Kelmscott Manor

Enclosures by Sasha Ward

Holy City  St. George's, Hanover Square, London:  Old Town my panel from 1985:  Kelmscott Design No. 1  from 2014

Enclosures have turned out to be a major subject matter for me. I am drawn to walled cities, or really representations of walled cities, like the stained glass one I photographed recently (see last blog entry). I found a small glass panel called "Old Town" that I made in 1985 and a glass painting based on Kelmscott Manor in its walls garden from two years ago - these three images, lined up above, have obvious links. 

On my last visit to The National Gallery I was captivated by a large Velasquez painting, an enclosure but just of a piece of ground, no buildings. I realised that it was the actual enclosure that interests me, not only the way that it organises a picture but also what meanings it could have.

"Philip IV Hunting Wild Boar" 1632-7 Diego Velasquez 

"Philip IV Hunting Wild Boar" 1632-7 Diego Velasquez 

In my current work, I have been designing a long thin window which happens to have a series of linked enclosures. I like them to have open points so you can get in and out. I also like them to have straight sides - an oval or a circle makes you feel trapped like the wild boars above. The enclosures in this design are bordered by flower beds rather than walls. They started by containing a string of plums, this went as the design progressed but came back again in the final glass panel. 

Garden Plums, sketches showing development of the design

Finished window in my studio, 300 x 1300 mm. 

Finished window in my studio, 300 x 1300 mm. 

Garden Plums  detail: gold and pale green enamel, the textures and colours look great.

Garden Plums detail: gold and pale green enamel, the textures and colours look great.

The window is on its way to Poland, the third one for the house of my friend & glass artist Frances Federer. Read her entertaining, informative blog about her journeys between England & Poland here

Before and After by Sasha Ward

Before - inside the old marquee

Before - inside the old marquee

When I took what I thought was a great picture on a rainy day at Kelmscott Manor last summer (above), I thought with regret that I wouldn't be able to use it. To me, the damp and mould on the marquee ceiling in combination with willow leaves & pink petals that have blown in from somewhere else make a spectacular pattern.  I know that this sort of grot, although often celebrated by artists, is not to everyone's taste. So this summer, a new marquee has arrived (picture below), and the patterns on the ceiling only appear when the sun shines through the willow tree outside.  Inside, there is new bunting made from Morris patterns and the perfect white wall on which to hang a panel made from last year's wallpaper printing activity days.

After - inside the new marquee

After - inside the new marquee

Panel made of 38 different wallpapers

Panel made of 38 different wallpapers

I included all the wallpapers in the panel, hoping that there would be some return visitors as well as members of Kelmscott staff who would enjoy seeing their designs on display. I wanted to keep a fluttering feel reminiscent of the way they looked hanging from the drying line (below). I've sewn them together in an overlapping arrangement so you can open up the pleats to see a whole panel and they can move around as the marquee sides flap in the wind.

Wallpapers drying last October

Wallpapers drying last October

Wild Tulips by Sasha Ward

Today's tulip drawings and photographs under the mulberry tree behind Kelmscott Manor

Today's tulip drawings and photographs under the mulberry tree behind Kelmscott Manor

When I arrived at Kelmscott last year, I decided that I wasn't going to draw any flowers. I thought it would be inadvisable to start my own work with subject matter so closely linked to that of William Morris. However, I have been regretting the beautiful yellow wild tulips ever since, and am very happy that I managed to get back to see them in flower this year. 

Some of my favourite Morris designs feature the tulip, for example Garden Tulip, below left, one of a series of designs with a meandering line. In Wild Tulip, below right, you can see how closely he observed the shape of the flowers heads with their curled back petals and bobbing heads. Putting them in the background of the design suits their size and habit.

Some typically sensible tips from WM that I will try to remember when introducing tulips into my own pattern work,  "Rational growth is necessary to all patterns, or at least the hint of such growth;…Take heed in this growth that each member of it be strong and crisp, that the lines do not get thready or flabby or too far from their stock to sprout firmly and vigorously; even where a line ends it should look as if it had plenty of capacity for more growth if so it would". From 'Some hints on pattern designing" (1881).

William Morris : GardenTulip                                                                            William Morris : Wild Tulip

William Morris : GardenTulip                                                                            William Morris : Wild Tulip

Kelmscott design no. 3 by Sasha Ward

3 glass sketches for the repeat design Kelmscott No. 3

3 glass sketches for the repeat design Kelmscott No. 3

Glass and print versions of the design to show how the repeat works

Glass and print versions of the design to show how the repeat works

I've put my three wallpapers and corresponding glass panels up next to each other in an exhibition about artists' residencies. Design No 3. links Kelmscott Manor with the River Thames and its gardens with clumps of  waterside plants. I'll be tweaking all of these designs in the next few months - seeing them printed on a large scale and all together gives me a great opportunity to evaluate my work from the residency.

The three Kelmscott wallpaper designs installed together in an exhibition at New Brewery Arts

The three Kelmscott wallpaper designs installed together in an exhibition at New Brewery Arts

The River Thames by Sasha Ward

My third Kelmscott repeat design features the river and has been stuck at the stage above since August, so I returned to the river Thames for some winter drawing. Does it feel melancholy because I have read William Morris' descriptions of the place so many times?

"…though it has a sadness about it which is not gloom but the melancholy born of beauty I suppose it is very stimulating to the imagination".

"…and am writing among the grey gables and rook haunted trees, with a sense of the place being almost too beautiful to work in". from WM's letters to Louisa Macdonald Baldwin in 1871 and 1872.

two of my winter drawings

two of my winter drawings

The "Anarchy & Beauty" Exhibition includes May Morris' embroidery of the river. I chose this work to write about on The National Portrait Gallery blog of modern makers' responses to the exhibition.

Extract here :

This small embroidered rectangle by May Morris is the best representation of the River Thames at Kelmscott that I have seen. I love the dense overlapping stitches she used to show the plants and the flat landscape beside the water. I spent last summer drawing along the banks of the river and in Kelmscott Manor, the Morris’ country home just a stone’s throw away. The huge expressive stitches on the embroidered hangings in the Manor gave me an incredible sense of the presence of William Morris, his wife Jane and their daughters Jenny and May. I wondered whether they would have approved of what I was doing there as Artist in Residence as I found my own way of depicting the house and garden in the melancholy Oxfordshire landscape.