Friday 28 November 2008

National Portrait Gallery

We visited the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. These contemporary portraits were all quite different and had approached the subject from different angles. Each image had an accompanying description and explanation of who was depicted in the portrait and the circumstances under which they were taken. It was an absorbing exhibition.


Underscan is a interactive video art installation designed by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer to be shown in a public space. Passers by are detected by a computerised tracking system which activates video portraits projected on the pavement within their shadow. The people depicted in the videos lie dormant until the shadow of a passer by moves over them, then they start moving. The inspiration for the work was a study of shadows. We saw the installation in Trafalgar Square outside the National Gallery. I thought the images would be more interactive, but on the evening we saw them the videos just seemed to run at random intervals it was difficult to activate them and others ran for several minutes whether people were interacting with them or not.


This exhibition by Claire Morgan in the Hockey Gallery, Farnham is fascinating. She uses scraps from discarded plastic bags to make delicate nets of thread in which stuffed animals are trapped. The pieces are all large scale sculptural installations that have an ethereal quality. I particularly liked the piece in the Foyer gallery that seems to jut out a line of autumn leaves from the gallery wall into the garden beyond so the distinction between inside and outside is blurred. The image shows a piece with a cube made of strings of fishing wire and pieces of plastic bag hanging over a stuffed fox.


This shop in Beak Street London ( sells all sorts of clever quirky designs. I particularly liked the wooden postcard jewellery, the commemorative tea towels depicting ‘modern’ Britain, the kitchenware and the table mats. I bought a book about Droog design to enjoy looking at more interesting designs at home.

Surface matters

This exhibition by Tetsuo Fujimoto was held at the Daiwa Foundation near Regents Park. He makes textile hangings and wall pieces made of machine embroidered cloth. They have a very three-dimensional quality from a distance and are full of interesting detail in close up. On 14 November, Tetsuo Fujimoto gave an illustrated talk about his work and was in conversation with Lesley Millar. He described the difference between Japanese and European painting and showed us how perspective differs in the two systems. He does not make any preparatory drawings for his work but embroiders directly on to the cloth. He also gave a demonstration of his working technique. We were delighted to meet him and his son.

Annabelinda exhibition

This exhibition at Abingdon Museum celebrated the fashion designs produced in the Annabelinda shop in Oxford from the early 1970s to today. The shop is well known in Oxford for producing beautiful clothes for special occasions; its trade marks are its lovely fabrics, piping and delicate embroidery. It was interesting to browse the exhibition and be reminded of all the fashion styles that have come and gone over the last thirty years and to admire the beautiful workmanship.

Introduction to the history of dress

This course held in October 2008 was organised by the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. It focused on dress in the seventeenth century, how we can find out about dress from paintings, literature and textiles and its significance for social history. Clare Backhouse was the lively and knowledgeable tutor who provided numerous images and a wealth of information. The participants on the course were very well informed, which made for interesting discussions. The class was oversubscribed and left us all wanting more so we hope Oxford University will run more classes on the history of dress. The image is of Elizabeth Vernon.

Textile futures Second Life island

The Textile Futures island on Second Life shows the work of TFRG members. You can walk or fly round it with an avatar and see the works in three dimensions. There is an information icon next to each piece which gives a link to a web page giving more information on the creator of the work. This image shows an avatar looking at the panel that depicts all the artworks on the island.

What future for living textiles?

This Textile Futures meeting at the ICA on 23 October included several speakers. Oron Catts ( spoke on a line from Australia to describe the project he has been researching on victimless leather which uses fetal calf serum to grow fabrics in the laboratory ( Clive van Heerden told us how Philips Design is researching innovative designs, for example a brooch worn by the elderly that can detect if they have fallen.

Suzanne Lee described her research into combucha, which is used as a health drink, but produces a mat of bacterial growth which is eaten in Indonesia. The waste products it produces are fibrils of cellulose, which form a network, and can be moulded. It forms a crisp paper but can be made more flexible by the addition of sugar. She grows it as flat sheets which can then be moulded. Metal nails and wire cause it to oxidise and form patterns as shown in the image above. It is not waterproof; it absorbs water and becomes heavy but dries out again afterwards. It will decompose completely so is sustainable, and the whole garment can be made form it including the buttons and zip.

