Charleston Farmhouse with Annie Sloan, Molly Mahon and Darren Clarke
This talk focused on the history of Charleston farmhouse; one of the homes of the Bloomsbury group, and a decorative arts marvel of hand-painted rooms, bursting with creativity and thought provoking design that has endured in its contemporary outlook on design and thinking. Darren Clarke, Rausing Head of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at Charleston began by introducing the story of Charleston and its making. Annie Sloan and Molly Mahon, both who have a strong connection to Charleston and the artworks of the Bloomsbury group, shared how Charleston's creativity continues today and the ways it has inspired their own design practice.
Charleston is a historic living museum to the decorative arts, nestled deep in the Sussex countryside. In 1916 Charleston became the home of Bloomsbury group artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Over the next 50 years, with the help of their friends Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, Roger Fry, and many more they transformed Charleston from an unremarkable seventeenth century farmhouse into a masterpiece of interior design and modernist experimentation.
Dr Darren Clarke is the Rausing Head of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at Charleston, the former home of the Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. He has curated several exhibitions including Post-Impressionist Living: The Omega Workshops (2019), Orlando at the present time (2019) and the forthcoming Duncan Grant: 1920 (2021) for the Charleston Trust and was co-curator for Radical Bloomsbury: The Art of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, 1905-1925, at Brighton Museum (2011). Among his published works he has contributed to the essay, Duncan Grant and Charleston’s Queer Arcadia to Queer Bloomsbury (EUP, 2016) and is Editor of the Charleston Press.
Colour and Paint Expert, Annie Sloan, is best known for her world-famous paint, Chalk Paint™. In 1990, frustrated and unable to find paints equal to her requirements, Annie Sloan invented this revolutionary product. Chalk Paint™ became a global phenomenon and still is to this day. Annie Sloan products are sold through a network of 1,500 Stockists across the world. A collaboration with the Charleston Trust was a dream come true for Annie, who had discovered the Bloomsbury group of artists and their country retreat, while she was studying Fine Art. Annie’s collaboration with Charleston has seen her create three distinctive Chalk Paint™ colours inspired by the incredible home of the Bloomsbury group.
Based close to Charleston in Sussex, Molly Mahon is a British printmaker whose draws inspiration from the arts of crafts of Charleston and the Bloomsbury group. Her block printing designs are applied to fabrics, wallpapers and a growing range of homewares. Having studied Anthropology and History of Art at Newcastle University Molly's creative desire prompted her to start taking part in workshops, one of which was in block printing. She immediately fell in love with the craft and for two years worked for a block printer, practising and learning the art. Her first commission came from a friend who wanted some block printed wallpaper for her newly arrived Shepherds Hut and she has not looked back since, setting up her own textile company that is thriving.
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