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Fron Haul – Drawing on History

Lleucu, 21 June 2020

Lleucu Gwenllian is a freelance artist from Ffestiniog who was commissioned to create a series of drawings to document the 21st birthday of the Fron Haul houses at the National Slate Museum. Here she discusses the experience and her process. You can see more of Lleucu’s work on her instagram account @lleucu_illustration.

At the start of July I had the pleasure of working with the National Slate Museum team to create illustrations of the Fron Haul houses, to celebrate 21 years since moving the houses from Tanygrisiau, near Blaenau Ffestiniog, to the museum in Llanberis.

My favourite part of any project is the opportunity to research and learn more about the subject of the illustration – and this project was particularly close to my heart, as the houses came from the Ffestiniog area. I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about the history of the houses before this project, as I was only a year old when they were moved. The empty hole near the bus stop in Tanygrisiau never struck me as anything more than an integral part of the village.

As part of my research I went over to the site a few times and stood on the bridge which crosses the railway, looking down at where the houses used to be, imagining the lives of the people who used to live there. There’s something quite odd about seeing a small part of your local area in a completely new light.

I was particularly struck by the small objects in the houses in the museum. There was something about them that really caught my imagination, and I found myself picturing their previous owners choosing their trinkets, dusting them, organising and reorganising and so on. I found them similar to a few things from my grandparents’ houses – the ceramic dog reminded me of ones that my grandmother has on her dresser, and the old clock is incredibly similar to my great grandfather’s clock.

As we discussed the project, Cadi mentioned that some of these objects – in particular the Russian dolls and the ‘Gaudy Welsh’ eggcups – tend to disappear each season, as visitors take a fancy to them. I’m sure they must be spellbound by the glimpse they give us into another way of life.

The work itself was quite a challenge – not only because the houses themselves were quite different to what I’m used to drawing, but also because I felt a duty-bound to my area to do my best work. I’m aware that Blaenau sometimes has a bad reputation (unfairly so, in my opinion), but the area is exceptionally beautiful, and I wanted to show that.

Many thanks to the National Slate Museum for this opportunity, particularly to Lowri, Julie and Cadi.

Youth-led projects across the museum are part of the Hands on Heritage initiative, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund's Kick the Dust Grant. Diolch yn fawr to The Fund and all our National Lottery Players - keeping our fingers crossed for you!

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