Archive | November 2014

Filming locations: Wilton House

I’ve been meaning to write about Wilton House for a while, but was spurred on today when I sold a little brooch in my Etsy shop. I sent a thank-you notecard with the order, one from a set I’d bought many years ago from the Wiltshire Records Office (as was: now the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre), and the one I chose featured a late 18th century engraving of Wilton House:

Wilton House. Late 18th century engraving.

Wilton House. Late 18th century engraving, showing the south front of the house on the left and the Palladian Bridge on the right.

(Or perhaps more accurately, an engraving of a couple of lovely trees and a party of people, with a section of Wilton House and the Palladian Bridge lurking in the background.)

I regularly drive past the impressive gates of Wilton Houseso regularly that I’ve almost stopped noticing them. Not an easy feat: just look at them! Isn’t it terrible to take something so spectacular so for granted?

The impressive gates to Wilton House. Photo by MrsCommons.

The impressive gates to Wilton House. Photo by MrsCommons.

Unlike many of the other grand houses I’ve written about, Wilton House is still a family home, the seat of the Earls of Pembroke for the last 400 years. The first building on the site was a priory founded in c. 871 AD; the first Earl of Pembroke took possession of the site in 1542. Relatively little of the first, Tudor house survives: what is visible today is mostly the Palladian building of the 1630s and 1640s, designed with the involvement of Inigo Jones, and later alterations by James Wyatt in the early 19th century.

The south front of Wilton House. Photo by John Chapman.

The south front of Wilton House. Photo by John Chapman.

Wilton House, south and east fronts. Photo by Henry Kellner.

Wilton House, south and east fronts. Photo by Henry Kellner.

Wilton House, east front. Photo by Mike Searle.

Wilton House, east front, with the Tudor tower in the centre. Photo by Mike Searle.

The interiors of Wilton House are sumptuous, and among the state rooms designed by Inigo Jones are the Single Cube Room (measuring 30 feet (9.14 m) long, wide and high, and the Double Cube Room, which is 60 feet (18.29 m) long and 30 feet (9.14 m) wide and high.

Wilton House, the Double Cube Room.

Wilton House, the Double Cube Room.

The grounds and gardens are beautiful, with one of only a handful of Palladian bridges in the country, built over the River Nadder.

Wilton House, the Palladian Birdge. Photo by Mike Searle.

Wilton House, the Palladian Bridge. Photo by Mike Searle.

Such stunning locations have not surprisingly been used a lot in movie and television filming.

There is a much more comprehensive list on the Wilton House website location filming page.

A scene from Pride and Prejudice filmed at Wilton House in the Double Cube Room.

A scene from Pride and Prejudice filmed at Wilton House in the Double Cube Room.

Update 10 August 2015: I’ve just learned that the television series Outlander has just finished two weeks’ filming at Wilton House, which is standing in for the Palace of Versailles. Apparently the British furniture and furnishings were moved out, and appropriate French ones were moved in for the duration of the filming. Plus the candle budget was £1000 a day! Simon Callow was one of the actors.

Vikings ahoy!

December 2016 update: I always seem to have Viking ship jewellery in my shop. Click here to see the current selection.

More by accident than designand a very happy accident at thatI have three Viking ship brooches in my Etsy shop at the moment. I think they show longships, as opposed to the other kinds of Viking sea-going vessels.

Fabulous David-Andersen Viking ship brooch, dated to between 1924 and 1939, for sale in my Etsy shop. Click on photo for details.

Fabulous David-Andersen Viking ship brooch, dated to between 1924 and 1939. For sale in my Etsy shop: click photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

The jewel in the crown is an exquisite silver and enamel brooch by the renowned Norwegian firm of David-Andersen. The craftsmanship in this piece is stunning, and shows why David-Andersen enamelwork is so highly thought of.

The brooch can be dated quite closely to between 1924 and 1939, as the combination of 925 (sterling) silver and a particular form of the maker’s mark for the company was only used in this period. This brooch design is rarely seen and so is highly collectable.

