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I know – I’m like a London bus – nothing for a while, then two posts come along together!!

Over the summer I’ve been dipping into a book by Prof Brenda M King that I picked up in April at the Foxlowe’s Art Centre in Leek where I had my solo exhibition.

Dye, Print, Stitch  – Textiles by Thomas and Elizabeth Wardle    Brenda M King  ©2009

Prof Brenda King is known for her research into the dyers Wardles of Leek.  She has done extensive research into their archives and wider afield, bringing to our attention the deep study of Indian dyestuffs and tussah silk undertaken by Thomas Wardle, and the relationship between him and William Morris, a relationship built on mutual respect and admiration for the principles in life and design of both men, their wives and families.

Dye, print, stitch is an accessible book for the general lay person into the thinking behind Wardle’s lifelong research into dyestuffs and traditional methods employed in innovative ways and marrying the growing understanding of chemistry in dyeing with the traditional dyes of India and elsewhere to create dyes that persisted in fastness where other dyes faded through washing or light.  It highlights the growth of Wardle’s printing business and his determination to bring the highest standards of workmanship and research to the industry without compromising his vision or his principles.

The book takes you through the Wardle companies, and then with greater depth into the relationship between the Wardle and Morris families and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and describes the work of the ladies of the Leek Embroidery Society (mostly local women), led by Elizabeth Wardle, who created many beautiful vestments and commissions for local churches in the Staffordshire Moorlands area, for the Arts and Crafts Movement, and for Wardle’s own business.

I am very fortunate to have lived near the beautiful, rural market town of Leek in Staffordshire, and to have seen first-hand some of the church vestments and altar cloths in various of the beautiful churches around the Staffordshire Moorlands which were commissions from Arts & Crafts Movement practitioners associated with William Morris and Thomas Wardle.  Architecture and vestments were designed to complement each other as cohesive projects, and the area of Cheddleton, Meerbrook and Leek were very fortunate to benefit from the talents of such creative artists as CFA Voysey, Lindsey P Butterfield, and Walter Crane as well as William and Jane Morris, and Thomas and Elizabeth Wardle.

Whilst I found editorial errors in the book a bit irksome, there is no taking away from the careful research that Prof King has undertaken over many years, and her passion for the achievements of Thomas Wardle in particular.  Her breadth of research and the love that she holds for the printed and embroidered textiles created and/or designed by the Wardles, and the amazing life and interests of the Wardles and the artistic and scientific times they lived in makes for an absorbing read and has re-kindled my love for the area and its artistic connections.

This book is still available from Prof King, and also from the Foxlowe’s Arts Centre, a volunteer-run gallery, social arts space, and great café at one end of the Market Square in Leek.

She is currently in the process of publishing another book on the Wardles which should be out next year.  More on that when I have information.  She is also the Chair of The Textile Society, an organisation that runs events, fairs, and a conference coming up in November that I would have loved to have attended called “Inspired By….”

Which leads me very neatly on to a series that I am giving to the Online Guild of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers on What Inspires Contemporary Weavers – a series of interviews through narrated Powerpoint and illustrated pdfs of 12 weavers (plus me) and a couple of surprise features at the end of the two weeks.  It was an absolute pleasure to talk to the weavers involved and delve deeper into the background to their practice.  These interviews will be available to members in perpetuity so do join the guild and get access to so many wonderful workshops and presentations from across the years that the guild has been going.

I also forgot to mention on my last post that the image I used was Misty Morning by Cathleen Tarawhiti from DeviantArt.  I didn’t have my camera with me when the morning mists were so gorgeous over our valley!!

Until next time, Happy Weaving!