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36 COVER STORY Runway brides Is the spectacle of a modern wedding romantic or ridiculous? Kate Brinton ponders the question. IIlustratedbyMarkLazenby,ArtDirectorofTheWorldofInteriors 38 COVER STORY Wedding breakfast A feast of fine fabrics, fascinators and fairy tale footwear. Our weddingtablewasphotographedbyKatyaDeGrunwald,seeissue33,pg20formoreofherwork 76 Taking flight Abigail Brown has a feather in her cap. Thisbuddingornithologistandtalented designerrevealswhypetsandnotpeopleprovidetheinspirationforherwork
INDUSTRY from craft to commerce
12 Young and fair Selvedge salutes the small and beautiful in a round-up of village and church hall craft fairs and we announce the first Selvedge Summer Fair. IllustrationbyCeliaLusted 17 How to Make love bird pillows. SaniaPeelgivesusapeakintoherbookTheHomemadeHome, instructionsareavailabletodownloadfromtheSelvedgewebsite 60 Now panic Industry insiders offer words of wisdom to guide the latest crop of textile graduates. IIlustrationandembroiderybyNaomiAvsec 67 Design File A case history of classic textiles: Lucienne Day. Mary Schoeser, Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London, pays tribute to the timeless textiles of the late designer
ANECDOTE textiles that touch our lives
30 COVER STORY Bright Star Jane Campion shines a light on a doomed love affair. Curatorandauthor DeirdreMcSharryadmirestheattentiontodetailinthisfilmaboutJohnKeatsandFannyBrawne 65 Guiding hand Collecting hatpins. AmericanMembershipSecretaryoftheHatPinSociety,Carla Walters,defendsherlongstandingfascinationwithrareandelaboratehatpins 73 Curator’s Choice Hélène Alexander’s highlights from the Fan Museum. A fan painted by CamdenTownGroupartistWalterSickertisjustoneofthemanytreasureshousedinGreenwich 96 COVER STORY Hope over experience Once every girl had chest filled with handmade linen, homewares and her dreams of wedded bliss. SelvedgeEditor,BethSmith,liftsthelidonaneglectedcustom
COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed
44 Black and white Emma Cassi’s simple approach to decoration. ClareLewisvisitstheJewellery designer’slace-ladenhome.PhotographybyKristinPerers
Paper work UNFOLDING ISABELLE DE BORCHGRAVE’S ILLUSIONS
Paper is a magical material. Its thousand faces have the power to attract and enchant us, to direct our lives and change their course, to teach us, to influence our opinion, and to mark our daily existence.
From our youngest years, paper helps us to create our individual versions of beauty – small, clumsy fingers transform sheets of coloured paper into trees, misshapen pieces of fruit or fantastical beasts. And by making paper into new shapes and covering its many surfaces with colours, drawings, numbers, letters and symbols, we finally learn how to master it.
Notepaper, newspaper, wallpaper, rice paper, and papier-mâché… Paper, born thousands of years ago of the papyrus plant, does not shy from pseudonyms, hiding behind such noms de plume as vellum, Holland, Indian, peau de cygne and parchment. Tucked into envelopes, it is paper that holds our most tender thoughts and fiery messages. It has taken the place of our ancestors' silver; paper stokes the greed of forgers, misers and conquerors of every stripe.
And while paper is pleasing to the eye, and proud of being useful, it is just as charming to the ear.
Runway brides IS THE SPECTACLE OF THE MODERN WEDDING ROMANTIC OR RIDICULOUS?
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It’s all about the dress. And it’s more than just something to wear... “it’s the embodiment of a dream.” At least that’s the conclusion of designer, and font of all bridal knowledge, Vera Wang.
Wang believes the wedding dress is a divine obsession: “In the fantasy of idealised happiness, the groom represents perfection.” But, she warns, “the instant a woman becomes engaged... all that energy and passion gets transferred to the dress.” Anyone who has spent time in the company of a bride-to-be, deep in the planning stages of her big day, will agree. The bride must be the envy of everyone, she must look, and feel, like a princess... and the wedding gown is the key.
