Close to home
I know from experience that it’s possible to see the wonders of the world and yet miss equally interesting things rather closer to home. But normal, not on holiday, life involves responsible grown up activity like supermarket shopping, laundry, cooking and cleaning and the idea of a morning “out” needs to be scheduled for some reason, however easy it might be to drop in somewhere on the way home from somewhere else.
So I’ll admit, it was earlier in the week that I made the suggestion to visit the local museum, prompted by a conversation I’d had with a friend at WI and reinforced by an email newsletter of local events I get every week (and normally just skim through before moving to the recycle bin). That it took all of that nudging to persuade me to even consider a visit says it all, and my Hero’s response said the rest.
“too late to go Wednesday, not good on Thursday but I suppose we could go after doing the shopping on Friday”. He didn’t actually add the phrase “if you really want to”, but it was implied.
OK. I know, I could have gone alone but it’s better when there’s someone to mutter to, don’t you find, and it was too late to organise something with a friend. Friday morning it was then.
Our local museum is in the park, which this morning was filled with families having fun, people playing tennis, a fun fair getting ready to open at lunchtime, a group of people on a day out and some extraordinary flowers. The exhibition which my WI friend had recommended finishes this weekend, after which the space will be prepared and made ready for a rather larger annual event, the Select Festival.
The Scarlett Red Hare was sitting proudly outside the entrance.
Inside, we headed straight for the textile exhibition. The work of Anglia Textile Works, celebrating their 20th birthday with work inspired by Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie and other pieces reflecting the red cloth made in and around Stroud. Why have textile artists from East Anglia created work on a theme based on Gloucestershire? No idea!
Not everything was in tune with the theme, however, and as a result the whole exhibition lacked a bit of coherence. For example, these panels hung side by side. Some included clear references to the uniforms, having a line of immaculately stitched buttonholes, trims or graphical references to the process of creating the fabric with teasel motifs. But others were on the Cider with Rosie theme and we couldn’t help but think they could have been hung to reflect this more effectively?
Pieces such as this one, by Sarah Impey and hung adjacent to those panels were a bit out on a limb, having no link with either Laurie Lee’s work nor the fabric of soldier’s uniforms. that’s not to say we didn’t like it – it just didn’t seem to flow.
Actually, we have both seen Sarah Impey’s work before and have admired her ability to create such even lettering with a sewing machine. All free-motion machine embroidery too – no computerised letters here (demonstrated by the slight variation in letter shapes – you knew we’d look closely, didn’t you?)
This morning, it was her work which stood out from the rest for us, including this “quilt”
which, on closer inspection, reveals more lettering. Clearly, Sarah gets plenty of practice in using her sewing machine in this way.
For her work is instantly recognisable.
I’m glad my friend Di gave me the nudge to drop in here though. There was some fine stitching, some really interesting pieces and whilst we were at the museum, well, we had to look around the rest, didn’t we?
The next room held a small exhibition about Halas and Batchelor, “the largest and most influential animation studio in Western Europe”. Who knew they were in Stroud? Not me!
Fascinating. The best of local history, with a place to share memories too, for many people with a local connection had left their memories of working for the company and recollections of the people and their creations.
Elsewhere in the permanent exhibition, there were the familiar things we’d seen before, if some time ago. Just as my hero commented “Wasn’t the lawn mower invented in Stroud?”, we stepped inside the room with the story of…you’ve guessed, accompanied by the unmistakeable soundtrack of the summer days of our childhood. Whilst we were there, we witnessed one of those peculiar scenes of such places though: two women settled into a corner of one of the rooms, discussing their feet! One of them had taken off her shoes and was describing the treatment offered by her chiropodist in detail, pointing out the variety of challenges the professional had faced. Wonderful inspiration for the short story writer!
We carried on regardless into the next room, where we looked at one another and asked, what was that?!
Latest developments at the museum include redevelopment of the Walled Garden, which was looking beautiful.
Lovely planting, interesting walkways and beautifully sheltered too.
At the top of the steps there’s a new studio for hands-on activity and to one side, a traditional Auricula Theatre, with a small sign “the plants are not for sale and are here just for your enjoyment”
Walking back to the car park, past beautiful collections of tulips, we decided that we had enjoyed our visit very much indeed and asked ourselves the inevitable question.
“Why haven’t we been here for so long?”