Kiev: Maidan

Walking through the centre of the city on the second day of my trip, I unwittingly wandered down Khreschatyk Street and into Maidan, where riots earlier this year led to the overthrowing of the government.

Maidan01Maidan02Although the streets have been peaceful for a while now, the effects of the protests and violence remain tangible. Blockades constructed from piles of tyres block off traffic at both ends of the street and square, and walls and stacks have been built from bricks taken up from the pavement. The pavement may be gone, but now pedestrians wander freely down the wide, previously traffic-filled street. A few years ago I took part in a large protest in London against the rise in tuition fees, and remember most of all how strange it felt to walk down the middle of the Strand, normally blaring with cars and buses. I imagine Kievans experience the same sensation now in Maidan.

Maidan03Maidan04Maidan05Now the area has become a strange sort of tourist attraction, with visitors having their photos taken in front of tanks and burnt-out cars. There’s even the odd ice cream seller. Shrines consisting of multicoloured clusters of candles in glass jars, keepsakes and photos remember those who died.

Maidan06As I approached the main square I was puzzled by the smell of burning, but then, seeing tents, realised that many protesters are still occupying the area. The bonfire smell came from the cooking of meals rather than tyres (I’d heard rumours that pigs and chickens were also being kept in the square but saw none during my visit).

Maidan07Maidan08Maidan11Maidan09After sheltering from the rain under the tall Independence monument, I wandered out of the square again, stopping to ask a man for directions. Since my Russian (let alone Ukrainian) and his English didn’t quite meet in the middle, he called a friend out from the tent to translate.

Before I knew it I was inside, drinking tea and eating homemade cake with Ted, Alicia and Anastasia, sitting amongst pillows and sleeping bags in a large, dimly lit tent. My hosts were from different parts of the country, and different walks of life, but had been brought together by a common cause. We didn’t talk politics too much (I think their occupation speaks for itself) but I was sad to learn that political unity had loosened familial ties; one woman had become estranged from her family in Donetsk because of their difference in opinion. I placidly accepted gifts of a book, an “I love Tymoshenko” pen and a rosary (we didn’t talk religion either) and made my goodbyes.Maidan10

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Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.

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Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.

Rushnyk

The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.

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Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region

Costumes

The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)

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NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region

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Svyta (overcoat), 1917.

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Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region

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Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region

Rugs

There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.
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NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.

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19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!

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Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.

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Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.

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In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.

Painting

During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.

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“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.

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Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.

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M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.

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N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper

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Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.

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‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.

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Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv

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Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.

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O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.

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O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.

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Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries

Kiev: Ivan Gonchar Museum

Here’s the second of many posts to come, on places I visited, and hope others will too, in Kiev.

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I first found out about the Ivan Gonchar Museum (aka Ukrainian Centre of Folk Culture) on the Folk Costume of Polissya website, which features traditional ensembles from various parts of Ukraine, nearly all of which are from the museum. So, naturally, it was top of my sightseeing list.

IvanGonchar01The museum is situated in the eastern part of the city, next door to the famous Pecharsk Lavra monastery site and close to the banks of the Dnieper river. Although small, it houses a varied collection of Ukrainian handicrafts, including pottery, clothing, woven fabrics, paintings, photographs and painted eggs, all informatively labelled in Ukrainian and, helpfully, English. The focus of the collection is to represent items from across the regions Ukraine, rather than give a historical survey. The majority of objects are no older than the nineteenth century, but show the range of styles, colours and patterns traditionally favoured by different regions.

Textiles

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Detail of embroidered sleeves of women’s full-length shirts (sorochka dodil-na), from various provinces. Early 20th century, homespun embroidery thread on homespun hemp or linen cloth.

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Hand-woven wrap skirts (plakhta, “zirchatka”), from various provinces. Early 20th century, wool, wool and cotton, wool and linen

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Women’s woven sashes (kraika), Poltava province. First half of 20th century, wool.

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Man’s Costume, Western Podillia. Late 19th – early 20th century

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Woman’s costume, Ivano-Frankivs’k Province. Late 19th – early 20th century.

IvanGonchar19I was, of course, particularly drawn to the costume display, with its exquisitely embroidered linen or hemp full length shirts, worn under multi-coloured hand-woven woolen wrap-skirts tied with sashes. The amount of time that must have been spent making these outfits and all their constituent parts is staggering, and demonstrates the importance and pride placed in their making and wearing.

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Woven rug, on which I failed to write down notes – if you visit the museum please let me know and I’ll update the info

The museum also has a display of ‘rushnyk‘ – long strips of cloth traditionally embroidered or woven with symbolic patterns and/or imagery. They still play a part in modern Ukrainian wedding ceremonies, being used to literally tie the bride and groom together at the wrists.

