Last Saturday morning I stood with the artist, Sue Lawty, and our Educational Manager, Zoe, looking with amazement at the wonderful arrange of flowers, leaves, twigs and things I don’t even have a name for, that had been collected for the Nature’s Carpet workshop.
As part of the Yorkshire Year of the Textile, Sue Lawty had been invited to run a creative event, responding to our Axminster carpets. If you have visited the house, you will have seen these carpets, one in the Yellow Drawing Room and the other in the Music Room. The pattern in each carpet reflects the ceiling of the room and they are extremely rare – one of only a handful still remaining in their original country house settings.
Harewood House Trust is currently working on raising funds to pay for one of these carpets to be conserved and we have been talking to our visitors about this all year. Both carpets are in a very fragile state, but the Yellow Drawing Room carpet is even more urgently requiring care and attention; it’s an expensive and complicated procedure. Just moving the carpets is difficult because of their size and fragility requiring eight people and hours of time.
The workshop provided a fun and creative way to raise the profile of the Yellow Drawing Room carpet, but also created an opportunity to make something amazing in a day! Our gardening team went foraging for leaves and flowers which were separated by type and colour into different bags. Even though autumn hasn’t waved its magic paintbrush over the landscape just yet, the variety of colours was quite extraordinary and made me realise that the landscape is far from just being `green`.
All through the day families with young children and adults who just wanted to get creative came and worked with Sue to build a multi-coloured pattern that echoes some of the beautiful patterns of the original carpet. We had photographs of the Axminster carpets pinned up which provided inspiration and a starting point. There was no instruction that it `had to be done this way` as Sue encouraged everyone to make their own response by working on one little bit, and together, over the day, we made a beautiful `Nature’s Carpet`.
Nicola Stephenson, Exhibitions and Projects Producer
Sue Lawty is an artist who uses unconventional materials to make contemporary artworks, including tapestries and carpets made from stone. Her work is exhibited internationally and she was Artist in Residence at the V & A Museum, London in 2005.