very busy right now: the exciting new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery is due to open at the end of the year. I don’t expect to have further news of the picture until after the big move is completed and the staff have time to do more research and get expert opinions. I am very glad that the picture is out of harm’s way. It has not been forgotten.

Don’t worry – I won’t let them forget it!

Screams from the Gallery

Posted in Digital Art and Fractals, History, museum, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2012 by suetortoise

Atcham Boot 1

Sometimes you don’t need a dark and stormy night in late October for a horror story. No ghosts, witches or vampires, just a pile of old leather boots in the stores of Shrewsbury’s town museum, and a little knowledge of their history.

Not a dark and stormy night, but a stormy afternoon. A Sunday afternoon in July, 1879. Atcham, a little village on the bank of the River Severn just to the east of Shrewsbury. It’s been opressive all day and now the rain and thunder have started and the sky is very dark. The weather has kept some parishoners away, but there’s a fair turnout for Evensong at St Eata’s Church. The Reverend Francis Barney Parkes is taking the service. Up in the gallery, the children’s choir are fidgetting and whispering, as usual, while the second lesson is read. And then….

Atcham Boot 2

On a separate page, I’ve transcribed the full story from the local newspaper, Eddowes Shrewsbury Journal, July 23rd 1879. (Copied from the reprint volume Salopian Shreds and Patches, volume 4, from a copy in Shropshire Archives.) It’s a very readable account. I suggest you go and read that now and then come back here and we’ll talk some more about it under the cut.

Continue reading

A Strange Little Picture

Posted in Embroidery, museum, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2012 by suetortoise

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

When I caught a glimpse of this picture in the dark depths of the picture storeroom at Shrewsbury Museum in Rowley’s House, my first thought was: “Surely that’s not a piece of Jacobean stumpwork over there, is it?” Lifting it out into the light, I soon realised that it was not 17th Century embroidery, but was a most unusual imitation of the style; with paper filigree replacing metal thread embroidery and cut ribbon work instead of silk stitchery. As I put it carefully back onto the shelf, I noticed a nearly label pasted on the back. It was nearly illegible, but a date caught my eye among the writing – 1860.

I could not stop to examine the picture that morning, but I knew I wanted to spend time looking at it closely and recording it, and that most of all I wanted to share this quaint and curious little image with my readers on Tortoise Loft. Shrewsbury Museum have very kindly given me permission to do that, and I want to thank them.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

The label is in very faded ink but I have made out most of the writing. It says:

 This Picture was given to me in Shrewsbury August, 21st 1860 by Mrs
John Lawrence [?th]at was a Cousin’s Widow who got it from my deceased aunt Margaret Bowdler who resided with her and who brought it from her Father’s House at Munslow – and is the only relic preserved.
 
It is said [underlined] to have been in the family 300 or 400 years.
 
Rich\d Bowdler
Kirkham – Lancashire
 
Mr Edw\d Hughes of Shrewsbury has portions of ?Furniture made from very old timber – grown on the Marton Estate.

I don’t know if the mention of old timber refers to the frame? There are various branches of the Bowdler family in Shropshire, going back to medieval times. It would be interesting to know where Aunt Margaret’s family lived. Munslow is a parish near Church Stretton, including the village Ashford Bowdler, There is also a Hope Bowdler just south of Ludlow. There are several places called Marton in Shropshire, but I don’t know of one near Munslow. 

Let’s have a look at some details of the picture.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

The paper filigree (a craft sometimes called ‘quilling’) is made of paper with gold-leaf edges. The heyday of this craft was the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Bookbinders would sell the strips already gilded and cut, ready to be rolled or crimped and glued into place. A few coils are missing, but the glue used must have been good – the vast majority are still firmly in place. One of the four corners of the design has much less paper and more ribbon flowers than the other three. I wonder if the maker of the picture was running short of gold-edged paper? In the opposite corner, red ink or paint has been used on the board beneath the pattern. The dark marks around the top-left edge appear to be damage rather than deliberate tinting.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

The flowers and leaves are neatly cut from coloured ribbon and glued into place.  You can see from this damaged red and white flower that the petals of the main flowers  were assembled on a circle of paper before being fixed to the backing board.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewbury Museums

The cornflower is a common motif on seventeenth century embroidery, the carnation, and roses too, are very typical. This leads me to wonder if the artist adapted the design from an old piece of embroidery. Perhaps it was the original of this piece that was in the family for many generations? I would be surprised if this picture itself was more than 100 years old in 1860, but the craft of paper filigree was known in Jacobean times, so maybe…?

