Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend in London

Had a great weekend in London and completely overdosed on visual treats. This is a bit of a long post, so if you are sitting comfortably, we will begin (showing my age there). On Saturday, to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Greeted by Rachel John's display (above) as part of her Monumental Textiles. Into the foyer - so much to see that it was a good half hour before I even went inside the exhibition proper. Here is Casting Off...A coat for a Boat, a community project that included about 350 knitters. Yes it is a real boat and has been sailed... the gentleman modelling the nifty waterproofs knitted from carrier bags and bin bags.

What I liked about this project were the details, like these rodents (surely too cute to be rats)

and this seagull

There was so much to see that my poor brain couldn't cope, so I had to be quite ruthless and choose just the exhibits I really wanted to see. No photos allowed, so I am including links where possible for you to follow up. The highlight for me was Tom Lundberg's Microcosms - exquisite embroideries that seem to be full of stories. A selection of entries for the Pfaff Art Embroidery competition that I liked included a piece called Travel Bug by Louise Saxton made from reclaimed embroideries, scrap etc; a set of houses by Christine Atkins expressing how we take ourselves when we travel; Sian Martin's pathway Tread Softly.

In the graduates gallery, I was particularly taken by Solid Air by Roanna Wells -inspired by skyscapes and made from shaded stitching on organdy stretched over a backing, so that the shadows add to the effect. I assumed at first it was free-machining until she produced her sample and demonstrated that it was all by hand. Finally the exhibition by Fusion on the theme of Direction was fascinating - so many ways to interpret the word. My favourites were Melita Butterell's series Motorway Birds which combine goldwork with motorway junctions; Ros Murphy's Cosmic Towers - tall vessels decorated with images of nebulae and galaxies and Victoria Macleod's pieces based on aerial maps.

But it wasn't all admiring the work - couldn't resist a bit of shopping...

Now that's what I call a pair of knitting needles. I thought it would be light relief after struggling with my first ever sock. Inspired by Rachel John (see above for link) to have a go at a larger scale. The spray cans are a fabric paint I haven't tried before - non-toxic and water based it is child safe, permanent without ironing and, from the samples I handled on the stand, does not affect the feel of the fabric. I have promised my youngest that we will experiment over half term but I mainly thought they would be useful for adding extra layers on dyed bits. I will let you know what happens! The tool is for rugmaking and prompted a jolly discussion about the wisdom of carrying it on the Tube.

On Sunday, I went with my sister to the V&A to see Telling Tales - Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design - one of their free exhibitions which I can highly recommend. It runs until 18th October. As we had an hour or so to spare before my train, we picked a room in the museum at random and walked around. I have been visiting the V&A at least once a year since I was tiny, but I am sure I have never seen this room before. Part of the European rooms it is called cast courts and contains (life-size) plaster casts of architectural pieces from around the world - standing crosses from Cumbria, cathedral doorways and arches from Spain and Norway amongst many others. A bit mad, but you have to hand it to the Victorians - they didn't do things by halves and believed in education. There were once collections of casts like this in museums across Europe but they have all been destroyed, which makes these ones of historical interest in themselves. I liked this small cast from a church in Herefordshire - look at the pleats on the robes.

We finished with a visit to the V&A bookshop (until my sister threatened to drag me out) where I compiled my Christmas list. I had to have the book in the photo above straight away - it is about yarnbombing, which is a kind of graffiti but using knitting rather than aerosols. If I only had the nerve...

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