Whether or not you can inherit your creativity or be drawn to other creative souls is an interesting and well-documented idea but it certainly seems to be the case in the Wemyss family.
As we approach the launch of the MOLLY KIT on the 23rd April 2018 we delve into the shop collection and pull out the kits with a family connection and speak to them and others members of the family about The School’s draw.
In their own words, The School and the family’s creative tradition has had a huge effect on their careers and lives.
FIONA WEMYSS - Current guardian of Wemyss School of Needlework
Kit coming soon!
I spent 30 years as an interior designer. Beginning as the Scottish agent for a company which made very beautiful painted and lacquered furniture, I wanted my showroom to look rather more interesting so started selling lamps as well; this progressed, almost by accident, to suppling fabrics and wallpapers. With more experience my client base grew by word of mouth and after a few years, I found myself taking on larger and larger projects.
I was lucky enough to grow up in very beautiful houses, many of which were decorated with fabric walling, a wonderful finish in which I chose to specialise. I decided to learn the technique myself and have completed numerous projects all over Britain. Much to my delight I have now passed this skill onto my daughter Molly who has proved to be extremely good at it. I am so proud of her. Do look at her website
When Mary Birrell, (who had looked after the Wemyss School of Needlework for 40 years) retired, I decided that this was far more important than my own career as an interior designer, and began to concentrate instead on preserving and ensuring the future of The School and its collection. A huge task which has only just begun!
My previous working life involving textiles helps, as does my early training (before marriage I trained as a paper conservator). Conservation principles in handling, storage and what NOT to do (as much as is necessary but as little as possible and never to do anything irreversible or totally invisible) are invaluable.
One of my delights is how the next generation are becoming involved.
Molly, I have already spoken about. Elizabeth is now working for Wemyss and is involved with the regeneration of West Wemyss and who sees The Needlework School as an intrinsic part of the area as a destination. Jamie is a cabinet maker who’s marquetry swan is the inspiration for our logo. Jamie’s wife Matilda is a fabric designer and one day perhaps will carry the School forward. I am so proud of them all and grateful to my husband Charles who is so supportive as a Trustee of the Wemyss 1952 Trust.
CHARLES WEMYSS - Historian and Author (Great Great Nephew of Founder Dora Wemyss)
Fifteen or so years ago I embarked upon a hobby: to find out more about the family and the lands in Fife that have been our home since the 13th century. Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage that I would end up as ‘Dr Wemyss’, a lecturer in architectural history and author of ‘Noble Houses of Scotland’; but the more I have learned, the more I realise the vital importance of history and preservation for future generations.
It would be very easy to allow the hundreds of designs in the Needlework School to fall into a state of disrepair, but they represent a valuable glimpse of the past: a world that we will never see again. It is our duty as a family to ensure that they are not only maintained, but are exhibited to the widest possible audience.
JAMIE WEMYSS - Furniture Designer and Maker (Great Great Great Nephew of Founder Dora Wemyss and son of Fiona and Charles Wemyss)
I have been interested in furniture and making things since a very small age but the interest has grown into a lifestyle and career. I am a fine furniture designer and maker, using indigenous and exotic hardwoods to make interesting and beautiful pieces, predominantly for peoples homes.
There is no doubt that the seed has been carefully encouraged by my mother and father who are supporters and great enthusiasts of all things beautiful, pictures, architecture, fabrics, and before them my Wemyss grandparents being keen hobbyists in art, metalwork and woodwork. There is no wonder where this has all stemmed from with the provenance of the wonderful Wemyss School of Needlework which is being proudly carried an elevated into the modern day by my mother.
Long may it continue and be the grounds for further arms of the Wemyss artisan tradition.
MATILDA WEMYSS - Textile Designer and Maker (Wife of Jamie Wemyss)
Kit coming soon!
I have a huge passion for textiles, which has taken me from art school to a career in textile design producing block printed fabrics for interiors.
Marrying into a family with such a rich creative history is great to be a part of. I am a huge admirer of the Wemyss School of Needlework and have really enjoyed spending days there with Fiona. The archives are spectacular and I love the new designs, they are great for all levels of experience.
I look forward to getting more involved with the school in the future.
ELIZABETH WEMYSS - Chef and now part of the 'Wemyss Team' (Great Great Great Niece of Founder Dora Wemyss and daughter of Fiona and Charles Wemyss)
Kit coming soon!
Coming to Wemyss as children invariably involved a stop at the Needlework School. On the back wall was a chest of drawers stuffed to the hilt with samplers of all patterns and colours: a veritable treasure trove. Part of the fun was digging through to find our favourite. We did the same with the rainbow of wools on display so I can only imagine the trail of devastation we left in our wake.
I continue to be mesmerised by the colours, textures, patterns in abundance at the School. The School’s paper patterns and museum collection are wonderful pieces of art in their own right. Louise and Helen’s work on the beautiful MOLLY KIT has brought the archive to life.
I have recently moved back to Scotland to work at Wemyss after a stint in Cornwall managing Rick Stein’s Cookery School. My remit at Wemyss is to preserve, restore and tell the story of Wemyss’s rich history. An important document of social and creative history, The Needlework School has been lovingly re-energised in recent years by my mother. It embodies so much of what was and is so magical about Wemyss and its people.
MOLLY WEMYSS (Great Great Great Niece of Founder Dora Wemyss and daughter of Fiona and Charles Wemyss)
I'm passionate about creativity - and for the last couple of years I've set myself a New Years Resolution where I challenge myself to make something or learn a new technique every month of the year. Safe to say, I only have to walk in the door of the Wemyss School of Needlework to get making fever! It's so inspiring and I feel very lucky to have grown up with it in my life. The incredible pieces in the archive, the amazing workshops on offer, the samplers, kits, eye-popping wool displays and loads more. It's a real feast for both the eyes and mind and I never leave without new plans and ideas.
When I'm not making things I'm busy working as a fabric walling specialist - a wonderful skill that I've learnt from my mum, Fiona. If you've never had the pleasure of meeting a fabric wall before ... it's a stunning form of wall covering that can transform a space with its beautifully tactile finish.
It's soft and springy to the touch and at the same time provides an unparalled warmth and acoustic quality thanks to the thick cotton 'bump' that is stretched over the walls beneath the surface fabric. I find fabric walling really exciting, particularly as you can use ANY fabric; silks, linens, velvets, cotton, fabrics woven or printed can all be used. I love the infinite possibilities and the potential for using such a traditional method in both historic and contemporary settings.
I am very excited about the launch of the MOLLY KIT - the delicate nature of this crewelwork is very different to the other KITS in this category and the colours are so vibrant. I hope to see lots of people show off their creative skill with the MOLLY online with #MadeWithMolly and #WemyssSchool.