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Mrs Westamacott’s prize winning frieze: craft, home decorating and making do in Wartime Australia

 

Each week Mrs Westamacott cut out and saved the coloured illustrations of rec recipes in the cooking section of Woman magazine. She stored them carefully. She had an idea to transform her kitchen into a “gay” kitchen. As she had only enough cream paint to cover the high green ceiling and part of the way down the walls, her intention was to make a frieze from the pictures along the line where the fresh cream paint ended and the dark green paint remained.

art frieze

 

She sent a letter to Eleanor Dale at Woman and her idea was published winning, for her efforts a 5/- prize. She wrote:

With ingenuity scissors and paste you can bring colour and gaiety into your home at the same time indulging your secret fondness for “cutting out things”. This is how I transformed our old fashioned country kitchen. It had a high ceiling and was painted a drab dark green. I had only enough cream paint to do half way so I made a frieze from coloured photographs of recipes from Ann Maxwell’s Cookery page in “Woman”. It looks so gay. And the recipes themselves hang behind the door for easy reference.

 

Even my grandmother Myra Adams, made time in her busy day for making things, evidenced by her prize winning entry into a 1939 competition organised by the Country Women’s Association (Victoria Branch). She illustrated her day in the “A Country Women’s Day” in a series of seven sketches: A clock showing the time – 5.00 am and a house in darkness; steam rising from a hot breakfast on the breakfast table; children bathed; sheets hung on the line and billowing in the wind; a mop, bucket and broom; lunch cooking on the oven; dishes done and draining on the sink; butter churned; and finally the sewing machine out and the baby playing in the play pen. Her final two vignettes show the children sleeping and finally she draws herself sitting by the fire with knitting resting on the arm of her chair reading newspaper. A clock shows the time at twelve midnightphoto

I have been busy making things too. Having a go really. I now have a drill, a sander, a hack saw and a saw and I have been finishing off after a builder has left with the work almost but just not quite finished. Today I put beading around the edges of a bench and installed a smoke alarm. On the weekend I sanded a bench, varnished it and piped silicon around the edges where the bench and the sink met. I have been screwing wheels onto furniture … a shelf and a couch and putting hooks on the garage wall, to hang things on.

Being able to make things is empowering in a way and I know just how my grandmother and Mrs Westamacott felt when they sent off their entries to Woan and to the Country Women’s Association magazine. Hopeful but satisfied anyway. Although winning prize money was significant, I know that Mrs Westamacott and my grandmother would have felt a greater sense of satisfaction from just being published in popular magazines and from the feeling of pride one feels from making something.

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