Monday, May 21, 2012

Return from a week in the UK

(Above: Ed Madden wearing the Vista Queen of the Night sash and me.)

Where has May gone? Oh, yes! I remember ... I've been traveling A LOT. Most recently I've spent a week in England and Scotland watching my elder son, Mathias Dingman, a soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet. He was cast in the newly choreographed Lyric Pieces by American Jessica Lang. It was simply beautiful. He was also "Jasper" in Pineapple Poll, a truly funny ballet where the girls go mad over a naval officer but love is found closer to home. Jasper gets the girl! Most importantly, he danced the pas de deux from Don Quixote ... nine minutes in which I try to hold my breathe. The stages in both York and Buxton are both raked! That's SLANTED toward the audience. Dancers are literally going UPHILL and DOWNHILL and I have no idea how they manage multiple turns on a tilted floor. All six performances were amazing and, of course, I'm very proud.

(Above: York Minister. Between rain drops, it was beautiful! Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)

While away, I actually caught up on my reading ... back issues of Surface Design Association's Journal, Quilting Arts, and Crafts Magazine ... nearly a half a year's worth of guilt over subscriptions was washed away! I also had plenty of time to THINK about my work, future plans, and various goals. Intellectually, it was a period of rejuvenation. Unfortunately, it also means I have no images of "new work" to share in this post ... except the Vista Queen of the Night sash that I made last Saturday after my return home. (Yup, it's a drag queen show and fund raiser for the local, professional theater here in Columbia.) There was a moment of panic when I realized that I've never actually SEEN a pageant sash anywhere except on television ... but it turned out rather well with rhinestones and star-shaped beads and hand embroidered lettering. I had one self-imposed rule: Everything had to come out of my studio; No new "stuff" could be purchased!

(Above: The gorgeous ceiling in York Minister's octagonal built Chapter House.)

It rained off and on the entire time I was in York. Evidently, it had been raining for weeks and the river was quite swollen. This didn't really bother me much. I was headed to the new Quilt Museum where I saw Celebrating Diversity, an exhibit by the European Quilt Association and also a great collection of miniature quilts from the museum's permanent collection.

(Above: Park benches along York's flooded Ouse River.)

I did have time to walk through the city's park ... a place that uses stone coffins from the 13th c. ruins of St. Mary's Abbey Church in their flower gardens ... quite unique! (I took more photos, of course, while in York ... though not too many. This was my second trip. What I saved are now on Flickr! HERE or as a slideshow HERE.)

(Above: Stone coffins in the flowerbeds near York's 13th century St. Mary's Abbey ruins.)

Now, there are plenty of people who think I'm some sort of jet-setter, a wealthy person who can fly off to foreign countries on a whim. Well, I do get to travel quite a lot ... but ... I also have a budget. For this particular trip, I saved by staying in youth hostels and most meals were purchased from corner convenience shops. (I love egg salad sandwiches ... even out of a plastic container!)

(Above: Ace Youth Hostel in York. View to main foyer and front door from the reception desk.)

Of course, the Ace Youth Hostel in York isn't exactly "roughing it" in terms of decor! This grand 1752 Georgian townhouse boasts a stone-flagged entrance hall, high ceilings, chandeliers, and clean rooms. I stayed in a coed 14 cot dorm room. Everyone was quiet and considerate. The only problem was the noise out in the street but it calmed down shortly after midnight.

(Above: Breakfast at Ace Youth Hostel, York.)

Free Wi-Fi and breakfast was included. There was even a bar, laundry facilities, a movie room, and more. I thought I would stick out like some old lady ... but most of the people were actually rather close to my age (or even older!)

(Above: Central staircase at the Ace Youth Hostel in York.)

At the top of this sweeping staircase .....

(Above: Doors to dorm rooms II and III.)

..... were the doors to dorm rooms II and III. I was in II. It was quite secure and had plenty of space for everyone's luggage. Inside was a bathroom with shower for those staying in that dorm room.

(Above: Staircase at Castle Rock Youth Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland.)

After the performances in York, Birmingham Royal Ballet went back home for a couple days before setting out for Buxton. I went by train to Edinburgh instead ... and checked into the Castle Rock Youth Hostel. The location couldn't have been better and the place was enormous, popular, clean, and secure. I stayed in a girls room for four.

(Above: My room at Castle Rock Youth Hostel in Edinburgh.)

I shared the room with two architectural students and a nurse from Canada one night. The students left and were replaced by two Korean girls on a three-week trek through Europe. Again, the place was nice, very quiet, clean, included free WiFi, and the beds were quite comfortable. (I really recommend both youth hostel in which I stayed ... highly!)

