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:
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.
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.
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!
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):
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…
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: http://www.caa.org.uk/exhibitions/archive/intelligent-trouble.html
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: http://www.liberty.co.uk/
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!