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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sasha's Sell out Talk on her Kelmscott Residency

The talk last Thursday, 26 March, was by Sasha Ward on her residency at Kelmscott Manor, she talked about many aspects of this, including her selection from 500 applicants, saying she knew she was absolutely right for the job. Not only because of her love of coloured glass and her extensive experience of working with it, but because of her appreciation of the pre-Raphaelites, particularly of William Morris' work and attitude to work, his personal motto 'If I can' seemed to resonate with her, Sasha felt this would be a great experience.
She began by making a series of drawings of the house, garden and river, using the drawing as a response to the place, then moving on to designing something as a response to the place. There were 500 visitors when Kelmscott was open, and Sasha enjoyed working with them, whether it was holding a glass workshop, writing names on glass, or producing patterns which were repeated on foamboard.
I took a few photographs, setting up the computer:
 49 people came to hear the talk, it was great to see such a large audience:

 I photographed a few of the slides, the one below shows soldering lead around pieces of glass:
 Below the results of putting together various different pieces of glass together, a technique often used in church windows:
 I think the piece below is positioned in a window and is one of the rootftop patterns which could become a Ward Wallpaper!
 Here's the only photo taken of Sasha

 Above some glass and the glass in front of one of the windows
 Below a couple of pieces of coloured glass made by people working at Kelmscott, and installed in their kitchen
 There's lots more information on Sasha Ward on her have a look at her many commissions, and read what she has to say about her time at Kelmscott.
Our next Friends' talk is by David Cuthbert on Cecil Collins on 30 April.

Friday, 27 March 2015


Tim Carroll's wonderful painting of Rodbourne Road graces the front of our new Journal the first edition with colour pages, members should be receiving one soon. If any Friends would like a PDF version please contact with your membership number via the email in the Journal and we'll send one to you.

Anyone with comments or contributions for the next Journal please write to

For those waiting for the results of the Christmas Quiz they are here following the questions to give you all a second chance. The prize was won by Jill Sharp who was the first correct entry out of John Walsh's cap.

CHRISTMAS QUIZ QUESTIONS   The answers have something in common. 

1. A recitation of 32 points, one way or the other.
2. Ernie Bevin used this as a metaphor for the Council of Europe, and feared it might emit “Trojan ‘Orses”.
3. An eccentric gentleman chose to be buried vertically here, his head towards the centre of the Earth.
4. West of Swindon and just under three kilometres long.
5. Lord Brougham’s somewhat disparaging description of the English system of justice.
6. A comic opera by Sullivan without Gilbert.
7. An essential component of a multiple-choice quiz or survey.
8. He had 42 of them, but “they were all left behind on the beach”.
9. What followed the Midnight Folk?
10. A suitable day to do this quiz?

Before the answers here is a portrait by John Singer Sargent of Gabriel Fauré to find out more read John Walsh's fascinating feature in the new Journal.


The theme was “box” and the individual answers were:

1. Boxing the compass.
2. The Foreign Secretary used the gloriously mixed metaphor of Trojan horses jumping out of an opened Pandora’s box.
3. Major Peter Labilliere was interred in this unusual way in 1800 on Box Hill, Surrey.
4. Brunel’s Box Tunnel on the Great Western railway.
5. “…the whole machinery of State, and its various workings, end in simply bringing twelve good men into a box.”
6. “Cox and Box”, using the idea of an earlier play by J M Morton, “Box and Cox”, that was itself based on a French comedy. Sullivan’s librettist was F C Burnand, a prolific writer for the stage and contributor to “Punch” magazine.
7. Tick-boxes (UK) or check-boxes(US).
8. In Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”, it was the brave but forgetful Baker who left his sea-luggage behind.
9. Several characters from John Masefield’s “Midnight Folk” re-appear in his subsequent work “The Box of Delights”.
10. Boxing Day.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sasha Ward and her Kelmscott Residency - a talk on 26 March at 7.30pm

I am very grateful to Jane Milner-Barry for her superb writing, which is featured below, on Sasha Ward and Kelmscott To hear about the residency from Sasha Ward herself, come along to the Swindon Museum and Art gallery on Thursday 26 March for a 7.30pm start. Tickets £5 and £4 to Friends.

100 years on, Morris’s Kelmscott still inspires artists and visitors

William Morris, artist, writer, manufacturer and utopian socialist, died in 1896. But his overcoat is still hanging behind a door in the entrance hall at Kelmscott Manor.  For many years Morris rented the beautiful old house, over the Thames from Buscot, as a retreat for himself, his wife Janey and their daughters Jenny and May.  They loved to escape to Kelmscott from their busy life in London.  The well-worn coat was one of the many evocative objects that caught Sasha Ward’s eye when she arrived at Kelmscott in May 2014 as the first Artist in Residence.   “The house is full of personal belongings, and fabrics embroidered by Janey and May” says Sasha.  “And there are places you recognise from Morris’s letters.  It can be quite spooky sometimes”.

