On the 29th April, I was back in Northampton for the last stencilling workshop of 78, Derngate’s centenary celebrations. And the creativity I saw there was extraordinary.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was employed by Mr Basset-Lowke to refurbish the property in 1917 in a trendy, practical and beautifully harmonious house for himself and his young bride. Something in the up and coming “Modern style”. A beautiful piece of work and the centenary of this refurbishment is being celebrated this year. I took part in the celebration, I recreated some of the original design … but also ran a week end of talks and workshops.
Last Saturday I was back to meet an extra group of enthusiasts who were keen to discover the art of stencilling and learn how to create a simple stencil based on the decorative work of Mackintosh.
A lovely group of locals folks young and more mature, was there waiting for me that morning, I had the joy to find there two gentlemen who turned out to be some of the best creators of the group. But also to my great satisfaction we welcomed as a participant to the workshop the current owner of Candida Cottage. That is the property that Basset Lowke and his wife also owned in the area in the 1920’s. A lovely small property they did up using Mackintosh for it.
This gave a great dimension to the workshop and not only we created but we also exchanged on memories about the cottage through the day. It turn out that the current owner purchased the cottage without the knowledge of Mackintosh being involved in it. She is a lovely lady very keen to get things right and possibly reinstate the original stencilled decoration.
After morning coffee and cookies we made our way to the gallery to view Mackintosh’s watercolours from the Chelsea years displayed in a wall of cushion. I am not sure if Mackintosh would have liked it but I think it is a beautifully displays some of his more vibrant graphic work for textile. We spent time looking at some of the designs and I explained to my students for the day how to decrypt a design, how to pick one of two elements you will later elaborate your design on. Some of them were very surprised of the simplicity and efficiency of Mackintosh’s graphic work for textile. Many of them did not realise there was such a rich and creative collection of designs.
We spent some time in the gallery looking at the two stencilling recreations I have worked on for the exhibition and analysed the designs, the sequence of their realisation, the sources for the colour scheme. We were blessed to discuss the scheme of Candida Cottage with its current owner.
Back in the work room and after spending some time discovering the material linked with a good stencilling work (brush, paint, oiled manilla card…) and spending time practising with various paints on different background we embarked on our own stencil design.
Taking some ideas from an existing design it can be very rewarding to extract one or two ideas and draw a simple design with suitable bridges to transform into a stencil. The difference between a good and a bad stencil design is the quality of the bridges. Those are the small piece of cards which keep the stencil design together once cut out. The bridges have two functions, they strengthen the design but also they have a visual function in making sure the whole scheme looks harmonious. Putting in place random bridges can just simply destroy the most beautiful design. Mackintosh had a real eye for composition and all the bridges he created just became invisible.
I was amazed by the creativity of my group and the speed of their work. As if they were feeding from one another. Problem solving, drawing and finally cutting at fast speed as if they were fuelled by the great atmosphere of the room…. All sat around the table and we heard more stories and laughter. Many more lovely cups of coffee and great tasty cookies were brought in by Debbie a volunteer at 78, Derngate. A lovely lady who has been looking after me when working in Northampton.
Geometric motifs, flowers, repeat patterns the variety in my groups creativity was endless and here are some of the pattern they created. Can you believe that some of them had no previous experience and spent a maximum of 6 hours in the workroom with me…
I specially like the very simple design that Rose created, with a minimum number of lines she put together this very simple two parts repeat pattern with very simple colours and shading. With just a simple pattern you can recreate an all over pattern similar to those Mackintosh’s own.
One of my ladies no completely satisfied and finding that her pattern was too heavy decided to simply add an additional element using one of the features on an existing ready cut stencil … quite a novel idea, some small squares created the most beautiful fritillary effect on her tulip.
5’o clock arrived so quickly and it was time to clean brushes.. an essential skill to any good craftperson and go home. All very satisfied left with their creation and their kit (knife, cutting mat, brushes) ready for more good work. I certainly hope that they will keep their stencilling going.
Here are a few example of their work … what do you think?
If you would like to attend a stencilling workshop, and use your creativity, check my workshop list here you might find one near you. But don’t hesitate to be in touch as I can organise workshop in your area (firstname.lastname@example.org)