Sunday, 15 October 2017

Textiles - from really ancient to the latest trends

This was a week when I managed to see textiles, (especially embroidery), from two very different time periods - some dating from the late fourth to early third century BC; others from 2017.

The really ancient textiles were part of the British Museum's exhibition of the Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia.  This was an exhibition that included everything from mummified remains, fabulous pieces of goldwork and even a bag for some really old cheese - so a pretty varied exhibition. 

With no written language, these nomadic people are only known through the objects they left with their burials.  However because of the freezing temperatures of Siberia much that would not normally survive for such an ancient culture, has.  I had read there would be some textiles but had not realised how much there would be - or that there would be some really quite fine embroidery.

The early part of the exhibition focused on a large quantity of gold objects - these were in themselves quite remarkable.  The Scythians were keen on animal motifs and this was also reflected in some of the felt pieces on display - including a felt swan and a horse's headpiece resplendent with a goat and bird on top.  Another textile highlight was a shoe decorated with beads and metalwork.  There was also quite a lot of applique work and a really delicate piece of embroidery - now not much more than a collection of chain stitches in the shape of a winged horse.

Definitely an exhibition worth visiting if you have a love of ancient embroidery and/or felt work.  It continues until 14 January 2018.

Then yesterday I visited a very different exhibition showcaseing a whole range of contemporary textiles - the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London.  From beginners to accomplished artists everyone was catered for.  I had missed the show for two years running and so it was nice to get back to see some of the variety of work on display.

For me the highlights were the exhibitions - I particularly liked Studio 21's Sewing Machine Project, pieces of which are illustrated here.  This group used the sewing machine as their starting point - looking at it both for its aesthetic values (visual, aural and tactile) and its history (personal, cultural, political and social). 

(Above) Amarjeet Nandhra looked at ideas of manufacturing and piece work 
(also known as the bundle system) - The shirt on your back.

(Above) Mary Morris used monoprints based on her sketchbook drawings for this piece
called On Line

(Above) Debbie Lyddon's Fold used strips of fabric folded and "stitched" with wire to consider the relentless mechanical movement of the sewing machine.  This photo does not do Debbie's work justice and I strongly recommend a visit to her own website/blog.

I was also interested in the work of the group Hue who used as their starting point the text of Robert Macfarlane's book The Old Ways.  Macfarlane looked at pathways and landscapes shaped by ancient people and he worked with Hue as they made their textile pieces.  I thought this was a really interesting collaboration.  It is only recently I have learned about Macfarlane's work - first through Jenny Langley, in my own textile group EAST.  She had also been inspired by this author's work in our exhibition Following a Thread earlier this year.  In addition, next year Macfarlane's work will feature in an exhibition at the Foundling Museum.  I definitely need to put his books on my "to do" reading list.

Other highlights for me in the show included the work of Jo Beattie, Haf Weighton, Hilary Hollingworth, Lynda Monk and Diana Harrison.  As well as being inspired by some very talented artists, and do a bit of textile shopping, it was also nice to catch up with like minded friends.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Lost and Found

It's a funny thing - at the beginning of this week I felt a bit lost.  All that intense thinking and writing and editing for my final dissertation - then it is handed in and all I have to do is wait.

Instead I can now focus on my EAST textile art work (above).  I can also prepare for the Being Human Festival 2017 running from 17 to 25 November 2017.  Organised by the School of Advanced Study, University of London I am part of just one of a hundreds of events relative to studies in the humanities.  Talks, workshops, guided walks, exhibitions are held all over the country and this year, internationally too.  The theme for this year is Lost and Found

So on Saturday 18 November you will find me involved in Finding Through Feeling, at the Foundling Museum, London.  There will be a handling session allowing visitors to engage with some replicas of foundling tokens and 18th century infant clothing.  Such activities are held regularly now at the museum - usually the last Saturday of the month.  It is always fascinating being part of the conversations that come out of these events.

Looking through the festival brochure I found some other events that seem to have some textile/craft/token related elements -

Also on Saturday 18 November at the British Museum, the London Metropolitan Archives are running a day of talks, weaving and object handling related to the Somali object display.

On Monday 20 November, Queen Mary University of London's Centre for the History of the Emotions are running an event at the Royal College of Nursing looking at the power of objects.  There will be puppetry workshops, emotional talismans and displays of healing objects.

On Thursday 23 November the University of the Arts London are hosting an event at the Museum of London looking at living in the city.  The event looks at how fashion connects people and place and includes a T-shirt design workshop as a way of recognising the importance of community within the city.

Also on Thursday 23 November the Royal College of Art are investigating bereavement and mental health issues through textiles.

Further afield in Newcastle Upon Tyne there is The Great Knitting Workshop: Picking up Dropped Stitches looking at the history of knitting - also on Thursday 23 November.  This is being run by Northumbria University at The Literary and Philosophical Society Library.

The whole festival runs between 17 and 25 November and although there are paper versions of the brochure it is also possible to view on line - for more information.  Some events have to be booked in advance and the website should have the links.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Flying pigs and angry schoolmasters

Today I visited the V&A Museum's Pink Floyd - Their Moral Remains exhibition and despite spending three hours in there, it wasn't really long enough.  The exhibition tells how the band started in the 1960s and continued for a further five decades.  Along with the music the exhibition tells the story of the art (album covers, programmes, stadium shows) and the people who put together what began as "Happenings" and became stadium experiences.

