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Repairs and the Well Worn

April 16, 2011 The Collection 2 Comments

Very delicate repair of a fine cotton dress.

another part of the dress which was delicately darned.

One thing we often seem to be saying to each other as we  look through the Mary Greg collection is how she saved objects  that you can see have been well used and sometimes have evidence of repair. This wear and tear makes the objects seem far more alive and exciting than seeing a brand new item still in its box. We can feel the item has been well loved and used  ,and hopefully without sounding too fanciful, it feels like you can almost sense the person who used it. Mary comes from a time when mending was part of the everyday. A stitch in time saves nine. Bodkin cases hung from the chatelaine, ready to repair.


Button Missing Tags

April 16, 2011 Artist Responses Comments Off on Button Missing Tags

The start of a new set of work inspired by Mary Greg.  Ways to indicate damage or missing buttons on garments..instead of trying to disguise the damage I want to  make it the focus of attention. Maybe to remind the wearer to mend it, or maybe to “celebrate” the fact it needs mending. I am planning on making a batch of these in various shapes and forms..The dresses in the Platt Hall collection have some wonderful delicate repairs. (see next post.)


Time to Think

Ready to use ,threaded needles from Woolworths

Needle cases from Platt Hall

I feel very sad that I have neglected this blog for so long. The students did a wonderful show for the Platt Hall project before Xmas and due to circumstances beyond our control the project has lain dormant since. I have been thinking a lot about ways to try and keep this project going, and I finally have a little time in my workshop to look at my own response to Mary’s collection One thing I have been doing as often as I can are watercolour paintings of my collection (will add photos later), It feels right to sit and quietly paint in watercolours, I was very inspired by Mary Greg’s Nature Diaries. I am also looking a “mending kits” and  needle cases..or damage repair kits. Will add some tests to the blog at the end of the week.

Photo of an Unknown Lady

September 23, 2010 Artist Responses 2 Comments

I have spent most of the summer away and have rather neglected the Mary Greg project. But to my credit I have always  had it  at the back of my mind. I found this photo on a market stall in Rozelles, Sydney Australia. It was actually taken by P.L.Reid Photographic Artist, London Portrait Gallery, St John Street, Launceston. I imagine it was posted to the lady’s relatives overseas. The reason I chose it is the chain she is wearing which has an object hanging from it..I have since found a number of similar photographs with ladies wearing chains with attachments…I am hoping they are a mini chatelaines..a little useful tool close by and ready to use. I can see some are decorative, but this one looks more solid.

I am still working on the chatelaine of useless (or nearly useless) tools.


“An Infinity of Things” by Frances Larson

June 13, 2010 Artist Responses Comments Off on “An Infinity of Things” by Frances Larson

Simple tablet dispenser from the A1 Scrap Metal collection

As I said in an earlier posting, this project has taken us down new lanes I didn’t expect to go down. One being an interest in the people who collected objects in the past who have created our museums. We are gradually finding out more about how many places Mary Greg donated her collections and that is one area I would really like to know more about. Amanda Ravetz suggested a wonderful book to me called “An Infinity of Things” (How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World) by Frances Larson, which is about another prolific collector (some of Sir Henry’s collections were catalogued by weight because there was so much of it). I spent many happy hours in the Wellcome Collection ,which was above the Science Museum in London, when I was a student. Much of my early work was influenced by the strange medical equipment in there.

One chapter is called “HEREWITH PLEASE FIND THREE ROLLS OF CHOCOLATE FOIL” the foil was from sweet wrappers which he used them to demonstrate possible tablet shapes. His collecting often informed the designs he used in his pharmaceutical business. I use collections in the same way except on a much much smaller scale.

Snippets From Mary’s letters (No.2)

Badge and packaging from 1937 Coronation

Object from 1937 "Litbadge"

Reading through a few more of the letters from 1936 and 1937, and there is a strong emphasis on both Mary and Mr Batho’s health (Mr Batho sadly died in 1937). Mary was in her eighties.

November 23rd 1936 to Mr Batho, giving him advice on his sick wife…

How I wish all invalids could throw off all doctors and try the simplest way of eating!! You will perhaps have heard of the wonderful new discovery by an American doctor Hay by name – he says we eat wrong mixtures and though we may still eat the same food to a certain extent – we must not mix them – The results are wonderful he explains all in a small book called BUILDING BETTER BODIES price 5/- ……………..you would be surprised and pleased if you saw the difference it has made here where I and Miss James are trying it we are both years younger!

It can’t have done her any harm…she lived until 1949.

Another letter to Mr Batho from Mary Greg written on June 14th 1937, also shows her approach to doctors (again talking about Mr Batho’s wifes illness)

But I hope that the new doctor may find out how to help her – medicines so often do harm -unless the wonderful wise ones given by the homeopath…………………………..they have saved my life many times and kept me jogging along all these 87 years.


A Snippet from Mary Greg’s letters.

May 31, 2010 Artist Responses, The Letters Comments Off on A Snippet from Mary Greg’s letters.

Lead Fishing Weight from the A1 Scrap Metal Collection

June 16th 1927

from Mary Greg to Mr Batho

I am writing in the garden and the wind blows my paper now and then so I hope you will be able to read my writing which is worse than usual

I can feel a set of letter weights for writing outdoor correspondance being produced very soon…..another object  for the chatelaine.


Samuel Crompton’s Threads

One of the threads found in Mary's letters

Found in the letters from Mary Greg to Mr Batho

This project has taken me down lots of  fantastic  new avenues of exploration, but when it comes down to it I still find myself  inspired by the small, banal  looking objects in the collection, which on the surface look unimportant and yet hold so much history. The Samuel Crompton threads being the most excting for me, especially as it was Sharon and I who discovered them nestled in the pile of letters sent from Mary Greg to Mr Batho. How can such a small piece of thread have such a strong presence? It makes you feel as if you are touching the beginings of the industrial revoloution (or am I being too romantic!).My favourite exhibit at the War Museum North is the small piece of wire from a zeppelin which was sold attached to a crude pin and sold to raise money for the war effort..owning a small piece of something so immense is owning a small piece of history. My love of string isn’t a secret..I think it all dates back to being a Brownie and having to have a piece of string in your pocket for emergencies (I never did have a suitable emergency to use it)..I still collect party popper string from significant events too.

I read in a book about Russian cosmonauts that they tied their cutlery to the hull of the space ship with string to stop it floating around..now that is one piece of string I would like to own.  There are many items in the Mary Greg Bygones Collection that have a real sense of history of everday life too, used spoons ,small keys, matches and padlocks, and much more to discover according to the records. So I sum up….that is what I love about being allowed to spend time exploring this collection, the hidden gems, keys that on the surface look like clock keys but turn out to be from the Weeks Museum and might have wound a diamond encrusted elephant for an emperor of China. (now my imagination is running riot.).

It can be seen on the BBC History of the World in 100 Objects



New Kiln

Starter Kiln

Testing the new kiln

Not quite what I hoped for.

…I chose the hottest day this year to switch on my new kiln for the first time, and the workshop became VERY hot. I wanted to show you all my first awful attempt at enamelling as it can only get better..I really hope it doesn’t get worse.  I hope to add dashes of colour to my work. Although I am unsure how I can do this, you can not enamel work once it is soldered..or solder work once it has been enamelled…so I need to find ways to get around that…but first I need to learn how to get the coating even…and work out how hot the kiln needs to be..and how long it should be in there..this is harder than cake making.


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.