A happy new year to everyone reading this blog. The start of a new year is exciting as we don’t know what interesting jobs are ahead of us, but it also gives us a chance to review some of the fascinating projects that we have been involved with this year and to share some of the things we have learnt. The village of Compton lies just a few miles down the road from us and is the home to Watts Gallery www.wattsgallery.org.uk where G.F. Watts (sometimes referred to as the English Michelangelo) and his wife Mary Seton Watts, (the Arts and Crafts movement potter), lived and set up their studios and gallery. The gallery had been sadly neglected over the years and the large collection of Watts paintings and sculpture patterns were in danger of being damaged or lost until being featured on the BBC Restoration Village in 2006, although not winning,the ensuing publicity gave greater knowlege to the general public of the Hope fund which had been launched by the Trustees and staunch supporters. Over £11m was raised to restore and protect the building including donations from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as other major benefactors.
Whilst it was a privilege to be involved with the supply of signs to the site both during the refurbishment and on completion and re-opening of the gallery, working with some graphics supplied by www.peper-design.co.uk
it was also fascinating to learn more about both G. F. Watts and his wife Mary Watts. This sometimes takes me off at a tangent. Typing “Hope”- the name of the appeal fund, into Google you will find not only G.F. Watt’s 1886 painting of the same name and cartoons and parodies that it inspired, but also links to President Obama and his Electoral Campaign “Audacity of Hope”, Nelson Mandella and his cell in Robben Island and Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”. The Obama connection then takes me to the Election Poster “Hope” and the font used there, Hoefler and Frere-Jones “Gotham”, which is now used globally and seems particularly popular at present for TV stations. www.typography.com/fonts/font_overview.php?productLineID=100008
This link also takes me away from the paintings of G.F. Watts via the Watts Cemetary Chapel (desribed by Lucinda Lambton as “one of the most extraordinary, original marvellous and magical buildings in the whole British Isles”) www.wattsgallery.org.uk/watts-chapel
to Postman’s Park in London. Where the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice instigated by George Frederick and Mary Watts stands. Close to St. Paul’s cathedral you can see this tiled wall commemorating ordinary people who died saving others.
The style of these ceramic tiles are recreated in the Learning Centre at the rebuilt Gallery and some are featured on the walls, especially close to to model for one of Watts most famous sculptures, “Physical Energy”.
When Mary Watts was building the Cemetary Chapel, part of the ideology was to help less fortunate people learn trade and have an income, I find this video fascinating and if you should visit Compton to see the Gallery or simply have a cup of tea in the tea room, you will recognise some of the buildings shown in this British Pathe film “The Potters Art”.