Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts [TV]

Silversmith Bryony in her Victorian studio
As much as I’ve loved a lot of the ‘Back In Time’ programmes, I haven’t been watching Back In Time For School because I hated school and Mr Robot would rebel if I tried to make him watch anything mostly featuring children. The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts, which started last Friday, is much more our sort of thing. It’s got social history, which I love, and making things, which we both love. I like creating things for myself, but Mr Robot really likes craft competition programmes. The Great British Bake Off is a must-watch and we really miss The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great British Pottery Throwdown, aka ‘Pot Off’. He also enjoys an American blademaking competition, Forged In Fire, aka ‘Stab Off’. The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts isn’t quite like these as there’s no elimination, though one make is hailed as the best each week. It’s a sort of hybrid of a Great British Making Things and Victorian/Edwardian/Whenever Farm.

Abi's task: to make this chair...
In the show a group of six skilled craftspeople are holed up in an Arts and Crafts house* . They have to use their varied talents to create items for a different room each week using authentic Victorian methods – three crafters are each assigned a task, and another is made team leader, but everyone pitches in. The first week was the parlour. Cabinet maker Abdollah ‘Abi’ Nafisi was making a Morris-designed Sussex chair, silversmith Bryony Knox had to reproduce a CR Ashbee silver bowl, and designer Ilsa Parry had to design and block-print enough William Morris-inspired wallpaper to cover the room.
...from this!
I really felt for poor Abi when he was given his material to work with – a chunk of tree. He had to begin by splitting it up into pieces to work into shape. Talk about doing the job from start to finish! Nonetheless he managed to produce a beautiful chair. Bryony and Ilsa both produced smashing items too. Bryony’s task looked the more complex, as she beat a flat piece of silver into a gorgeous dish, but Ilsa’s job was huge. It was a big room, and she had to make a lot of wallpaper.

I also felt a little sorry for the two team members who didn’t have tasks of their own. Embroiderer Niamh Wimperis seemed to enjoy learning to make a rush chair seat to help Abi (experts were on hand to fill in any knowledge gaps where the crafters were lacking), but bladesmith/metalworker Rod Hughes appeared to struggle to find a place within the team.

The next episode, on Friday, involves the master bedroom, and I’m hoping we’ll see some of embroiderer Niamh’s work, and that Rod’s given something meaty to work on that will show off his skills. Will you be watching too?



*Wyndcliffe, between Chepstow and Tintern, which is privately owned and used to be open to the public but isn’t any more. It’s not actually Victorian, but it’s certainly pretty. My steampunk friends used to go for afternoon tea there.

10 comments :

  1. I'd be awful on that show because I'd keep making Ruskin style pottery and they'd protest that wasn't the assignment, and I'd insist it didn't matter because every Arts and Crafts era home was chock full of the shit.

    I will look for this show when our PBS finally gets it.

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    1. One of the six *is* a potter, so there will definitely be pots at some point.

      Also one of the presenters/judges is Keith Brymer Jones, a lovely chap who was a judge on Pot Off and was regularly reduced to tears because he loved people's ceramic creations so much. Can't see him letting them get away without a jug or two.

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  2. Oh yes, I watched it too - and loved it. Roll on Friday! My OH watches 'Stab off' too!

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    1. I'm thinking of getting Pete a knifemaking lesson for his birthday this year. He seems fascinated by it.

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  3. Sounds interesting, I'll try and catch it next time it's on! xxx

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    1. It's a fun show, and fascinating seeing people working with old tools.

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  4. O! I just watched that on youtube. I thought some of the conflicts were a bit contrived but overall I loved the show!My dad was a cabinetmaker so I was especially interested in watching Abi make the chair.

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    1. The second episode has aired and it does seem like Rod does not work well with others - I get the impression the programme makers had to struggle to keep the peace in the house.

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  5. I found it purely by chance and loved it!

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    1. I love seeing people making things. Creativity is inspiring.

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