East Anglian Stitch Textiles
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All posts by Janette Bright

Courtauld weaving

Woven into the Courtauld exhibition

In May 2019, EAST members held a drop-in weaving workshop at Braintree District Museum as part of the Warner Textile Fair. We set up three sets of warps and asked visitors to weave fabric and threads using the colours green, white and purple. These were the colours associated with the Suffragettes and the weavings were a commemoration of three Courtauld women who strongly believed in women’s rights over 100 years ago.

Now the story of these women are part of a much wider exhibition about the family open at Braintree District Museum (until 30 May 2020). The main narrative is the story of a family who escaped persecution as European refugees, came to Britain and eventually developed a major textile industry. The Courtauld’s brought prosperity through employment to Essex and Suffolk, including Braintree, in the nineteenth century. The family were also major art collectors, forming the foundation of the now famous Courtauld Gallery in London and supporters of this exhibition in Braintree.

This is just an introduction to the three women commemorated by the EAST led weaving – to find out more you need to visit the Museum.

Katherine Mina Courtauld (1858-1935) – oil on canvas

Katherine Mina Courtauld (1858-1935), was the eldest daughter of George Coutauld III. She was a farmer, parish councillor and Secretary of the North West Essex branch of the National Union of women’s Suffrage Societies. On the 1911 census she wrote (in red, to ensure her feelings were known) how she strongly resented being denied the privilege of parliamentary franchise despite being a householder and ratepayer. Katherine was also instrumental in the establishment of the Women’s Land Army during WWI.

Catherine Courtauld (1878-1972) was another campaigner for women’s right to vote. She designed posters which were used by the Suffrage Atelier – a collective that created propaganda for the Votes for Woman campaign. Incidentally, she and her husband were also later responsible for the saving and restoring of the Cutty Sark for the nation.

The last of these three remarkable women was Dr Elizabeth Courtauld (1867-1947) who qualified as a doctor as early as 1901. As principal anaesthetist she worked at the largest British voluntary hospital on the Western Front during WWI – the only one run by women (Royaumont Hospital). She spent most of her working life at a hospital in Bagalore, India.

The EAST hanging from the 2019 Warner Textile Fair – produced by visitors to our drop in workshop and now on display at Braintree District Museum
(apologies for the quality of the photo)

Although the EAST hanging is just a very tiny part of this major exhibition it is nice to think that we honoured women who went against the grain, who stood up for their beliefs and enabled us, in this modern age, to follow our own dreams. However there are many more women’s stories – and plenty of stories of Courtauld men too – in the main display.

I would highly recommend Courtaulds: Origins, Innovations, Family (1816-1982) for a fascinating look at one family’s impact on a country and a county or for anyone with an interest in social history or the history of textile innovation. The display looks at the Courtaulds as inventors, explorers and people with creative vision. There is also a rare chance to see some original Gaugin etchings – which have been lent by The Courtauld Gallery. Gaugin is known for his colourful work so it is interesting to see close up, his work in a very different medium.

Entrance to the exhibition and the rest of the Museum is only £4 for adults (with concessions for seniors and children – under 5s free) – open Tuesday to Saturdays but check their website for more details – www.braintreemuseum.co.uk and look out for their walks, talks and other events on social media.

Janette

Inspired by colour

Although not a textile exhibition – certainly one to inspire. Previous EAST member Di Christopher did some beautiful work based on Chihuly some years ago. These are some images of Chihuly’s work from his current exhibition at Kew Gardens.

Chihuly: Reflections on Nature – continues until 27 October 2019.

detail of Le Bal des Artistes

Delightful Dior

detail of Le Bal des Artistes
Detail of dress by John Galiano (b.1960)

I may have left visiting ‘Christian Dior: Designers of Dreams’ at the V&A Museum to the last few weeks, but for me the timing was absolutely perfect. With no E.A.S.T deadlines, and approval from my supervisor that my university research was coming together well, planning a day off with a good friend (and fellow E.A.S.Tie, Susan) was just perfect. This was not an exhibition where I needed to make notes; initially I was not even going to get my camera out. Instead I decided I could just relax and admire the work on display. And event though we had it on good authority (from our group mentor, Anthea) that this was an exhibition well worth seeing, it definitely exceeded my expectations.

The display began with an introduction to Christian Dior himself, and the ‘New Look’ he first became famous for. Surrounding his classic version were ‘updates’ by the five other artistic directors that came after him – Yves Saint-Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferro, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri. All through the display there was a combination of work from these six designers – sharing similar themes but often in very different ways. Yet despite their differences, elements of the original Christian Dior ‘style’ could often still be seen.

