I’ve cranked out scads of lovely 18-inch Elizabeth Bradley Berlinwork pillows, but none were as coveted as the Inglenook Textiles creation that I just added to my collection of handmade needlework cushions.
My yearning to make one of these pillows began in the summer of 2003, when I was nuts about Dard Hunter.
Hunter, who lived from 1883 to 1966, was a skilled Ohio craftsman who contributed his talents in design, printing and papermaking to the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
After learning about Hunter in the Rare Book Librarianship course I took that summer, I spent my lunch hours at the Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library poring over his limited-edition books on papermaking that he printed by hand on handmade paper, using hand-cast type. Seeing the title page and historiated initials he designed in 1905 for a copy of Rip Van Winkle prompted a pilgrimage to East Aurora, New York that August to see the Roycroft artist colony where he began his career.
My Dard Hunter summer culminated with writing “Grandson Reproducing Historic Designs,” the cover story of the August 22, 2003 issue of Business First’s special publication, Homefront. My article focused on Dard Hunter III, who creates and sells products bearing his grandfather’s original designs at Mountain House, his grandfather’s circa-1850 Chillicothe home and studio.
While researching the story, I made an intriguing discovery. Every February, an Arts & Crafts conference takes place at the Grove Park Inn, the Asheville, North Carolina resort that’s one of my favorite vacation destinations. Some conference-goers arrive early for workshops on Arts & Crafts-style coppersmithing, jewelrymaking, art pottery, printmaking and landscape design. Others extend their stay to embroider with Anne Chaves, owner of Inglenook Textiles in Pasadena, California, who designs kits for pillows, table runners, and clothing and accessories in authentic Arts & Crafts designs. Oh, how I wanted to attend, and bring home an embroidered Inglenook Textiles creation!
The Grove Park Inn is just one entry on my list of Arts & Crafts-themed travel destinations. You see, I’m also besotted with William Morris, the Englishman who not only wrote and hand-printed books of prose and poetry, but also designed wallpapers, textiles, and other decorative objects. Besides being a leading figure of the Aesthetic Movement, he was also associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters who were inspired by nature and medieval art to create detailed, brilliantly colored works.
At London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, I soaked up the Aesthetic atmosphere of the Green Dining Room, which Morris designed in 1866-1867. Beneath a patterned, gilded ceiling, blue paneling on a green wall is adorned with leaves, branches and berries. Stained-glass windows depict women holding garlands of flowers, while a frieze shows dogs chasing hares.
At the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., I spent hours admiring every inch of the 1997 survey exhibition, The Victorians: British Painting in the Age of Queen Victoria, and The Pre-Raphaelite Lens: British Photography and Painting, 1848-1875, in 2010. For Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, on view there earlier this year, its companion catalogue was my virtual admission ticket to the exhibition. When I read that the exhibition included a bed pelmet, bed curtains and a bedspread embroidered by May Morris, William’s daughter, I thought about that Inglenook Textiles embroidery workshop again.
Not long after that, the mailman delivered an extra-special surprise. After reading about my “Marigold”-lined Morris Utility Jacket, a Sweet Briar friend sent me an embroidery kit that the National Gallery of Art’s shop was selling in conjunction with the exhibition. Called “The Beauty of Life: William Morris & the Art of Design,” the kit complemented a 2003-2004 exhibition of the same title at The Huntington in San Marino, California. It was designed by Inglenook Textiles.
Threading my needle with six shades of luxurious silk yarn from Treenway Silks, I used the satin stitch, stem stitch and trellis stitch to embroider roses, leaves and vines on linen. Watching the shimmering design take shape was a much-anticipated treat after a long day.
I still want to attend the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference someday. Until I do, I’ll think about Dard Hunter, William Morris, and my thoughtful friend every time I plump up this special pillow.