Women in Print: Love and Friendship

Another highly enjoyable Women in Print day, sponsored by Sheffield Museums Trust saw us meeting in the Arundel room of the Millenium Gallery, where the Ravilious and Co.’ exhibition is currently installed until January 2018.

Our first speaker was Carolyn Trant, whose book ‘Voyaging Out’ will be published by Thames and Hudson in Spring 2019, who spoke about the friendships between Peggy Angus and Pearl Binder, Tirzah Ravilious, Olive Cook among others. She opened with an image of a beautiful cake that was recently made to celebrate the exhibition opening of the Peggy Angus exhibition at Towner in 2016, which had a cardboard model of Peggy Angus stuck into the top. Many of Peggy Angus family, Ravilious family and Bawden family attended a private tea party at a house just near Furlongs to celebrate the exhibition.

Angus’s politics were brought to the fore, with her engagement with the Artists International Association, a prototype artist’s union set up as a response to the Spanish Civil War. This had a wide ranging and diffuse influence on the visual culture of Britain during this period, with schemes such as artists’ posters, which were sold in shops such as Marks and Spencer’s thus sidelining the gallery art market. Angus herself had a wide ranging and gregarious career spanning roles as a teacher, an ‘artisanal’ tile and wallpaper maker and political activist- setting up the ‘Camden Workshops’ to encourage people to make rather than buy things for their own homes. Angus advocated that ‘magic’ art should be made for life and for love, and patterned into daily life.

Trant highlighted the importance of Angus’s travels around Russia and Indonesia, both in pointing out the transcultural interest in vernacular culture, militating against what Trant felt were parochial associations of work made in a ‘folksy’ register. Angus preferred the term ‘magic’ art to describe the meaningful creative expression of ordinary people. In Indonesia Angus had witnessed art being made for ceremonial bonfires led her to declare ‘consumable art like cakes and bonfires have much to recommend them’.The political cartoons of Angus and Binder were considered in the context of their interest in Soviet Russian politics at the time, and interestingly the first meeting of the AIA was held in a lithographic print room. Print enables ideas to be circulated to a wide audience, and also gave these women a means to earn a living. Apparently at the time there was a huge demand for illustrators to work for Russian publications. Binder’s links were closest, with her making work for ‘Krocodil’ magazine. It was fascinating too to see more of the elusive Claudia Freemans’ work both her autolithographic illustrations for the Post office, detailed drawings of beautiful shell encrusted frames for telegrams, and her puppets. Helen Binyon and her sister were puppeteers too- I would love to know more about their performances, and where the puppets are now stored!

Trant quoted Raymond Williams as saying ‘the term modernism stopped history dead’- relegating anything before as regressive and anything after as progressive. Work that was/is produced in a ‘folk’ register which references traditional forms could easily be framed as the antithesis of that made to a ‘modernist’  progressive agenda. However the way that women of this period engaged with traditional crafts and understood the anthropological significance of their engagement with vernacular art forms is far from simple, and was not confined to a ‘little England’ nationalism either. This was an idea that Lotte Crawford returned to later in the day.

Jane Audas spoke about the work of Barron and Larcher, who had a successful inter war business co-creating beautiful hand blocked textiles together. They, like many other women during this time, remained unmarried- either by inclination or because so many men were killed during the war. This opened up opportunities for self determination and creative fulfilment which married women- such as Tirzah Ravilious and Charlotte Bawden- sadly sacrificed. Audas was primarily concerned to look at the way their business worked, the way they made a living from crafts rather than being craft hobbyists, and shared her carefully research of the names in a beautifully bound order book sequestered in the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. She pointed out that Barron was independently wealthy and well connected, leading to prestigious (and lucrative) commissions such as the Duke of Westminster’s yacht or Girton college curtains. Larcher had spent time in India with her husband before he left her, and they both enjoyed researching wooden blocks in the South of France as well. Muriel Rose’s ‘Little Gallery’ – referred to in several other talks- which sat somewhere between a shop and a gallery- stocked their work. Rose acted as a kind of agent for the women, liasing with clients over colours and prints before sending the commission to the pair who at this point in time were resident in the Cotswalds, printing in the upper storey of a whitewashed cowshed. Other customers included famous theatre actresses and people from the worlds of arts, craft and pottery. ‘Mrs Cardew’ appears (it is suggested that this is Michael’s wife Mariel Cardew). They also sold through the Red rose Guild in Manchester. Alongside furnishing fabrics, they developed ‘craft clothing’ – plain dresses and jackets, loose with no darts, rather plain, which they sold and also wore themselves. Nancy Lancaster, who went on to buy Colefax and Fowler, was also a customer.Pevsner bought fabric for Gordon Russell factory. The most important connection was with Robin Tanner, who at the time of their meeting in 1938 as the chief inspector for schools. In 1964 their archive was left to Tanner, who made a beautifully tactile record of their textiles in a series of bound volumes, which is now in the archive at Farnham. Audas spoke about the incomparable effect of handling the objects in the archive as opposed to viewing the items online- the ghost of the owners palpable, and the sensory intelligence at work in appraising the patinas of wear and the unseen but imaginatively glimpsed biographies of each scrap of information. Later, during the discussion session, the idea of empathic, emotional and ‘romantic’ approaches to the subject was mulled over, with an agreement that a spark of imagination often enables a narrative to be woven in and around the ‘facts’ that one is presented with as a researcher. Feelings – emotions- are considered to be unrigorous, however the creative response is unproblematically subjective. Is there not space in scholarly debate for something between the two- contextualised and also subjective, romantic and rigorous? This places historical research somewhere nearer the ‘life writing’ of ethnographic research. The academics I admire- Dorothy Hartley and Barbara Jones have a noticeably partisan enthusiasm for their subject matter, and combine wit with scholarly authority, which is very engaging to read.

