Replacing heritage

I was delighted this week to receive a piece for my blog written by John Moyle who tells me he has recently started to write of his experiences of the carpet industry for his University of the Third Age [U3A] Creative Writers’ Group, and also for the benefit of his grandchildren. You will find his very interesting piece on the Your Stories page.  Many thanks, John.

On May 18th I was inspired to write a poem after a short tour organised by Kidderminster Civic Society. Here it is together with a few snapshots by way of illustration.

Replacing heritage

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(Record of a Kidderminster Civic Society tour led by Nigel Gilbert)

From telling ivyed wall of dyer Watson,
rutted cobbles remembering wheels,
incongruous mountain bike, eyebrowed
by eighteenth century arches,
Church Street chopped,
the congregation stopped,

turned back to Arch Hill rise,
closed eyes the only way to see
the manor house demolished 1753,
the site of the town’s first Spool Axminster loom
and rows of weavers’ cottages
discarded far more recently, their memory lost

in retirement homes. But some remember
Bread Street and Milk Street, and others know
that Orchard Street was very briefly Fish Street,
that Paddock Street was once misnamed as Haddock Street!
That Rack Hill took its name from racks
of dyed and drying Kidderminster cloth.

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And where did all the waste go? Into the Stour.
And where did all the heritage go? Carried away
in a frenzy of tidying, elbowing Baxter from Bull Ring,
bullying listed dwellings to rubble.

And now we grimace and glower
at the grubby “entirely self cleansing” tower
of 1960s strength, and cheer with revenge in our eyes
at the news of Crown House’s imminent demise.

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© Heather Wastie
May 2013

For further information about writer and historian Nigel Gilbert see http://nigelgilbert.co.uk. My poem will appear on his website soon and also in the Kidderminster Civic Society Newsletter – see http://www.kidcivicsoc.org.uk for information.

Young people’s writing

3 young people came along to my workshop yesterday and showed their writing talents. I asked them to write about their ideal / fantasy carpet, describing it by referring to their senses and was very pleased with the results:

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Abigail Wareham drafted a poem, and when I suggested she wrote it out again, she edited it and created a piece of visual art. I really like the poem and the way it works on the page. My favourite bits are “tickle my ankle”, “making me feel like I’m jumping every step” and “My hands brush the stringy cotton texture, / skimming the choppy top.”

Here’s a very different poem written by Hannah Coley. I like the neatness of it and that there are 5 lines in each stanza. I love the way she uses the carpet to give a snapshot of a relationship. My favourite bits are “Hours of design and colour” and the last line ……

A thousand weaving yarns.
Into one metre of carpet.
Millions of designs.
for you to choose one,
for a room of your choice.

Carpet unnoticed by your husband,
your hard work gone to waste,
Hours of design and colour,
To make your house and home,
Her friend will notice.

Hannah Coley

Reece Griffiths started by drawing a pattern.

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Here’s his poem:

My favourite carpet

I bought this carpet a few weeks ago,
no colour as white as snow
smooth and soft touch to the toe

Stumbling past I stopped and relaxed
noticing how soft, I stayed in a comforted stance
more like a trance

Reece Griffiths

I like the rhyme pattern in Reece’s poem. My favourite lines are “smooth and soft touch to the toe”, “Stumbling past I stopped and relaxed”. I like the sound of this carpet!

 

Persian design and a guest poet

There are 2 contrasting poems in my blog this week. I wrote Persian design after becoming fascinated by the way carpet designers used Persian motifs as inspiration. Mick Lowe showed me some of the books designers worked from and described how traditional motifs were interpreted in a more contemporary way by placing them on a “highlighted ground” which made them stand out. I decided I would like to do a similar thing with words and ended up making a ‘found’ poem which takes elements from several sources and juxtaposes them with very little alteration.

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I shared a draft of the poem at my workshop last Friday and the comments helped me improve it. I hope I gave plenty of inspiration in return! The feedback was good anyway from the 2 people who came along. It would be good to have a few more participants for my next one on Thursday June 6th. For details of this and a day workshop on June 9th, do have a look at the Workshops page.

There is one line in this poem, “The length of the line …”, which is deliberately longer than the others but the formatting of the blog shifts the last word to the next line. I can’t see a way of changing it unfortunately.

Persian design
a found poem

In the time that can be spared
from the constant battle for survival
the women and girls of the tribes weave carpets

Oasis to oasis
water hole to water hole
grassland to grassland

“I learned reading and writing
from the Akhund of the village where I was born.
He used to run after me through alleyways,
catch me, tie my thin feet to rough, thorny trees
and beat me with long canes. He had made a scroll
by pasting together letters written by peasants to their relatives.
He ordered me to learn the whole scroll by heart.”

The length of the line should be determined by the depth of the thought

He took poetry out of the court, into the streets,
added colour and flavour to his compositions
by using the natural speech of the people.

Oasis to oasis
water hole to water hole
grassland to grassland

Each tribe had a different motif,
the signature of the village.
Rather than slavishly copying,
we took elements and placed them
on highlighted ground, light to dark
maybe a set of reds,
as if a light shone from behind.

Half drop, stagger, amplify.