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Embroidered ritual cloths (rushnyk), 18th – 20th century. Homespun linen or hemp cloth embroidered with wool or cotton thread.

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Woven cloth, late 19th to early 20th century. Linen, hemp, cotton and/or wool.

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Woven Krolevets’ ritual cloth (rushnyk “krolevets’kyi”), early 20th century. Cotton.

IvanGonchar17I loved seeing some of the tools of textile-making on display too – these giant wooden prongs are the combs used by weavers to separate threads.

Admittedly, my interest waned after passing the textiles section, so  apologies for the under-representation of the beautiful ceramics and paintings also on display..

Ceramics

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Teapot (chainik), 1930s. Cherihiv Province, Korop District, Village of Verba.

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Oven tile (kahlia pichna), mid 19th century. Ivano-Frankivs’k Province, City of Kosiv.

Paintings

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Folk Painting ‘Stepan and Yaryna’, by Yakylyna Yarmolenko(?). Mid-2oth century, Kyiv Province, Pereyaslav-Khmel’nyts’kyi District, Village of Stovp’iahy. Oil on panel.

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Folk Painting ‘Oh there is a fire burning on the hill’, P. Shtorma, 1952. Kyiv Province, Obukhiv District, village of Husachivka. Oil on panel

 

The Ivan Gonchar Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 – 17:30.

Address: 19 Lavrska Street, Kyiv.

Nearest Metro station: Arsenalna

Kiev: Day 1 – tour

My arrival in Kiev was greeted with torrential rain, claps of thunder, and lightning so bright the pictures look as though they were taken in broad daylight.

lightning in Kiev on Make A GifSo I was rather surprised to have come back from my first day of sightseeing with dry clothes and sunburn.

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Statue of Yaroslave the Wise, 10th century Grand Prince of Kiev, holding the cathedral of St Sophia

My guided tour began with the city’s ‘Golden Gate’, a reconstruction of the main entrance to the old city, under which a bit of 10th century wall is still preserved. The eighteenth-century zeal to recoat and paint ancient monuments also struck the city’s oldest church, St Sophia. Originally built by Yaroslav in the 11th century, its bright white, green and gold facade is hard to connect to the originally round-domed church within (as seen in the model held by Yaroslav in this statue) and its old frescoes and mosaics.

Outside St Sophia, and in several other parts of the city, clusters of candles commemorate those killed during the tragic events earlier this year.

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the bell tower and entrance of St Sophia

IMG_1575The tour was sprinkled liberally with stops at statues – to make a wish on the lucky ear of the cat, the lucky ring and shoe of the lover, the lucky hand print on Yaroslav.. This, and my guide Hannah’s enthusiastic report on the importance of the number 13 and black cats, made me wonder if she, Kiev, or both, were just a little superstitious. However, my skepticism didn’t stop me wishing on the ear of the cat for peace in Donetsk.IMG_1560IMG_1598IMG_1592

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A recently-painted mural on Andreevsky Descent

On Andreevsky Descent, we wandered past stalls selling antiques, embroidered Ukrainian shirts and tablecloths, and pottery bowls and ornaments, to number 13 – home to the Mikhail Bulgakov Museum. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pose for a picture with the bronze Bulgakov next to the museum, holding my (borrowed) half-finished copy of The Master and Margarita. The stranger who took my picture recommended reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand* next.

IMG_1911We then went on to Vichnoi Slavy Park, a popular spot next to the Dnipro river for couples to have their wedding photos taken, and tie a ribbon to the ‘love tree’. IMG_1624When the tour finished, I asked the guide to drop me off at the Ivan Gonchar museum and National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art, which really need a piece of their own to properly do them justice.

*20/05/2014 My dad has warned me that Atlas Shrugged is “the most extreme neo-lib novel imaginable”, and it’s been described by critics as an “homage to greed”, and “shot through with hatred”. Perhaps I’ll try Gogol’s The Overcoat instead.

More lino cuts at the William Morris Society

On Wednesday I got round to the exciting activity of testing out the lino cuts Alice and I made last week for the William Morris Society. I keenly/ naively decided to test them out on my nice Belarusian linen, with which I’ve been learning quite a few things about fabric printing lately, and the extra challenges it throws in.

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Ink

I used pots of Dylon fabric here, because I happened to have some different colours at home. Permaset printing ink gives a clearer, easier print, I think because the consistency is thicker, but since I only have black – not very common in Morris’s designs – I opted for the Dylon today.

 

Roller

It took me a long time to realise that a hard roller is the wrong tool for the job when it comes to printing on fabric. A foam roller is best  – art shops supply dinky versions of the DIY ones.

