Marchmont champions new arts and crafts movement to counter the digital revolution

The coming year will see a series of initiatives at Marchmont House aimed at nurturing a 21st-century Arts and Crafts Movement; with an appeal to appreciate the hand crafted and the creative spirit.

By Dawn Renton
Friday, 10th January 2020, 8:48 am
Hugo Burge, Director of Marchmont Ventures, beside the tower building, part of the regenerated stable block artists workshops.
Hugo Burge, Director of Marchmont Ventures, beside the tower building, part of the regenerated stable block artists workshops.

The old stable block at the spectacular Borders mansion is being regenerated and transformed into workshops and studios for artists and makers. Marchmont will also be hosting a series of events that celebrate creativity, with themes including Arts and Crafts textiles and Pre-Raphaelite women mural artists.

There will also be the unveiling of a new cycle of murals inspired by artists including Phoebe Anna Traquair in the Cupola Hall, which was redesigned by her friend the architect Sir Robert Lorimer.

In a different vein a series of growing tree sculptures by the local artist Charles Poulsen will be completed and available to see during the summer.

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The projects are being driven by Marchmont’s director Hugo Burge, a tech entrepreneur who believes that the digital revolution needs to be balanced by a new movement promoting craftsmanship and human creativity that strengthen our connections to the natural world.

He said: “As someone whose career was built on the digital revolution I have a deep-seated love of technology and the incredible things it can achieve.

“But it has limits and dangers that need to be countered by a 21st-century Arts and Crafts Movement which takes from the past but looks to the future – a celebration of artists, skilled craft makers and designers, the beauty of nature and the importance of community.

“This is what William Morris and others recognised as the Industrial Revolution, with its factories, mechanisation and global trade, was transforming their world.

“And it’s exactly what we need to do again today as digital technology transforms our own society and economy, often for the better but sometimes for the worse.”

The plans for 2020 include:

· Arts & Crafts Textiles celebration – nature, beauty and community from 1850 to the present day. February 1: An in-depth look at Arts and Crafts textiles with a special focus on May Morris, daughter of William, and her contribution to the movement.

There will also be a display of work by Naomi Robertson, Dovecot Master Weaver and head of studio, Louise Gardiner (The Cape of Clouds), Morag McPherson (an Arts and Crafts kimono) and Barley Roscoe (Ernest Gimson textiles).

· Inspiring Women Artists - Legacies of Great Women Mural Painters & Artists of the Late 19th Century. April 25. A celebration of inspiring women mural painters and artists of the late 19th century, focusing on Phoebe Anna Traquair, Mary Seton Watts, Louisa Waterford and the women artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood.

This event will also see the unveiling of the Marchmont Mural Cycle; a series of wall paintings by Julia Alexandra Mee inspired by the artwork of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Partners include The Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture and the Women’s Trust for Scotland.

· Marchmont Workshop & Makers Nest. April. Opening of new artists and craft makers’ workshops in the regenerated old stable block at Marchmont House.

· Reviving Heritage Crafts. August 15. A special event to mark the opening of a workshop for the making of traditional rush seated chairs. Marchmont sponsored apprentices Richard Platt and Sam Cooper to study in Warwickshire with Lawrence Neal, the last full-time professional maker of these beautiful chairs.

They are now going into business at Marchmont House.

This event looks at what can be done to support the traditions of the past to help shape a more sustainable, hand crafted and beautiful future.