Charleston, Berwick, and the Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft

So just when I think that our visit to the Towner and Seven Sisters was the high point, we board the bus and head to Charleston House — now one of my favorite artists’ house in the world (second to Frida Kahlo’s blue house). Home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (among others of the Bloomsbury Group), this experience very much made me even more enamored with Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf). She is such a freakin’ rock star and totally underappreciated. The bit of research I did for the YCBA Audio Guide about Bell’s Design for Overmantel would have been totally changed after my visit to Charleston House. She and Duncan Grant covered almost every surface of the home in beautiful painted decorations and filled their home with art. It exudes from every pore in the house — and despite being quite old, it still feels alive. The gardens are spectacular and make me want to learn how to grow flowers and plants (though right now I pretty much kill everything including hearty succulents, so I have a long way to go). We had an incredibly fresh and well-prepared meal at Charleston before heading off to Berwick, which is the church whose interiors Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell painted (of course).

After Berwick, we headed off for the Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft and had a very nice tour by one of the board members, Jenny. She came from a long line of weavers and grew up in the craft guild started by Eric Gill (of Gill Sans fame) nearby. The guild had a metal working shop, wood shop, weaving studio, and stone carving workshop. The whole place went out of fashion and closed in 1989 and all the work and history would have been unknown if not for the work of two local sisters (Joanna and Hilary Bourne) who had a vision to create the museum. Thank goodness for septuagenarians! They’re a small but mighty museums, and newly redesigned in 2013. It’s amazing how things can feel so old and modern at the same time — I’m really digging that about England.

The reluctant Anglophile heads off soon for more adventures today. Stay tuned.

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