Setting up exhibition in Brixton Windmill

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After two days of teetering on ladders, lugging plinths up and down wooden stairways, and burying a lightbox in bark mulch, I think I’m almost ready for the private view of my latest exhibition at Brixton Windmill tomorrow.

lightbox

You may remember that I’d made 12 felt windmills to represent the 12 windmills that once existed in Lambeth, but wasn’t sure at that stage how I was going to present them. My initial thought was to hang them at different heights using monofilament, but then I had an idea about making a mobile.

I was particularly struck by images of Calder mobiles and decided this was the way to go. Purely by chance I came across Hobby’s, a model shop in West Norwood. After a long conversation with the owner I came away with 30 feet of brass rods in two different thicknesses and 28 brass collars and screws in two different sizes. I was briefly tempted by something called Liquid Gravity, but didn’t succumb in the end. It opened up a completely new world! ;-)

And after much tussling with wire cutters, dropping tiny screws less than 1mm long, and superglueing washers to the tablecloth - not to mention stabbing my fingers with a screwdriver – I had a mobile. Tada!

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Magdalen Rubalcava, who organises the Events Group of the Friends of Windmill Gardens and who had the idea for this exhibition, has been a fantastic source of support and help. With her background as a theatre designer, she has loads of ideas, masses of contacts, and is a pure genius at improvising something from nothing. I couldn’t have done it without her.

millstone vessels

The private view is 6-8pm tomorrow. Otherwise the exhibition can be seen on days when Brixton Windmill is open to the public – you’ll need to book a tour to visit the upper floors.

 

David Evans printing blocks for sale

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After I published the post about the Women of the Cloth visit to the exhibition about the silk printing company David Evans, Georgina Jay posted a comment asking if anyone would be interested in buying some David Evans blocks, as she had been given a couple.

This was an intriguing offer, which I had to follow up, so I asked for more information. I’d assumed that Georgina was connected with the exhibition, but she has nothing to do with textiles – she rescues stray cats and dogs in Suffolk!

It turns out that three months ago a friend of hers who was an antiques dealer died, and his wife, also a friend, was clearing out and offered her a load of boxes of stuff to sell to raise money for the animals.

In the box with the printing blocks was also a Christie’s catalogue from 27 November 1984, which details the history of the blocks and David Evans and is a good indicator of provenance.

The photos below show details of the different blocks, along with the pages of the auction catalogue on which they are mentioned.

Georgina is asking between £100 and £175 for each block – please contact her directly by emailing georginajay@btinternet.com or ringing 01473 737443 for more information.

Boro exhibition at Somerset House

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Literally translated as “rags”, boro are heavily patched bedcovers and clothing made by the rural poor of Japan.

Although cotton was grown in southern Japan from the 16th century onwards, it was only the richer urban dwellers who could afford it. Poorer people wore homespun hemp, nettle and ramie, but cotton was lighter and warmer than these so was highly valued.

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So it was that merchants in the south found it worth their while to transport worn out cotton garments up to the north of Japan, where they were eagerly snapped up and turned into layered cloths and clothing.

As they wore through, fresh patches were added, so the cloths become a kind of family history, passed down through the generations, like patchwork quilts in the West.

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The colour is predominantly blue, from indigo, but there are also patches of brown, grey and black. This is because these were the only colours that commoners were allowed to wear in the Edo period (1603-1868) – lavish kimono and vivid silk were confined to the Japanese aristocracy.

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As Japan developed and became more industrialised in the 20th century, such textiles were looked on with shame, as a symbol of its impoverished past, and many of them were thrown away.

In the West, however, they are regarded as beautiful examples of folk art, and Somerset House has brought together 40 examples in a wonderful exhibition. You can see from the photos here how the personality of the maker shines through each one.

Some incorporate extensive rows of sashiko stitching to help strengthen the fabric.

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Others resemble more “conventional” patchwork as we know it in the West.

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Yet others looked as if they tried to stay as true as possible to the original colours of the garment.

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Some had stitching that was more whimsical, creating its own design.

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The pattern of wear on some of them was fascinating too. I got talking to one of the exhibition assistants who said that a visitor from Hampton Court suggested that this type of wear came from someone kneeling on the fabric. This is mark making of a very special kind.

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As you can also see from some of the photos, the boro are beautifully mounted, mostly on stretchers like works of art, while this garment was hung on an intricately carved bamboo pole.

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This did make me feel a little uncomfortable. The people who made these items were not making works of art - they were making them as necessities, to keep warm. Now they are self-consciously being hung in galleries and sold at £5,000 a pop.

Of course, this is not unique to boro, but I think I would prefer to use them as originally intended. Textiles – especially these textiles – are tactile things, to be touched, stroked, snuggled in, draped, wrapped, caressed. And if it wears through, I’m willing to continue the tradition of patching up as necessary. Now, where did I put that stash of shibori scraps? ;-)

Boro continues at Somerset House until 26 April.