Inspired by historical costume
One of my favourite pieces was the ’18th century’ style jacket (right)
– a piece by Raf Simons (b.1968)

One of the first sections we came to was a selection of work inspired by history (see above) – in particular several items inspired by eighteenth-century court dress. I have written a little more about the ‘history’ display of this exhibition in my own personal blog, ‘Artistic Threads‘.

The embroidery on this ‘Indian’ inspired gown was exquisite – but so difficult to photograph.


Though this ‘Egyptian’ theme gown was a little bizarre, I just loved the way the cloth was decorated. Though the original item is decorated with snake skin, I could imagine a similar effect with modern textile techniques.

Other areas focused on themes such as ‘travel’ (see above) and ‘nature’ (or was it ‘floral’?). This second room, as well as some stunning dresses, included a backdrop of the most amazing paper flowers (see below).

Paper flowers – showing the incredible skill/creativity of the V&A display team.

One of the highlights was the diorama.  A display filled with a rainbow of elements – accessories (hats, shoes, jewellery) and related aspects of design – fashion illustration and miniature versions of the gowns – moving seamlessly from one colour palette to another.  

Another room focused on the creation of the garments – almost entirely in white this room was a cabinet of toiles (see below).

Toiles on display

The display ended with the most fantastic ball room.  Not only a room full of the most fantastic gowns and accessories, but again the way everything was displayed  added an extra special dimension.  Using lighting techniques, film, and scent no photograph can do this particular room justice.  I have included just a couple of items from the display below.

From the Ball Room display

This was an exhibition that was well worth waiting for.  As well as there being some absolutely beautiful garments on display, I felt it also gave an real insight into haute couture and the work involved in putting together a collection.  Many of the pieces had the most exquisite decoration – embroidery and beadwork was much in evidence.  It may have Dior’s name on the door, but the creative team work was much in evidence.

However for me, I came away not just with admiration for the House of Dior and their amazing work, but also the people at the V&A Museum – their creative team should also be applauded for putting together a really interesting, beautiful and inspiring display.

Japanese dyeing

Last month I was in the Kensington area of London with about 40 minutes to spare between appointments.  What better place to visit than the Victoria and Albert Museum.  There just happened to be an exhibition of natural dyeing in the Japanese Gallery with displays relating to one man’s search for lost techniques. 

Videos not only showed some of the dyeing processes but also explained about some of the ceremonies that related to the practice – including the making of dyed paper flowers (see below).

Sadly the display has gone now and my images do not do it justice, but it just shows how even a half hour visit can be quite inspiring.

Textiles from another ocean



Oceania, is one of the current exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London (continues until 10 December 2018).  This is a personal reflection of some of the issues and objects I found particularly interesting but especially those linked to textile art.

On entering the gallery you are confronted by an enormous blue cloth – stitched and slashed – made by the artist Kiko Moana of New Zealand.  It seemed to me the perfect illustration for an exhibition that was considering the art and cultures of a region both connected and divided by water.  As a modern work it was also a reminder that this is not about an art and culture from the past – this was an exploration of Oceania throughout its history.

The second art work was a film, Tell Them, by Kathy Jetnil-Kijna.  It begins with a description of a piece of jewellery, leads to a discussion about Marshall Island and its people, and ends with their fears for the future.  It was about the links between cultures.  It was a reminder that actions in one part of the world impacts on others.

The exhibition continues with a vast array of items – canoes, figures, musical instruments, navigational charts each one telling just a little about a vast array of diverse communities.  There were also plenty of textile items.  There were many pieces of bark cloth but also pieces of patchwork.  The relevance of Samoan fine mat was fascinating in that these precious items were also used in ceremonies of reconciliation.

In addition there were several pieces of jewellery.

The curators of this exhibition were not shy about discussing the problems that began when Europeans, James Cook in particular, first encountered many of these cultures.  Equally the curators were keen to highlight that not all of the objects displayed were looted items – many were gifted by their original owners or traded.  Curation and display, it seems, was also a big part of this story.
The impressive mourner’s costume was a reminder that many of the objects on display were not originally intended to be static items but were part of a larger picture that would have included sound, scent, movement, etc.  It  highlights another major theme – that many of the objects are about memory.  The past and the present are combined in such items.
Having visited the British Library‘s exhibition James Cook: The Voyages (which finished at the end of August), it was interesting to see two such different responses to the same starting point – both exhibitions relate to the 250 year anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage of discovery.  Both were very thought provoking and both were reminders of how the actions of the past still resonate in the present.
Janette

PROCESSIONS Banners in IPSWICH!

