Technology has taken over traditional ways of keeping in touch. Letters and other correspondence can be tapped out at the touch of a button – a far speedier process than sitting down and putting pen to paper. Sadly, the personal touch may have been sacrificed along the way, but there’s still something special about giving and receiving handwritten correspondence.
Postcards, with their decorative fronts conveying all manner of stunning landscapes and beautiful places, were a ‘wish you were here?’ way for tourists to keep their loved ones entertained back home with tales of their travels.
Inspired by the postcard collection at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, where she often runs workshops, Haworth artist, Anji Timlin, is running a special workshop for amateur artists to re-create some of the picture postcard destinations the Dales are famous for.
“I saw the postcards there, and I love the way they evoke a kind of collective history of holidays as they are mass produced, and each of those cards was probably sent to many people, meaning they all have a connection somehow to a shared story of places we love to visit,” explains Anji, whose favourite medium to paint with is gouache.
“I also love postcards and the small format that is so intimate yet casual, and linked to the joy of holidays and family. It’s a perfect format for gouache as well, because traditionally gouache is a graphic and illustration paint used for reproductions such as postcards.
“I thought all this would make a lovely summer workshop in a place like Hawes where so many people take a holiday, even more than before, recently with the Covid restrictions, but where there is a history of 20th century tourism from the cities of West Yorkshire where I am from.”
Anji also took inspiration from Marie Hartley MBE, one of the founders of the Upper Dales Folk Museum, now known as the Dales Countryside Museum, which was originally established in 1979.
Over the years the museum has remained a popular visitor attraction. Before Covid, the museum was averaging around 17,500 visitors annually.
Its popularity is due to the items of interest within, and that is the legacy of Marie, an artist, photographer and collector of objects. Along with her friends and collaborators, writer Ella Pontefract and Joan Ingilby, a social historian of the Dales, they chronicled the area for 75 years.
Marie, who was born in Morley, became a pioneer in recording the history of the Yorkshire Dales and its people.
Museum Officer, Debbie Allen, explains there are 178 postcards, and many other images in the museum collection, which have been accumulated over the years from various donors.
Postcards are particularly fascinating, recording memorable anecdotes of the senders’ travels,ften eluding to further detail of that famous British conversation starter – the weather.
Some of the postcards in the museum collection bear messages either ‘dropping a line to let loved ones know they’ve ‘landed’ and that they’re enjoying themselves.
One postcard spoke of ‘Father’ stopping, at a destination not referenced in the writing on the postcard, but went on to say ‘after travelling on the 10 train on Monday.’
Some postcards remain blank and have never been used – presumably kept for the beautiful pictures portrayed. Quite often tourists purchase postcards to decorate albums of travels.
The earliest postcards in the Dales Countryside Museum collection date back to 1940 and the collection also includes modern day postcards up to the Sixties and Seventies.
The workshop, Yorkshire Dales Summer Landscape Postcards In Gouache, runs from 10am until 4pm on Saturday August 6.
Participants are also welcome to take along their own photographs or imagery they would like to paint in miniature.
“Anything at all, any photo, any painting, any post card, any place they really love,” says Anji, who intends teaching lettering techniques too so participants can incorporate names and places.
Anji inherited her love of art from her father, a screen printer and draughtsman. He ran a company in Thornton, near Bradford.
It introduced Anji to the community art gallery – South Square – which has since played an instrumental part in re-uniting Anji with art.
“I’d known it all my life. I am from Bradford and my father had a business in Thornton, and I remembered when it was founded. I have been on the periphery of it all my life,” explains Anji.
After graduating in constructive textile design at Bradford College, Anji, a knitter and embroiderer, worked as a freelance textile designer.
Motherhood intervened and so came her introduction to education working as a lecturer. Anji now works at a school but, through family circumstances, her passion for art was reignited.
“It’s blossoming,” says Anji, who works from a studio based in Dean Clough, Halifax.
Her profile was significantly raised when she received the Joan Day Painting Bursary run by South Square Gallery in 2019.
“It was amazing. It just felt like I was really doing what I was supposed to be doing,” says Anji.
“I picked up my old box of paints. I’d not used it for 10 years – gouache is lovely but it is quite unusual. I thought I would make small paintings I could do in two hours. I did a few art fairs and I sold tons of prints so I went on from there and that made me paint bigger.”
The bursary Anji received enabled her to invest in a wider range of paints. Interestingly, she discovered fine art paint producers Wallace and Seymour were local, based in Horton in Ribblesdale, Settle in the Yorkshire Dales.
Showcasing her artwork through social media platforms such as Instagram has also introduced her talent to an online audience although she still believes in the physicality of standing in front of a piece of art.
She tells how she was able to put this into perspective while standing in front of a painting by Picasso in the dining room of a hotel in Scotland where she stayed during a recent trip.
“I was standing in front of that painting and you are standing where the painter stood. You are in direct communication with that painter as you look at it and see the marks made by their hand. It is so direct and that is why I love galleries. I love the physicality – somebody has made that, it is an object in reality and when you are living in a mass produced society like we do it’s some kind of treasure that is handmade.”
For more information, or to book a postcard workshop, call 01969 666210 or email [email protected] You can also visit the website www.dalescountrysidemuseum.org.uk. Anji teaches painting classes on Mondays at The East Morton Art Group in the East Morton Institute where she will be running ‘The Mills of Morton’ workshop from 10am until 4pm on Monday June 27, email: [email protected] Her work is available at the Coles Gallery, Leeds, and The Old School Gallery, Muker.