Winchcombe Archive Collection at Long Room Gallery
The Winchcombe Archive Collection is essentially a private museum and gallery housed in a traditional timber framed and stone built 400 year old merchants house, dedicated to recreating and celebrating aspects of the arts and crafts lifestyle of the Cotswolds in the inter-war years of the 1920s and 1930s. Having at its core a major foundation collection of early studio slipwares made by the renowned potter Michael Cardew and his Winchcombe team, it also acts as a permanent home and venue for the display, study and discussion of this and related art and design of the same period through regular exhibitions and talks.
Taking a primarily domestic approach to both its chosen creative media and its display ethos, the Collection seeks to provide ready public access to such furniture, ceramics, wall hung and applied art of its period, displayed in closed cabinets where necessary but majoring on an open room setting approach. The intention is to illustrate to visitors, how such craft made and well designed objects were used in domestic interiors of their period, and through employing as far as possible a hands on approach, to promote a greater appreciation of both the individual items, and the context for which they were originally created.
Core supporters and potential audience: The Collection benefits from the inherited customer base of the Long Room Gallery and its associated imprint Cotswolds Living Publications co-established in 2005-6. Core supporters tend to have a wide range of interests including art, applied arts and furniture, as well as ceramics both period and contemporary, reflecting past Gallery shows. This client base has since been added to by visitors with a particular interest in Cotswold School craft and design of the inter-war years, introduced through co-mailing by other heritage venues in our area and by word of mouth. We remain particularly keen to broaden our audience through events across a spread of craft disciplines including textiles, etching, wood engraving and letterpress publishing, design being a core underlying inspiration.
Structuring of exhibitions and shows: Aside from the continuing and rotating display of primarily slipwares of the Cardew School sourced from four private foundation collections, exhibitions are held every six months in May and November relying additionally on outside loans from other participating private collections of wall hung art and other creative media. Diverse shows are thus periodically curated on a wide range of topics chosen thematically and/or chronologically to illustrate the transferability of common aesthetic themes and styles across a wide range of hand made objects.
Saturday teatime talks: Exhibitions are further enhanced through Saturday teatime talks given by invited experts in their chosen fields, held to provide visitors with a greater appreciation of the creative processes behind exhibits and enhanced by selective handling sessions. We continue to attract nationally known experts in their respective fields to give presentations that develop the themes of each show continuing the educational intention of our many books and catalogues published since 2005.
Selling element: To raise funds for the continuing running costs of the Collection and promote current day makers, selling shows are also held in tandem with these six monthly exhibitions, with contemporary ceramics and some art for sale selected to be directly complimentary to the given theme. Similarly, and subject to availability, period art and ceramics are also offered for purchase.
Past and present exhibition themes: Initial shows focussed on the output of Winchcombe Pottery in the 1920s and 1930s, and the use of brushwork to embellish and decorate the everyday tablewares of Cardew and his team both at Winchcombe and elsewhere. 2016 saw a large retrospective tribute to the career of Cardew’s successor at Winchcombe, Ray Finch, to mark the 80th anniversary of his arrival. Michael’s deep seated love of music and popular regional culture and folk craft was elucidated by a Folk Art theme show and sale in November 2016.
Pastoralism: Since then and to place Cardew’s rurally enthused early artistic output in context, we have held major shows of Pastoral art of the same period. These events celebrating the etchings of followers of Samuel Palmer ranged from a Pastoral exhibition (2017) of the early output of Graham Sutherland and Paul Drury to a major exhibition encompassing the art and rural life interests of Robin and Heather Tanner (2018). The connections of such art with our foundation collection of ceramics range from the primarily geographic to the directly personal, with all broadly imbued with a love of the English Countryside and its lifestyle – notably the Cotswolds – and of its traditional built environment.
Plans for 2019: The Collection will in Summer 2019 host a Foundation Show across various creative media, Cardew’s Craft Circle. This will reflect Michael’s aesthetic world of the inter-war years and focus particularly on the output of his closest friends and core influencers. The group displays will encompass selected examples of creativity in print art, ceramics, textiles and graphic design. It will also reflect the transition in art of the period from the broadly representational to the abstract, a theme also reflected in the decoration and aesthetics of Winchcombe slipwares that ran in tandem.
External curators: We already benefit from the advice and help of retired professionals from the public museums sector, both in the curation of individual shows and in planning and sourcing our future exhibitions. We are also open to approaches from like minded external curators working in similar media for us to host shows here in the medium term (2020-).
Future donations: We would be particularly keen to attract future donations and legacies of Cotswolds School and related display and domestic furnishings to complement existing Collection assets. It is the direct experience of our existing collaborators, that objects entrusted to public museums are all too frequently consigned to reserve collections, only rarely to be displayed and thus enjoyed by the general visiting public. We have the principle of accessibility as a core founding ethos, and hope that this is a principal shared by other private individuals who might chose to contribute loved objects from their collections on temporary loan or as permanent donations or legacies in the future.
Charitable trust: We are now in the process (December 2018) of establishing a permanent charitable trust to be the recipient and guardian of loved objects from private collections, undertaking their periodic display when they harmonise with the context of individual exhibitions, and ensuring their accessibility where possible, subject to necessary issues of care and conservation to ensure their enjoyment by future generations.
Related heritage venues: We maintain cordial relations, particularly with Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden, The Wilson and its Friends organisation, and with the Gordon Russell Design Museum, Broadway. All have, to a greater or lesser extent, kindly proactively assisted the establishment of the Collection here through Friends mailings and website promotion. This reflects common cause in celebrating a unique period of early Modern Movement craft creativity in the Cotswolds, with our initiative designed in part to fill a significant gap in the coverage of the pottery side of things which, in its time, stood shoulder to shoulder with then contemporary art and sculpture.
John Edgeler (lead curator)
TEL: 01242 602 319 / 07791 782 243