The first of the ‘Enamels on Tour’ public consultation events for the Georgian Enamels: Piecing together a new narrative project, took place last night. 20 members of the ‘Friends of Bantock House Museum’ group braved the wet and windy weather to enjoy a glass of wine and mince pie, learn about some of the Bilston enamel objects and contribute ideas to the project.
The session was lead by Bantock House Museum Curator/Manager Helen Steatham and myself. I opened the proceedings, setting the context for the project by giving an over view of my craft practice, using images and some physical examples of past enamel work before going on to describe the project, its aims and ambitions; the use of the enamel fragments held in the Wolverhampton City Council’s collection to tell narratives connecting the Georgian period and the present day, both real and imagined. Following this Helen focused on the historic enamel fragments that we had previously selected. She gave the visitors a wonderful insight into Georgian life, painting a picture of society’s emerging fascination with celebrities, its use of objects to portray social status, flamboyance in fashion, Dandyism and a fixation with etiquette, all juxtaposed with stories of smelly bodies, bad breath, flirting and snuff snorting!
Donning latex/cotton gloves and under close supervision members of the public were invited to carefully handle the selected enamel objects, and with Helen’s picture of Georgian Britain fully in their minds, to consider starting points for narratives for the project and record their ideas on paper.
The session was set up to allow a series of dialogues to take place, between the member of the public (the viewer of the object) and the historic object and between the public, craftsmaker and curator. The Friends explored, peered at and discussed the damaged objects within the historic and contemporary context described to them, reflecting on what the objects might have been? Who owned them? What relevance they had to them? And what story they could tell? The result was the creation of a series of starting points ranging from stories of forbidden love, to imagined fascinators worn by ‘Snuffy Charlotte’.
Members said on the session:
“A very enjoyable and thought provoking event which will lead to wonderful creations linking old and new in an imaginative way”
These ideas will be taken forward and form the basis of the work to be made, the project has started!