The second Viking ship brooch dates from 1946 and was made by the Birmingham firm of Shipton and Co. It is solid sterling silver and was hallmarked in Chester (I wonder why a Birmingham firm didn’t send their silver to the Birmingham Assay Office to be hallmarked, rather than the Chester one?). It is very reminiscent of the popular Iona silver Celtic-style jewellery, made famous by designer Alexander Ritchie:

For sale in my Etsy shop. Click photo for details.

Sold sterling silver Viking ship brooch, made by Shipton & Co of Birmingham and hallmarked 1946 in Chester. For sale in my Etsy shop: click photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

The third brooch is also the youngest one: it was made by famous silversmith Malcolm Gray of the Ortak silversmithing firm on the Orkney Islands, and hallmarked at the Edinburgh Assay Office in 1981:

Sterling silver Viking longship brooch by Malcolm Gray of Ortak, hallmarked Edinburgh 1981. For sale in my Etsy shop: click photo for details.

Sterling silver Viking longship brooch by Malcolm Gray of Ortak, hallmarked Edinburgh 1981. For sale in my Etsy shop: click photo for details. (NOW SOLD). September 2015 update: I have another of these for sale, also from 1981. Click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

This brooch is also solid sterling silver. The hallmarks and Gray’s maker’s mark are tiny, and barely visible among the textured dimples on the back of the brooch. The choice of subject matter is a fitting one, for the Vikings were an integral part of the history of these islands. The people of the Shetland Islands, north of the Orkneys, remember their Viking heritage every year with the Up Helly Aa festivals, and one day Chap and I are going to make it up there to see the festivities.

Update 22 June 2015: I have a new Viking ship brooch, by Aksel Holmsen of Norway, and dating from the 1930s:

Viking ship brooch in 830 silver, by Aksel Holmsen of Norway. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Viking ship brooch in 830 silver, by Aksel Holmsen of Norway. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Malcolm Gray Ortak sterling silver Viking ship brooch, 1975. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Malcolm Gray Ortak sterling silver Viking ship brooch, 1975. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

September 2015 update. A couple more Viking ship brooches:

A Shetland Silvercraft brooch from 1968:

Sterling silver Viking ship brooch by Shetland Silvercraft, 1968. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Sterling silver Viking ship brooch by Shetland Silvercraft, 1968. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

and a tiny mystery:

Tiny enamel and sterling silver Viking brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photos for details.

Tiny enamel and sterling silver Viking brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photos for details. (NOW SOLD).

And finally, I just had to end with a clip from a great Saturday tea-time favourite film of mine when I was a kid: The Vikings (1958), starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Ernest Borgnine.

Holuhraun and Bárðarbunga

The eruption at Holuhraun, just to the north-east of and part of the Bárðarbunga volcanic system in Iceland, has been ongoing since 29 August this year. I wrote a couple of posts about it, here (its start) and here (its early days), but I haven’t written an update for a while.

The fissure eruption has continued unabated now for 85 days. The most recent figures I can find are for 17 November (four days ago), and then the lavafield covered an area of 73 km² and had a volume of more than 1 km³. This makes it the largest eruption in Iceland since the Laki eruption of 1783, when an estimated 14 km³ of basalt lava was erupted.

The Holuhraun lavafield (outlined) with the ongoing eruption.  Source: University of Iceland Twitter account.

The Holuhraun lavafield (outlined) with the ongoing eruption. Source: University of Iceland Twitter account.

There is no sign in decrease in activity, and the subsidence at the Bárðarbunga caldera is continuing as well.

This beautiful video was taken a week or so ago:

The eruption is demonstrating to us nicely the early stages in the life of a new shield volcano. So exciting!

The wonderful website VolcanoCafé has great updates on the eruption, as well as a page dedicated to all the useful web links to data, webcams etc.

Song thrushes

The song thrush (Turdus philomelos) is one of my favourite songbirds. The song of the male is so beautiful. Song thrushes live in the UK year-round, and one of the special seasonal markers for us is that first day in early spring when the male starts singing from the top of one of the tall trees near our cottage. He is always the first to start the dawn chorus each morning—the blackbirds follow, but for a time his is the only voice in the pre-dawn gloom. It’s a lovely way to wake up. 

