Amgueddfa Blog: Textiles

The Museums Association Conference of 1948 was held at National Museum Cardiff over five days, running from July 12th to the 16th. All conference meetings were held in the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre, while an area within the Zoology Department was used as Association Office, Writing Room and Smoke Room.

We know the majority of host duties would have been carried out by Frederick J. North, who was Keeper of Geology and Archibald H. Lee, Museum Secretary, because they are listed on the programme as Honorary Local Secretaries. It is most likely we have them to thank for the ephemera held in the Library, including copies of the programme, associate and staff badges, reception invites, day trip tickets and the official group photograph, taken on the steps of the Museum.

The first day of the conference began with registration, followed by a Council meeting and visit to Cardiff Castle and a reception at the South Wales Institute of Engineers in the evening. The programme states this event as requiring Morning dress code which, during this time period would be a three piece suit for the men, and smart day dresses for the women, or general smart clothing suitable for formal social events.

The second day began with official welcomes by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Alderman R. G. Robinson, and the President of the National Museum Wales, Sir Leonard Twiston-Davies. This was followed by a number of papers read by delegates [all fully listed in the programme], gathering for the official conference photograph, and a Civic Reception at City Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor [with refreshments, music and dancing].

1948 was the year that St Fagans National Museum of History was first opened to the public as the St Fagans Folk Museum and to mark this, a visit was arranged for the afternoon of day three. St Fagans Castle, gardens, and grounds had been given to the National Museum Wales by the Earl of Plymouth in 1946 and over the next two years extensive work had been carried out to make it suitable to open to the public. According to the 1950 St Fagans guide book, in the Castle, new central heating, electric lighting, and fire appliances had to be installed along with a tickets office, refreshment room and public amenities. By 1948 our delegates would have had access to the Castle and its newly refurbished historic interiors such as the kitchen with two 16th century fireplaces, the Hall furnished in 17th century style, 17th and 18th century bedrooms and the early 19th century Library. They would also have enjoyed walking the gardens which included a mulberry grove, herb and rose gardens, vinery, fishponds, and flower-house interspersed with bronze sculptures by Sir William Goscombe John. Onsite also were a traditional wood-turner and a basket-maker, creating and selling their wares. The handbook also describes a delightful sounding small tea room with curtains made at the Holywell Textile Mills and watercolour paintings by Sir Frank Brangwyn. However, according to a Western Mail clipping, this didn’t open to the public until some weeks later on August 24th. Presumably a room within the Castle itself was used for the delegates’ buffet tea to which they were treated after being greeted by the Curator of St Fagans, Dr Iorwerth Peate.

Interestingly the programme provides times of the train service that ran from Cardiff Central Station to St Fagans. Sadly, the station at St Fagans is no longer there, the service being withdrawn in 1962, although a signal box and level crossing on the line remain.

The Annual General Meeting, Council Meeting and Federation of Officers Meeting  were all held on the next day along with more papers, including one by Mr Duncan Guthrie [of the Arts Council], on the upcoming “Festival of Britain, 1951”. There was also an evening reception in the Museum hosted by the President, and the then Director [Sir Cyril Fox], with refreshments and music by the City of Cardiff High School for Girls Orchestra. The programme states evening dress if possible for this event so it’s a shame we don’t hold any photographs of what would have been a sea of tuxedos and evening gowns.

The final day consisted of further papers in the morning followed by escape and fresh air with visits to the Newport Corporation Museum and the Legionary Museum and Roman Amphitheatre at Caerleon during the afternoon.

The September 1948 issue of Museums Journal contains a full report on the conference, with detailed examination of all papers presented and the discussions they generated. It also lists the delegates including those from overseas. The report concludes with thanks to the National Museum Cardiff for the welcome and hospitality accorded to the 240 delegates, with special mention to North and Lee [who would certainly have earned their salaries over those five days!].

Forget Raindrops on roses, you can keep your whiskers on kittens…

With such varied collections that we have in the museum I can’t help noticing some fabulous objects.

Thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we have had funding so we can enhance records and add images for you to view in Collections Online, soon you’ll be able to search the museum catalogue and discover your own favourite things.

These are a few of my favourites:

Image in chalk pastel on paper of Welsh rugby player scoring a try against the All Blacks

The Try that Beat the All Blacks by Frank Gillett (1874 – 1927)

What a fabulous picture this is! (I may be a little biased). This picture shows the first ever test match between the Wales and New Zealand rugby teams in 1905. Wales won 3 – 0 (a try was only worth 3 points in those days rather than 5 points as it is now).