(Above: Edinburgh Castle.)

Although there was some rain while I was in Edinburgh, it was the wind that threatened to make my time in this gorgeous city problematic. I opted for the castle straight away ... plus, it was literally just around the corner and up the hill from the youth hostel!

(Cannon and view to Edinburgh from the castle.)

The views were magnificent ... even though I thought I'd blow off. Fortunately, there were lots of buildings into which to go .....

..... like the lovely royal apartment with its embossed white ceilings, painted friezes, and decorative windows and lamps.

The Great Hall featured all sorts of weaponry, carved wooden panels, and an enormous stone fireplace. It also displayed the "key to the castle" ... with golden tags for every time the monarch visited.

The castle often housed prisoners of war. Parts of the prison were on the tour showing conditions in various centuries .....

..... but there were also cases of artwork made by the prisoners, including this ornate jewelry box. The filigree was carefully made of twisted and coiled paper.

Embroidery is obviously one of the things I seek out. Edinburgh Castle didn't disappoint. There were all sorts of meticulously stitched pieces, especially in the museum for the dragoons. Above is a very ornate flag .....

..... which wasn't far from the elaborate goldwork on this dress uniform ......

..... and this fancy "miter" cap.

One of the best pieces was this work by Thomas Dickson, a prisoner of war in Gottingen who had been captured on the 23rd of August 1914. He stitched this piece as an act of defiance! Now, I like embroidery being considered a political activity, a confrontational statement, an ACT OF DEFIANCE!

(Above: The St. Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle.)

The military exhibitions weren't the only place for good embroidery inside Edinburgh Castle. St. Margaret's Chapel was the best. The multiple layered altar cloth by Hannah Frew Paterson is remarkable. There were a few laminated sheets explaining every detail, symbol, and color choice. Since returning home, I've googled Hannah Frew Paterson, a life member of Scotland's Edge textile group. I found a most intense quote from her in Linda Cluckie's Rise and Fall of Art Needlework: Its Socio-Economic and Cultural Impact (2008) which was originally taken from an Art of the Stitch exhibition catalog of 1995.

"Outstanding embroidery", she said demanded "not only the originality of concept, but the skill and sensitivity to of relating stitch, thread, and texture and craftsmanship to that concept in order to lift it above the vast majority of mediocre work."

I've always been a "concept" person. This quote really speaks to me, telling me to pay close attention to craftsmanship. Hannah Frew Paterson's work is certainly QUALITY on every level.

(Above: Altar cloth by Hannah Frew Paterson. Click on this or any image for enlargement.)

Attention to detail, symbolism, concept, function, and beauty are found in this piece. Yet, I found other wonderful embroideries in Edinburgh too. On my second day, I went to St. Giles Cathedral.

(Above: Nave of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.)

Many European cathedrals are drenched in history almost to the exclusion of contemporary features. This was not the case at St. Giles. The organ is late 20th century (1992). There are four lovely, modern banners around the altar. The stained glass is mostly Victorian. The nave's vaulted ceiling is painted bright blue. The cathedral gift shop and cafe are open and obvious ... not tucked away from view. Plus, there's the Thistle Chapel which was built in high Gothic style in 1911.

(Above: Vaulted ceiling in the Thistle Chapel.)

The Thistle Chapel is very ornate. No expense was spared ... and it costs ₤3 to enter.

(Above: The Thistle Chapel.)

It serves the highest order of chivalry in Scotland. There are sixteen knights' stalls along the sides. Each stall is capped with a lavish canopy with the helm and crests of the knight. Obviously, the knights are Scottish men of wealth and prestige who have coats of arms and deep heraldic roots ..... but .....

(Above: One of the canopy toppers in the Thistle Chapel.)

..... personally, some things are better left to traditional materials, colors, and designs. I just couldn't get over some of the gaudy ornaments in this otherwise magnificent place .....

(Above: Key hole to the Thistle Chapel.)

..... especially when every other detail was so lovely! (I love keys and keyholes, nails, spools, and all sorts of interesting things! I didn't love the turquoise lion with the bright yellow claws and teeth!)

(Above: Embroidered altar cloth at St. Giles.)

Further along, I came upon a lovely embroidered altar cloth. It must have been 19th century or older. Even the wear and distressed areas were beautiful. I took quite a lot of photos in the Cathedral and created a Flickr! set HERE ... or it can be viewed as a slideshow HERE. (Included are more photos of this embroidery!)

(Above: Angel bearing Holy Water, seen from the back, at St. Giles Cathedral.)

