A CLOAK decorated with messages of empower-ment from around the world will be shown in public for the first time as part of a plan to establish a new centre for creativity in the Borders.

Marchmont House will host a series of events and initiatives aimed at fostering a “21st-century arts and crafts movement” centred on the mansion, south west of Duns in Berwickshire.

The Cloak Of Clouds, created by Bristol-based artist Louise Gardiner, is covered in colourful smaller pieces made by women from across the world, many of which offer messages of resilience and determination.

The inspiring garment will have its first public outing at an all-day event exploring textiles in the original arts and crafts movement, most often associated with the work of William Morris.

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Further events planned at the spectacular mansion will feature the unveiling of a new cycle of murals inspired by Phoebe Anna Traquair and a series of growing tree sculptures by local artist Charles Poulsen.

Speakers at the textiles event are set to include embroidery expert Dr Lynn Hulse, John Mackie of co-sponsors Lyon and Turnbull and Margaretta Frederick, curator of the Delaware Art Museum, which holds a significant collection of Pre-Raphaelite treasures.

Also featuring will be Kate Grenyer, curator of Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, who will talk on her gallery’s landmark exhibition exploring the life and work of May Morris, daughter of William.

The exhibition tells the story of how May took charge of the embroidery department of Morris and Co at the age of 23 and went on to create some of the company’s most popular textiles and wallpaper designs.

Others taking part include Great Tapestry of Scotland designer Andrew Crummy and Hazel Smith (above), who runs ReTweed, a social enterprise delivering craft, heritage and textiles skills to women facing barriers such as poverty and isolation.

“In the pictures, we have Hazel wearing the extraordinary cape Louise has created,” says Hugo Burge, director of Marchmont Farms Limited, which bought the property from the Sue Ryder Foundation in 2005.

“Lou, who calls herself an embroideress, makes work which is simply beautiful,” Burge continues. “I’m delighted we are celebrating her cape at our textiles event. At the same time I came across her work, I also came across the wonderful Hazel Smith and ReTweed, which helps people get a foot-up, gives them back their mojo, which is so important.

“Hazel and Lou will be telling their stories on the day, both of which have some common threads about using textiles to support communities and to celebrate ideas of empowerment.”

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For the past decade Burge, an award-winning tech entrepreneur and former chief executive of travel fare search engine Momondo, has been working with his businessman father to renovate the historic house.

Illuminating otherwise hidden stories is central to Burge’s ambition to help foster a movement promoting craftsmanship and human creativity, aspects he says are essential to balance the 21st century’s digital world.

“As someone whose career was built on the digital revolution I have a deep-seated love of technology and the incredible things it can achieve,” says Burge.

“But it has limits and dangers that need to be countered by a 21st-century arts and crafts movement which takes from the past but looks to the future – a celebration of artists, skilled craft makers and designers, the beauty of nature and the importance of community.

“This is what William Morris and others recognised as the industrial revolution, with its factories, mechanisation and global trade, was transforming their world. And it’s exactly what we need to do again today as digital technology transforms our own society and economy, often for the better but sometimes for the worse.”

Burge adds: “The values of the arts and crafts movement feel important today. We need to celebrate the local, we need to celebrate the hand-crafted, things that are in tune with nature. As well as making things which look really beautiful, it’s also about empowering communities and using art and crafts as a way to support people who aren’t necessarily part of these big socio-economic changes.”

THE textiles event, says Burge, was inspired by the May Morris exhibition by London’s William Morris Gallery, currently at Dovecot until March 14.

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“I was blown away by the exhibition and the story of what May Morris did in the arts and crafts movement,” he says. “Our event is celebrating what this exhibition has achieved in telling what is a very heart-warming and untold story. It’s astonishing that she hasn’t had more credit for the beautiful and remarkable work she did.”

Another under-recognised artist is the star of Marchmont’s second day-long event, set for April 25 – Phoebe Anna Traquair, painter of four Edinburgh interiors between 1885 and 1901, most notably that of “Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel” at Mansfield Place Church.

As well as exploring the legacies of Pre-Raphaelite artists and social reformers such as Mary Seton Watts and Louisa Waterford, the event will be marked by the unveiling of part of a new cycle of murals inspired by Traquair in the mansion’s Cupola Hall, which was redesigned by Sir Robert Lorimer, an architect friend of the Irish-born artist. Modern fresco painter Julia Alexandra Mee is expected to have completed the core panels by the time of the event, which will feature a demonstration of her techniques.

“Julia is an incredible art historian, muralist and fresco painter who makes work with a social purpose,” says Burge. “Those things not only are beautiful artworks, but they also have a strong underlying message about the power of art and community and bringing people together through a creative spirit.”

Events are just one strand of the future Burge hopes for Marchmont. At the end of March, Lawrence Neal Chairs, Britain’s last makers of traditional rush-backed chairs, will move their home from Warwickshire to one of seven studio units at the house’s recently renovated stables.

Burge is seeking applications from those interested in residences, and hopes the support of sponsors Lyon and Turnbull and Arts and Crafts Tours will help offer assisted places in the future.

“I don’t know where our journey celebrating creativity will end up,” he says. “We’re at the start, a little start-up with our work cut out.

“The central thing is that we’re establishing a purpose for Marchmont around celebrating creativity, which is a subject very close to my heart. Whether it’s the arts or the crafts, creative businesses and social enterprises; whether its events like this bringing people together, inspiring each other and sharing stories, I believe creativity really can make a big, positive impact on the world.”

Arts and Crafts Textiles Celebration: February 1, and Legacies of Great Women Mural Painters and Artists of the Late 19th Century: April 25, Marchmont House, Greenlaw, Duns, 9.30am to 7pm, £75, including food and drinks reception.

Tours of the house and its art and architecture: February 28 and 29, March 20. All tickets from www.eventbrite.co.uk. Tel: 01361 866080. www.marchmonthouse.com