Seated figurine of a mouse holding a disc

Roman copper alloy figurine of a mouse

This lovely little mouse (only 3cm high) was found in Loughor, or Leucarum as the Romans knew it. Is it nibbling some cheese, or has it found a biscuit somewhere?

Locomotive painted bright yellow and black

Electric locomotive

It might look like something from Thunderbirds, but this is an electric locomotive used in Glamorgan Haematite Iron Ore Mine (Llanharry Iron Ore Mine) from the 1960s. These locomotives replaced the use of horses for haulage in the mine.

Section of blue damask fabric with intricate silver thread embroidery

Close up of court mantua fabric

This shows detail of a dress from the 1720s. This is a very grand court dress (known as a mantua) which would have been worn for presentation at court by Lady Rachel Morgan the wife of Sir William Morgan of Tredegar House. Just look at the incredibly detailed embroidered silver thread on silk damask. The best thing about it I think, is that it was altered during the 19th century by one of Lady Rachel’s descendants, probably to wear as fancy dress! The dress will be on display in the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History in the autumn of 2018.

Jug with a cut out trellis-like design of circles and lozenges at the top, with a ring around neck from which protrude three bulbous spouts.

Puzzle jug made by the Cambrian Pottery c. 1800

What’s the puzzle about this puzzle jug? Try and pour from it, and you’ll end up with beer all over the place. To find out how these were made, and importantly, how you’d use it, check out this video by the V&A museum.

If you want to see more of the collections you can explore online or come and visit one of our museums. Not all of our items are on display, so before you make a special trip to see something specific, check that it’s on display first.

People's Postcode Lottery Logo

 

I am an artist, studying for an MA degree in contemporary design craft, specifically the sculptural potential of prosthetic limbs. My visit to the Mollusca collection occurred after I came across a blog about the interior structure of shells on the museum website, and I made the connection between the interior structure of shells and how 3-D printers work and correct form. On the blog there was a contact number for the Curator of Mollusca, so I contacted Harriet Wood, not knowing what to expect in response.

Photograph of cross-section of 3D printed cube, showing internal supporting structure
Internal structure of 3D printed object © Matthew Day 2017

Looking inside shells - shell sections

When I explained my work on prosthetics to Harriet, and the connections with the interior structure of shells and 3-D printing she seemed very excited and invited me to come down, and also offered to introduce me to the person who runs a photography lab who uses 3-D printing and scanning for the museum.

Going Behind the Scenes

I could not have imagined it could have gone as well as it did. I met Harriet at the information desk of the museum and we then headed behind-the-scenes, where the collection is kept. Walking around the museum to get out back was really nice and modern. It reminded me of an academic journal I read not long before my visit, from the International Journal of the Inclusive Museum: ‘How Digital Artist Engagement Can Function as an Open Innovation Model to Facilitate Audience Encounters with Museum Collections’ in the  by Sarah Younan and Haitham Eid. 

photo showing a large cabinet full of specimen drawers
Some of the archives at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

Behind the scenes at the museum was quite a special environment - generally the general public are not allowed access unless arranged. It was a great privilege to be walking through rooms and rooms full of shells that people over the years have discovered and appreciated for their beauty. What was really fascinating was how the shells had been cut so perfectly. The cut shells looked almost as if this was their natural state – the way they were cut blended in so well with the form of the shell. This is what I wanted to see.

Black and white photograph showing a selection of shell sections
Shell sections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

I was speechless when I saw these collections of shells – especially seeing that part we’re not supposed to see. It was really exciting to see interior structure revealed by the cut, as it added a whole new value to the shells. They really reminded me of work by the the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, whose work I really admire.

black and white photograph showing a single conical shell, cut to show its internal spiral structure
© Matthew Day 2017

We see shells all the time on beaches and they just fascinate me, especially the broken ones which reveal part of the interior. It’s a very imperfect break, very different to the quality of the shell which has been sliced purposely to reveal what is inside. A natural object sculpted by man: I feel that this is what I am drawn to.

3D Scanning: Art and Science

Before examining the shells myself, Harriet offered to take me down to see Jim Turner, where we ended up spending most of my visit because what he did was just very interesting. Jim works in a lab which uses a photography process called “z-Stacking” (or extended depth of field – EDF) which is used extensively in macro photography and photo microscopy.

Jim is also creating an archive of 3D scanned objects for the museum website, where people can interact with scanned objects using VR headsets - bringing a whole new experience to the museum.

I understood what he was doing immediately from my own work. He explained the process and I understood the technicalities. It was a real pleasure to speak to someone who is using 3-D scanning in a different way to me. Jim is using 3D scanning in a way that was described within academic texts I had read - and even though he wasn’t doing anything creative with shells, he was still putting the objects into a context where people could interact with them using digital technology such as VR headsets, and on the web via sketchfab.

