Your shopping cart is empty!

Objects of Use at Compton Verney

The exhibition was devised as a series of encounters between historic and contemporary works including new commissions by Rosa Nguyen and landscape and garden designer Dan Pearson. Objects of Use has installed a gallery of objects which are representative of the legacy of craft and beauty in the production of everyday objects today. Objects in this gallery are presented for viewers to pick up and experience first hand, for a fuller appreciation of their materials, making, and craftsmanship.
Objects of Use installation at Compton Verney; The Arts and Crafts House - Then and Now
Outside, around a spectacular Cedar of Lebanon (part of the existing 'Capability' Brown landscaping), Dan Pearson has created an extraordinary meadow, inspired by William Morris's 'Trellis' wallpaper design, which will go on developing over the next several years, with different flowering species being encouraged through specific planting. Very beautiful in the evening light on the day the exhibition opened:
Dan Pearson's Arts and Crafts inspired meadow on the grounds of Compton Verney
Back in April on a preparatory visit we marvelled at this towering figure standing alone upon the lawns to the front of the house, and couldn't help but to want to discover a little more. Undeniably redolent of The Wicker Man, it perhaps shares a similar source, being developed - by the artist Faye Claridge - after the work of Sir Benjamin Stone, a politician and photographer who around the turn of the twentieth century travelled the country recording what he could of unusual festivals and ancient folk customs.
Kern Baby by Faye Claridge on the grounds of Compton Verney.
Kern Baby or Harvest Queen, photographed by Sir Benjamin Stone, 1901
But our most characteristic festive rejoicings accompany the harvest - the mell-supper and the kern-baby, usages which are by no means extinct among us. In the northern part of Northumberland, the festival takes place at the end of the reaping, not of the ingathering; and an essay written, about the year 1750, by the unhappy Eugene Aram, states that such was also the case in Yorkshire. When the sickle is laid down, and the last sheaf of golden corn set on end, it is said that they have ‘got the kern.’ The reapers announce the fact by loud shouting, and an image is at once hoisted on a pole, and given into the charge of the tallest and strongest man of the party. The image is crowned with wheat ears and dressed up in gay finery, a white frock and coloured ribbons being its conventional attire. The whole group circle round this harvest queen, or kern baby, curtseying to her, and dancing and singing; and thus they proceed to the farmer's barn, where they set the image up on high, as the presiding goddess of their revels, and proceed to do justice to the harvest supper.
		Nor is this all. Each cottage must at harvest time have its own household divinity, and oaten cakes having formerly been the staple food of the North, these figures are commonly formed of oats. Such have I repeatedly seen in cottages on the Tweed side, elaborately decorated and enshrined at the top of the bink or dresser, with the family stock of big dishes ranged on either side. These too are kern babies.
A kern baby or harvest queen photographed by Sir Benjamin Stone in 1901, with descriptive text from William Henderson's 'Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders' published by Longmans in 1866. Such festivals remain even today in vestigial form but it is perhaps difficult for us to even imagine a time when the success of the harvest determined the very existence of a community for another year, a lesson all too familiar with those celebrating or writing with such fresh memories of the Great Famine in Ireland. Perché una mostra di falci?
To find out more about the exhibition or the Kern Baby please do visit Compton Verney online or even better in person - when you could also visit our pop-up shop which will be running on site for the duration of the show.