Sunday, December 26, 2010


Babaghuri was another fascinating shop, a blend of ethical fashion, home-ware and publications selected by Jurgen Lehl. Lehl specialises in natural materials and dyes with limited editions for the discerning customer. The garments were cut in really interesting ways and the website shows a good selection. The tables and large baskets were superb but out of my league in both price and transport possibilities.
I loved the hand hammered copper kettles the smooth, classic, shaping of the pot was such a textural contrast to the crazy stainless steel handles. They were not as heavy as I feared and I was very tempted to bring one home.

I also took a shine to their short stools, hand carved from a single block of wood and finished with linseed oil and bees wax. I'm sure I could have got one in my suitcase if I'd tried really hard!

After this some of us, who had not slept on the flight, headed back towards the hotel to find something to eat. Seven of us ended up in a tiny eatery where we made our selection from a machine which produced a ticket that was placed on the counter behind which was one man and his vats for frying and boiling. To give a sense of scale of the place; there were only two spare seats when we had all settled ourselves.

I chose number 4 which turned out to be a vast bowl of noodles in broth with a large vegetable fritter in the top. It was excellent; hot, filling and cooked to order - although I must admit that tackling the fritter was an amusing game. Rosie had fried aubergine on the top of her bowl of noodles and Mary seemed to get a very interesting selection including an egg broken into the broth and left to gently cook itself.


On arrival in Tokyo we dropped our luggage at the hotel and then visited the Nuno shop.
The wonderful Reiko Sudo generously guided us through many of the fascinating fabrics on display.
Nuno are famed for their innovative combinations of threads such as those with different shrinkage rates which produce highly textured surfaces when heated after weaving. I treated myself to this black and white scarf which would also make a great wall hanging. It's a double cloth weave that has been crinkled to give it width wise stretch. The vertical slits not only add interest to the design but allow you to pass one end through to keep it in place is wear.
The fabric that I found most interesting was this one which has a standard synthetic woven base fabric with floats of paper yarn which are cut by hand to random lengths. Apart from being a stunning fabric it reminded me of the way in which the surplus outlining threads had to be cut away, by hand, from the surface of early machine made laces.

Friday, December 24, 2010

UCA Textile Study Visit to Japan 2010

This study visit to Japan was based on textiles but encompassed a broad spectrum of cultural experiences.
Three nights in Tokyo afforded us an experience of fast paced life in the ultra modern capital. Our hotel was always easy to locate as it was not far from the Tokyo Tower, shown above at night from the observation deck of the Mori Tower.
Our Tokyo experience was followed by four nights in the gentler surroundings of Kyoto with it's myriad temples and shrines. Here we also had an ultramodern beacon to navigate by in the Kyoto Tower, just north of Kyoto Station.
I'm extremely grateful to Diana Harrison, Linda Brassington, Louise Anderson and Hannah White from UCA for all of their hard work in organising the trip and to Nao Fukumoto, our Artist in Residence, for her wonderful translations and excellent introduction to the workings of the Tokyo subway system.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

La Hougue Bie, Jersey

La Hougue Bie is the most amazing archaeological site with evidence of building activity from 3,000 BC onwards. For anyone interested in megaliths I would highly recommend a look at the website
The lower level of the site's Museum covers the highly varied geology of the island whilst the upper levels work chronologically through the islands history from a Rhinoceros skull, through its earliest human inhabitants to a hoard of coins from the Roman occupation. There are also fascinating displays of objects including a Bronze Age hoard (above) and polished stone axes (right).
At the core of the site is a Neolithic passage grave that is now surmounted by a medieval chapel (left). The cruciform passage grave is over 5,000 years old and, with its largely intact mound, is considered to be one of the finest examples in Europe.
The eastern side slab of the grave's northern side chamber has at least 24 cup marks on its eastern face. This is the only rock art in the structure and despite the fact that their significance is long lost the time invested in their making testifies to their importance to the people who placed their dead in this special place.
Like the Christian chapel above the passage grave is aligned on an east west axis, in this case to allow the sunrise at the equinoxes to penetrate to the heart of the chamber complex.
The original structure of the chapel dates from the Norman period. The original building is now divided into two chapels and a rotunda with a ring crypt beneath.
The Jerusalem Chapel has two very feint ceiling paintings of angels from c. 1520. Quite different to the rock art below but undoubtedly equally significant to those who worshiped there.
Although there is no longer any evidence of its presence the chapel was extended around 1792 to form the Prince's Tower - a private dwelling in the form of a miniature Gothic castle. The Tower fell into disuse and was demolished in 1924.
The site does much educational work and includes a reconstruction of a Neolithic house, a group of querns for grinding grain to flour and a replica log boat. A German Command Bunker, elsewhere in the grounds, houses a memorial to the slave-workers of the second World War.

