The last time I ventured out to the metropolis was 28th February to the V&A exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. Then, on 27th August, Janette and I both hit the city with another trip to this exhibition
In February the final photo I took is the one shown above of an ensemble, Wa-Lolita, created in 2019 by students at Bunken Gakeun University, Tokyo. This outfit was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and six months ago I was trying to design a panel on this theme and thought the image would be appropriate for my sketch book.
On this recent visit the first image which caught my eye was a brush and ink drawing used as the design on a Kimono displayed alongside.
The worked Kimono
I thought this Kimono (below) particularly splendid. It was worn by a courtesan (dated 1860-80), made on satin silk, with appliqué and embroidery in silk and gold wrapped silk threads.
In this period high ranking courtesans, called oiran, were major celebrities. They would parade through the pleasure quarter on 15cm high wooden geta (shoes) allowing all to see their elaborate Kimono. The designs would usually relate to a Kabuki play revealing a connection between the theatre and the brothel.
The embroidery here tells an elaborate tale.
A man is shown stretched out on the top of a bridge over the river,
whilst beneath a conflict between another male and a fire breathing dragon is taking place.
Both men are brandishing flowers, possibly chrysanthemums.
Only if you know the narrative of the play can you really decipher what is being depicted. However it is a splendid work of art.
Lockdown has been a strange, sometimes worrying experience – and everyone has experienced it differently, EAST members included. But if there were benefits to being stuck indoors (and I realise it did not benefit everyone), being able to be creative was one. Whether it was having the skills to make masks and scrubs, being able to lose ourselves in work for our next exhibition (more of that later), or stitching for mindfulness – it certainly highlighted how important it is to be able to make and create. I was particularly pleased to see a number of posts on social media from individuals discovering or rediscovering the pleasure of stitch.
Now some restrictions are easing and having a day out is a possibility for many. Virtual exhibitions have meant ‘visiting’ places and attending talks and workshops from the comfort of our own homes but even when these are free, nothing beats experiencing things for real. Our museums, galleries and other arts venues need us more than ever if they are to survive so it was nice to get out and about again. For me, meeting a friend, chatting over a coffee and visiting my first ‘actual’ exhibition since March this year was a big deal. Something easily taken for granted. That said, I hope the virtual tours and online talks will continue because physical, financial and other factors prevent many from ever leaving their homes.
I was a bit nervous of my first trip to London – until I saw how empty it was. Initially I wasn’t sure how I’d feel wearing a face covering most of the day – both being compulsory on the train and in the gallery – but it is beginning to feel quite normal now. I really don’t like the idea of disposable masks and as someone who can stitch I had no excuse but to make my own. I have been trying out a few different styles to see which one worked best for me – it is amazing how many styles there now are. YouTube is full of new patterns – each one the ‘quickest’, the ‘easiest’, the ‘safest’. Then there are posts showing different types of ear loops, how to avoid ear loops, which type of fabric is best and this week I saw someone showing how they could be decorated. No doubt we will have Christmas fabric and party masks to make in due course.
I was recommended this design (see above) by fellow EAST member Carol. The fold over above the nose means it fits snug to the face but there is also space to breath. I had no problem with my glasses steaming up and there is no need for wire. There is a gap for a filter. The instructions I used came from Sophie Passmore on YouTube. Or if you don’t sew yourself why not buy one from someone who can and support a charity at the same time. Carol’s daughter sells a range of masks – Beverley@4miles.co.uk. For every mask sold £2 will go to the National Deaf Children’s Society. Obviously there are plenty of other sellers too.
And before I end this post just one more thing – EAST are now preparing for their next exhibition Transformation. We are expecting to open at Braintree District Museum, Essex, UK in the Spring of 2021. Subscribe to this blog and you will be the first to hear when the details are finalised.