Thursday, 6 February 2020

Material Girls - very much en vogue

Anthony Denney is not a name that I was familiar with before I visited this exhibition.  Yet in the 1960s he was considered an icon of twentieth century style.  Between 1964 and 1969 he lived at Rainham Hall, now a National Trust property and this year they are celebrating their fashionable resident in an exhibition about his life and work - click HERE for more information.

The textile art group, Material Girls have also created a display of their own contemporary work inspired by Denney - as a fashion photographer, interior designer, art connoisseur and a design icon.

Each section of the display relates to a different aspect of Denney's life.  A famous photograph (which you can see on the Rainham Hall website) shows Denney inside a huge Chinese pot - and one of the Material Girls has recreated the pot in fabric (above) - apologies for not making a note of the artist's name.

The artists are also very generous in putting their sketchbooks on display (see above) so you can get an idea of just some of the work involved in getting their ideas from paper to thread.

This section (below) refers to his interest in interior design.

Another section (below) was devoted to Denney's interest in Japanese art and culture.

I was particularly intrigued by some of Beverley Folkard's miniature book art works (below).

Denney is not someone I knew of prior to this exhibition so a visit is not just a case of seeing some beautiful textile art, but also learning something new.

These images are just a very small selection of the work on display.  The exhibition is free as most of it is in the Hayloft, the cafe next to the main building.  There is a charge if you want to visit the house itself.  Although I did not visit this time, it is an interesting place to visit.  There will always be members of Material Girls on hand to talk to while their exhibition is open - which is until 16th February 2020.  Check the Rainham Hall website for details of opening times etc or the Material Girls website for more information on their work.  

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Stretching and pushing out of my comfort zone

Instead of the usual E.A.S.T meeting today we invited artist, Vinny Stapley to take the group through some design exercises.  We arrived at the hall at Braintree District Museum to find Vinny putting together a still life - dried foliage, exotic vegetables and interesting lighting.

We began with some warm up exercises.  Using charcoal, first we had to draw with our non-dominant hand.  We had about 8 minutes to make our drawing.

Then we had to draw without looking at our paper - I really struggled not to look, and did not take a photo of this exercise.  Our final warm up exercise was to put our paper on the floor and then draw with our charcoal attached to a very long stick.

We had time for a group critique before our next exercise.

Then we moved on to working in colour - in a section Vinny called the 'magic roundabout'.  For each 'station' Vinny placed a different type of media.  Each activity was timed - about 5 or 8 minutes for each.  Then we moved to the seat on our left and picked up the next media.  As we moved along we also moved around the central still life - so our view changed.  We were supposed to capture moments - and think about what was being left out.

Sometimes I built on an image I had already started - sometimes I tried something completely new.  A different fruit perhaps - but I kept coming back to the dried teasels and what I think was cow parsley.

Then we used some card windows to pick out sections - something we could develop.  

For the final session of the day we worked in groups to create a 3-dimensional response to the central still life.  Again we were time limited and had to use materials that were to hand. I worked with Felicity and Libby to create this response to the pumpkin and cow parsley florets, with a 'box' (made from paper) - a juxtaposition of the natural and man made.  The title of the workshop was 'organic subversive' and we felt that this would also be the title for our finished 'sculpture'.  Oh - and we decided to add a little humour as Libby's glasses were just the perfect colour.

The importance of lighting was discussed as we looked at the sculptures by the others in the group.

All in all it was a really interesting day.  I was really pushed to do work I haven't done for ages - in particular drawing, but also using natural objects for inspiration and working with some new types of media.  There were quite a few pieces that I was very pleased with, and I think can be developed further.  I am also wondering if I can combine anything from today with the work from the workshop I did with Diane Bates.  

Watch this space!

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Stepping into the Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection is one of those galleries I have been meaning to visit for years - it took a display of exquisite shoes to get me there.  It was only by chance that I learned of the 'An Enquiring Mind: Manolo Blahnik at the Wallace Collection' display in its last week so I caught it on its penultimate day.

Blahnik has apparently used the collection to inspire his work - and now his shoes were displayed as art themselves.  

It seemed particularly fitting to have a display of pink shoes alongside Jean-Honore Fragonard's 'The Swing' (1768) - the girl in the painting having thrown her own pink slipper into the air.

And a particular favourite was this 'strawberry' shoe.

Though this delightful exhibition has now finished - I will definitely return to the Wallace Collection to view its masterpieces on display.


Sunday, 11 August 2019

Dior - inspired by history

Visiting the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A Museum this week, I did not expect to see anything related to the eighteenth century.  So it was a pleasant surprise to have a whole room dedicated to historical inspirations.

