Whilst I’ve been stitching this pair of slippers it occurred to me how much use my own slippers have had since the end of March. Unlike this pair mine are beginning to look a little worse for wear.
This image is part of my design which illustrates the F. Scot Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button first published in 1922. ‘
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.
This morning I heard Antony Gormley speaking to the poet Simon Armitage on a past edition of one of my favourite podcasts The Poet Laureate has gone to his shed. Gormley was remarking on some of the items in the Armitage shed. When the poet asked Gormley if he had a shed the answer was, as you might expect, that he had a studio.
Antony Gormley then continued “…. [that it was] a place apart that is not connected to the business of dwelling or connected necessarily with the business of work. I think it is an essential thing – a space ship for thinking, dreaming and doing things that are not strictly speaking necessary.”
I was in my ‘space ship ’ (well Hütte/workroom) whilst listening, happily surrounded by fabric and thread, fortunately able to continue stitching away on the current piece for EAST.
I have begun a new sketchbook using the word curious as the inspiration
Does this image make you curious?
How about this one?
Janette has written such a descriptive passage about our trip to the Christian Dior exhibition that she hasn’t left much for me to mention. Therefore, I shall have to elaborate on the rooms which interested me the most.
At the beginning of the exhibition, amongst the photographs of the young Dior with his family, friends and his colleagues at the first Paris Fashion House, was a colourful seed catalogue dated 1905. This was placed here to show how influential gardens were to some of Dior’s designs which we saw in one of the rooms that took my breath away as we entered it. Here the ceiling, walls, and occasionally floor, was decked out with paper flowers, which must have taken hours, not only to display, but make in the first place. White, pale blue and green l.e.d. lighting placed amongst the flowers enhanced the display. This was called the Garden Room and many of the outfits were obviously inspired by plants.
Lily of the Valley was said to have been one of Christian Dior’s favourite flowers and the floor around the dress of that name was festooned with paper examples of the growing plant.
The other room which particularly appealed to me showed the work of the Ateliers. This was set out a little like that in the Alexander McQueen exhibition, in that case entitled “The Cabinet of Curiosities”, where the items were shown in staging which reached right up to the ceiling. In the Dior exhibition the toile were displayed in compartments which the skilful placement of mirrors made to appear to reach the ceiling. These were the first patterns for the clothes, cut from cotton, indicating where the seams, darts etc. were required to shape the garment.
I particularly loved this example of the Ateliers’ work which, in its final form, was to have embroidery on the collar and pockets. That design was drawn on paper and tacked into position on the garment.
In the room depicting how different world cultures had influenced the designers, I couldn’t resist snapping this picture of an outfit by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the latest director at Dior, made for the Spring Collection 2019.
I was drawn to all the hand-stitching which made up the design around the lower part of the skirt (right).
As we left the Ateliers room we passed into a dark gallery which on one side displayed magazine covers bearing images of models in Dior gowns but opposite it was the Diorama.
This display was arranged in coloured sections, like a rainbow, beginning with silver and progressing through to midnight blue. Each section held a full-sized piece of clothing surrounded by shoes, handbags, hats and doll-sized examples of dresses or coats as well as decoupaged illustrations of the collection. In the red area can be seen the outfit which I had pictured in the Ateliers gallery. Brilliant!
As anyone who knows Janette and I would rightly say, we are not “fashionistas”, but for both of us, this exhibition far exceeded expectations and I would urge you to check out the V&A website, if you’re unable to visit before the end of the month, to see these stunning images of “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams”.
On Tuesday a group of stitchers from the Suffolk West branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild journeyed to Braintree to be conducted around the Power of Stitch exhibition by myself and Melinda.
Before the tour began Melinda described a little about how the group worked, how we present our work to each other and the support we gain from Anthea, our mentor.
We then gave everyone time to wander around the exhibition and ask specific questions about the work on display.
We were also able to open the cabinet and remove our sketch/ideas books for everyone to peruse, although sometimes it was difficult to remember exactly how we’d achieved a design and the thought process behind it.
After all the hard work completing our exhibits and preparing them for display it was a real reward to share the Power of Stitch exhibition with such an admiring audience.