Last weekend I stayed in Bath, a city in the west of England. I was visiting this area for two reasons: I had decided to exhibit textiles at a fair held at Claverton Manor, the home of The American Museum in Britain
I was also keen to enjoy the hospitality of my elderly aunt who has lived in Claverton village for some years.
In the 1960’s I remember visiting the American Museum. It was a ‘day out’ for all the family and for me this meant playing in the extensive gardens and visiting the main exhibits in the Manor House which showed different aspects of American cultural history. Apart from a special collection of antique cotton patchwork quilts I especially remember the fresh aroma of baked gingerbread emanating from the kitchens deep inside the building.
Other excursions in our Mini Clubman included long pilgrimages to North Wales to stay at my grandmother’s house near the sea. Today such a journey would only take a few hours but fifty years ago we would set off in the morning and not arrive until late at night. Her house was full of old things, including tribal weaving brought back from Egypt where my father was born in the 1930’s.
Today my aunt has kept many of her mother’s things, some of which have been passed to me. Times have changed since I was a child when I watched the new M4 motorway being laid down like a large reptile across the rolling Wiltshire hills near my village. I thought that there would never be enough cars to fill it…!
Unfortunately the Textile Fair last week was poorly attended. Many of the trade buyers I had invited failed to show up, possibly due to August being a holiday!
Claverton Manor and gardens are currently undergoing a major makeover, rendering most of the attractions inaccessible to the general public.
I did however enjoy meeting other passionate textile professionals, some of whom were busy weaving during the fair. Other exhibitors had upcycled vintage textiles into cushions and clothing.
When Claverton Manor and gardens are re-opened and The American Museum in Britain can fully maintain and exhibit the collections I see no reason why visitors shouldn’t flock to what is a grand building in a unique location surrounded by idyllic landscapes. The question then would be whether day trippers would be keen to examine rare, antique, exotic, ethnic weavings or opt to follow the spicy smell of freshly baked gingerbread instead?