The opportunity to spend the summer as Artist in Residence at Kelmscott attracted a great deal of interest and the trustees chose stained glass artist Sasha from 150 applicants, all artists of standing.  “I was thrilled to be picked” says Sasha. “Of course I share William Morris’s obsession with stained glass.  But also I loved the idea of being part of the life of Kelmscott.  It’s an incredibly busy place with up to 500 visitors a day.”

Sasha fell in love with stained glass as a teenager, when three friends visiting Chartres Cathedral sent her postcards of the windows.  She lives in Marlborough, where she has a studio and the all-important kiln in which she can fire sheets of glass up to a metre wide and two metres long. 

 Sasha has completed over 70 projects and commissions in the UK and abroad, including a window for the Chaplaincy at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital.   She likes to work on a grand scale and her biggest commission to date has been a dramatic stairwell window for the Premier Inn in Liverpool, which comprises eighty square metres of glass.  “But I’d love to work on an even bigger scale” says Sasha.  “Maybe a project for a cathedral . . . ”

At Kelmscott, Sasha set up a workshop in the Brewhouse.   There she worked on a series of small stained glass panels, explaining the process to the visitors and encouraging them to take part.  One project was inspired by a window pane on which May Morris and her friends had scratched their names.  Sasha invited people to sign their names on scraps of glass with a diamond-tipped pen, and assembled the pieces – bearing 103 signatures  - into a window which has now been installed at Kelmscott.   Visiting children were given pencils and paper and encouraged to draw things that appealed to them, and there were workshops for adults and children.   A tiny “box cottage” belonging to May Morris is on show at Kelmscott; it was discovered in one of the attics.  Now the visitors made “stained glass” windows and block-printed wallpaper, and used them to turn cardboard play-houses into richly patterned Arts and Crafts residences.   Polystyrene tiles made excellent wallpaper blocks!

For the second year running, Kelmscott Manor has been shortlisted for the title of “Most Inspiring Heritage Attraction”.  The house is currently closed for the winter but will be open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from the beginning of April.
Here is a copy of the poster, much higher resolution ones are available:
 Here's the massive kiln:
Below some glass in Sasha's studio:
 Above Sasha's drawing of Kelmscott Manor, and below a child's drawing inspired by a William Morris peacock:
Sasha's drawing of  the WM overcoat still on the back of the door!
Below a model of Kelmscott house:
And the lovely Swindon Advertiser article:
Tickets for the talk can be reserved by ringing the Museum on 01793 466556, from the Museum during opening hours Wed-Sat 11am-3pm, or turn up from 7pm on the night.

Friday, 20 March 2015

John Greenwood's Talk and the Friends' Social last night

Continuing the fascinating series of talks by artists organised by Curator, Sophie Cummings to accompany the current exhibition, last night we were fortunate enough to hear John Greenwood's wry take on life, art, college lecturers and his working methods.
John started by saying that he was going to show 90 slides to illustrate what he was saying, and was happy for people to ask questions as he talked. He started with this slide:

 This was painted during his time at Cheltenham where he felt he was meant to be looking at Cubists; he didn't use colour because he'd been told he wasn't good with colour and should avoid using it. After his time at Cheltenham, it was another 6 years before John wanted to be an artist again, and 4 more years before he used colour in his work.  After reading 'The Northern Romantic Tradition', he went to the RCA and studied in Paris where his work became more surreal, and illusionary. After Paris, John had a piece of work bought by Brian Sewell from his degree show, when Charles Saatchi saw it, he bought it off Brian Sewell and commissioned 6 more paintings from John, who despite this success found it hard to compete for attention as a YBA with 'sharks in tanks'.
 In Cheltenham it seemed 'flatness was everything', but John's work became anything but flat, some of the slides of paintings appeared to be objects dangling in a box, they looked so three dimensional.
Currently John enjoys spending the majority of his time in his studio drawing, and some of the drawing are worked up and become paintings, his latest ones appear in the C&C Gallery. 
This is the one we have:

It's called 'Rings and Strings and Things'. After the talk which I found fascinating, engrossing and illuminating, there was a lively question time, followed by the Friends' social which was of course open to everyone present. Friends had been invited by email and asked to say whether they could attend, if they said they could come, I wrote out labels with their name on so we can begin to put names to faces. I thought it was really worthwhile and hope we can have more, unfortunately I didn't take many photographs, so only have these two, the refreshments table:
 and people starting to come in for the talk.
Apologies for not taking a photo of John Greenwood or the full house.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Friends trip to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

On Monday 9 March, a group of the Friends visited the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to see the Frameworks exhibition - 'Reality Questioned', with an introduction and illuminating take on the exhibition by Karen MacDonald, Engagement Officer at Bristol. The exhibition is housed in a great  gallery on the first floor of the building, and one is directed into the exhibition with an arrow:
 Karen led us through the paintings by considering the depiction and use of space in the 20th century in paintings, and using a small hand held projector gave examples to supplement those on the wall of what she was saying, and at some times, to show an artist's progression over as little time as a year.
 The changing direction was particularly true of Jack Smith whose work can be seen to the right of Karen in the photo below:

 Above the Henry Moore, 'Three Women and a Child' from Swindon with 'The Hands' by Barbara Hepworth, and 'Figure Composition' by David Bomberg on the left.