Emotions run high over this once-in-a-lifetime frock – fights have broken out in bridal shops and wedding fairs. But when did we become so passionate about the dress? Was it when Queen Elizabeth's wedding was televised in 1947? When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956? Or when Princess Diana carted that 20-foot train down the aisle? Perhaps it was much earlier? Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, points out that “In the 19th century women could read about the latest bridal fashions and what real women had actually worn in fashion periodicals. There are detailed reports of weddings in newspapers describing the bride's outfit, the service and the costumes of the principal guests; which encouraged many to emulate what they had read about. The introduction of photography too must have made women more aware of their appearance and determined to look their best.”
Even so Edwina stresses that a one-off dress, which had no use afterwards, would have been inconceivable at this time, 'No 19th-century bride expected to wear a dress for a single day and wedding dresses were either converted into evening wear or worn as formal day wear. This thriftiness continued into the 20th century.”
In a time when formal evening wear really did mean formal there was at least a chance that a wedding dress would remain wearable. In these lamentably informal times the gulf between a tight-bodiced white ball gown and the clothes for even our most celebratory events is far too wide to navigate. Where do all the acres of tulle end up? Vacuum-packed in plastic and shoved under beds? At the local bridal exchange?
The fashion industry would be deeply saddened if brides took a more frugal approach to the happiest day of their lives. It is believed the first wedding dress to close a designer catwalk show was by English designer Edward Molyneux in 1923 but the custom of the bridal dress as the grand finale to the catwalk show grew in popularity, reaching its zenith with Lacroix’s ‘Catholic Icon’ wedding dress, which closed his final haute couture show in 2009 like a prayer for resurrection.
Certainly some believe bridal finery will be the saviour of the industry. “Wedding gowns are the future of haute couture,” says Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad, “Prêt-à-porter covers everything else.” Murad, quoted in the Independent newspaper, explained, “You have outfits for dinner, cocktails, daytime... But a haute couture dress, that's our niche.” In saying so he echoes Christian Dior who once said “Couturiers are the last possessors of the wand of Cinderella’s fairy godmother.”
Designers can use a wedding dress to comment on marriage as an institution and challenge traditional ideas of femininity – Yohji Yamamoto had a bride and groom swap clothes in his S/S 1998 show – but irrespective of the concept the runway bridal dress demonstrates the skills and creativity of the house. And bridal wear is vital to designers in uncertain times as whatever the economic climate many women are still prepared to spend lavishly on their wedding dress.
Harriet Worsley author of The White Dress clearly has an affection for the extravagant spectacle of the modern wedding but admits that, “the bridal industry catches engaged women by the scruff of their necks, at a particularly vunerable time, and gives them the hard sell.” It is, she notes, “frighteningly more like theatre than real life”. In 1963 Jessica Mitford wrote an exposé of the funeral industry in the US, The American Way of Death, a book that argued that death had become too sentimental, commercial, and, above all, excessively expensive. Is there room on our shelves for a book called The Western Way of Wedding?
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Bright Star JANE CAMPION SHINES A LIGHT ON A DOOMED LOVE AFFAIR
Brightstar Brightstar!wouldIweresteadfastasthouartNotinlonesplendourhungaloftthenight, Andwatching,witheternallidsapart, LikeNature'spatientsleeplessEremite, Themovingwatersattheirpriestliketask Ofpureablutionroundearth'shumanshores, Orgazingonthenewsoftfallenmask OfsnowuponthemountainsandthemoorsNo-yetstillsteadfast,stillunchangeable, Pillow'duponmyfairlove'sripeningbreast, Tofeelforeveritssoftfallandswell, Awakeforeverinasweetunrest, Still,still tohearhertender-takenbreath, Andsoliveever-orelseswoontodeath. JohnKeats,1795–1821
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Hampstead in 1818, he is a 23-year-old poet in a threadbare jacket. She is a 19-year-old seamstress wearing ruffles and bonnets: “The well-stitched Miss Brawne,” is a comment of the poet's friend.
