The last week has been consumed with taking photographs of my tea towel collection. You may be thinking that you have already seen a lot of photographs of tea towels on this Blog, and you are right. There can’t be any more, you may say. How wrong can you be?
Most of the photographs that appeared in the Blog have been taken by me. You can immediately see why my Blog is not about photography – because I am rubbish at it.
Two things have prompted me to start on this journey of photographing my tea towel collection: firstly, my friend Fee has often said that she has enjoyed reading the Blog but has felt that a photograph of a tea towel over the back of my armchair detracts somewhat from the Blog. I know I have been a little bit defensive about this; I know she was right but I couldn’t see how to problem-solve this situation. In my house, it is difficult to take a ‘full-frontal’ of a tea towel without getting a door handle, shadows or only part of a tea towel in the photograph. There is also the problem of very used/worn tea towels hanging at strange angles, looking ‘saggy’ and sad. Sometimes I have had to take photos at short notice because I haven’t enough photographs prepared to blog about. I have looked online. Many sellers of tea towels advertise them by either taking photographs of folded piles of tea towels or hanging them up by the loop on them so they hang in a linear shape. Unfortunately, then, you can’t see the full picture (and that won’t work for me if I am telling a story about a tea towel). The most popular alternative is hanging tea towels on a washing line. I have a washing line; maybe that was the answer. Maybe my tea towels would look much better.
The second reason I embarked upon this crazy task is because the Tea Towel Museum, that I have dreamed about for so long, will be open to the public by 1 July 2017. I hope my readers will not get too excited. Opening a Tea Towel Museum takes a lot of work!
My first task was to catalogue my tea towels. The airing cupboard was full to bursting so, as many of you know, I finally devised a system of hanging the tea towels on trouser/skirt hangers, similar to those used in M&S. Each hanger takes ten tea towels and each hanger is numbered. They hang in an spare built-in wardrobe (it became spare when I got rid of all my ‘work’ clothes, on my retirement). Numbering the hangers ensures that the tea towels are used on a strict rotational basis; when I have used, washed and ironed all the tea towels from Hanger Number 1, it goes to the end of the line. However, there is only a point to this if I could identify where a particular tea towel was at short notice. With more than 800 tea towels I have no intention of going through all the tea towels until I found the one from Cromer or Martha’s Vineyard or Cragside or Venezia or Nottinghamshire WI or Harrogate: you can see my problem. So I now have a notebook which lists the tea towels on each hanger and the date of the Tea Towel Blog (if they have been written about).
In a museum, it is good to know exactly what items you have (and therefore what you need to collect, or not, to improve the museum’s collection). In this process, I identified 19 duplicates; I am surprised it was so few and at least five of them were either from a multipack or were related to my former work and I was given several of the same design. There were only two that I had actually bought twice, others were gifts. So I removed the duplicates from the collection and am in the process of passing them on to other people, in their pre-loved state. On the other hand, they might become competition prizes at the opening of the Museum!! At this point, having removed duplicates, I thought I had 670 tea towels. But what about the 35 Christmas ones? (In with the Christmas decorations) 701. Then there are 17 that I was given by Nicky’s aunt, all unused and not yet fully integrated into my collection. 718. What about the 39 that my friend Jean gave me, also not fully integrated? 757. Then there are 21, still in the airing cupboard, that are a little fragile and only get used for delicate tasks. 778. I forgot those that hadn’t been ironed. 791. What about the 9 that were hanging on a hanger marked ‘spare’ because there were less than 10 so couldn’t become part of the collection. 800!! Until today, when I bought two in a charity shop – the first time that I have ever done that. Now the collection is fully accounted for: 802 today. I am going on holiday soon so that might mean more!!
I thought perhaps I could re-take some of the worst photographs but then that wasn’t going to work. About a week ago, when the sun was shining, the weather warm, I set up a place in the garden to photograph 800 tea towels. For a woman with a twisted spine this was definitely a ‘back-breaking’ job.
I was helped by Isabella and Benjamin (the cats) and Liz (the photographer); we were watched, in disbelief, by my neighbours and Paul who mows the lawn. There was no way in which I was going to get a ‘uniformity’ to the photographs: there was varying degrees of wind and breeze; the clouds moved quickly, changing the brightness; as the sun moved round the garden, there were different shadows.
But the overall effect is fine; I think Fee will approve, of most if not all, of the new photographs. In due course I will actually replace the photographs on this Blog, but is for another day! These are for the Museum initially.
It will come as no surprise that this project is about a virtual world, hence the need for photographs. If you had asked me five years ago whether I would have embarked upon any project that involved the use of a computer, IT in general and social media then the answer would definitely have been “NO”. For so many years I have had to avoid the use of a computer, or at least keep it to a minimum, because of photo-sensitivity epilepsy. But then I was introduced to Apple; the world is now different for me but I have so many years to catch up on all that I have missed. There is something about “teaching old dogs new tricks”; I definitely need a tea towel with that quote on it. So here I am, putting the fine detail together, a laborious task and then soon the doors of the Tea Towel Museum will be open to you. Julia Child once said “Find something you are passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it”. That is exactly what I have done; I can imagine her saying it, while in front of her cooker, but she was talking about cooking and that certainly doesn’t apply to me.
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR FURTHER NEWS!!!!