St Brelade's Church and Fishermen's Chapel

This lovely old church sits at the western end of St Brelade's Bay, Jersey. Originally founded in the 6th century as a small monastic church it has been a centre of Christian worship for 1400 years. The main building began life in the 11th century under the guidance of the Bishop of Coutances and the original wooden chapel was rebuilt in stone.
In the 14th century the original tiny chapel (to the left of the main church) was appropriated as a burial place for a prominent family and the east wall decorated with a painting of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, flanked by 14 kneeling figures.
Elsewhere on the ceiling are further paintings, these are thought to date from the 1350 to 1450 period. Near to the east wall is a scene depicting Christ riding on a donkey. (above)

Further down the chapel, on the opposite side, are more scenes including another Annunciation from which the Angel Gabriel is best preserved. (right)
In the days when the vast majority of the congregation were illiterate these paintings would have helped to tell the story of the gospels.
The chapel became associated with the fishing guilds in the late medieval period and has continued to be known as the Fishermen's Chapel.

St Brelade's Bay, Jersey

I've just enjoyed a brief holiday on Jersey, staying on the southern side of the island at St Brelade's Bay. The weather was generally kind to us although it looked quite menacing at times. I just love the sea when the light catches it like this - very Kurt Jackson!
Jersey has a wide range of geology which includes swathes of pink granite (I'm told that the pink is feldspar). Here at the back of the bay the granite has been eroded to expose the much softer rocks behind. The roots are of a Monterrey Cypress which is clinging on tenaciously.
My stay coincided with a full moon close to the autumn equinox and produced quite extreme tidal ranges. At low tide these rocks were exposed, from the hotel they had and unnerving similarity to the shape of a submarine - many of which patrolled these waters in the last war.
At the western end of the beach is a sheltered harbour and the Parish Church.

The old tree trunks that are embedded in the old harbour wall are, to my eye, wonderfully weathered and a testament to the resilience of wood in such exposed conditions. I've no idea how long the trunks last but they seem to be fairing better than some of the man made objects in the vicinity.

Harbours are always a good hunting ground for two of my favourite things - old rope and rusty metalwork. I was not disappointed here, chains of all sizes were gradually being eaten away producing some wonderful colours and textures.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kurt Jackson - Dart

Kurt Jackson's latest exhibition, at Lemon Street Gallery Truro, is an exploration of the river Dart from source to sea. The gallery website also has an essay by Jackson discussing the background to the series of works.
Agatha Christie's Fine Trees - this image is being used on the publicity for the exhibition and gives a real feeling of the still calm of winter, chill but with a stunningly clear light.
Across to Sharpenham - Another scene from deep winter but here the feeling is quite different with the steep valley sides offering a sense of shelter against the elements. It also features the play of light on water for which Jackson is justifiably famous.
Two Bridges, silence, snow - Snow can utterly change the landscape, for town dwellers it's a magical dusting if icing-sugar sparkle. For those living and working high on the moors it's a different story bringing access problems and worries about the safety of their livestock. Here Jackson offers wilderness with a hint of the snow's transformative powers.

Fishing Dam Pool for Salmon - This one really caught my attention, I've known many places like this with the gentle sound water mixing with grasshoppers and bumble bees in the background.
Catkins from the banks of the Dart - A beautiful little still life that perfectly captures the joy of seeing the first catkins waving gently in the breeze; signalling that spring is on its way.

Gale Force - Totally different to the inland pieces this one
is looking out to sea, from the mouth of the river, into the teeth of a gale that is whipping the sea into a foaming turmoil as it crashes ashore. Exactly the sort of weather that I love to watch whilst safely tucked away behind glass (getting softer as I get older, was a time when I loved to be out in this sort of weather!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

MA Exhibition UCA Farnham

This years MA show at UCA Farnham was another diverse mixture of disciplines and ideologies that will have appealed to a wide audience. A few of my personal favourites appear below.
Tom McDowell - Jewellery - Tom sets out to challenge the traditional formality of jewellery wearing. He transforms children's drawings of creatures, imaginary or real, into quirky but highly wearable art that brings a smile to those who encounter them.
Alex Archbold - Glass - Alex uses cast and kiln formed glass in sculptural pieces of architectural and public art that explore the boundaries between two and three dimensional forms. Her recent project to design a large window for the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge was shortlisted for the commission. The work is cast from impressions of books and papers and relates well to the layers of history that are stored in such a repository and the transparency that archivists strive to achieve in their work.
Melissa Ryland - Ceramics - Melissa's work deals with the concept of memory and how everyday objects go unnoticed by most but may have a deeper resonance for some individuals or audiences, sometimes offering an expression of presence through absence.

