At Ushaw, where I have my studio (see here for details), there is a most interesting exhibition on at present, called ‘Hand in Hand’ and which includes drawing, painting, print-making, woodcarving, embroidery and weaving.
All the items on display were created by a single maker – a Benedictine nun given the name Sister Werberg, who was born Eileen Grace Welch in 1894.
She entered religious life at the age of twenty, but before that she had trained at Bournemouth and Bristol Schools of Art. I found it very moving to discover that she had expected to set aside her artistic gifts and talents on entering the convent, but found instead that she was encouraged to continue to use them as an expression of her faith. She became known for paintings, carvings and designs for ecclesiastical vestments. She did not, however, seek renown: her name was often not attributed to her work, she simply referred to herself as ‘a Benedictine of Stanbrook’.
In 1922, the Abbess of Stanbrook set up a studio for woven and embroidered textiles and the nuns often worked to commission, making ecclesiastical textiles. Dame Werberg (as she later became) not only produced designs for this work, but she also designed cards, book plates and service sheets which were printed on the Abbey’s own press. In addition, she produced wood carvings.
This elaborate embroidered peacock (representing eternal life) is delightful:
There was one on each end of this priests’ stole:
I loved the bright colours, the decorative elements and the spectacular stitching in the embroidered creatures, representing the gospel writers, Luke (the man), Mark (the lion), Matthew (the bull) and John (the eagle) in the decoration on this chasuble:
Much of Sister Werberg’s work is marked by early twentieth-century Art Deco influence, as seen in the figure of the angel seen below – this time in a woven strip…
…which formed part of this vestment.
This mixture of couched goldwork with appliqué was very striking.
Counted cross-stitch also made its appearance in this ear of wheat.
This remarkable woman died in 1990, producing works of art into her old age, as witnessed by this photograph, which is included in the exhibition.
The exhibition was made possible by Stanbrook Abbey, who loaned the work. All photographs here are included by permission of Ushaw. The exhibition runs until 29 June 2019. (There is a link for more details at the end of this post.)
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This is my pattern for a single-bed quilt ‘Copper and Gold’, which you can find here.
This is the postal address for Ushaw: Ushaw College, Co. Durham, DH7 9RH (although, if travelling by car with a satnav, the best postcode to use is DH7 9DW)
For more information about ‘Hand in Hand’ click here.