Bright Star is a portrait of love and loss. The title is taken from a poem written by John Keats for the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Their two year love affair provides the plot. The story unreels like a spool of silk... suitably enough as the director,
Jane Campion embroiders and sews herself. She is known to make films that celebrate the female gaze. Bright is also the needle pushing through linen – a closeup image of the opening scene. This leads into the sunlit fields of Hampstead – then a village – where the protagonists walk between l ines of laundry drying in the breeze. Fabrics, sewing, style are threads that run though the story.
AfterthesuccessofthefirstSelvedgefilmnightwearepleased toannounceascreeningofBrightStar.Beforethefilmwewill have a discussion between Polly Leonard, editor-in-chief of
The film is told through female eyes. “It's a poem of praise for the creative process,” says Campion. Based on contemporary poet Andrew Motion's biography of Keats, in which he describes Fanny as a diligent student of fashion, Fanny is centre stage. He says: “She is a teenager who spends her time making fashionable clothes, not reading books.”
Courtesy of Pathé images
Keats, when he first met Fanny, described her as “beautiful, elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable and strange”. Dressing up for dances in the nearby army barracks would have been important to her; she is proud of designing and making her own clothes and kept a collection of fashion plates.
Keats falls under the spell of this vision and calls her “his minx-stress”. By turn she finds his poems difficult, while being confident of her own eye and her skills. “This is the first frock in Hampstead and Woolwich to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar,” she boasts in the film adding, “All I wear I've sewn and designed myself.”
Pleating, folding, stitching, wrapping, washing, making: the domestic arts inform the narrative and give meaning to every scene. This is no mere bonnets versus sonnets TV adaptation; it is a living, breathing picture of how women spin out their lives.
Keats House, where the poet John Keats lived from 1818 to 1820, is the setting that inspired some of his most memorable poetry. Here,
Keats wrote 'Ode to a Nightingale', and fell in lovewithFannyBrawne,thegirlnextdoor.And itwasfromthishousethathetravelledtoRome,
Recently reopened after major restoration,
the collection offers a glimpse of the clothes
Fanny Brawne wore through her collection of fashion plates. Fanny subscribed to fashion magazines such as Court Magazine, Le Voleur and Petit Courrier des Dames and exchanged her“books”withKeats’sister,alsocalledFanny.
Like most young ladies Fanny Brawne embroidered, sewed and knit. A fichu scarf in thecollectionshowsherhighlevelofskill.
Keats House, Keats Grove, Hampstead,
London NW3 2RR, T: +44 (0)20 7332 3868,
Pretty practical HOW COUNTRY SMOCKS HAD A DRESSING DOWN
In 1883 when Thomas Hardy wrote, ‘the genuine white smock frock… and the whitey brown one… are rarely now seen afield’ it was clear that the agricultural smock was destined to become another casualty of industrialisation.
Known regionally as a smock, smock-frock, slop or cow gown, the garment was the daily dress for most agricultural workers and labourers for over 200 years. One of the earliest references to it lies in the Purefoy Letters of 1741 which describe a ‘strange man’ from Lincolnshire wearing ‘a broad cloth coat and waist coat with a white frock over, buttoned at the hands like a shirt’. Obviously intrigued, five years later Purefoy asked his tailor to ‘bring the coachman a linen frock to put over his cloaths when hee rubs his horses down’.
Although the apron was an earlier garment, the smock provided a capacious, resilient, protective outer layer that could be worn over other clothing even whilst performing hard physical labour. It was made from as much as eight yards of fabric such as Holland, drabbet, or, as Gabriel wore in Far From The Madding Crowd, the heavy linen sail cloth ‘Russia duck’.
