Sunday, 9 November 2014

Cinder Embers by Mister Finch at Anthropologie Kings Road London

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to an event to mark the opening of the new exhibition by textile artist extraordinaire Mister Finch.

What an amazing exhibition it is.  Inspired by the devastating fire that tore through Parisian taxidermist Deyrolle, the work reflects the post-fire remains with soot-blackened animals, books and papers.  All created in achingly beautiful renditions of animals, insects and magical creatures.  For those people wanting to get a taste of the work we see online and in Mister Finch's book Living in a Fairytale World, then look no further.  There are special edition copies of the book in the store and the gallery at Anthropologie is a wonderful space for stepping into a magical place.  The exhibition runs until 4 January and I would urge a visit to get close to this wonderful stitching magic.

Crowned Swan and giant toadstool in the window of Anthropologie
I loved the hands of the Toadstool on his travels.

Wonderful giant fox
Dancing toadstool fairy folk

Detail of swan
Stately hare
The seven foot fox draws you in by its sheer size, but don't miss the delights of a suitcase-wielding funghi, dancing toadstool pixies and a regal swan.  I have written more about this fabulous exhibition in the December issue of Workshop on the Web, which will be published on 1 December.

But if this exhibition wasn't enough for a visit, you can ignore the wonder that is Anthopologie at Christmas-time.  The festive decorations instore were a delight, and I need to go back clutching my Christmas list as there were many beautiful things to buy there.

Mister Finch: Living in a Fairytale World is available from Anthropologie and Amazon:  

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sketchbook Auction for Teenage Cancer Trust

Workshop on the Web launched a Sketchbook Challenge in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust earlier in the year and I have been hard at work at my sketchbook over the past few months.

I don't normally work from sketchbooks, and use the odd page for printing or trying things out. This exercise has been something of a revelation to me as I set myself a task of creating a themed sketchbook.

My theme was feathers, as I did some feathery work in the book Cut Shape Stitch.

Cut, Shape, Stitch

The first thing I did was work on my cover.  I used Stix2 Texture Sheets and using a tutorial in Pam Carriker's book Creating Art at the Speed of Life, I made my own sketchbook.  I printed a collage of feathers with a colour filter applied and stuck the texture sheets (they are self-adhesive) onto my first and last signatures.  The tassels were made using Kreinik metallic ribbons in purple and blue (peacock feather colours).

These are some of the pages I worked on:

feathers manipulated on Photoshop and printed onto a variety of surfaces and watercolour painting of a feather.

I used Inktense pencils on this feather to create a mix between crisp lines and softer watercoloured edges

Gelli Plate Printed feathers.  I did for the poor feather by the end - it looked distinctly bedraggled, although it did display a fine array of colour

More Gelli Plate printed feathers, outlined with further detail with black pen

stamps and Scan n Cut feathers

Scan n Cut feathers.  The blue feathers were a design worked on in Cut Shape Stitch

Another Gelli Printed feather (another bedraggled feather assortment by the end).

All the sketchbooks that have been received will be featured in the December issue of Workshop on the Web, where there will be details on the auction that will take place.  All proceeds will go towards Teenage Cancer Trust.  I have my eye on a few so far...

Friday, 12 September 2014

Charles James: Beyond Fashion catalogue review

Charles James: Beyond Fashion
Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
ISBN 978-0-300-20436-0

Following on from yesterdays review of the Charles James exhibition, I wanted to review the accompanying book.  I was able to find it on an online book retailer, which made life much easier than having to cart it back from the USA in my hand luggage...

The book is a weighty tome, and a fantastic coffee table book with over 250 pages filled with photos, biography and an exploration of Charles James's life and work. The collection was originally housed at the Brooklyn Museums costume collection, which was then transferred over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009.  It was celebrated in the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum earlier this year.

The book starts with a chronology of Charles James's life, from his childhood and early adulthood spent in England in a privileged upbringing to his move to America where he worked and lived from then on.  It is a fascinating look at a man who mixed with some of the highest profile society ladies of the 40s and 50s, was friends with Cecil Beaton (who took many of the photos included in the book of his creations) and yet was continually frustrated by the lack of recognition and celebration of his work that he experienced.