Song thrush. Photo by Tony Wills.

Song thrush. Photo by Tony Wills.

The males stop singing later in the summer—maybe it’s to do with having established their territory and bred successfully. I miss their song when it stops, and so it’s always such a delight when, in the cold grey days of November, for some reason they start up again. A male has been singing his heart out around us for the last fortnight or so. His favourite perch is an ash tree in next door’s garden. It’s wonderful to hear. His song isn’t as full as in the spring, but it is still a thing of beauty.

I love the way thrushes repeat phrases as they sing. The ones around us seem to prefer three repetitions per phrase: I wonder if this is a regional thing? Elsewhere I have read of twice-repetitions being the norm.

(Even though we have two native thrush species, the song thrush and the mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) here in the UK, the song thrush is just the ‘thrush’ to me and many others, as mistle thrushes are so rarely seen. I have seen one once in the 22 years I have been living in our village.) 

When Chap and I were on holiday in New Zealand we were fascinated to learn that many British birds had been introduced to the country in the Victorian period—the settlers were homesick, I guess. Even though thrushes are now struggling in the UK and are a Red List endangered species here, they are thriving in New Zealand. We were delighted at several camp sites to find the thrushes so tame that they would hop around our feet and feed on the chopped dried fruit (apricots and mangoes) we put down for them. We were also saddened to hear at one vineyard that the thrushes are such a threat to the grape harvest that the vineyard owner shot them as pests.

Sleep tight, Philae

Almost a week on from the excitement of Philae’s landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov—Gerasimenko, and the dust has settled, just about (damn low gravity on that there comet). What a rollercoaster ride. My live feed to ESA decided to cut out right at the very moment that the landing was confirmed, so I missed the punch-the-air happy moment, but it was still such a wow-wow-wow moment, learning of the touchdown via ESA’s twitter feed rather than seeing and hearing about it. So fantastic. And then came the delay in getting the photos of the comet’s surface that we had been promised not long after Philae had touched down. Something was up, but ESA wasn’t telling, for a while at least. Then came the news that the scientists thought the harpoons hadn’t secured Philae to the surface—we already knew that the booster that would help force the probe on to the surface wasn’t going to work—and it might have bounced.

Photo taken by Philae from about 40m above the surface of the comet, just prior to Phiale's landing.

Photo taken by Philae from about 40 metres above the surface of the comet, just prior to Philae’s landing.

ESA_Rosetta_OSIRIS-NAC_Landing_site_50km

X marks the spot: Philae’s initial landing place on the comet.

Philae's initial landing place on the comet, before the first of its tow bounces. She was right on target.

Philae’s initial landing place on the comet, before the first of its two bounces.  In the right hand shot, Philae and its shadow can be seen on the surface.

The next morning came the news that it had indeed bounced – twice. The gravity is so low on the comet’s surface that the first bounce is thought to have been in the region of 1 km high.

Philae landing on the comet, taken from Rosetta.

Philae’s first bounce, taken from Rosetta.

Then came pictures of the surface. Staggering shots, the first ever showing a close up of the surface of a comet. But the scientists still didn’t know where exactly on the comet Philae was.

The fiorst image sent back by Philae from the surface of the comet. The lander's leg is in the bottom right corner.

The first image sent back by Philae from the surface of the comet. Part of the lander can be seen in the foreground.

Then came the news that Philae had landed with one of its legs up in the air, and in shadow for much of the time. Not good news for either its stability (needed for the scientific tests) or more importantly for its life – if it didn’t get sun, the solar panels would not be able to recharge the batteries and the probe would shut down.

Panoramic image series taken by Philae, with a sketch of the lander itself superimposed indicating its probable orientation.

Panoramic image series taken by Philae, with a sketch of the lander itself superimposed indicating its probable orientation.

Then Philae’s location was established. Time was running out, and the scientists decided to run the tests and hope that Philae would have enough power to get the results back to Rosetta, for it to send the data back to us. Success!

