Historical Sources - a basis for technical research
As Barley Roscoe explains, Barron's introduction to block printing was through a collection of woodblocks found in a French market by her tutor 9.
Barron recognised their patterns as the prints of French countrywomen's aprons and dresses that she had seen during her frequent painting holidays in Normandy 10.
Susan Bosence notes that Barron bought rolls of hand woven blue cloth from an Armenian shop in Hampstead to make painting overalls 11.
The white spots on a friend's similar blue smock led Barron to 'wonder whether these marks were caused by nitric acid she used for etching' 12.
This was the beginning of her intensive historical research into nineteenth century dyeing and printing manuals in the libraries of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries block printing was a complex procedure. William Morris continued to use it in the achievement of intricate pattern-making.
In the establishment of the Crafts Study Centre a century later, Robin Tanner recognised Barron as one of the 'solitary pioneers', who, particularly in the years after the First World War, strove to 'win back the standards and qualities buried beneath industrial and commercial development' 13.
In its initial policy statement, the Crafts Study Centre described Barron and her contemporaries as 'pioneers who found themselves obliged to rediscover, largely by trial and error, many of the techniques which industrial development had obscured or retarded' 14.
Tanner described the special qualities of Barron and Larcher's block printed textiles. 'The stuffs upon which the blocks were printed and the dyes used were so completely and sensitively understood that there was an inevitability about the work.....a perfect harmony between the fibre, the dye and the block' 15.
According to Harrod, Bernard Leach 'singled out' Barron as an example of an artist craftswoman who had 'brought new life' to the crafts 16.
As Christopher Frayling describes them, Barron became one of 'a group of people who found out for themselves that the headlong rush towards novelty, and outrage, and quantity rather than quality, was not part of a race they wished to join' 17.
9 Barley Roscoe 'Phyllis Barron (1890-1964) - Experiments with Hand-Blockprinting' in Barley Roscoe Hand-blockprinted Textiles: Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher (AHDS Visual Arts, Farnham, 2004) p.2
10 Susan Bosence Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing (David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1985) p.10
11 Ibid. p.10
12 Ibid. p.12
13 Robin Tanner 'What I believe: Lectures and other Writings' in Double Harness (Impact, London, 1987) p.15
14 Barley Roscoe 'Robin Tanner and the Crafts Study Centre' in Barley Roscoe (ed.) Tributes to Robin Tanner 1904 -1988 (Holburne Museum and Crafts Study Centre, Bath, 1990) p.14
15 Robin Tanner in Susan Bosence Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing (David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1985) p.45
16 Bernard Leach in Tanya Harrod The Crafts in Britain in the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999) p.29
17 Christopher Frayling 'Robin Tanner as a Trustee' in Barley Roscoe (ed.) Tributes to Robin Tanner 1904 - 1988 (Holburne Museum and Crafts Study Centre, Bath, 1990) p.43
Left (above): Textile sample, 'French spot', block printed from old French block, 1910s, Barron and Larcher sample book, Volume One, compiled by Robin Tanner
2001.1.5 copyright Crafts Study Centre
Right (above): 'Wandle', William Morris, cotton, dyed in indigo, block printed discharge, 19th century.
7977 copyright Textiles Collection, University for the Creative Arts at Farnham.
Left (below): Textile samples, 'French spot', 'Paw', 'Wire' and 'Clover', block printed from old French and Russian blocks, c. 1920s-40s, Barron and Larcher sample book, Volume Two, compiled by Robin Tanner.
2001.1.190 copyright Crafts Study Centre
Right (below): Textile samples, 'Solid check', silk and organdie, block printed, inspired by 'French stripe', c. 1920s-40s, Barron and Larcher sample book, Volume One, compiled by Robin Tanner.
2001.1.57 copyright Crafts Study Centre