It is hard to see why he is not more well known when seeing the clothes included in the exhibition and how brilliantly they were constructed.  In the book, there are many pictures of the garments themselves, sketches and publicity photos.  Close-ups of the tailoring make it possible to examine the fine details of the clothes that you couldn't do when at the exhibition.  The descriptions of each garment also goes into detail about its characteristics and why the shape was chosen.  Some of the finer details, such as the pattern piecing, serves to reinforce what a genius Charles James was in pattern cutting and assembly.

There is a chapter on Architectural Shaping relating to his post-war work on ballgowns.  This looks more closely at how the garments were constructed and deviated from his contemporaries in approach.  The construction of each dress is explained and photographed from different angles to illustrate this.  Some of the dresses are breathtaking to behold, such as the Swan, Tulip and Umbrella Ball Gowns.

A favourite section of the book was the one that came at the end, and entitled Inherent Vice.  In working in such innovative and experimental ways, Charles James's garments have become victims of their own success, whereby the deviation from the usual techniques and fabrics of the time have led to their deterioration at a faster rate.  It is a very interesting introduction to the restoration and maintenance of clothes of past ages, the causes of some common problems, and how the conservators at the Museums Costume Institute deal with these problems.  I particularly enjoyed this section as I had never considered the conservation of fashion garments before, and to see pictures of the damage that some pieces have suffered, was very illuminating.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of beautiful clothes, especially those who are interested in unusual methods of construction.  It really made me think about new approaches to making clothes and find a new respect for those designers that push the boat out and embrace their intuition in making something totally unique.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Charles James Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

I was lucky enough to go to New York earlier in the year, and as a special treat, I was allowed to go the Charles James exhibition sans children.

The exhibition was opened in the new Anna Wintour Costume Institute at the Museum, and what better way to debut a new space, than by having a plethora of beautiful gowns and exquisite tailoring.

Charles James was an Anglo-American dress, described as America’s first couturier, and his work in the 1940s and 1950s was sought after by prominent society ladies and high profile figures. 

Not having had any formal training, his work came from his eye for creating beautifully sculptured pieces from unconventional pattern cutting.

The exhibition took place in several locations in the museum and although you had to navigate through several museum halls to get there, it was worth it for each room had its own bonuses.  

The exhibition was set up so that the garments had accompanying videos playing on screens at the side of either individual gowns or clusters of garments.  These videos were what really brought the exhibition to life, as there was a short animation of each piece, taking you through the process of how it was made.  It was a much cleverer and clearer way of showing this as you could see the finished garment deconstructed into flat pattern pieces which once they were all displayed, were then reformed back into the garment in the order in which they would have been sewn.  You could understand the amazing innovation and genius of Charles James in being able to see how these odd-shaped patterns (for the most part) fitted together in extraordinary ways and produced perfectly fitting gowns and coats and suits.  The latter were exhibited together, so each set of videos related to a small collection, but with the gowns, each one was set up for a more in-depth examination.

The gowns were of more complex construction, and each gown was set up with its own camera, which scanned its length and a video was projected of the image building up.  Once this was done, the 3-D image of the entire gown was shown which was then deconstructed so that each stage of creation could be seen.  It was amazing to see the more complicated processes in creating these pieces, and seeing how the addition of weights and boning creating line and shape (all unseen beneath the finished dress).  Photographs of the dresses being worn by the rich and famous taken by Cecil Beaton were also displayed.

One of the most beautifully constructed dresses was the Clover Leaf gown, with a beautiful lace embellishment that covered the skirt and reach up and around the bodice.  A detailed examination of how the shape was conceived and executed could be seen and the work that had gone into the creation of such a splendid gown, considered by James as the culmination of his career, could be marvelled at.

For anyone interested in pattern cutting and dressmaking, the exhibition was like the Mother Ship calling you home.  Accompanied by a weighty coffee table book which I will review tomorrow you could take in the splendour of fashion of a bygone era and immerse yourself in how wonderful clothes can be.

All photographs reproduced with kind permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Festival of Quilts 2014

Last week was the Festival of Quilts at the NEC and Maggie Grey/ d4daisy Books had a stand to promote the new book Cut, Shape, Stitch.  We were all there in force, aprons at the ready for some messy demos and had all gargled with TCP to get us ready for all the Talking.

