Saturday, 17 October 2015

Some autumn visits - shows and exhibitions

Knitting and Stitching show

I went to Alexandra Palace for the show this year, helped out at a stand in the morning and then wandered about in the afternoon, mainly focusing on the exhibitions, rather than the shopping stands.

There were graduate stands including students I had seen at New Designers, and there were quilters, felt makers and embroiderers of all descriptions showing their work. The stand I was very taken with was Vivien Prideaux's large space where she had hung her wools and silks, shibori dyed in amazing colours from natural dyes. The wools were finely woven light fabrics and hanging them so they can be seen at their best if a great way to show off the work. She also had a small selling corner and there the silk csarves were folded up, and so not giving them the full effect of the print.

This is the third or fourth time I have been to the Knitting and Stitching Show. It is a huge event, and you can easily get overloaded with impressions; I find that on repeat visits the stalls look increasingly the same from year to year and so unless there is something absolutely specific to get then most stalls can be skipped as otherwise stuff is available on-line. But at the core is shopping, and that gets a bit tedious after a while, although one stand I had planned a visit to was Oliver Twists, to pick up some green silk brick for spinning, and more about that in the posts about the final project.

On the on-line shopping point: I was very sad to learn that Texere yarns had gone into liquidation and is no more. This was a gift of a yarn and fibre agent and I will miss it very much.

The Fashion and Textile Museum - Liberty in Fashion

This museum is a small, but well layed-out space in a gentrified part of London. This was the first time I visited, so I did not know what to expect in the way of space and volumes of work on show. The Liberty exhibition covered a range of liberty designs used in dresses and blouses, there were a few trousers and more recent shoes.

What I liked best of all in the exhibition were the early embroidered pieces. Detailing in capes, kimonos, collars of bodice pieces on blouses and dresses. These were not huge embroideries but small sections adding s sense of luxury to an already fine garment. Liberty has always stood for quality and the high end of the market and there were plenty of examples of such quality garments on show. There was a also a room celebrating the liberty scarf and Liberty print in general, The Art of Pattern, showing surface designs by Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell mainly from the 1970s. This was a nice display of draft designs, proof prints and garments made in a particular print, with a lot of individual objects on show themed around print designs such as florals or the Bauhaus designs.

It was a worthwhile visit, and the ore so because I discovered on the way that the Londn glass blowing centre was alomost just across the street, and second to ceramics I love glass, so I had a quick look around to see some of the current works on display there.

Having just come back from Austria where huge internation-level museums take entry-fees equivalent to the Fashion and Textile Museum I do question how value is determined on museum displays. The Liberty exhibit was OK, but not amazing, and charging £9 for entry to a small specialist museum does seem a bit steep.

Contemporary Ceramics Centre and British Museum: Celts: art and identity

Whenever I go to the British Museum I pop in to admire whatever is new in the world of British Ceramics across the road. This time there was a display of monumental slab-built works by Paul Philp. These were large pale shapes which had been placed in groups of twos or threes to enable the shapes to relate to each other. The piece in three parts in the main window was very impressive, it would appear that it was made to be a whole in three sections, with a quiet strength in their standing position, taking up space around them and needing that space to speak properly. I liked this work, it was strong and yet modest and abstract although it used the idea of the vessel as a foundation for the expression.

There is also work by other people on show, often smaller pieces, and it is interesting to walk around looking at how some ceramicists use mark making on the surface of their material, while others use the materials themselves such a glazes and the process (firing for example) to enable the final object to stand as an object in itself. (I am not really sure what the equivalent of this working out of process in textiles is - weaving definitely has this tradition of writing about process, from Anni Albers' writings and the way the Bauhaus weaving workshop tried to work out their language of textiles, and occasionally you see the discourse on process turning up in some embroidery books, but in the ceramics tradition there is a very strong tradition on discourse on process which permeates the final pieces in some works).

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