 

Technique

Put a blob of ink on a flat tray, then lightly spread it out using the roller, lifting the roller up a few times to make sure it has a layer of ink all over. Then, and this is crucial, roll it very lightly over the surface of the print, trying to cover the surface evenly and avoiding the background. If you press the roller into the print, as you would with a hard roller, then the ink will just get pushed into the lines and negative space of the design, accumulating and causing a ‘bleeding’ effect. And swearing. Press the lino quite hard onto the fabric for about 30 seconds or so.

 

Re cutting

As you can see from the test strip, a lot of ink was picked up by incidental cutting lines in the background. I really liked the ‘radiating’ effect this gave, but, for our purposes, they had to go. So, I used the initial test print as a guide to tidying up the lino cuts.

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Admittedly, Morris probably would have thought these initial attempts pretty shoddy – the prints are inconsistent and have a few background marks. But then, I quite like the telltale signs that tell you something’s handmade.

IMG_1320By the way, I’ve written this post from Kiev, where I’m on a three-day holiday before I’m off to Donetsk. Pictures to follow!

Herculaneum pillars

In an effort not to come across as bragging, I’ve failed to even mention an amazing family holiday in Naples last month. Better late than never.

It was wonderful to spend a week exploring a beautiful but gritty city (but not in the way London is, with more history and noise and round-the-clock street life), enjoying an espresso and fogliatella pastry for breakfast and pizza for lunch and dinner, and taking the train further out to the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It was an odd sensation to wonder around the streets of these two frozen Roman cities, stepping from ancient cobble to ancient cobble, passing food stalls with their terracotta pots set into marble counters and occasionally wandering through a doorway into a villa or public baths. It felt like the locals had all just gone on holiday somewhere.

Here’s a picture of a courtyard in one of the grand villas of Herculaneum, the pillars of which struck me as good for a striped knitting pattern. I still find graph paper and felt pens the easiest and most satisfying way of designing patterns.pillar2

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vesuOn the train back from Pompeii, Sayed and I listened to PJ Harvey’s ‘This is Love’ on headphones, restraining ourselves from leaping around the carriage and nearly imploding in the process as we passed Vesuvius, which I was convinced was about to erupt. If any song could make a volcano erupt, it would be this one.

Lino cuts at the William Morris Society

As you can probably tell, lino printing has become a bit of an obsession lately. I’ve been making lino cuts both at home and at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith with my friend Alice, assistant curator there.

We’re making linos based on motifs in Morris designs from the Society’s collection, to use in printing workshops for school groups. Our linos are mainly based on two of Morris’s lesser-known designs, Bird from 1878, and Grafton from 1883.

IMG_1115I had the privilege of taking a good look (and some bad photos) of the two original designs, both housed in the Society’s collection. Bird and Grafton were both made well into Morris’s career as a wallpaper and textile designer. You can see this in his precise and confident drawing of Bird, which contrasts with the rubbings out and alterations apparent in his first wallpaper design, Trellis, of 1864, for which he employed the help of his friend Philip Webb. Bird is a symmetrical design, so Morris only needed to colour in half of it, giving us an insight into his working process and drawing style.

Detail from original design drawing ‘Bird’ by William Morris

Detail from original design drawing ‘Bird’ by William Morris

Grafton is an unusual Morris design, being the only one resembling a stencil design. Most of Morris’ designs are much more complex, employing interwoven elements and many more colours. His most complex wallpaper and textile designs could need over twenty woodblocks (one for each colour) to print.

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IMG_1082 Detail from original design drawing ‘Grafton’ by William Morris

Perhaps I’ll try a more ambitious two-colour (not twenty-colour) design next, but for now, we’re quite happy with the results of our first… IMG_1117…and second lino cutting sessions. IMG_1269

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Cartoon by Edward Burne-Jones, showing Morris carving a woodblock

Photos of Grafton and Bird by kind permission of the William Morris Society.

 

Lino printing adventures

Having bought some lovely white Belarusian linen in Ukraine, I’ve decided to try printing on it, this time using lino instead of potato. Here are my first, pleasing, if not entirely successful attempts. I’m using Dylon fabric paint and lino from an arts supply shop, but have a feeling one or both of them is causing the prints to come out too weak. The lino seems a little bit hard and brittle, and the paint doesn’t seem as sticky as it should be for printing.

In a recent post, I started to put my thoughts about the garment industry and its problems into words. It’s made me want to look more closely at clothing and fabric, so my first lino cut was inspired by this – literally looking closely at, or ‘zooming in’ on the fabric on which it’s printed.

