Thursday 31 March 2016

Henna lace

I love these henna designs because they are so lace like in their patterning. These images come from a book on Traditional henna designs by The Peppin Press, which unfortunately doesn’t have an author so I can’t acknowledge them. The book is full of beautiful designs for hands and feet and also separate smaller design elements that can be combined to make more complex patterns. Apparently the traditional way of applying henna is by taking some of the paste between the thumb and index finger and moving them over each other to form a thread of henna which is applied to the skin. A more common technique is using a stick dipped in henna or ‘piping’ the paste through a small cone like icing a cake. Once the design has been applied it has to be left for about 5 hours to dry. Then, when the black paste has turned to a dark red colour the skin is rubbed with mustard oil and the paste is scraped off leaving the red pattern on the skin. Some of these designs are amazingly intricate, I’m impressed by the skill of the painters.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Early twentieth century veils


Veils were obviously very fashionable in New York in the spring of 1918, as these slightly sinister images reveal. Doing some research into the uses of lace in the early part of the twentieth century I found some bound issues of ‘The lace and embroidery review’, an American trade magazine of the time. I was hoping to find something about lace curtains but was greatly entertained by a series of articles on veiling and how to wear it. One such piece begins ‘Surely it must be an utterly impossible complexion that cannot be beautified by some of the innumerable veiling patterns now displayed everywhere’. On the evidence of the Van Raalte advert I’m not quite sure about that, but the veiling in these images certainly gives the wearer a distinctive appearance!

Thursday 17 March 2016

Curtains in the Modernist home


I was delighted to find these images of net curtains in 1930s Modernist homes in Steven Parissien’s book on Interiors. Who would have thought that the uncluttered, fairly stark, Modernist home would have included net curtains. Not only do these homes include net curtains, but they are the only curtains in these interiors. I’m sure the householders would not have described them as net curtains, they are probably muslin or fine cotton, but they perform the same action as net curtains – filtering the sunlight and keeping out the gaze of passers by - and they certainly fit into my definition of net curtains

Thursday 10 March 2016


Updating my website this week has made me consider the reasons for having it. I suppose the main one is advertising what I do, so curators, for example, can look me up and see if my work would fit into any exhibitions they might be thinking about. It’s also a place where people who know my work already can see where I’m going to be exhibiting so they can come and see it and catch up. Then it also serves as a record of what I’ve done and when – in fact I often go back to the website when I’m filling in applications to check when I made a particular piece. It’s also a handy place where people can find out about my research, practice and CV all in one place, so I can hand out business cards with the website address on them and know that those who are interested can access the information they need and also contact me if they want to. By linking it to this blog I can also keep my audience up to date with what I’m researching on and making, in an informal way, which I find easier than updating the website. The conclusion is that it is a very useful thing to have and I should update it more often, so the next task is to take more photos to update the gallery section!

Thursday 3 March 2016

Damage and repair symposium

I really enjoyed this symposium at UCA Farnham yesterday – it included some interesting presentations and an engaged and knowledgeable audience. It was linked to the exhibition ‘What do I need to do to make it OK?’, curated by Liz Cooper at the Crafts Study Centre, and she opened the day by talking about the exhibition. There were two keynote speakers, the first, Bouke de Vries spoke about his background in ceramic conservation and his current practice, in which he uses these skills to give damaged objects a new narrative. Freddie Robins was the second keynote speaker and she described her current practice making full-sized machine-knitted human skins and how she has cannibalised them in her recent work. She also described the therapeutic aspects of hand knitting. The idea of craft as therapy was also taken up by Charlotte Bilby in her presentation on prisoner quilts and the Fine Cell Work initiative.

Claire Wellesley-Smith also discussed how she used crafts and dyeing to bring together a group of Bradford residents to consider the textile heritage of their town. Colette Dobson and Celia Pym described their work with groups in the medical community; Colette considering the emotional and sexual damage caused by cancer, and Celia linking mending and anatomy in the Dissection Room at King’s College, London. 

Mending, and in particular darning, was also the focus of Stella Adams-Schofield’s historical research, which culminated in an evocative compilation of images and recorded oral history. Mending as metaphor for healing was the thread linking the papers by Victoria Mitchell and Marlene Little. Victoria discussed holding, healing and the agency of the photograph, with reference to a photograph of Judith Scott cradling a large shape she had wound in thread. Marlene spoke about her own work depicting the unravelling of memory and the beautiful ‘Dementia darnings’ produced by Jenni Dutton in memory of her mother’s decline into dementia. In contrast to all this textile work, Marie Lefebvre considered the repair of small electrical products and designing for sustainable behaviour. The day ended with a viewing of the exhibition, from which the images are taken – the thrush’s nest entitled ‘Comfort and joy’ by Saidhbhin Gibson, and ’60 beats a minute’ by Karina Thompson. It was a great day – thanks to all involved.