Mrs Claud Mullens (sic)

Mrs Claud Mullins
Mrs Claud Mullins, née Gwen Brandt, circa 1925, at the time of her marriage, by Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937)[1]
Mrs Claud Mullins, Elizabeth Gwendolen, 28, (1904-1997), daughter of a banker from a Russian sugar trading/banking family and a Savannah, Georgia mother, was at the time of the dinner the wealthy young wife of a London Magistrate, mother of two daughters, mother to be of a third child in the summer, and starting on the path towards a notable career in weaving – noted especially for her rugs, setting up her Trust for the funding training for young people, assisting in the founding of the precursor of the Crafts Council, and recognised with an O.B.E. in 1979.

Seated Beside …

Almost certainly alongside her husband and then it would have to be the suave James Drawbell or the American born salon hostess Anabel Douglas – she probably would have enjoyed conversation with them both, and on a four person table, that probably did happen. They might have simply alternated the sexes at this table.

What’s On Her Mind?

Bringing up a family, a career in the arts to come, if she felt a little cautious in this already illustrious company that would not be surprising. But she was probably someone full of fresh thinking and ideas.

Gwen’s Story So Far

Gwen was born in Kensington on 10th April 1904 to banker Augustus Philip Brandt, from a German-Russian sugar trading/banking family and Jean Champion Garmany, from Savannah, Georgia, USA – who we are told dressed her daughter in all-white Southern style attire, with a personal maid changing her clothes three times a day after playing in the Surrey mud. With a father called George Washington Garmany (born 14 years after the founding President died) perhaps her mother found it hard to shake off her roots. Even Elizabeth’s sister managed to marry someone called Money. In 1911 the family lived at 21 Wetherby Gardens, Earls Court with a governess, trained nurse and nine domestics. Elizabeth married Claud William Mullins in 1925 in Kensington. They had three daughters, Ann Gwendolen Dally 1926 – 2007, becoming a doctor and medical historian, and her daughter Emma Dally in turn a writer and most recently biographer of Claud.

Though largely self-taught, shortly after her marriage in 1925 Gwen began to learn the rudiments of weaving, at the London School of Weaving in Kensington.[2]

At the time of the dinner Elizabeth’s future notable career in arts and crafts, both in her own work and the promotion of others, had yet to occur, though her interest in the arts had already been triggered by a time spent in Italy, before her marriage to Claud at the age of 21. At the dinner, aged 28, she might have been regarded more as Claud’s well-heeled wife, a mother of two young daughters, with her third child on the way (son Edwin born in the third quarter of 1933), and with an interest in the arts.

What Gwen Did Next

Before her arts came to the fore, she was in the news in 1938, the defendant in a speeding case. The case was dismissed but the coverage came when it emerged her name was initially suppressed. As is often the reality, the exposed cover-up can be more damaging than the case itself, in this instance an embarrassment for her and for her magistrate husband. [3]

Later, during WW2, as a volunteer in the local hospital, she became engaged in occupational therapy for soldiers, setting up looms using discarded bookbinding equipment. After the war and Claud’s retirement from the Bench they moved to Sussex where she set up over time a thriving local arts and crafts centre. In about 1954 she founded the Graffham Weavers Workshop in collaboration with her second daughter and weaver Barbara Mullins. The workshop was based at their premises near Petworth, Sussex where they taught classes and held group exhibitions in a barn biannually.

Gwen’s rugs were her most personal achievement, exhibited in London, Paris and Edinburgh. Her floor rugs in linen and wool used the long knotted pile technique known as ‘rya’ which originated in Finland and rose to popularity in the 1950s and 60s. She wove in an airy modern studio in her home, on a Swedish-made Ulla Cyrus, 4-shaft countermarch loom, using linen, British wools and commercial rug yarns. From the beginning, Gwen Mullins used natural dyes and it was only when working on a large commission for Worcester Cathedral in the 1970s that she began to use chemical dyes. Her work is in the collections of the Crafts Council, the Royal Scottish Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Her work appeared regularly in exhibitions from the 1960s, when she showed in London at the Tea Centre in Lower Regent Street, the Crafts Centre, Hay Hill and, later, at the British Crafts Centre in Earlham Street, Covent Garden. She was also an exhibiting member of the Red Rose Guild, Manchester.

Gwen also founded the Gwen Mullins Trust which mostly gave grants to young craftspeople who wished to travel or set up workshops. When the Crafts Advisory Committee (now the Crafts Council) became active in grant-giving to individuals this activity was wound up, in 1974. Her efforts were recognised with an O.B.E. in 1979. [4] She worked well into her 80s and died on 20th January 1997 aged 92. [5]

BACK TO TABLE 4


[1] Mrs Claud Mullins, née Gwen Brandt Seated three-quarter length to the left, wearing a deep pink brocade dress, a white organza stole with a frilled edge around her shoulders, and gold and amethyst earrings. Christies website says 1915 but clearly wrong by careful look at the signature and date and this does not look like a 19 year old. Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937) From Christies website, accessed 10.1.2019

[2] Gwen Mullins VADS The online resource for visual arts, accessed 24.1.2018

[3] A Spectator’s Notebook, The Spectator, 9.8.1938, p6, online accessed 24.1.2018

[4] Gwen Mullins VADS The online resource for visual arts, accessed 24.1.2018 https://vads.ac.uk/learning/learndex.php?theme_id=csctex&theme_record_id=csctexmullins&mtri=csctexfor

[5] Jeff Lowe, Obituary: Gwen Mullins, The Independent, 11.2.1997, accessed 24.1.2018 http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/obituary-gwen-mullins-5581411.html

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