Y Dresel Griddfan - The Groaning Dresser
“Roeddent yn wallgof am ddodrefn. Rhaid cael cloc Taid mor fawr ag arch Goliath a gwerth wyth gini; cwpwrdd gwydr wyth gini yn llawn tlysau; Y dresel wyth gini yn griddfan dan bwysa’r llestri, yn ogystal â chŵn, cathod a milwyr llestri Tsieina, a rhyngddynt oll nid oedd lle i'r chwarelwr droi!”
"They had become mad on furniture. They must get a grandfather clock as large as Goliath's coffin and worth eight guineas; an eight guinea glass cupboard full of trinkets; an eight guinea dresser moaning under the weight of crockery, as well as of china dogs, cats and soldiers, and in between them all there was no room for the quarryman to turn"
UCNW Coetmor MSS "Sefylla Naturiol a Moesol Isel y Chwarelwyr fel Dosbarth" (Y Faner)
Gwraig y Chwarelwr The Quarryman's Wife
In contrast to the 'heroic and cultured' reputation of the quarrymen, the Quarryman's Wife had a dubious reputation. Confined to the house, it was said (see quote above) that they became 'mad on furniture' and largely to blame for the ill-health of the quarryman. Part of our Merched Chwarel project has been to investigate how true - or otherwise - this really was. You can see some of the stories if you go to the stories section under work in progress.
The symbolism of the Welsh dresser
We are collaboratively creating a modular 'groaning dresser' (crossed with quarry and Ceir Gwyllt), our take on a ‘signifier of both Welshness and female domestic prowess’ that will be a key part of our exhibition at Storiel, using old bits of furniture.
In making our dressel, we have been inspired by the writings of Moira Vincantelli:
“The dresser and its display ... is a site for female creative activity ... a signifier; it conveys taste, educational background, regional difference and attitude to Welsh identity.
Welsh dresser display is created by women and there is a vocabulary of styles and arrangements which are followed but within this there is scope for individual initiative ...
The dresser - became a signifier of both Welshness and female domestic prowess ... they avoided the worst sin of being merely ornamental.
The dresser is an object that preserves histories - Welsh histories, local regional histories and individual histories but it remains an active symbol and site for the creation of cultural meaning in contemporary Wales.”
For more about the symbolism and tradition of dressers, see this excellent blog by Moira Vincantelli: The Welsh Dresser - A Case Study
We are using recycled and 'made' or 'created' pieces to make the Dresel. Much of the material has come from Jill Piercy's Dad's shed, donated pieces from family, friends and neighbours, as well as from our personal collections of old furniture, boxes and shelves…
'… drawers and chests, as all other hiding places [like the bottom of the dresser] in which human beings… keep or hide their secrets…. veritable organs of the secret psychological life….. are hybrid objects, subject objects. Like us, through us and for us, they have a quality of intimacy… an entity of depth … a centre of order that protects the entire house against uncurbed disorder .. order is not merely geometrical, it can also remember the family history … filled with the mute tumult of memories…. What good things are being kept in reserve in the locked [spaces]? It is filled with promise, something more than a family chronicle." - The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
Diary of Y Dresel Griddfan Groaning Dresser
Collecting from Jill Piercy’s Dad’s shed, and moving them to Lindsey’s barn (an appropriately ‘outdoory indoor space’), for initial experiments - July 2018
Lindsey’s arrangement - August 2018
Trying to bring in y bonciau … and introducing runaway bits (which Marged immediately saw as ceir gwyllt!)
Next, we took the decision to paint y Dresel one colour, to emphasise structure and depth of the dresel, and to foreground the objects that we’ll put on it.
Jwls’ painting and arrangement - September 2018
Y Dresel Griddfan yn datblygu. A dyna hwyl yn peintio ac arbrofi gyda ffurf! Awst & Medi 2018. Jwls
Lisa’s arrangement - October 2018
Marged’s arrangement - November 2018
Collective fixing - November and December 2018
We are now starting to fix pieces together, collectively. So once again, destructing it and then rebuilding… Every time is different! Hopefully we are building on the best bits of each of ours + random improvements which come as we work together. Next, we are taking it to y Stablau at Castell Penrhyn to finish it, and then to exhibition!
Moving into Castell Penrhyn 8.1.19
Exploring form… and a clock we found in Castell Penrhyn car park 12.3.19
The question is - before we paint it - will the clock fit into the room at Storiel? We are also planning how to make the Dresel Griddfan increasingly groan with stuff over its time at Storiel… 5 months of inviting people to contribute objects, selected on the basis of their form and relevance, each one mapped and described and indexed… and painted, so it becomes part of the form. Which is back to the original idea in many ways…