Collection Creatives

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

The Collection Creatives have been meeting every four weeks at Canada Water Library, hearing the stories of objects from the Cuming Collection from our Curator, Judy Aitken. Every month, the group produce poetry and artwork in response to the museum objects and the memories they inspire. Watch this space for a Stay-At-Home special edition of Collection Creatives that you can join in with wherever you are – and here is a glimpse of the group’s work over the last twelve months:

The Lovett Collection is a wealth of superstitious and supposedly magical objects collected by Edward Lovett in the late 19th and early 20th century. You can see many of the objects on the museum’s dedicated pages to Lovett’s Charming World. In May, the Collection Creatives saw some of these objects up close, and the group conjured up their own magicians, poetry and artwork in response.

Coral Necklace by Wes Viola

Later in the Summer we met a collection of goddesses! – from the Egyptian Isis, to the Etruscan Leocothea and beyond. We were struck by the way these evocative figurines from all over the world and thousands of years of history complemented each other. The group were inspired to artwork and poetry.

Egyptian Goddess of the Sky by Cecilia Sobogun

On our suitably bright day in August our theme was the sun – and the moon. We were struck by a ‘man-in-the-moon’ Christmas decoration with a gaping mouth and an insurance plaque from the Sun Insurance Company, among other intriguing objects introduced by Judy Aitken.

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Then in September as the schools went back, the Collection Creatives saw some artefacts from schools of the past – among them a school bell and an ominous ‘punishment book’. We also reminisced about our own early learning.

The ABC Book by Roland Hallfors

Our next session was focused on teeth and tusks. In times past local docks were host to whaling vessels, and Southwark has whales’ teeth in its collection, as well as an elephant’s tooth the size of your head and a street dentist’s cap – a hat festooned with human teeth and supposedly worn to advertise his trade. The group produced art work and writing – we kept coming back to ‘big or small, we all need our teeth…’

November sees the Illuminate festival in Rotherhithe and Collection Creatives have been part of the programme every year since 2017. This year the theme was ‘Trade’, and we had exclusive access to the old Office Mixing Book from the Peek Frean biscuit factory; full of the original ingredients lists for both well-remembered and long-forgotten treats. One of many curious things about the ingredients listed is the code numbers for different kinds of sugar… this inspired ‘100 Kinds of Sugar’, performed at Illuminate’s Community Show at the end of the festival.

Photographs by Wes White

We marked the threshold of the year with a selection of objects associated with thresholds – real and imaginary doors, doorways and keys; including an ancient key to Bermondsey Abbey and an even-more-ancient-than-that fragment of a doorway for spirits from an Egyptian tomb. Many of the group members kept their creative outcomes from this session to themselves – to see the full range of artwork from the Collection Creatives, you have to come along and join in! But we are glad to present this homely portal by Alison Clayburn.

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Most recently, the group had a session focused on lost things. In 2013, Walworth Town Hall where the Cuming Museum was housed was damaged by fire. Although the vast majority of objects survived, one that was lost was a figurine of St Anne, the Patron Saint of Lost Things. This inspired ‘A natural selection’ – figurines modelled on an image of the original, and remembering things lost by the museum’s team and audience – by the artist Janetka Platun in 2015. The group saw these models up close and thought about the different kinds of loss that people experience. The responses shared here included a sketch of St Anne by the workshop leader, Wes, and a pair of poems by Jenny Mitchell. You can find out more about Jenny and her work on her own page on her publisher’s website here.

Everything Has Changed About My Child by Jenny Mitchell

From the Son by Jenny Mitchell

St Anne sketch by Wes Viola

You can join in with Collection Creatives from home in our upcoming Stay-At-Home edition – look out for details on our Twitter feed and in the Stay-At-Home Library.

Collection Creatives

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

The Collection Creatives meet at Canada Water Library every four weeks to hear the stories of objects from the Cuming Collection, brought by our Curator Judy Aitken, and respond creatively! Here are some of our outcomes from earlier in the year.

At the end of 2018 some of the Collection’s toys and games came to the library. We were especially intrigued by a ‘mutton bone doll’ collected by Edward Lovett. Children whose families couldn’t afford shop-bought dolls sometimes dressed up bones instead. They became very attached to them and Lovett approached a number of children before he found one who was willing to trade theirs with him. The girl who gave this doll to Lovett’s collection was offered a new ‘real’ doll in its place – but which was really more ‘real’?

2018 12 Toys and Games1

2018 12 Toys and Games2

In January we looked at artefacts related to tobacco, alcohol and other narcotics; including a snuff box, clay pipes and drinking vessels. This was a busy session but we only have a couple of pieces of work captured from it – if you were there and have sketches or note from the day, do send them to us to be included here!

2019 01 Narcotics

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February’s theme was jewellery, and the set included an emerald ring said to have been at one time a gift made by Charles I to his Gentleman of the Bedchamber Thomas Herbert, Victorian mourning jewellery, ‘Druidical’ beads marked as ancient (but we’re not sure…) and a necklace from Southern Africa which features a whistle said to charm away thunder.

2019 02 Jewellery

One of the jewellery pieces was a bronze ring found on the banks of the Thames, and in March we learned all about mudlarking – the riverside equivalent of beachcombing. In modern times this might be thought of as a recreational pursuit (albeit requiring a licence), but back in the 18th and 19th centuries children could be found scraping a meagre living from whatever they could find to sell in the mud – in what were dangerous and unpleasant conditions.

2019 03 Mudlarkers

And in April, to tie in with April Fools, our featured objects were all jokes and puzzles. The ‘Poisson d’Avril’ – April Fish – is a popular take on this in France. We have our own ‘Poisson d’Avril’ in France, which along with squirt rings, puzzle jugs and magic tricks inspired our Creatives in many different directions.

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Collection Creatives

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

Collection Creatives is a new group meeting once a month at Canada Water Library, in the spirit of the Mystery Object Group.  At each meeting we hear the stories of a group of objects from the Cuming Collection from the Curator, Judy Aitken; with time given to respond creatively to the artifacts in writing, artwork, or however group members are inspired.

Tiger Skull

In our first meeting in September 2018, we focused on the skull of a tiger from the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens  – as well as an image of a tiger at that zoo, being visited by Queen Victoria.

tiger 01tiger 02tiger 03tiger 04tiger 02 jean batestiger 03 maria sestini

tiger 04 alison clayburn

Egyptian amulets

In October, a selection of ancient Egyptian amulets was brought to the group, and we heard the stories of some of the beliefs associated with them, including the fact that some of them were believed to be the key to a safe passage to the afterlife, while others representing dangerous animals like snakes and hippos were also supposed to confer protection from those animals.

 

Scrimshaw

For the Illuminate Rotherhithe festival in November, we had a special evening session in which we learned about scrimshaw in the collection and the link to whaling hundreds of years ago in the local docks. Scrimshaw is whalebone which was often carved by sailors in quiet times between sightings of their prey. Herman Melville describes scrimshaw in Moby Dick as “Lively sketches of Whales and Whaling scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale teeth or ladies’ busks wrought out of the Right Whale bone and other Scrimshander articles.”

scrimshaw 04 wes violascrimshaw 01 janet dunning

scrimshaw 05 preetha leela chockalingam 1

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by Preetha Leela Chockalingam

Scrimshaw 06 Peter LePetit

Collection Creatives meets next at Canada Water Library on Tuesday 22 January  2019, where we’ll be learning about some of the objects in the collection related to smoking and drinking! The group, which is free to join, welcomes anyone in the local area seeking creative inspiration, from beginners to professionals. And as you see, if you take part, your work could feature on the Southwark Heritage blog!