Sunday, April 21, 2013
Embroidery in brick
Although famous for its stone-built colleges and churches, Oxford in the 19th century became a city of brick. Vast brick-built houses – some Gothic, some "Queen Anne" – fill the grander streets of North Oxford. Smaller brick terraces line the streets off the Cowley and Iffley roads in East Oxford. And out beyond the station is a further group of small streets near the river in the area known as Osney. Some of these are built of brick in more than one colour, and here the builder has addressed the issue of what to do with the blank wall at the end of a terrace in a refreshing way.
The effect recalls one of those fabric samplers that young women used to use to demonstrate their embroidery skills. Unlike the multi-coloured samplers, though, the "stitches" are in only two colours, in rows of patterning that continue the strips of red and buff on the fronts of the houses. It's effective, even if the positions of each strip have more architectural relevance on the fronts, where the patterned bands relate to such structural details as the tops and bottoms of windows. The numbers of the date, which start off confidently, run out of steam when it comes to the final 5. But full marks for trying, and for enlivening an unregarded corner with a bold bit of folk art.