The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

During the delicious, and as retailers frankly frivolous break between Christmas and New Year, I had a belated birthday treat of an outing to the potteries museum in Stoke-on-Trent. The collection of ceramics that it houses is a revelation; whilst describing bountifully the progression of styles and technical advancements within the Staffordshire potteries it ties this with changes in fashion and the political and historic context of the pieces. They include pieces from China, Japan and Classical Greece in the collection which influenced the innovators, who during the 18th century could certainly be said to have been taste makers. The energy of the potteries in the 18th century is inspiring, the pace of change and the variety and quality of the output just jaw dropping.

The revelation was just how many different wares these potteries were producing during a short time window; it appeared that over a twenty year period, in the 18th century, the Wheildon Pottery was producing 5 distinctly different types of ware. In modern production terms that indicates considerable flexibility and a very high degree of skill within the workforce.

I would heartily recommend a visit; explore the fascinating stories and finds of the archaeological digs at potteries sites (downstairs) as well as the wonderful 1st floor gallery brimming with ceramic masterpieces. Thank you Clare for an inspired and inspiring birthday treat!

17th and 18th Century Slipware beauties.

17th and 18th Century Slipware beauties.

Slipware Posset Cups

Slipware Posset Cups

Wonderful 18th century group; engine turned & creamware mug.

Wonderful 18th century group; engine turned & creamware mug.

Wheildon tureen

Wheildon tureen

William de Moragn tile frieze

William de Moragn tile frieze

 

 

We barely scratched the surface of the collection during our 4 hour visit and will certainly be returning when a shot of inspiration and joy are required.

Museum Details:

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Beshesda Street, Stoke-on-Trent. ST1 3DW

Tinsmiths Slipware Exhibition 9th September – 9th October 2017. Tinsmiths is having an exhibition of the work of contemporary potters who make slipware. We are really excited about this exhibition which will include work by; Dylan Bowen, Patia Davis, Paul Young, Carole Glove and Sean Miller.

 

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Spring Life – Mark Hearld & Paul Young

 

Our 2016 programme of exhibitions is starting with an exuberant flourish of British style and sensibility. ‘Spring Life’ features the work of Mark Hearld and Paul Young.
The exhibition at our Ledbury showroom opens on the 19th March and runs until the 23rd April.
Mark Herald’s fabric designs for St Judes Fabrics are firm favourites at Tinsmiths. For this exhibition Mark has spent some time printing linocuts with Martin at Tilley Printing in Ledbury; whilst he and Martin printed we made a short film of the visit.

We will be showing these prints alongside some of Marks wonderful collages and there will be a brand new fabric design for St Judes on show.
Paul Young like Mark, draws inspiration from European folk art and has an affinity with Staffordshire wares of the eighteenth century. Producing joyful slipware, Paul’s work includes both purely decorative pieces as well as extremely usable domestic ware; all with compelling lively charm.

Paul Young

Paul Young

Mark Hearld

Mark Hearld

 

Paul Young Slipware Dish

Paul Young Slipware Dish

Paul Young Slipware Dish

Paul Young Slipware Dish

Paul Young Decorative Slipware

Paul Young Decorative Slipware

Mark Hearld Mixed Media

Mark Hearld Mixed Media; print and ink

Mark Hearld Linocut prints. Mark came and spent a couple of days in Ledbury printing with Martin at Tilley Printing; here are some prints drying in the office.

Mark Hearld Linocut prints. Mark came and spent a couple of days in Ledbury printing with Martin at Tilley Printing; here are some prints drying in the office.

Mark Hearld linocut printed in Ledbury for our exhibition.

Mark Hearld linocut printed in Ledbury for our exhibition.

Do visit over Easter; the exhibition opens on the 19th March which is the week before the Easter weekend and goes on until the 23rd April. If you would like to attend the private view on the 18th March do get in touch and we will ensure an invitation gets to you.

Tinsmiths. 8a High Street, Ledbury. HR8 1DS (Tel:01531 632083). Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10am -5pm (most Mondays but telephone to double check first!)

Tinsmiths Desk Calendar 2016 – Hellmuth Weissenborn

This year with our calendar we have gone for a different format; a folding desk or pocket calendar, each month with it’s own exquisite wood engraving. As ever the calendar has been skilfully printed by Martin Clark at the Tilley Printworks here in Ledbury.
The wood engravings were purchased at the local Flea Market in Malvern a few years ago, stacked in cardboard boxes under the traders table it was not immediately obvious just what treasure they were. When I got home and looked through the boxes it was obvious that hand cut print blocks were the works of an accomplished artist. Among many linocut blocks and Perspex cut blocks (I haven’t seen this technique before) were 3 cigar cases each full of exquisite wood engravings, about 30 in each box.

