To all Friends of Mountmellick .Embroidery Museum.
Welcome again and thank you for joining us on week ten of our Covid Journey. Hoping that you are all staying safe and at this stage planning your post Covid activities, as our restrictions are thankfully easing. This week I am delighted to hand over to two stalwarts of our MDA Board / Museum Committee, who have contributed so much over the years to our development, Marie Walsh who completed the forward and Pat Dalton who authored the main article. Enjoy the read, join us again next week.
Over to you Marie and Pat.
Ann Dowling ( Chairperson Museum Committee)
Introduction by Marie Walsh, Museum Committee Secretary
Dear Readers, welcome to this week's Museum article entitled 'When the World famous Quaker Tapestry came to Mountmellick', written by Pat Dalton, MDA. Director. This is article no.10, and I must thank you all for your weekly support and great response .
By way of introduction to Pat's article, I am referring to four books published by Quaker Tapestry, Friends Meeting House, Stramongate, Kendal, Cumbria, U.K., which I purchased at the Exhibition in Mountmellick in 2013, so I hope all the information is accurate and of course some great memories have inspired too.
The Quaker Tapestry came into being as a result of a chance remark by an eleven year old boy, Jonathan Stocks, attending a small Quaker Meeting in the south-west of England in 1981. The original intention was for the children to make a long scroll depicting some of the stories of the first Quakers. Jonathan thought this was going to be another Sunday morning colouring activity and asked, " can't we do something more exciting? like mosaic or collage?" The remark was made to his teacher Anne Wynn-Wilson, who was an accomplished embroiderer. At that time Anne was completing her City and Guilds embroidery thesis on the 11th century crewel embroidery, the Bayeux Tapestry. She then designed an embroidery scheme that would incorporate elements of the Bayeux within the Quaker Tapestry. Jonathan had thrown the first pebble in the pond that January morning in 1981 and the ripple continues today. Anne had the vision of a number of large tapestry panels telling something of the Quaker story. In 1982 she mounted a display of work in progress and her ideas and determination aroused an enthusiastic response from many Quakers. As a result designers came forward, embroidery groups were formed and training workshops were arranged. Enthusiasm for the project spread and more than 4,000 men, women and children in 15 countries ' had a hand' in the creation of the Quaker Tapestry. Completed in 1996, the result is 77 panels of narrative 'crewel' embroidery on specially woven wool cloth made in Somerset by weavers Talbot Potter and John Lennon. The colour was based on local stone, known as 'Quantock' sandstone. Nine different shades of wool were woven using random warp to produce a subtle stripe. The stripe and weave produced a guide to keep the line of the lettering and buildings straight, with each panel measuring 25" (635mm) by 21" (533mm). It is a testament to the passion and shared sense of community of an amazing group of people. The book, Living Threads, Making the Quaker Tapestry by Jennie Levin , says and I quote ' Living Threads is dedicated to Anne Wynn-Wilson, founder of The Quaker Tapestry, who died suddenly on 13 October 1998, aged 72. It was her vision, inspiration, devotion, and generosity in giving 15 years of her life to travelling in the ministry with this work that made it possible for thousands of others to contribute to it, enjoy it and learn from it. Thank you Anne.'
As Pat will tell you in 2013 part of the collection arrived for exhibition in Mountmellick from its permanent home in Kendal under the management of Bridget Guest. Bridget has a degree in Art and Design and Post Grad. in Education in Art/Design and Textiles. She began working with The Quaker Tapestry in 1994 and has been teaching the embroidery workshops since 1996. Some Quaker ladies also came as volunteers to help with the exhibition and tell the Quaker story. I was delighted to have two of these ladies stay in my home with me for the duration, Dr. Audrey Nunn, and Grace Blaker . Both remarkable ladies and I am happy to say we have kept in touch since.
I hope you all enjoy the photographs of some of the collection and to all who volunteered during the exhibition many thanks again and enjoy this trip down memory lane.I will conclude with a quotation by Anne Wynn-Wilson..." The chief attribute of a good embroiderer is love ".
Best Regards to you all and stay safe,
I now hand you over to Pat.
When the World-famous Quaker Tapestry came to Mountmellick
The globally acclaimed Quaker Tapestry is the largest community tapestry in the world and has it’s permanent home in the Quaker Tapestry Centre in Kendal, Cumbria, UK. It consists of 77 vibrant embroidered panels depicting the journey of Quaker influence on the modern world and exploring: The Industrial Revolution, Developments in Science and Medicine, Astronomy, The abolition of Slavery, Social Reform, and Ecology. The detail of the stunning needlework, the luminous rainbow colouring and the craftsmanship involved in it’s creation has been universally recognised as fine art of excellence. The panels were made by 4,000 men women and children from 15 countries between 1981 and 1996 and 40 of these are on permanent display in the Kendal Museum.
The Tapestry Roadshow has toured major cities in the UK and previously visited Ireland in 1993 at venues in Dublin and Waterford. Subsequently it became an ambition of the MDA Board to bring this distinguished art collection to Mountmellick to reaffirm the town’s Quaker Heritage. Over the following years, tentative contacts with the UK Centre, concluded that the costs and logistics involved were prohibitive and beyond the resources of a small voluntary organisation. Significantly, in October 2012 two events coincided to change this view. The Quaker Centre contacted MDA to determine if the interest was still there to mount the exhibition and financial support was announced by Laois County Council for approved local events, designed to attract both Irish and overseas visitors, under the heading of “The Gathering”. An MDA application for funding was approved by LCC in January 2013 as one of two “flagship” events for the County and immediately the wheels were set in motion to realise the dream.
