Aim of Lesson• To appreciate the art and designs of the Gypsy and Traveller community.• To understand how the designs have been developed through the history and culture of the Gypsy and Traveller community.• To produce a piece of Gypsy Traveller art.
Gypsy HistoryThe Gypsy people were originally fromIndia. Their historical journey to Britaintook them over 1000 years. The firstGypsy record in Leeds is found in theParish Register of 1572.The child wasElizabeth Smawleye, daughter of anEgyptian. Gypsies were thought to beEgyptians because of their darkercomplexion and foreign language.
Gypsy LifestyleAt first Gypsies lived in tents calledBender tents. The trades for the men wasmainly seasonal work. This could beharvesting crops, mending pots and pansand general labouring. The trades forwomen could be telling fortunes, sellinglucky heather or picking wild flowers tosell.
TravellingGypsies put their belongings on an openor flat cart. However by the 1880’s the flatcart had been developed into a woodenwagon called a vardo. These wagonswere pulled by horses. Inside there wouldbe a double bed and underneath that asingle bed. The single bed would be forthe youngest child. The other childrenwould sleep outside under tarpaulin.
VardosMost vardos were built between1895-1925. One of the most famousvardo builders in Yorkshire was calledWilliam Wright who lived in Rothwell. Heand his sons, Herbert and Albert made thewooden wagons, the Gypsies thendecorated them. One of Wright’s vardoscan be seen in York’s Castle Museum.
DesignsThe designs used by Gypsies reflected the countryside they travelled through. Each design was unique to that family. Each family designed their own. Family horses were a particular favourite. The families also liked carvings of birds, flowers, fruit and animals. Some Gypsy families liked designs from Ancient Rome that included grapes, lions classical lines and scrolls.
Designs 2All vardos would have lines painted onthem. The Gypsies called the line design“lined out.” The status of the Gypsy familycould be seen by the decorations on theirvardo. The more intricate the design thericher the family were. Gold leaf was alsoused as part of the decoration. A highlypainted gold leaf vardo would cost todaywell over £20,000.