It’s all about the Birds

From the mural in Coppermill Lane to the Swifts in windows for The E17 Art Trail to the electronically tagged wrapped hens in Morrison’s it’s all about the birds. It is all about the Walthamstow Wetlands such that when, at Hilary’s Tuesday’s Sociable Sewing yesterday, when it was warm and sunny, M proposed we make a quilt and a group almost decided to pay homage to Walthamstow Wetlands by appliqueing swifts on a sheet. Theft of chickens by the poor of the borough was talked about and we were aghast amongst the pinking shears, pink flowers and pink piping. On the walls behind us were geese in acrylic, winged shapes on lino-cuts, and black knitted swifts in the rafters. That is the Wonder of the Wetlands aka Wonderful Wetlands.
I spied the cat amongst the …er..pigeons. Hassan’s work caught my eye, coloured my senses, made me gasp, made me urgent in my tracks to covet the pink cat next to a fluffy bottom of a heron. The background was sharp and industrial, urban and vast. The painting’s title was long and poetic. The painting IS of the Wetlands; the mysteries and wonder of nature in a wild place soon to be full of visitors and lo and behold, children. We are voyeurs looking through Bent grass to see birds and foxes, herons and cats at work.

Back in the room we debated the journey of a quilt put together by women learning foundation stitching and adoring tiny prints on tiny cotton samples. Should the quilt be as large as The Mill table? Where would it really end up? The word quilt vanished and was replaced by “wall-hanging” and then applique showed its mistress head and tada..embellishments. Now we were moving into RAGWORKS territory. How would the integrity of a sewing group known for its ease and acceptability, drop-in nature, do-as-you-please nature survive a transformation into a group work needing homework and commitment and the possibility of excluding those who were not ready to be part of another women’s quilting group. Who would sew? Who would go?
The point of the group and any informal non-professional group in a community hub is surely the getting together of people. those from Venus in the main, and a chance to laugh, talk and chat, jaw and natter. We don’t do that over the garden fence anymore. Workshop facilitators worth their plaster of Paris, or their crocheted wire know that. Seamless Seams and Songololo were not about to produce decorations for a Town Hall. The glory of an amateur accomplishment is charming and always an indication that someone somewhere had a positive vibe going on, is evolved through social grouping and natural selection. And of course the beauty of any amateur wall-hanging and quilt, installation and experience is in the eyes of the makers, rarely the uninvolved recipients.
The nature of a group can be fragile but its integrity related to its title needs to be respected.

So I left my spacious sun-lit room, donned my creased red summer jacket, prepared for the hour journey with my sewing project in my crocheted plastic hold-all, stood at my front door and asked myself “Why are you going to the Mill when you can sew on your own table at home?” “To be Sociable”.
That’s all.

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The Mill, Coppermill Lane. E17

“The trouble with The Mill is that it’s too posh.”(Middle-aged Leyton resident. 2014)

I like posh myself and have always rated highly The Mill in Coppermill Lane. Anyone remember my story about the day I first went to The Mill in Coppermill Lane just after it opened for I was on the case at the first announcement about its inception as I’d been looking for it all my retired life.

Cleverly walked The Black Path (only knew that rat alley had such a name from walker and local historian David Boote!) then walked swiftly past the houses down by now deteriorating  St James’ Park with its smelly roses to die for and along the pee-ridden railway tunnel up into Coppermill Lane and turned left making my way for Coppermill which belongs to Walthamstow Wetlands now. Well, not belongs but is looked after by Wild London and Thames Water and is set to become a feature and a half in the European and British scheme of things watery.*

Saw swans on the way and the stationary W12 bus and thought it looked a bit empty and deserted but I was well away. After a while I asked a human on a bicycle and she said “Go the other way”, pointing towards the Market. Silly me.

