This series of 75 wall-hangings in weaving, tapestry, felting and other techniques marks Camphill’s 75th anniversary 1940-2015. They have been created specially for the exhibition by 65 textile workshops in 19 countries worldwide. The completed panels are being displayed together to celebrate the manifold creative life of communities in the UK and Ireland and in other regions.
What is your general impression of going around with the exhibition?
Almost everyone that comes to the exhibition, those from general public, say that they are astonished that they have never heard of Camphill, that it is all over the world and has been going for so long.
What has been the main impact of the work itself?
People are overwhelmed by what they see. Most of all, the incredible impact of the colour. I saw this particularly in London in this old, gloomy hall where everyone said that the exhibition completely transformed the building. People nowadays are not used to living with such bright, vibrant colours. A lot of the pieces are using plant dyes grown in the communities. They are incredibly poetic, like Newton Dee’s, which are using a kind of ‘black magic’ of potions to colour the work.
How did you get the whole thing started?
Just by contacting people. Having been the convenor of the Movement Group for 22 years. I have been to most of the Camphill places in the world, so I know a lot of people. It was easy for me to use those connections to find the weavers in each place. We first started talking about the project in the Trustees Group of the Camphill Foundation in autumn 2013. The Scottish Tapestry had just been shown in the Edinburgh parliament, and we thought originally to make a kind of Camphill Bayeaux Tapestry with a story in it, which we’d seen in the Scottish Tapestry. Then we thought we would take all the elements and sew together one continuous roll. We decided to keep it in separate pieces, which makes it more flexible, and we could be creative with it later. We wanted to have a theme, but let each place take the theme - the community’s relationship to its physical and social environment - in their own way. At first I put the weavings in order, 1 to 75, but gradually I started to change them around so there would be an element of surprise - you would start in Scotland and suddenly be plunged into South Africa, then back to Ireland; you’d never know what the next one was going to be.
What other venues has the exhibition been seen in?
I wanted it to be in very public galleries from the first. There are only two Camphill venues in the whole tour - Newton Dee and Ballytobin in Ireland. I wanted the exhibition to have the highest exposure possible. In Bristol it was right in the thick of the city centre. The biggest impact was in Winchester Cathedral, with all the tourists coming in and out with their guides. We were restricted as to floor space but it was like a jewelled island in the midst of all this austere, medieval architecture.
Anything else you’d like to say?
One of the things I knew I had to include in the exhibition was the photograph and text that accompanies each piece. It’s proved to be the case that visitors are deeply moved by them. They say they can see that it comes out of a living experience of community, and that’s what we all need today. They say that it is wonderful to have a window into the life of people you see in the photographs - and that it’s incredible how happy everyone looks! And I say, of course, they are living meaningful, fulfilling lives, doing real work. The essence of Camphill is this creativity that comes out of our community life.