My second print was borrowed from a blackwork embroidery design in Rosemary Drysdale’s The Art of Blackwork Embroidery. Blackwork is a type of embroidery used in England from the time of Henry VIII, often seen poking from collars and cuffs in Tudor portraits, as in this painting by Holbein, and sometimes for more largescale decoration, such as in this portrait of Elizabeth I. After I made the prints I came across other blackwork embroidery designs resembling fabric weave, so I’ll take the happy coincidence of the two designs being related as an encouraging sign!

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Artist Textiles at the Fashion and Textile Museum

The Fashion and Textile Museum’s current exhibition looks at “20th century art in textiles and fashion from Cubism and Surrealism to Pop Art”, as the tagline puts it. The many pieces on show are predominantly printed textiles designed by figures better known for their paintings, drawings or sculptures.

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Salvador Dali, Dress in ‘Flower Ballet’, Screen-printed rayon ‘pebble crepe’ fashion textile. Wesley Simpson Custom Fabrics Inc., New York, c. 1947

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‘Hostess Cocktail Culottes’ made from Picasso’s textile ‘Musical Faun’. Screen-printed cotton corduroy velvet. White Stage Clothing Co., Portland, Oregon, 1963

I particularly loved Dali’s ‘Flower Ballet’ design, which shows a Daphne-esque half-ballerina, half-bouquet pirouetting on a stage, and Picasso’s ‘Musical Faun’ daringly printed onto velvet corduroy and made up into rather enviable ‘Hostess Cocktail Culottes’. A few designs diverge from the artist’s usual style, but most, such as John Piper’s ‘Chiesa de la Salute’ could be a repeat copy of a canvas painting.

John Piper, 'Chiesa de la Salute', screen-printed 'Sanderlin' satinised cotton furnishing textile. Sanderson & Son Ltd, London, issued 1960

John Piper, ‘Chiesa de la Salute’, screen-printed ‘Sanderlin’ satinised cotton furnishing textile. Sanderson & Son Ltd, London, issued 1960

This seeming lack of imagination or adaptation is unsurprising, since making a dress or some curtains out of a print by Picasso (which actually looked like it was made by Picasso) was a cheaper, more widely accessible alternative to actually owning a unique Picasso artwork. Artist-textile company collaborations allowed the masses to buy a piece of modern art for a pound a metre.

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Pablo Picasso, screen-printed cotton. Scarf designed for the Berlin Peace Festival, 1951

Why does a textile print not count as ‘A Picasso’ or ‘A Dali’? Yes, the initial drawing is the only bit actually in contact with the artist’s hand, after which printers take over, but this is also true of etchings sold for millions. The distinction seems to lie in the near limitless production of a textile compared to one-off paintings or artists prints, which are restricted to an edition of, say, ten, to ensure the high price that comes with exclusivity. It’s also down to the puzzlingly prolonged distinction between ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ art forms, with textiles and their usually anonymous makers consigned, for now, to the latter.

Mass production and repetition are themes that played a key role in Andy Warhol’s work. His very sweet ‘Happy Bug Day’ design interestingly predates his first silk-screen artwork by several years.

Andy Warhol, 'Happy Bug Day', screen-printed cotton fashion textile, mid-1950s.

Andy Warhol, ‘Happy Bug Day’, screen-printed cotton fashion textile, mid-1950s.

With this exhibition, the big (male) names and movements of the Western art world inevitably take over. The curators have used them to both structure the exhibition, with section titles such as “The 1960s: Pioneers of Pop”, and no doubt to attract an audience outside of the FTM’s usual fanbase. However, they have also paid tribute to lesser-known groups such as the Edinburgh weavers and Hammer Prints Ltd, whose intention to “anonymously encompass all aspects of interior design” reminds me of the ‘no-brand’ ethos of Japanese company Muji.

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Edinburgh Weavers designs

Although too many exhibitions now seem to be put together like books or essays, with visitors plodding through a beginning, middle and end in that order and only that order, I think it’s important for curators to wrap up with a summary or ‘take home message’. This show fizzles out rather disappointingly, leaving us wondering where the final section is. What happened to artist textiles after the 1960s? What about the rest of the world, outside of Britain and America? What are today’s equivalent artist-fashion company collaborations? Although the show succeeds as a comprehensive look at artist textiles specifically in Britain and the States from the 30s to 60s, it lacks the context and points of comparison that would allow us to see these designs in the bigger picture. It also misses out on a good opportunity to discuss issues in the textile and fashion industry; for example, the decline of textiles sold for home sewing as cheap, off-the-peg clothing took over.

Zandra Rhodes, 'Lipstick', screen-printed crepe fashion textile, c. 1967-8

Zandra Rhodes, ‘Lipstick’, screen-printed crepe fashion textile, c. 1967-8

‘Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol’ is on at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 18th May