Canal Art Course at Black Country Living Museum

I was sent a press release about an event you might be interested in if you live in the Black Country.

•    British folk art captures boating life
•    Course teaches age-old canal art tradition

Black Country Living Museum’s Canal Art for Beginners Course looks set to add colour on Saturday 16 November, 2013.  The culture and traditions of the boatman will be making waves as the history of canal art is explored and the traditional style of art and the artist’s technique is emulated.

Canal Art, the traditional means of decorating a canal boat, is the popular name for the traditional paintwork of the narrow boats.  Designs include bunches of roses and medieval castles and would have brightened up everything from a water can, to the washbasin and even the horse’s feed tin. 

Julie Tonkin, a professional narrow boat decorator, canal boat owner and one of the UK’s leading canal artists has been teaching roses and castles painting for many years and has a keen interest in canal culture and customs. She believes that passing the craft on to the next generation is the only way to ensure the tradition survives.

Julie Tonkin pictured with some canal art ‘she prepared earlier’.

Julie Tonkin pictured with some canal art ‘she prepared earlier’.

Julie Tonkin says: “I took up canal art 40 years ago as a hobby, painting narrow boats and traditional items of canal ware. The boatmen wanted their boats to look as nice as their cottages so they painted pictures to depict ‘the boatman’s paradise’. Castle pictures always include a castle, mountains, trees, land, a bridge and a yacht. The roses we paint are only red, white and yellow because the people in the boat yards weren’t accomplished artists. Canal art is very naïve and easy to do for that reason.”

Mel Weatherley, Head of Learning said “Life was very cramped inside the tiny canal boat cabins and the boatmen cheered up the interiors for their wives, making them as homely as possible, without taking up extra precious space, with displays of canal art or lace trim along shelves.”

There is no reason why canal art cannot also brighten up the modern home today – albeit on dry land. 

Courses cost £45 per person and are pre-book only. Please contact the Museum’s Booking Office on 0121 520 8054 or book online.

This is how the Museum describes itself:
Established in 1978, Black Country Living Museum is one of the UK’s leading open-air museums.  Designated by Arts Council England for the quality and national significance of its collections, it is a remarkable place to explore, enjoy and spend time.  Set in 26 acres with over 150 historic buildings and features, and attracting c250,000 visitors each year and almost 8m people since it first opened, it offers a glimpse into 200 years of history like no other.  The Museum (a registered educational charity) records and exemplifies the contribution and impact of the Black Country region since the 18th century to the development of the modern industrialized world.  Black Country folk changed the world, and the Museum tells the story of a very special time and place in history and some of the most hard-working, ingenious and influential people you could imagine.  It offers a visitor experience that few others can match. For more details go to their website.

I have a personal interest in the Museum because one of the cottages there, known as The Tilted Cottage, used to be inhabited by my 3x great grandparents, Benjamin (b.1805) and Mary (nee Timmins, also b. 1805) MEREDITH.  They lived there before the 1871 census until their deaths in 1884 and 1895 respectively and at the 1901 census their daughter Elizabeth lived there with her husband Joseph BRADLEY.  Benjamin was a bricklayer so he may even have built it!

One Comment:

  1. I am trying to figure out how to invite you to view my family tree. Should happen one of these days!

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