Beverly Ayling-Smith - Textiles - Beverly is exploring melancholia with a focus on the emotional dimensions of the words grief, loss and absence. For me this particular piece spoke of the emotional baggage that we carry with us, the grief unspoken and locked away in a cage that we can never risk losing but are reluctant to open. The barbed wire shrieks its message loud and clear - touch at your peril. By contrast the delicate, almost invisible, interlacing of human hair speaks of the genetic markers that we carry within us, often unseen or denied but integral to out being.
Louise Anderson - Textiles - The essence of Louise's work is about the passage of time. The weaving and dying processes that she employs take time and patience; planning and precision, and yet the outcome can still be excitingly unpredictable, producing unique results. Edges are important to Louise as they frame the time that has passed in the making of the work.

Bruce Marks - Glass - This installation from Bruce explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, surely one of the finest lines that we can ever encounter. The work juxtaposes the apparently fragility of the lacelike glass structures with rust coated spikes that might, at any moment, rupture the bubbles of illusion and destroy the safety net of domestic sanctuary.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cultex - Rugby

Cultex has now moved to the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum
A rather unexpected sight in the foyer is Machiko Agano and Anniken Amundsen's Greenhouse Installation. Although the setting is less than appropriate the installation is a triumph. The sinuous forms of Anniken's creatures entwined and reflected amongst the angular shapes of Michiko's cut, printed, mirrors works extremely well to give the impression of a verdant forest of growth that tricks and confuses the eye whilst creating its own unique habitat.
The landing, before the main gallery, is an excellent viewing point for the new commission by Eva Schjolberg 'Parterre/Water'. A mixture of here evocative photographs, of Norway and Japan, and rich blue second hand textiles that are manipulated to make textures and patterns along linear rods
On entering the gallery I was immediately struck by how different the exhibition was going to be in this setting; a much more open gallery arrangement allows relationships to develop between different works, not just the originally planned pairings. Kiyonori Shimada's sensuous white walls have been arranged to form a corridor that narrows in the centre forcing visitors to consider the etiquette of passing in restricted spaces. At the end of the corridor is another balcony where Gabriella Goransson has installed another new work. 'Glade - Taaje'. Seeing the balcony as a 'glade' with the building space Gabriella has created work that will gradually break down and return to pulp reflecting the natural process of decaying leaves in a forest clearing.
Moving back through Machiko's work the viewers own reflection on the mirrored surfaces is placed firmly in the midst of the consumer culture depicted on the printed side. From here Anniken's 'Mutant Clusters' grow and glow. I was particularly taken with the ligting of the deceptive simple wall pieces which were enhanced by an intense light that gave the impression of emanating from the work itself.
One of the most successful positionings in the Rugby gallery is 'Calm Correspondence' by Yuka Kawai. These graceful woven columns sit so well within the rotunda, echoing its curved walls and tall narrow windows, that they could have been site specific.
Eva Schjoberg's 'Aqueous' has a grace that belies the complexity of the curves from which it is formed. Each rod is gently bent to fit into a specific shape and place, its relationship to the wall and floor as important as its relationship with the other rods.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Ratatosk, by architects Helen & Hard, is part of Architects Build Small Spaces at the V&A. Set in the John Madejeski Gardens, this installation of split Ash, woven willow and shredded bark comes with an invitation to explore.
Please touch is very much the message, with the audience invited to enter the structure and experience the variety of tactile surfaces and the scents of the wood. The inner surfaces have been digitally sculpted and smoothed to enhance their natural beauty. From the interior the negative spaces between the trunks are brought into sharp relief.
For me there was a sense of sanctuary within the structure and I wondered if this was due to the intimacy of the space or being surrounded by natural materials. The materials and the nature of their placing led me to consider the similarities with ancient wooden henges, also made from split tree trunks, did they too offer their users a feeling of sanctuary?

Antony Gormley - Test Sites

Antony Gormley's Breathing Room III fills the entire basement area of the White Cube in Mason's Yard. A three dimensional labyrinth of cuboid frames that gently glow in the dark gives an eerie, otherworldly, sensation of being part of science fiction movie. Being able to engage with the work by walking through it and viewing it from different angles only enhances the sense of ambiguity. It comes as a major shock when the windowless room is suddenly, without warning, flooded with strong light and the gentle blue glow is replaced with the solidity of white metal bars. The illusion is destroyed instantly but somehow the magic is not lost - day and night, positive and negative, solid metalwork and illusionary light, each highlights the qualities of the other.

UCA Graduation

The UCA Farnham and Epsom Graduations take place at Guildford Cathedral. This year those of us graduating were honoured to shake the hand of our new Chancellor, Zandra Rhodes. Zandra was resplendent in fuchsia pink robes of her own design. A tiny lady with a huge personality, she certainly stood out from the crowd.