The next speaker was Amanda Girling-Budd, who spoke about a set of hand weavers in Britain during this period. She pointed out that the interwar craft revival was the legacy of the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, where the hand made item –made by one person- was seen as superior to ‘dehumanised’ factory work. Crafts were revived but by the middle classes. Very few forayed into industry as well as pursuing a hand craft path- Marianne Straub and Enid Marx being two notable exceptions. The inter war hand weaving renaissance was markedly female in its proponents. Girling-Budd was interested to examine the kinds of community and networks that this craft enabled. Many women were unmarried, quoting Harrod in pointing out the ‘special freedom’ achieved by staying outside marriage. In a milieu where both factory weaving and the fine arts were dominated by men, the crafts offered, as Harrod places it, a ‘third space’ between fine art and design where women could achieve recognition for their creativity and skill. The interconnected lives of Ethel Mairet, Elizabeth Peacock, Margery Kendon and Hilary Bourne were recounted. Mairet was born in Devon and on marrying the geologist Ananda Coomaraswamy travelled to Ceylon before settiling Broad Campden, near the Guild and School of Handicraft established by Ashbee previously had nurtured a community of makers and craftspeople. When Coomaraswamy left her she returned to Devon before moving to Ditchling with her second husband Phillip Mairet. Their house ‘Gospels’ was a sociable place and Mairet also ran ‘dye weeks’ where she taught (mainly middle class) young women how to dye cloth and wool. Elizabeth Peacock was one of these women, who left her family at the age of 35 (perhaps heeding the warning from the novel ‘The Unlit Lamp’ of the fate of women who did not ever manage t leave the family home) and was transformed by Mairet’s workshop, finding her life’s vocation, and also her life’s partner in Molly Stobart, whose family set them up with a house and barn to work in nearby. Margery Kendon was also a participator in one of the ‘dye weeks’ and although none of her work survives she is seen as the ‘Cecil Sharp of weaving’, and letters and journals document her travels around the British Isles and to Denmark (to the Askov school) to collect weaving practices. Girling- Budd pointed out the respectful tone of her descriptions of working weavers describing one as more a philosopher than a weaver. The rather less respectful tone of some design historians in passing on her legacy was pointed out- Alan Powers dismissive description of her as a ‘frail old maid-ish kind of person’ shows the importance of protecting and preserving the achievements – both personal and professional- of these independent women, who often had no family to champion and archive their lives’ work.

Barron and Larcher, Enid Marx all knew Ethel Mairet and would attend weekend parties at Gospels. They shared contacts within the network of small shops that they sold their work to, and also shared space in selling exhibitions. Hilary Bourne had travelled to Palestine where she was impressed by the weaving there. She was Muriel Rose’s assistant at the Little Gallery. She met Barbara Allen in Ditchling in 1945, and they moved with their mothers to Reigate where they set up weaving workshops. In 1957 they moved to Yorkshire where they set up a local museum, and in 1972 when Barbara died in a hotel fire Hillary set up Ditchling museum with her sister Joanna. I was especially heartened to see this familial harmony – something I had remarked on at Charleston with the unseen presence of Duncan Grant’s mother- often at work making needlepoint to his design – would sit companionably with him in the studio.