Its ‘pillow-case cut’ of squares or rectangles made economic use of fabric and the geometric pieces were perfect for smocking. The densely gathered and pleated sections across chest and shoulder provided extra padding and elasticity. The Round or True Smock was fully closed with a small opening at the neck above a large smocked area front and back. The Shirt Smock, a speciality of Surrey, had a buttoned opening at the front, smaller areas of smocking and embroidery front and back, and a narrow embroidered yoke. Often worn by shepherds, the Coat Smock was longer and heavier. Those made near the Welsh border had large winged collars and embroidered cape-like epaulettes excellent for repelling mist and rain. Reputedly, if soaked through in a downpour, a smock would be so stiff it could stand up by itself! To avoid this, they were sometimes soaked in boiled linseed oil in a process similar to the fisherman’s oilskins making them stiff, shiny, but exceptionally water repellent.
It was in the hands of the shepherd’s wife that the smock became a decorative item, and for many of the rural poor, the only garment presentable enough for church or the annual hiring fairs. Most work-a-day smocks were fawn or drab, but the ‘wedding smock’, made as a gift from the bride to her groom, was white with a design – often to represent his occupation – stitched in white thread. A shepherd was often buried in his wedding smock, and in rural communities the church kept a set of smocks to be worn by pallbearers. The 1830s-50s were the heyday for embroidered smocks when as Thomas Hardy records in Under The Greenwood Tree: ‘stalwart ruddy men and boys’ wore ‘snowy white smock frocks embroidered upon their shoulders and breasts in ornamental forms of hearts, daggers, zigzags.’
Designs were passed down through generations contributing to regional identity. But by the early 19th century the smock was in commercial production in small factories particularly in Newark, Nottinghamshire where a tough blue linen was used. The proximity of a woad mill accounted for the colour and swathes of blue cloth would be dried along the hedgerows. They were also decorated but with a simpler design of swirls printed during production, then embroidered by outworkers. Despite mass production these smocks – bought from drapers’ at nine shillings each – were expensive costing between one to two weeks wages for most agricultural workers.
When agricultural machinery was introduced in the 1870s and 1880s, the voluminous smock once so practical, became a dangerous liability. The fabric was so strong that someone caught in machinery would be dragged in and maimed before it could be cut to release them. The smock survived in rural communities until the 1920s and in a few cases beyond, but by 1891 when Thomas Hardy wrote Tess of the D’Urbervilles the smock was worn by ‘the most old fashioned of the labourers’. In the industrial world with the exodus from country to town almost complete, the smock – once a status symbol – had become the sign of a country bumpkin and was greeted in the city with sniggers of derision. Sarah Jane Downing
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Taking flight ABIGAIL BROWN HAS A FEATHER IN HER CAP
Did you have a favourite toy as a child? The most delightful thing I had was a puppet theatre made by my Dad. It had ‘Abigail’s puppet theatre’ written on the front and Mum made the curtains for it.
They bought me fairytale characters to go with it and my brother and I would make silly shows for the other kids in the street. What do you think makes a handcrafted toy special? Even at that young age I could feel how wonderful it was and was so proud my Dad had made it. It was something special that nobody else had. So much love had gone into making it. That’s what makes handmade objects more precious, someone’s thought, time and love. Did you teach yourself how to make your creatures or did you study textiles? The textiles degree I studied was more about printing. I didn’t make objects until after uni, inspired by my friend who’d been studying Decorative Artefacts. Until I saw what she was doing I had no idea that people made things and could sell and exhibit them. I just worked from my drawings to create things in 3D, just self taught I guess, making mistakes and amending them. Is there a reason you make animal creatures and not human figures? Several reasons for it; not having pets as a child and being obsessed with them,
the love of the many soft toys I had and the fact that animals can be a source of so much joy. How cute they are, the way they feel to hold and pet. Are you a bird watcher? The whole bird obsession came about accidentally after a friend asked me to make her one to go in an antique cage she’d been given. But my Dad’s always been a keen photographer and he started photographing birds. It’s been an area for us to share and through him I’ve become quite a little ornithologist! What is your favourite creature? On my first trip to the Natural History Museum I discovered an array of hilarious little creatures. There was a pygmy vole with long teeth, some kind of sand dwelling mouse with legs akin to those of a kangaroo and my favourite – the Dik Dik, a miniature deer like creature from Africa. I love the idea of a collection of animals with exaggerated features or mixing one animal’s long legs with another’s tiny body. I could create my own little mammal museum! It’s a series I’ll really spend some time on one of these days. If you could use the fabrics of any company or designer who would it be? I’d have to say the fabrics of the 1950’s would be a treat to use in my work. I just love the pattern design from that era. Lucienne Day’s fabrics would be wonderful.