Oasis to oasis
water hole to water hole
grassland to grassland

Hey, you over there
The moon beams
the glow worm glows
Yellow hasn’t become red for no reason

© Heather Wastie
May 2013

Sources:

Book in Museum of Carpet Library: Oriental Rugs vol 2 Persian, Erich Aschenbrenner

Iran Chamber Society website – Persian Language & Literature – Nima Yoshij  http://www.iranchamber.com/literature/nyoshij/nima_yoshij.php

Interview with Mick Lowe, Museum of Carpet volunteer, who worked as a designer and won the carpet section of the 1969 RSA competition for industrial designers

First lines from 3 poems by Nima Yoshij – Hey, People, Moonlight and Snow

I run a monthly spoken word and music night called Mouth and Music. This month, we featured a brilliant poet from Manchester, Dominic Berry, and I managed to arrange a free visit to the Museum in exchange for a new poem from him. Dominic asked for feedback on his piece by posting it on Facebook, prompting lots of discussion about punctuation in poetry. When writing poems it’s important to give a lot of thought to line breaks and punctuation so that the flow continues, pauses or halts in the way you would like it to, whether read aloud or for the visual effect on the page. Dominic gave me permission to remove one of his commas if I wanted to. I’m honoured! In the end I left it in because I changed my mind and decided it was necessary after all.

I really like this poem and have found something new each time I have read it. A big thank you to Dominic. Do have a look at his website to find out more about his work.

DRAW BOY’S VILLANELLE

I like my work and do as I am told.
For every carpet colour, there’s a dye.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

Became a full time draw boy, twelve years old.
I followed Father in, my head held high.
I like my work and do as I am told.

Bring Mother money from each carpet sold.
Ten pence a yard. I look her in the eye.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

At Sunday School I’m quiet. I’m controlled.
I pray to God and wait for a reply.
I like my work and do as I am told.

As Father fights bare knuckle in the cold
outside the pub, I stare up at the sky.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

The carpets, red and green and black and gold,
I hear my Father shout, my Mother cry.
I like my work and do as I am told.
The brilliant blue is something to behold.

© Dominic Berry

May 2013
http://dominicberry.net

Colour grinding

I’ve been grinding away at this poem ever since I interviewed Heather Goodwin on 22nd April, and I’ve decided it’s time to post it! I don’t know whether or not it’s finished. Many of the pieces I write will be published in a book and some of them will be changed when I get to that stage and see them afresh. On Friday morning I will be running a writing workshop and pieces written as a result may also be included in the book. We will be using archive films as inspiration by attending the Museum’s monthly Reel Stories before the workshop. No previous writing experience is necessary so do come and join me if you can. Full details are on the Workshops page.

Colour grinding 1956
for Heather Goodwin

“Fancy a sweet?”
a packet of pebbles, like pieces of amber:
gum arabic, strained through muslin
with boiling water. Kept in a jar.
To stop the colours from rubbing off.

Just a touch added to paint on a marble slab
(not too much or it comes out black)
grind it with a palette knife or painstakingly
round and round with a marble muller,
smooth out the grit.

Colours in sets, from light to dark
to shade the leaves and delicate flowers.
Testing my gamut, the senior designer
presses his knuckles across the card.
I’m hoping that it won’t rub off!

Fifty years on, Carpet Trades
is Sainsbury’s.
I’m looking for paint in a DIY shop.
I know my colours.
It never rubbed off.

© Heather Wastie
April 2013

Thanks also to Sandra Ash and Mick Lowe for additional information used in this poem.

Heather (on the left in the photo with Sandra Ash) went on to become a Senior Designer and won the Royal Society of Arts Carpet Bursary in 1962. Goya was one of her designs, inspired by the image of a flamenco dancer. She now works as a volunteer at the Museum of Carpet.

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Goya

Straight Lines, Shoddy and a Grizzly Bear

Last Friday, White Raven Films came in to the Museum to get some footage of me at work and film one of the songs I’ve written. It turns out that Bazz, the producer, once worked in the industry himself so I ended up writing a poem for him! See below. This is a bumper blog as it contains 3 pieces. The first paraphrases a conversation with Sandra, who worked in a Design Studio and is now a Museum volunteer:

Straight Lines

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for Sandra Ash (pictured below right)

When I left school in 1961 I wrote to several carpet factories in search of a job in a Design Studio – all but one replied to say they didn’t employ girls. Woodward Grosvenor gave me an interview (on a Saturday!) and I got the job. The first thing I had to do when I was training to be a copyist was paint straight lines freehand on graph paper.

Everything was very formal. You would never address any of the senior staff by their first names. When I’d finished painting a design, the Head Designer Mr Humphries would take me down to the showroom to show the design to the directors. A design was known as a body, and Mr Humphries would say, “Put your body on the floor.” There was one director who would stand astride the design and look between his legs for straight lines. When a pattern was repeated you had to avoid what they called “tram lines”. I was always very nervous but the directors were hilarious!

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The photo above shows a carpet design on graph paper. This kind of design is intended to have straight lines but accidental ones were not allowed.

 

 

The Carpet Grizzly Bear
for Bazz Hancher

Have you seen the carpet grizzly bear:
a greasy neanderthal covered in hair,
a slimy yeti
in woolly confetti
crawling out from his oily lair?

A hairy monster wielding a gun,
attacking the loom when the shift is done,
covered in flights,
a terrible sight,
unrecognisable to his mum. 

© Heather Wastie
May 2013

Bazz described himself as a “Carpet Grizzly Bear”, after he’d done the job of cleaning the loom with an air gun. It was well paid overtime at £40 for an hour’s work. When I talked to Bernie today he told me he used to try to finish the job in under an hour so he could get to the pub before they finished serving!

Finally here’s a poem I wrote very quickly after speaking to Bernie this morning and also to Trevor. He was a Farm Manager and has done a lot of voluntary work at the Museum including painting the fire truck in the photo below. It follows on nicely from the Grizzly Bear poem. Trevor wrote the last 3 words.

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for Trevor Roberts

It was shoddy, it was waste,
woollen flights all over the place –
scrunch them up to clean the tray
or bag them up to be taken away
for ploughing into fields of beet
to hold the moisture at its feet.

© Heather Wastie
May 2013