Like us, you might by now be weary of the endless stream of emails flowing into your mailbox in a last-ditch attempt to persuade you to buy, buy buy; so let me assure you, off that bat, that this newsletter is not one of those. In fact, if you read to the bottom of the page you will see we have a little competition to keep you amused. We'd also like to wish you a Happy Holiday wherever you are and however you plan to celebrate, whether you visited Les Soeurs Anglaises earlier this year, have taken part in previous years or simply enjoy reading our newsletters from time to time. From those who have been our guests, the enduring feedback is that women who knit and sew and make and create are generally more interested in the vintage and recycled, the intrinsic history of found objects, the collected, sometimes-used, fragments of fabrics and ephemera; not for them the shiny new plastic gismo, the excesses of wrapping paper and last minute panic buys that sit beneath our Christmas trees.
photo by Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks
Nothing brought home more to me the joy of repairing and preserving old clothes, than on our recent travels to Japan when we visited the Amuse Museum in Tokyo where they have a permanent exhibition of Boro textiles and clothing; these are patched and re-patched, re-lined, over-stitched and patched again then passed down from generation to generation. Made and preserved by the poor, rural population in the snowy north of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required, and who had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets. Far from being "scruffy" or ugly, the unselfconscious layers and overworking produced clothing of substance and immense beauty. They are also becoming incredibly collectable (though not by the Japanese it seems) and various patchworkers like Australian, Maria Cook, a participant at Janet Bolton's workshop here last year, have been using Boro pieces long before they became popular, to produce not only her wonderful quilts, but also lined boxes, hand-made books and much, much more.
Nobody personifies a modern twist on Boro better than our ever-popular workshop star, Julie Arkell. Julie's exhibition and residency at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales this autumn, was by all accounts another runaway success (people are still talking about her first show there in 2004) and it coincided with the publication of her second book, which like the exhibition is called. "Away". I have had the opportunity to read through the book and explore the photographs of Julie's "creatures" at leisure and have been blown away (yet again) by her unique style and extraordinary creativity. As Susan Roberts says in her book commentary, 'Julie's practice is embedded in the the history of the found; she treasures old stuff, collecting it first, using it in her work later. Each fragment brings history, past usage and cultural reference." Is it, I wonder, Julie who makes the discarded beautiful, or the ephemera itself that inspires Julie? To be discussed.....
But just so you don't think we are entirely Christmas party poopers, here is a little last minute festive competition for those with time to spare between now and the New Year. We have Les Soeurs Anglaises' signature aprons (made to order from a combination of new and vintage fabrics) to give to the first three people to answer the question below correctly. Please type the word "competition" in the subject line on your entry email, and add your address (and size) in the event that you are one of the lucky winners:
Good luck and best wishes for the season.