Manel Torres told us about his research at Imperial College to develop a spray on fabric (http://www.fabricanltd/.com). It can be used to make interiors for cars, chair seats, wipes and clothes. We saw a video of it being used to make t shirts and dresses by spraying it directly onto models; it can then be peeled off and washed or manipulated and resprayed to form a new design.

Neil Parry from Unilever described his research into smart particles which can be used to transfer vitamins from washing powder to clothes and then be absorbed by the skin. He also told us about molecules that can target the hair. The evening closed with a question time panel for discussion.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Czech made – trends in Czech glass

This exhibition at the Craft Study Centre shows the work of well-known Czech glass makers. The work that appealed to me most was that by Martin Hulbucek. He showed two large glass forms that seem to hide an image inside them. They were both vases made of mould melted glass, which had been cut and polished. In general I was disappointed with the glass on show. I have seen glass in the Czech Republic which contained many intense, vibrant colours and that was what I was expecting to see. I will go and see the exhibition again and see if my impression changes after a second visit.

Sunday 19 October 2008

Light:craft symposium 8 October 2008

There were five speakers at this symposium. The first was Bob Martin (Visual Arts Officer (Crafts) for the Southeast). He talked about his love of shadows and showed us images of the work of several artists who use shadows as an integral part of their work including Matthew Chambers (ceramics), Mary Butcher (basket weaving) and Dail Behennah (wood and stones). He discussed Shadows of men a project he was involved with at Garth Prison and Under scan an installation at Derby using surveillance systems and video cameras. The videos, activated by passers by, show a person on the pavement talking and moving and interacting with the audience. The work is by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and can be seen at

The second speaker was Georgina Williams, a textile artist from Winchester. She uses new smart materials to bring light into fabric without electricity. This is done using phosphorescence which is applied to the woven surface of the fabric. It is ideal for stairwells and lift shafts to light them up at night.

Peter Freeman who creates neon light sculptures spoke next. He said that for him light is the medium and the message and that all art involves manipulation of light. He showed us illustrations of several of his projects, among them the Woking Lightbox, which responds to people moving in the building and his sculpture near Weston Super Mare on the M5, which changes on different days.

Tine Bech, a visual artist from Denmark, was the fourth speaker. She explores the membrane between the body and the world and is interested in how we respond to art works. She described some of her projects and explained that she is producing an installation through Farnham and across the Maltings bridge
The fifth speaker was Laurie Lea whose light in glass photographed on the sea shore was very attractive.

This was a very interesting symposium. I thought the Under scan video project in Derby sounded fascinating and it fits in with the work I have been doing on the uncanny, as the figure on the pavement seems to turn on you and try and grab your legs. The artist is Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and I have discovered that it is going to be shown in Trafalgar Square from 15 to 23 November so I will go and see it for myself. I was also interested in the interactive projects Tine Bech has been involved in especially those combining sound, light and audience participation. I admired the work of Peter Freeman, but it is on such a large scale that it does not relate to my own work.

Lesley Millar’s inaugural lecture

Lesley Millar’s inaugural lecture was held at the Design Council, London on 6 October 2008. The title of the lecture was Transition and influence and she discussed the interconnected mappings of contemporary textile practice. It was interesting to hear how textiles had been used to subvert communist rule in the Baltic states and how they are being used in Mexico to remember those who have ‘disappeared’. The Japanese aesthetic is unique and it was interesting to see the variety of textiles being produced in Japan especially the way huge textiles are produced from small units that can be transported and reassembled in different venues. It was also interesting to see how Lesley has brought textile practitioners together from different areas to produce fascinating and stimulating exhibitions. This image was taken at Lesley’s most recent exhibition ‘Cloth and culture’.

