Be on the lookout for “Material Lives”

October 3, 2020 at 12:21 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history) (, , , )


About Material Lives: Women Makers and Consumer Culture in the Eighteenth Century, by Serena Dyer:

“Eighteenth-century women told their life stories through making. With its compelling stories of women’s material experiences and practices, Material Lives offers a new perspective on eighteenth-century production and consumption. Genteel women’s making has traditionally been seen as decorative, trivial and superficial. Yet, their material archives, forged through fabric samples, watercolours, dressed prints and doll’s garments, reveal how women used the material culture of making to record and navigate their lives.

Dyer_Material Lives

Material Lives positions women as ‘makers’ in a consumer society. Through fragments of fabric and paper, Dyer explores an innovative way of accessing the lives of otherwise obscured women. For researchers and students of material culture, dress history, consumption, gender and women’s history, it offers a rich resource to illuminate the power of needles, paintbrushes and scissors.”

From Bloomsbury, the publisher:

List of Illustrations
List of Charts and Tables
Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction: Making Material Lives
Material Life Writing
The Consumer Culture of Making
Four Material Lives

2. Material Accounting: A Sartorial Account Book
Barbara Johnson (1738–1825)
Educating Barbara Johnson
Accounting for Herself
Material Literacy
A Chronicle of Fashion

3. Dress of the Year: Watercolours
Ann Frankland Lewis (1757–1842)
Sartorial Timekeeping and the Fashion Plate
Accomplishment and Creative Practice
Society and Fashionable Display
Selfhood, Emotion and the Mourning Watercolours

4. Adorned in Silk: Dressed Prints
Sabine Winn (1734–1798)
Paper Textiles, Dress and the Dressed Print
Sabine Winn’s Dressed Prints
Print and Making at Nostell

5. Fashions in Miniature: Dolls
Laetitia Powell (1741–1801)
The Powell Dolls
Mimetic Dolls and Miniature Selves
Dolls as Sartorial Social Narrators

6. Conclusion: Material Afterlives

Glossary
Bibliography
Index

What enthuses me the most are the chapters on two women I know well by name. 

Barbara Johnson (see “New Find – Old Book” and “Fashion News, Regency-Style“) produced the lovely “album of styles and fabrics” that covers so many decades of her life, from 1746 up to her death in 1825. The album was photographed during its conservation, a heart-rending tale to hear about (its condition was deteriorating, after its purchase by the Victoria and Albert, which came after its purchase by Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) was blocked). Don’t we all hope that “we” are proper “caretakers” of items in our possession?

And the chapter on Ann Frankland Lewis must be among the first long-looks at the art (and hopefully life) of this fascinating artist. (See “Ann Lewis fecit” and “Regency Fashion, L.A. Style“.)

“Frankland” as a name is of interest to my research because of a brief mention, by Emma Smith (several years before she became Emma Austen [1828]), of “some” daughters of the Rev. Roger Frankland, a Canon of Wells. The Smiths were great friends with the Archbishop of Bath and Wells, Rev. Beadon, and spent many weeks each year visiting his family. “The Miss Franklands” were musical, and as such came to my attention while working on the book chapter, “Prima la musica: Gentry Daughters at Play – Town, Country, and Continent, 1815-1825” (for the edited volume, Women and Music in Georgian Britain). That I could locate this brother in Ann Frankland Lewis’ family proved hard work. So it’s exciting to wonder what about Lewis’ biography Serena Dyer has been able to locate.

I see that an old 2014 post, “Elite Ladies of the North,” not only mentioned Sabine Winn (chapter 4), but also had located a PODCAST about her by Serena Dyer.

The book Material Lives is due to be published at the end of February 2021, so we’ve a bit of a wait. Dyer has an edited volume – also published by Bloomsbury – just out (in the UK) or coming out (November 2020) in the US: Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Nation of Makers, with co-editor Chloe Wigston Smith.

As someone who was “crafty” in her youth (and self-taught), I believe it is about time that scholars take a serious look at women artists as more than “time-fillers of too many leisure hours” and see their work as more than “merely decorative” stuff. I sewed, did needlework, knitted; at one point I loved to paint (by number, I’m afraid); and did several other “crafts.” I enjoyed doing them, and enjoyed wearing the products of my work and keen ability, and I still gaze upon old handiwork – a pillow here, a piece of art on the wall there, old sketches and fading photographs. 

*Listen to a podcast of Dyer talking about her books and interests in dress and consumer culture in general; at Stitcher.

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