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Black and white EMMA CASSI MAKES DECORATION SIMPLE
Jewellery designer Emma Cassi lives in South London with her husband, Bertrand, their son Anton, aged five and their brand new baby. The couple came to London ten years ago from their native France and fell in love with London because ‘the people are so nice and this city has everything including wonderful art galleries’. With her Beaux Arts School training, Emma’s interest in art is not limited to museum outings as the interior of their home, basically a giant whimsical installation, clearly demonstrates.
Each room is a carefully curated tableau in black and white ‘I like a plain house as it allows me to have lots of ideas. I like my jewellery to provide the colour.’ This blank canvas approach is the ideal backdrop for the veritable treasure trove of antiques, objet trouvé and personal effects Emma has collected and carefully put on display. The mantel is loaded with vases lined up like toy soldiers, a
Kristen collection of white china is artfully stacked up in a glass-fronted cabinet, empty frames are hung in an arc around the fire place mimicking a Victorian interior.
To soften the look textiles from gossamer lace to knobbly rugs to luscious silks and satins are invitingly layered on floors, chairs and beds. Precious bits of ribbon, handmade paper notebooks and scraps of ribbon are left lying around as if someone has just walked away, leaving in their wake a wistful air and an echo of Miss Haversham’s house in Great Expectations – but without the cobwebs. Absolutely everything is an object of beauty. To learn Emma’s father was an antiques dealer is not a surprise ‘our home was full of a shifting collection of stuff my father had bought ready to sell on’
The house also provides Emma’s workspace ‘We’ve lived here for five years and I have a little studio in the sitting room which I find very convenient. As soon as I have an idea I can work on it straight away.
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The Gardens of Eden EMBROIDERED WEDDING BLANKETS OF SOUTHERN IRAQ
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In the South of Iraq between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers the Sumerians built some of the earliest known cities. More than 5,000 years ago the legendary Gardens of Eden were said to have been sited there. The ancient places are no more, but up to the middle of the 20th century the rural population lived a life that had changed little over the course of time.
It is in this region that the embroidered wedding blankets were made until a few decades ago. In Iraq the blankets are called Izar-as-Samawa, Samawa, or Sumawa (a town in the South of Iraq). The embroideries are, however, not the work of city dwellers but were made in the villages. They are different from any other textile tradition of the Middle East. Flowers, animals, human figures, symbols and geometric motifs are embroidered with wool yarn on a handwoven ground. Each one is composed of two lengths of cloth which are sewn together after the embroidery is completed. Some are shorter or longer but the width is consistent, on average they measure 160 x 220 cm. Each blanket varies in its design and character, yet visibly belongs to a common tradition – information about that tradition is still scarce.
Some of the motifs date back to the Sumerians and can be found on ancient cylinder seals. Some may be traces left by the hundreds of Roma who tid imSchm
Ach had migrated from India and some by a large group of East African slaves, who rebelled against the Caliph in the 9th century, failed and took refuge in the marshes of the South. Later it was the Bedouins who represented a cultural ideal to the villagers on the banks of the big rivers and in the marshes.
