Back to work
I had been away from the world of art for most of the summer but two things had moved me deeply, the Matisse Dancers, and the wonderful bronze doors at Novgorod. In the end our own art consciousness is the sum of all the pieces that have most affected us over the years. In my case as well as the medieval and early Christian imagery, there was the huge Mexican Exhibition, a black and white film of Piero della Francesca that lead me to Urbino, the Massaccio frescoes, the great Diaghilev exh, the textile artist Abakanowitz and lately Louise Bourgeois but there are many more. The interesting thing to me is what is it that attracts us to some things more than others. Some things are universal but others very personal, does it come from our childhood, our sense of the place that we grew up in, the books that we read?
So here I was back in school continuing in my happy way. I am not ambitious in the least but other people have been ambitious for me and since I was offered the HMI job I kept getting told I should move on (perhaps they were trying to get rid of me) The girls were still producing interesting and sensitive work.
In the Stevenage town centre.
Girl in hat
I decided that if a job in further education turned up, as long as it was within driving distance I would try. In a very short time I saw that they were advertising the post of lecturer in textiles and education at Hockerill College of Education in Bishops Stortford about 15 miles away (cross country)…here we go… textiles again, I could do it! I applied, there were six candidates. There is always that awkward feeling of trying to size each other up whilst exuding bonhomme. I did get the job.
Hockerill College was one of the earliest colleges built to train women teachers, it was founded by the Church of England. The year that I went was the second year to admit male students as well. It was still a bit genteel, there was a large comfortable Senior Common Room and afternoon tea was served. I realised that I had moved up a tier when triangular cucumber sandwiches, with crusts cut off, and cake were served. No grabbing a quick cup of tea from a trolley with a biscuit if you were lucky. The other thing that surprised me was my tutorial room, like a small living room. I can remember thinking I could sleep in here. Later I did just that, as in those days we still had real pea souper fogs and there were two winters that were particularly severe with ice and masses of snow. My teaching studio was in a high roofed Victorian room that had been the pretend school room where the early students practiced their teaching. I believe that some children actually went to school there years ago. It wasn’t an ideal room it was rather ugly and I missed my modern facilities but on the other hand it was large enough to accomodate a proper fabric printing table.
Half of my teaching studio, in a way it was fortunate it had the very high ceiling.
Three dimensional textile sculpture three feet across based on a study of stones.
One thing I definitely wasn’t used to was being one of a team of four in the art dept, a painter, a sculptor and a potter, the others being males. I had been so used to running my own dept. it also wasn’t that easy being the only woman. Men don’t always treat you as their equal, I think it is probably something they are largely unaware of. There is also this assumption that textiles are a woman’s thing. The textiles dept had leaned heavily towards the sort of weaving that I definitely didn’t want to do. There were these big cumbersome looms, I got rid of those, they were stored in an outhouse, someone coming after me might see things differently.
2D to 3D study
Of course it is always difficult for the students to adjust to a new person but I must say we soon got on well and I tried with the third year to continue as far as I could with the methods they were used to. I brought my new ideas in with first year. My approach and aim was towards fine art rather than craft. I spent half the time on textiles and the other half with the education dept doing art work that would be useful and educational for schools, Most of them were going to teach in primary schools and far fewer in secondary schools. I used the same room for both textiles and education. My job also involved visiting the students when they were on teaching practice in schools. Strangely I visited the students in two of the village schools that I had visited in my peripatetic years. Because the holidays were much longer it gave me more chance to carry on with my own work.
Blue Headlands Breakout