Over the years I have participated in a variety of group projects, many of these associated with the Westhope Group – see www.westhopegroup.org.uk Charlie was involved in several of the Westhope Group exhibitions and also in Lace Gone Wild – an outdoor exhibition staged by my local group – Northumbria Lacemakers – in the grounds of Wallington Hall, a National Trust property in Northumberland.
|Charlie and Friends |
I am a member of the Westhope Group founded three decades ago following the establishment of a City and Guilds Lace qualification. It is a small group drawn from all over the UK with numbers restricted by the number of beds at Westhope College (a craft college in Shropshire) where we meet once a year. See westhopegroup.org.uk and westhope.org.uk Every few years we decide on a theme for an exhibition of our work which we aim to show at two or more venues. Charlie arrived in response to the exhibition theme of Divergence and was displayed at the 2008 Knitting and Stitching shows in Birmingham, London and Harrogate and as part of the Group’s exhibition at the Castle Arts Centre in Frodsham in 2009. Between exhibitions Charlie overwintered on the garage wall and spent his summer in the garden.
Charlie was quite large (90cm long) inspired by Charles Darwin’s observations on the divergence of characteristics to be found in otherwise similar species on the Galapagos Islands, in particular the giant tortoises. The framework was a garden mesh, with head and feet darned like filet lace with thick wool from Castle Milk Moritz sheep. The shell was an opportunity to experiment with a range of bobbin lace stitches using a variety of thick threads from raffia to novelty knitting yarns.
Alongside Charlie at the Knitting and Stitching shows were fourteen little tortoises made using a variety of lace and lace-related techniques.
Six of the fourteen small tortoises Bottom left is Primo the first of the tortoises I made, and the only one to copy in detail the shell of a real animal, worked entirely in corded buttonhole stitch (10cm long) Above Primo is Bob, worked in copper wire over a polystyrene egg starting in the middle and working outwards in Torchon ground with ends of the wire making the head and feet. Then there is Felkin named after the author of the classic book on machine laces, constructed from the round bobbins of a bobbinet machine, with feet of hooks from a knitting machine. The large black tortoise is Carrie, her 18cm x 20cm shell is Carrickmacross worked with a black glittery fabric couched over fine net, unwanted fabric cut away and spaces filled with a variety of embroidery stitches. The little tortoises at the back are Celia and Fred
Charlie was never intended as an outdoor animal so I was rather surprised when a Westhope Group member suggested he should be part of our next exhibition – Inside Out – which was planned to overwinter the grounds of Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton. The weather was kind to us when we staged the exhibition in the first week of November of 2010, but went rapidly downhill – do you remember the cold and snow we had that November? Most of the exhibits, including Charlie, survived with little damage until the exhibition was taken down in April to make way for the summer bedding plants. Charlie clung to a trellis at the Stockwood Centre, while the little tortoises were displayed indoors at Wardown House, the other Luton museum.
Charlie returned to his home in Northumberland and was definitely showing his age, with a faded and algae-covered shell.
He had one final outing, in May 2015 as part of the Lace Gone Wild exhibition staged along one of the Woodland Walks on the Wallington Hall Estate, a NT property in Northumberland.