Phyllis Barron & Dorothy Larcher 1930s

A year after starting the commission, in a letter to the Mistress, Barron encloses an account of money spent on furnishing the Fellows rooms to date and have kept to the estimate for the two sets of curtains as we said we would, actually they should have been more, as, in the first estimate, we only provided for short curtains at the small windows.14

Barron continues with mention of Miss Edsall, the loose cover maker’s visits. The first two visits, including wages for her stay of a fortnight at Girton, to cut the sofa and chair covers, are included in their price We have charged for her last two visits, to put on the covers and hang the curtains, and hope you will consider this reasonable.14

There was £40 left over from the £600 allocated for the work. Barron felt that the Combination Room needed a large glass vase and a table to stand it on. The various committee’s requested two coal scuttles and eight cushions. Three of the fellows agreed to give a flower vase each, Barron buying them from the Little Gallery. Fred Gardiner the furniture maker was busy with a large commission, so Eric Sharpe made the oval table in English walnut, similar in style to Gardiner’s African walnut table which the Committees had decided to keep because people had got to like it.15 Sharpe was subsequently asked to make another oak table for ten people for the Dining Room, which he delivered the following March.

By the time of the Girton commisssion Barron and Larcher were living in Painswick, Gloucestershire, an area where there was a community of artists and craftspeople. Until 1929 they had lived in Hampstead, but needed larger premises and wanting to move to the country bought Hambutts, a Georgian house. The outbuildings were converted to workshops and a large indigo dye vat was installed, Barron commenting that indigo had been the greatest thrill of her printing life. Barron and Larcher always talked about their printed stuffs.

By the time they moved to Gloucestershire their business was flourishing and although they both continued to design, there now had to be more of a division of work. Barron supervised the dyeing processes and managed business matters, whilst Larcher trained the locally recruited women in printing and sewing.16

From the outbreak of war materials were difficult to obtain and demand ebbed way, causing the business to close in 1940. Their work toured with Britiish Council organised exhibitions in 1942-5, promoting the best of British craftsmanship. Larcher concentrated on painting flower studies until her death in 1952. Barron helped Susan Bosence, a young block printer, to launch her career. After Larcher’s death Robin Tanner invited Barron to teach on the art teachers course which he had established at Dartington Hall, the progressive school established by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst. Phyllis Barron died in 1964.

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