Posted 14th July 2018
#VolunteerVoice: Salma Sams
I have been volunteering at Watts Gallery – Artists' Village for over 3 years now and seem to have gravitated towards the Watts Studios at Limnerslease where I am based mostly. Perhaps it's because I love the interaction with the visitors who like reflecting on George and Mary's life there, as we stand in the home they created in this beautiful corner of Surrey. Of course, it's also where the Wattses created some of their best work.
I particularly enjoyed the recent commemoration of International Women's Day in the Watts Studios, when many visitors enjoyed craft activities and talks given during the day - including a reading from Mary Watts's diaries. I was fascinated by the 'people's tapestry' on canvas, created as part of a research project into suffragette embroidery from museums around the country. I was unaware that the suffragette prisoners undertook embroidery whilst in prison. Other aspects of prison life are widely documented but this aspect is not well known. Visitors and volunteers alike were invited to make their mark on this new creation and by the time I did mine, later in the day, it was full of all kinds of red markings. My contribution was a small cross in chain stitch. Other marks included dots, hanging threads and various cross designs.
Mary, as a suffragist - a non-militant group who wanted to achieve the right to vote for women through constitutional, peaceful means - chaired the Godalming Suffragists. An informative display, at Watts Studios until Sunday 25 November, focuses on her contribution. I can't imagine how she fitted this into her extraordinarily full life running the pottery, inspiring the villagers, managing Limnerslease and receiving friends, all in her calm and efficient way. I am sure that Mary would have designed a fitting mark on the tapestry, reflecting her support of women's rights. I remain in awe of the legacy which she and George left not only in our corner of Surrey but for the world!
See our display, 'Mary Watts: Pioneering Suffragist', showcasing images of Mary Watts alongside newspaper clippings, which record her participation in the Great Suffragist Pilgrimage and her impassioned speech at a 1913 meeting. This display articulates the central role Mary played in local suffrage networks.