Girling-Budd reflected on the sexual politics of these liasons and partnerships. It is true that for women it was easier to be ‘hidden in plain sight’ as a lesbian during this time, and ambiguity surrounds the life partnerships of several of these women. Whether the women were lovers or simply preferred to share a freer quality of life with a companion may never be more than conjecture. Weaving offered the means to travel, study, be comfortable and surrounded by like minded individuals. Although they may not be feted in the same was artists in other fields, the networks and models for living a fulfilled life that weaving afforded these women was undeniable.

Lotte Crawford was the next speaker, who spoke about ‘Enid Marx and the Pioneers of Modern Craft’, focussing on two shops the Little Gallery and Dunbar Hay. She presented the idea that between 1920 and 1939 these shops were ‘short lived avant garde spaces’ – women led and catering to the middle and upper classes in which a revivial of archaic practices were held in tension with the ‘cusp of modernity’ and Crawford suggested that this be seen as part of a ‘constellation of modernisms’. This idea of branching histories seems offers a much more nuanced way of thinking , less reliant on dominant binary models of modernism based on polarised oppositions- culture/nature, public/private/male female etc. The products in the shops were modern, abstract, often made from soft materials. The legacy of the Arts and Crafts movement can be seen in a shift in craft practice at the time, with domestic workshops turning out ‘art for the home’, as Girling-Budd pointed out operating in a ‘third space’ and offered in shops that were hybrid spaces, slightly less exclusive than a gallery but more carefully curated than a purely commercial shop. Crawford pointed to the Omega workshops as part of this repositioning of craft, and Eric Gill’s pamphlet ‘Art and Manufacture’ which presented a manifesto for craft and the establishment of guilds and apprenticeships to preserve them in the face of the threat from manufacture. Benjamin’s essay ‘The Storyteller’ also written around this time, makes the case for craft using the analogy of the traditional potter working in clay and leaving a trace of themselves in the work. As previous speakers had pointed out as well, there is a comfort in craft, in the hand made, which meant that it was also seen in a political (with a small p) way of healing a nation torn apart by the world war.

Interestingly these shops clustered around the Tottenham court road and appealed to a new strata of society- professional, educated, liberal women who enjoyed travel and had an independent income. The Red Rose Guild in Manchester was evoked again, and the role of the women who ran these shops/galleries/agencies as ‘taste makers’ was considered. Again the idea that craft at this time represented a retreat into a parochial ‘traditional’ Englishness was refuted by the evidence of an intense interest in ethnographic material curiosities, especially the influence of anglo Japanese ‘fusing of cultures’ in the work of Leach and Cardew, and the eclectic influences on Barron and Larcher’s designs. Crawford positions this as representing the ‘tail end of Victorian idealism’ and the colonial idea of the explorer. It is important to acknowledge that this enthusiasm for the craft practices of ‘others’ is predicated on unequal power relationships- whether the ‘metropolitan colonialism’ of Muriel Rose working with needleworkers in the Rhondda Valley (whose work was not authored in the same way, that is their names were not recorded next to their work in the same way that the ‘professionalised’ craft workers were). Crawford pointed again to the travels of Barron and Larcher, and Mairet’s interent in weaving practices from Ceylon. African and Islamic influences can be identified in the work on display leaning towards a ‘visual transnationalism’. The shops also organised travelling exhibitions, for instance in 1930 the Little Gallery showed a display of pottery and textiles in the museum of Cleveland. Crawford went onto reflect on what kind of dynamic the shops offered the women makers. Craft enabled them to make a living from home, and the shops validated and professionalised their work, differentiating it from a hobby. The shops displayed work by male and female creators without hierarchy, and became a ‘conduit of craft aesthetic’ that is still exerting influence today. Crawford cited Leonard Koren’s idea that the selection of objects and arrangement of objects is a communicational act, and language like can generate meaning. The combination of hand made processes , the encouragement of ‘modernist’ taste and seeing the home as a site for art, as a kind of gallery in process, is still very influential. The combination of ethnographic, English and avant garde sensibilities can be seen today in shop spaces such as the New Craftsman.

Dunbar Hay was set up by Celial Dunbar Kilburn who said in 1935 ‘the gallery is altogether mor formidable, the ordinary shop is too commercial’ again positioning her shop space as something of a hybrid. She was more interested in artists working in collaboration with industry than craft produced by individuals or groups, and was an active part of the Council for Industrial Design set up at the time. This kind of collaboration is typified by Ravilious’ collaboration with Wedgwood, but also seen in the textile work of Straub and Marx for the London Underground.

