- 18th September - 8:00pm : ‘The Abel Label’ - By Katie Ellis.
- 16th October - 8:00pm : ‘Fire Safety in Your Home’ - By Melanie Quinn.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Art and Craft Ditton

West Kent Federation finds amazing speakers for this annual event, and today was no exception.
We 6 from Hollingbourne managed to grab seats in the front row, and our first speaker 
Fred Lamont told us all about the Flemish Weavers in Kent. 
They had emigrated to Britain  in 1100's and were far superior in the methods they used and they cloth they made to our own british weavers though our wood was the best in Europe.     However  time came when their religion did not fit the protestant religion of Britain and they moved off to Scotland and Wales.  However Britain in 1337 called them all back when it realised that our wool was being exported with high taxes  and then the finished cloth had to be imported again at hight taxes.  The Flemish Weavers would get our balance of payments on the level again! We were growing the wool, weaving the cloth and exporting it.   They were given the 'Kings protection anywhere in Britain, and were told that their daughters could be married to the highest in the land.     All over Kent Flemish Weavers set up their looms, (Wide looms) making Broadcloth. to a strict specification.   The areas used were clearings in the vast woodland, and these were given names starting or ending in DEN or HURST.  Except for Cranbrook which was the largest Weaving town, and very rich.   There were 30,000 people living in the area and 26,000 of them worked in the Weaving and allied trades.  .

As well as the weaving, the finished cloth had to be 'FILLED, enormous hammers, run by water mills hammered down on the cloth to make it smooth.  FULLERS EARTH was used in this process, coming from between Hollingbourne and Leeds.   There were 13 of these filling mills on the Loose river. 
Silk weaving also started in Canterbury and you can still see the Weavers House, next to the river. 
However all things come to an end, and Queen Elizabeth in 1500's had a problem. We were having to pay enormous export taxes, and it was decided to impose taxes on the importing countries (a bit like Russia today and the sanctions we are imposing) As a result  no one wanted our  cloth - recession!
The flemish weavers were not dismayed and  though it took time, they set up other businesses in Britain instead, and flourished.    
NOTE - DNA investigations recently have found that a large part of our population is descended from Flemish People
It was so interesting and Fred Lamont was a clear and unhurried speaker,later our Members had time to chat with him, and Hilary Lucette advised him that her forebears were Huganots who had come to Britian during the period he talked of. 

 Rebecca was a joy to listen to, her subject interesting and unusual, and her diction was imaccculate.
We followed her career from  A level student to the Present day. The main medium she works in is metal using all kind of hand and electric machines to assist her.  She showed examples  - one being an enormous  'COBWEB' built high in the trees as a commission for Frank Williams (racing cars) in his garden. Although we saw a picture we are unlikely to see the actual work unfortunately.
She also told us about the times she had been in Nepal and the inspiration she had obtained from the circular movement of the saris worn by the ladies, who seemed to do everything while their men did little.  This statue is a combination of a tree shape and a lady in a sari.
One period in Nepal was working at the Esther Benjamin Trust, where they rescue young Nepali women who had been sold by their parents into India and  suffered degradation of every kind. They had been trafficked and had no confidence or feeling of self worth. At the trust she taught them various forms of Art and craft to enable them to support themselves and was so happy with the change they were able to undergo. 

She then went on to her current project.  She has been commissioned by the Gurka Regiment to sculpt a Gurka in Afganistan battle dress, carrying his rifle.  It will commemorate 200 years of the Gurkas.  The statue will be 6 foot tall, and on a 6 foot plinth. It will be sited in Folkestone in about three months time.  The picture above shows her working on the statue which will then be cast in a metal which hopefully will cope with the onslaught of the sea air, and the local seagulls.   This is a very brief note of her work, and an internet search of Rebecca Hawkins will prove very interesting.


 Lucy's career has taken many turns, on leaving Art School she realised that what she had learned would not really keep her in a steady income and she went back to the needlework she had learned from her mother and grandmother,  but she was soon 'discovered' and she has worked with Jean Muir for many years, designing the 'extras'  - embellishments that are found on the  Jean Muir collections.   She has also developed quirky types of waistcoats. - see above and below.  Each piece being unique and made to the owner's specifications.
 Below is a coat which had to be made of extremely light fabric as the owner had a skin complaint, but needed something special to wear for an important event.

Lucy like Rebecca  had found time to visit (on a continuing basis) the far east spending time in Jaipur India where she works with ANOKI,  a company which produces fabric, designs, and embroidery using local talented women.  This is a two way project with both Lucy and the local women benefitting from this arrangement.

She also told us about WONDERFUL WORKSHOPS - In Jaipur, India- a bit far for a craft outing, but there may be one or two Inspired WI women, who following her talk, enrol and discover a new world out there. 

Apart from these three magnificent speakers, there were craft stalls and details of new projects ahead, we are so lucky  to be able to attend such events in a local venue.