London Trip

When I moved here I started making a list of all the exciting galleries and museums that I wanted to go see. Of course, once life starts and things get busy, it’s so easy to say “Oh, I can’t go this week because I’m too busy” or “Well, getting there by train and eating meals out and paying entry fees will take too much money”. I moved to England in September, and it’s taken me til March to figure out that I’m not going to have time to go do these things unless I make time to go! I decided that this was the week I was going to go- there was a show I wanted to see at the Contemporary Applied Arts gallery in London that was ending, so I made up my mind that I’d make a day of it and start seeing all the museums and galleries I’ve been thinking about seeing for the past 6 months.

I started out at the Victoria and Albert Museum- I’ve heard so many good things about the V&A- I started out in the fashion section. There were loads of great pieces out, kind of going through the history of fashion since the 1600’s. Here are a few highlights from the fashion section:

Alexander McQueen, Spring 2010 Collection

Catherine Walker, 1994

Jean Patou Evening Gown, 1934

Jean Patou, Bead Detail

From there I went through the jewellery section- saw a lot of impressive pieces, but nothing that was really revolutionary or all that helpful for my project research. After the jewellery section of the V&A, I made my way to the Textiles section- a place I could spend days in. They have glass drawers cataloging fabric, lace, and tapestry sections from as early as 400 AD. Hugely overwhelming! I found some Venetian lace patterns that will be helpful for what I’m currently working on, and now that I know that huge fabric index exists, I’ll be going back there with specific fabrics and time periods in mind.

Venetian Lace, 1853

After the fabric room, my friend Marilyn (who worked at the V&A last summer) gave me a quick tour of a few other highlights of the V&A. This is a sight-specific installation by Cornelia Parker called “Breathless”: steamrolled brass instruments suspended from the ceiling.

"Breathless" By Cornelia Parker

"Breathless" Detail

"Breathless" Detail

There was also a large Chihuly piece in the front foyer- Dale Chihuly is one of my artist crushes, so seeing one of his pieces glittering in the sun under the skylight was certainly a happy moment!

Chihuly in the V&A Foyer

I found some other interesting pieces that I snapped photos of as I went through the museum. I kept seeing blue-and-white ceramic pieces that struck a chord with me, and when I got back to Birmingham, I started using the blue-and-white colour scheme in some of my material experiments (which I’ll talk about in my next post):

Blue and White Ceramic

Dutch Tiles, 1720

Dutch Tiles, 1720

This fireplace and mantlepiece were stunning: I love the white decorative forms and am already envisioning a neck piece made of plaster with this as an inspiration…

Fireplace and Mantle Decoration

To be honest, I could have spent the whole day at the V&A, but I had other things I needed to see, so I moved on. I went to the Contemporary Applied Arts gallery to see the exhibition “Intelligent Trouble” with work by Helen Carnac, Lin Cheung, David Clarke, and David Gates. I really liked how the gallery space had been transformed into a studio space: the objects, in various states of completion, were displayed around the perimeter, and in the middle of the gallery space there were several work benches set up. It was interesting, as a maker, to see the show set up in a way that I identified with so well. I wonder how non-makers felt about it when they saw the setup. You can read more about the exhibition here:

After the CAA, Marilyn and I wandered around town, looking for Electrum Gallery, but we stumbled across Liberty of London instead. Liberty is this really impressive four-story building full of furniture, jewellery, clothing, handmade papers, lighting fixtures, fabric… Liberty’s fabric selection was impressive: they have a design house and their fabrics are quite well-known (in fact, their website tells me they’re launching a line of clothing for Target featuring their prints:

After about an hour speeding through Liberty, it was getting late and we were getting hungry. After dinner I got the train back to Birmingham- exhausted, but so glad that I’d finally made up my mind to go start on the museum and gallery visits I’d been wanting to do. Sometime in the next few months I’m going to make a 2-day trip to London so I can spend as much time at the V&A as I want. I haven’t even scratched the surface of London museums and galleries: I still need to see the British Museum, the Tates, Electrum Gallery (really well-known contemporary jewellery gallery in London)…. the list goes on and on.

Other than the day I spent in London, I got to spend a lot of quality time in the studio this week. Over the past few weeks I have been doing a lot more experiments. No finished pieces to show yet, but a huge table full of test pieces. Because this post about London has gotten so long, I’ll do a post all about my test pieces and material research in a few days, so be on the lookout for that. I’m looking forward to having a good bit of studio time next week- there’s a lot I need to get done before I leave for Amsterdam next Saturday!



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5 responses to “London Trip

  1. Kathryn Addis

    I love Cornelia Parker! Looked at some of her work at A level.

    Glad you finally got out and about in the capital. There is just so much to do and see in London and you could literally spend days at the V&A!!

  2. You and I are both getting our butts in gear! I enjoyed this post. When I come to visit you in London, I expect to see some fabulous places!

  3. Consider it done :)
    It was so funny seeing your post about you and Andrew deciding to start doing new and different things this week, considering I’d just made the same resolution myself!

  4. Nancy

    The good thing about being a tourist is the almost painful urgency one has to see and do everything. When you live somewhere, you do have to wake yourself up and blast yourself out of the inertia that settles in. It was wonderful going to London vicariously through this post. I especially liked “Breathless,” and what a perfect name for the piece. I’m also excited to see what you do with the blue-and-white palette in your work. Although you showed Dutch tiles, it reminds me of the English transferware from which I drink my tea every morning.

  5. Jenn

    Love the Chihuly pic!

    Thought about you today as I took a few hours for “crafty time” today and missed our Sundays drinking tea at Abbey West. Looking forward to seeing your new work.

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