Archive for shrewsbury

Going for Gold

Posted in Embroidery, museum, Needlework, out and about, Stitches, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2018 by suetortoise

Hanny Newton (standing on left) and about two thirds of our workshop group busy with their stitching.

I have just spent the day at an excellent goldwork workshop, here in Shrewsbury.

Hanny Newton is RSN trained. She produces beautiful work: combining technical excellence with fascinating simple design. Have a look on her website – although photography never does goldwork full justice. She’s a very good tutor: inspiring learning by experiment, rather than pedantic coursework, but able to give lots of tips and pointers.

I have never had a great urge to get into goldwork as such – although it is hard not to be a little tempted after today’s workshop. However, this day was focussed on couching, and knew I did need help with that! I’ve let myself down with bad couching when I have wanted to edge silkwork with metal thread (an effect I really love), so I went hoping for help and tips. I wasn’t disappointed. I have come home with lots of good advice about the thread to use (fine passing) and how to get it to sit neatly in place – and to stay there.

We were in a beautifully light room, in the barrel-vaulted attic of a medieval mansion house, part of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. We were one storey above the Corbett Bed, and I think that some benign influence from that feast of stitching percolated up to inspire us.

It was a relaxed and friendly day, everyone enjoyed it and learnt from it. My humble efforts are hardly worth showing here, but I was there to learn, and I hope that I can practice and do better. You can see rather wobbly lines of couching, some playing about with buttonhole stitch as a couching technique (one of the triangles is detached buttonhole stitch) and an attempt to couch down a big twisted cord, going from very visible stitches to hidden stitches. That one was not much of a success (I was getting tired by then), but all the experimenting was valuable.

Thanks to Hanny for an excellent day’s stitching, and to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery for setting it up for us and providing refreshments. More please!

On Friday I am off to Sewing For Pleasure at the NEC in Birmingham. I will be touring the embroidery supplies stands looking for fine passing thread!

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A Meridian, Giant Swans and Someone Else’s Dragon

Posted in books, Embroidery, everyday life, out and about, science fiction, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2014 by suetortoise

Tanya's Dragon - started

So was Loncon 3 a good World Science Fiction Convention? Did Kevon and I have a good time? Was the art show a success for me?

Loncon 3 was a lot to take in, a bit too much at times, but overall we enjoyed it. The convention was huge, full of people and with a massive programme of events. We could only get to a small fraction of the things on offer. Some interesting discussion panels, a very good talk by Lord Rees the Astronomer Royal, among other talks. Kevon and I took part in an academic experiment on our initial reactions to real and constructed  languages – which languages sound friendly, aggressive, etc. Fascinating food for thought.

Kevon and I went off to Greenwich early on the Saturday morning, and ate breakfast sitting in the sunshine by the Cutty Sark, before walking past the National Maritime Museum and through Greenwich Park to the Observatory. (Kevon was most put out that the Greenwich Meridian was not at exactly zero according to the GPS on his mobile phone.) This pleasant outing was the only bit of sightseeing we had time for in London, as we didn’t want to miss too much of the convention.

The art show was huge, with artist talks, tours and demonstrations and well-attended workshops as well as the display of artwork. This made the show a lively, friendly place, and we art exhibitors were encouraged to be there at lunchtimes , so people could chat to us. (It also gave us a chance to chat to each other. I met some old friends and made some new ones there.) Plenty of buyers, too. I took nineteen pieces and came home with only four, so I’ve no complaints.

The Excel Centre staff were friendly, the loos were clean and there was plenty of space to sit and talk and numerous food places, serving affordable meals. And we got plenty of exercise walking from the hotel at one end to the convention area at the other – it’s a massive place! On the downside, Kev had an upset stomach the first night and I started a heavy cold on the Sunday evening.  (Then Kevon started it a few days later. It got a large number of convention attendees.) So we didn’t feel like  doing as much as we might otherwise have done.