The next speaker was Amy Goodwin who spoke about her research into the ‘World’s fair’ newspapers which have been produced weekly for the traveller/fairground community in the since the 19thc and still continue today,  and which provide a nexus for announcements, buying & selling equipment & grounds to let & contain nuggets and clues of fairground women who although powerful in their own time have slipped off the radar of historical narratives. She focussed upon the intertwined lives of Sophie Hancock and Martha Haslam who were rivals (the flip side of friendship perhaps). In her research Goodwin is concerned with restituting a sense of the ‘everyday’ to fairground life, so often presented as outside this – as a carnivalesque other to everyday life. By weaving a story of Sophie and Martha’s rivalry into the historical contexts of the suffragette movement and two world wars, and embedded in the minutae of the Worlds Fair magazine, she presented a fascinating story of secret marriages, illegal political meetings and finally betrayal and arson. She says ‘the fairground is full of secrets’ ,and she used her self coined methodology of the ‘illustrative turn’ – a series of hooks and triggers- to direct, misdirect and reveal much as a magic trick is presented to an audience. This is in essence good storytelling, and Goodwin presented stories of the vivid lives of both Sophie – who ran the W. C. & S. Hancock fairground while wearing high hats with ostrich feathers and flamboyant dresses, and Martha who ran Anderton & Rowland’s, in charge of accounts, logistics and publicity. Their long running rivalry teased out of the printed archive, although Goodwin admits that finding the stories in the print was like finding needles in a haystack. The occasion of both fairs wintering in Plymouth in 1913 created the pivotal set of events- from suffragette meetings being held in one of the carousel rides to the subsequent fire that destroyed the bulk of Sophie Hancocks business (and which was blamed in the press on Suffragettes) turns out to be another secret- revealed at the end but threaded through the presentation in illustrated letter form- that ‘Martha lit the fire’. The friendship between Sophie Hancock and Phyllis Kneebone was also a poignant glimpse of their ‘everyday’ lives found in the archive, with only scant documentation of their long attachment – a photograph of Phyllis cooking breakfast in the firebox of a steam engine, and a heartfelt few lines in an obituary – to build a sense of the lives these women led side by side.

The creative licence of the academic researcher was discussed at the end of the day, and our tendency to ‘romanticise’ and create comfortable stories from these fragments was questioned and reflected upon.

The last speaker was Liz Mitchell who presented her work in finding the ‘Mary Greg’ collections within the vast and diffuse holdings in Manchester Museum. Greg was a few generatons older than the other women considered and being from a wealthy background married Thomas Greg out of choice rather than necessity at the age of 45. Mitchell is interested in the way her collection became a manifestation of friendships and belonging, a way of creating a network. Greg was enormously generous with her collections, giving thousands of pieces away to over 30 museums, including the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood (of which only faint traces of her correspondence with Arthur Sabin of the V+A survive due to over vigorous ‘weeding’ of this archive in the 1960s’). Her interest in collecting‘bygones’ – objects of daily use, and often ‘made with love’ – such as pincushions, embellished cutlery, engraved button hooks, embroideries and toy- sits uneasily within museological narratives of canonical individuals and heroic achievements. Her interest in these ‘everyday’ objects places her as an interesting precursor to the scholarly work and collecitons of Marjorie Quennell, Dorothy Hartley and Enid Marx, who all sought to write histories that acknowledged the role of in ‘everyday things in England’ in shaping wider trajectories of social practices, tastes and aspiration. Mitchell drew attention to Greg’s interest in ‘things of the least’ by drawing a parallel with her nature diaries, which celebrated the minutae of seasonal change with a ‘lyrical attention to the immensity of small things’, which Mitchel terms a kind of ‘sensory anthropology’. She spoke of the ‘glimpses’ of narratives that attending to these things offer, ‘tiny narratives of a shared past’.

 

In 1922 Letharby wrote about the need to cherish ‘the common art’. 1922 was also the year Wyndham Lewis declared to by ‘Year 1’ of the modernist era, a time for history to start again and reject the failures of the past that had led to the carnage and trauma of the first world war. It was also the year that the BBC and the W.I. were founded and Tutenkhamoun’s tomb was exhumed. A tumultuous time, the propulsion was to look forwards, on the cusp of a new world.