From the middle of the 20th century onwards oil began to change the hitherto traditional society. More dramatic changes occurred in the South of Iraq with the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 and above all in 1991 after the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein drained the South Iraqi Marshes, once double the size of the Everglades in Florida and home to 300,000 people, to punish the
Shiite population who had always been his opponents. Hundreds of thousands left their homes and fled to Iran or to the big cities. When the Iraqi dictator fell in 2003, the marsh people destroyed the dams and water flowed back into the lakes but the Embroidered Gardens, testimonials of a way of life, of a culture, have yet to return. Gardens of Eden of Mesopotamia, Embroidered Wedding Blankets of Southern Iraq, A Collection of 20 pieces presented by Maya Ilg, Anna Marie Stöckli and Ramazan Akpinar will on show exclusively at the Festival of Quilts 2010, 19-22 August, Birmingham NEC, T: +44 (0)20 8692 2299, www.twistedthread.com s e l v e d g e . o r g
Joining forces CULTEX AND THE ART OF COLLABORATION
Working collaboratively is rewarding but it is also hard: negotiating, finding points of connection, tolerating differences, maintaining the sense of self while creating a joint identity – What do you give? What do you gain? What do you lose? How much more difficult it is when the two partners in the collaboration are from different countries, and if those partners also do not speak each others language and have never previously visited each other’s country, then the difficulties could seem almost insurmountable.
This is the situation that artists Norwegian Gabriella Göransson and Japanese Kiyonori Shimada had to navigate when partnered, by me, for the project Cultex. As they faced the prospect of working together, exchanging ideas, creating final outcomes for the exhibition both were, naturally, intensely worried about communication. As Göransson wrote in her online Journal: “It was really complete madness. Starting work with a person with whom I shared neither a common language nor a common cultural framework. And that the outcome of this cooperation should lead to a joint piece of work – the idea seemed increasingly more and more absurd.” But in pairing the two I had felt a connection, one that emerged from the ideas underpinning their work, and it was a thread that both could recognise and gently tease and spin into a cobweb of communication that has resulted in a beautiful and monumental installation.
It began with a response. I asked each of the artists to devote their first web journal to describing their understanding of the work of their partner. For Göransson and Shimada, this was of the utmost importance. In this first entry, both acknowledged the role of texture and memory, archaic memory, to their work. This became their starting point.
Their first period of working together took place in Norway and was spent gently edging towards each other through the materials they work with and the importance of light and shadow within their work. They discovered that they both had grown up with 1,000-yearold trees in their neighbourhood – for Göransson it was oak and for Shimada it was Ginko. However, as Shimada wrote after the visit: “At the moment we are still a long way from having a clear image of the whole piece.” Yet even this slow pace seemed to echo the painstaking archaeology required to unearth those primordial memories and forms that are the basis of both their works. When Göransson visited Japan she was able to write at the end of her time there: “We have been able to make these thoughts clear through our “spartan” communication. Most of it is still inside our heads, but it is starting to materialise in works in an Oslo studio and in an Okayama studio.”
For many years Shimada has been creating large textile installations for buildings and in collaboration with opera and dance companies. In common with many Japanese textile artists, his work is a response to place and space. In this he is following the Japanese tradition in which architectural space is one that has been given by nature and needs to be physically experienced before a response is made. This approach is also taken by Göransson; for her it is during the installation that the parts finally coalesce into a coherent work of art. And so it was, as they built their work in the gallery space, they finally created their conversation, one that had been verbally impossible, achieved through their materials – Shimada with white nylon and Göransson with linen pulp.
In the event, their two works are visually rather than physically integrated. The viewer enters through Shimada’s textural doorway and is immediately acutely aware of spatial relationships. His installation is constructed in such a way that most visitors have to bend down a little to go through the entrance (echoing the entering of the Japanese Tea House). The passageway is narrow, so that when people encounter each other, they have to stop and carefully make way. As they walk through, his soft, white ‘gills’ of cloth whisper in our wake. And glimpsed at the end of the passage and through its windows are Göransson’s black skeletal forms that pattern the walls and cluster in corners. On closer examination we find the pieces are hard, brittle and dry, like abandoned skeletons or fossilised shadows. Both works are organic in inspiration and form, together they form connection to our earliest memories, the earliest memories of the earth. White and black, light and shadow, fluid and hard, these are the elements that form what Shimada has described as: “the ‘contrast’ which is visible and the ‘harmony’ which is not visible” in their installation.
