Naked in the Garden
hand embroidery on linen
Passage to Japan
metal thread embroidery on hand printed silk
wood, silk, wire, cloth and iron hand embroidery and print
My starting point for Unravelling the Manor House is a real character, Joe Back (1865–1943) who was an employee on the Stanford family estate for the whole of his working life. His roles varied during his life but included the role of ‘Odd Man’ or odd-job man around Preston Manor. This gave him access to all areas of the family home and in my fictionalised works I have included references to contemporary exploration, literature and social change.
My site-specific work takes the form of hand embroidery and printing on handkerchiefs and work cloths to illustrate the odd man’s narrative.They appear to have been dropped whilst he was working and daydreaming at the manor house. In my work, Joe travels to Japan on a giant mushroom, wishes he could sail away to real adventures on the night seas and imagines how he’d love to run naked in the pets’ cemetery in the garden to let off steam.
There is also a small sculpture illustrating Joe’s strongman fantasy. In it, Joe’s arm is weightlifting with a domestic iron to build up his strength for jungle exploration. A linen shirt with a winged monkey detailed in silk shows us that he has been reading The Wizard of Oz which was first published in 1900.
My research was initially sparked by the “upstairs downstairs” divide within the Preston Manor household. The Stanford family are recorded as generous employers but there was still a definite pecking order. As a valued employee, Joe Back would have known his place at Preston Manor, worked long hours and lived within the social constraints of the times. Daydreaming was his escape and this has been the inspiration for my work which is the romantic, escapist adventures of one man.