Friday, February 27, 2009

My Trip to England in a Nutshell

(Above: Doni Jordan...and the cake we split for lunch last week before I left for England.)

I left for England last week....and before I got a chance to blog about a wonderful lunch I shared with my friend Doni Jordan. Doni's a wonderful artist who enjoys fibers, African art and artifacts, conceptual approaches to creativity, and book arts. Doni's also new to blogging. She had some early difficulties....but was able to trade postcards with me for CYBER FYBER. She's up and running now! Her blog is here and I know she'd really appreciate a few supportive comments!

(Click on any image in this post to enlarge.)

To continue with dining experiences...above and below are two photos of Mathias and Laura-Jane during two of the dinners we shared during the past week. The one above was cooked by Mathias. The one below was taken in a fancy Italian restaurant.

To see more images of Mathias and Laura-Jane...from the three week Birmingham Royal Ballet tour to China, just visit My Family Blog. During the week, I color/contrast, cropped, titled, and generally "corrected" all the photos Mathias took during the trip. He took hundreds....of course he did....THEY WERE IN CHINA after all! I didn't get to see Mathias dance this trip as he wasn't cast this week. The part he's in, however, is a total blast. I hope he gets to dance it while BRB (Birmingham Royal Ballet) tours to Plymouth and/or Sunderland....and especially while they appear in London in Steve and I are flying with my mother to see these performance. In the meantime, Laura-Jane was quite beautiful in her part.

(Above: Craft by the Bay.)

Even though Mathias wasn't on the stage this week, both he and Laura-Jane went to "work" every day....that's ballet class in the morning followed by afternoon rehearsals. I had plenty of time to sight-see and meet fiber friends.

I spent last Saturday in Cardiff with Carol Taylor. We were instantly talking as if we've always known one another and the very best intensely that neither of us remembered to capture one another (much less both of us together!) in a photograph! Carol blogged about our day here.

(Above: Fresco from St. Teilo's restored church. Click on this and any other image to enlarge.)

We walked around the lovely waterfront and spent wonderful time at Craft by the Bay (above), just soaking up inspiration from the high quality wares available. Then we went to a fabulous outdoor museum with many interesting building from all different locations and centuries of Welsh history. I love these sort of places. One of the most interesting structures was the restored St. Teilo's church. The frescoes were incredible....but I also loved the general store, the row houses with each unit restored to a different decade, the cock-fighting silo, and the tannery.

(Above: One of several lime over heavy stone farm houses.)

Meeting Carol was tremendous. I can't really put into words how wonderful it is to finally meet someone with shared interests whose been an Internet friend!

Believe it or not, I also met another Internet fiber friend! Sue Krekorian met me two days after visiting Carol in Cardiff! We both arrived in Taunton at the exact same time and spent four hours admiring a textile exhibition in the sprawling gallery and theater lobby.

(Above: Detail of the altar cloth in the Abbey Church in Bath created by Jane Lemon.)

I've always admired ecclesiastical embroidery, especially the exotic silk and metal threads. My favorite works are the ones that blend traditional stitch with a contemporary approach. Jane Lemon's work is hands-down FANTASTIC. No photo can do her work justice.

(Above: The Roman Baths with a view to the Abbey.)

Well...yes...after a delightful and totally inspiring time with Sue in Taunton, I went on to Bath, a city I've wanted to visit since childhood. I worried that my expectations were too high. I wondered if Bath might just be a tourist trap. I thought I might be making a mistake to plan two full days there.

I shouldn't have worried at all. I could have enjoyed much more time in this fabulous destination. I WAS GREAT! I stayed at the YMCA....and it was GREAT too!

I went to the ancient Roman Baths first. It was more than I had dreamed. The sense of history was present with every step. The patina of time scarred the wall and I could feel the heat rising from the water's surface as steam!

I spent more than two hours in the Abbey. Unfortunately, begging didn't get the docents to agree to let me make grave marker rubbings....but I was ready. (I got some great ones, however, from the cemetery in Birmingham!) Thus, I photographed lots and lots of interesting memorials and wrote down some really great epitaphs....very inspirational stuff for my newest embroidery series. Of course, I also took the tower tour.