I was very good, and didn’t spend too much money, despite the tempting bookstalls and dealers selling everything from flying drones and animated Tribbles to T-shirts, pearls and pyrogravure. On the Thursday evening, I’d gone to an entertaining talk on medieval spinning and weaving by Katrin Kania of Pallia and A Stitch in Time blog and later I bought a couple of metres of linen band from her stall. Trust me to go to a huge SF con and come back with no books, but with yet more embroidery material!

I bought a book on Thursday last week. A very new book. Children’s author and Shrewsbury resident Pauline Fisk produced her My Tonight From Shrewsbury blog in 2012 – a year in the life of the town from January to the end of December – people, places, events, history, little known facts and hidden corners.  I’ve mentioned it before. It’s an excellent piece of journalism. The heart of the blog has now been condensed down to a book: Behind Closed Doors in an English County Town. On Thursday I went to the launch party at the new museum. It’s a good book, and I think it will do very well as there’s plenty to appeal to locals in it as well as plenty to interest visitors to the town.

For the launch, Pauline made a big cake and iced it with a picture of Shrewsbury as it is shown on a Tudor map: complete with the castle, old streets, walls, fortified bridges, houses and churches  – and the swans on the Severn larger than most of the buildings. The light was poor, so I couldn’t get a very good photo, but here it is:

Pauline Fisk's Book Launch Masterpiece

The multi-talented and amazing Tanya Bentham of Opus Anglicanum blog, is doing a ‘stitchalong’ project on the blog as an introduction to medieval laid-work embroidery. The first design is a little dragon, based one from a 12th-century church pillar. I’ve wanted to have a go at this type of work for some time, but I’m allergic to wool and this is a technique that won’t work properly with threads without a bit of spring in them. After considerable experiment, mine is being worked in acrylic yarn on linen rather than hand dyed crewel on wool. (I’ll talk about where the yarn I am using came from next time I write on this project.) If you want to join in, Tanya’s instructions start with the materials list here, and she also has kits for the project for sale on her Folksy site.

After working with fine threads on a small scale for so long, my first reaction is how surprisingly fast this piece is growing. Just a few stitching sessions, and I am over half-way through the first stage. I’ve never taken part in a ‘stitchalong’ before, so it’s all new to me. The entire project is for a small bag with a silk lining, but I will probably only do this one dragon.

One other piece of good news to end with: I had a hospital appointment yesterday, for them to see how my bladder is doing, after the removal of a small malignant growth earlier this summer. And the camera showed that all is well in there. That was a great relief. I will get another check-up in six months, but it looks like they’ve not left anything behind and no sign of anything new. Thanks for a job well done, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

 

 

 

A Sunny Sunday Afternoon

Posted in everyday life, Flickr, Photography, shrewsbury with tags , , , , on September 30, 2013 by suetortoise

Yesterday was such a lovely day that I took my stitchery and a packed lunch and my camera and went to the sunken flower garden in Shrewsbury’s Quarry Park, the Dingle. This is the view from the bench where I ate my sandwiches:
Dingle 29-09-13 01

Here are a couple more shots of the garden:

Dingle 29-09-13 05

Dingle 29-09-13 08

Outside the Dingle, there was a fun fair starting up for the day. Even a small fun fair is a feast for my camera. You’ll find the whole set of yesterday’s pictures on Flickr, but here are a few to give you a taste:

Fun Fair 29-09-13 11
Fun Fair 29-09-13 09

Fun Fair 29-09-13 12

Rescue Drama on the Banks of the River Severn

Posted in Real life drama, shrewsbury with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2013 by suetortoise

When I went down to Shrewsbury Flower Show this morning with my camera, I was anticipating taking photographs of flowers and produce, brass bands and crowds, fast food vans and stalls selling everything from hats to shoes, garden ornaments to orthopaedic beds. Rather like the set I made in 2007.

Instead, I found myself caught up in an event taking place right across the river from the Quarry Park.  Two fire engines and a rescue vehicle with a large hoist, a rescue dinghy and any number of fire officers, police officers. What was going on?

rescue 01

The chap sitting on the edge of the river is holding a halter of an Aberdeen Angus cow, which has got trapped between the wooden planking at the edge of the river and the eroded bank behind it.

The rescue took over an hour from when I started taking photos.

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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.

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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.