Rothko at the Tate

This was a large exhibition at the Tate and there were quite a few people there on the day we visited – I would have preferred fewer people so I could sit and admire the paintings quietly. The gallery I enjoyed the most was that containing the Brown and gray paintings. For me they are the ones that best reveal Rothko’s skill. I could have sat and contemplated them for hours – there seems to be so much subtle colour in them. I prefer them to the Seagram murals with their large rectangular shapes which I find don’t allow contemplation because you are following the shapes round rather than just enjoying the colours. Interestingly, I had always thought that Rothko’s works were flattened by reproduction but when I went to buy some postcards I found that the colours in the Black on Gray series were more lively than in the gallery. In the gallery I had found the black overpowered the grey but it didn’t do so in the postcard reproduction.

Westhope Group meeting 26-28 September 2008

This contemporary lace group meets annually to enjoy a workshop and discuss exhibiting opportunities. This year we reviewed our current travelling exhibition which is part of the Knitting and Stitching Show and discussed a possible future outdoor exhibition. We had an interesting workshop on book making and paper folding.

Friday 19 September 2008

Nobel textiles in St James’s Park

In this project five designers from Central Saint Martins have been paired with five Nobel prize winners. The idea was that they would collaborate and the designers would produce a collection reflecting the research undertaken by the scientists. The work was on show in five greenhouses in St James’s Park. This was a good venue because the work was secure yet accessible to the general public and catalogues and information had been left in the greenhouses for further information. I thought the most interesting display was that by Rachel Wingfield which involved a series of structures and solar cells. I also thought the biodegradable garden furniture by Carole Collet pictured here was a clever response to the subject of apoptosis. The five projects are listed below.

Philippa Brock collaborated with Sir Aaron Klug (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1982) to produce a collection of Jacquard weaves that explore the methods of transforming 2-dimensional weaving approaches into 3-dimensional models. Carole Collet collaborated with John Sulston (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2002 with Sydney Brenner and Robert Horwitz) to create a collection of garden furniture based on the principles of programmed degradation. Rachel Kelly worked with Tim Hunt (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2001); she has designed a collection of transparent wallpapers and paper lanterns in response to his discovery of cycling proteins which appear and disappear. Shelley Fox collaborated with Peter Mansfield (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2003), and has created a fashion collection based on the MRI mapping of the body fat of six volunteers. Rachel Wingfield collaborated with John E Walker (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1997), to create architectural scale textiles that explore urban food production, in response to John’s work on ATP synthesis.

St Martin-in-the-Fields

The church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square is being restored. It was designed by James Gibb in 1726 and the restoration aimed to return the church to its original state. Floors added in Victorian times have been removed and the coloured glass windows put in after bomb damage in World War II have been replaced with clear glass, similar to the original. The aim has been to maximise the amount of natural light coming into the church and to bring it closer to the original Baroque design. The decorative plaster work on the ceiling has also been restored and the golf leaf has been renewed. The new East Window is beautifully simple and is shown in the photo here.

Hadrian: Empire and Conflict

This exhibition at the British Museum is a celebration of the life and times of the Emperor Hadrian who became emperor in AD 117. The exhibition was quite general. One area discussed Hadrian’s origins in Spain and the trade links with Italy. There was a large area devoted to the Jewish revolt in present day Israel. The section on architecture was probably the most interesting with models of the Pantheon in Rome and Hadrian’s residence near Tivoli, which was the size of a small town. Hadrian took an active interest in architecture and is also most famous in Britain for his wall in the north of England. The exhibition was well produced and not as crowded as the First Emperor, which we saw earlier in the year, this made it much easier to appreciate the items on view and even to sit and admire the photographs of the remains of the residence at Tivoli.

