We went to an exhibition this week, and by the time you read this it will be over. Nevertheless it was interesting and I hope I can draw some points out.
The first is that taking a day off work, and going to see something mid-week is a complete and utter luxury and just so different from walking around in a massive weekend group.
The idea of the exhibition, organised by Burberry, is to show the craft skills associated with a collection. They write
A crafted collection featuring historic, cultural and artisanal details…noble and authentic fabrics are combined, blurring masculine and feminine, casual and formal, night and day, all mixed together to create a new reality born of all the moments that have gone before”
OK, it’s a wee bit pretentious, but it is also a marvellous exhibition. More broadly, in the old Foyles bookshop before it is redeveloped for luxury flats, it show cases the talents we have in London and encourages people to either commission artists and crafts people to create work for them or just be inspired. The following crafts were on show over the week (20-27 September 2016) which followed the September 2016 runway event. As we went on Monday 26 September we only saw some of these artists – those I have named.
- Sculpting – Thomas Merrett
- Experimental design
- Fashion history
- Visible mending
- Sand casting
- Silk screen printing
- Miniature portraits – Holly Frean Here is Holly in a little studio, painting a sitter (in one hour slots). Her style is inspired by the old master paintings found in country houses.
- Military embellishment – Kings’ Troop. We spent some time talking to Godfrey and his apprentices. The three saddle makers are serving members of the British Army. Their work was exquisite and the role they play in the Army is significant and important. Godfrey showed us how he pierces the leather with a sharp needle, then sews with two interlinked pieces of thread. Very skilled work.
- Patchworking – Rachel Scott. I spoke to Rachel at length, and I am sorry the picture didn’t come out too well. Rachel mainly makes rugs, from natural, undyed wool. In fact there were some of Rachel’s rugs on the ground in Holly’s area. Rachel had been commissioned to produce a patchwork cushion cover from the fabrics used in the Burberry collection and she was sewing it when I visited. It’s the greens and browns on her left in the picture. I was suprised at the relatively large stitches and the quantity of them (five or six per hexagonal side). As you can see her dress is made with the same hexagonal patchwork technique. I asked her what she thought of machine sewn quilts, and she said she couldn’t see the point. She always handstitched – this meant that patchworking could be combined with other things like conversation and social life. I asked her if it was working with colour that appealed to her, and she agreed that this was the primary motivation – creating new arrangements of colour. She trained as an artist at the Royal College of Art and looking at her clothes you can see the strong artistic skill in her confident use of pattern and colour. I admired her dress and she said she hadn’t bought anything to wear since about 1970.
- Traditional lacquer – Pero da Costa Felgueiras. I also really enjoyed talking to Pero – an enthusiastic, Portuguese craftsman who makes fine lacquered furniture, but who also works on the restoration and decoration of historic houses including Strawberry Hill and Hampton Court. (I thought for a moment that Joyce’s bulldog was on show, but it was actually a lion). He was very charming and told me a little bit about lacquer work and the different styles. We shared our experiences of the Brighton Pavillion too, with its Chinese style decor. (Thomas Merrett, sculpturer, in the background)
- Book binding
- Stitching and Embroidery
Also on show upstairs was the entire collection. Here are just a few of the garments which I loved. Spot the pink velvet men’s jacket!