Thursday, 26 August 2010

Traffic LP 'Mr Fantasy', 1967

The reason for the inclusion of this item is that when Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to form a new band Traffic he, along with his three fellow musicians, lived in a secluded cottage at Aston Tirrold in south Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire) to write and rehearse their new material. The result was this LP, a blend of pyschedelic pop influenced and inspired, amongst other things, by the ageless mystery of the surrounding Berkshire Downs. Jim Capaldi, one of the band members, later recalled the place as exerting a Very Strong Presence.

The cover photo and other sleeve images were taken in and around the cottage.

Over a two year period, other prominent musicians of the day, including Eric Clapton, Steven Stills and Pete Townshend spent time with Winwood at the cottage to drink in the atmosphere.

This recent photo of the cottage is from a Winwood website.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Norman Neasom watercolour, 1954

A Fordson Major and seed drill chug their way across the red West Midlands soil in the shadow of Bredon Hill. The date is April 1954, the title is Woollas Hall, seen in the centre of the picture, and the artist was Norman Neasom (1915-2010).

Neasom drew much of his artistic inspiration from the farming landscape of his native Worcestershire. Into adulthood, and in spite of a formal training at Birmingham College of Art, he continued to live and work on Birchensale Farm just outside Redditch where he had been born. His working life after World War II was spent as an art college teacher, first in Birmigham and then Redditch. Hence the innate authenticity in Neasom's farming pictures.

Much of Birchensale Farm has since been swallowed up by outward expansion of the Redditch suburbs. The farmhouse now serves as a community centre. In his latter years, Neasom produced a number of works recalling the farm of his boyhood years.

These were put together in 2004 into a book, Birchensale. Farm Memories in Pictures.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Chapel chair by Alan Peters, 1977

Alan Peters (1933-2009) was commissioned to make the furniture and Peter Tysoe - the Devon-based glass sculptor - the coloured glass window for the small chapel in the new Swiss Catholic Mission in Westminster. The work in wood comprised an altar table, reading stand, candle holder, statue support, and life-size cross, together with 35 chairs, all made from English ash. Our chair is a spare that remained at Peters' workshop and which we were able to acquire from his widow, Laura.

The accompanying paperwork shows that a total of 1123 hours were spent on the project by Alan Peters and the four members of his team between July 1976 and completion in February 1977. Of these, 188 were put in by Peters himself, who charged for his time at £3 an hour. The full labour bill was £2,281 on a final invoice price of £2631.25. There is a letter in appreciation of the work from Father Paul Bossard, chaplain to the Mission.

Alan Peters, one of the foremost English furniture makers of the second half of the twentieth century, had a direct connection to the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement in that he served his apprenticeship with Edward Barnsley (1900-87) at Froxfield in Hampshire. After some time spent at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, in 1962 he set up his own furniture workshop at Hindhead in Surrey. Love of craftsmanship and of the countryside were parallel threads in his life, taking him through moves to Devon and then Somerset and through study tours of Japan and Korea. His influential book Cabinetmaking - the professional approach came out in 1985.