On the central figure, you can see the only stitching used in the piece – a few stitches to catch down the silk hair and the scraps of metal-thread braid used on the costume. Some of the ribbon has a fine pinstripe, some has neatly graduated shades (used to good effect on the cloud above the figure’s head, along with ink wash), and there is a white ribbon with a patterned weave used on the dress. All the other ribbon is in plain colours. Some red ink can be seen on the face and costume, as well as the black ink. There is also some paint, or ink, that is a light blueish-grey, used on some of the filigree papers and in spots on the ribbon-work. The figure’s hands are cut from pink paper, and there are two small birds near her head which appear to be cut from printed paper. The birds have been further coloured with red and black ink. Apart from the paper filligree, all the other details are made from ribbon. The edge of the board is also covered with ribbon.

(C) Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums

I am fascinated by this little picture (it measures 28cm wide and 35cm high, excluding the wooden frame). I have never seen anything else quite like it. Can anyone shed any more light on it? Who made it? Where? When?

All the pictures in this article are Copyright Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Museums, 2012. Used by permission. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited. For further information please contact Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

In Which We Learn What Sue Does on Thursday Mornings

Posted in museum, out and about, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by suetortoise

A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting of the Friends of Shrewsbury’s Borough Museums. (A group about to get a name-simplification, as we’re no longer a borough these days, but that’s beside the point.) This meeting was an update on the progress of our eagerly awaited museum-to-be. This is the careful conversion of the old Music Hall in the Square into a place which not only provides much more space to display our treasures than the present museum, but reveals and incorporates the old buildings that were hidden inside the Music Hall complex: a medieval mansion and a fine Georgian assembly room among them.

The new museum is still two years away, but the staff at the old museum are engaged in the massive task of documenting all its stored pieces in preparation for the move. At the Friends meeting they appealed for more volunteers to help with this. As I’m only working part-time at present, I thought it was about time I got involved. So I offered my services, went to a preliminary meeting where everything was explained, and a couple of weeks later I spent my first morning in the attics of Rowley’s House (the present museum – which is still open for business, folks, and worth a look around). That first time I was unwrapping and re-wrapping swords and pieces of armour, cudgels, billhooks and a broken set of stocks. The next week, the rusty metal and wood gave way to a box of Roman bone objects – mostly hair pins, with a smattering of counters and some bits of metal keys and one very fine spindle-whorl. Everything has to have  its new number, its old numbers, its description, condition and some other essential facts recorded onto a catalogue sheet. Its photograph is taken for the record, and then it is carefully returned to the store.

Roman remains

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on the next stage of the job instead. Sitting in an office at a computer, inputting records off the catalogue sheets into the new main database in conjunction with any further information about the items that I can find on an existing database of the Roman collection. There’s a lot of Roman material in the museum attics – a remarkable amount. The vast majority of it comes from excavations and finds at Wroxeter, the old Roman city of Viroconium, a few miles outside of Shrewsbury.

The database work is a little too like my day job to be quite as interesting as the cataloguing stage. But it needs to be done, and if there is no other volunteer there to work with (cataloguing is a two-person job), I’m happy to help by tapping a keyboard instead. I get to read about the items and see the pictures, and I’m learning a lot. Maybe next week I can get back to the thrill of unwrapping more forgotten treasures in the attic. Thursday mornings are fun.

The Holiday Report, 10th-17th September 2009

Posted in out and about with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2009 by suetortoise

I couldn’t afford to go away for a holiday this year, but I took a week off work and went out and about as a local tourist. Have bus ticket, will travel…

Castle, Church, Pub, Pond
I started on Thursday 10th September with a trip to Whittington on the number 70 bus. A beautiful morning. I wandered around Whittington Castle and sat in the sun with a coffee, enjoying the sunshine and watching the ducks and swans.

Then I went on to Oswestry. I didn’t stay there long: wandered around the town centre, bought some food and picnicked at the bus station while waiting for the bus back home. Another lovely ride.

