Sark Design Keeps Cuppas Cosy: Embrace the Sark TeaHug!
A TeaHug? What’s that, you say? It’s a gloriously cosy idea from talented local knitter Ann Long. When her son Phil asked for a traditional hand-knitted Guernsey Jumper for his birthday, it got Ann thinking: traditional elements of a Guernsey Jumper could make beautiful design features on other knitted items, without all the hard-graft knitting - two solid months - of the plain body. The tight knit of the Guernsey Jumper’s design makes it warm and even waterproof, but all the body’s tiny rows aren't much fun to knit. And not everyone needs a jumper you can weather a force eight Sark Westerly in.
Originally, each Channel Island had a unique style of knitted jumper - the better-known Jersey even means ‘jumper’ worldwide. Traditional design elements were peculiar to individual towns, and you could spot a seafarer’s home-port by the kind of ornamentation Ann’s knitted into the TeaHug’s design.
But this local identity is drifting away into the sea of time: the art and design of Guernsey Jumpers is rare knitting knowledge these days, like so many traditional skills. Keeping this heritage alive is what makes Ann’s innovative outerwear/homeware fusion so exciting.
24/05/21 Text and photos Shakira Christodoulou
Cue the Sark TeaHug, freshly-brewed innovation in Sark-based design. Ann took all the tricky knitting of a Guernsey Jumper and incorporated it into a tea-cosy. The TeaHug’s design features the Guernsey Jumper’s reinforced diamond-shaped underarm for the spout. The hole for the teapot’s handle is beautifully finished with the ornamental band where the sleeve joins the body. The base sports the attractive micro-scalloped fringe and fluting around a Guernsey Jumper’s waistline, and Ann designed pleats into the TeaHug’s top to fit snugly around the lid.
And aren't hugs what we've all been longing for, right through lockdown? You can slip a Sark TeaHug easily into your luggage, or the post, if you’d like part of Channel Islands knitting tradition at home – without lugging kilos of wool or paying heavy postage. It’s textile history brought into the 21st century; something designed for stormy work at sea served at the kitchen table, where you can relax while the TeaHug keeps the warmth in. And fear not, coffee-lovers: for cafetieres, Ann’s also working on the Sark CoffeeHug.
Grab your TeaHug for £27 on the last Saturday each month in summer at the Creative Sark Markets. Or drop Ann a line on firstname.lastname@example.org to order yours, and get ready to put the kettle on in style.
Inspiration In Absentia: an archaeological artist's memories of Sark
Even when closed off by the pandemic, Sark remains fresh in people’s imagination as a place to inspire art. Magical sea views and cliffscapes are obvious attractions for an artist, whether painting or drawing, on holiday or just a day-trip, but tucked away – or hidden from sight altogether – there’s painting inspiration waiting to be unearthed.
Simon Pressey is an excavator and archaeological illustrator with the Oxford-based team investigating Sark’s past, and recently he’s captured his Sark memories in vivid paintings. (Do click for a larger view.) Excavations are no painting holiday; it's mattocks, shovels and trowels, rather than paintbrushes or pencils, and it’s physically hard, as local volunteer diggers like me can attest; it takes a week's holiday to recover.
Even illustration is rigorous - not just artistic drawing but precise representation. Simon’s drawing renders emotive objects like the Beaker-Period archer’s wrist-guard, displayed in Sark’s Heritage Room, with 3D accuracy down to surface-texture and the tiny marks left by manufacture or use. The drawing stands in for the object in case it’s ever lost – the beautiful 18th century drawing of the Sark Hoard is a fabulous example, as the Roman-era hoard was lost. Art is all that’s left.
But with UK lockdown giving the retreat if not the freedom of a painting holiday, Simon has explored the archer’s grave in paint. Before and after excavation, not much of this evocative structure on Little Sark shows above ground, but in the paintings, a standing stone looms above the burial’s head-end, framed by large rocks.
Fluid and stylised, bursting with vibrant colour, Simon’s painting allows all the expression and expansive energy that technical drawing tightly controls. It’s archaeology reinterpreted, given life and movement; one painting captures the diggers mid-discovery, the line and shading of archaeologist and archaeology, rock and body, blended into one assemblage. The painting’s craggy angles are so reminiscent of the rugged landscape out on Little Sark.
Inspiration is an artist's best souvenir, particularly now that dreams of seaside easels en plain air are still a bit ‘some day’. But Sark will still be here, for that much-needed post-lockdown painting holiday, or even a longer spell of artistic work. Simon and the dig-team will hopefully be back in the near future.