Elaine Showalter's event for Persephone Books was held at the Art Workers Guild in Queen Square last week and a rather select and lesser-known venue it is too.
Hard to believe that as this building has been in the possession of the Guild since 1914 how many times must I have walked past it in the 1970's and never even noticed it?
Established in 1884 in an effort to bring together the disciplines of art, sculpture, architecture (and probably knitting now) it's a bit like a very exclusive club and in a way that is what it remains. Artistic work submitted for approval by a committee, even William Morris had a job to get in back in 1888 and, if membership is forthcoming, names inscribed in white on the wood panelling that surrounds the room. Names then converted to gilt after death and the walls lined with sombre looking portraits of Past Masters of the Guild. I was delighted to be seated within the beady eyeline of my old friend Edwin Lutyens, that garrulous chap of the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme who visited us here a few weeks ago.
The issue of women members was a thorny old chestnut and it seems they weren't admitted to the ranks until the 1960s when wood engraver Joan Hassall finally chipped her way in through the door and hopefully complained vociferously about those chairs.
Well I'm very sorry but I must mention it.
Beautiful ladder-backed, rush seated chairs based on a design by Ernest Gimson according to Gavin Stamp (who also visited us here with Edwin a few weeks ago) and I must agree with Gavin, though magnificent works of art in their own right they are mightily uncomfortable to sit on, even with the little cushions provided.
So there I perched, daintily and literally on the edge of my seat in this very atmospheric venue wondering just who else had sat there likewise down the years...C.R. Ashbee,( founder of the Chipping Campden Arts & Crafts movement and where I found myself recently) Walter Crane, Edward Burne Jones, Sir John Betjeman, George Bernard Shaw, Frederick Leighton, Basil Spence, Arthur Rackham...and yes, scouring current membership lists, there is just one knitter in there,
Congratulations to Rachael Matthews of Prick Your Finger.
Now there's sensible progress for you, and yet another London shop for someone to go and visit on our behalf.