 Above the Ravilious tennis game, here reality is confused by a slight distortion of perspective. Methods of changing one's sense of reality also include having the scale 'out', confusing the sense of depth, also having a low view point, we were shown examples of these. What is really great about these intimate talks is that the visitor can ask questions and gain more understanding of the works.
 After the talk, we made our second visit to the cafe on the ground floor and sat beside the fabulous fireplace  from Lewin's Mead dating back to 1650 and purchased in 1910:
 Before leaving we had a look at the David Hockney: A Rake's Progress, aquatinted etchings from his time in New York in 1961-3, they were very amusing record of his time there. I'll include a few, the first entitled 'Weakling' as he admires the bodies of beautiful runners in the park:

In the one below, 'The wallet begins to empty', he descends the steps and is humiliated, just as Tom Rakewell is when he is arrested in Hogarth's version.
 The next one depicts as we can see, 'Bedlam', the oldest asylum for the mentally ill. In Hockney's version, he imagines a consumer culture hell, where everyone looks and dresses the same, and does the same thing.
 And on leaving, we were struck by the brilliance of the white and sense of reality in this painting by Harry Watson entitled 'Holidays'
And finally the ceiling above the entrance hall:
The 'Reality Questioned' exhibition runs until 31 August, do try and go and see it. Many thanks again Karen MacDonald for making the visit so special and altering the way I look at paintings.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

32 works from Swindon Collection are at the Holburne Museum!

I was very keen to go to the opening night of this Frameworks exhibition at the Holburne Museum on March 1 to see which works contemporary artist, Dexter Dalwood, had chosen for this exhibition from the Swindon Collection.
The theme is Home and the World with domestic stability being pitched against artistic innovation, with in some cases a longing look elsewhere; the exhibition celebrates the response of our greatest artists to the extraordinary changes in  20th Century Britain.
The exhibition is on the top floor of the Holburne, here's the entrance featuring part of Christopher Wood's 'Still Life with Boats':
 The exhibition has been beautifully put together with excellent information attached to the titles, they're very readable and informative.
 I felt a bit self conscious taking photos because there were so many people at the opening, below you can just see someone looking at Alfred Wallis' 'Ship amongst the Tall Waves', and Duncan Grant's 'Standing Woman'
 At one point, John Nash's 'Dredgers, Bristol Docks' didn't have anyone in front of it, so I took a photo.
 There was a great reaction to this exhibition from those present and much praise for the Swindon Collection, including one person who said 'These paintings can't be from the Swindon Collection.' On hearing they definitely were from the Swindon Collection said 'Where did they get them from?'
One of the great advantages of the Frameworks exhibitions, Modern Art in Britain, being the latest is that paintings from the Swindon Collection have been loaned to The Wilson in Cheltenham, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the Holburne Museum and Victoria Art Gallery, reaching a much wider audience than normal. I'm hoping we may even be able to encourage people to visit the Swindon Collection at home!
It's really worth visiting the Holburne Museum in Bath to see this superb exhibition which runs until 7 June

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Jeremy York's Talk on Life in Poland 1988-92

Major Jeremy York was a military attache in Poland between 1988-92, a time when Poland was moving from a Communist state to a free economy, and an aspiring European Union member. Jeremy gave a fascinating talk illustrated by slides taken during his stay, showing what life was like in late twentieth century Poland. For example, horses were often used on farms rather than tractors and even in Warsaw they were commonplace.
There were 5 main themes at this time: anguish and suffering, seen in sculptures, primacy of the Roman Catholic church, the good humour of the polish people, diplomatic spying and westernisation and change.
The mermaid statue is Warsaw's symbol.. She appears in statue form in Old Town's Market Square, and on the Warsaw coat of arms, but when you travel to Poland's capital city, you will probably spot the image of this mythical creature worked into architectural details and used as a part of business logos.
Many legends exist that describe how the mermaid came to symbolize Warsaw. A popular version of this story tells of how the mermaid named Sawa was rescued from capture by a man named Wars. Because of Wars' kindness, Sawa vowed to protect the city. Warsawa (Warsaw) became the name of the city and the mermaid is shown with a sword and shield in recognition of her promise to protect the city.

Below the mermaid appears on the coat of arms:

And this is thought to be one of the earliest depictions, the 1659 coat of arms of Old Warsaw on the cover of one of Warsaw's accounting books:

Poland was almost destroyed by Hitler in the second world war, and we were reminded that one and a half million people died in Auchwitz, and 900000 in Treblinka where prisoners lived an average of 3 hours after arriving there.
Jeremy York became attached to Poland during his time there, and has visited annually since 1992. The audience was so interested in the 'other world' Jeremy had portrayed so interestingly, like a history lesson without the endless dates and much social history; there were lots of questions and much appreciation of the talk.
Here's Jeremy talking to Tracy White before the talk:
 And talking to members of the Friends afterwards.
It seemed only fitting that we went for drinks and a snack at the Polish restaurant in Wood Street, Karczma Polska. We were glad we had done so, the food was delicious and the drinks slipped down. We thought it's a good plan to consider going there again after the next talk.