These images are just a glimpse of some of the Dior creations from just one room of this exhibition.

I think what these photographs just cannot do justice to is the beadwork and embroidery - all created by hand and a testament to the skill of the unnamed craftsmen and women who make each of these items unique.

Attention to detail includes the stand for the perfume bottles:

The exhibition itself is not just about Christian Dior (1905-1957), although a section about him begins the display.  Instead is is about the fashion house he created.  After his early death in 1957 this couture business has had five other artistic directors responsible for its women's wear - Yves Saint-Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferro, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.  The designs of all these also featured in the show.  

Beginning with the 'New Look' as well as historical inspirations there are pieces inspired by travel and by nature.  The nature room not only has some beautiful clothing but the paper flower decorations provided a real 'wow' factor on their own.

Another room (almost entirely in white) refers to the physical making of the clothes by displaying toiles - the 'mock ups' that help develop the structure of the work.  Another favourite was the diorama dedicated to accessories and ancillary elements - design work, photography, perfume, miniature costumes, etc.  The ballroom at the end is a spectacular finale - not just for the clothes but for the display itself.  

The exhibition continues until 1st September 2019 - but access now is limited to those who already have a ticket, members and a few tickets on the day.

For more about this fabulous exhibition it is worth visiting the V&A website which includes this clip giving a glimpse of how the exhibition was put together -

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Power of Stitch at Braintree Museum

E.A.S.T's latest exhibition, Power of Stitch, is now open at Braintree District Musuem (until Saturday 29 June 2019).  My own contribution is a body of work called 'A chain of events' which refers to three stories related to the technique of tambour work - a chain stitch made with a hook rather than a needle.

I became interested in the history of tambour embroidery when I discovered a number of girls at the eighteenth century Foundling Hospital being apprenticed to embroiderers from the mid-1760s.  The embroidery masters (they were mostly male) were also sometimes identified as tambour workers.  When I tried to learn more about the technique's history in Britain all I found was that it arrived in England in the mid-1760s.  Prior to that it has a long history in China and India where it has been used for centuries.

Looking through newspaper archives from the eighteenth century the first person I found who advertised tambour work (then called broder au tambour) was a Mme Catherine Pignerolle.  The newspapers, from February 1765, include several advertisements by Mme Pignerolle teaching skills and selling items worked using this particular technique.  There were others teaching and selling tambour needles, but Mme Pignerolle seemed to be one of the most regular in the press.  When she died in 1773 it took three days to sell all her possessions.  I wondered did tambour work make her rich?  Her story is represented by this piece of work.

To represent 30 foundling girls (and one boy) who were apprenticed to the same embroiderer I created 30 hearts.  Each one has the name of one of the children, their number (all foundling children also had a number), the year they were admitted/born and the year they were apprenticed.  One side of each heart has a little 'window' showing a foundling token - identifying notes, objects and fabrics.  On the other side I used cottons that are reproductions of 18th century textiles.  These fabrics had been a gift from a friend.  I wanted to use these because these girls, unlike many of the foundlings, might have been supported by this friendship network.  

My last piece of work relates to another tambour related story from the newspapers.  That of Frances Glover and Elizabeth Wheeler who, aged 20, were found in the New River, London in 1780.  The report states that they were unable to find work (as tambourers) and it was thought this might have been the reason why they threw themselves in the river.  By now this date there were increasingly stories of tambour workers being sweated in workhouses - demand was high and competition meant selling cheap.  Did tambour work make them poor?  These girls are remembered in my third piece of work.

As well as tambour embroidery, one of the other main themes of this work has been the representation of time.  It is one of the reasons I have used photographic images - as a means to capture time.  

To find out more about the other artists whose work is on display visit the E.A.S.T website - HERE.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Coram's coat

In Coram, next to the Foundling Museum, they have a reproduction of Thomas Coram's coat on display in their entrance hall.  Coram is the children's charity that developed from the eighteenth-century London Foundling Hospital.   The coat on display is based on the one in William Hogarth's famous portrait of Coram, which you can also see on display at the Museum.  The coat was made by Ninya Mikhaila of The Tudor Tailor; you might also know her from BBC's Stitch in Time programme. 

As well as the coat there is a reproduction of Coram's hat, and a short film giving an insight into how the coat was made. 

The coat also gives an insight into what Coram's coat looks like from the back - obviously something you cannot see in the painting.

If you are visiting the Foundling Museum on a week day, the Coram display is free to visit.  The coat may not be on show for much longer as the charity are developing a new display for the summer.