Craft, Mitchell observes, was seen as a means through which a nation devastated by war could achieve a pscychological as well as economic recovery, and many councils and policy papers were built around an idea of synthesising ‘craft and industry’. This psychological alignment with craft, working with the hands and making things that would be ‘treasured’ brought Mitchell to her second key point, which was the importance of recognising emotion – of reading out the emotion from objects and responding to them with emotion as well as academic ‘rigour’. Things that are made with love, or at least with care, and the humility of everyday things, require a sensibility that cuts through aesthetics and skill as measures of value. This incorporation of an emotional, subjective, sensibility within the academic endeavour was a theme that was discussed at the end of the sessions, with all speakers agreeing that the ‘leap of imagination’ (in Neil McGregor’s words, at the start of his ‘History of the World in 100 objects’) required to understand the material culture of the past, combined with careful attention to sources and ‘facts’, can provide an insight into more organic, unbounded ecologies of practice- collecting and giving away, making and consuming, private and public space- that grow within the insterstices of conventional hierarchies of design histories, and their focus on canonical texts, authorship and orthodoxies of taste. This can be framed as a feminist endeavour- to include, to nurture, to share, to care– and to find ways of writing this into academic discourses to give these approaches visibility and authoritative weight, is an ongoing project. One of the reasons I love Hartley’s writing so much (and Barbara Jones too) is the unapologetically partisan enthusiasm they display in their writing for their subject matter. Hartley invites you into her book ‘Food in England’ as though it is a welcoming ‘farmhouse kitchen’, where you invited to sit and have a leisurely conversation with the cook. The relationship with the reader is much more relaxed than that of teacher to pupil, although Hartley and Jones are authorities on their various subjects.

The idea of art that is made to be ‘consumed’ – whether in cake form – as Trant’s talk began- or as objects of use points to another ecology of creative practice, the porous and transactional nature of objects made with love, as gifts or for use. This is different to the idea of art as a precious commodity, as an investment that cannot be touched for fear of intefering with its resale value. Angus’s term ‘magic art’ starts to resonate here– and in magical practice an object made ‘with intent’ becomes charged and potent. To think of art as being something for consuming, using, exchanging, wearing out, eating or even burning- is to acknowledge the ritualistic and talismanic role of handmade or customised objects in people’s lives. This kind of art is braided into the everyday, being absorbed into a sensory patina of memory of places, people, things- the mulch if you like, from which history grows. Mitchell showed how Greg’s collection was full of items which showed signs of wear, ‘well loved’ and worn, again militating against the predominant impulse of museums to preserve things in an ideal, pristine form.

Mitchell showed examples of ‘amateur’ art made from paper, butterflies wings, straw marquetry by disabled soldiers and prisoners of war, one of which had been marked as ‘appalling’ on their record cards by previous curators at the museum. The biographies of the objects – as a form of redemptive craft practice – places them in this emotive category of ‘folk’ perhaps, which seems to be a term that resists so much of the modern, rational, scientific world and offers a way to find new/old ways of valuing art that are braided with love and friendship.

The final friendship found in the archives was a series of letters between Greg and a museum official named Mr. Batho in Manchester, who was not her social equal. Nevertheless the letters unfurl over time into friendship and care for each other as well as the ‘things’ that were being transacted between Greg and the museum. It was extremely affecting to see her letter written on learning of Mr. Batho’s death. Between the age of 70 and 100, making use of the perhaps least acknowledged freedom for women- of being old- as well as rich- Greg entered a hugely energetic phase of her life. She donated over 2,000 items over 32 museums and wrote over 700 letters facilitating connections between people and things. Her achievement is dispersed, diffuse- but she is very much one of Lupton’s ‘underground matriarchs’. It was heartening to see from all our speakers, so much attention to the fragments from which we can glimpse the wide ranging mycorrhzial traces these women have left in the archives.

 

Many thanks to all our speakers for sharing their research so generously, and to Rosie Eagleton  at Sheffield Museums who enabled this event to happen and Lauren  who ensured that it ran so smoothly on the day!

 

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Women in Print : Everyday food in print

Dorothy Hartley, who lived at Froncysyllte, near Llangollen, was the setting out point for this day of talks by food writers and illustrators, scholars, friends and family members foregrounding the cultural importance of the illustrated cookery book. Hartley’s writing is direct and, as Jojo Tulloh pointed out, addresses the reader as a friend and equal, inviting them into the book as though it were a farmhouse kitchen.