The Museum Sub-committee took on the role of Project Management and co-ordinated the planning, organisation and control of activities. Exhibition dates and duration were fixed for July 27th to August 10th 2013, and a timeline was set out for – Training of organisers in Event Management, Social Media and Tourism Sales, Appointment of 2 PR Specialists, Expansion of the Sub-committee to include other local groups, Recruitment and Induction of Volunteers, Official Launch, Erection of Tapestry Exhibits, Official Opening, Exhibition daily programme, Fringe events, Formal Closing and Dissembling of Exhibition.
The scale of the project and the wide range of activities involved, presented a formidable challenge to the organising committee. The over-riding objective was to ensure a friendly, absorbing, safe and enjoyable experience for visitors and patrons. The evidence of feedback from many sources subsequently, confirmed that this objective was resoundingly achieved and that the smoothness of operation and attention to detail, proved to be a feat of organisational excellence. Visitors remarked on the warmth of the welcome and helpful guidance, right from the car park, along the free-flow exhibition trail, through the shop and peripheral areas. There were no complaints or accidents reported.
The Exhibition was launched on the 14th of June by the British Ambassador Mr Dominick Chilcott, and achieved it’s primary objective of generating widespread publicity for the event. The Official Opening took place on 26th July to a packed audience including the UK curators, Representatives of Laois County Council, Bord Failte, The Friends Meeting Headquarters in Dublin, Local Councillors and members of the local community. The gathering created a palpable buzz and sense of excitement around the project with song and story, good humoured banter and personal interaction pervading.
Over the 15 days of the Exhibition 3,000 visitors were recorded, of whom 220 came from overseas, including Quakers from all around Ireland, the UK and USA. They had a unique opportunity to appreciate the beauty and master craftsmanship of the Tapestries alongside the permanent exhibition of Mountmellick Embroidery, both with their common origins in the ethos of Quaker Culture.
The Fringe Programme provided further experiences for patrons such as Demonstrations and Master Classes in both Tapestry and Embroidery Stitching, Genealogy tracing from heritage records, Audio Visual history of the Quakers in Mountmellick, Walking Tours of Mountmellick Heritage Trail, and Craft Shop, all of which were widely availed of.
A highlight of the second week was the presentation to the Museum of a first edition copy of the prestigious Edmundson Journal. William Edmundson is commonly known as the “Father” of Quakerism in Ireland. He came from England as a member Cromwell’s army and stayed on in Lisburn before settling with friends in Rosenalis and established the first Quaker Meeting House in Mountmellick in 1649. He travelled widely in Europe and America lecturing and debating on the beliefs and ways of life of the Quaker philosophy, while writing his “Journal of the Life, Travels, Suffering and Labour of Love”. The hand-over of this Journal was made by James Edmundson, a multi generation descendent of the author, who travelled from the USA especially for the occasion. On the same occasion Mr Ross Chapman, a descendant of Sarah Jane Potts, a student of the Quaker School in Mountmellick presented a fist edition copy of “ The Friends of the Provincial School Mountmellick - Centenary Celebrations” The ceremony was intimate, moving, meaningful and fittingly marked the importance of these documents for the Museum, the Exhibition and the Community. The attendance of Quakers from all around the country added to the significance of the occasion and reinforced our Quaker Heritage bonds.
This project was essentially about people – people visiting and people serving the visitors, to honour and celebrate past generations of people. The recruitment, induction, empowerment, and motivation of 100 volunteers from the Community and matching their assignments to their interests and talents, was a masterstroke. Their dedication and enthusiasm proved to be a vital factor in the success of the project as they completed an estimated 2400 hours of relentless duty.
A subsequent evaluation of the project by the MDA Board identified the following Results and Outcomes.
- There is now increased awareness of Mountmellick’s Quaker Heritage, locally, nationally and internationally.
- The principles, values, and achievements of the Quaker congregation are more widely recognised and appreciated.
- There is greater recognition and appreciation of the beauty and artistry of tapestry stitching and Mountmellick Work.
- The Project fulfilled and justified the label of “Flagship Project” for the Laois Gathering Programme and attracted visitors in surprisingly large numbers.
- The status and reputation of MDA as a leading and innovative community organisation has been enhanced widely.
- Mountmellick has been “put on the map” as a significant Heritage and Craft Centre.
- A wealth of new personal relationships has developed as a result of people working together for a common goal, thereby increasing the social capital of the community.
- The personal feelings of satisfaction, achievement, pride and joy, derived from the undeniable success of the project has greatly lifted the morale, confidence and motivation of all those involved.
- Substantial Learning and new knowledge was captured through the experience and valuable networks, linkages and connectivity have been established, for the future.
- Strong bonds have been forged with the Quaker Centre in Kendal and further project partnerships have been discussed.
- The project proved to be financially viable.
This project was an outstanding success and adds to the long history of substantial MDA achievements, in the community. The outcomes listed above show that all it’s objectives were either met or exceeded. The overwhelming thrust of evidence from feedback both during and after the Exhibition is testament to this conclusion. The active Leadership displayed by MDA Board, Museum sub-committee, Project Manager, and staff inspired an equally massive response from the community in terms of voluntary effort, application, and positive attitude. All the personal qualities of hard work, commitment, dedication, talent, ingenuity etc, that we associate with success, were evident in abundance and channelled through vibrant teamwork, co-operation and collaboration towards the ultimate goals. The personal benefits for participants, derived from this uplifting and memorable experience, are immeasurable and inspire a desire for further success. The challenge ahead now is to harness this goodwill, enthusiasm, creativity and motivation for further projects, for the good of the community.
The British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott CMG, pictured with MDA staff and committee
Eileen Dunne presents Ross Chapman with a gift from the MDA
James Edmundson and Paul Dempsey at the "Hand Over Ceremony" held in the MDA