And what a fantastic show it was.  I went over on Wednesday to help Maggie and Clive to set up and we had a great time seeing a lot of pieces from the book displayed in all their glory together.

Here is Maggie mentally preparing herself for the next few days ahead.  The stand did look fantastic though.

Those poles on the left have die cut flowers wrapped around them.  This is my favourite piece in the book.  I keep dropping hints to Maggie about how great it would look in my house, but she is determined to keep it.  Curses!

That was about as empty as it would be for the next few days so it was good to get some pictures of it before it all started.

We all took it in turns to do some demos.  Maggie did her wonderful Gesso and Quink Ink technique which drew in huge crowds and new fans.  That technique is covered in the book and Maggie has produced some amazing work with it.  Paula did a lot of metal cutting on the Sizzix and I did some cutting on the Sizzix using fabric and some snow paint stencilling.

Paula applied alcohol ink to metal and cut it on the Sizzix

Alcohol Inks on metal

I had printed onto hand-dyed fabric from Alter Ego (Jo Lovelock) using Sizzix cut stencils, then machine stitched into the fabric.  I cut squares and triangles and am going to make some 3D houses, slightly different to the ones that are featured in the book.

All our supplies to demo with.

Maggie's Gesso and Ink sample and my snow paint strips

More gesso.  Looks fantastic in the flesh but a great example of this technique is in the book.

Maggie in full flow and trying her hardest not to spray ink all over the front row of watchers....

Luckily, we did manage to get out and see some of the exhibitions and quilts and other wonderful pieces in the show.  I am going to do a proper write up in the September issue of WOW but these are some of the highlights!

Annette Morgan and Louise Batten - Indigo Two Step

Cas Holmes - detail of Sandshadows.  Part of the Art Textiles exhibition on Identity.  This was a fantastic exhibition with many of my favourite textile artists.

Rosie James - another piece from Art Textiles.  Her work is fabulous and I will be reviewing her new book in September Workshop on the Web which I loved.

Stephanie Redfern in Art Textiles.  Stephanie is one my favourite artists and I just love her work.

Goldfinch Triptych by Chloe Redfern (Stephanie's daughter).  I loved her pieces too.

Daisy May Collingridge - A Collection of Quilted Monsters and Bedtime Beasties.  This piece was beautifully quilted and in yellow, my current favourite colour.

Jo Lovelock's quilt in the Fine Art Quilt Masters exhibition.  I loved the combination of text and the pieced pattern.  This is a detail photograph.

Ineke van Unen detail from Course of Life.  Her work was amazingly colourful with beautifiul stitching and composition

Judith Gundwiler and Gabi Mett had an exhibition together.  This piece by Judith is called Transmigrations of Life and this is a detail picture.

This clock by Kate Crossley won the Quilt Creations prize and unsurprisingly.  It was exquisite.  A fully working clock that was stitched, embellished and had an inordinate amount of treasures and hidden secrets for the viewer to search out.

Ineke Berlyn's Red Kites was included in Linda Seward's exhibition to accompany her book on Art Quilts.  I loved this piece.

Louisa Peers Bushfire.  This is a detail of a long piece with one of my favourite subjects - trees.  The colours were fantastic.
Having managed to get away from the stand long enough to take around 500 pictures, it was hard work to narrow these down!

One of my highlights though had to have been the presence of Amy Butler at the show.  Having been my fabric design hero since I made my Rainy Days mac (you can see it on one of my earliest posts), I was suitably humbled to be able to talk to her and listen about her work (all of her designs are originally made on paper and later transferred over to computer technology).  She was a beautiful and calm presence at a time where I was feeling a little manic with stealing moments to look around the show.  I regretted that she wasn't there on Sunday when it started pouring, as I was running around in my lovely mac, slightly damp around the edges.  Although she probably has people telling her all the time about what clothes of hers they have made...

I had a fantastic time this year, made special by the fact that we talked to so many people who were interested in our book and the techniques we have used in it.  Seeing some amazing work, talking to lovely people, putting faces to names and meeting an idol made it a week to remember.