‘Rose and Fern’

jean 2:2

jean monro 3:3

jean 4:4

jean monro 5:5

Out photographing and in need of a pair of scissors we headed to the nearest high street, eyes peeled for a convenient shop to run in to.

“Is that a haberdashery over there?” Doug’s query throwing us in to a surreal, other worldy moment.

Only because the joy I have spoken of whenever my mother mentioned she needed fabric, thread or some other sewing item, does Daisy know what a haberdashery is. One of my favourite outings as a child, I would happily spend hours while my mother searched out her items, dreaming up ideas as most likely was she, of what could be done with what. What possibilities there were…

The day of the local haberdashery, hardware and corner shop is almost entirely gone. We have become accustomed to the ‘super store’ with their big, white, stark interiors and barn-like exterior – barn an undeserved compliment to their appearance. The fluorescent lighting, wide aisles and mass produced goods. The faint chemical odour. They do not stimulate my imagination, they do not excite me or have me longing for the next visit…they simply serve a purpose for which I rush to and away from.

I often wonder how using our hands less is impacting the world. How factories, where a product can be manufactured entirely untouched by the human hand are now commonplace. Are we becoming more clever, more imaginative through these ‘advances’? Or is it merely a clever, more imaginative way of making more money? Will we be pleased with how we contributed to the future through these advances in the times ahead? Or might we wish we thought it through, perhaps wishing we took more responsibility toward the outcome?

Will we regret not supporting the ‘little guys’?

Sitting here, ‘Rose and Fern’ in front of me, I think on all the work involved in the making of this fabric. The design, dating from 1859, its strong cobalt blue, pinks, greens, is hand-blocked with 85 applications for every pattern repeat. To briefly explain this process, the fabric is stretched out on a table up to 50 meters in length (roll size) and each repeat is hand printed with engraved wooden blocks. As each layer dries, a clean block of another tone, colour or design is added, one on top of the other to create the detail and different layers to the pattern.

I imagine those layers individually peeling away like old paint. Block after block, colour after colour. Each a partial and imperitive piece of the design. As Jean Monro say on their website …”no modern printing method can replicate this”. Thats it…said in one!

My sadness is that day to day we see so much of “the other”. The simple, cheap and mass produced. And then as time goes by do we stop expecting more? I have often thought to myself, why, when the world is moving so fast and far ahead,  is so much so underwhelming.

As human hands become less a part of creating, of actual making, does this then chip away at the level of our personal capability? Does it chip at our imagination? Is it doing the opposite of what we might hope for… what should be?

I am so often inspired by the bravery and commitment of the companies we work with. I want to see amazing! I want to feel the joy of seeing incredible works. I want to be overwhelmed. I think of ‘old fashioned’ Doug and his haberdashery comment. I miss the days of the little local shops crammed full of their goods. Those little shops inspired thoughts, imagination and creation. Am I perhaps too sentimental?

Sitting here tonight, looking at Rose and Fern, for me this has nothing to do with old fashioned or sentimental and everything to do with what we might lose if we stop supporting something. How time moves quickly and there can be little chance to grab back what might, more rapidly than we imagine, slip away.

I love the look of old peeling paint, revealing times, eras, fashions gone by. Like peeling layers of old paint, ‘Rose and Fern’ reveals something wonderful through each layer upon layer, something that only time and people can produce.

Thanks to companies such as Jean Monro, Bennison and others, we can still find fabric produced almost entirely by hand. I don’t ever want that to slip away.


Photos taken in Bristol, England.

Below – my favourite house in Bristol

Bristol fave house


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