Wood engravingshelmuth close up
When Martin printed some of these wood engravings the mastery that this artist had over this most exacting of techniques was clear; there were no lines that didn’t need to be there, the very deft rendering of tiny features and expressions, the ability to convey an atmosphere to a one colour tiny illustration of a landscape.

Letterpress Calendar
John from the Whittington Press identified this mystery artist as Helmuth Weissenborn. Helmuth had been a professor at Leipzig Academy or Graphic and Book Arts, forced to flee his homeland by the Nazis because of his Jewish wife. On arrival in Britain he was interned in the Isle of Man as a category C prisoner. Once released from internment he worked for the war effort in the Auxiliary Fire Service in London. Before all of this Hellmuth had fought in WW1 from the age of 16-19, serving at Arras and in Serbia.
Throughout his whole life the daily practice of drawing and the desire to record and create was the strongest thread; in WW1 he sent illustrated letters home which became a war diary, his academic career at Leipzig Academy was focussed on graphic art and book art, during his time in the Auxiliary Fire Service he made sketches of bomb sites in London (some now in the Imperial War Museum and here is a link to an interview with the artist).helmuth London

Hellmuth Weissenborn, ‘Thames from monument’ print taken from cut perspex.

After the war Hellmuth and his second wife Lesley ran the Acorn Press. It was good creative partnership publishing finely printed, hand-set and hand-printed books. Helmuth was an extremely versatile artist; he worked as a book illustrator for 30 London publishers as well as the Acorn Press, and from 1941-1970 as a guest lecturer at the Ravensbourne College of Art.Helmuth Anchor

The three cigar boxes that I have were labelled ‘Sonnets’, and last year I was able to track down a copy of ‘The Sonnets’ which the illustrations were commissioned for. Printed by The Rocket Press and published by the Acorn Press with a limited edition of 350, the book of course contains the full set of prints, I do not have the complete set – somewhere out there are another two cigar boxes I hope as treasured as mine!sonnetcoversonnet

The ownership of these beautiful blocks has always made me uncomfortable, although I treasure them they are not my own but of course very much Hellmuth’s. This has made me reluctant to use them, however for this year we have selected 12 to illustrate our calendar. We will have 150 of our calendars for sale with all profits going to the Save the Children Syria Crisis appeal. We feel that this is appropriate, and whilst we cannot know whether Hellmuth would approve, it seems likely that someone whose life was so marked by the turmoil’s of the first half of the 20th Century would have much sympathy for those whose lives are being shattered by the turmoil’s of our own times.

Pashmina

We recently received some wonderful Pashmina shawls so light and so soft that everything else that I had ever encountered that described itself as ‘cashmere’ felt rough in comparison. I quizzed our supplier Sadhu about the softness of these Pashminas and it soon became clear what the difference was.

Pashmina is the fabric woven from the pashm, the soft downy undercoat that grows on the nect and belly of the Himalayan mountain goat, Capra Hirracus. It is only the goats living at above 4500 metres that produce the finest wool as they require the extra insulation to live in the harsh terrain and winter temperatures of -30°.pashmina goat 1 DSC02312 - Copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The very fine pashm used in Sadhu’s pashminas comes from Changtang in Ladakh where nomadic herders tend flocks on the high plains. They collect the fleece by combing the goats in the late spring before they molt. In summer these are brought or bartered by Ladakhi traders and sent to Leh, where the Kashmiri traders make their purchases.

The Kashmiri artisans have perfected the art of hand-shinning the fine pashmina yarn. The pashmina fibre is extremely fine at 14 microns (a human hair is 200 microns) and long staple and whilst this gives it the softness and lustre when woven, it is much more challenging to spin and weave.

The delicate pashm is firstly painstakingly cleaned and then hand-spun. The very fine hand-spun yarn is then carefully woven by hand, weaving a 2m length takes 3 days.

P1050076DSC07735 - CopySadhu is concerned that the cheap imitations of pashmina with machine –spun and woven cashmere mix yarns are undermining the 2000 year old skills and traditions of the Kashmiri Pashmina artisans.

P1050022

DSCN5948DSCN5945See more of these wonderful Pashminas in our ‘Scraves and Wraps’ section on our website.

Double Cloth

Our 2015 series of blogs all relate to cloth weaving, printing or otherwise embellishing. The hope is that we further educate ourselves about the products that we sell and visit some of our fantastic suppliers who are busy manufactering high quality textiles in the UK.
The First of these blog posts is on ‘Double Cloth’. Double cloth is a two-layered woven cloth, the layers can be quite different; a tapestry design on one face with a plain layer behind, or they can be a reverse of each other (a double faced double cloth); as seen in ‘Welsh Blankets’, where there is no’wrong side’ just a different version on each side.

A Welsh 'Tapestry' style blanket showing the two different 'faces'.

A Welsh ‘Tapestry’ style blanket showing the two different ‘faces’.

