Last night I gave my talk on Laura Ashley to the Broughton Gifford Quilters in Wiltshire. We drove down endless dark country lanes, watching out for headless riders and the like, but the venue turned out to be behind a great pub called The Fox, which did the best fish and chips we’ve had for some time. I was glad the Medieval Historian agreed to come with me because even with satnav I think I would have lost my nerve going home when the fog had become really dense.
That aside, it was a really interesting night because they had prepared a bit for my talk. They had been asked to bring any Laura Ashley things they had along to the meeting, and that was a real treat for me. Two women brought wonderful full-size hexagon quilts made over papers in the English method, made from the 50p bit bags. I like to try to get the maker into the photo if I can. The first quilt is at the top of the post, this is the other one:
Again, the photos aren’t great because I was using my phone is less than perfect lighting, but you can see enough to get the point. Another woman brought a lovely brown skirt with wonderful pocket details which looked like a faux apron:
This is a close up of the fabric – which is actually a rich brown rather than the sepia it came out as:
Terrible photo, but it shows the little flower print.
This was a group of lavender bags that another woman’s daughter had made for a family party:
The heraldic print the front is one of my favourites and the Indian woodblock print design at the top right is a very early print. These are real vintage fabrics.
I also gathered more wonderful stories and one woman had even written hers down for me. I was stunned by this amount of generosity, but also by the delight that this work seems to bring to people. It is a kind of memory work, very much based on a material stimulus, and also associated directly with a brand, which I think makes it unusual in academic work on memory and life writing. It is also a form of oral social history, which would be worth exploring, as again, it concerns a brand. I will have to consult the Medieval Historian about this. So, it is an interesting methodological project, but I am also delighted that the people who tell me there stories or show me their treasures get to enjoy being involved with the work. This really does feel like work for and with and not on people. Roll on the next talk!