The next day I was back on the number 70 again, this time just as far as  the Three Pigeons at Nesscliffe. A pleasant early-morning ramble up and around the hill. I saw Kynaston’s Cave — once  the haunt of a notorious local highwayman. It is not open to the public because it is home to a large colony of bats.
Kynaston's Cave steps
The colours of the sandstone on Nesscliffe were wonderful. I was a little disappointed that the morning mist did not lift enough to give me much of a view from the top of the hill, but it was lovely to walk through the peaceful woods.

 

 
A view from Nesscliffe
Saturday was a Heritage Open Day. I caught the 96 bus to Atcham to meet up with Natasha another member of the Shropshire Community group on Flickr, and to visit the National Trust property Attingham Park which was one of the places offering free entry for the day. We were given a short tour of the interior by one of the conservators, who was most interesting and amusing. As well as giving us the history of the house and its furnishings, she looked at things with the eye of one who has to clean them and protect them from deterioration. (The large, new, wine-red carpet in the picture gallery came in for particular criticism. I can imagine how much work it is to keep it immaculate – that colour will show every mark.) After our tour, we took a walk through the shrubbery and woodland around the central paddock, andHead on then went into the kitchen garden and the walled garden. Cameras came out, butterflies and other insects got chased and flowers and vegetables photographed.

A sweet song coming from deep inside a sculpture made of razor-wire turned out to be this little robin. It was not trapped, just using the wire as a place to sit and sing.
Another razor light song
Sunday was a stay-at-home day, catching up on chores. I’ve already recounted Monday’s adventure in my last post.

Moreton Corbet Castle 3Tuesday looked like it would be another grey, cool day, but by the time I had taken a bus to Shawbury and walked past the RAF station to Moreton Corbet Castle, the air was warm and there was a long fine interval, ideal weather for photographing the ruins. I visited the old church next to the castle and also had fun trying to photograph the pigs and piglets belonging to the Castle Farm. By the time I’d walked back to Shawbury, I’d had the best of the day.
Nine little piggies
Wednesday was another stay-at-home day, but Thursday was the major outing of the week, a day trip to Lichfield in Staffordshire, by coach, organised by the Friends of Shrewsbury Borough Museums.
Dr Johnson 300th
We started at Dr Samuel Johnson’s birthplace, on the eve of his 300th anniversary. The birthplace was full of ladies arranging flowers for the celebrations. After a quick look around there (I’m not very interested in Johnson), I went to Lichfield Cathedral. A wonderful place. Dedicated to St Chad, an early bishop of Mercia, it has three fine tall spires and an amazing wealth of high-Victorian sculpture decorating the medieval building. The West Front is packed with figures. Inside it is equally fine, with a cast-iron rood screen, all painted and gilded and decorated with musical angels. The Victorian restoration of the cathedral was done by Giles Gilbert Scott. It’s a sight worth seeing and for all the ornamentation and decoration, it excudes calm and peace and rest.
A Cardinal's Nest
The East Window has been removed for restoration, and stonemasons are busy repairing the structure. This made the inside a little too dark for hand-held photography, but the outside was a treat! I must go back sometime when the tarpaulins are off and the window has been replaced in the repaired tracery.
Erasmus Darwin's Commonplace Book
After an pleasant lunch in a little restaurant adjacent to the cathedral, it was time to visit Erasmus Darwin’s house. The house is nicely restored, and gives a good idea of the character and interests of Charles Darwin’s grandfather. This interested me very much. A fascinating man, and obviously a great influence on Charles. In the close in front of the house there is a beautiful garden, a mixture of herbs and flowers and medicinal plants, full of colour and interest. More food for the camera!  A fine day out and a fine end to my holiday.
Take a deep breath

Tiny Creatures

Posted in review, Shift Time Festival with tags , , , , , , on July 4, 2009 by suetortoise

Captured ELF

Into Rowley’s House this morning, where I encountered the tiny twittering and bleeping world of ELF: Electronic Life Forms, created by Pascal Glissmann and Martina Höfflin of  the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne. Their website is: www.electronic-life-forms.com 

The exhibition is spread around a room that is far too large for it, but the individual solar-powered creatures, the photos, and the short video (which shows them in their natural habitat and after their subsequent capture by researchers) are delightful and worth a close look. I was lucky enough to have time to sketch one of the captive creatures. The exhibition runs until Sunday 12th July. Details at: www.shift-time.org.uk