Travels in Textiles


Friday, 27 May 2011

London calling

Have just returned from an inspiring trip to London. It was just what I needed, as a break away from the desk and the dizzying computer screen. A highlight of the trip was an exhibition at the V&A museum of childhood, and an exhibition it was holding curated by A Fine Line and The Harley Gallery.

'A sense of place' was a collection of works by several artists taking part in an exchange between the UK, India and Bangladesh. Their work reflected upon and was inspired by the new place in which they found themselves situated, a place very different from where they usually work. The artists were textile designer Lokesh Ghai (teacher at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya in Kutch, India), rickshaw painter Tapan Das, paper artist Thurle Wright, metal artist Steven Follen and fine artist Tarun Ghosh

 This is Lokesh Ghai's work inspired by textiles at the V&A museum and the 19th century ballad Fair Charlotte. The ballad is a tragic, cautionary tale of a vein young women who sets out one cold, winter new year's eve with her lover to a ball. Despite the warnings and advice of her mother Charlotte discards blankets to wrap herself in for the journey in a sleigh, and travels only in a silk dress, bonnet and gloves, not daring to be seen in riding in 'blankets muffled up'. Charlotte gets colder and colder on the journey, and to her lover's and parents' dismay, before they reach the ball Charlotte freezes to death.

Lokesh has created garments that would suitably and stylishly keep Charlotte warm and prevent her untimely death.

 I loved Lokesh's treatment of beautifully printed and plain, Indian and English fabrics, their layering and stitching. Charlotte could not have refused such beautiful coats to compliment her ball gown and keep her warm

 Tapan Das is from a family of rickshaw painters from Dhaka, Bangladesh. The amazing artwork adorning these great methods of transport are a feast for the eyes. I think this country could do with some of Tapan Das's decorating to brighten up the drab greyness that we are surrounded by!

 While Tapan Das had an artist residency in Nottinghamshire and London, Thurle Wright travelled over to Dhaka in Bangladesh and Ahmedabad in Gujarat. The result was her unique paper cut works of art. She had collected images and texts out of all sorts of books and cut and sculpted the pieces combining with stitched and stuck objects and sequins to create intensely intricate masterpieces clearly inspired by India and Bangladesh's rich culture and arts.

The above detail of one of Wright's pieces reminded me both of an ear adorned with earrings, and the traditional mirrored embroideries of Gujarat.


Steven Follen who also travelled to Dhaka and Ahmedabad, created sculptural metal pieces, clearly inspired by the bright floral garlands that adorn the markets, streets and people all over India.

Monday, 2 May 2011

I haven't let the thesis take over all my time. Especially when the weather tempts me outside. The other day we cycled to Dunham Massey out in the Cheshire borders of Manchester. I had never been before, and not realised how easy it was to get to on a bike. We rode along the bridge water canal there, and along the trans penine trail back. I didn't take many photos, except for this one at the quaint tea shop we stopped at for a well earned tea and scone break

I love the colour combinations of the red brick of the old stables, bright blue of the sky and picnic table and lush summer green of the grass and trees.

I also finally made it to see the exhibition Embellished the art of fabulous fabrics  at the Harris museum in Preston just in time before it ended at Easter. Considering I'd heard raving reviews about it, and have been looking forward to seeing it for a while, it wasn't as impressive as I expected. I liked the idea of focusing on the decorative skill full detail added to garments worn in different periods of time and different cultures . However I thought they might focus on fabrics for the home and accessories too. There wasn't a great deal of variety, and the fact that textile pieces have to be displayed in dark glass cases, to conserve them, makes the viewer feel detached from a piece, unable to feel the luscious texture, and even look closely at the immense detail of an embroidery or weave, and rich colours and pattern of a print.

These were a few pieces I particularly liked though.

 This is a darning sampler from 1830. It is a reference for different darning techniques but makes for a decorative piece of work on its own.

 I didn't note down when or where this piece is from, but it is a tea cosy made of printed fabric that has been embroidered into.

This is a 'stomacher' a piece worn in the 1700s to decorate a dress. I had never heard of one of these before. Ladies would transfer these richly embellished pieces from one dress to another, almost like a piece of jewellery. I think we should have this as a trend nowadays too. It would save a lot of money, just as long as you've got a few white or plain coloured dresses. A belt piece or trimming might be more appropriate though...

I was actually more drawn to these Autobiographical Terrains that were displayed up the sweeping staircase of the gallery, than the exhibition I had travelled to the museum to see. They are etchings and artist's books by Lisa Wigham. I love her simple, delicate use of line that convey the dreamlike emotion of still, peaceful landscapes. These photos unfortunately do not do them justice as, like the textiles, they were displayed behind glass.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Fields, flowers and Easter feasts

I have left it far too long to write another blog post.

Stuck at home while everyone else is enjoying a sunny bank holiday, I have decided to force myself out of underneath the weight of my books and my never ending thesis and do some easier writing.

I can't really complain about missing out on the lovely weather. I was lucky to spend a whole Easter in the Yorkshire Dales basking in the warm hospitality of my aunt and uncle in their lovely country house. This involved strolling through the quiet picturesque countryside, indulging in my auntie's delicious home-cooked feasts of ham from their home-reared pigs, huge fruit filled pavlovas, fresh tasty salads and a whole manner of Easter cakes and treats, and of course the classic summer drinks of rose and pimms.

The wild flower ridden fields, peace and lush green of the surrounding hills provided a perfect break from the urban sprawl of Manchester and being stuck in front of a computer.

On the journey back, we were entertained by the array of scarecrows on display on the streets of the quaint village of Wray. They hold the scarecrow festival every year and the locals' creativity is leashed while creatin all sorts of characters out of all sorts of objects, some familiar. This year of course, there were many interpretations of the royal wedding. Unfortunately we couldn't stop, so I could only catch a tiny selection on my phone camera. This creepy looking giant lady was my favourite.