25 August 2020
Visitor Assistant Sabrina Rippon tells us more about arranging the flowers in the Kettle’s Yard House, ready for our re-opening in August 2020.
Fresh flowers were a very important part of the House for Jim Ede; they enhance the artworks and natural and found objects, and so we carry on the tradition today. Introducing the flowers back into the House was a lovely event for us, just before we re-opened. The Flower Team is made up of three Visitor Assistants – Rebecca, Nastasha and I. We love arranging the flowers in the House and are a dedicated team.
Downstairs Sitting and Dining Room
A lovely moment was to return a real lemon to the pewter plate, which had been empty for so long. The plate sits on a wooden chest with an Alfred Wallis painting behind it (Seascape – ships sailing past the Longships, c.1928). The yellow of the lemon glowed in its place.
The flowers in the sitting room also have a touch of yellow in them. This, we say, is in conversation with the yellow dot in the Miró painting (Tic Tic, 1927), the yellow daffodils in the Christopher Wood painting under the window (Flowers, 1930) and, of course, the real lemon on the plate. The flowers emphasise the yellow theme which flows around the room.
Jim’s Bedroom and Bathroom
In Jim’s bedroom we have more freedom with the colour of the flowers. A clear glass vase sits on the table next to a spiral of pebbles. Back at the beginning of March, Jane Adams – Jim and Helen Ede’s granddaughter – visited Kettle’s Yard to give us a talk, particularly on her memories of Helen. Jane also read out part of a letter that Jim wrote to her family while he was living at Kettle’s Yard. In the letter, Jim said he was given a bunch of red tulips which he hid amongst other flowers by putting only one stem in each vase! So tulips, when in season, somehow don’t seem appropriate in Jim’s own bedroom.
In the bathroom we put a little colour in a small vase on the edge of the bath which is all white with white tiles behind, to brighten up that corner.
We usually use a hand-made ceramic terracotta jug in the back corner of the alcove. The taller flowers we put in it are in keeping with the William Congdon painting at the back of the table (Istanbul No. 2, 1953), and also with the green china on the high shelves above.
As you climb the spiral staircase in the House you enter a lovely space and the eye is, at first, naturally drawn to the flowers under the piano. The flowers need to catch the eye, as they sit on a small, low table between the white of the rug and the black of the piano. We have always used a hand-made, grey ceramic vase here.
Helen’s Bedroom, Bathroom and Linderism
We have always been able to hold small exhibitions in Helen’s Bedroom as it was never curated by Jim. At the moment there are some artworks by Linder on display as part of the Linderism exhibition. When the exhibition first opened, Linder suggested a coloured glass vase (reflecting the coloured glass pieces she has on display around the House), instead of the usual clear glass vase. Another member of the Flower Team, Nastasha, stepped in, lending a red glass vase which was perfect – as Linder said, it picks up the red of the lipstick which is on display in the open cupboard in Helen’s bedroom. One of the Visitor Assistants, Andrew Smith, also offered a small, green glass vase for the windowsill in Helen’s bathroom.
In Helen’s bedroom, we often use pink flowers as they tend to accentuate the femininity of the room, though we find that pink doesn’t sit well in the rest of the House (except perhaps magenta). Linder also requested perfumed flowers, in keeping with the pot-pourri which she made and put around the House. As the beginning of the show was in Spring, we used hyacinths and scented narcissi in the bedroom. Now, along with other scented flowers, I have tried scented English garden roses, as Linder uses roses frequently in her artworks. Traditionally, we normally don’t use roses in the House as they can be rather formal. However, roses seem right for Helen’s Bedroom while Linderism is showing. For the exhibition opening, there was a large blue vase of mainly white roses next to the poster for the exhibition at the back of the welcome area.
We always try to use seasonal garden flowers when we can, with a delicate and informal touch. Our aim is to enhance the House and all within it, but not overpower in any way. Hopefully we achieve this! Putting the flowers (and the lemon!) back into Kettles Yard has been a rewarding experience and we hope this has helped in preparing the House once again to receive visitors.
Here is a photo of the Flower Team in work mode (visors and mask!) in one of the Linderism galleries. We are all Visitor Assistants (Nastasha is also a Duty Manager). From left to right: Sabrina, Nastasha and Rebecca.