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Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Recognize an opportunity when it presents itself and go for it.... Gillian Newberry, Bennison, www.bennisonfabrics.com
1. Don't think too much – just do it... you’ll learn more
2. Make it quick to produce but look expensive.
3. Keep versatile, you are capable of lots of different things, when one avenue is quiet move to another. 4. Don’t scrimp on materials. If you are doing a lot of work on something it’s worth getting a good base cloth Karen Nicol, embellisher, www.karennicol.com
While you are accustomed to living on a shoe string, follow your ambition, it’s much harder to step out of an income into erratic earning! Teresa Green, textile designer, www.teresagreen.co.uk
Just arrived in Moscow, with luggage still in Frankfurt and musing on what wisdom to proffer beyond always travel with hand baggage only! One other piece of advice – think across a wider set of horizons – read the New Scientist and the Economist as well as Selvedge for a balanced diet! David Weir, Director Dovecot Studios, www.dovecotstudios.com
1. The world is constantly changing and us with it, embrace change! 2. Don't eat yellow snow 3. You can still do a lot with a small brain. Rob Ryan, artist, www.misterrob.co.uk
Aim high. Apply for things you feel may be out of your reach – if it hadn't been for my boss encouraging me to apply for Origin within a year of graduating, I wouldn't have had the exposure or experiences I have had to date. Ellie Evans, artist, www.ellie-evans.co.uk
In 1980 I graduated from St Martins School of Art (now Central Saint Martins) first in my class with a BA in Fashion Design. Within the week I was in the dole queue. Careers in the creative arena involve false starts, knock backs and dead ends. Accepting this makes the endeavour more bearable. Anyone I know who has had longevity in the industry has welcomed opportunities to work in related areas even if it wasn’t their original plan. Iain R Webb, fashion writer
Most curious TRACEY NEULS, NINA SAUNDERS AND FABRICS BY SANDERSON
Imagine a boutique that sells award-winning shoes, and where cool prints can sometimes be found among cutting-edge designs. A shop whose interior is a wonderful surprise, and where fashion, art and furniture blur into one. A place where a forest has taken root indoors, closing in on an edgy armchair and some random shoes, both of which are upholstered in floral fabric. In the run up to London Fashion Week last February, Londoners flocked to one such boutique.
At her shop in Marylebone Lane, cult shoemaker Tracey Neuls exhibited ‘Most Curious’, an installation that marked Sanderson’s 150th anniversary and was far cooler than any of the fabrics sauntering down the catwalks. Using textiles as a common ground, Neuls worked collaboratively with Danish-born artist Nina Saunders to create a site-specific artwork, which flaunted the sculptural surrealism characteristic of both practitioners’ works. Together, the two dived into the archives of the iconic Sanderson textile brand, and surfaced with a striking selection of prints.
Since establishing her label nine years ago, Neuls’ work has often featured an unexpected subversion of familiar objects. After graduating from Cordwainers, the designer revived the market for quirky footwear creating innovative, idiosyncratic designs. With a string of awards behind her, and a determination to break new ground, Neuls’ interdisciplinary vision takes footwear far beyond the form we know it. Her collaboration with Saunders centred around the sculptural showpiece the artist crafted from an overstuffed Victorian armchair, upholstered in Sanderson fabric. Saunders has a flair for the fabulously farcical, and often mimics everyday forms. Her armchair is no exception. It was immediately identifiable as antique but morphed into a new form. As if transmuted into a labile state, Saunders’ armchair cascaded into the space around it.
Neuls contributed to the sculpture by adding a pair of open-toe court shoes. The shoes were placed at a strategic distance from the upholstery which congealed on the floor around them. An initial glance suggests a woman has been poised comfortably in the chair, her now-absent body signifying a terrifying escape from the mess pooling behind her. A closer look tells a different story. The chair has swollen in size, taking on new proportions. Its normal contours shift sideways echoing the human form. Has the chair devoured the woman? Is she cocooned in its upholstered belly? Did the seated victim try to save herself, or merely her shoes? Kicked well out of range, the shoes Neuls' designed stand their ground when all else is collapsing around them.