The inflatable pig (famous for escaping its tether when photographed above Battersea Power Station) was not on display but a smaller version above a set made you feel it was really high above you.  But I think the schoolmaster puppet was the real thing.  The two giant heads from the Division Bell were real - and huge.  

And because I like to find the textiles in the exhibitions I visit, (if inflatables aren't textiley enough), they also had a pink man who seemed to have been sewn together.

There was lots about the music (obviously) - including how the band added in sounds of ordinary objects along with early experiments in electronic technology.  I was particularly impressed with this drum set - which perhaps should be part of the British Museum's latest exhibition on Hokusai.

There was also lots about the art work - for the album covers but also for the concert programmes.

Interestingly too after years of visiting exhibitions where there is a "no photography" rule - this exhibition not only let you take photos but also use flash - unfortunately I did not realise until the very end that that was permissible which is why my images are rather dark.

Another element I really liked were the old fashioned telephone box - each one had a collection of books, imagery, words etc relevant to the different decades.  It set everything in context.

More than an exhibition this was an immersive experience and well worth the visit.  Even taking the time we did it was impossible to take in everything so we plan to go back, perhaps at the end of the summer if tickets are still available then.

Pink Floyd - Their Mortal Remains is on at the V&A Museum, London until 1 October 2017.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Following a Thread - until 24 June 2017

My work is now on display as part of EAST's latest exhibition Following a Thread.  The exhibition is at Braintree District Museum, Manor Street, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3HW (UK).  Today was our private view and it was lovely to see everyone's work on display.  The exhibition will be on at Braintree until 24 June 2017 then move to Snape Maltings in Suffolk (29 June to 5 July 2017).

My work relates once again to my interest in the archives of the Foundling Hospital with six beaded hearts - one for each of six foundlings.  During the time the exhibition is open I will post the story behind each one.  However here is my display - though the photo does not really do it justice as there is just too much glass and reflection.  Also I probably should have got much closer in so I will try and take a better photo over the coming weeks.

For more information about EAST -

Friday, 14 April 2017

Threads of Light

No textiles in this post but instead some threads of light.

This sculpture fills a large portion of the 300 feet space of the 
Duveen Sculpture Galleries at Tate Britain in London.

Viewed at different points the sculpture changes its patterns which are apparently inspired by Japanese Noh theatre amongst other things.

Visiting the Tate to see Hockney (which is phenomenal), this was an extra bonus.

And a quick word about the Hockney exhibition - he should be compulsory viewing for anyone interested in art.  Partly because of his use of colour but also because of his stressing the importance of drawing as a way of looking.  

Unfortunately even though I know it's important I don't do enough drawing.

Forms in Space ... by Light (in Time) by Cerith Wyn Evans is on display until 20 August 2017.  
Hockney is on until 29 May 2017 - both at Tate Britain.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams

Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams is a free exhibition at the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS), on until 25 March 2017.

Many of the people living on the Silk Road have had to move and resettle either for political or economic regions, but they took their traditions, in particular their textile skills, with them.  Passed down from mother to daughter, they are records of social customs and folk tales, but also representations of identity.  This is an exhibition that tells some of that history.

This embroidery (above) is apparently typical of Afghanistan but there are also pieces from areas bordering the Indus, Yemen, Turcoman, Sogdiana and the Near East.  There are some absolutely stunning Indian embroideries and some beautiful lengths of presumably silk cloth.  My time was limited so I only took a couple of photos (with permission), but I will definitely return for a much longer look.

The Brunei Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm (late nights on Thursdays until 8pm) but closed Sundays, Mondays and Bank Holidays.  It can be found in Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG.  There are a number of (free) public lectures by some internationally renowned speakers - see the gallery website for details.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Bits and Pieces

This blog is a mixture of small exhibitions either textile or with a textile link starting with one I think I will miss as it closes this week:

The Museum of the Order of St John is a small museum in Clerkenwell, which as the name suggests, tells the story of the Museum of the Order of St John.  Most people might recognise the order for its links to St John's Ambulance.  Despite being on since October I only learnt about a week ago that they had a small (free) exhibition relating to Caravaggio's The Cardsharps, called Caravaggio: Fashion and Fabrics.  Actual textiles are displayed alongside the painting bringing the artwork to life in a very real way.  The exhibition finishes on Tuesday 31st January 2017, but mention it in case some else may do so.

However last week I did manage a visit to a modern textile exhibition by a group Texere at Gallery 50, Craft Arena, Barleylands in Billericay.  Texere  is a textiles education working group, working within European Textile Network (ETN) who have a programme of events and activities across Europe.  Although the exhibition is small, there were some excellent pieces of work on display including some weaving and embroideries.  Texere: celebrations - 25 years of Texere continues until 12 February 2017.

I was also very fortunate to be able to be invited to the Private View of Life in an English village at Braintree District Museum, Braintree in Essex.  This is an exhibition of print and drawings by the internationally famous Bardfield Artists.   I went with my friend and fellow EAST member, Susan who knew a lot about the artists and Bardfield.  Susan had used the work of Bawden and the village of Bardfield for the inspiration behind her contribution to EAST's Threads of Time project made for the millennium and now part of Braintree Museum's collection.   The collection will be the subject of a talk EAST are giving later this year at Chelmsford Embroiderer's Guild.   (Thanks to Susan, as well as Claire at the museum, for permission to use the image at the top of this page.)

Life in an English Village continues until 15 April 2017, and really shows what a beautiful county Essex can be.  It was also interesting to learn a little more about the Bardfield Artists and their wider community.