Wednesday 15 September 2021, Harvest, Talk with Hilary Burns, Felicity Irons, Nathalie Seiller Dejean, Veronica Main and Karolina Merska
Wednesday 15 September 2021, 6pm BST (British Summer Time, London, UK)
Online talk, hosted on Zoom (*Zoom link will be sent to ticket holders on Tuesday 14 September 2021*)
A recording of the event will be available to ticket holders after the event.
September is the month when the summers harvest is gathered, organised and processed. Harvest has long been a pivotal time of year. Although we may now be more removed from the cycles of harvest, our speakers still work closely with the materials it provides. Being the last remaining rush weavers, Felicity Irons not only continues this ancient craft but also harvests the materials herself. She will share with us her experiencing of harvesting and how understanding the harvesting of materials informs her weaving practice. Hilary Burns will follow, sharing her practice, preserving and reviving traditional basketmaking and green-woodwork techniques. Our discussions of harvest will continue with Nathalie Seiller-Dejean, whose ornaments and accessories use techniques from straw work and basketmaking, using a wide range of rare and unique materials to create fashion pieces. Veronica Main will share her extensive work on straw work which started by making corn dollies, spanning a range of decorative straw techniques and, more recently, straw hat plaiting. She draws on strong historical knowledge of the subject and practical experience of straw work. Karolina Merska will finish the presentations with her ornamental Pajaki (pah-yonk-ee), traditional Polish chandeliers made from rye straw and paper.
Felicity Irons is a rush weaver, founder of Rushmatters, one of the last remaining rush weaving companies in Britain. Felicity started her practice in 1992, teaching herself the techniques and processes of rush weaving. Working from Grange Farm, Felicity Irons grows and harvests her own bulrushes from the Great Ouse river. The rush is harvested in the summer months, totalling over two tons a day and left to dry naturally before being plaited by Felicity and her team into bags, baskets and homewares.
Hilary Burns makes contemporary-styled work in a robust and direct manner, based on traditional basketmaking and green-woodwork techniques. Her first training was in woven textiles, she was always interested in texture and structure and loved the complexities of warp, weft, twill and double cloth. Hilary began studying basketmaking nearly forty years ago, finding new ways to construct three dimensional forms. She feels that using the potential of the many and varied skills developed over centuries in new ways keeps them from disappearing. The making is physical and repetitive practice is essential. The variety of methods, ingenuity of construction and different materials as well as the ancient history has kept her in tow ever since.
Nathalie Seiller-Dejean creates delicate hand-crafted hair ornaments and accessories - tiaras, combs, hair pins - that make you stand out from the crowd. She is a one-woman Rumpelstiltskin, weaving, knotting, plaiting, coiling straw into jewellery and high-fashion pieces. Her hats and headbands, worn at parties and weddings, for Ascot and on the catwalk, have a dream-like, fairy-tale quality Instead of pearls and diamante, she prefers to work with natural materials in her creations - straw, horse hair, even starfish.
Veronica Main has worked with straw for over forty years, beginning her exploration of straw by making corn dollies then moving onto all forms of decorative straw work. Since the 1980s her focus has centred on the endangered heritage craft of straw hat plaiting for the hat industry. In the New Year’s Honours 2021, she was awarded an MBE in recognition of her extensive work. After many years of research which has taken her around the world, she now shares her extensive knowledge so that the skills will live on. Author of one book she is busy writing a second. Veronica says that harvest is a magical time for her, but also a time of mixed emotions with excitement and anxiety to the fore. She points out that no matter how technologically advanced society becomes, harvest is always weather dependent, and a rogue storm can destroy the farmer’s work. Her love of straw as a working medium and investigation of working techniques is as strong now as it was in the 1970s when she made
her first corn dolly.
Karolina Merska is a pajaki maker living in London. Pajaki (pah-yonk-ee) are traditional Polish chandeliers made from rye straw and paper. Their history dates back to the mid- 18th century. Made by country women as decorations for their homes especially for Christmas, Easter, as well as for weddings and christenings. Suspended from a ceiling in a main room, amongst colourful paper cut-outs, paintings and paper flowers they became a popular decoration in polish village houses. They were a symbol of harvest and happiness in New Year.
Today the tradition is practised less and less. Karolina loves harvesting rye straw each summer. She keeps pajaki tradition alive. With her practise she tries to use traditional techniques and materials as well as experimenting with new ones so as to give them a new contemporary look.
All virtual talks are non-refundable.