Hello my Neeshies…………
Sorry for such a delay on the Blog. I have good intentions to write each month, and somehow business seems to get in the way. But I have discovered that I love writing and I especially love sharing with all of you. Really! I love the exchange of thoughts and ideas that are generated after I post a new Blog. It makes me happy and we all know that happy girls are pretty!
When I was in art school over 35 years ago I was first introduced to the Bloomsbury Group of artists, artisans, writers and free thinkers. I was instantly enchanted! The freedom of thought and spirit to decorate anything and everything in everyday life…what a concept! As my mother-in-law likes to say, “If you stood still long enough, they would decorate you too”.
I have longed to visit the house and the area for these 35 years and something always seemed to get in the way. But EUREKA, it finally happened. I have just returned from a trip to Europe and made the pilgrimage to Firle, East Sussex to see the home. And I would like to say that it was BEYOND my expectations.
I traveled from London Heathrow to the small village of Firle and its Ram Inn, the one and only place to stay in Firle with 4 bedrooms above the Pub. My girlfriend Mimi accompanied me and we had a fantastic adventure!
I thought I had just arrived on the set of All Creatures Great and Small. The locals were drinking a pint at the bar, the dogs were lined up at the foot of the built-in banquette and the steps to get to the rooms were narrow and steep.
Quickly we learned the story of Lord Gage (the Green Gage Plum was famously named after his Father), and how the entire village of Firle was still owned by the Lord, who we now referred to as “Lord Grantham”. The locals got a chuckle out of our love for Downton Abbey and our renaming of Lord Gage.
Because of Firle’s close proximity to London (only an hour by train), the locals can not own property because, well, “Lord Grantham” owns everything! The preservation of the Village is dependent on residents that live there, not commuters.
Finally it was time to visit the Bloomsbury House, owned and maintained by the Charleston Trust, and it was time to take off (by foot). An adventure! A challenge! A treasure hunt! We couldn’t wait!
The first part of the walk was through the village of Firle. It was picture perfect with an old church and graveyard, local “happy” hen eggs left for you to take and leave money (how about the wall behind the sign? Amazing, right?!), and signs of rainy days with boots and umbrella at the ready!
According to the map I had, not too far a distance remained, though Mimi and I found ourselves trekking it through cows, sheep, farms, stables, and a gravel service road. (And no GPS signal with nothing but the countryside as far as the eye could see.)
We happened to wander into a local garden show where we were lucky enough to find little miniature ceramic fairy doors for our garden.
By some miracle, or perhaps dumb luck, we found our way to the house which was pretty much all by itself on an old farm property that appeared to still be operating as a working farm.
Beautiful gardens and a lovely pond surround the property.
So, a little history of the House and the Bloomsbury Group for you…The core of the group was Vanessa Bell (sister to Virginia Woolf) and Duncan Grant. They were accomplished painters, sometimes lovers, and friends for life. Even Vanessa’s ex-husband and father of two of her three children (Clive Bell) moved in with them at one point.
The house was a creative boiling pot, where everything was discussed, debated, attempted, created…and all this during World War 1. I’m not quite sure what all these guys were doing in East Sussex while the rest of the world was at war, but nonetheless they all lived together.
They teamed up with Roger Fry (a successful dealer and artist himself) and created the Omega Workshops, an outlet by which to sell their art through beautiful decorative items for the home. It was a unique endeavor that broke down the divisions between fine arts and the decorative. To make sure items were bought only for the quality of the work, and not the reputation of the artist, Fry showed the pieces anonymously, marking them only with the letter omega. They printed fabric, wove rugs, made pottery… Beautiful work made by talented artisans for all to enjoy in their homes.
The House in Firle/Charleston was the center of their world. And each of them contributed to the décor. Now, a limited 6-8 people at a time are allowed to enter and go through every room of the house with an accomplished guide to tell the story and recreate the feeling of the those times. That’s not wallpaper…they painted everything!
What is it about this “world” that attracts me with such a connection? I love the notion of surrounding oneself with decoration. I love the freedom of picking up a brush and attacking a surface, with abandon and joy! I love the idea of using everything one possesses to create and surround oneself with beauty. I love not wasting one’s resources, ideas, and fun!
This house, this life, this place in the English Countryside…this expression of joy and beauty resonates in me and makes me wonder, am I there now? I think Yes!