Arts and crafts in airts an pairts

Colinton is a notable place to live with its strong Robert Louis Stevenson connection because as a boy he played in the garden of Colinton Church where his grandfather was minister. Recently, a new statue of RLS as a boy has appeared outside the kirk gate and we are promised narrative panels and an ornamental archway for the long steps (as romped up by Jane). But there are other artistic ironwork connections in the form of ornate railings at 25 Bridge Road designed by Phoebe Traquair. She is better known for the decorative friezes in the Mansfield Traquair church, and for her illustrations to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’. The church is sometimes open at the weekend and more often during the festival in August. A autumnal November Sunday promised to be quieter and I could meet a friend for tea afterwards. Obviously the images are of religious themes but Phoebe was also very good at arts and crafts style embellishments and so the decorations and side panels more to my taste. Definitely worth a visit but the brochure suggesting it as a wedding venue would have been rather gaudy to Phoebe, who coincidently is buried at Colinton Church.

The craft visit was to the curious Cockenzie House (and Gardens) in Port Seton.  A place that I probably would not have bothered visiting if it hadn’t been hosting Scotland’s Tapestry. It was the last weekend of the exhibition so the tea room was very busy but we did manage some tepid soup and toasties adorned with the side salad only seen in Scotland (minuscule, wilted and not intended for consumption). However, The Great Tapestry of Scotland is most definitely worth a visit, especially if it’s hung somewhere you can really appreciate the panels. The design is consistent and well considered while the needlework way beyond my capabilities (I did do some tapestry a long time ago, no fancy stitches but generally better than my knitting). There’s really too much to see in one visit as there are 160 panels depicting Scotland’s story from it’s geological origins to the present day. The exhibition wound its way through a number of rooms with about a dozen panels in each but it was hard to see them especially when competing with the more myopic. I happened to spy the book of the tapestry on a chair and actually saw more from that than trying to edge around the pondering pensioners.

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