Stephen Jon is a Mask-Maker, performer and facilitator; that is what it says on his web-site. I first met him in December 2017; he was asked to facilitate a group of Over 55s, who are part of the Creative Learning Programme of Theatre Royal Nottingham, to take part in Nottingham’s first Puppetry Festival in March 2018. Twelve of us signed up to join his Puppet-Making workshop with the aim of creating a ‘Raggle Taggle Woof Pack’. The story of that ‘journey’ is called ‘Too Many Tea Towels’ but in the conversation about why I would want to create a puppet from tea towels, Stephen brought in his three favourite tea towels which all had a story to tell. Here is what Stephen has to say:
”My first image is of Edward Carpenter, a contemporary of Oscar Wilde, who lived and worked in Sheffield with his male partner. He wrote books, articles and songs about women’s, and worker’s, rights. He was a friend of the Fabians. He was a northern Mecca for progressive thinkers in Britain at the time. He is important to me because I had a mentor in Noel Greig, a director and playwright, who influenced both my political and artistic journey. He wrote a play called ‘Dear Love of Comrade’s’ about Carpenter which was performed by Gay Sweet Shop, a company of which he was a founder member”.
Edward Carpenter, I think, was an exceptionally good looking man. The Edward Carpenter tea towel is from, not surprisingly, the Radical Tea Towel Company. The other picture is of Stephen holding his towel in a classic ‘Tea Towel Holding’ pose which we all do; he has his other two tea towels hanging over his arm.
“My second and third images are of French Tea Towels which I bought in Corbridge, Northumberland. The north-east is a very special place for me, I call it ‘my place of yearning’. I go there regularly, to empty my mind and if I have problems I just escape up-north and walk them away. I have close friends and family and have been visiting all my life. I have considered moving there but its real value is as a bolt hole which would no longer exist if I were to live there. So I remain in Nottingham which I consider my home. Having been brought up partly in rural Hampshire I still have a craving for the country and Northumberland gives me that in bucket loads”.
These two French Tea Towels are reversible; the colours are so beautiful. Thank you Stephen for sharing the story of your tea towels. They are very stylish.