Galloway kimono has starring role at special textiles event

Galloway kimono
Morag McPherson's Arts & Crafts kimono - credit Colin Hattersley.

Marchmont House brings together international speakers for special event exploring the past, present and future of Arts & Crafts textiles

An Arts & Crafts kimono – created by a Kirkcudbright artist using 19th century and modern fabrics – will be at the heart of a special event celebrating Arts and Crafts textiles from 1850 to the present.

Arts & Crafts Textiles Celebration – nature, beauty and community from 1850 to the present day, takes place at the magnificent Marchmont House in the Borders on 1 February.

It brings together a remarkable mix of speakers from art experts and curators to contemporary artists and makers – alongside a social enterprise founder who trains women in textile use and design.

The accompanying display of work will feature not only the kimono but the magnificent Cape of Clouds. There will be two contemporary quilts by the internationally renowned designer and maker Pauline Burbidge whose work is in major museum and gallery collections worldwide. The display also includes pieces by Naomi Robertson, Master Weaver at Dovecot in Edinburgh and antique textiles by Ernest Gimson and now belonging to Barley Roscoe.

The event – which connects to the landmark exhibition May Morris: Art & Life currently open at Dovecot Studios – is part of Marchmont House Director Hugo Burge’s drive to help nurture a new Arts & Crafts Movement, promoting hand-crafted work, a sense of community and an appreciation of nature.

He said: “The original Arts & Crafts Movement embodied a purpose that could not be more important for today – celebrating nature, craftsmanship, community and a sense of purpose. Arts & Crafts textiles are at the centre of this crucible of interests, replete with hidden stories, inspiration and raw beauty. It couldn’t be more timely to dive into this field, seeking a new sense of purpose in craftsmanship.”

The Arts & Crafts kimono was made by Morag McPherson, an international textile artist and designer in Galloway, for a client who wanted to upcycle a beautiful but badly deteriorated piece of 19th century Arts & Crafts fabric.

Morag said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the kimono is being shown at Marchmont House. This was a wonderful way to bring together the past and the present to create a new garment that I hope will be loved and cherished for many years to come. It’s creates a wonderful link to the original Arts & Crafts Movement, and shows how its ideas, values and designs are as valuable and relevant today as they were in the past.”

These ideas are deeply embedded in the work of speakers such as the contemporary embroiderer Louise Gardiner, from Bristol, whose Cape of Clouds will be displayed in public for the first time.

Louise invited women from around the world to stitch “story clouds” reflecting their hopes and dreams for a peaceful world of equality and love. Contributions have come in from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong.

She said: “I was overwhelmed by the response, with clouds arriving by post from places far afield and often accompanied by poems, moving letters and photographs.
“The project resonated with so many women and became a collective voice from an international community of women exploring a traditional craft and connecting with each other with hopes for peace and equality. Even if you can’t see your fellow stitchers, you’re connected by an invisible thread.”

Another speaker, Hazel Smith (2019 Social Entrepreneur of the Year), hopes to include the cape in a graduation ceremony for women who have attended textiles courses run by her organisation ReTweed. The organisation trains women facing barriers in their lives and careers, teaching them new skills they can use to find jobs, set up their own businesses or enjoy as a hobby.

She said: “Re-Tweed is founded on a philosophy very much aligned to the Arts & Crafts Movement. It brings people together into a community of makers, through an arts and crafts industry, giving them a sense of self-esteem and achievement and creating new opportunities for them.
It has been the catalyst for 11 women setting up their own businesses and has helped 33 to secure jobs – contributing to efforts to revive the great tradition of fashion and textiles in the Borders. Re-Tweed members are also contributing to the Great Tapestry of Scotland whose designer, Paul Crummy, is also delivering a talk at the event.
Looking to the original Arts & Crafts Movement, there will be a special focus on the contribution of May Morris (daughter of William) who was responsible for some of Morris & Co.’s most iconic designs. Dr Margaretta Frederick, Chief Curator of Delaware Art Museum will speak about May Morris, Her Passion & Her Legacy. 
The event is sponsored by Edinburgh fine art auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull. John Mackie, Head of Decorative Arts & Design at Lyon & Turnbull, said: “We are delighted to sponsor the Arts & Crafts Textiles Celebration at Marchmont and look forward to an exploration of stitching and textiles, which had such an important part to play in the Arts & Crafts Movement, and its relevance to our lives today.”

Among the other speakers is Paul Reeves a collector and dealer renowned for his knowledge of Arts & Crafts textiles. Earlier in his career Paul was an interior designer whose clients included Elton John, Freddie Mercury and members of Led Zeppelin and Wings.