Soul to Sole project at Croome Court

golden pheasant detail, mosaic shoe by Aliyahgator

During June 2014 I was selected to take part in a micro residency with The National Trust at Croome Park in Worcestershire. The house is a fantastic property with many acres of grounds, set in the countryside just outside Worcester. In the basement of the property is a large shoe rack, with space for around 30 different pairs of shoes. The National Trust has created the Soul to Sole Project around this shoe rack. Their creative team commissioned a number of artists to create shoes based around the lives of some of the many people who have inhabited Croome Park throughout the centuries. My chosen character was Barbara St.John, wife of the 6th Earl of Coventry, whom she married in 1764.

The menagerie at Croome was a gift to her from her husband, and in the Croome archives there are records of purchases and sales for some of the birds that were housed there. These included Chinese Geese, Mandarin Ducks, Peacocks, Golden Pheasants, Silver Pheasants, Parrots, Red headed Sparrows, Shelducks, Wildfowl and even a flying squirrel !

The shoes I created were made by the shoemaker Maude Van der Broeke, and you can see some of the processes that she did to create the final unmosaiced shoes here.

After she handed over the shoes, my job was to mosaic them. The design for the mosaic pattern came from Crewel work embroidery which was a technique common in the 18th century for making embroidered textiles. These textiles were ornate and richly coloured and patterned, and often featured small birds, animals such as squirrels, and insects such as butterflies. It is certainly possible that Barbara may have owned a piece of clothing made of such embroidered textiles.

The designs on the shoes include three chinese geese, a mandarin duck, a red-headed sparrow, a peacock, a shelduck, a swimming wildfowl and a golden pheasant. The tiles are made from ceramic and glass.

I will be going up to Croome to make a presentation on the work, which I am looking forward to. In September the Menagerie Wood at Croome will be opening to the public, and I am looking forward to going up to take a walk in the woods where some of the birds might have been seen flying.

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