Paisley potato printing

After Alice and I made our bird and leaf lino cuts for the William Morris Society earlier this year, I figured my next printing project would have to be even more elaborate and ambitious, because, well, I’m competitive with myself. But a crafty night in with my flatmate, a roll of brown paper, a potato, craft knife and some gouache paint has reminded me how satisfying the simpler projects can be.

paisleypaper01paisleypaper02I cut out a very simple paisley design and printed the whole roll of paper with white footprints. I went to bed feeling just a little bit smudged. The next morning I added some colour, picking combinations from a very lovely library book on Central Asian Textiles (perhaps Indian or Scottish textiles would have been more appropriate, but this eye-popping blaze is just what I wanted and had to hand). paisleypaper03 paisleypaper04 paisleypaper05 paisleypaper06 paisleypaper07 paisleypaper08 paisleypaper10

I was inspired to use a paisley design by what I’ve recently learnt about the history of the Scottish textile industry, and its surprising international connections. Paisley is a town in West Scotland which became so well known in the nineteenth century for its reproductions of imported Indian shawls that the motif (also known as boteh) became synonymous with the town.

At Glasgow University some interesting research is uncovering various aspects of the Scottish Textile Industry. Below are links to current research projects:

ReCREATE – a network of specialists and academics researching Scotland’s textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. Talks at an event of its forerunner ReINVENT are available to view here.

Glasgow Dyes Project – Julie Wertz’s PhD project to research and recreate the brilliant ‘turkey red’ dye used by Scottish dyers. She’s also written a post about her research here on the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History blog.

Darning Scotland’s Textile Heritage – the University of Glasgow archive’s project to enhance their collection of records relating to the Scottish textile industry.

Glasgow Necropolis

A belated ‘Happy Halloween!’ and some more photos of the city I now call home.
Necropolis9
I’ve discovered that the best views of Glasgow are from a) the eleventh floor of the University library and b) the hilltop of the city’s Victorian Necropolis.

My boyfriend Sayed and I chanced upon the Necropolis a few weeks ago, after a visit to the nearby St Mungo Museum of Religious Art and Life. Sayed’s an artist and photographer, so apologies that none of these images are from his elevated perspective and swanky digital SLR, which I’ve often borrowed for blog posts in the past. I’m missing him (and the Nikon!) right now since he’s doing a two-month artist’s residency at the National College of Arts in Lahore (more info about his projects here).
Necropolis3Necropolis2 Necropolis5 Necropolis6The entire hill is covered in statues and elaborate tombs – 3500 of them, apparently. A path winds its way to the top, which is so prickled with obelisks it resembles a hedgehog’s back. As I photographed the tombs, I was struck by how the Victorian monuments merge and alternate on the horizon with the factory chimneys and high-rise flats of the city beyond.Necropolis4Necropolis8The Necropolis is beautiful and peaceful (especially on an unusually bright, sunny autumn day), and a surprisingly excellent picnic spot. However, it was marred by one thing. Disturbingly, a member/members of the National Front have used the tombs as a canvas for hateful words. I thought long and hard before including an image of it here on my blog; I’m reluctant to give xenophobia any attention that might lead these misguided idiots to think their actions have any credability, but I also want to expose its ugliness. If I can match each spiteful, ignorant word with a decent, informed one, then I think it’s worth mentioning. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen ‘NF’ and swastikas scrawled in a public place, here or anywhere in the UK. I hope it’s the last, but if current statistics on perceptions of immigration are anything to go by, this may be part of a worrying rise in racism.Necropolis1Necropolis7

The Burrell Collection

burrell10

border detail of embroidered panel depicting Judith and Holofernes, English, mid-seventeenth century, silk and metal on silk.

There are some places that draw me back again and again whether I intend to go or not. The Burrell Collection seems to be one. I visited for the first time during my first week living in Glasgow, then returned with friends for a tour of the embroidery collection, then once again a few days later, when I hopped on a bus intending to go north, and ending up going south instead. I realised in a panic, leapt off (kicking myself) then, seeing the leafy entrance to Pollok Park, consoled myself with a wander around the collection and a Tunnock’s teacake.

