Thursday, 25 March 2010

Rush Matters


The wonderful woman in this photograph is Felicity Irons who owns RushMatters based in a village not far from where I live.   The picture jumped out of the latest Country Living magazine and then I saw it too in the Telegraph supplement a couple of weeks ago.    It's from a new book, a collaboration between County Living photographer Andrew Montgomery and designer Jasper Conran, which depicts "the countryside of today in all its fascinating diversity".  ('Country', published by Conran Octopus £50, or £40 to CL readers.)


Every summer, Felicity spends long days out in her punt harvesting rushes along the River Ouse in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and the Nene in neighbouring Northamptonshire.   The rushes are brought  back to the drying fields to let the sun and wind remove the moisture and a wonderful range of shades is produced naturally as a result.   When they are dry, the rushes are gathered into bolts and stored in her 13th century timber barn.

Which is where I saw them when I went to buy some for an autumn display in our village.   There was something magical and enchanting about the barn, surrounded by fields and ponds and wild flowers.  Felicity's workshop next door is full of rushes in various stages of production - matting, hats, chair seats, log baskets and, hanging from the ceiling, rope upon rope of rush plaits.   And the aroma!   Love at first sniff, for me.

So I was overjoyed when I discovered that Felicity offered workshops and got myself (and Richard) signed up pronto.    I had done a bit of table-mat and waste-paper-basket making with rushes years ago at a local evening class, so I thought I had a fair idea of what I was letting myself in for.    I have to say that although we had a weekend of fun and laughter, fantastic lunches and mountains of home-made cake, Felicity stands for no nonsense.  I was actually made to go and work on my own in a corner by Sunday afternoon because I was offering Richard some much-needed guidance about the construction of his basket.  In a "look, that's not how you do it, give it here" kind of way.  


Felicity's instruction was patient and painstaking and everyone was guided kindly through their chosen projects.   One of the most abiding memories is Felicity's adherence to the highest of standards - nothing leaves her workshop to be sold unless she is completely and utterly satisfied that it could not be done any better.   She has such an understanding that things must be good value, whatever their price. 






I ought to make it clear that the photos are of the things I made during the workshop - not Felicity's own work!

See you again soon!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a fantastic time. The photos and your descriptions make it sound wonderful - perhaps I'll sign up Lawrence and I one weekend. I am hoping that it won't be too long before I am in need of a new egg basket myself!
Anne

Gina said...

I saw that article in Country Living too. I'd love to do one of those workshops with Felicity - it sounds wonderful

Printed Material said...

That photograph in Country Living was stunning wasn't it ? One can only stand back and admire the skill and passion of someone like Felicity. It's obvious from the photo and the chosen lifestyle that she's not afraid of hard graft and it sounds like she expects that of others too. I bet you got a huge amount from the workshop other than what you physically came home with. I envy you. We planted lots of willow whips in the field we rent next door and my husband was going to try his basket making skills with it as it grew but other events have overtaken us this year. I'll show him your post to inspire him to rekindle the idea! Lesley

JP said...

how fantastic - I would love to try it

AeFondKis said...

Chrissie you and eggs go together! Wee basket is a stunner! All those rushes, bet the rustle and smell are quite soothing! Hard work, but worth it? Old skills need to be preserved and taught to youngsters in schools I think.......

silverpebble said...

Goodness I saw these images in Country Living and itched to see more of Felicity's work. Even better is seeing your work tutored by Felicity. Thankyou! What an absolute treat for you, and for us.

Things Hand Made said...

wow, thats sounds my idea of heaven to learn a new skill like that, lucky you.

ELK said...

I was there with your beautiful photos and happy description of what looked to be a magical weekend.

Menopausal musing said...

Loved the photos of your work. Laughed out loud at how you had been sent to work on your own. I would love to smell the workshop.

Incidentally, I also saw the article in the Telegraph and loved the other photo of a potter and his kiln and the way it was stacked out with wood.

florcita said...

what a wonderful way to spend your weekend! I'd love to learn how to do this and in those beautiful farm settings!