Exhibition at Brixton Windmill

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.

Exhibition hanging

Naively, I thought that the hard work lay in making pieces for an exhibition. Little did I know how arduous the actual installation is!

Luckily, my friend Magdalen – my best customer who also happens to be a set and costume designer – came along to help. She turned up on my doorstep with two wicker shopping baskets on wheels, which were rather striking objects in themselves. Into these we piled three bags of stones, two slabs of slate, a couple of hessian coffee sacks, a bamboo pole, a pile of newspapers, a bag of balloons, two pairs of scissors, a length of silk and bamboo fabric, a large foam-covered twist grip, and a jar of shells. Oh – and my felt pieces. The partridge in the pear tree we left for another day.  😉

After struggling onto the bus (managing to snap off part of the bamboo pole), we decided to ask the driver whether he would let down the wheelchair ramp when we disembarked, as the baskets were so heavy. He very sweetly obliged, so that made it easier. And did I mention it was raining?

I had planned to show both my indigo felt pots and the nautilus shells. I still haven’t heard anything from the V&A, and I figured that if I was rejected I might not get a chance to exhibit the pots. But I thought it would be better to put them on separate plinths, as I wasn’t sure how well they would work together.

Morley Gallery was already full of people standing on ladders, stapling things to walls, and stitching last-minute alterations when we arrived. I found that I’d been allocated a large window space, which was very exciting, but also caused a dilemma, as I didn’t think that either the pots or the shells would be enough to fill the space on their own.

So we decided to put them all in the window, and spent the day running outside to see how it looked, running back inside, rearranging things, running back outside…you get the idea! In fact, trying to make it look good from both the outside and inside was one of the biggest challenges. I’m not sure how well we succeeded in this.

This was how it looked at the end of yesterday:

We decided that some more bamboo canes would be helpful at the back and sides to prevent too much white against white, so I cut a few canes from the garden this morning and went back to add them:

The other challenge of having a window space, as you can see, is trying to take photos without reflections from the windows. In this I have completely failed! 🙂

Morley Advanced Textiles exhibition

I haven’t had much time for creative work or blogging recently – distracted by other activities. But now half-term is over, and the invitations to our exhibition at Morley have been printed, which focuses the mind!

There’s been no news from the V&A, so if I don’t get selected for that, I’ll probably put my shibori felt vessels into the Morley exhibition. However, I’ve also been plugging away on the nautilus theme, and if I can get my act together in time I may do this instead. Many thanks to Chrissie for all her encouragement and advice on this!

Here are a few (not very good) photos of a couple more works in progress. Different methodologies have pulled in some weird and unexpected implements, including a shower hose and some giant foam-covered wire twists from the Pound Shop!

So if you’re around Waterloo at the beginning of July, do pop in and see the exhibition. There’s going to be some really interesting work on show – and I’m talking about other students’, not mine! 😉