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.
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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

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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.

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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).

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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

Glasgow

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 08.52.01In September I’ll be moving up, up, up to Glasgow, to study textile conservation. It’s a two year MPhil course combining historical and scientific research with hands-on skills; it involves everything from learning how to display and store fragile textiles, to gaining an understanding of the ethics and compromises involved in conservation projects. This broad and challenging mixture is exactly what I want out of a career, and after visiting the studios on an open day, I finally took the plunge and applied last year. Having bitten my nails through the last few months, I’m still slightly delirious after recently being offered a place on the course. Some big changes are afoot!

I’ll be sad to move out of London, and away from family and friends, but can’t wait to make a start towards a career as a textile conservator and get to know a new city. I’ve only visited Glasgow for five days altogether, so there are many things I’m yet to explore. Lately I’ve been simultaneously reflecting on the places I know and love in London, and the places I’m yet to discover and fall for in Glasgow, so here are ten of each.

(in no particular order)

Ten places I’ll miss being able to stroll down the road/ hop on the Underground to visit:

1. William Morris Society and Emery Walker Trust, Hammersmith. I’m trying to make the most of the time left helping at these two gems, making lino cuts for workshops (in previous blog posts here and here) and learning how to use Morris’s original press.

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2. Leighton House. The recently re-opened house of the Victorian artist Frederick Leighton – worth visiting just for the ‘Arab Hall’ decorated in tiles from Syria, Turkey and Pakistan.

3. Golders Hill Park, Hill Garden and Pergola

4. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant, Kentish Town. Wonderful curries and fresh roasted (in front of you) coffee.

5. Victoria and Albert Museum. My favourite museum to wander/ wonder around.

6. Walthamstow marshes and the Lea Valley

7. Yildirim Bakery. This little place on St James Street, Walthamstow, does excellent freshly-made Turkish breads filled with cheese, lamb, spinach or potato.

8. International Supermarket, Walthamstow High Street. I sincerely wish I could take this well-stocked, well-priced little Turkish supermarket with all its fresh tomatoes, coriander, mint, fennel, pointed peppers, birds eye chillis, scotch bonnet chillis, lemons, water melons, sweet mangoes, quinces, plums, pomegranates, olives, cous cous, pistachios, flat breads, orange blossom water and rose petal jam with me to Glasgow. I realise now how spoilt I’ve been to have it on the doorstep.

9. Camden Arts Centre. Good for an interesting variety of contemporary art and working or lazing in their peaceful garden. Just round the corner from the Freud Museum too.

10. I can’t decide. The William Morris Gallery, The Windmill Portugese Restaurant in Walthamstow, British Museum, Somerset House, National Portrait Gallery, Alison Jacques Gallery, both the Tates, the Hayward..

Ten places in Glasgow I’m looking forward to visiting for the first time:

1. House for an Art Lover. This house was designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, who also designed the beautiful Glasgow School of Art which sadly suffered fire damage in May.

2. The Mackintosh House. A reconstruction of Charles Rennie and Margaret Mackintosh’s house.

3. The Modern Institute. A contemporary art gallery mentioned in a recent article on Glasgow’s generally fantastic art scene.

4. Centre for Contemporary Arts. The programme includes exhibitions, film, music, literature, spoken word and festivals.

5. The Burrell Collection. I’m particularly interested in (surprise surprise!) the textiles in this enormous and varied collection gathered by the shipping magnate Sir William Burrell.

6. Botanic Gardens

7. Bibi’s Mexican restaurant. I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant, so I’m looking forward to trying a new cuisine at a highly-recommended eatery.

8. Tenement House Museum

9. The Yarn Cake and all the other Glasgow wool shops I will soon be happily foraging in.

10. Orkney and Shetland. Not in Glasgow, I know, but after moving 400 miles, another 200/400 to visit these beautiful islands shouldn’t be too difficult.

The Textile Conservation course at Glasgow has its own blog here – textileconservation.academicblogs.co.uk and Hannah Sutherland, who will also be joining the course in September, has an excellent blog that can be found here – hannahsuthers.com.