The Association’s 2018 Conference, organised by the Guilds in Region G (London and Northern Home Counties), was on the theme of “Then and Now”. Its aim was to look at the origins of craft and artisan production in Britain, tracing forwards through revivals to the latest resurgence of interest, and how past practice affects the present.
This was the 14th Biennial Conference organised by the National Association. On alternate years the AGM is held in London. I have enjoyed all the Conferences I have attended and, also, the AGMs (although I have not always gone to the actual AGM). This year I undertook to be our Guild’s official delegate so did, indeed, attend the Meeting.
Kents Hill is a cut above some of the other venues I have visited, most of which have been at colleges with the usual student accommodation. This year the rooms had complimentary toiletries, tea/coffee making facilities and TV: such luxury. The food was also excellent and the whole complex linked by covered walkways.
The first of the five lectures on the Friday evening was given by Dr Susanna Harris, Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow and Dr Mark Knight, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge on The Bronze Age Fabrics of Must Farm. The settlement of Must Farm provides a remarkable window into the fabrics people made in Bronze Age Britain, around 900 BC. The two speakers presented the site and ongoing research into the rich evidence for plant fibre fabrics made by weaving and twining. The talk was just fascinating!
There were two lectures on Saturday morning. Dr Dinah Eastop, textile conservator, talked about The Board of Trade Design Register, 1839-1991. This register, which I’d not heard of, includes nearly three million designs registered for copyright protection between 1839 and 1991. Many classes of textile design were registered, and the records include samples of dyed yarn, knitting, straw-work, woven cloth and printed cloth, as well as complete artefacts and accompanying descriptive text. The archive is held at the National Archives at Kew in over 11,000 boxes!
The second lecture: The Art of Liberty was presented by Anna Buruma, Head Archivist at Liberty’s. The talk covered the origins of the famous shop, its textile design archive and its uses up to the present day.
The Annual General Meeting took up the afternoon. It was very interesting and highlighted just how much effort is put in by all the volunteers who make the Association work.
The After-dinner Speaker was Alain Rouveure, who is best known for his gallery near Moreton-in-Marsh. He talked about his funding initiatives in Nepal to provide education in poor rural communities.
On Sunday morning dye researcher Isabella Whitworth’s talk was entitled: Seen through Purple. Her ten years’ research into a 19th Century archive led in unexpected directions: from Leeds to Lima, from Sudbury to 6th Century Syria. It was a journey traced through purple dyes, including murex and orchil.
The last lecture was by John Miners, the textile consultant who came to talk to us in May. This time his presentation was: Horsehair Tales - The History of John Boyd Textiles, a story of continued innovation by the only remaining haircloth weavers in the UK, established in 1837 and still very much in business today, using looms from the mid-19th century.
We are a group who enjoy learning and improving our skills and are genuinely interested in sharing these skills with each other and any one who would like to join us.