                       SPILL festival – finishes Sunday 4th November 
                              These are really worth seeing, inspiring designs and beautifully made!
PROCESSIONS was a mass participation artwork to celebrate 100 years of votes for women.

 

It was an open invitation to every woman and girl across the UK to get involved by being present on Sunday 10 June in one of the four UK capitals: Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London; inspired by the great processions of the suffragettes and suffragists in the years leading up to 1918, who marched to demand the vote.
In this special exhibition for SPILL, 100 banners created around the UK for PROCESSIONS will be shown as a trail at various locations across Ipswich.

Have a look at the link below and even if you can’t get to see the exhibition there is a good video showing many of the amazing banners.

 

Talk on tambour embroidery history at Chelmsford, Essex – Monday evening, 17 September 2018

For anyone interested in the history of tambour embroidery – I will be presenting my new talk at the Chelmsford branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild tomorrow evening.  It is based on the research for the work I am doing for The Power of Stitch which EAST will be displaying in the spring of 2019 (details to be announced shortly).
My talk will look at the arrival of tambour embroidery in London, England in 1765.  A fashion ‘must have’ of the late eighteenth century, the technique was both a favourite of the queen, and a means of exploitation of the poor.


(Images on this page show items in the Victoria and Albert Museum which may (or may not) be of tambour work.  This chain stitch technique is difficult to identify without access to the reverse of the garment.)
The Chelmsford branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild meets in the Main Hall, Christchurch, New London Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 0AW.  Meetings begin at 7.30pm and end at 9.30pm.  Visitors are wellcome – there is a small fee.
Janette 
  

Textile events and exhibitions in Essex

Even though EAST does not have an exhibition on display this year, many of our members (and ex-members) are still involved with other events and exhibitions:

EAST member Melinda is also a member of the Chelmsford 93 Group which have an exhibition just opened at Braintree District Museum, Manor Street, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3HW.  Ex-EAST members June and Anne also have some work on display here.  This exhibition will be on display until 7 July 2018, and there are several accompanying activities to look forward to:

From Saturday 9th to Saturday 16 June 2018, Leigh Art Trail includes EAST members Tricia – find her at venue 39 – Leigh Cliff Buildings, 12 Leigh Cliff Road, SS9 1PR.
And finally our newest member, Kay is taking part in the Burnham Art Trail from 14 June, 23 June to 1st July.  Kay’s work will be found at the Museum, Coronation Road (10am to 5pm).

 

New Year – new start

It was such a momentous occasion – all the EAST members, and Anthea,
 were all present at our January 2018 meeting – so we had to have a group photo.
(Back row) – Felicity, Lorna, Libby, Janette, Margaret, Julie, Jenny and newest member Kay
(Middle Row) – Ellen, Anthea, Carol and Melinda
(Front Row) – Liz, Susan and Tricia
We are also pleased to announce that we now have an Instagram account – so hopefully we will be able to share some of our work in progress.  You can also find us on Facebook – don’t forget to “like” our page to keep up to date with exhibitions and events.

A WW1 Christmas – 4th Dec 2017 to 6 January 2018

Producing work for an EAST exhibition is not just about research, trials and samples, making the item and putting it on display.  Sometimes the work can have a life after the last exhibition is packed away.  I find it particularly gratifying to hear that something EAST created has become the inspiration for someone else.  For the work made for Between the Lines it is particularly pleasing to hear that the research itself continues to be useful.

This has been the case with regard to the information sheet I produced on the Lady Smith-Dorrien’s Hospital Bag Fund.  I had used this to make my work, shown above when the exhibition visited Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington.  Now the research is going to be part of a museum display.
From 4th December this year, and for six weeks only, Bath Medical Museum will be recreating a WWI war hospital – looking at how the inpatients (soldiers) were ‘entertained’ over the Christmas period.  Instead of focusing on the grimmer aspects of war the exhibition will use anecdotal stories on the themes of food, entertainment, gifts, decorations, celebrations, etc.  They will look at how local people provided plum puddings, knitted goods and filling crackers.

In addition, on the opening day (6.12.17) there will be a lecture by Dr Roger Rolls on the history of the Bath Mineral Hospital during the war.  The exhibition continues until 6 January 2018.

For more information visit the Bath Hospital Museum website.  Please note that the museum, which is run entirely by volunteers is open Mondays to Wednesdays (2pm to 4pm) and Fridays (10am to 12 noon).

More information about Lady Smith-Dorrien’s Hospital Bag Fund can be found by following the link from my page – HERE.

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