Friday, 9 September 2011


Last night Kat and I went along to an East London Craft Guerilla night at the Ye Olde Rose and Crown pub in Walthamstow. There's a burgeoning arts and crafts scene in Walthamstow, as evidenced by several exhibits in this year's E17 Art Trail, including tapestry weaving and fibre craft, Knit A Year, and Dr Knit and the Knitting Laboratory!

Of course, Walthamstow has a long tradition of arts and crafts, being the birthplace of William Morris, leader of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Unfortunately the William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park is currently closed for renovation, but I have had the pleasure of visiting it in the past. On my last visit there was a large selection of original Arts and Crafts pieces including textiles and tapestries, as well as fibre-based art created in local community art projects and by local artists.

A typical William Morris textile design

The William Morris Gallery

In fact it could be said that Morris is Walthamstow's most famous son. His textiles are still popular today; my parents' kitchen blinds are made of one of his prints. Morris' "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" is one of my favourite adages. In addition to being a designer and artist, Morris was also a Romantic writer and founded the Socialist League. Morris (like me!) taught himself embroidery, learning to sew with wool on a wooden frame. Interestingly, once he had mastered the craft, the responsibility for carrying out trade orders was delegated to the women of the family, his wife Jane and her sister Bessie.

Evidently embroidery has a long tradition of being thought of as "woman's work", which to some extent, despite the advent of "manbroiderers" such as Mr X Stitch, is an attitude which still prevails. At the craft night, for example, I didn't spot any men trying their hand at making a cross-stitched badge or bunting necklace.

Being impoverished art students, Kat and I forgoed the craft kits and instead brought our own arts and crafts projects along, Kat her paintings on old photographs, and myself one of my in-progress embroideries on a handkerchief.

It was lovely to have a few glasses of wine, some Korean spicy chicken wings and a proper catch-up. We've been to the craft nights at the Rose and Crown before, and I'm sure we'll return again. Now, to look for a Walthamstow-based sewing circle...

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