And then Philae ran out of power, and shut down.

In its journey around the sun, there may come a time when the sun falls on Philae and it awakens and can talk to us and hopefully perform more science tasks. Rosetta will be accompanying the comet on its travels, and so will be able to send messages to and from earth. There is a plan to land Rosetta on the comet when its useful life is done: a fitting grave, close to little Philae. Together they will wander through the solar system, on their long orbit around the sun. I love this thought. It reminds me a little of the ending of one of my favourite films, Dark Star.

So much amazing science, such a tremendous achievement, such a heart-stopping few days full of highs and lows. Wow, what a great, great week for science.

Update: organic molecules have been detected by Philae on the surface of the comet!

Philae has landed!

So, so happy right now. Philae is safely down on the surface of the comet, “Its landing gear has been drawn back into the lander and it is sitting on the surface!” “It’s talking to us”.

Just waiting now for the first photos from the surface …

Such a massive, extraordinary achievement. I can’t say how proud I am of all the ESA scientists and engineers and others involved.

Shortly after parting from Rosetta, the lander Philae took a shot of its mothership., Rosetta, here seen above the sun flare.

Shortly after parting from Rosetta, the lander Philae took a shot of its mothership, Rosetta, here seen above the sun flare.

Philae soon after separation, photographed from Rosetta.

Philae soon after separation, photographed from Rosetta.

Philae on its way, photographed from Rosetta.

Philae on its way, photographed from Rosetta.

Last shot of Philae from Rosetta.

Last shot of Philae from Rosetta.

Before today, humankind had landed spacecraft on only six other celestial bodies: the moon, Mars, Venus, Titan (one of Saturn’s moons) and two asteroids.* This is the seventh. An amazing, stunning, superb achievement. Congratulations.

* (in 2005 NASA’s Deep Impact mission intentionally crashed an impactor into comet Tempel 1 in order to study the resulting debris cloud; it doesn’t quite count as a ‘soft landing’, and no data was sent back from the surface of the comet). 

Philae countdown begins

The countdown for the release of the Philae probe from the Rosetta spacecraft, and its 7 hour journey down to the surface of comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has begun. This is a historic and quite mind-boggling mission. Rosetta, the European Space Agency’s robotic spacecraft, spent the last 10 years travelling from earth to to rendezvous with the comet. It then spent a few months in orbit around the c. 6 km long comet, mapping its terrain to establish the likely safest landing place for Philae, the probe it is carrying.

But not for much longer! If all goes to plan, at around 8.35 am GMT/UTC tomorrow, Philae will separate from Rosetta and head off down to the surface of the comet. The descent will take some seven hours. Once it makes touchdown, it will secure itself to the icy surface of the comet using harpoons and screws. The signal that the mission has succeeded should be received back on earth at about 4.00 pm GMT/UTC the same day.

The targeted landing place on . Photo by ESA.

The targeted landing place for the Philae probe on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Photo by ESA, taken from Rosetta.

The risks are great—Philae may not even touch down on the comet. It may make a bad landing and fall over, and it has no means of righting itself should this happen.

If it does succeed, it will then commence the varied scientific analyses it is equipped for. First and foremost, it will photograph its landing spot. This will be the first ever photograph taken on the surface of a comet. Amazing!

Jagged terrain on the comet. Not the landing spot!

Jagged terrain on the comet. Not the landing spot!

PIA18869_ip

More rough terrain on the comet. Also not the landing spot!

Much smoother terrain on the comet. Not the landing spot, but the sort of place that has been chosen, with fewer obstacles.

Much smoother terrain on the comet. Not the landing spot, but similar to the sort of place that has been chosen, with fewer obstacles.

The BBC has provided a schedule of tomorrow’s activities (all times in GMT/UTC):

  • Rosetta delivery manoeuvre – shortly after 06:00
  • Latest Go/No-go decision – before 07:35
  • Philae separates from Rosetta – 08:35
  • Confirmation signal at Earth of separation – 09:03
  • Rosetta’s post-delivery manoeuvre – 09:15
  • Radio connection established – 10:30
  • First data from descending Philae after 12:00
  • Landing of Philae on 67P – after 15:30
  • Confirmation signal at Earth – around 16:00

There is a much more detailed one at ESA’s website.

