Monday, 19 April 2010

Stan Hywet Hall and Garden

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens

Next stop the Stan Hywet Hall. A fabulous place put together by F.A. Seiberling, he being the man who vulcanized rubber and invented the zip and on top of being a rubber baron industrialist, he also had architectural aspirations. Between 1912 and 1915, he and his wife Gertrude, she being of sound sewer manufacturing stock, built their country estate and named it “Stan Hywet” (Old English for stone quarry), the property’s most prominent natural feature. The result of which there are a number of holes in the ground now filled with water and called lagoons containing a variety of fish specimens which you can’t see. The house was modelled on an old English Manor houses updated with early twentieth Century technology like central heating and laundry and ironing machines and kitchens with food processors and vacuum cleaners and of course telephones all hidden way and filled with plundered antiques and fittings all to produce the illusion that it was an 18th Century English House, which of course it was not as it was outside Cleveland Ohio on the Great Lakes.
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The event was sponsored by the Stan Hywet Needlework Guild, hugely gifted ladies who do the most exquisite embroideries for the Hall. We were ably looked after by its President Barbara Shearer who took us off to see the wonderful Collection at Kent University. Jerry Silverman (1910-1984), a lawyer and businessman, and Shannon Rodgers (1911-1996), a designer, were founders and partners in Jerry Silverman, Inc., one of the fashion industry's most successful New York women's ready-to-wear firms of the second half of the 20th century. Privately Rodgers, a native Ohioan, also amassed one of the most important collections of historic, designer and ethnic costume in the United States. In exchange for donating their $5 million collection of costumes and decorative arts to Kent State University in the early 1980s, the University agreed to create the KSU Museum in order to house and provide educational access to the collection and the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising to serve as a centre for fashion design and merchandising education in the mid-west.
And low and behold I learned that my friend J.R. Campbell was now the Director of The Fashion School, and what a wonderful collection it is too, of course Alba was totally sold as they had some Chanel dresses.
The talk was great and well attended in the wonderful music room at Stan Hywet. The acoustics were brilliant, I did not need a mic and I ended up with talking for almost two hours. Such a knowledgeable audience, and I do hope they get to keep the curtains round Gertrude’s bed with beautiful Crewel work which took the ladies six years to do.
Akron University

The home of Quaker Oats, no oats left in Akron they’ve all gone the way of the great rubber industry and all we’re left with is the zip fastener, vulcanized rubber and a kangaroo. Seriously though the surrounding area is pretty cool and reflects the boom and burst of the area with some wonderful houses and parks and the University has a wide range of students with some great programs and very strong on research. The talk was well attended from the surrounding community. Thanks go to Teena for looking after us.


Memphis here we come. The home of the King, what an experience!

Graceland’s was mobbed with hundreds of ageing fans with a fair sprinkling of kids and probably grand kids, keepin’ alive old Elvis’s name and fame. Amazing really but somewhat sad, from what I could see he had just about got his act together. He’d bought a serious big jet which was all his (even took his daughter to see some snow) and had just done up his kitchen and had everything going for himself when low and behold he ups and passes off to the Grand Ole Oprey in the sky (or down below).
Beale Street was exciting lots of blues and rock going on all the time. Then to the Grand Ole Oprey, the real one, in Nashville, paid a fortune to be part of a radio show with lots of adverts and listened to some very old country singers who should have been put out to grass years ago. They are probably hanging on to past glories, time to give the youngsters a chance.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Alabama State University

Then onto Alabama, via guess where The Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee and would you believe it this is in the middle of a dry district, doesn’t make much sense to me. Apparently the man himself died because he kicked his safe, damaged his toe the rest is history but he did leave a legacy of very nice sipping whiskey.
We then arrived at Tuscaloosa the home of Alabama State University and into the welcoming arms of Virginia Wimberley. What a grand old university with interesting and informed students. Two talks here one in the morning to an excited class and the other more general audience. A special mention to Jeanne who made a trapunto sample very good it was too.

Southern Illinois University

Picked up by a giant American boat car to sail down their wonderful highways however Alba’s GPS took us through St Louis East apparently this is the South’s equivalent of Detroit but I’m advised that they are hoping for great things there some time in the next century or two then down to Carbondale what a delightful town. The next day we met Peter Smith, the man in charge of the Architects department and the builder of the famed ‘Walts’ Diner. ‘Walts’ Diner is a cardboard copy of a fifty’s diner including a Wurlitzer and fifty’s cockroaches. With the wonderful exception that it is built to 1.5 times actual, that makes it pretty cool and pretty big and is very popular with their basketball players. Of course Alba’s and I are a bit titchery. This was great fun with an education edge making students aware of space and time. It took 85 students a month of hard work to do. I gave my talk to an architecturally based audience. Although for many centuries embroidery has been a part of architecture, something about the engineering structures of embroidery as well as the aesthetic visual pleasures it invokes. However it has not been a part of 20th and 21st century curriculum in spite of such luminaries as Charles Rennie MacIntosh William Morris and Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. I do think it went down well and we had some converts, they were quite excited about the possibility of embroidering concrete a project we did with University of Ulster.

Seneca College Toronto

Back to North Toronto and after arriving late at their excellent halls of residence, we met Gitte Hansen on Sunday. We spent a brilliant day looking at great quilts from the collection of Carole and Howard Tanenbaum at the Textile Museum. My goodness they put together a wonderful collection, starting as usual with one and gradually building on it. Then on to the Bata Shoe Museum, cant believe that they were making high healed shoes hundreds of years ago and what about these wonderful moccasins from the Jicarillas Apache, it would do justice to Mercury the messenger of the Gods; just imagine their flying feet. We said goodbye to Gitte as she was heading off to Beijing China with a successful student. The talk was excellent with a great informed audience and what a wonderful facility they have at Seneca which is no doubt the reason it is popular with students throughout the world.
Then to New York mind you that wasn’t so easy, rushing about to establish that I was not intending to stay in the US for the rest of my life, thanks Nathalie for sorting it all out. Alba was waiting in New York with a wonderful fish pie, which convinced me that staying in the US might be a good idea; don’t tell the nice lady at the border. What a great place NY. The next ten days were spent arranging the Embroidery Studio and Forum by Hand & Lock and Penn & Fletcher. This is where we shall be holding classes from September this year with Alba at the head and with Edward Tung a luminary from Fashion Institute of Design San Francisco and Lesage of Paris in support. All very exciting and cant wait to go back and eat more of New York’s wonderful chicken soup and of course their magnificent steaks.
A wonderful day spent touring the sites of New Brunswick, a truly bilingual state. This State is more in keeping with Northern Ireland than elsewhere, don’t know what it is with us humans don’t seem to be happy unless we’re in some sort of conflict. However Stephen’s Coatbridge twang made me feel quite at home.


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