Saturday, 5 November 2011

Treasure hunt

The cover of Matrix journal -- issue containing Olive Cook's biographical essay on Tirzah Garwood
 Lesley's wonderful post, Pattern and Design, from earlier this week, has got me blogging again after a bit of a fallow period. "Don't worry too much about what you blog about," I told myself (since my head was full of starting places but not much idea about where to go), "just do it."
     First of all, I needed a link to Lesley's post, so the easiest thing was just to Google her blog. I never even made it there! Googling 'Printed Material', I saw 'How to print on fabric with an inkjet printer'. I had to have a quick look at this -- once again it goes back to Lesley, because a while back she very kindly made me up a 'starter kit' for doing just this and told me how to do it. Have I had a go? No, I have not, much to my chagrin.
     However, as I was reading this post, I was reminded of one of the reasons why I haven't yet had a go -- the risk of terminally messing up your printer. I've just got a new printer so am even more nervous about sticking fabric into its temperamental maw.
screen grab from
     It was then that I spotted, in the comments underneath the post, references to Wow, they will print your own fabric design for you! No ruined printer and you're not limited to A4-sized sheets. This is something I'll have to bookmark and come back to.
Saturday Book emblem from the endpapers of SB no. 7
     All this was already 'off piste' as I had initially intended to go down quite a different route. The initial trail from Lesley's post had led me to the St Jude's blog, All Things Considered, and, from there to writer Olive Cook and her husband, photographer Edwin Smith, who were regular contributors to the Saturday Book, precursor of miscellanies such as Granta and which ran from 1941 to 1975. It happens that I have just brought a carrier bag full of Saturday Books back from my dad's where I'm keeping (and intermittently forgetting all about) a mountain of old books which are currently 'hidden' behind his spare-room sofa. I thought I'd have a look through this bag of books for some delectable things to blog about.
 Actually, the Saturday Books I've got are not as delectable as I imagined, being rather inky and serious miscellanies of poems and essays which haven't stood the test of time too well. But in my random selection I did find a madly eclectic selection of Christmas-related objects collected together by Cook and Smith (SB no. 13), which included these rather tenuously Christmas orange wrappers (to be enjoyed on Boxing Day):
and these very desirable cracker toys:
In Saturday Book no. 16, Cook and Smith -- weirdly -- tell the story of Bluebeard through 'bits and pieces'. This was in 1956, and the exercise, which is really quite off-kilter, seems to straddle the Victorian and modern sensibilities and, in this respect, to stand for a lot of cultural activity in that era. Here are a few snippets from Bluebeard in Bits and Pieces:
Finally, my Olive Cook meanderings took me to her biographical essay on the artist Tirzah Garwood, wife of Eric Ravilious and whose talent was possibly eclipsed by her husband's, and who also found it difficult to juggle being an artist with the roles of mother and wife (sigh). You can read it here, on the excellent Weeping Ash website.
The Train Journey, c. 1939 by Tirzah Garwood
And there my web treasure hunt stopped, for now, as it had taken up the best part of a day!


Makeminemidcentury said...

Keep blogging, Mrs!

That was a good post ... the Bits and Pieces are a bit restrained-avant garde. Very interesting choice of images.

It's coming up to Christmas Cracker time ... that should warm the cockles?

James Russell said...

This is what I love about the internet - you take a thought and follow it, and follow it, and end up discovering treasures like this.

Tirzah Ravilious (Garwood) was a fabulous artist who deserves to be far better known. The best place to see her work is the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden. I've written a couple of pieces about her on my blog, but the exciting news is that her autobiography, written early in World War II, is about to be published by the Fleece Press. It's not a cheap volume (£200 plus) but will make its way to the British Library I imagine.

Great blog!

Kitsch and Curious said...

Lovely stuff! I had never heard of Tirzah Garwood, although I like a lot of Eric Ravilious's work. The essay was very interesting (although I think there was a page missing?. The marbled patterns are amazing - I would never have thought you could create such regular repeats.
I've used Spoonflower to create some fabric for a friend, and I plan to use it again, as the possibilities are endless!
Glad you're sharing your inspirational wanderings again!

LAC EMP 2020 said...

I'm glad my post set you off on this route Jane. Ironically that mention of the Saturday book in the video got me searching for mine too but I only have two copies from the early days, no 5 and no 8 published at the end of the war so they are not nearly as exciting as yours. Great minds must think alike! Any in depth excursion into the artists and illustrators of this period is a rich seam to explore. Enjoy where it takes you next.

colleen said...

Thanks so much for this saunter. Amazingly, I was talking to a friend just yesterday about Great Bardfield where Tirzah lived for a while. The Fry Gallery - a little gem! - is really worth a visit to see the work of that little group of artists.

menopausalmusing said...

Another wonderful post from you Jane...... sent me off in all different directions. Loved the cracker toys and the orange wrappings - such visual treats. I shall be investigating Spoonflower .......

Roy Hammans said...

A colleague pointed me to this lovely article and I just wanted to let you know that the links to the articles referenced on my site have recently changed.
The Main pages About Smith and Cook are now at:

and the article on Tirzah Garwood can be found here:

I have added a link to your article in the Weblinks section of my site.

Jane Housham said...

Thanks so much for posting those fresh links, Roy. I can't reply to you directly as you're not signed up to Blogger -- but much appreciated.