I will be watching and waiting with bated breath. The landing is being broadcast live by ESA: it can be viewed here, right now!

Remembrance Day

Today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember all those members of our armed services who fell in war. Today’s remembrance is even more poignant, marking as it does the centenary of the year the First World War started.

Chap and I went for a walk on Sunday around Dinton Park, in Dinton in south Wiltshire, and we also visited the church next door. There in the churchyard, alone against the stone boundary wall, was a military grave. It is the final resting place of Private Edgar Walter Cuff.

The headstone of Private E W Cuff, who died on

The headstone of Private E W Cuff, who died on 11 May 1917.

Private Cuff was in the Dorsetshire Regiment. I don’t know anything else about him, but he gave his life in World War I. As he is buried in the churchyard rather than in a military cemetery in France or Belgium, close to the battlefields, I assume he was injured or became ill and was brought back to England, where he succumbed. Rest in Peace, Private Cuff. Thank you for your sacrifice.

There is a war memorial in the churchyard—as there is in most churchyards throughout the country—and it lists the names of the men of Dinton who died in both World Wars. For such a small village, the toll is great: eight men in World War I and three in World War II. It shows the scale of the loss: this picture is repeated in every village around the country.

The war memorial in Dinton churchyard, Dinton, Wiltshire.

The war memorial in Dinton churchyard, Dinton, Wiltshire.

The plaque on the war memorial at Dinton listing those who died in the two World Wars.

The plaque on the war memorial at Dinton listing those who died in the two World Wars.

20050613-019-poppy (2)

A poppy, the symbol of remembrance. Photo by Gary Houston.

Lest We Forget.

Jessie M King, Arts and Crafts jewellery designer

Jessie Marion King (1875—1949) was a Scottish designer and illustrator. She is perhaps best known for her work as a book illustrator, mostly of children’s books, but her many and varied skills included bookbinding, the decoration of ceramics and tiles, and book cover, wallpaper, textile and jewellery design. I love her jewellery designs so decided to write a short piece about her: her Wikipedia page focuses solely on her book illustrating career so I thought I’d try to fill the gap a little. If you want to know more about her book illustrations, here is a good starting point. But I am here for the jewels!

Jessie M King by J. Craig Annan (autochrome, 1908).

Jessie M King by James Craig Annan (autochrome, 1908).

Jessie enjoyed a successful career teaching and illustrating books and book covers, but as multi-talented and artistic people are often wont to do, she worked just as successfully in several other disciplines. From what I can gather, she first worked for Liberty in the very early 1900s designing wallpaper and fabrics, with commissions to design jewellery and silverwork for Liberty’s Cymric range following soon afterwards. She designed the jewellery but did not make it – that was undertaken by jewellers employed by Liberty.

Jessie’s jewellery designs can be broadly split into two types: pieces made with silver and enamel, often in quite large panels, only very occasionally with a freshwater pearl dangle, and generally more “Art Nouveauy” in feel:

Jessie M King design: silver and enamel pendant necklace and chain, dating from 1905. Made for Liberty & Co, its design is in the Liberty Pattern Book, no 8809. In the collections of the National Museums of Scotland.

Jessie M King design: silver and enamel pendant necklace and chain, dating from 1905. Made for Liberty & Co, its design is in the Liberty Pattern Book, model 8809. In the collections of the National Museums of Scotland.

Pendant necklace of silver, enamel and mother of pearl, designed by Jessie Marion King for Liberty & Co, 1904-1906. Collection of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, UK.

Pendant necklace of silver, enamel and mother of pearl, designed by Jessie M King for Liberty & Co, 1904-1906. Collection of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, UK.

Silver andenamel buckle, designed by Jessie M King for Liberty & Co.

