Curator Kerri explains why ‘Walking Tours’ are a wonderful way to get closer to art

george-shaw-blog“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

Working with artists is an exciting opportunity for any arts organisation. It’s an opportunity to learn about their working practice and connect more with their work. You get to find out about their time in the studio, some of the frustrations, moments of insecurity, and the moments of inspiration and joy.

This year at Abbot Hall we are lucky enough to be working with two artists. The first, George Shaw, has an exhibition with us that’s open until Saturday 11 March. The second is Julian Cooper, whose exhibition, celebrating his seventieth year, opens on Friday 7 April.

Through working with artists, curators are able gain an insight into a working practice and a rational that may not be seen by simply looking at an artwork. By going to an artist’s studio, by helping them shape an exhibition, they can create a bond with the artist and gain a deeper understanding of their work.

This week we are fortunate enough to welcome Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, who will be giving two talks at Abbot Hall. George Shaw describes Colin as his “handler”, who guided him through the duration of his two-and-a-half-year residency at the National Gallery. When George panicked six months in, realising that he’d lost his way under the pressure, Colin was there to reassure him it had happened to those who had gone before him, including Paula Rego and Peter Blake.

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Colin worked closely with George, as his main point of contact during his residency, and to help shape the outcome – the exhibition George Shaw: My back to nature, which is now at Abbot Hall, and the subsequent exhibition catalogue.

Lost and Found: Into the woods with George Shaw is a tour by Colin of George’s exhibition at Abbot Hall. It will shed light on the relationship between artist and curator, the way in which George responded to the National Gallery’s collection and the work he produced. It promises to be an interesting tour, full of personal insights and anecdotes.

Colin will also be giving a breakfast talk, Carry on Constable: Three National Gallery masterpieces reinterpreted, which will look at the three works on loan to Abbot Hall from the National Gallery. These works, by Piero del Pollaiuolo, Nicholas Poussin and John Constable, influenced and inspired George. Colin will discuss how George tackled the pressure of taking on the Masters, and how he found new meaning in the National Gallery’s collection to create new and poignant work.

These talks will open up George’s works, taking them from the walls and transporting them back to the studio at the National Gallery, revisiting the process of their creation and exploring the works that inspired their creation through Colin’s personal experience with George.

To book for either or both of these tours, please call 01539 722464.

 

 

Shop ’til You Drop

Shop ’til You Drop has seen us working with Year 10 GSCE Graphic Products students. The students were presented with a live brief, which asks them to research and produce a product which can be sold in the Museum’s shop, using Windermere Jetty as their client.  Following an introduction to the Museum, students were able to talk through the brief for the project, including:

  • the target audience, children aged 6-9 years old
  • where the product will be sold, in the Windermere Jetty shop
  • product price, pocket money priced items
  • the materials required to make the product

Following an introduction and time to do some initial research, the students came to Windermere Jetty for a site visit.

Each student has researched what other museums sell in their shops, generated ideas of what they would like to develop and have chosen two products to focus their attention on. You can see examples of the group’s work below.

The project is now coming to a close as we approach the Christmas holidays. The group has  shown a high level engagement with the project and the school is planning on running the project as part of the next course starting in September 2017.

Fragments of Luxury

The steam launch Britannia, built on the Clyde in 1879 for local landowner Col. Ridehalgh, was the largest private steam yacht on Windermere. Ridehalgh’s previous steam yacht Fairy Queen had been the largest until he had Britannia built to replace it.  This passion for ostentatious boats earned him the nickname ‘the king of the lake’.

Britannia’s interior was as luxurious as the finest private houses. Descriptions in the press at the time of her launch give us an idea of what she must have looked like; ‘overhead lights of stained glass, one of Windsor Castle, the other of Her Majesty’s Highland residence…woodcarving in which the rose is intertwined with the thistle to form a suitable setting for the windows…panelling in polished Hungarian oak and walnut surmounted by a rich gilt cornice…crimson velvet cushioned couches round the apartment.’[1]

The single surviving skylight, which is now in our collection, gives an idea of the quality of craftsmanship on board.

When Britannia was broken up in 1919 the skylight was rescued and used in a greenhouse, before being installed into the ceiling of the old museum building.

The skylight is made of teak and glass.  Many of the panes of painted glass were missing or broken. The surviving original painted glass is being restored by Lancashire Conservation Studios, and the missing panes will be replaced with replicas.  Old joints and repairs to the timber frame are being replaced with teak in keeping with the original.

The entire structure will be supported on a steel frame to be suspended from the ceiling in the new museum building so that once again visitors to Windermere can be impressed by Col. Ridehalgh’s taste for luxury.

