Ethel Mairet Dyeing Project at Ditchling Museum

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft is situated in a beautiful setting in the charming village of Ditchling, near Brighton, in East Sussex . The impact of the many artists and craftspeople who came to live and work in Ditchling from the beginning of the 20th century onwards established this village as one of the most important places for the visual arts and crafts in Britain. The museum is a real treasure and well worth a visit, especially as it provides a rare opportunity to see special objects and works of art in the village where they were made.

The museum holds an internationally important collection of work by the artists and craftspeople who were  drawn to the village, including the sculptor, wood engraver, type-designer and letter-cutter Eric Gill, the calligrapher Edward Johnston (responsible for the famous Johnston typeface used for London Underground), the painter David Jones, the printer Hilary Pepler and the weavers Valentine KilBride and Ethel Mairet.

Ditchling museum also regularly has special exhibitions of the work of other artists and craftspeople. Currently, in addition to the exhibits based around Ethel Mairet’s work, there are three further exhibitions, relating to the work of William Morris and the Kelmscott press, to the artist, weaver and tapestry maker Tadek Beutlich and to the author and illustrator John Vernon Lord, who lives in the village.

As if all that were not enough, the museum also has a tempting shop and a cafe serving excellent coffee and cake. And the village itself is a delightful place to explore, with some interesting shops and good pubs and eating places.

As I wrote in an earlier post, this is the centenary of the publication in 1916 of Ethel Mairet’s classic work on natural dyeing, “A Book on Vegetable Dyes”. To mark the event, Ditchling Museum is inviting dyers to contribute to an ever-growing exhibition of skeins dyed following recipes from the book. Anyone in any part of the world can take part by simply following the links on the museum website: (www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk/event/dyeing-now/) Once the dyer has selected the fibre and the recipe, the skein is sent out for the participant to dye and then return to the museum.

As part of this focus on the work of Ethel Mairet, I shall be giving a talk at the museum about natural dyes in the evening of January 26th next year and also leading a natural dyeing workshop there on March 25th 2017. Full details of both these events can be found on the website: (www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk/what’s-on/all-workshops-events/

I have dyed ten cotton and linen skeins for the project and I recently made another visit to to the museum to see how the Ethel Mairet dyeing project is progressing.

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This is the framework on which the dyed skeins are displayed as they arrive

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The photos above show some of the dyed skeins in place

Below are some of Ethel Mairet’s own samples with their characteristic luggage labels

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The three photos below show some of Ethel Mairet’s work on display in the museum, Sadly my photos cannot do full justice to her vibrant colours and beautiful weaving.

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(All photographs taken with kind permission of Ditchling Museum)

 

 

 

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