Silver and enamel buckle, designed by Jessie M King for Liberty & Co.

and those made with precious metals (often just gold, or gold with silver, or just silver), precious and semi-precious stones and/or pearls, and only small areas of enamel detailing, which are generally more “Arts and Craftsy” in feel:

Jessie M King brooch design for Liberty & Co. Gold, moonstone and enamel. Liberty model number 1800. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, moonstone and enamel brooch. Liberty model number 1800. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

v

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, silver, enamel and chrysoprase ring. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, sapphire, moonstone and green enamel necklace. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, sapphire, moonstone and green enamel necklace. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie Marion King for Liberty & Co. Gold, enamel and amethyst pendant, c. 1900. H: 5.5 cm (2.17 in) W: 2.2 cm (0.87 in) British, c.1900 Fitted Case Minor repair to enamel Literature: cf. Liberty Jewellery sketch-book, page 290 Model number: 8603

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, enamel and amethyst pendant. Liberty model number 8603. Sold by Tadema Gallery. Shows both of her common enamel motifs, the bud and the ‘lily of the valley’/three pointed flower.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Silver pearl and enamel pendant. Liberty model number 9257. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Silver, pearl and enamel pendant. Liberty model number 9257. Sold by Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King (attrib). Silver, citrine and enamel pendant. For sale at VictoriaSterling at Etsy (click on photo for details).

Jessie M King design (attrib). Silver, citrine and enamel pendant. For sale at VictoriaSterling at Etsy (click on photo for details).

Jessie M King for Liberty & Co. Moonstone, enamel and silver pendant. Sold at Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Moonstone, enamel and silver pendant. Sold at Tadema Gallery.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. A Glasgow School gold and sapphire necklace, Liberty pattern Book model 8498. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. A Glasgow School gold and sapphire necklace, Liberty Pattern Book model 8498. Sold by Van Den Bosch.

Her colour palette is overwhelmingly blue, green and purple. I have to add this is my personal take on her jewellery and I am no expert!

The Liberty Pattern Book holds many of her original designs, each one numbered.

Some of Jessie M King's jewellery designs in the Liberty book.

Some of Jessie M King’s jewellery designs in the Liberty Pattern Book, with model number. Pattern 8605 (bottom right of the drawings) is shown in its realised form below.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, amethyst and enamel pendant. Liberty Pattern Book 8605.

Jessie M King design for Liberty & Co. Gold, amethyst and enamel pendant. Liberty Pattern Book model 8605, shown above.

A brief biography:

Jessie was born in New Kilpatrick, near Bearsden in Dunbartonshire, and studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1892. Here she was influenced by, and later herself influenced the world famous Glasgow Style, a development of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements. While at the School she was a member of what was later known as the “Glasgow Girls” group of female artists, and met and formed lifelong friendships with artists such as Helen Paxton Brown and Mary Thew.

Jessie was an award-winning student, and in 1899, the same year that she graduated, she was appointed Tutor in Book Decoration and Design at the School of Art, where she continued to teach until 1908. Her first commissions were for book covers, with book illustrations following in 1902, and it was around 1904 that she started to design fabrics for the famous firm of Liberty & Co. of London and just a little later jewellery, also for Liberty.

She embarked on a study tour of Italy and Germany in 1902, and the next year became a committee member of the Glasgow Society of Artists. In 1905 she joined the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists. Her first solo exhibitions were at the Bruton Street Gallery in London in 1905 and at the studio of T and R Annan (Annan’s Gallery) in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, in 1907.

Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo by Ad Meskens.

Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo by Ad Meskens.

After a ten year engagement, in September 1909 Jessie married the artist E A (Ernest Archibald) Taylor, and moved with him to Salford where he worked designing for the firm of George Wragge Ltd. Here their only child, Merle Elspeth, was born. The family moved to Paris in 1910, again for Ernest’s career as he had gained a teaching position at Ernest Percyval Tudor-Hart’s studios. In 1911 Jessie and Ernest set up their own art teaching school, the Shealing Atelier. While in Paris Jessie met and was influenced by artists including Henri Matisse, Marie LaurencinThéophile SteinlenJohn Duncan Fergusson, and Samuel Peploe; she also learned the art of batik. The couple ran summer schools on the Isle of Arran in Scotland.