'Like being on a beach...'

When we got back to the Mollusca Collection I was able to take my own time and was under no pressure - so I got to have a good look and explored the shells. It was like being on a beach spending hours of exploring all wonderful natural objects.

black and white photograph showing a single conical shell, cut to show its internal spiral structure
© Matthew Day 2017

This visit had an amazing impact on my MA project - and I cannot thank Harriet and Jim enough for their time. This visit also gave me the confidence to approach other museums, such as Worcester Medical Museum, where I worked with a prosthetic socket from their collection. I 3D scanned the socket and, with the inspiration from Harriet’s collection of Mollusca, I created a selection of Sculptural Prosthetic sockets, drawing inspiration from the internal structures of shells, and illustrating sections of the shells that I was most drawn to. 

'A sculpture in its own right': my collection of sculptural prosthetics

Side by side photographs showing a sculptural prosthetic sock and a shell section. The prosthetic is shaped to emulate the internal structure of the shell.
Prototype conceptual prosthetic sock sculpture inspired by National Museum Cardiff's Mollusca collection © Matthew Day 2017

photo showing a black sculptural prosthetic socket with a yellow decoration
Prototype prosthetic sock sculpture inspired by National Museum Cardiff's Mollusca collection © Matthew Day 2017
photo showing a grey sculptural prosthetic socket with a yellow decoration
3D printed, fabric dyed prosthetic sculptural socket, inspired by the Mollusca collections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

photograph showing prosthetic socket with a large yellow decoration shaped like a round shell
3D printed, fabric dyed prosthetic sculptural socket, inspired by the Mollusca collections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

 

What’s next?

My MA is now reaching a climax, and I am starting the final major project module after the summer, which I am very excited about.

For the final part of my studies, I want to take all that I have explored and incorporated into my research to date, and use it to create a concept prosthetic limb which would be wearable, but also a sculpture in its own right – work which is now on track.

3D illustration of a design for a prosthetic leg, with decorations inspired by the internal structure of shells
Concept design of prosthetic sculptural leg, inspired by the Mollusca collections at National Museum Cardiff © Matthew Day 2017

I aim to create a really spectacular prosthetic limb using 3D printing, further incorporating the shell-inspired aesthetics you see in this blog.

More of my work can be found on my website: Matthew Day Sculpture

 

Mae’n swyddogol – peidiwch da chi â bod heb ddilledyn melfed yr hydref hwn! Dyma farn rhai o gylchgronau mwyaf dylanwadol y byd ffasiwn ar hyn o bryd. Ond er y chwiw presennol am bopeth melfed, mae’r defnydd moethus hwn wedi bod yn rhan o gwpwrdd dillad y genedl ers canrifoedd lawer.

Yn hanesyddol, fe ystyrir melfed fel dynodydd cyfoeth a statws – ffaith sy’n cael ei amlygu yng nghasgliadau gwisgoedd a thecstiliau yr Amgueddfa. Mae’r casgliadau hyn yn cynnwys gwrthrychau fu unwaith yn eiddo i rai o feistri tir enwocaf Cymru – teuluoedd cefnog, fel y Morganiaid o Dŷ Tredegar, a oedd yn addurno eu tai ac yn gwisgo defnyddiau costus i ddatgan eu cyfoeth i’r byd.

Ymhlith yr eitemau sydd ar gof a chadw yn yr Amgueddfa mae siaced felfed lliw eirin tywyll a wnaed yn 1770 ar gyfer Syr Watkin Williams-Wynn, y Pedwerydd Barwnig. Wedi ei eni yn 1749 ar ’stâd Wynnstay, ger Rhiwabon, roedd Syr Watkin yn adnabyddus fel un o noddwyr amlycaf y celfyddydau yng Nghymru. Yn ogystal â phrynu darnau o gelf, crochenwaith a dodrefn gan gynllunwyr mawr y dydd, roedd hefyd yn hoff o wario ar ddillad.

Pan oedd yn 19 mlwydd oed, aeth Syr Watkin ar Daith Fawr o Ewrop – rhan annatod o lwybr bywyd bonheddwr ifanc yn y cyfnod hwn. Rhwng Mehefin 1768 a Chwefror y flwyddyn ganlynol, bu’n crwydro Ffrainc, Y Swistir a’r Eidal. Mae llyfrau cyfrifon ’stâd Wynnstay yn dangos iddo wario £220 ar ddillad yn ystod y daith. Prynodd wisgoedd ym Mharis, siwt felfed blodeuog yn Lyon a llathenni o felfed gan sidanwr yn Turin.

