• Carmarthenshire Panel

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At the centre of Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire’s panel is Merlin’s Oak, the traditional emblem of
Carmarthenshire which has been constructed from odd balls of wool and different textures of materials and cork added for texture and relief. On the tree are three bilingual words which sum up members of the WI and reflect a marketing campaign of the 1980s. The words were completed using cream Aida and two different shades of red for the English words and two different shades of green for the Welsh words.

The two languages on the banner also acknowledge the launch of S4C, a Welsh language television channel in 1982 and the adoption of a bilingual policy by NFWI-Wales in 1984, the first voluntary sector organisation to develop a Welsh Language Scheme.

Coming out of the branches on the tree are various campaigns and projects that the WI was involved in during this decade. The top left branch has the music staves of Early one Morning which was specially commissioned by the NFWI, with words and music written by the composer Anthony Hopkins. The piece describes the lives of women in contemporary society. The piece
has songbirds, made up of beads, flying into the music staves in s-lon cord from one of the branches, and the treble cleft has been completed using a kumihino braid.The heron, made from silk that was bonded and hand embroidered with a mixture of threads, such as silko, with embroidery stitches including fly feather, straight stitch and back stitch, flies above the oak and links the whole of the environment from earth to sky.

From the top branch to the right of the tree is a Cornucopia with the horn representing the 1985 All Wales Eisteddfod organised by NFWI-Wales, where members came together to enjoy some friendly competition.

The fruit and vegetables reflect the healthy eating campaign which arose out of conference on nutrition in Denman College in 1980. Materials used for the Cornucopia are felt, velvet, cotton for the carrots, silk, knitted beetroot, and jersey for the leek with glue added to harden the material and beads for the blackcurrants and blackberries. The horn itself has also been stitched and beaded to enhance its shape.

Going back over to the left we see the WI Promotion Bus which toured England and Wales for nine months in 1984, visiting 200 towns and cities. It highlighted the skills that could be learnt with the WI, focusing on education, health and public life. The windows on the bus represent just a few of the many activities that were available for members to gain new skills in such areas as IT. The bus was completed using linen, cotton, felt, nylon and fabric felt and sewn together. The activities which feature on the bus were done in blackwork and picot stitches were used for the edging.

Opposite the bus the woman in the Welsh costume made from traditional Welsh wool, flannel, felt and lace hails from the heritage project The Welsh Costume which involved every federation in Wales in 1981. The project entailed tracing the Welsh costume’s history, designing and making up a costume based on one of three themes; a rural occupational costume, a costume worn by a local character from history or one worn by a certain class in history. The woman also represents the NFWI Drama Festival Scene ‘80 - A Festival of Creative Entertainment which was a major event in 1980. Following 62 countrywide festivals, members from nine federations took part in the three-day
finals performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Llandybie WI, Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire Federation were the winners.

The building on the final branch on the left is Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire’s federation office in Carmarthen which was bought in 1981 with money raised by members. This was a significant milestone in the history of Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire. The house has been made from Aida and decorated with blackwork throughout with one small line of cross stitch; note the little flowers in the window using pink and yellow thread.

Off the final branch on the right is a hand quilted train full of WI members which recalls fond memories of federation day trips where a train would be hired and several hundred members would travel far and wide. The windows are black bias binding and the felt figures wear hand embroidered and stitched felt hats.

The timeline was hand painted in purple and covered in grey chiffon and machine embroidered using a mixture of thread, including metallic thread for added effect.
On the timeline is a car made with red, white and black felt, red transparent silk and black thread, crashing into a post which represents the Don’t Drink and Drive campaign based on a resolution from Pembrey WI, Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire Federation in 1988 which urged ‘the introduction of random breath testing of drivers or those in charge of motor vehicles.’

Below the timeline is representation of three areas of concern for WI members around environmental issues. In 1987 a wide consultation with members resulted in a comprehensive WI Countryside Policy at a time when the government was proposing radical changes in the pattern of agriculture and rural land use, it illustrated how these changes would affect rural services,
conservation of the landscape, wildlife and soil. This is depicted by daffodils and green leaves in chiffon, machine embroidery and ribbon. In 1988 a member from Pen-y-Fai WI, Glamorgan Federation campaigned to save her local woodland, and in 1989 a resolution from Genau’r Glyn WI, Ceredigion Federation highlighted ‘with deep concern the deforestation of the surface of the earth and its disastrous consequences’ and urged ‘individuals and organisations to do all in their power to impress upon the Government the need to halt extensive damage being done to the ecological balance of our planet.’

This is depicted by decaying leaves and leaves turning from green to brown and then grey and black and falling into the water, the leaves were made from chiffon, stitched and burnt, velvet, knitting, crochet, beads and metal. The water here, in needle felting, felt and organza is the River Towy which runs through Carmarthen. Water is needed for a healthy and sustainable life and supports the fish and the birds represented here by a sewing made from an old tie, painted blue and sewn with yellow and black threads, and a heron, a bird often seen fishing alongside the Towy completed using felt, blue paint, glue and black thread. Associated with the river is the Coracle a traditional fishing boat made with willow rods and used in the Carmarthen area for centuries. The coracle
has been made using black felt and black transparent fabric and the fish in the coracle is an old piece of fabric. The figure sports a black straw hat, a navy fleece and his hands and face are in beige felt. He uses a kebab stick and small piece of wood to paddle his coracle.

The box of bottles amongst the leaves is testament to the hard work and enthusiasm of a WI member from Tremont, Powys Radnor Federation which led to the first Bottle Bank in the county being established in Llandrindod Wells. The process used in making this piece was to draw bottle shapes on Bondaweb® and then iron them on various lightweight fabrics, back them with wadding to give the bottles body. The bottles were then zig zagged on the sewing machine and cut out to place on the bin.

In the bottom right hand corner is a gravestone made from pewter and embossed with the word AIDS, the lilies by the gravestone were made from sinamay, glue, beads and wire. In 1986 a resolution from Crickhowell WI, Powys Brecknock Federation, urging ‘members to support the campaign of the Department of Health to inform the general public of the true facts concerning the disease AIDS’ was passed.
NFWI was one of the first organisations to talk about AIDS and used its unrivalled network of local organisations to educate the public and get people talking about the issue. WI members were involved in a government awareness raising campaign, and took up the BBC’s challenge to Face up to Aids by organising public meetings.
The federation badge has on it a daffodil which along with the red, green and white colours represents Wales and its language and culture. The badge was completed in felt, red organza, gold raw silk, dark green sateen, white satin and Bondaweb® and a variety of threads.

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