Thursday, May 17, 2007

Doing the unnecessary, with love.




I was standing in a pub one day (quelle surprise) and a man came and stood next to me as he ordered up his pint. I couldn't help noticing that he was a Morris dancer. The daft floral hat gave it away - that and the white socks, pig's bladder, ribbons and bells. Not much gets past me.

Most of his costume could have been slung together from the average household wardrobe, particularly if that household contained a few women devoid of any dress sense, but I was quite impressed by the bells. They were mounted about his calves on straps of tooled red leather, all very polished and professionally done, so that I began to wonder if these had been bought new. It occurred to me that there might actually be a little factory somewhere, dedicated to supplying Morris dancers' regalia. Perhaps there was a specialist catalogue for this kind of thing: 'Come to Jolly Rumbelows - for all your Morris man needs'.

It seems unlikely. Far more probable is that hours of time and trouble had been spent sourcing the right kind of bells - from Lapland perhaps - and maybe even taking a class in leatherwork. I imagined this fellow working long hours into the night in order to get his post-pagan symbolism just so. Doing the unnecessary with love.

I'm quoting the phrase from an artist called Sam Smith, a wonderful illustrator and constructor of beautifully pointless automata - a tiger sitting in a rowing boat was one of his that I particularly liked. 'It seems to me worthwhile' he said 'to do the unnecessary with love'. Not a bad way to carry on.

The photograph above is of a dung cart. I took it thinking that I might use it as reference for an illustration, but haven't done so to date. Despite its humble purpose there is still evidence here of the cartwright's skill - the bracketed lades, the quietly elegant curves, the chamfering and decorative paintwork to the axle beam. None of it strictly necessary for a dung cart, but all the more worthwhile for that.

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