Friday, October 26, 2007

Rezia Wahid - Crafts Study Centre

The shape of things: textiles of Rezia Wahid is at the Crafts Study Centre until 5 January 2008.The shape of things is intended to be a series of ten projects where artists working with crafts media are commissioned to produce site specific work for a variety of sites around the country.

Rezia Wahid's work is described as 'Woven Air', she works with the finest yarns including silk and merino wool which allow light and air to pass through the work and so add an extra dimension.
The weavings are translucent and transparent and move with the slightest of air currents.

The exhibition comprises 18 major pieces, 12 of which are hung in the main gallery. Some are displayed in the glass cases along with a selection of sketch books which are as beautiful as the works themselves. There are 7 smaller, framed pieces for sale in the Reception. The exhibition also includes a video of the cloths being used in collaboration with a dance group.

An additional pleasure for me were the shadows cast on the floor by the lighting.

Tate St Ives

The new exhibition at Tate St Ives focuses on the work of Constructionists Kenneth and Mary Martin. The exhibition runs through to 13th January 2008.

Order + Change (No Chance), Kenneth Martin

Inversions, 1967, Mary Martin
Their work occupies three of the main galleries, with the main atrium over looking Porthmeor beach housing a complimentary exhibition of work from the Tate Collection of Modernist artists who were working in St Ives during the post-war period.

Also on display are ceramics from Bernard Leach and his circle who were so influential on the development of Studio Pottery.

The John Wells Centenary Display occupies The Studio and includes many well known works such as Aspiring Forms and Sea Bird Forms.

The fifth gallery houses a display of the work of Artist in Residence Jonty Lees, exploring the eccentricities of human activity.

St Ives

Black Friday, that's what the traffic agencies call the Friday at the beginning of the autumn half term. Our journey to St Ives took five and a half hours instead of our usual four or less.
St Ives harbour from the lifeboat station
My mother lives on the outskirts of St Ives with views over the bay towards Godrevy Lighthouse. It's a fabulous place to be with great views, wonderful walking on cliffs and moors and the art tradition means that there are dozens of galleries in the area.

This was to be a generally relaxed weekend with meals out (Ocean Grill and Porthminster Cafe) and much walking the dog on the beach.
The Hayle Estuary is one area where we can walk the dog on the beach all year, the water is always these fabulous shades of blue and the sand silvery. This is one of the areas often painted by John Miller.

Summer Sandbar, John Miller

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lineapelle, Leather Fair - Bologna

Warning! Not suitable for vegetarians!
My daughter is studying shoe design at Cordwainers, London College of Fashion. She is currently undertaking a placement at Conker Shoes of Totnes, Devon. As part of her research for her final year project she wants to look at sustainably produced leather, Conkers is also interested in increasing their eco credentials and so gave her time off to attend the Lineapelle leather fair, I tagged along to see Bologna.

Leather to me means cow, pig or sheep skin but at Lineapelle there were also kangaroo, reindeer, buffalo, crocodile, lizard and fish skins (and probably many more I didn't notice!)
To the right are fish skins from Atlantic Leathers of Iceland, the top one is perch and the bottom is wolf fish, their main production is salmon skins.

I love soft 'glove' leathers but Anna was looking for much thicker skins suitable for the strain of pulling over a shoe last and for vegetable tanned leathers that she can colour herself.

Most of the leathers at the show were traditionally tanned using chemicals and chrome which is decidedly environmentally unfriendly! I have to admit that I thought many of the colours and finishes that the leathers were available in were also visually pretty awful, bright garish colours and tacky effects seemed a waste of good leather to me. CFM produce foils for heat pressing onto fabric that can also be used on leather, I'm afraid I think they should stay with the fabrics where they are often very effective.

One set of samples that Anna picked up were of scent impregnated leathers, neither of us were quite sure what anyone would actually use them for but she thought they would be good for amusing the staff in the workshop. The scents are, from left to right, strawberry, lavender, orange, mint and lemon. Perhaps they're meant to counteract smelly feet! Surprisingly the company who made these also produced a good range of vegetable tanned naturally dyed leathers in a range of thicknesses.

One of the busier stands had lots of boxes of samples for people to help themselves from. I never found out what the skins were (my Italian doesn't extend much beyond a menu) but the main point of interest were the patterns that had been laser cut into the hair of the animal. The dark lines in the pictures show where the laser has burnt away the hair so that the leather shows through, this is a technique I recognise from the demonstrations at LMU.

Some of the stands in the tannery halls had manned entry desks and were obviously not interested in small businesses but made for a very interesting fashion show. I was highly amused by the middle aged Italian men in immaculate patent leather shoes, with sharp tailored suits, crisp white shirts and dark glasses - perhaps I wasn't the only one who thought some of the colours a little too bright?

Flying in early on Wednesday morning to spend the rest of the day at the fair, I had chosen a hotel that was close by, which proved to be very nice with an excellent restaurant. An early start on Thursday gave us until mid afternoon at the fair and then the rest of the day to look around Bologna, which is a beautiful city that I would like to revisit at my leisure. The last bus to Forli Airport left at 7.10, with the flight at 10.35 meaning that even without checked bags it was 2am Friday before we got home.

What Future for Eco Textile Design?

Textile Futures Research Group, 11 October 2007 at the ICA.

An afternoon of discussions followed by and evening of 'Question Time' on the theme of eco-responsibility and sustainability. 'Closing the loop', 'taking action and responsibility' and 'up-cycling' were the main messages that came from the pannelists.

I was interested to note that 'Cradle to Cradle' was wirtten as long ago as 2002, it was obviously at the absolute cutting edge at the time and is still well ahead of the majority of peoples thinking on recycling.