The Mill is a place where we can go, read a newspaper, enjoy an art exhibition, peruse all the notices, step over escapees from the crèche area and be ignored unless the receptionist is looking up. I make a point of saying hello to a lone woman using a laptop or a group of men playing dice for those may be the only ones I talk to all day, being a lonely widow like.

The Mill has regular art exhibitions and workshops attached. The workshops are usually pennies and submitting work for exhibiting is a tenner a time or a fiver for the unwaged and poor. You see that’s another hub which makes you stick to deadlines and get art work done and finished. Professional and amateur and less than that art offerings are hung on the same walls. My postcard drawing in the past rubbed edges with Grayson Perry’s treasure. I was big-headed then. He never came to see.

There is always a launch night full of grub and drink and Mo welcoming in her own generous way ladling out Mill Punch. There is no membership to go to either the workshops, to present art for submission or to get into the crowded launch nights.

This February 2nd is the launch of “Ink Press Go!” an exhibition about printing by local printers and those having a go at getting down and dirty. It’s also the date of all things India at the William Morris Gallery. Oooh. Choices especially as frequent guests and visitors to The Mill, artist and volunteer Hassan and textile artist Sba, are doin’ their thin’ at WMG.

Want to see real posh? Then William Morris Gallery may be your niche.

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*Here is Wetlands Steve post at Facebook just now.

A peek inside the 1864 Coppermill Tower at Walthamstow Wetlands, which is currently being renovated and converted into a viewing platform, which will offer visitors spectacular panoramic vistas across Walthamstow Wetlands, the Marshes and the Lea Valley. Accessible via lift, the viewing platform will also provide a viewpoint with a wide unbroken field of view from which to spot birds at great distance. Inside the entrance to the viewing platform, there will also be a display about the history of the building and the watermills that have been on that site for over 1000 years.

In 1864, the East London Waterworks Company, added the tower to the rest of the Coppermill building which was built in 1806. The tower which is built in the arcaded Italianate style, is an elaborate chimney for the venting of steam from a Cornish Bull Engine which was housed in the tower to pump water.

The building is called the Coppermill because it was owned by the British Copper Company and used to roll copper from 1808-1859.

It is just the tower that is being opened to the public in the Autumn of 2017, the rest of the Coppermill building will continue to be used by Thames Water for training and storage.

Wetlands in Walthamstow

wetlands wed 21st Sep.pngWhat a day for a meander along reed beds and fishers’ cubby-holes. Up Your Street walked on the wild side today. We as a group had booked into Thames Water’s grounds, long since overlooked by Jill Public, through Wild London for our special guided tour of the wild and wet side of Ferry Lane, just down the road from Matalan and Burger King at Tottenham Hale, past Bream Close and into the building site costing millions and set to become Europe’s loveliest Wetlands.

We were greeted very well. The sun was out and Steve, Ellie and Rachel were raring to go. How special were we and in our group we had artists, travellers and historians.

The walk is a fair old stretch and we were advised to wear walking shoes. Remember most of us have been in sandals and now we were moving into Autumn. The herons were there all right and the cormorants were in full view on an island bereft of leaves.

The visitors’ centre is under construction and hedgerows with berries and flowers had been recently planted. We saw the difference between the oft called ‘man-made’ but preferably ‘constructed’ sunken reservoirs and the ones at ground level. The ones surrounded by artificial banks are huge lakes six metres deep and pretty dangerous with swirling currents as water flows down from Luton. They’re named after big bods from way back when. The other more natural-looking reservoirs are beautiful with the sun’s light on open bits and old steps poking into the shaded dragon-fly inhabited secretive patches.

The paths are mostly uneven and hard and we discussed the ways in which those with restricted walking ability could enjoy the way.

It all needs to be seen to be appreciated as a site glorious. We were all in awe at what is and what will be and marvelled at our guides’ knowledge about all aspects from the joined on tower and cress beds at Coppermill and the origins of the music hall song as sung by our grans, “Daisy, Daisy. Give me your answer do….”