The progress of World War I meant that Jessie and her family had to return to Scotland in 1915, and they settled in Kirkcudbright, at Greengate, a house on the High Street Jessie had bought in 1907 before she was married, and where she was to live for the rest of her life.

Jessie M King and E A's house, Greengate, in Kircudbright. The entrance to the 'Greengate Close' is through the open gate on the right.

Jessie M King and E A Taylor’s house, Greengate, in Kirkcudbright. The entrance to the ‘Greengate Close’ is through the open gate on the right.

Jessie and Ernest gathered artists around them, and an artists’ colony known as the “Greengate Close Coterie” became established in the cottages along an alley behind their home. Friends and visiting artists would stay, sometimes for extended periods, and “according to Robert Burns, of Edinburgh College of Art, no student’s training was complete without a stay in one of the cottages at their home, Greengate.” The cottages in the Close were known by the colour of their front doors.

Jessie was an eccentric character. She dressed flamboyantly, with a fondness for wide-brimmed hats and buckled shoes, long after these had gone out of fashion. One woman, recalling her childhood in Kirkcudbright, remembered Jessie “riding through the streets on her bicycle … We all thought she was a witch!”. Jessie believed that she had second sight, and had been strongly influenced by Mary McNab (d. 1938), her devoted Gaelic-speaking nursemaid and later housekeeper who possessed a wealth of folk tales. Jessie was so connected with Mary that her ashes were scattered on Mary’s grave. 

By the way, if you want a Greengate Close Coterie holiday, the house in which Jessie and Ernest lived in Kirkcudbright is now a B&B.

Portraits of Jessie:

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King painted by her husband E A Taylor. Undated.

Jessie M King painted by her husband E A Taylor. Undated.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King by James Craig Annan.

Jessie M King by James Craig Annan.

Jessie M King by Ernest Archibald Taylor.

Jessie M King by Ernest Archibald Taylor.

Portriat of Jessie M King by Helen Paxton Brown, undated. In the collections of the national Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

Portrait of Jessie M King by Helen Paxton Brown, undated. In the collections of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

Jessiee Marion King 2

Portrait of Jessie M King by Helen Paxton Brown, undated. In the collections of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

Jessie M King by Lena Alexander. (c) Dumfries and Galloway Council (Kirkcudbright); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Jessie M King by Lena Alexander. (c) Dumfries and Galloway Council (Kirkcudbright); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Jessie M King.

Jessie M King.

Sources: Jewelry and Metalwork in the Arts and Crafts Tradition by Elyse Zorn Karlin, 1993, 139-140; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Jessie Marion King by Jan Marsh; Jessie M King entry in the ExploreArt at Gracefield Arts Centre website; Jessie Marion King entry in Artists in Britain Since 1945—Chapter K by the Goldmark Gallery; the Jessie Marion King Papers at the University of Glasgow; Jessie Marion King entry in In the Artists’ Footsteps; Jessie M King page on Wikipedia.

This great blog has lots of photographs of Jessie’s illustrations, book covers, painted pottery and other artworks.

Further reading: The Enchanted World of Jessie M King by Colin White, Canongate Publishing Limited, 1989; Jessie M. King and E. A. Taylor: Illustrator and Designer. Sotheby’s Sale of 21 June 1977 at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society. Glasgow: Sotheby’s Begravia, 1977. No. 169; Glasgow Style by Gerald and Celia Larner, Paul Harris Publishing, Edinburgh, 1979; Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880—1920 edited by Jude Burkhauser, Canongate, Edinburgh, 1990; Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists by Haig Gordon, Galloway Publishing, Kirkcudbright, 2006; Glasgow Girls: Artists and Designers 18901930 by Liz Arthur, Kirkcudbright, 2010.

UPDATE 10 November 2015: Last Sunday’s Antiques Roadshow featured a necklace that I am 100% certain was designed by Jessie, although it was not identified as such. I grabbed a few screenshots and wrote a blog post on the necklace, with illustrations of other, similar design by Jessie.