One of the joys of being the curator of costumes here is that as well as pieces which have been beautifully kept, we also get what I love to think of as ‘orphans of the storm’. That is to say, pieces that people have kept despite them having been hugely damaged at some point in their previous lives. We have several pieces like this, one of the ones which is intriguing is a lady who said ‘I have brought you this brown paper parcel, wich you can do whatever you want with‘. On opening it, we found the remnants of an absolutely beautiful very early Kashmir shawl – ‘my husband was an art teacher‘, she said, ‘and one of his exercises for primary children was to get them to bring a piece of material or textile, which they could then, in one of his classes, paint over. This particular year, one of the pupils turned up with a parcel and said: this is from my granny for me to paint on. My husband almost choked: in it was the said Kashmir shawl. I don’t think so, son, he said, and gave the boy a scrap of cotton to paint on. After the class, he said to the pupil: take this back to your grandmother, and say thank you very much but it’s not quite what we were looking for on this occasion. The next day, the boy came back and said ‘my granny doesnae want it, dae whit you like with it’. Unable to think of what he could do with it, he brought it home and put it in the attic. Twenty years later I am faced with clearing the house, and we still don’t know what to do with it, but a friend suggested we bring it to you’. So I thanked them, did the paperwork, and opened the parcel.
Gossamer fine, it is probably sadly beyond repair, but it awaits conservation and repair, if possible, at the hands of Madame Picard, or Rachel as we call her, our conservatrice extraordinaire!
In the meantime, we are celebrating literally with a bottle of champagne and glasses all round the completion of what also threatened to be an impossible task. Several years ago, a lady from Maybole or thereabouts brought the most amazing lace bed cover, which she had acquired from her grandmother, whom she believed was responsible for creating it. In the meantime, it had fallen upon hard times and the first photograph shows its potential beauty, if only we could repair the all too frequent damage.
After seeing it mounted temporarily like the photograph above, Rachel announced that she would repair it. So after many discussions and differences of opinion, which you may like to comment on, she began …. I think it was made by hand, Madame says no, it is machine made, and then assembled by hand. But, I finally ask myself, does it really matter? When it is just beautiful to look at. So anyway she began, and after six months of not constant work but enough to fill five days a week on and off, Rachel finally after what was for us watching absolutely astonishing skills, she announced that it was complete.
And we are delighted to be able to show you the newly repaired bedspread. Another treasure saved.