I am a fairly regular visitor to the Museum and love my visits there. However yesterday was the first chance I had to participate in the drop-in 'Family Fun' activities. These are for adults and children and cover topics like mosaic sculptures, animal masks, miniature gardens, bunting, Kalamkari textiles and more. See their programme here.
Anyhow I joined the Willow Pattern workshop - creating our own blue and white designs on a paper plate. Their was wax crayons, felt tips, pencils, paint, brushes, rollers and more with all sorts to help create our paper plates....loved it and clearly others participating also enjoyed themselves immensely - what a great way to get children involved.
Extraordinarily I never knew the full story of the Willow plates design - maybe I was told it once and have forgotten but for those others who don't know it listen to Victoria and Albert Museum's story of the Willow here. It is great stuff and less than 2 minutes long - you can also find many written versions like here. Some, like me, may be surprised to learn that this rendition of the Willow Legend was invented by British porcelain manufacturers only around two hundred years ago as a clever promotional tool for the marketing of chinoise tableware.
After the Willow work there are numerous quizzes to set children loose on in the Museum - we only had time for a short easy one but there are more complicated ones as well!
Anyhow next door in the exhibition room is Cleo Mussi's ‘Pharma’s Market’ - a great mosaic installation until 21st August. It is the culmination of a two-year research project exploring the contrasting imagery of historical and contemporary farming. Here is how the website describes it:
"It connects traditional ideas about food, agriculture and animal husbandry with modern developments in stem cell research and genetic modification. Although the setting of the exhibition is a traditional agricultural fair, visitors will experience an exhibition with a distinctly contemporary twist. Cleo Mussi has an engaging story to tell, and her characters, from life-sized ‘robo-rabbits’ to ‘space scientists’ and ‘bucolic farmers', all jostle for their part in the plot. Her stories are derived from the real world of science and medicine, albeit reconstructed through the process of her own particular visual imagination and humour. The exhibition opened at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester last year, and shows here in Cleo's home town of Stroud before touring across the UK. Accompanied by special events and children's holiday workshops."