Knitting and Stitching Show

I helped to set up this exhibition on behalf of the Westhope Group of lacemakers at the NEC for the Knitting and Stitching Show. My piece ‘Memories are made of this’ is in the far right hand corner; it consists of three panels showing the degeneration of memory and is made of bobbin lace and silk paper. As well as helping to set up the show I also stewarded for a day. The response from the public was enthusiastic and we had plenty of visitors. Many of them were students who were interested to see what could be done with lace techniques. The exhibition will tour with the Knitting and Stitching Show to Alexandra Palace, London, and Harrogate.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Medicine Now

This exhibition at the Wellcome Collection contains a range of artistic responses to the themes The body, Genomes, Malaria and Obesity. As a biologist who also produces artworks I found the exhibition fascinating. One piece I particularly enjoyed was Origin a DVD by Daniel Lee. In it, a fish like a coelacanth is gradually transformed into a man, but it is done so subtly you can hardly see the changes as they occur. I also thought Julie Cockburn’s Anagram was effective. Based on the Human Genome Project she has taken a paint colour chart and cut out the DNA base letters from it to form groups of words. I found Andrea Duncan’s piece, 23 pairs, amusing. She has used 23 pairs of socks to represent the chromosome pairs that make up the human genome in a witty display. Susie Freeman and Liz Lee had worked together on an interesting installation called Veil of tears which represented the problems of malaria in Africa. A series of mosquito nets hung from the ceiling and contained the drugs needed to fight malaria. Altogether an interesting and thought provoking exhibition

Skeletons: London’s buried bones

This exhibition at the Wellcome Collection contains skeletons found in excavations during the redevelopment of various parts of London. They come from the Museum of London’s collection which contains 17,000 skeletons covering 16 centuries. Each skeleton reveals its own story and it is quite amazing how much empathy one can feel for a skeleton. The marks on their bones show how they lived and what they died from. One particularly poignant skeleton of a young woman also contains the skeleton of a small fetus. The skeletons are well displayed, each in its own case but when we went it was difficult to read the labels as there were so many people looking at each case. It would have been better if the cases had been labelled on each side rather than just one. However, it was encouraging to see so many people interested in history and medical archaeology.

Christina Kim exhibition

We came across this exhibition in the Music Museum in Bologna. Unfortunately there was no catalogue or any explanation of the exhibits but they seemed to deal with identity and clothing. There were several ‘dresses’ made of lace and see through material mainly in white and ecru, some hanging on hangers, others suspended from the ceiling and some hanging in front of patchwork hangings. There was also an interesting installation based on a Mexican custom linked to shrines and amulets. In Mexico they sell small sewn hearts individually in boxes and call them miracles. In the installation these amulets and others were pinned on to different ‘shrines’ depicting ‘saints’. This was similar to the amulets we had seen at various shrines in the churches. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take photographs and there were no postcards. This photo was taken on the staircase just before we entered the exhibition and depicts small amuletic shapes hanging from the ceiling.


We spent some time in Bologna as part of our summer holiday. It is a beautiful city with numerous churches and museums as well as good food and shopping. The porticoes are magnificent and make walking round the city a pleasant experience in the hot sun. We were amazed by the height of the twin towers, even more so when we saw a model in one of the museums of the town in the Middle Ages when there were hundreds of them and every house seemed to have a tower. The churches were most impressive with so many different styles and decoration. I was also fascinated by the reliquaries containing the relics of various saints.

Paper lace and light

This paper making workshop with Jean Mould Hart was part of the Oxford Summer School programme. On the first day we revised paper making and made textured paper. We also overlapped paper, embedded scrim and used biscuit cutters to remove part of the paper to leave openings. On the second day we made the lace paper that was what interested me most. This is done by getting a thin layer of paper pulp on the screen then placing lace and open meshes over the pulp and applying a fine mist of water over them. This disperses the paper to the edges of the holes forming a lace like texture. The paper is then left to dry on the screen. It is an interesting technique and one that could be combined with lace to produce interesting effects. The samples are all in my sample file.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Frank Gehry Pavilion

The Frank Gehry Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery was spectacular. It is made of glass, steel and titanium and forms a space for concerts, talks and meeting. The contrast of the light wood and etched glass is very pleasing and makes the building feel light and open.

