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Visit from the Quilling Guild

10 September 2013 by Angela

Quilled cabinet at Lady Lever Art Gallery

The Quilling Guild recently celebrated their 30th anniversary with a very special visit to the Lady Lever Art Gallery. Here’s Guild member and editor of the Quilling Guild blog Philippa Hartley with an insight into their visit:

The Quilling Guild’s 30th Anniversary Celebration weekend got off to a flying start with a visit to the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight, which lies just across the River Mersey from the city of Liverpool on a peninsula known as The Wirral.

So many Guild members wanted to go on this trip that we had to hire a second small bus to follow behind our main tour coach … and as soon as we took our seats on board we found ourselves immersed in excited chatter as we eagerly looked forward to the treats in store for us. While sitting on the bus, we noticed that we were parked right opposite the corner of Liverpool’s Penny Lane, immortalised by The Beatles in their famous song. Soon we were on the road, heading straight into the city centre of Liverpool whose grand public buildings are elegant and impressive. Crossing the River Mersey by way of the Birkenhead Tunnel, we emerged in The Wirral, turning quickly towards the attractive village of Port Sunlight, originally built by Lord Lever in the 19th century to house the employees in his soap factory. Such benevolence certainly created a beautiful place to live, with wide open spaces, fountains and colourful planting creating the classic ambience of an English ‘garden city’.

Once inside, we learned that we would be allowed into a private room 10 people at a time, in order to see the Gallery’s famous late 18th century quilled cabinet which had been especially removed from its protective glass case in honour of our visit. A curator was present in the room to show us the piece and – most exciting of all – to open up the cabinet doors, revealing pristine un-faded quilling in all its antique glory.

Interior of quilled cabinetThe cabinet stands 4 feet and 10 inches tall (that’s about 150 cm), and the first thing that impresses you is the fact that virtually ALL of it is quilled – including the legs, which are adorned with filigree all the way round. It’s 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 1 foot 5 inches (48 cm) deep, and the exterior is lavishly decorated with prints, filigree work and freshwater pearls. The prints have been coloured, applied to the cabinet and then varnished to give the appearance of oil paintings.

When the curator opened up the cabinet for us, there was an audible gasp from everyone present … the colours inside are still amazingly vibrant, because they haven’t been exposed to light or dirt for any length of time. Inside there are drawers, surrounding a central panel which again contains a varnished print. Instead of pearls, however, this print has sparkling pieces of cut steel set around it. Steel, it appears, was a very fashionable material in the late 18th century, often used in the creation of buckles and jewellery.

There are many filigree decorations found inside the cabinet. The patterns you can see were not necessarily created by the lady who did the quilling, however, as we know that filigree patterns could be purchased in those days, and some were published in women’s magazines of the time.

Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George III, was known to have ordered and received a cabinet with ebony mouldings which had been especially constructed for her to cover with filigree work. Could this have been that very same cabinet? We will never know … but it was a real privilege to see this amazing piece of furniture, plus four other filigree-decorated tea caddies which are also displayed in the gallery. If you ever get the chance to visit – go!!! You will certainly not be disappointed.

Close-up detail of quillingWe had a VIP visitor at the Quilling Guild’s 30th Anniversary Celebration in Liverpool this August, where the Deputy Mayor of Wirral, tried his hand at quilling in the drop-in beginners’ class. He and his wife were so taken with the displays that they stayed all afternoon to enjoy the event. ”We both enjoyed showing the Deputy Mayor, his wife and chauffeur how to make shapes and put them on a card”, comments Alexandra, Quilling Guild Committee Member. “The chauffeur made the best one!”

In our Comments Book, the Deputy Mayor wrote that the experience had given them a ‘fantastic and fascinating insight’ into the world of quilling – a view that was also shared by two ladies who came to the University expecting to look round a ‘quilting’ show (yes, it always happens!!), and ended up enquiring about membership of the Guild!

  1. Menai Dillon says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog about your visit to Lady Lever art gallery. In my ignorance I had no idea that quilling existed – please excuse me. However I wasn’t quite as bad as the person who thought it was quilting – caused me to laugh out loud. I shall be googling it all like mad now. That cabinet at the Lady Lever looks fantastic – I shall look for it on my next visit there though I realise that I shall only get to see the outside.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks Menai, we are looking forward to welcoming Josie Jenkins from the Quilling Guild, back to the Lady Lever 6 March 2014 between 1pm and 4pm. Josie will be demonstrating some amazing quilling techniques, so it might be worth visiting us again!

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