Tuesday, 18 March 2008

A crafty weekend in Bath

[I'm adding this a few days later, but I've just realised that it was my blogiversary on 13th March - one year as a blogger! I don't know how many have been with me since the beginning, besides Swooze, but I appreciate you stopping by and having a read. Having a blog has really helped me to be more disciplined and to finish more things, and it is also a great record to look back upon.]

We just got back from a great weekend away in the historic city of Bath. I’ve been several times before, but not for quite a few years, and it seemed that there were several desirable destinations popping up in various magazines that I take, all in Bath. So we set off early Saturday morning, deposited DS at the grandparents, and carried on towards Bath.

First stop was The Blue and White Show, an exhibition at the Victoria Gallery, right across from the historic Pulteney Bridge with all its little shops. This exhibition had caught my eye because one of the two featured artists was Kaffe Fassett, a well known name to quilters and knitters. He and mosaic artist Candace Bahouth had been invited to display new work inspired by the English tradition of blue and white china. A huge collection of the museum’s blue and white antique china formed the centrepiece of the exhibition, displayed on a giant Georgian-style dresser.

I went to see Kaffe’s work, but it was Candace’s work which kept me looking and looking. Most of her work on display was in mosaic formed from tiny shards of china and pottery, largely blue and white printed antique china to fit the theme of the exhibit. Her mosaics were stunning, displayed on both large objects such as garden benches, large mirror frames and obelisks, down to small beautiful objects such as shoes covered in mosaic. I absolutely fell in love with one shoe, a high-heeled pump, completely covered in small 3-D porcelain flower fragments, and the spiked heel covered in little green china leaves, the inside of the shoe lined in Georgian-style striped fabric and trimmed with ribbon. This was hard patchwork, scraps of history and colour assembled into gorgeous riots of colour.

Kaffe’s work, by contrast, was pretty variable. Despite the exhibition brochure stating that the artists had been invited to do new work, some of Kaffe’s work on display looked distinctly shabby and worn, and not in a good way. A knitted stole had several pulled stitches and loose ends poking out, and was even a bit pilly, and was hung very badly on four screws – while another knitted square featuring a jar didn’t even look like it had been blocked or edge-finished as it was all curling under.. His rice-bowl quilted wallhanging looked similarly worn and perhaps even dirty, like it had been on display at a few too many quilt shows. The quilt next to it, while fresher, had ugly black basting stitches showing through where Velcro had been crudely basted on the back – presumably for some other exhibition as it was not assisting with the hanging at this one – and was crinkled up on its hanging rod. A large Lone Star quilt, from his most recent book I think, while stunning in its colour/fabric choices, was not that well constructed, leading even my non-quilting husband to query some diamonds that didn’t line up in their seam junctions. However, trying to put aside my knitter/quilter perspective, the colour and fabric choices were what made all Kaffe’s work interesting, and presumably the majority of the visitors wouldn’t know any different.

After the exhibition, I went on to Pulteney Bridge to visit Pulteney Gifts, which has a small upstairs room crammed full of dollshouse furniture and accessories. Although most of it is from Dollshouse Emporium or similar, it is really usefully arranged in trays labelled ‘Living Room’ or ‘Kitchen’ so easy to quickly find what you want. They have one unique dollshouse modelled on a typical Georgian Bath crescent house, complete with a curved front and columns, very striking. I bought an Arts and Crafts style sofa for my knitting shop, some sewing accessories, and a lovely Glenowen Chippendale-style fretwork cabinet for my big period house.

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting secondhand bookstores, two model stores (for dh), and an antiques mall (where I was shown an ‘aimish’ quilt made from ‘seedsacks’ for £220 which was very pretty but I think someone had taken an antique top and made a new quilt out of it as the edges of the top were simply turned to the back and stitched down, lopping about a half-inch off points. I wonder where they got it from.) that had a lot of antique toys including old dollshouse stuff, and a whole stall of antique buttons. Then came the piece de resistance, a trip out to the massive Get Knitted store on the outskirts of Bristol, in Brislington. Following the detailed directions which I found on their website, we easily got parked, and then dh got parked on a pink sofa in the store near the free tea/coffee while I started my tour. This shop is huge, actually American sized which is very rare in Britain. It took me a good 30 minutes just to go around once admiring the absolutely huge range of yarns, including many which I have heard about on American podcasts but never seen, like Lamb’s Pride and Cascade 220. They have a whole wall unit of various Noro yarns, and about 3 big displays of all kinds of sock yarn, what looked like the full Rowan and Debbie Bliss ranges, and all sorts of other yarns from around the globe. There was so much choice that I was actually overwhelmed, and only came away with one skein of Opal sock yarn, two Knit Picks circulars and some stitch markers. You really need to go prepared, with some projects in mind and a supply list.

Sunday we got up early to be at the Roman Baths in Bath for their opening time of 09:00, and spent a couple of hours touring around the rejuvenated exhibit. They have now put in a lot of false walls to give a better impression of the huge spaces from this immense site (all under the streets of Bath), and I got quite a start in one room when what looked like a ghost suddenly walked in from the wall. It turned out to be a clever projection of actors dressed like Romans who had come to use the baths. Very effective, although a bit of a shame that it wasn’t really a ghost! Then we headed over to The Fashion Musueum (formerly the Museum of Costume) for a lovely lunch in their cafĂ©, and a fascinating tour around this similarly rejuvenated facility. Fascinating for me anyway, dh was somewhat less fascinated until we got to the room where ladies can try on a corset and crinoline to see what they were like. Dh quite enjoyed lacing me up until I had a waist, by which time I could only breathe in shallow pants and actually started to feel a bit ill. How on earth ladies used to function in their daily lives with those things on, I do not know. This is a pic that dh snapped with his phone, and is the only time you will ever see me with an actual waistline.


The museum has showcased several gorgeous outfits from their collection against period murals, and had a special display of gloves dating back to the 17thC – the oldest pair were made when Shakespeare was still alive. As someone born in Canada, it is incredibly amazing to me to stand a few feet away from a woven silk costume dating to 1730, which is not only gorgeous but looks like it was just made yesterday. As Bath has associations with Jane Austen, there were several original muslin dresses that looked straight off the film set, but the display included items right up through the 1970s, so there is something for everyone.

Well, I hope this long post has not bored you, it was such a lovely weekend and we will have to do it again. Oh, and we did pick ds up on the way home.

1 comment:

swooze said...

Sounds like fun. Tell dh we are strapping him up in that corset next time! LOL!

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