Hyperbolic crochet coral reef

This exhibition confused me, I wasn’t sure what the point of it was. Margaret and Christine Wertheim use crochet to depict hyperbolic geometric forms, the structure of which is beautiful and very interesting. Christine then noticed the similarity of these forms to corals and since then they have developed this community reef project with audience participation. What confused me is that the work is no longer scientific (the hyperbolic forms are decorated, the ‘corals’ are not based on actual species) and nor is it art. It seems to be popular though and lots of people are keen to take part so as a community project it works well, but as an exhibition it left me completely cold.

Psycho Buildings

This exhibition at the Hayward shows the works of artists who create habitat-like structures. Some were more successful than others. The picture shows the roof of Tomas Saraceno’s Observatory. We went into this transparent dome and sat on the floor and observed people moving about in the layer above us supported by a pillow of air, it was warm and relaxing and rather like swimming with the movements above us. Rachel Whiteread’s Place (Village), a collection of dolls houses lit from inside in a dark room, worked well and gave you the feeling that they were inhabited. On the other hand I felt the Mike Nelson’s installation didn’t quite work. It comprised two adjoining rooms that had been smashed up and were supposed to be like a set for a non existent film. However I felt the damage was too contrived and all at the same level round the walls, rather than a real accident. I thought the exhibition was well staged and the layout was interesting - you didn’t know what you were going to come across round the corner and different paths led you to different places, which maintained your interest all round the exhibition.

Saturday 19 July 2008


This exhibition by the Textile Forum South West Group showed work developed from artefacts in museums. Several of the artists had chosen lace or clothing as their starting point and it was interesting to see where it had led them. The centre piece of the show was a large circular textile canopy by Sarah le Breton, made of wire including LED lights and using the technique of Irish crochet. Sue Bradley had used black knitted wire lace on one of her garments and Janet Haigh had enamelled images of lace white work and incorporated them with stitch to make modern samplers.

Fabric of myth

This fascinating exhibition at Compton Verney explores the significance of textiles in classical mythology. There were some older works depicting the traditional Greek myths involving threads and weaving and some modern works on the same theme. One of the most interesting galleries contained works that had been made by people in institutions and showed how they used their work to reach beyond the confined space of its production. The section on weaving memory showed how cloth takes on the circumstances of its construction and communicates across time. Cloth is used to maintain personal and cultural memory.

New Designers

This was an excellent show and I made copious notes and collected loads of postcards and business cards. I picked up lots of ideas for techniques I could use for my net curtain lace, including using pins, staples, ribbons and laser cutting. There was a lot of laser cutting some of it very complicated and interesting and some of it quite simple. I liked the installation by Debbie Smyth of electricity pylons made out of pins and threads, it was very lace like. The work of Lauren Gilberthorpe was also interesting because she uses erotic images to produce repeat designs.

Lace biennale

The biennale exhibition in the gymnasium in Vamberk was excellent. There was a lot of non traditional work this year including this piece made using a glue gun and other pieces using metal and Perspex. Eva Damborska also had a piece in the exhibition made of recycled materials. The traditional pieces were amazing and showed interesting use of stitches and threads. Most of the collars and shawls were displayed hanging from one point which gave them an interesting three dimensional look but made them difficult to photograph.

Exhibition at Lanskrou

The exhibition at Lanskrou showed the work of Hana Kozubova. Her work was varied and included stylised pictorial pieces of buildings, linen hangings that had been slit with lace included in them and some tapestries. My favourite pieces were three panels entitled Zrozeni triptych of interesting morn bobbin lace. I liked the way she had combined different stitches and reworked traditional stitches, there was a lot to mull over in the pieces.

Alena Cechova’s exhibition

This exhibition was also in the Castle at Rychnov. I had seen some of Alena’s work before at the Lace Museum but it was good to see it more closely. She works in needle lace and darned net. I like the way she combines threads to make interesting colour combinations and give depth to her work. I am also interested in the themes behind her work, she was exhibiting a series based on the French lady and the unicorn tapestries and had some other works showing people trapped and trying to escape.

Eva Damborska’s exhibition

This exhibition was held at Rychnov Castle and we were lucky enough to attend the preview evening after the fashion show and meet Eva Damborska. She explained that all her work is made from recycled materials. I liked her work and was interested in the use she had made of paper. Most of her work is on a large scale and a lot of it is made in units that she combines to make a larger whole, something I like to do in my own work.

