The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts

I know it would be ridiculous to call a TV show life changing. Slightly over-the-top dramatic at the very least. Then again, by now you've all seen how much I cry. But that's getting ahead of ourselves. So I'll start at the beginning. Near the end of June 2018 my dad showed me a Facebook post. (Side note about my father - he is the kindest, most generous person I've ever met. He always chose to do what he loved - art, stained glass, light design - instead of caring about money, and that attitude has always inspired me) The Facebook post was from Lion TV, calling for makers and crafters of all disciplines, for a new television show. Dad, in his usual unwavering faith in me, thought I should apply. Surprisingly, my mother agreed.

And so, thinking I would never even get a phone call back, I emailed my application. I got my phone call back. And then another, and then a Skype interview, and then an invitation to a casting day in Bath, on the 4th August, with 12 other makers. Unknown to us, in that room were 5 out of the 6 crafters chosen for the show.

I remember seeing Bryony first, and she just looked so cool, with the grey streak in her hair, wearing red gingham. And then she bought out her work, these stunning, impossible things made out of metal. She was so talented she made me nervous! Abdolluah was infectious. In a good way. During the demonstration part of the day he made, in an hour,  a carved wooden drinking vessel. His thought process behind it, the execution of it, and then his explanation for it was so spectacular we actually started to applaud. Rod bought a sword as a demonstration of his abilities. Which he then let us pose for pictures with. Out of everyone, Rod was the person I spoke about the most when I got home. Stephen was quiet, but when you did get him talking, spoke with careful consideration and thought, punctured with Scottish "er"s. We talked at length about imposer syndrome, the terror of being discovered a fraud in our fields. 

It wasn't till August 22nd that we found out we'd been selected. Just under 2 week until we were due to actual enter the house. We all had the unknown of the 6th person. We had a name, Ilsa, but none of us had met her. When we finally did, on the eve before filming started, I was worried she hated me! She didn't (I hope), but certainly there seemed to be an initial wariness, understandable given that the rest of us had all met, and been in communication for a month. 

The day of filming arrived, September 4th. We went to a hotel room in pairs, where we were dressed in what would become our clothes for the month. Stockings, slip, bustle, petticoat, dress, shawl, hat. It became very familiar. Bryony and I then waited in the hotel lobby for a runner to pick us up, garnering some very odd looks, both of us in Victorian garb. B seemed cool as anything but I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, my tummy full of nervous butterflies. And then we were taken to our car. Not a modern car, but a beautiful old open top 1910 motorcar. They filmed us as we crested the hill and saw the house, our house, for the first time, getting our excited looks on camera as we held our hats on for dear life. And then we trundled back down the hill and they filmed us again. And again. And again. Although the joy of being in that beautiful old car never died, it was our first tastes of the reality of filming a TV show. 

That first day was a lot of sitting around waiting, punctuated by flurries of activity. I read a lot, the house was sketched a few times by a few different people, and we began the gentle exploration of each others lives, our practices, our interests. None of us really knew what we were getting ourselves in for, all we knew with certainty was that we were going to live together for a month.


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  • Lou on

    Niamh
    The programme was a welcome breath of fresh air amongst all the silly reality t.v shows that compete for air time. I don’t watch much t.v but the show’s title caught my attention one afternoon when I was feeling low, I thought I would put it on and perhaps just zone out for an hour, but before the first five minutes were over I was hooked. You all had such different personalities and such amazing skills. I felt a connection with your art and vulnerability from the start, as a artist and crafter with disabilities myself, but, as a viewer I could see you had such a passion and talent and the way you approached each task without any, or little prior knowledge of the craft is an inspiration to us all, to just go for it, and give it a try and enjoy what you can create. I wish you every success with your future arts and crafts ventures. I must admit ‘do what you love’ is a motto I also live by, obviously we all need money, but quality of mind and enjoyment of your craft far out weighs a bigger pay-cheque and a soul destroying mundane job.
    Well done Niamh you are a true inspiration.

  • Paul on

    What a brilliant and beautiful program.
    Your emotional attachment to the experience was lovely to see. Thank you.

  • Colleen Corlett on

    I happened across your blog by accident as after tonight’s repeat of a Victorian House of Arts & Craft – I was trying to find out whether it might be possible to get a copy of the lovely series. I was an emotional wreck when we happened upon the series the first time round as we started our married living there in what used to be the children’s wing. The gardener Ivor Jarvis and his wife Blodwyn lived below us. Col and Mrs Clay had decided to take us in as lodgers while my husband taught at the apprentice college under the Severn Bridge. It was the most beautiful place to start our life together. Our firstborn John was born there and unfortunately 18 months later died there too. So you can imagine the flood of emotions watching the series. The best and worst of times in my life. I have spent all the years since making my living in Arts & Crafts so the whole thing is full of coincidences. If you know whether it is possible to get recordings of the series I would be grateful
    Colleen Corlett
    (Facebook – Colleen Corlett & colleen Corlett Design)

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  • Jenny Wood on

    What a delight to meet you at the Heritage Crafts Conference ‘’Making is Good For You’! It was a privilege to see the beautifully crafted bedspread that you and your fellow crafters made in the show. For me, it truly epitomizes the ethos of the arts and crafts movement – the value and contribution of the ‘community’, and trust in each other. Personally, I could relate to your journey of self discovery and intimacy with your craft. Making, as an individual and as a group, is truly good for you, building resilience and self belief, and you are testament to this.
    I am a textile artist and counselling therapist (& recently retired Art Psychotherapist) and currently developing a woman’s group that combines what we know from neuroscientific research, and mindfulness, with slow stitch, and based upon the World War II ‘Stitch & Bitch’ groups that held our women togther.
    Thanks for your contribution, perhaps without even realising it, to inspiring so many. Jenny Wood



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