Although shoes rarely have such direct links to interior design, the pair Neuls created for the project add an element of normality. Crafted from moulded rubber soles and patterned Sanderson fabric, the shoes are wearable and hence 'real'. They balance the melted armchair and link the installation with the rest of the shop’s eclectic, uncanny displays. Neuls designs for women who are strong, complex characters – in fact the absent woman would have been an unlikely victim. In styles ranging from show-stopping glamour to whimsical fancy, Neuls dresses women’s feet to enhance their inherent sensuality rather than using footwear to sexualise their bodies. Yet, the link between shoes and sex seems to be an intrinsic part of the artwork, perhaps in the boudoir-like sensuality evident in the femininity of its forms.
While initially Sanderson may seem to be an unlikely fit for Neuls and Saunders’, the company boasts a long tradition of working creatively with artists and designers. Collaborations with Gio Ponti, John Piper, Mea Angerer and Raymond Loewy resulted in distinctive prints, and designs created by Picasso have also featured in their collections. Rather than commissioning Neuls and Saunders to create new motifs, the collaboration centred around their use of Sanderson’s prints. ‘Maybe it is the comfortable, vintage feel that reflects the mood of today,’ says Liz Cann, Sanderson’s design director. ‘They move away from the contemporary glamour that has been so popular in recent years. We have had such a strong response that we are already discussing the possibility of working with artists again in this way. It would be wonderful to venture into more innovative design as we did in the past.’
Sanderson’s collaboration with Neuls and Saunders bridges the present with the past, and merges tradition and innovation into one. ‘Most Curious’, with its mix of classic motifs, modern craftsmanship and contemporary sensibilities, promises to forge fresh dialogues between textiles, art and design that lasts long after the installation is taken off display. Bradley Quinn
c o n c e p t s e l v e d g e . o r g
CONCEPT textiles in fine art
48 Joining forces Cultex and the art of collaboration. Professor of Textile Culture Lesley Millar explainshowtwoartistscommunicatedthroughthecommonlanguageoftextiles 52 Most curious Tracy Neuls, Nina Saunders and fabrics by Sanderson. BradleyQuinnauthorand journalistisdrawnintoasurreal,meltingworldoffootwearandfurniture 54 Standing to attention Textiles at the Milan furniture fair and beyond. Writer and broadcaster CorinneJuliusintroducesfourScandinaviandesigners
ATTIRE critical reporting of fashion trends
20 Paper work Unfolding Isabelle De Borchgrave’s illusions. PhotographerRenéStoeltiedocuments thesegorgeousandcleverlycraftedpapergarments 26 COVER STORY Pretty practical How country smocks had a dressing down. Authorandregular SelvedgecontributorSarahJaneDowningoutlinesthelossofatraditionalruralgarment 34 COVER STORY Detailed statements Fashion and needlework in Jane Austen’s letters. SarahJane Downing,authorof‘FashionintheTimeofJaneAusten’discussesthewriter’slifeasaseamstress
72 The Gardens of Eden The embroidered wedding blankets of Southern Iraq. Curator Maya Ilg documentsthehistoryoftheseelaboratelyembellishedtraditionaltextiles
INFORM the latest news, reviews and exhibition listings 04 bias /contributors A letter from our editor-in-chief and comments from contributors 07 news essential textile news, Ally Capellino, Bovey Tracey, Rachel Hazell, Jewish Museum, Newark Park, Art in Action 14 diary festivals and shows not to be missed 80 subscription offers Catherine Tough lavender hearts and the chance to win new titles from Abrams Books and tickets to the Petworth House Textile Fair 83 affiliates Find out about our affiliate scheme and new shops offering discounts 84 international listings Exhibitions, fairs, events all over the world 87 read The khadi covered Love Travel Guides
88 view Nancy Crow Not So Fast! Very Sanderson 91 preview Grace Kelly 93 resources Websites and reading lists for those who want to know more about the Romance issue 95 coming next The Independence Issue: American Dreams
SELVEDGE ('selnid 3 ) n. 1. finished di fferently 2.?the?non-fraying edge of a length of woven fabric. [: from SELF + EDGE]