Mae’n bosibl mai’r felfed hwn a ddefnyddiwyd i wneud y siaced sydd erbyn hyn ym meddiant yr Amgueddfa. Nid siaced bob dydd mo hon – mae hi wedi ei theilwra’n gywrain a’i brodio gydag edafedd sidan, rhubanau a secwinau aur. Mae’n debyg mai teiliwr yn Llundain fu’n gyfrifol am ei thorri a’i gwnïo. Roedd teilwriaid ffasiynol y cyfnod yn cyflogi nifer o frodwyr proffesiynol i addurno eu gwaith – dynion, nid menywod, oedd y rhain.

Yn 1770 cynhaliwyd parti chwedlonol yn Wynnstay i nodi penblwydd Syr Watkin yn 21 oed. Tybed ai’r gôt felfed oedd amdano’r noson honno? Daeth 15,000 i’r dathliad a thri llond coets o gogyddion o Lundain. Ar y fwydlen roedd 30 bustach, 50 mochyn, 50 llo, 18 oen, 37 twrci a llu o ddanteithion eraill. Does ryfedd i Syr Watkin fagu cryn dipyn o bwysau erbyn diwedd ei oes!

Wrth wneud gwaith gyda’r Fforwm Ieuenctid, darganfyddais fod yna glytwaith i orchuddio cist o ddroriau (‘patchwork chest of drawers cover’) yng nghasgliad Sain Ffagan a gafodd ei greu gan fy hen hen ewythr, Richard Evans o Lanbrynmair, yn ystod ei amser yn gwasanaethu fel milwr yn India. Mae wedi ei greu o ddefnydd gwlanog trwchus coch a du ac felly tybiwyd ei fod wedi ei bwytho o ddillad milwr, ac yn ôl yr hyn sydd wedi ei arysgrifio ar ei gefn, roedd yn ‘Rhodd i fy Mam Sarah Evans 1883.’ Fe wnaeth y rhoddwr (Miss Ceridwen E Lloyd), sef nith i Richard Evans, ysgrifennu llythyr gyda’r gwrthrych a ymunodd â’r casgliad yn 1962, yn nodi “roedd ganddo fwy o amynedd na llawer ohonom heddiw.” 

Roedd yr amynedd angenrheidiol i wneud gwniadwaith yn un o’r rhesymau pam ddaeth y grefft yn rhan o fywyd i rai mewn gwersylloedd milwrol. Yn ogystal â bod yn sgil ymarferol er mwyn gallu trwsio eu lifrau, roedd milwyr yn cael eu hannog i ddechrau gwnïo fel ffordd o ymlacio. Cefnogwyd y syniad gan fudiadau dirwest yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg wrth iddynt weld gwnïo fel ffordd o gadw’r milwyr rhag demtasiynau yfed a gamblo, yn enwedig yng ngwres India. Roedd y grefft hefyd yn cael ei hybu fel rhan o therapi milwr mewn ysbyty er mwyn lleddfu diflastod. Mae yna enghraifft o waith tebyg yn y casgliad yn Sain Ffagan – gemwaith a gafodd ei greu gan y Corporal Walter Stinson pan roedd yn glaf yn Ysbyty VAD Sain Ffagan yn 1917-18.

Roedd gogwydd fwy emosiynol ar y math yma o waith hefyd. Weithiau, crewyd cwiltiau allan o lifrau cyd-filwyr a fu farw ar faes y gad i ddangos ffyddlondeb a gwladgarwch. Roedd gan y grefft bwrpas tu hwnt i’r cyfnod o ryfela hefyd, gan fod dysgu i wnïo yn gallu cael ei gysylltu ag ennill arian ar ôl gadael y fyddin. Yn y casgliad, mae yna ddarlun gwlân a oedd wedi ei brynu gan hen dad-cu y rhoddwr gan gyn-filwr oedd wedi colli ei goes wrth ymladd.

Mae llu o resymau felly i esbonio pam ddaeth gwniadwaith yn grefft fwy poblogaidd i filwyr. Daeth buddion y grefft i ddisgyblaeth a gwellhad milwyr â’r grefft oedd wedi ei hystyried yn un fenywaidd ar hyd y blynyddoedd yn rhan o hunaniaeth milwyr yn ystod y cyfnod hwn – ac ysbrydoli fy hen hen ewythr, yn bictiwr o wrywdod milwr gyda’i getyn a’i fwstash (trydydd o’r chwith yn y rhes gefn) i greu clytwaith fel anrheg i’w fam.