Monday, 28 September 2015

William meets the 'Morris Maids'!

A small group of us meet monthly here in Adelaide and we are fondly known as the 'Morris Maids'…not sure William Morris would have approved of the name but it is now stuck! I also know there is a group that meet in Canberra but I can't quite recall their title…..maybe 'Will's or Bill's Girls' or something like that! Anyway last Friday twenty of us had a special day together and first stop was to meet the wonderful Robert Reason from the Art Gallery of South Australia. His official title is 'Curator of European and Decorative Arts' and I for one am most grateful for his generous time and knowledge of all things William Morris. (I was very sad to hear that he is leaving this week for a new position of Senior Curator at the David Roche Foundation. It will be exciting to see so many treasures on display in the new Museum next year including Faberge of Russia pieces!) So for one last time we had the privilege of seeing some Art Gallery pieces brought out of storage especially by Robert……
 Each of us received printed information and lots of facts and it was fascinating to hear again the different processes of textile printing and dying. We were all amazed that the colours are still so vivid especially the textiles that were discharge dyed with a bleach paste so long ago……...

Carolyn….maybe not because I can see both Carolyns in the photo…..'someone' borrowed my camera just to prove I was actually there!……..
 The embroidered Acanthus Portiere is one of my favourite pieces and every time I see it I find new stitches. It was actually designed by John Henry Dearle (1859-1942) and embroidered by Mary Isobel Barr Smith of Adelaide (1863-1941). She was one of Robert Barr Smith's daughters and it was Robert and his wife Joanna who became the biggest international client of Morris and Co.………. 

 This design is now available as a plush and very divine curtain fabric from Morris and Co and it is called 'Mary Isobel' after our very own Mary Isobel Barr Smith….I just wish that Morris and Co would put that fact on their website and that she also came from South Australia (!!)……..

This embroidered silk table cover was thought to be designed by May Morris as an exclusive and "one off" piece, especially for Joanna Barr Smith and possibly as a thank-you for her patronage. May called the design 'Australia' so it is indeed a very special part of the collection……. 

 The Art Gallery served us coffee in the sun filled courtyard and then it was a brief visit to the Morris room to view some more treasures especially the Adoration of the Magi tapestry……..

 A short drive and we were able to see the Adoration design again but this time in the form of stained glass at St Augustines. This was one of the very last stained glass commissions that Morris and Co did before the business changed hands in 1940……….

 The weather was perfect as we headed to our lunch stop……….

 Our final call was Carrick Hill where our guide Beth filled us with more knowledge. Carrick Hill was built by Robert and Joanna Barr Smith's granddaughter Ursula who married Sir Edward (Bill) Hayward…….

 The couple collected valuable art and sculptures including sculptures by Sir Jacob Epstein and many paintings by Augustus JohnPaul GauguinStanley Spencer and my favourite - the flowers of Pierre-Joseph Redoute. The house is also full of 16th-17th century furniture and some special pieces of Lalique as well……...

 The dining room windows are draped in Morris curtains and the furniture is 16th-17th century…….

 And then of course the stunningly beautiful silk tri-fold embroidered screen, again stitched by Mary Isobel…….

 Finally an afternoon coffee where we pondered on how the last seven hours had gone so fast…..
 On the home front I am preparing for the long drive to Melbourne where I am teaching at the inaugural Applique Guild of Australia's Academy. So yesterday we thought it would be nice to have a few hours with the little ones and they were thrilled with the new sand pit, especially Beau……….

On a  final note the wonder of that little girl as she hears new sounds with her new hearing aid….this was a bird in the tree overhead while eating her favourite noodles………..

Hope all is well in your part of the world x


  1. How wonderful to see all those lovely Morris treasures in Adelaide. Enjoy your time teaching in Melbourne.

  2. Another wonderful post of your travels. It is always so intereting and informative when you write. Look forward to photos of the Academy. All is well here - we are so looking forward to Fall. This morning it actually felt cool for a change.


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