Steffan Jones Hughes and myself were lucky enough to visit Roger Mansbridge at home near Chirk earlier this year. As one of the executors of DH’s  will he is in possession of many personal litems, photographs and manuscripts. The story of DH’s papers is sadly familiar in the case of the archives of  independent, unmarried and childless women- much of it was put into a skip. However,  the bulk of what survives is now at MERL in Reading, or in the possession of Adrian Bailey, who is writing a biography  of Hartley. I came accross this anecdote in Bailey’s introduction to an anthology of her Daily Sketch articles ‘Lost Worlds’ ( Prospect, 2012)

“I first encountered Dorothy Hartley in the late 1960’s when she was in her mid seventies. …My diary records my meeting with Dee as friends and family called her. ‘Most hospitable but house is difficult to find. Living on a pittance. Served lamb chops. Very proud and independent. Folk historian of rural life. English eccentric and national treasure.” (p.19)

She is still woefully under acknowledged as such, despite a recent documentary about her life and work she is not as well known or well regarded as a scholar as she should be. Perhaps this is because of the multimodal nature of her books- she refers to her drawings constantly, approaching drawing as a continuum of her writing.

Hartley’s work as both Hattie Ellis and Jojo Tulloh pointed out is ever more relevant, with her insistence on understanding the materiality of history and tradition, as well as knowing the provenance of, and the importance of respecting and understanding your food. Her ‘History of Water in England’ is a scase in point, still stunningly original in its concept and execution.  ‘Food in England’ is her best known work , and has never been out of print since it was first published in 1954. It is a prototype self sufficiency manual which is also a history lesson and an essay in English identity. She not only gives you the recipe but tells you how to build the oven to cook it in. Jojo Tulloh termed her an ‘athropolgist in the kitchen’. I have written elsewhere about her blend of writing and illustrating in an article entitled The jobbing artist as ethnographer: documenting ‘Lore”

Roger’s treasure trove is occasionally dusted using a hairdryer- just one of the fascinating insights we learned of from the day.

The short introduction to Dorothy Hartley was highly enjoyable, supplemented with reminiscences and anecdotes from Roger about her life and adventures

The next speaker was Elisa Oliver from MMU, who edits the academic journal ‘Feast’ which  is a series of online publications that explore our relationship with food as a social event, a marker of identity, a product of history and a commodity for trade. Elisa outlined the ways that artists had intervened in our everyday relationships with food by placing it in the gallery or foregrounding the ritualistic aspects of food production and consumption through participatory art practice.  She highlghted how illustrations, specifically phtographs, in cookery books ‘erase the labour’ involved, and looked at the ways that recipes are presented as aspirational instructions. She also talked about the recipe as a site of memory, citing the example of women in WW2 concentration camps who shared detailed memories of meals they used to make as a way of shoring up their personal and collective identities.

Dr. Eleanor Byrne, also from MMU,  spoke next, examining the cookbook as memoir in the work of Alice B Toklas. She traced the ways that Toklas’s relationship to Gertrude Stein is played out in the reminiscences in the book. The ways through which the writing and illustrations ‘folded in’ members of their wider acquaintance was explored, analysing the use of illustrators drawn from their acquaintance.  The illustrations often referred to artists who had painted Stein and herself,  creating a protected space in which queer identites and friendships were celebrated and nurtured. Their adventures in France and Italy in their two cars ‘Aunt Pauline’ and ‘Lady Godiva’ taking supplies to field hospitals and moving freely around occupied France raised questions about their privilege and friends in high places. The recipes often name drop their famous friends- the dishes made for Picasso for example- and are more often than not recounting food that their succession of chefs had produced as they travelled.

After these two highly interesting talks we broke for a delicious bread and cheese lunch generously provided by Oriel Wrecsam, with bread from the Wild Loaf in Liverpool  and locally sourced cheeses.  I was especially delighted to be offered a glass of homemade grape juice from the Cambridge garden of Miranda Gray, who had also kindly brought windfall apples and quinces for the tabletop for their perfume. It was a privilege to be able to talk to Miranda about her mother’s work, and her friendship with Peggy Angus, at whose house Furlongs Patience had met Norman Mommens, the sculptor with whom she moved to Italy. The life they shared together forms the basis of her celebrated book ‘Honey from a Weed’ (1986) which was 30 years in the writing.

