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28 September 2020


There can be only one subject for the Post this week: RBG. Here she is when she was the teenage Ruth Bader. In 1946, aged 13, she wrote in her synagogue newsletter here:'The war has left a bloody trail and many deep wounds not too easily healed. Many people have been left with scars that take a long time to pass away. We must never forget the horrors which our brethren were subjected to in Bergen-Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps. Then, too, we must try hard to understand that for righteous people hate and prejudice are neither good occupations nor fit companions.' Soberingly, she was almost the same age as Anne Frank (of whom then of course no one had yet heard).

25 September 2020

Terence Conran dining room chairs, still in use by anyone lucky enough to own them and what's not to like, to love indeed? A very similar chair but with arms is for sale here (in the UK). Of course there are hundreds of other Terence Conran artefacts and he did so many other things in his long and fascinating life. Stephen Bayley wrote an extremely interesting obituary here. We are raising a glass, or at least a cup of coffee, to a great, great man.

24 September 2020

The chicken brick: everyone had them at the back of the cupboard but most people could never see the point of them, it's just that they were a symbol of being Habitat-y and fashionable and different from the drab post-war 1950s. It was also a supposedly very healthy way of cooking as it steamed the chicken and vegetables in their own juices rather than drying them out in the oven. Using one was a bit of a faff and they disappeared quite quickly. But what a brilliant piece of marketing by Conran!

23 September 2020

The iconic Maclamp was first put into production in the 1950s. It's quite easy to buy on vintage sites like eBay or etsy and certainly adds class and dignity to any room. And comes in a myriad of colours.

22 September 2020

Terence Conran designed this bookcase in 1951 when he was not yet 21. It was revolutionary. When it was sold at Sotheby's a few years ago the catalogue said: 'This extremely rare and important "S.1" cabinet is from the first group of commercially available furniture designed by the then twenty-year-old Terence Conran. Pieces such as this cabinet, although available in the first "Conran Furniture" catalogue, were exclusively made to order and very few are known to exist. Designed in 1952, Conran personally made this first range of furniture with the assistance of Eric O’Leary, a former bronze founder who had previously worked for the sculptor Henry Moore. At that time Conran and O’Leary worked together from a basement workshop rented from the Ballet Rambert in the Notting Hill area of London. Conran learnt the skill of metal welding while at  Bryanston school. Between 1950 and 1951, he shared a workshop in a railway arch in the Bethnal Green area of London with his close personal friend, former teacher and mentor, the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. While there Conran importantly taught Paolozzi the process of metal welding.'

21 September 2020

The death of Terence Conran has to be marked on the Persephone Post – because his design ethic lay (we can see now) behind so much of what we have done at Persephone Books: it was the emphasis on good design combined with the domestic – the kitchen placed at the heart of the home and of everything else – that allowed us, almost gave us permission, to be the publisher of domestic feminism. None of this was thought out of course, it was instinctive; it was simply that we were and are deeply feminist, but we also care a great deal about domestic values. Terence Conran did too and was inspirational. Even the Habitat catalogues, now collector's items (a few are sometimes to be seen in the shop window) probably inspired the Persephone Quarterly, later Biannually; or we hope they did.

18 September 2020

Louisa Pesel (1870-1947), one of the most influential women in the history of embroidery, was another Bradford Girls' Grammar School alumna. She then studied textile design at the National Art Training School (later the Royal College of Art) and worked in Athens, at the Royal Hellenic School of Needlework and Lace, becoming Director in 1903. During this period she travelled widely, including to India, where she collected textiles and embroidery techniques. In 1907 she returned to Bradford (to keep house for her parents (as was the way) and helped set up the West Riding branch of the Needlework Association. In 1910 the V & A commissioned her to produce a series of samples of historic English embroidery stitches. During the First World War she taught embroidery to Belgian refugees in Bradford and to wounded soldiers as a form of occupational therapy. In 1922 she left Bradford and moved to Hampshire where she continued to teach embroidery to the unemployed. She also oversaw the embroidery of cushions and kneelers at Winchester Cathedral: hundreds of volunteers worked on this from 1932-6  producing 360 kneelers, 62 stall cushions, 34 bench cushions and 96 alms bags. In 1938 Louise Pesel was appointed Mistress of Broderers at the Cathedral and remained in Winchester for the rest of her life. Now she has been immortalised as 'Violet Speedwell' in Tracy Chevalier's 2019 novel A Single Thread, a fascinating tribute to a fascinating woman. Our information about Louisa comes from Colin Neville's Lesser-Known Artists of the Bradford District but the best evocation of her life and career is in the novel and on Tracy Chevalier's excellent website, from which this picture is taken: the novel is a superb portrait of just one of the path-breaking daughters of Bradford.

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