Worth A Visit – The Jersey Occupation Tapestry

Planning Panel
Planning Panel

Regular readers will know that I like large projects for myself; it won’t have been so obvious that I am interested in community or group projects as well. Not just the stitching, but the inspiration, organisation, management and quality control necessary to bring such projects to a successful conclusion.

And make no mistake – quality control can be a serious issue. Often you will hear it suggested that volunteers can’t be expected to do good work, or that, because they are volunteers, anything they produce, however sloppy, should be accepted with enthusiasm and gratitude.

Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. Volunteers should be expected to want to do well, and to practise to make sure that they do.

Stitch Practice
Stitch Practice

The volunteers who stitched the Jersey Occupation Tapestry were asked to stitch sample pieces before starting on the real thing. The twelve panels of the Tapestry are worked entirely in Basketweave Tent stitch, which is an easy stitch – but that very simplicity means that there are no textural variations available to hide variations in technique. So all the stitching had to be right. And it was.

Detail Of Paving
Detail Of Paving
Red Cross Ship Vega And the Sea
Red Cross Ship Vega And the Sea

The panels were designed by a curator at Jersey Heritage, who then drew out the designs on canvas and marked the thread colours for each element. In the case of seas, skies and such sections, he suggested a range of colours and allowed the stitchers to use their own artistic skills to bring those elements to life. If you look at the photos, I think you’ll agree that his faith in them has been triumphantly justified.

The Jersey Occupation Tapestry Gallery is part of the Maritime Museum in St Helier, and was worked to commemorate the Liberation of the Channel Islands in 1945. Unlike some textile galleries, they don’t mind photographs being taken, although as the panels are displayed behind glass, flashes would be counterproductive as well as unpopular! The display includes some details about Albert Bedane, and a video about the making of the tapestry. Some of the stitchers were children on the island during the Occupation, and some of their memories are included in the designs.

Altogether I had a fascinating time, and can recommend it highly!

I am not alone. . .

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie
Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (picture from Wikipedia)

I recently had a trip to London, when I managed to fit in a brief visit to The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology as part of my background research for the Dreams of Amarna panels. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie excavated at Amarna during the 1890s, finding and recording a fine painted pavement, since destroyed, of which Mary Chubb, who wrote the book which inspired the Dreams of Amarna project, would certainly have known. He also trained Howard Carter, whose discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb sparked the Egyptological fever that took hold in Europe and indirectly provided the impetus for Mary’s career.

I arrived late in the day, and really didn’t have much time to look around, but I did tell the lady at the desk why I was interested, and was rather startled when she said “Oh, then there is something you must see!” and took me to see it. It turned out to be a modern tapestry, woven at the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Saqqara (itself a place to set Egyptologists a-tingle)  and named “Dahsur Lake” . The tapestry is very reminiscent of the Amarna style, full of life and colour, vigorous and joyful.  The weavers produce their panels without sketches behind their looms, and I am astonished at what they have produced.

Clearly I am not alone in finding the art and story of Amarna inspiring. I wonder, will I produce something as good?