Exhibition at Brixton Windmill

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Photo: Owen Llewellyn

Brixton Windmill star trails by Owen Llewellyn

Did you know that Brixton had a windmill? Probably not, as even many people who live here don’t know.

Built in 1816, the windmill was originally surrounded by open fields. Now, it sits in a tiny park sandwiched between Brixton Prison and a large sprawling council estate.

After a long period of dereliction, the mill was restored in 2010-11, thanks to a campaign by the Friends of Windmill Gardens (FowG), of which I am a member. It’s now open for free tours throughout the summer, along with a whole series of special events organised in the park.

So what does this have to do with textiles? Well, the events group of FoWG wants to encourage more “artistic” events in the windmill and the park, and invited me to take part in a joint exhibition with another FoWG member, Owen Llewellyn. A vegan/anarchist /postman/musician /astronomer, Owen also takes fantastic photos, not just of the windmill (the photos here are his) but of London in general and nature in particular.

Moss macro by Owen Llewellyn

Moss macro by Owen Llewellyn

Our exhibition will combine photos and felt, inside Brixton Windmill itself. It’s going to be quite challenging, as the windmill is very small inside, especially on the upper floors.

As well as including some of my shibori felt I am working on some windmill-inspired pieces. These include vessels with patterns based on the grooves that are traditionally cut into millstones.

I’m also making some felt “windmills” based on the shape of a child’s toy windmill. The idea is to produce 12 of these in different colours to represent the 12 windmills that once existed in Lambeth (Brixton Windmill is the only survivor).

felt windmills

I would like to suspend them somehow so that they can actually rotate – but I don’t have a firm plan of how to do this yet! Any ideas welcome. :-)

The exhibition can be seen on open days throughout the year – details on Brixton Windmill website. Admission is free, but if you want a tour of the whole windmill up to the top it’s best to book in advance via the website.

The private view is on Good Friday 18 April, 6-8pm – email me if you’d like details.

Jeannie Avent set up and private view

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Phew! It’s been a tiring couple of days setting up the Women of the Cloth show in the Jeannie Avent Gallery in East Dulwich. Last year we had four artists; this year we have seven (though two don’t take up much space).

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Most of the setting up was done yesterday, but two of the artists brought their work in today. I was minding the gallery today and then we had the private view in the evening, so it’s been a long day!

Here are some pics of the work on show and the private view. We were very excited when Sarah Campbell tweeted that she’d like to come – and she bought one of Carol’s felt bags!

The exhibition continues until 15 April – open every day 10am-5pm. Details of workshops here.

More shibori felt

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Yes, I have another sale and exhibition starting next week with Women of the Cloth. Yes, I should be making work to sell and exhibit. So why am I spending time instead on experimental work?

Well, sometimes I get a creative itch I just have to scratch. With a personality that veers uncomfortably close sometimes to OCD (just ask ESP) I can’t help myself.

So this week I returned to shibori felt. After the vessel I made a couple of weeks ago, I tried making a flat piece – that is, a piece that started out as flat, rather than around a resist.

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The next obvious step (for me!) was to make another piece in undyed wool, bind it, and then dip it in the indigo vat.

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This second piece was smaller than the first (around 8cm across compared with 12cm), as I thought I might be able to do something practical with it, like make it into a brooch. However, I think the contrast of the blue and white isn’t really effective on this smaller scale – it needs to be larger to be seen properly.

I also love the effect on the reverse side of all these pieces.

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Looks like I will have to make another vessel, this time dyed with indigo and turned inside out. But maybe after the exhibition is finished.

Or maybe I will display these pieces as work in progress – what do you think?

Back to the scarves…

 

Our next Exhibition, Sale and Workshops

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kwinter12:

I’m going to be exhibiting again with Women of the Cloth at the Jeannie Avent Gallery in East Dulwich from 2 to 16 April. We’ve got some new guest artists exhibiting with us this time – this post on the Women of the Cloth website lists the workshops we’ll be running. Hope to see some of you there!

Originally posted on Women of the Cloth:

JEANNIE AVENT GALLERY

14 North Cross Road, East Dulwich London SE22 9EU

Following on from last year’s residency at Jeannie Avent Gallery, which was a great success and a lovely place to be, we will be back there for two weeks from 3rd April 2014

As usual, we will have a variety of work on show and for sale, with various guest textile artists adding yet more choice of work and techniques to see and to buy.

We will be running workshops, a few of which are listed below, more to be added soon.  Email us at womenofthecloth2012@gmail.com to book places:

Sat 5th April – 10.30 till 16.00  Feltmaking Day: make some colourful felt using sheeps’fleece, soap & water

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Sun 6th April – 11.00 till 15.00 Creative Weaving with Joan

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Mon 7th April – 10.30 till 16.00 Needlefelting: garden birds

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Weds 9th April – 18.45 till 21.00  and…

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