Last week I went to Leeds City Libraries to look at the trade directories from 1851 onwards - in particular I was looking for details of Frederic Forsters aka The Leeds Mourning Warehouse 12 Briggate which sold all manner of mourning paraphernalia including mantles, cloaks, head dresses, bonnets, shawls, widows caps, silks, dresses, hosiery, gloves, ribbons and jewellery and Mr Forster in his advertising 'begs respectfully to call the attention of Ladies requiring Mourning to his large and and well assorted Stock, as he has devoted his entire premises exclusively for the sale of Mourning Attire thereby ensuring them not only every Novelty of the Day but great economy in prices'.
They continue to be listed in either Kelly or Robinsons Trade Directories until 1923, I couldn't find a copy of either directory on the shelves for 1924 and they are no longer listed in 1925, the address being taken over by Flather and Co Ltd Electrical Engineers and Reynolds and Bransom Chemists. Their phone number in 1923 was 22840 though I suspect you would have had to ask the operator to connect you rather than dialling them directly.
They weren't the only mourning providers on Briggate as at 168 there was S Johnson who 'begs to inform the public that her Stock is always large, well assorted and warranted of Genuine Manufacture' and that S.J. 'gives especial attention to the FAMILY MOURNING DEPARTMENT, where Family, Complimentary, and Servants Mourning may always be had to any extent, and of the very best description'.
I love that Forsters is appealing directly to women and assuring that their wares are both economical and fashionable and that S Johnson is a woman and her goods are not counterfeit. Evidently serious concerns of the time.
It is a wonderful book full of all manner of useful information, including details of churches and cemeteries and a wonderful full page advert for Leeds Royal Park which apparently is the 'best place in Yorkshire for healthy recreation' - I doubt the same could be said now. It was a red jacketed book that smelt beautifully of 'old' and its pages were loose and it left red dust marks on my fingers and on my skirt - which an archivist chum tells me is very normal for books from these times.
I am inspired by the wording of these adverts and of their typeface and setting - I hope to use the marvellous print facilities and the expertise of the print technicians to try and create work that looks similar to this, though as yet I'm not sure what form it will take, I'm still mulling over that.
The other thing I've been mulling over and changing is my studio space - and by studio what I really mean is back bedroom. So with the help of my ever lovely and supportive husband it has been rearranged, wall space-wise a couple of pictures have been replaced with cork noticeboards and we sent a lot of books we no longer want to the charity shop (4 bags worth) thereby clearing up 4 shelves which are now solely for my MA use - how quickly will they fill up I wonder........
I'm also mulling over a lesson I learnt regarding this sculpture which as a piece in itself leaves me cold but the ideas behind it I think are really interesting so I think I need to learn to look at things a bit more in depth before I dismiss them in future.
I've also managed to read a paper online - no mean feat as I much prefer paper and don't get so distracted by online nonsense when reading a book in the library and finished an article by Audrey Linkman on Post Mortem Portraiture in Britain 1860-1910 which detailed not only the aesthetics of such a practice but also some of the unpleasant practicalities...I will never look at a teaspoon handle in the same way again.
So much wonderful food for thought....so much inspiration for artwork.....
The British Library has opened it's Terror and Wonder Exhibition details here and I am really looking forward to seeing it - not least because the contents are right up my alley (or should that be right down my graveyard?) and also because last April when I was in Whitby I met one of my photographic heroes Martin Parr who was there taking photos for this exhibition and he very kindly let me take this picture.
B+W 35mm taken with Minolta 7000A lucky chum who got to the opening said that my photos of Whitby are better than his. High praise indeed as I think his photos are wonderful. Leaving aside the highly subjective nature of what makes a 'good' photograph I wondered if it is also something to do with the fact that he is an outside observer as opposed to an active participant in the festival like myself which then led me to think about the differences between observers and participants.
Anyway I haven't seen his photographs of the Goth Festival yet and so I asked my chum for more details as to why she preferred mine and I'm just going to bask in it for a while as she said "his portraits bar a few were just that and in such a good space (including a stunning mourning dress) it's a shame they weren't something more. Not saying they aren't good but Having seen your body of work I reckon they would have looked great on the walls"