Sunday 25 April 2010

Map of patterns - Gunta Stozl and Ethel Mairet

I am collecting patterns from around the world and sewing them into a big Map of thte World. My map started when I discovered that my favourite skirt (Liberty Furnishing fabric c.1970ish) was infact based on the weavings of Gunta Stozl, the famous Bauhaus weaver, in 1930's Germany.

Most people know this pattern as a waxed fabric as a waxed cloth which they ate their dinners off in the 1970's, but it began as a weaving in 1930's in Weimar. You can see it on my map aroundabout where Germany should be.
I found out more about Gunta. How she came to visit Ethel Mairet, the woman who revivived English handweaving in the 1930's at her South Downs workshop, The Gospels. And how they experimented together - weaving wool from the local South Downs sheep together with plastic and cellophane.
I don't know how long they spent together, the pioneering Modernist and the more severe grand-dame of the Arts and Crafts movement - but you can still see the results of their labour in the myseum at Ditchling, fabrics which are a fascinating forerunner of todays textiles, combining the natural and the synthetic. Here is one of Ethel's handwoven jackets.

Ethel is fascinating for many other reasons. Before moving to Ditchling, she lived in Ceylon with her husband Ananda Coomaraswamy documenting the dissapearing arts and crafts of the island. To them, the Ceylon of the early 1900's, seemed like an ancient medieval society of priests and craftsmen, united in spiritual life and practice - untainted by the superficiality of modern industry and commerce. For them it was like a vision out of William Morris's 'News from Nowhere.'
Ethel was most inspired by the embroidery she discovered: she undertook rigorous technical research, took thousands of photos and persuaded the local British-run technical schools to abandon Berlin work and Victorian samplers and instead revive local embroidery skills.

On my map, I've covered Sri Lanka with the kinds of stiches and colours that Ethel so loved. You can find them in 'Medieval Sinhalese Arts', the book her husband wrote and handprinted at their Arts and Crafts home in the Cotswolds, using one of the original Kelmscott presses.

1 comment:

  1. I just love your site. Unfortunately my computer won't download the pictures so I am forwarding this email to work to see if the computer there will assist me. Will you make several "world maps" and will they be for sale? As the stories are to be personal stories about cloth, fabric and patterns I will have to rack my "diminishing" memory to find a story that will be suitable - do I have one? Knowing as you do that I have a long history relating to cloth and fabrics, would simple personal stories be ok as I doubt I have used such fabrics as are mentioned in your blog? As your family are next on the list for a visit (Dec 2011 - DV)(going to NY to visit Raeford and Shayleen in Dec)I look forward to assisting you in the sewing of such an inspired project. Speak to me on the tele over the week-end courtesy of Joy's free international calls. Would love to speak to you. All my love Boz