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Doll face

August 31, 2010 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Just discovered this new exhibition at Bethnal Green. I wonder if the photographer, Craig Deane, might be interested in coming to look at Mary’s dolls?  We certainly saw some amazing ones at Platt, and many that have presumably been asleep in their cardboard boxes for years that we still haven’t woken up yet…


Studio Magazine

August 13, 2010 The Letters, Uncategorized Comments Off on Studio Magazine

I was having a flick through the letters and came across this:

“I am in receipt of a letter from Mr. C. G. Holme of the Studio who informs me that the Special Winter Number is to be devoted to ‘Children’s Toys of Yesterday’, and that in course of search for illustrations he wrote to you and you told him that part of your collection was given to Manchester and suggested that he should apply to me for the loan of some photographs made at the time of presentation”.  (from Mary to William Batho, 16th June 1932).

…and then after lots of faffing over quality of photographs…

“We have received from The Studio their very fine book on ‘Children’s Toys of Yesterday’… It is a wonderful production and my Committee are greatly interested in it. The reproductions are very fine, and your examples hold their own and should help to draw attention of the outside public to the collection at Heaton Hall”. (from William Batho to Mary, 12th December 1932).

Intrigued, I had a little dig around and found a copy of this edition of The Studio (winter 1932) for sale! here:


Any takers?


The Mary Effect

July 20, 2010 Uncategorized Comments Off on The Mary Effect

I had a meeting with our fundraising manager a couple of days ago to discuss possible sources of funding to take the Mary Greg project to the next stage. And it happened again. What seems to happen whenever anyone is introduced to this collection for the first time – a passionate, personal, immediate response, an intensely animated conversation and a sense that you’ve just go to know someone a whole lot better than you did an hour ago. So, inspired by the shoes at Platt Hall and Alex’s earlier post about our visit there, this is from Chris Whitfield.

The Wicker Basket

Shoes in the collection at Platt Hall

Shoes in the collection at Platt Hall

Preparing for a recent meeting with Liz regarding fundraising for new developments around the Mary Greg project, I came across the box of shoes at Platt Hall on the website. That image and Alex’s thoughts about the shoes being ‘once full of life’ reminded me of an old wicker basket under the stairs at home, the contents consisting of 7 years of my two young daughters’ shoes as they rapidly outgrow each pair. Overcome with a melancholic desire to take another look at this broken and busted pile, with their etched in scrapes and worn down soles, loaded with memories, stories, tears, laughter and the passing of time, I recall what contains them, an old wicker basket. Not any old wicker basket but one I remember since early childhood, one that has followed me from towns to cities, roads to streets, flats to houses.

Chris's shoe basket

Chris's shoe basket

That evening whilst investigating the basket contents and taking photographs for the blog as promised, I am more drawn to the basket itself (not least because we didn’t save as many of the girls’ shoes as I’d imagined through my rose tinted glasses!). When an object loaded with history and memories re-presents itself, the stories within it unfold…a particularly brutal break in the wicker is no longer the health and safety hazard it has assumed over the years since it became a mere container of sentimentality, it is a story of a boy and his older brother using the basket as a pretend rally car in a flock wallpapered, axminster covered living room of a family home in a grimy ’70’s steeltown; the boys crashing into the tiled mantle piece, much to the chagrin of their ever loving mother. The space in between the wicker strands takes on huge significance. How how old is that accumulated dust? If you scraped it off, would the lowest layer really be over 40 years old?

And then it reminds me how the power of an inanimate object can trigger a firecracker of memories and emotions. I begin to recall Heidegger’s thoughts describing an individual moving from regarding an object as purely functional to one invested with history, scenarios, nostalgia, epic journeys, toiling in the field, etc. That moment of realisation in which he claims ‘being’ to be most authentic, the ‘and yet…’ moment. I soon realise my thoughts are hopping around 70’s childhood and later transformational periods in life. Thinking about Heidegger reminds me of my friend at university, recalling that TV doc he did. Channel 4 commissioned him to travel the US investigating cults (the fools!). The most compelling scene of the series isn’t about any of the cults themselves, it’s when Steve and the film crew stop the car by the roadside in the desert so they can marvel at a lone tree of objects eerily tied to its brittle branches. The objects? Shoes! Sneakers, work shoes, boots, in all shapes and sizes and states of disrepair, gnarled and melting in the searing heat, hanging from their faded laces. Have I come full circle with all this I ask myself? Perhaps.

Why do we hang on to some things and not others? Why does a hoarder hoard? Perhaps the answer is, they never quite know. Perhaps Mary didn’t know? Maybe the truth of any treasured object has yet to reveal itself. Where are the hoarder’s doubters when the purpose of their hoarding becomes apparent? As absent as the hoarder finding a good reason to throw them out in the first place.

As for the girls’ shoes, how come we only have one of the first tinier than tiny baby shoes? What has become of the other? Landfill? Zoikes!

Posted by Liz

Keeping a good record

May 12, 2010 Uncategorized 1 Comment
Painting of Singer sewing machine needle threader

A1 Scrap Metal Record sheet

Hazel's alternative workbench

During term time, getting into the workshop to do any metalwork is quite hard, so I decided to carry on with the side project which can be achieved in a spare hour here or there. Inspired ,of course ,by working alongside curators and seeing first hand their use of recording the collections, but also after seeing Mary Greg’s Nature Diaries in Sheffield..I can’t pretend for a minute I have the same delicate touch Mary had with her paint brush. She had painted some tiny bugs and daddy long legs with real skill. I am steadily working through my collection, trying to remember where some of these things came from and looking at them more closely. Doing this has also inspired me to try adding colour to my metal work and I ordered a kiln last week to do some enamelling. Very excited about that.


AAH conference…

April 15, 2010 Uncategorized Comments Off on AAH conference…

No planes on the flight path at the end of my garden

Very sad that we had to cancel the AAH conference today, the ONLY day in aviation history that all of UK airspace has been closed down…and the only day Alex and I were due to fly to Glasgow….Never mind..we are both well prepared now for any conferences or talks on Mary Greg…and my bag is still packed.


Mary Greg 1850-1949

I particularly liked the silhouette of Mary in the extracts from ‘The Gregs of Westmill’ by Sheila Ormerod that Dr Stuart Eagles sent us (lovely detail on the rim of her hat).  I wonder where the original is?  If anyone out there has any idea maybe you could let us know.  There was mention I recall of some Greg artefacts from the Westmill museum being accessioned into the museum or art gallery at Stevenage, I think.  I wonder if it was amongst those things? It would be great to get hold of  it (if it still exists) for inclusion in the exhibition.  Sharon

Caught in the Act of Collecting

September 18, 2009 Uncategorized Comments Off on Caught in the Act of Collecting

These are the books I showed you when you came to visit my workshop and ones that I know Mary would have loved.  Splendid day by the way! The dice are drying nicely and awaiting the next stage of development.  I am also awaiting results of Ebay bidding on some vintage bakelite dice blanks for laser cutting (I hate the waiting on tenterhooks business!).  I have missed out on similar before, wish me luck!  It would be very interesting to see if we could get Marilynn Gelfman Karp interested in the Mary blog.  Another woman after Mary’s heart I’m sure.  Sharon

Caught in the act of Collecting

Collectors and their passions

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

The Quilt-maker's of Gee's Bend, Alabama, USA