But then, there’s certainly the quantity and variety of artefacts to warrant more than one visit. When Sir William Burrell bequethed his huge collection of Chinese ceramics, ancient Egyptian art, Medieval embroideries and Rodin sculptures (amongst other things), he stipulated it should be housed in a building 16 miles from the city of Glasgow. He worried that city pollution would damage the objects, particularly the tapestries, so wanted them to be housed in a clean rural setting – showing great foresight in terms of conservation. Although not as far from the city as he wished, Pollok park provides ample green space for the collection building as well as Pollok House (now a National Trust property), herds of Highland cattle, dense woodland and blackberrying opportunities. Yum.

burrell01Unfortunately, nature is also creeping into the building in the form of clothes moths and rain water, so some furnishings have been taken off display for deep freezing to eliminate any unwanted hosts, and in a couple of rooms furniture is swathed in plastic whilst stray buckets collect drips.

burrell03

Peasants hunting rabbits with ferrets, French, 1450-75, wool and silk tapestry.

burrell04 Continue reading

Tramway

tramway3Yesterday I visited Tramway, an arts venue in the south of Glasgow. Formerly a tram depot, the space is big and bare enough to allow ample breathing space for contemporary art exhibitions, but still bears traces of its past life.

Before electric trams came in, they were pulled by horses which were stabled, oddly, in the floor above the tram shed. The slopes up which they trudged to their hay now lead to a workshop space. When the last trams were taken out of service in 1962, about 250,000 people turned up to watch the procession of vehicles make their last journey, some putting a penny on the track by way of a squished souvenir.

tramway2The old metal tracks run the length of the main exhibition room, currently inhabited by Cathy Wilkes‘ work – a frozen theatre-like assemblage of tatty, forlorn figures and bits of detritus. Her work sits well in the space, with an unnerving edge which adds to the slightly sinister impression I have of tram tracks (ever since a childhood visit to Barcelona, where I learnt that Gaudi died after being hit by a tram – a feeling recently confirmed by poor Berlioz’s death in The Master and Margherita).  tramwayI spent the remaining afternoon with Glasgow Knit ‘n Stitch group, who meet in the cafe every Wednesday and Sunday. We knitted and talked socks, Glasgow history, wool shops, politics and mitred squares. An afternoon well-spent!

Aside from contemporary art and knitting groups, Tramway hosts music, film and performance.

Tramway – 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow, G41 2PE

Glasgow!

Here are a few photos from my first two days living in Glasgow, which I’ve mainly used to find routes (with the exception of swimming) across the Clyde, visit the Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove, get a bit lost on the buses and scout out the best wool and fabric shops (Marjory’s and Mandors so far).

Glasgow01

Yesterday I visited the Burrell Collection, which is set in the middle of a very woody park south of the Clyde. On the way to the museum I attempted to befriend these beautiful young Highland cattle by complementing them on their bangs. I’m not sure whether they could see, or understand me.Glasgow02

Amongst an impressive array of Chinese pottery, ancient Egyptian carvings and Rodin sculptures, the Burrell collection includes walls and walls of tapestries. I’m going back tomorrow for more.Glasgow03Linen silk/ silver-embroidered waistcoat, made in Britain 1615-18. Amongst the symmetrically-curling foliage and flowers sit caterpillars and butterflies. Continue reading

Return to Kiev

For the past few days I’ve been working in Kiev. As instability and violence continues to grow in Donetsk, my employers and many of my friends have relocated – hence my change of location too. The circumstances are permeated with so much sadness and worry for those families fleeing and broken up by the violence in the East, and Ukrainians across the country anxiously forseeing an invasion by the Russian army.

kievjuly01

St Sophia belltower

The reasons for being in Kiev are far from ideal; however, it’s been wonderful to have an excuse to visit this beautiful city so soon again. I’ve visited a few new places, discovered some incredible Ukrainian folk music and seen ballet and opera for the first time (and done some teaching too!).

kievjuly03

Street art. Chicken Kiev..?

kievjuly02

A protest outside the German embassy

kievjuly15

The son of Yaroslav, a struggling artist who sells his work on Andrii’vsky Descent, shows off his dad’s paintings

kievjuly08

A gala concert performance of opera and ballet at the National Theatre

kievjuly14

An exhibit in Ivan Gonchar museum, woven from corn. I am keen but yet to find out its name!

kievjuly09A chance encounter at the Golden Gate led to a pretty magical evening sitting on the grass, drinking kvaas and listening to singing and kobza-playing by Taras Kompanichenko and fellow folk musicians. More to follow on their music! In the meantime, here’s one of their songs – ‘De Libertate’ (On Liberty). Thanks to John Doe for the comment and additional info.

