Work by Elaine Wilson :: Poem by Gerda Stevenson
Ethel Baxter, born Cummingston, Moray, 1883, died Elgin, 1963; business woman, brains and engine behind the world renowned Baxters food company.
From Quines by Gerda Stevenson
I just loved this poem by Gerda Stevenson about the little girl who was severely treated by her school teacher for not being able to ‘coont’. I love that Gerda Stevenson has chosen to write in Doric, and I can just imagine Ethel telling her story in her own voice.
Gerda has included many visual references which made it easier to translate into a textile piece. This gave me a starting point and I began by making textile prints of the wild strawberries mentioned in the poem.
I wanted to find out more about Ethel and I was privileged to be given access to the Baxter archives. While there I was able to look at Ethel’s original notebook with hand written notes and recipes, some of which feature in my textile piece. It was interesting to see the development of the brand and the iconic ‘Baxters’ label also makes an appearance; “stampit wi the family name”, along with the famed beetroot and jam labels.
Another feature is a photograph for Edith with her husband. I was struck by their elegance, contrasting with the image of the hard working woman with a reputation to ‘hitch up ma skirt and sclimmed the rafters tae quate the pulley wheels’ as described in the poem. She comes across as a strong and determined lady but devoted to her husband, “nurse tae the man I mairriet”.
My textile piece includes a number of techniques and processes including print, machine and hand stitching combined to give a sense of the complexity and richness of the poem and I hope that it has captured some of the narrative of Ethel’s life.