Fashion show at Rychnov Castle

This fashion show takes place in the Riding School at Rychnov. It is accompanied by music and uses professional models and dancers. It is always interesting to see how they display the clothes. This year they were using collars as belts and shawls as skirts. Many of the clothes are produced by the fashion students from Prague.

Lace Museum at Vamberk

We spent most of the first day sketching in the Museum. On the ground floor there was a new display of work by Milca Eremiasova. A lot of her new work consists of flat forms that have been manipulated to make three dimensional shapes. I prefer her older more detailed work which depicts drapery so beautifully. Upstairs the modern lace display had been restage since we were last there.

Vamberk trip

We travelled to Vamberk for the biennial lace meeting and exhibition from 26 to 30 June 2008. We stayed at the Hotel Havel in Rychnov and this piece by Eva Filarova is in the hotel lobby there. There were several interesting international stands at the meeting and an exhibition by Marina Regueiro, Maria Bissacco Cociani, and Jana Stefkova. Marina showed traditional Spanish lace, Maria exhibited some lovely shawls, bags and clothes decorated with lace, and Jana showed some of her work including her head pieces made of interesting braids, some of which I sketched in the Museum.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Treetop walk at Kew

The treetop walk allows an excellent view and there are numerous stopping points for taking a closer look at the trees. It took 9 months to build and was carefully sited so that it did not damage any of the tree roots. It would be beautiful to walk along alone in the early morning and hear the bird song. The day we went it had just opened and there was a steady line of people walking along so it was not peaceful but an interesting experience nonetheless. We also went to see the Sackler Bridge with its innovative uplighting system.

Loop at Kew

Loop have produced this installation of interlocking trees at Kew. Standing by the lake and dwarfed by the real trees around them they provide an interesting structure. The piece is made of interlocking lengths of wire held in place with metal coupling tubes. The grass has grown through the circles of wire at the base to anchor the structure to the ground. A video of Loop creating the sculpture can be seen at

Sunday 25 May 2008

Art of the Stitch

I went to see this exhibition at Birmingham on 22 May. Although it was well displayed I was disappointed with the work on show. There was little that was innovative and several of the traditional pieces were not well mounted. The pieces I did like included Chris Berry’s Canale Grande, a small paper and stitch construction that could be viewed from many different angles and produced interesting shadows. However, this piece had not been selected for the show and appeared only because the selectors were asked to produce a piece of their own work.

I think my favourite of the selected pieces was 84 hours by Sarah Brown. It was a long bound book form made from 6am to 8pm for 6 days to represent the working week of William Wood, a bookbinder who died in Newgate prison in 1788, after being sentenced for 2 years for pressurising his master to reduce the working week from 84 to 83 hours. Sarah recreated William’s working week and produced a very attractive and evocative piece, which kept drawing me back to look at it and consider William’s life.

Other pieces I thought worked well were Caren Garfen’s Womanual “All done and dusted” referring to the fact that no one sees the effort that goes into traditional women’s work. I also thought Mend of me by Ilaria Margutti and Rosalba Pepi was interesting and unsettling as the woman in the picture sews herself. Search for pouring down by Kyoko Nagasawa also appealed to me with its twisted layers of recycled plastic bags.

The catalogue is good, with a picture of each piece (photography was not allowed). But the descriptions are variable, some authors provided an excellent write up of the themes behind their work while others provided nothing at all – and the works did not always speak for themselves!

Carole Waller lecture

Carole Waller gave a talk about her work on Wednesday 21 May at Farnham to coincide with her exhibition at the Craft Study Centre. She told us she works with the feel of a place to change the atmosphere. She paints on silk organza to make veils of the thinnest possible membrane. Recently she has been enclosing them in laminated toughened glass which includes a UV resistant layer so she can display them in the open air. She works with a fashion designer to make her painted clothes and originally sold them in the USA and Europe at fashion shows. She employs experts to help her with the laminating of her work and has collaborated with several different companies. She also used a sound recordist and film maker to help her with the video and sound recordings made at Paddington station for her present exhibition in the Craft Study Centre.