[1] Westmorland Gazette, 28th June, 1879

A Great Yarn

Annie Garnett: Spinning the Colours of Lakeland is still on at Blackwell, make sure you visit before this beautiful show closes.

 

Annie Garnett was as colourful as the textiles that she produced at her Spinnery in Bowness on Windermere. Born in 1864 she was not sent to school along with her brothers but still formed a passion for painting, colour and design. When her father made the acquaintance of John Ruskin she became inspired by his philosophies and decided that she would like to start creating beautiful textiles using traditional methods.

The exhibition, which is now half-way through its run, looks at the life of Annie Garnett and the textiles that she produced. Spinning the Colours of Lakeland also looks at the inspiration that Annie took from nature, both from the Lakeland landscape and from her three acre garden.

Annie Garnett’s textiles are often vibrant and bright, but we have been able to bring more colour to her story in this exhibition through the discovery of some very rare Autochrome Lumiere plates. This early form of photography used coloured starch grains to produce positive colour images which would have been viewed by holding them up to the light. Annie Garnett used this expensive process to capture the colours in her garden that meant so much to her. The Autochromes, which can be seen in the exhibition, allow us to see the colours that Annie Garnett saw, and the petals that she would send direct to her dyers to match.

Don’t miss this show, which runs until 29th January and is a great chance to find out more about one of Lakeland most colourful characters, there are also lunch and Garnett tour packages available in December. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to hear first about upcoming shows and exhibitions.

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A Cradle for Mary Anne

Many, if not most, of the boats in the collection at Windermere Jetty are pleasure craft; playthings for people with the time and money to enjoy sailing, racing, and leisurely trips around the lake.

The ferry Mary Anne, is a rare example of one of the working vessels we care for, representing a lost part of a Windermere ferry service that has operated on the lake since at least the 1450s and continues to operate today. Mary Anne is the last surviving rowed ferry, having been built at some point before the introduction of the steam powered chain ferry in 1870.

Suggested construction dates range from 1799 to 1860 but we do know that it was in service as a ferry up to 1870. The boat is significant as the only surviving example of the series of large rowed Windermere ferry boats with huge sweeps (oars) and a moveable ramp that were designed to carry people, carriages, goods and animals across the lake. Mary Anne continued in operation after completing service as a ferry but sank off Belle Isle at some point after World War II and was recovered from there in 1978.

For many years Mary Anne was kept out of doors and has suffered from exposure to the elements and damage from floods.

Now the ferry is in a very fragile state and in desperate need of support if it is to be preserved for the future.

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Our conservation boatbuilding team have decided that the best course of action is to construct a bespoke cradle in which Mary Anne can sit, and be displayed when the museum opens next year, but this is not so easy to make when the structure of the boat itself is so fragile, and deteriorating.

So we called in Stuart Norton, a specialist in the use of photogrammetry for designing and building boats. Photogrammetry is the use of photography to survey and map an object. By taking photographs from fixed points all around an object it is possible to take accurate measurements from which you can make an exact 3D model of it on a computer, and from that the uses are almost endless.

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However, because the original hull is now so distorted by age, for Stuart to get an accurate picture of the ferry he also had to use historic photographs and a model from the museum’s collections to check the accuracy of his lines.

The result will be a snug cradle for one of the oldest and most unique parts of the collection.

You can follow our conservation team’s work and see how the cradle turns out by going to our Facebook page.

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In the Moment ‘on the Lake’

In the Moment summer projects get better and better! This year, an August day out on Windermere, inspired by the lovely old boat ‘Branksome’ being restored ahead of the new Windermere Jetty opening in 2017.

‘In the Moment’ is part of Lakeland Arts’ Enriched by Moments programme of creative activity for people living with dementia and their carers. The group meets weekly in Kendal, drawing inspiration from Lakeland Arts sites, collections, exhibitions and displays, as well as local festivals and events. The sessions are a joyful blend of art and poetry, and have been described as ‘respite without separation’ – pleasurable and stimulating for everyone involved, and proven to support people to live well with dementia. Somehow, the process of immersion in experiences, the flow that happens during creative engagement has a transformative and beneficial effect that seems to extend beyond the sessions, for everyone involved.

In the lead up to the summer project, costumes from the Handling Collection and a photograph of Edna Haworth who lived at Langdale Chase and commissioned the building of ‘Branksome’ in 1896 were our starting points. Together, they provided ideas for us to create a really special day out and bring ‘Branksome’ to life in a completely new way. We shaped the day to include a visit to the Jetty conservation shed, experience an hour on the lake, disembark at Langdale Chase where we would see the boathouse built specially for ‘Branksome’ and then have afternoon tea close to the terrace overlooking the lake where Edna is standing for her photograph.

