The industrious Lethbridge sisters
Earlier this year Te Papa was approached by Red Strand Design. Based in Cork and London, the company specialises in design-based cultural and education projects. They invited us to take part in Passion & Legacy, a project inspired by the incredible stitch work of the ‘Lethbridge Sisters’, Julia Baroness Carew (1863-1922) and Lady Jane Cory (1865-1947). Te Papa holds nine of Lady Cory’s magnificent embroideries.
The sisters trained at the Royal School of Needlework in London, and are renowned for the quality and scale of the embroideries they produced for their Irish and London homes. Of their work, a neighbour, Edward Richards-Orpen, recalled, ‘To see them bending over their remarkable tapestry work was clearly pre-Raphaelite at best; the astonishing industries of [the sisters] has to be seen to be believed.’
A book and international design project
The sisters are the subject of a forthcoming book by Dr Lynn Hulse, former Archivist at the Royal School of Needlework and Editor of Text (the journal of The Textile Society), and in turn the Passion & Legacy project. Students, mixed media practitioners & stitchers from around the world are invited to respond to the Lethbridge sisters’ embroideries, and can choose from two archival references – Julia Baroness Carew’s Tree of Life panels which are housed at Girton College at Cambridge and three of Lady Jane Cory’s embroideries in Te Papa’s collection. The National College of Art & Design in Dublin, RMIT in Melbourne and Massey University, Wellington and several guilds have already signed up.
Seeing is believing – Massey University textile design students at work
In March we were delighted to host a group of fourth year textile design students from Massey University, who came to see Lady Cory’s embroideries at close quarters. The group spent two hours studying and sketching.
Following their visit, the students have been working through a series of exercises to create contemporary embroidery designs inspired by Lady Cory’s work. These have included developing a three part colour palette, trialling different stitch techniques and fills, and experimenting with both hand and digital embroidery. Their aim is to create a collection of three embroidered swatches, one of which will be entered in the Passion & Legacy project; and working in pairs, to produce two embroidered dresses. We can’t wait to see the results!