The idea that sustainability is an essential part of good design and not a 'bolt-on' needs to be taught from school level upwards if it is to really become the norm.

What happens to the product beyond the selling point? As a designer it's your responsibility to consider the products future.

Eco-considerations in fashion is like a snowball that has grown so big it won't go away, for some companies it is jumping on the band wagon but others have been battling for a long time to ditch the 'hempy/hairy' image of eco -fashion. M&S have now brought its environmental policies onto the High Street and others are doing the same.

The idea of a ratings system similar to that used on white-goods is popular but will be difficult to standardise. Gap are trying this idea internally in the first instance in order to bring their suppliers (such as dyers) in line. Timberland have a list of ingredients and green index on the box, their method is still under development but it has taught them a lot and they have redesigned some of their products as a result.
I am particularly fond of;

Nature as model
Nature as measure
Nature as mentor

which I believe comes from the book Biomimicry - Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine M Benyus

Useful websites include;

Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan

This small exhibition at the British Museum covers a wide range of crafts including lacquer, ceramics and glass. Many of the contributors have been designated 'Living National Treasures' for their artistry and skill.
Although the textiles in this exhibition are beautiful it is the basketry and metals that truly moved me.
Woven bamboo basket, 'Shallow Stream' (1997) by KATSUSHIRO, Soho captures the rippling motion of a mountain stream as it rushes over its pebble strewn bed. The play of light on the polished bamboo perfectly mirroring the light on moving water.

'Hazy moon silver' (Rogin) is a term that I had not come across before, it is an alloy of three parts copper and one part silver which produces a wonderful softly coloured metal. Amongst an array of beautiful pieces I particularly liked the hammered silver vase, 'Sea Breeze' (1987) by OSUMI Yukie. Again it was the stunning representation of light on water that spoke to me. The lines of waves march across the vessel in direct opposition to the wind, so evocative of the way I see the tides moving into St Ives Bay in Cornwall.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Kurt Jackson - The Cornish Crows

Kurt Jackson works primarily from the St Just area of Cornwall where wild moorland sweeps down to the Atlantic ocean via steep valleys and rugged cliffs. His latest exhibition, at Lemon Street Gallery Truro, focuses on The Cornish Crows (An Bryny Kernow) such as magpies, choughs and jackdaws. It also encompasses his famous land/seascapes including Crow point on the Scillies.

As usual most of the exhibits have sold (I visited on the final day) including my personal favourite We lie on our backs and watch the crows mobbing a buzzard above, (image from the catalogue, cropped). Mixed media on canvas, 122cm x 122cm, £13,500. I've not seen Kurt work on sky like this before, the quality of the light is almost luminous and seems to move as it is viewed from different angles.

Magpie wedding in Harvey's Croft - gorse and morning sunshine, (image from catalogue, cropped) shows Kurt's powerful use of colour, evoking the smell of cinnamon and hum of bees that pervade a Cornish hedge in full bloom. Mixed media, 57 x 59cm, £5,850.

There were less of his trademark huge 'light on water' paintings in this show but his range and depth of study more than compensated, with sketches, etchings and small sculptures being shown alongside watercolour, oils and mixed media pieces.


Last weekend of September brings the annual Westhope Group meeting. We are a group of up to 15 contemporary lacemakers (and allied crafts) who meet at Westhope College for mutual support and inspiration.

Saturday was spent on advanced paper-making with tutor Bobby Britnell. My main interest was in using pulp as a stiffening agent for 3D structures and so spent time experimenting with ways of applying pulp to random string constructions. Experimentation showed that for me the best option was pouring handfuls of pulp onto chosen areas, from a number of directions and then part drying it before adding more. This allowed me to build up certain areas and leave other relatively free from pulp. This is useful as I will not want to obscure the more intricate sections of lace in a structure.
Saturday evening is used for slide/power point presentations. I gave a 20minute presentation on the work that Carol Quarini and I did with on their Sonumbra project. This is something that I hate doing and usually avoid like the devil, however I have decided that it is time that I overcame this reluctance and must get some practice in. It must have gone down OK as two people afterwards asked why I don't give talks more often.
Sunday was used to discuss the work that will be used for our stand at the Knitting & Stitching shows next year. Some of the members need pushing to raise their game for these prestigious shows and others had to be convinced that the work could not have been shown anywhere else!
Embroiderer Ann Wheeler is co-ordinating the stands and Carol Quarini and I will be doing the staging with her at NEC and Alexander Palace.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tetsuo Fujimoto Work 01-1

For me the Farnham Experience is textile based and I have visited a number of brilliant exhibitions at the college. These previous visits mean that the town and campus are not quite so new and confusing for me as they are for others.

The large scale hanging in the Library lobby was commissioned as a result of the 'TEXTURAL SPACE' project. Work 01-1 hangs in five sections and is in ttoal 5.5 meters high and 2.75 meters wide.

Much of Fujimoto's work relies on building up layer on layer of random machine stitching to give the work texture and depth.

His work is described as encompassing the macro and the micro, from 20cm the intense layering of stitches confuses the eye, from 2 meters the work engulfs the viewer and it is only from a distance the we can see the dynamic surface of the whole piece.

I see this hanging as being very akin to the first week of the Farnham experience. The initial confusion at the apparent randomness of the room numbering slowly builds into a natural rhythm of comings and goings. We were at first consumed by the intensity of the task of getting to the right places. As our knowledge gradually broadens we can stand a little further back and begin to look to the specific offerings of our specialist departments and tutors. In time, as our knowledge base continues to build, we will stand even further back and reflect upon the much wider whole that is the Farnham MA Experience.