Each weekend we make a point of going somewhere for the day. A couple of years ago we resolved to come up with a list of fun things to do, to make the most of our free time together.
One such trip was to London a few weeks ago. I was keen to see an exhibition at the Foundling Hospital near the British Museum. The exhibition was called 'Threads of Feeling'. During the Eighteenth Century mothers were given the opportunity to take their children to the Foundling Hospital on Coram Fields. If the children were illegitimate, or the mothers simply could not provide for their child, they knew that by leaving them at the Hospital their son or daughter would be well fed and cared for. The idea was that they gave official guardianship of their offspring to the Hospital and if their circumstances improved they could come back for the child. In reality only 1% of mothers returned. In order to identify their son or daughter the women left tokens. Many of these were scraps of clothing, ribbons, small charms or buttons. The result is that the Museum has one of the finest collections of Eighteenth Century fabrics in Europe.
The exhibition was very moving. The ledgers were on display with a description of each child and the scrap of cloth or ribbon. As we walked around the Museum there were facts about everyday life in the Eighteenth Century displayed on the walls. One really shocking fact was that in Eighteenth Century London 75% of children would die before the age of 5. That really stopped me in my tracks. It is really easy for us to look at these things with our 21st Century view of life with its childhood vaccinations, good quality health care and long life expectancy. My heart went out to these poor women who had to make the decision to hand over their children with the knowledge that they would almost certainly never see them again.
I have recently become interested in creating memory jewellery. A way of incorporating fragments of everyday life into my work. This exhibition certainly gave me food for thought.
The exhibition has finished now but here you can find out the background to it. If you every have the chance to visit the Foundlings' Hospital I would urge you to do it. I am told that they graze sheep in Coram Fields, in front of the Hospital, and that in the Spring and Summer the air is filled with the sound of sheep calling to each other. Quite a strange experience in the heart of London!
Another fun exhibition was a bit closer to home in the Salisbury Arts Centre. We went to see a touring exhibition called the 'Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef'. The project was created by Margaret Wertheim, the Director of 'The Institute Of Figuring' in Los Angeles. It is quite simply, as the name suggests, a coral reef made entirely out of crochet. It is touring the world and everywhere that is appears local people are encouraged to add to it. The reef even has its own web page and blog. It was absolutely fascinating, particularly as close inspection showed that parts of it were made from crocheted wire, plastic bags and even lengths of audio and video tape. One of my favourite parts was the large octopus. I think it is nice to think that like a real coral reef it is constantly growing and changing.
I would certainly like to use some of the ideas, shapes and textures in my beadwork. A very inspiring experience.
I am still working on my 'Jewel Bead Necklace' due to the continuing problems with my right hand (which have now been officially diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome). Hopefully I will be able to show it in my next post along with an account of another recent visit to London.