Some of my favorite photos inside the Cathedral were undoubtedly of this beautiful angel. I love sculptures of angels and have used many of my shots for art. This one will have to be "something"!

(Above: Embroidery from the side altar at Canongate Kirk.)

From the cathedral, I went to the castle's ancient parish church, Canongate Kirk. The interior was great and included plenty of royal touches. One embroidered side altar cloth was amazingly stitched ... and late 20th century. There was a display of modern photographs too. What I came for, however, was its old cemetery. I started taking LOTS of photos. Then, I visited Old Colton Cemetery and took more photos. Finally, I headed for the most famous of the ancient cemeteries, Greyfriars ... where I took even more photos.

(Above: Vintage toy sewing machine at the Museum of Childhood on the Royal Mile.)

Yet, on my way from one cemetery to the next, I walked leisurely down Edinburgh's Royal Mile and happened to come upon the Museum of Childhood. Knowing that my upcoming summer installation is wrapped up in "memories of childhood", I went in. WOW! It was so inspirational.

(Above: Selection of antique needlework items for children.)

Of course I headed for the rooms with "embroidery and crafts" but I was totally mesmerized by the doll collection. MORE PHOTOS ... which are not on Flickr! and will probably become part of my upcoming installation! I did, however, create a Flickr! set with most of the other Edinburgh photos ... including the castle, more embroideries, and general views. It is HERE .... or as a slideshow HERE.

(Above: Dolls at the Museum of Childhood.)

So ... what's this new installation? Well, I've been selected for another artist residency. This one will be in August with Studios Midwest, part of the Galesburg Civic Art Center. I'm quite excited. Every residency is different. This one affords me the challenge of creating an entire installation and conduct a public art program. My mind is spinning with the chance to make real an idea that has been brewing for over a year! These dolls could figure into the equation!

(Above: Greyfriars Kirkyard.)

Well ... on to Greyfriars, a most ancient churchyard full of stately mausoleums, memorials, and burial sites. I took hundreds of photos and saved nearly half of them. Still, there are 266 left. I also wrote down interesting epitaphs and did find one suitable (reachable) stone for a crayon-on-fabric grave rubbing! I can't wait to stitch it ... reliving all the time in Edinburgh!

(Above: Detail of one of the massive memorials in Greyfriars Cemetery.)

Both nights I was in Edinburgh, I splurged a little and had a real, Scottish supper!

(Above: Haggis, neeps and tatties.)

I had haggis, neeps and tatties twice in a row. Why? Well, on the first evening I didn't realize that my camera's batteries had finally died in a cemetery! I had to order the same meal the following night ... just to get a photo. This was a very fancy arrangement compared to the first sampling ... but both were equally good!

(Above: Interior at the Buxton Opera House.)

From Edinburgh I headed south to Buxton and three more performances by Birmingham Royal Ballet. I didn't take many photos in Buxton. (I've been there before and the weather was pretty lousy). The shows were held in the very fancy Opera House. No photography is allowed during a performance but I asked if I could take just one before the curtain went up. This is it.

Now ..... the remaining photos in this blog post are a selection from the 266 I saved from the cemeteries in Edinburgh. The set is on Flickr! HERE or as a slideshow HERE. The diversity in materials used for graves was amazing. The distressed surfaces were rich with age. Occasionally it rained and even the drops created interesting photos. The lighting was often very, very good ... late day under cloud cover, without strong shadows. I had a blast!


Gayle said...

WOW! Looks like you had an amazing trip.Watching your son perform must be incredible. And the cemetary pictures are awesome. I went to your flicker site and lost myself. You are right, I would have loved being there. So glad you shared your pictures and I can't wait to see how this influence will show up sometime in your art. THANK YOU!!!!!!

Julie said...

So much to marvel at in your post Susan. I have been to Edinburgh several times but missed everything you have shown here so I will have to go again! I went to see The Mikado at Buxton Opera House years ago and sat right at the top on the benches in the gods, a slightly scary experience but isn't it a stunning place. The big chandelier was still gas powered when I was there back in the early 90's. I am amazed at the quality of the Youth Hostels, something worth investigating for future travels.

lynda Howells said...

I lived along time around and in York in my youth and my husband's family live in that area. Also know Edinburgh very well too. so glad you enjoyed your time therexxxxxlynda

Els said...

You had a wonderful tour Susan

(for me May was waiting for a beautiful grandson ;-) !!!)

underatopazsky said...

What a great tour - so glad you enjoyed it so much and have come home with such a lot of inspiration!