7 Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace is a pretty, quiet street of handsome Georgian properties. It’s so pretty and so quiet, you’d imagine that behind each and every glossy front door there was an oligarch not living there. Not so for number seven – or at least the last occupier was no oligarch, and won’t be returning, even for the occasional weekend.

IMG_1089With this in mind, it’s odd how, when stepping inside the house, it seems particularly lived in, to the point of feeling as though you’re intruding into someone’s private home. The decor is harmonious but not obsessively matchy-matchy, it’s clean and tidy but trinkets and everyday objects lie on tables and mantlepieces, and on the walls, photos and pictures seem like old neighbours, leaning against their frames as they exchange gossip.

As you might have guessed, Seven Hammersmith Terrace is a museum, albeit an unusual, little-known one. Formerly owned by Emery Walker (1851 – 1933), printmaker and friend of William Morris (1834 – 1896), its Arts & Crafts decor and contents were passed down to and preserved first by Walker’s daughter, Dorothy (1878 – 1933), then her friend Elizabeth de Haas (? – 1999), and finally the Emery Walker Trust, set up in 1999.

IMG_1092In this museum, there are no teasels on chairs, and the only labels were written by the owners themselves, shrewdly aware of the future importance of the objects.

Many are of little value and seem insignificant until combined with other objects or documents – such as the mended jug bought by Walker on holiday in Rome, and the photo capturing him in the act.

Some introduced me to a side of the Arts & Crafts movement I’d never known before – for example, the patterned lino flooring in the front hallway printed by Morris & Co. Initially called ‘Kampticon’, lino was first manufactured in 1864 (not the 1940s as I’d assumed), eleven years before Morris designed his flooring. Despite his tendency towards the archaic and traditional, it shows that Morris was clearly interested in new materials too.

IMG_1098Others are even more precious and unique, such as the sturdy seventeenth century chair used by William Morris in his study down the road at Kelmscott House and passed on to Walker when he died, and the wool and camel hair bedspread embroidered by May Morris (1862 – 1938, William’s daughter) for Emery’s frail wife Mary Grace. On Mary Grace’s death in 1920, it was used as a shroud to cover her coffin, then in 1933 it was used to cover Emery’s. Thirty years after that, it was used for Dorothy’s, then 36 years on for Elizabeth de Haas in 1999.

7ham

In the life of this one object, much of the history of the house and its owners is encompassed. If it hadn’t been saved from the flames of the crematorium in time, an important Arts & Crafts object and piece of history would be lost forever. If separated from the house and the rest of its contents, the full value and meaning of both would be lost. The same goes for the entire house and its contents, described by John Betjeman as “a kingdom that can never be created again”. I highly recommend visiting at least once.

7 Hammersmith Terrace is viewable by appointment only, Saturdays (and some Sundays) from April to October. Bookings can be made via their website, £10 full price and some concessions available.

For a better look at Morris’s lino, there’s a piece on the V&A’s collections website here.

Photos with kind permission from the Emery Walker Trust.

Kiev: St Sophia Cathedral

Built in the eleventh century, St Sophia cathedral is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Kiev – hence its rightful place on the World Heritage site list. The ancient building isn’t immediately obvious, having been cloaked in a cheerfully garish white, green, and gold Baroque facade in the eighteenth century. Inside, however, many of the original mosaics and frescoes survive, whilst floor tiles, graffiti and the ingenious structure of the building continue to be uncovered by conservators and archaeologists.

StSophia01

The external walls of the cathedral, where areas of 18th century paint have been stripped back to reveal the original 11th century pinkish stone and brick structure

Draconian ladies in hooded green ponchos checked my ticket in every room, kept a watchful eye and prevented me from taking any but the sneakiest of photos, so most of these images are from other (linked) websites and the guide book I bought on the way out.

The cathedral’s history is intertwined with that of the Grand Princes of Kiev, Varangian Vikings who established their powerbase in Kiev in the ninth century. It’s now thought that Volodymyr I founded the building in 1011, then it was completed by his son, Yaroslav.

