Our Peaceable Kingdom
The Children of Lewes Meeting’s very own Quaker Tapestry
Leslie Ann Leonard, Convenor, Lewes Children’s Meeting writes:
The inspiration for this project was ‘The Peaceable Kingdom’ painted by Quaker painter Edward Hicks (4 April 1780 – 23 August 1849).
We have one of the several versions of the painting in our Meeting house and, during the autumn in 2010, I was discussing it and the Bible verse on which it is based (Isaiah 11:6) with the Children’s Meeting. That summer I had attended a Quaker Tapestry (http://www.quaker-tapestry.co.uk/) design training in Kendal, where I had learned both the importance of the children’s contributions to the 77 panels of the finished Tapestry and the technique for ensuring that children’s drawings are authentically transferred to the finished product. I had been wondering how the Lewes children could create a small tapestry themselves, when the connection with the Hicks painting presented itself. All children love to draw animals, and ours (then aged 3-9) were no exception.
We looked carefully at the Hicks painting and the fact that there were both ‘fierce’ and ‘cuddly’ animals together with the children. Our children drew some amazing pictures, as you can see from the resulting tapestry. These include everything from worms, insects, snakes and a hedgehog to large carnivores and herbivores and people (some of whom are purported to be family members). There are air, land and sea animals. They are imaginative and beautiful: a dinosaur, a six-legged horse (it’s running), and a chicken with chicken pox, among others. And of course there are trees, grass, flowers and a sun. Most of the animals are smiling, as they do for children!
The individual drawings were done over a month, and it was so difficult to choose a few for a small tapestry that we decided to make it a full-sized one and include most of them. In order to maintain the integrity of the drawings, I reduced or enlarged them on a copy machine to the required size (some of the original animals were a full A4 size). Finally they were transferred to the calico at the back of the wool in the standard method of the Quaker Tapestry, with the outline stitched through to the front wool and later filled in with special stitches. The children did the majority of stitching on the front (with help on the difficult parts), and even the little three year-olds were able to do grass and flower stems. Occasionally, during the stitching they changed the original colour of their animal, but all those decisions were their own.
Over the course of the tapestry, some children moved away and others arrived. Thirty-one children participated in the project in some manner over the two years it was in the making. For the children, this is their very own Peaceable Kingdom, with all the animals and plants living in perfect harmony. It will hang in the Lewes Meeting house after it is suitably framed. On the back of the frame I will put the first name of the child with his or her contribution(s) so that in the future they will remind others of their part in this special tapestry.
~ QCA sends our compliments and thanks to the children and all involved in Lewes Meeting on this wonderful piece of work.