Friday 16 May 2008

China Design Now

This exhibition at the V&A has been designed to explain more about Chinese culture and life in the run up to the Olympics. It is based on three different cities in China and aims to describe their cultural landscape. The exhibition opens with a display of graphic design from Shenzhen. One of my favourite pieces was a book made of acetate sheets each one of which has part of a Chinese character on it – is it not until the pages all lie on top of each other that the text can be read.

Fashion designers from Shanghai showed some interesting designs, unfortunately shown on black mannequins which did not show the black dresses to advantage. There were some lovely chiffon scarves and dresses.

The last part of the exhibition focussed on the new architecture of Beijing and include a very effective video aerial tour of the city. The architecture is stunning and much of it very lacelike but not all of it is Chinese – many of the projects are being designed and built by international construction groups. The exhibition was very good and gave a good idea of life in modern China.

Blood on Paper

This exhibition at the V&A features books made by several different artists ranging from Picasso to Damien Hirst. The photo shows the entrance to the exhibition with Charles Sandison’s new commission of projected light entitled Carmina Figurata in which words move about the space supposedly at random. The large work in the foreground is by Anselm Kiefer entitled The secret life of plants. It recalls the outlines of constellations, the earth’s beginnings and the eternal process of transformation.

A video shows how Cai Guo-Qiang made his book entitled Suicide fireworks, by painting with gunpowder and then setting the book alight. The book is not particularly interesting in its case, it is only when one is surprised by its manufacture that it becomes interesting.

I also particularly liked the works by Anthony Caro, which unfortunately were shown closed rather than open, and those of Anish Kapoor entitled Wound which had been made by laser cutting through several layers of paper.

Chisato Tamabayashi

These lovely cutwork books are in the V&A shop. Chisato Tamabayashi uses 18th and 19th century lace to explore the labour intensive processes of handicrafts and the transient nature of shadows. Inspiration came from Junichiro Tanizaki’s In praise of shadows. Making the cut paper pieces is a form of meditation. There were two books in the shop one of straightforward lace patterns and the other this book of lace trees.

CJ Lim at the V&A

In the entrance tunnel to the V&A CJ Lim has built a subterranean garden based on the tale of Alice in Wonderland entitled Seasons through the looking glass. Working with Barry Cho and Studio 8 Architects he has built a structure of twigs out of honeycomb paper with rolled recycled garments as the roses. The structure is mirrored in a panel opposite the entrance.

21st century textiles symposium

This symposium was held as part of the Stroudwater festival on 10 May 2008. Marie O’Mahony talked about hoe she collaborates with architects and builders. She described her latest project Hitec- lotec and described various projects including the Sydney camouflage project using ‘lace’ curtains; a dress made using fermented wine; and a new synthetic fabric made from mouse connective tissue and human cells. The new flexibles was the title of Sarah Braddock Clark’s talk and she showed us samples of new materials. Rebecca Earley discussed textiles and the environment and described the development of upcycling to rebrand recycled clothes.

Sally Freshwater described her site specific work. She works with tensile membranes and fabrics under tension. She told us about some of her projects including the arrivals concourse at Gatwick and the Poole Lighthouse. She collaborates with Architen based in Bristol who make the tensile fabric structures for her and hang the pieces. She gave lots of advice on what to consider when working on a collaborative project in a public site.

Jennifer Shellard talked about artists who use light in their work, including James Durell, Dan Flavin and Antony McCaul. Jennifer uses weave structures for revealing and concealing. She incorporates transparent fluorescent yarns into her work and uses UV light to excite them. These projects are difficult to document so she has been learning how to video and film them.

Memory and touch

This conference was held at RIBA, London, on 7 May 2008. The exhibition Haptic: awakening the senses was on show at the same venue. Kenya Hara who put together the exhibition opened the conference by described some of the exhibits in the Haptic exhibition: lanterns made of washi paper with silk and hair attached to them; small paper images like water boatmen with a magnet in them that lie on the surface of the water and rotate in unison; and his own paper pin ball machine that uses water instead of ball bearings.