Volodymyr had converted himself and Kievan Rus to Christianity after pulling off an unlikely marriage to Byzantine princess “born in the purple” Anna. As sister to the powerful Emperor Basil II, the match to a pagan ‘barbarian’ who already had a number of wives seemed a doubtful one, but, nevertheless, the marriage went ahead. Through this diplomatic wedding contract, Volodymyr gained a tie to the powerful Byzantine imperial family, whilst Basil II gained military support against rival Bulgaria and a long term Christian ally.

StSophia07

St Mark the Evangelist, writing

Anna herself is unlikely to have had much say in the matter, but she had a very important impact on her new home, judging by St Sophia and its art. The cathedral is named after Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The choice of and subject matter of the mosaic decoration shows this Byzantine influence, and may have been undertaken by artists sent from Constantinople.

Anna is depicted at least twice in the cathedral’s decoration: with her family in a procession portrait in the central apse, and in a fresco celebrating her entrance into Kiev.

StSophia08StSophia09

The high number of female saints depicted and choice of iconography may also signify Anna’s importance to the cathedral. The fresco below shows Mary receiving the precious purple and cochineal materials needed for her to make a veil for the temple of Jerusalem. This unusual choice of subject matter seems to identify Princess Anna with Mary, through the symbolic and status-bound colour purple. Anna’s title Porphyrogenitus – “born in the purple”, signifies her status as a member of the Imperial Byzantine family, born in the purple clad chamber of the Imperial palace.

StSophia10

Mary Receiving the Purple and Cochineal. 11th-century fresco, Joachim and Anna’s Chapel

StSophia12

Unknown saint

In the towers and upper gallery, reserved for the Prince and his family, there are many secular frescoes. Imagery includes the Hippodrome, dancers, musicians, acrobats, fighters, creatures and strange beasts. Some of the decorations, like the medallion below featuring a griffin, are reminiscent of the rich silk textiles woven in the Byzantine empire.

StSophia03

fresco in the north tower, griffin

StSophia02

fresco in the north tower, pair fighting

More details about the mosaics can be found here: http://sofiyskiy-sobor.polnaya.info/en/mosaics_st_sophia_cathedral.shtml and the frescoes here: http://sofiyskiy-sobor.polnaya.info/en/frescos_st_sophia_cathedral.shtml

StSophia04
As I left the cathedral building, a white-haired man playing a multi-stringed instrument began singing. Here’s the resulting video I made of Stepan and his bandura (a Ukrainian folk instrument similar to the lute).

Cockpit Arts – Holborn

Cockpit04

Abigail Brown’s papier mâché parrot

The array of handmade delights on offer at Cockpit Arts Open Studios left me too befuddled and incoherent with awe to mumble anything more profound than the odd “mmm, lovely” or “that’s really nice”. I occasionally remembered to take pictures inbetween drooling over crafts (actually, I did see someone literally drool on Katharine Morling’s work), so here are a few of my many, many favourites.

Click on the images for a direct link to the artist’s page.

Cockpit10

Fanny Shorter’s nature/ anatomical-inspired textile prints

Cockpit01

BeatWoven. These woven patterns are based on pieces of music (see the sound waves?).

Cockpit17

Mariko Sumioka Jewellery

Cockpit16

Katharine Morling

Cockpit18

Clara Breen’s necklaces made from shredded maps

Cockpit02

Action Space art, made by artists with learning disabilities

Cockpit06

Nette’ leather goods

Cockpit07

Mica Hirosawa

Cockpit09

Cockpit08

Carréducker llp handmade bespoke leather shoes.

Cockpit12

Sophie Manners, who kindly gave us a little weaving lesson on her Harris loom.

Cockpit13

Sophie Manner

Cockpit14

Laura Long’s textile interpretations of children’s drawings

Cockpit15

Kerry Hastings

Cockpit03

Abigail Brown

Cockpit05

Abigail Brown

Cockpit Arts Open Studios

I’m really looking forward to Cockpit Arts Open Studios this weekend. Their 2012 (somehow I missed last year) evening in Deptford was AMAZING – we got to amble into studios and work spaces, ogle at looms and printing presses and paints, then ask the makers nosy questions. There was also some tasty food to be had, oh, and lots of beautiful handcrafted things to buy. As you might expect from a place full of talented and creative individuals who share a love for the beautiful and useful, the atmosphere of the studios is pretty wonderful too.

The Holborn studios are open this weekend, then Deptford next weekend. See you at both!