'She sat with a piece of embroidery before her, and I watched her needle go in and out as she deftly painted in silks a picture of Joseph’s dream."
A Traveller in Time - Alison Uttley
My name is Vivien Massery and I live with my husband Rick, in Malvern, Worcestershire. We live in the smallest home in the street and love it. From our front door we can see the 'misty mountains' of Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the woods of C.S Lewis' Narnia; it's an inspirational and magical place.
As a child I lived in Chester, Cheshire and often visited the Children’s Library, all sparkling stairways and wooden shelves. My favourite book was 'A Traveller in Time' by Alison Uttley, I read it as often as I could; I loved the idea of being able to slip between the past and the present and was completely enthralled by the story of the Elizabethan household and its daily life.
The book was a creative influence too. Because of it I learnt embroidery at a young age and I’ve always loved being in, and making, herb gardens. A good herb garden is the closest you can come to true time travel; marjoram and sage, southernwood and lavender will instantly transport you to whatever period in history you fancy. And then there are the textiles, antique linen and vintage cottons. Wonderful links to the past. Their textures and colours are simply not available in modern fabrics, and they have their own stories to tell.
Over the years I've learnt to combine all my favourite past-times. I love searching for old fabrics, looking for interesting colours, textures and patterns, and then using the material I’ve found to make something new. Sometimes an image will come to mind that will lead to an idea for a piece of work or it may be a line from a poem. Then I happily accept the challenge of finding the right piece of material for the background, the perfect stitch to execute the design and the right coloured silk or a new way of working with fabric paint to achieve the desired effect. I use a domestic sewing machine for adding strength to applique and cushion seams, everything else is made by hand. Every item I make is unique, the material, the mood of the day all affect the outcome. On average I spend around twenty two hours on each hand embroidered design; a larger cushion or picture will take longer.
I often add lavender to the cushions, I also make sweet bags to keep linens fresh and moths away and home-made potpourri, and the recipes for these are taken from those ‘receipts’ of the great mistresses of the Elizabethan Still Rooms and their Georgian and Victorian counterparts.
The results are modern antiques, an oxymoron and yet the most accurate description I can think of; loved and ancient objects that appear new yet carry the weight of their past with them. A Traveller in Time indeed!