Janis Jefferies and Robert Zimmer discussed their project Tatu developing a system for museums that simulates the feel of the artefacts. Frances Geeson described her electroplates textiles. Thinking as drawing explained how Trish Bould and Kathy Oldridge had collaborated on a project through drawing. June Hill discussed how feelings are conveyed and the role of materiality in conveying these feelings. Mary Schoeser talked about cultural memory and how our past defines us.

Fiona Jane Candy talked about clothing’s influence on the way we feel. She showed a photograph of her first day at school and described how her new clothes made her feel. She also discussed the different responses that picture elicited in her and her parents. She had also studied the relationships that women with rheumatoid arthritis have with their clothes. Masayo Ave told us how she developed her haptic dictionary. Kate Baker and Belinda Mitchell described their work analysing buildings and people using space through observing and experiencing dance movement in architectural space.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Carole Waller exhibition at the Craft Study Gallery

I have liked Carole Waller’s silk paintings for some time. The way she embeds them in glass so they can be used outside is also very clever. I have made many silk paper hangings in the past and it is always difficult to show them; her solution is brilliant. The paintings benefit by being seen in a good light with the light filtering through them and it also increases the market for them because they can be used in the open air and are more robust. Her work is similar to my own in many ways and seeing the different ways she displays work was very interesting. She uses Muji see-through frames with the lugs to hold them at a angle, solid acrylic frames made up of two pieces that stand alone and for the larger pieces has solid floor holders.

I enjoyed the installation at the Craft Study Centre but felt it was slightly contrived and the paintings had not been designed as a group, although I enjoyed them regardless. I thought projecting images on to the work was successful and is something I might consider in my own practice. I felt the background noise of the railway station was intrusive though. To me the paintings exude tranquillity and I would have preferred to enjoy them without the sounds of a busy railway station in the background – perhaps country sounds would have been more in keeping.

MA show at Farnham

I put my piece ‘Veiled threats’ into the show and it was displayed in a cabinet in the Foyer. This turned out to be a good place for it because it provided another layer of veiling. I was pleased with the piece because it rounded off my exploratory project well and depicted the feelings I have had that views on veiling blind people to the views of others. The show went well and there were many visitors. Putting up the show, invigilating and attending the private view were all part of the experience and made us bond better as an MA group. It was very interesting seeing everyone else’s work and reading their synopses.


I visited Dubai just before Easter to see my brother. I have been there many times before and used to live there so am familiar with the country. I was hoping to collect more information for my veiling research and managed to glean quite a lot. It was impossible to take photographs of people in the street but several women doing crafts let me take their photos and I photographed lots of shops selling veils. I also managed to collect several postcards and images of veiled women. Also by reading the local newspaper I found more images and read the views of some of the local people. We also visited Al Ain museum, in a more remote part of the country, from where I collected more useful photographs.

First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum

It was very difficult to get tickets for this exhibition not only was it over subscribed but the system for purchasing tickets was not easy or user friendly. Having given up hope of seeing it some weeks previously we were amazed by chance to find tickets for sale at a convenient date and time. Entrance to the exhibition was on a timed ticket. It felt very crowded and people kept standing to listen to the headphone information rather than looking at the exhibits. It was therefore very difficult to see some of the exhibits.

However, the terracotta warriors were impressive. They were made in a batch system so the experts made the heads and other craftsmen made the limbs and bodies. Those who made the legs also made the drainage systems and their provenance was obvious. The size of the warriors was impressive and the difference in their expressions was fascinating.

The first emperor must have been an amazing person. He came to the throne as a young teenager and decided to conquer the surrounding lands so all his reign was taken up with war. He died in his forties so began the project for his tomb quite early in his reign. The whole enterprise seemed quite overwhelming and it would have been a nightmare to live under him as he was a despot and the country was continually at war. However he could not have achieved all he did if he had been a different person.