This evening walking along the path to Bagni di Lucca the world had changed. It is Spring. The light is luminous and the earth is sprouting. Birds have arrived from the south, not to mention our lovely swallows who came all of a sudden one day, mid March, when we were all in the bar having breakfast. Their arrival was announced by a sweet older man who feeds the ducks and his reserved face that day, was joyous. So was ours as we all leapt outside to see them swooping and darting over the river and under the bridge.
But after that magical day of the arrival of the swallows, we went to England to the wedding of our lovely friend Mel, the opera singer. Cold. Unbelievable sub zero cold met us. We stayed in Cambridge for the first few days, an icy Arctic breeze ate into our bones on our walks of ancient discovery through the streets of Cambridge and its imposing colleges set in majestic green lawns, ancient trees and waterways. We were exhausted from holding ourselves rigid in our coats and many layers of clothing. Very unseasonal, we were told.
Nevertheless on one of those days we went to Kettle’s Yard under the wing of our friend Annie Galpin, a writer, gallerist and social activist amongst her many interests. What an unexpected pleasure it was to visit this old home resurrected into one from four dilapidated cottages and its artistic interior created by Jim Ede and Helen Schlapp using their collections of marvelous natural finds from their travels and artwork from their many artist friends, including Henry Moore, Miro and Brancusi, but perhaps more importantly, artists not really known worldwide, but whose art was wonderfully eclectic. In their words they wanted to create a place for the public where people could come and “find a home and a welcome, a refuge of peace and order, of the visual arts and music… a continuing way of life….in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture” are arranged. Beautiful. What an eye they had. And how perfect to have set up such a house for the public in a place like Cambridge, the intellectual ‘head’ city of England, where beauty is a thought, not a vision. They collected stones of river washed roundness and placed them carefully in spirals near sculptures of a similar round beauty. They found glassware that reflected the zagging of a gorgeous old pedestal, they associated a beautiful lemon with the grim grey of pewter and its resounding painting above, sea shells that brought out the circles in a miniature abstract painting. Calm everywhere. White walls and neutral tones emphasizing great old rugs on the creaky wooden floors, paintings framed unpretentiously and often hung low in unusual spaces. We felt like we were home. We felt like we were in the home of an artist who loves to collect things of interest and inspiration around him, arranging them to catch his eye and to reflect or contrast other things of beauty around them. Kettle’s Yard is a home of natural beauty and refers to the ability of every person to have beauty around them without needing to spend lots of money on ‘great’ or ‘collectible’ art.