Patience Gray and Dorothy Hartley were the subject of Jojo Tulloh and Miranda Gray’s presentation after lunch. Jojo coined the term ‘vagabond cooks’ to describe them, and outlined their inspirational lives spent wandering and gleaning traditional knowledge from everyone and anyone that they encountered- from Charcoal burners in the New Forest to water carriers in Puglia. What communicated itself so strongly was the inspirational way the two women approached the business of living as country women, and the vast amount of  practical knowledge and detailed observation of the landscape that this entails. Miranda recalled her mother regularly collecting mushrooms such as chantarelles  when she was a child, and leading them on walks where they would forage for sorrell and such edible herbs. The accounts of her life with her mother cast a spell over the audience who were in thrall to the romance of the creative life she had  created for all around her. We could have happily listened for the entire afternoon. Jojo had undertaken a pilgrimage to Patience Gray’s kitchen the year before and has written about it, with beautfully evcative photographs here . She has also shadowed Dorothy Hartley’s method of cooking taken from a ‘bargee’, the type of cooking that informs her interest in self sufficient food production and cooking represented in her book ‘The Modern Peasant’ (Penguin, 2014) Miranda also read out a letter from her mother and recalled the way that she and Primrose Boyd had created an illustrated business card after working at the Festival of Britain as young women,  which outlined the many jobs they felt qualified to take on for five shillings. bargees-dinner-680x390

img_5951img_5949Our next speaker was Elisabeth Luard, who spoke entertainingly about her ‘posh’ upbringing, learning about food from ‘behind the baize door’ as her mother’s interest in food extended only to ordering it in from Harrods.  She spoke of her double life on leaving home, as art student by morning and typist for Private Eye by afternoon. She continues the association by having a regular column in Richard Ingram’s ‘Oldie’ magazine. Elisabeth recounted stories of taking her children with her to live in rural Spain, and how they were a rich source of information about the food culture of the region. She spoke of the importance of sketching rather than photographing (taking a photograph is intrusive, whereas making a drawing is much more likely to draw people to you) and explained how through documenting a woman winnowing cumin seed she learned that this allowed the salt in the air to attach to the spice, making it last longer and taste better. The process of creating her book ‘ A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse (Bloomsbury, 2011) was described, with its combination of photographs (taken by friend and ‘gallery artist’ Clare Richardson over the course of a year) and her own paintings informing the writing with her careful observation of the ingredients she uses.

We broke again for afternoon tea at this point, with homemade cakes made in tribute to our authors. Jojo Tulloh had brought some homemade bread and wild plum jam as fitting food for Dorothy Hartley, and Ellie Byrne had made the biscuits that Alice B Tolkas would serve her friends. I made a seed cake (inspired by DH but actually a very good Delia Smith recipe) and had made a stab at making ‘soul cakes’ from an ancient recipe. However these came out a bit solid and medieval looking and potentially posed a risk to the teeth of anyone who tried them. There was also a very lovely windfall apple cake made by Jeanette Orrell and Bara Brith made by Roger Mansbridge and other cakes supplied from Wrexxham county market.

The final speaker was Hattie Ellis, who presented a robust defense of the illustrated cookery book and its future. Speaking of her own book ‘The One Pot Cook’ (Head of Zeus, 2015) and the conversations she has had with editors at Grub Street and  Bloomsbury about the use of illustrations vs photographs in cookery books. ‘Photographs date’ whereas illustration takes you directly to the time of writing. She championed the sort of cookbook that was for cooks rather than chefs, and read a quote from Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed’

“Cooking is not to be regarded as a display of virtuosity, it is far more vital than that.”

As ever the generosity of those speaking was reciprocated in the enthusiasm of those listening, and the discussion at the end of the day had us all determined to illustrate (not photograph- pah!) every meal we  produced from now on! As an exercise in history writing, the spots of time that recipes represent- however ‘everyday’ these memories are, are important to acknowledge as a continuum of traditional ‘lore’ hard won over time and we all responded to the ‘heritage technology’ of print and paper  as a means to pass on what we know to others.

In a similar vein the chapbooks that are produced  for these events are an exercise in ‘history from below’ create a space for a personal and creative  tribute to the women in question. I was delighted to recieve text and artwork from Jojo Tulloh and Miranda Gray for a chapbook about DH and PG, which joined the growing collection from diverse artists and writers. Thanks too to Rhi Moxon for her beautiful chapbook in tribute to Elisabeth Luard. img_5918

I keep returning to Ellen Lupton’s phrase ‘the underground matriarchy’ when thinkng about these Women in Print events. Often the  legacies that are passed on by these women, for those who were lucky enough to have known these women first hand, and for the rest of us who know them through their books,  is a pervasive sense of a life well lived, rather than accolades for their particular ‘virtuosity’ .Their influence as writers, artists, teachers, art directors, mothers, hostesses, is produced ‘both by producing their own work and by creating contexts in which innovation can flourish’. Lupton says-