From the Abbey heights, I could look down to the Roman Baths where I'd spent the morning.

Above is the excellent guide, a museum graduate student who is doing an internship in the archives. She was pointing out the ways in which the ten heavy bells are struck. The five of us on the tour even got to ring the bells! I have no idea what the citizens of Bath think when odd sounds peal from the tower at strange times, but it was great fun!

We also got to go behind the clock face.

(Above: One of the Assembly Rooms)

That evening I met with Janet McNulty for dinner at a Nepalese restaurant called Yak Yeti Yak. Janet is one of the "Friend of BRB" who actually reads this blog, knew I was going to be in Bath, and emailed to meet me! She just happened to be working in Bath this past week. It was wonderful to spend time with someone so knowledgeable about the ballet company. She also showed me around the other side of the Avon river and explained quite a lot about the magnificent Georgian architecture and the places where Jane Austen lived.

The next day I visited a city park and the botanical garden before going to the Fashion Museum and its spacious Assembly Halls (above) with their nine fabulous, late 18th c. chandeliers. Unexpectedly, I was thrilled to see the solo exhibition of contemporary embroidery, Laura McCafferty: Drawing with Fabric. It was top notch. I particularly liked her choice of fabrics and the overall presentation. Her stitching was obvious but did not take away from the well thought-out design. Her power of observation made each ordinary scene special.

(Above: The Crescent in Bath.)

Talking about the 18th century. I was totally blown away by the Crescent (above) and the Circus. The restored No. 1 Crescent house museum was excellent. Each room was well appointed and had a docent who just loved to talk about everything from this era. An elementary school group went through the building with me. It was great to watch them learn about time before computers and flush toilets!

Not everything I did in Bath was historical or educational. I also managed to get in a little shopping. This is really saying something as I'm not ordinarily much of a shopper....but...on Walcot Street there was one artisan shop after another including a glassblowing workshop....

.....and a long alleyway that was just one big business selling reclaimed architectural pieces, from chair-rail moulding to copper lined bath tubs, from solid wooden doors to staircase spindles, from church pews to light fixtures and more!

I love Bath....and already want to return!

(Above: The Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch.)
Yesterday I went to Redditch to the Forge Mill Needle museum. Sue Krekorian sent me a link about the place because there was a juried embroidery show on display. I plan to write a separate blog post on this exciting exhibition too. It was very, very interesting. The location, however, had a fascinating history itself. I had no idea that during most of the 19th c. and into the 20th c. nearly 90% of the world's needles had been made in Redditch. I never really thought about how needles (and fish hooks!) were manufactured but now I do! I also enjoyed the archeological site of the former abbey on this site and its small museum.

Tomorrow I return work and my studio....and to the future blog posts I intend to write about the two contemporary stitching exhibitions I saw.


Guzzisue said...

sounds like you had a great time over here!! I always enjoy reading someone elses account of the UK, we often take things for granted.

Pat said...

Susan, you shame me, all these parts of my country, you have seen more in a week than I do in months.(Though I have been to Bath) I'm glad you had such a productive trip. Please let me know what performance Mathias is doing in London and hopefully I will be there.

Julie said...

That's one very big nutshell! lol What a fascinating visit I can't wait to read about the rest of your trip. I was interested that you weren't allowed to take rubbings in Bath but maybe it was a conservation issue. I'm so glad you had a great trip.

Jenny said...

Seems like you had some fun :)

You reminded me when I had my own trip in Louisiana and Texas, it was so fun and I also made many photos and described them :)


First of you shared that piece of cake is beyond me! I'd have to eat it all and order seconds! Your photos are amazing...I think I want to live in one of those stone pretty! Looks and sounds like you had a wonderful trip...and the shopping looked great too!


PS...I'm stealing those photos of Mathias...and HIS meal looked better to me than the fancy Italian restaurant's meal!!

katelnorth said...

Looks like fun - too bad we couldn't overlap this time, but perhaps another trip...

Wanda said...

GREAT pictures. Really wonderful. And the things you see....not everyone sees what you see. Your talent for finding out about everything is to be envied. By the way...those are some big portions of food for such thin people!! ha ha I know they need their energy and the calories! I bet they burn up twice as much as their intake!!! That's to be envied too!