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It has been wonderful subject matter to be immersed in, enabling a relaxed and playful connection with the late Victorian era. The group created their own accessories, including appliqued capes, cuffs, choker necklaces, boater hats and false moustaches!

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Everyone enjoyed role playing their way into their costumes!

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The group also spent time thinking about the boat, making drawings and maps and two members of the group partipated in stitching the outline of Branksome onto white fabric.

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The visit to look at Branksome being restored was illuminating. Stephen, the Senior Boat Conservator, explained the process of finding just the right shaped piece of oak, known as grown crook of oak, to replace the original stem. This way of growing oak gives the wood the curvature in the grain which will follow the line of the stem. A brand new figurehead, inspired by some of the intricate carvings at Langdale Chase, illustrated how the boat is being restored to its former glory. Stephen also told us that an oak tree felled to make room for the development of the new museum is being used to create the steam bent timbers lining the interior of the boat.

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We left the Jetty Conservation Shed, amazed by the craftmanship and care that the conservation team are employing, and made our way to Waterhead for our picnic as we waited for our boat to arrive. We made a happy gathering, wearing our hats which were very welcome in the bright sunshine.

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We boarded The Princess of the Lake, our very own wooden launch for an hour! It was glorious to be on the lake, everyone so thrilled, the beautiful weather, landscape, sense of friendship and shared experience.

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As the boat pulled into the Langdale Chase jetty, we got our first view of the boathouse which was the original home of ‘Branksome’ and Bernice and John waiting to welcome us.

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Safely off the boat, we unfolded the stitched drawing of the boat and floated it into the water by the boathouse – a symbolic returning of ‘Branksome’ to it’s original home.

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Up on Edna’s terrace at what is now the Langdale Chase Hotel, we held up ‘Branksome’ to dry, creating another connection between the boat, the lake, its original owner and original home.

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The afternoon ended with afternoon tea and poetry readings. We’ve had two more ‘In the Moments’ since our wonderful day out and each time we’ve projected images of the day directly onto the studio wall which has had the effect of bringing that moment on the lake directly into the room again. Members of the group have created personal dioramas that create a visual sense of their moments on the lake, as well as prints and a large inked landscape of the lake.

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Get involved: our next big project with ‘In the Moment’ is the Creative Age Challenge in late October during the weekend of the Kendal Wool Gathering when knitters and crafters are Yarn Bombing the museum. We are working in schools and with community groups in Kendal to create a Hand Made Herd – a flock of small scale sheep that will fill the oval in the front of Abbot Hall Art Gallery. During the weekend of the gathering, sheep will be on display and then auctioned at 3pm on Sunday 30 October to raise funds to support the Enriched by Moments programme. Invite us to run a sheep making workshop in your workplace, school, community centre. Come to MOLLI’s Woolly Workshops during half term. Volunteer!

For more information about the Enriched by Moments programme check out the website at http://www.lakelandarts.org.uk/learning

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer of Rag Rugging

***UPDATE: The rugging will continue this October 22 & 24-27. Come to the museum during half term to take part in finishing this great textile project. Full details here.*** 

We’re creating giant rag rugs inspired by the rugged Cumbrian landscape! Sally Fallows is running drop-in workshops across Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House all summer long. The finished rag rugs and wall hanging will animate the learning centre at Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories when it opens in 2017. Over 250 people have contributed so far – and there’s plenty left to do! So drop in and try your hand at traditional textile techniques with a contemporary twist.

 

Morning workshops at Abbot Hall Art Gallery
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 10:30 – 12:30 

Included with admission – children FREE 

Create an aerial view of Windermere in wool using a mix of hooking, prodding, crochet and pom-poms! Inspired by Winifred Nicholson’s views of Cumbria, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 15 October 2016. Nicholson designed over 180 rag rugs and commissioned local artists to make them. We also drew inspiration from Alexandra Kehayoglou‘s spectacular wool rug artworks.

 

Afternoon workshops at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House
Monday to Friday until 2 September / 2:00 – 4:00
Included with admission – children FREE 

Help make a gigantic wall hanging inspired by the view from Blackwell – complete with fleecy sheep and boats sailing on Windermere. Enjoy an afternoon of crafting in an idyllic setting. Materials are locally sourced from William’s Wools and Faye’s Sewing Box – including local alpaca yarn from Town End Yarns.