‘Women seem to spend more time underground, gaining collective recognition and regenerating the field in intangible ways….An important goal of feminism is to make the values traditionally associated with the world of women into values recognised across the social and sexual spectrum: to nurture, to include, to respond, to support, to enable. As the influence of women continues to grow in the coming decades, such skills may no longer be regarded as distinctly feminine or as the exceptional product of women’s achievement. Design competitions must begin to include new categories – such as lectures organised or given, exhibitions curated, new curriculum planning and special research in areas such as cultural iconography. In this way, we will be in a better position to acknowledge all levels of accomplishment – from the surface of the page to the underground of the community.’

Thanks to Oriel Wrecsam for their generous support of this event.It was funded by Arts Council Wales.

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Women in Print: Dorothy Hartley and Others- domestic food writing since 1920

The date for this event is now set for 29th October 2016, at Oriel Wrecsam.

This ‘Women in Print’ event celebrates and discusses the contribution to cultural life domestic cookery books – committing to print knowledge that had previously been passed in a practical way from mother to daughter in the kitchen – have had on our collective taste and sense of identity through food.

Dorothy Hartley, the author of ‘Food in England’  and ’Made in England’  lived in Fron, near Llangollen, for most of her life. Her books are practical manuals for traditional skills associated with the home and the kitchen, but also are a form of  social history, calling into notice the food that has been cultivated and prepared by ordinary people for their everyday domestic life.

The legacy of writers such as Hartley can be seen in the work of Florence White, Patience Gray, Alice B Toklas, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Jocasta Innes and in our own time Jo Jo Tullohand Hattie Ellis, to name but a few. Their writing champions the kind of food made for friends and family in the home.

The design and illustration of these books – brought to a mass audience through publishers such as Penguin, Faber and Persephone books- is a large part of their appeal, and we will discuss the affordances of print in transcribing and transforming vernacular food culture.

The day of talks will end with a communal meal , and  specially commissioned print works  will be available.

We are delighted to be collaborating with Oriel Wrecsam for this event.

AP teatowel no date

The Ballad of Women in Print- Chetham’s Library, Friday 20th May

WIP-CHETHAMS-BOOKING-INFOThe facebook page is here and the eventbrite page to book is here

PROGRAMME

THE BALLAD OF WOMEN IN PRINT
Chetham’s Library, Manchester

FRIDAY 20th MAY 2016

Programme for Friday
10.00 coffee and welcome

10.30 Lauren Padgett- ‘Brutal exhibitions of depravity’: 19th Century Wife-selling in Street Literature.’

10.50 Hannah Allan- ‘Lost Voices of the Witches: Absence and Persecution in Lancashire Folk Tradition’

11.10 Q+A 20 mins

11.30 break (20 mins)

11.50am Stephen Basedo- ‘Maid Marian in Victorian Penny Bloods’

12.10pm Jenna C. Ashton– ‘Radical Zines: making & writing as feminist practice’

12.30 Q+A 20 mins

Lunch 1- 2 pm

2.00pm Jennifer Reid- ‘Women in Manchester’s broadside collections: songs for and about girls and women’

2.20pm Emily Portman- Woman’s Tongue: Subversive Female Voices in the Axon and Holt Broadside Collection

2.40pm Q+A 20 mins

3pm end

 

Chapbooks exhibited at RISD

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It was great to exhibit a selection of the chapbooks at Rhode Island School of Art during the ‘Illustrator as Public Intellectual’ symposium in November. There was a lot of interest in extending the project to the US and we are working towards developing the chapbooks in various ways with friends and colleagues from RISD and MICA.

The ‘Women in Print’ network exists to promote research, discussion and writing into the overlooked contributions and legacies of women to 20th century print culture – whether as writers, publishers, artists and designers, art directors, teachers and/or through their domestic lives. The ‘Women in Print’ events are a series of  gatherings which bring together academics, practitioners and family members to discuss  the ways in which women’s creative and intellectual cultural agency is manifest through and framed by popular print culture. At each event a limited edition print run of illustrated tribute chapbooks by contemporary writers, artists and academics are given out . The chapbook project uses the medium of print to facilitate an inclusive and open ended form of history writing which values the subjective and creative response to the cultural legacy of  these women alongside an appreciation of their work. https://womeninprintnetwork.wordpress.com/