Having read up on this and had it explained to me a couple of times by experts I still don’t feel like I have the best grasp on the actual technicalities of how this miracle happens but essentially two fabrics are woven simultaneously with binding yarns interconnecting the two layers to form a single cloth.
At the ‘National Wool Museum’ (Wales) in Llandysul, Carmerthenshire the story of the woollen industry is followed through from fleece to finished product. The production of woollen cloth has a long history in Wales with different areas having different moments of success and decline, the production of blankets became centred in West Wales in the 19th century with a high point in the first decade or two of the 20th century with plain colours and stripes forming a large part of the prodcution as well as the ‘tapestry’ style Welsh double cloth blankets. Originally the double cloth blankets were woven from a fairly coarse two ply woollen yarn and their weight and durability mean that they found use as rugs and curtains as well as blankets. It is interesting to note that many of the 19th century American quilt designs, particularly those produced by the Amish of Pennsylvania, seem to owe much to the traditional Welsh double cloth blankets.

The clear geometric designs associated both with traditional Welsh blanket design and 19th century American quilt design.

The clear geometric designs associated both with traditional Welsh blanket design and 19th century American quilt design.

As well as housing a large variety of working machinery associated with woollen cloth production, The National Wool Museum also home to a good collection of historic blankets, outfits and cloth samples making it especially valuable for today’s designers.

The collection of vintage Welsh blankets at the 'National Wool Museum' in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire.

The collection of vintage Welsh blankets at the ‘National Wool Museum’ in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire.

Very much a working museum current production is run by Raymond Jones of Melin Teifi who has a vast knowledge and understanding of both the history and processes of the Welsh woollen industry. Melin Teifi produce both their own range of woollen flannels and commision weaving for other designers and it was exciting to see some very contemporary designs on the looms.

Welsh Blanket weavingWelsh blanket loom

Current production on the looms of Melin Teifi.

Current production on the looms of Melin Teifi.

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/wool/

What do Blacksmiths do all Day? Tinsmiths Calendar Post

Blacksmith Luis de la TorreUntil now our working lives have been those advanced in their careers. Luis, at 19yrs and just six months out of college, is at the beginning of his working life and we asked him few questions.

How did this begin? “When I was fifteen my school programme of work experience came along and I had no idea how to spend the five days allocated. ‘Well, think about what you have enjoyed most in your life to date’ suggested my Dad.”

“A day with Ben Orford, a multi-disciplinary craftsmen, had so far been the best day of my life. With Ben I was allowed to really use tools and equipment to forge a blade and horn mount a woodsman’s knife” and Luis’ response led to a week with blacksmith, Alex Wilkins at Stretton Grandison, followed by six evenings at Holme Lacy College. “I was lucky that I had just had my sixteenth birthday – allowing me to enrol for the evening class and follow up my work experience”.

Luis at Ben Orford's

* Luis (14yrs) linishing at Ben Orford’s workshop

How did you learn? From there, after GCSE’s, Luis spent three years at Holme Lacy College, which is part of Hereford College of Technology, learning blacksmiths’ “sets” – that is the sequence of processes to achieve particular functions. The sets are essential and these were practiced over and again until perfect; a thorough approach that “sold” the course to Luis. “The college felt so different to school. There was mutual respect; I showed that I wanted to learn and the teaching staff gave me 100%.”

Hand-made Tools* Handmade Tongs for specific tasks, made at Holme Lacy

In a summer break, Luis built a forge at home and about that time began selling his small fire irons. “My forge wasn’t perfect – I little poisonous in fact – but selling my work was really encouraging, it was great to know that people wanted what I was making.”

Water-twisted Pokers* Water Twist Fire Pokers by Luis

Luis completed his course this summer and turned to improving his own forge and building up equipment, “It was quite a shock to come from the biggest and best equipped teaching forge in Europe to a small outhouse with forge and anvil – with rather inadequate ventilation! At college we learnt to make all our own handtools, but that didn’t stop me missing both the power hammer and the company of enthusiastic students”. Time management and self-discipline would be a challenge to most teenagers but Luis tries to put in six hours at the forge most days, admin and designing taking up more time. “If I’m working on a new idea or in the flow of making a group of pieces I work until I’m finished, recently I’ve been making for three Christmas events and have commissions to get out too”.

Plans for the future? Get a driving licence and go on the road. Luis is keen to get working alongside experienced blacksmith in a team or as an assistant on larger projects.

 Did family background play a part? “I think there has been a sub-conscious influence on me as I was growing up – having parents who are skilled in art and craft has trickled down to me. Most of their friends are creative and work on their own in this field so it was normal to me to see people working fairly autonomously. However, college really opened me up to learning, exciting my interest widely, so I’m thinking of a little more education  – I’ve always enjoyed Biology and would like to speak Spanish.” Well, all he needs to find is a Spanish Blacksmith, making enormous animals who needs an assistant!

Luis’ work can be found in little Tinsmiths – toasting forks a speciality