This research will be the first to contextualise and interpret the unique, large-scale art and design outputs of such organisations, with a particular focus on the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift (1920-1951) but also including the related and continuing groups, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, est. 1916, and the larger Woodcraft Folk, est. 1925.
Picturesqueness in Everything will examine the role of art, craft, design and dress as radical strategies of resistance and reform, through analysis of the substantial, largely unexhibited and unpublished private and public collections of woodcraft art and design, and through a national exhibition and a series of publications and public events.
By mapping previously untraced intersections between woodcraft organisations, founded in the interwar years, and other contemporaneous cultural movements including avant-garde artists and occultists, dress reformers and folklorists, this project will establish the significance of a largely forgotten aspect of British social and cultural history, adding to existing knowledge and offering new interpretations of a period rich with utopian ambitions.
In keeping with Seton's call for 'picturesqueness in everything', woodcraft groups considered the production of art, design, craft, ceremony and spectacle as central to their romantic, political and spiritual mission, not least in the case of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, whose founder was a commercial artist and whose group attracted many creative practitioners (including, for example, celebrated photographer Angus McBean). Kibbo Kift's striking hybrid aesthetic combined Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, Egyptian and Native American motifs with occult symbolism and modernist graphics, and was visible across the tents, banners and totems, theatrical, ritual and camping costumes, printed literature and illustrated logbooks of the movement.
This project is supported by project partners: Museum of London, London School of Economic and Political Science Library, British Library National Life Stories Oral History Archives, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Kibbo Kift Foundation, Woodcraft Folk and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry.
Annebella's book The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift: Intellectual Barbarians, is published by Donlon Books in September 2015.
Production costs for the book have been generously supported by an award from the Lee Miller and Roland Penrose Elephant Trust.
Annebella's exhibition Intellectual Barbarians: The Kibbo Kift Kindred opened at Whitechapel Gallery, London on 10 October 2015 and ran until 13 March 2016.
Order of Woodcraft Chivalry chieftan's cloak from International Woodcraft Gathering, Czech Republic, 2014. Photograph by Annebella Pollen.
Woodcraft Folk shirt, 2000s. Courtesy of Woodcraft Folk Heritage.