Tagged: textiles

Nov 09

Kaffe Fassett at the American Museum


My blog is still on life support, but I couldn’t resist popping back to take you on a brief tour of the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum, Claverton Manor, Bath.

I squeaked in at the tail end of October, just before it closed. Perhaps it’s cruel of me to tantalise you with images of the King of Colour’s show that you now have no hope of seeing, but maybe you’re far away and had no chance to visit anyway. Or maybe you got there and are happy to be reminded of your grand day out. Whatever the case, I hope you can enjoy these images. Did you catch the exhibition? What was your favourite area or thing on display?

This huge tree hung with pompoms and lampshades was really stunning. It was a magnet for small children: delightedly scurrying about beneath it, batting at the yarn balls.

Bececked tree at the Kaffe expo, the American Museum, Claverton Manor, Bath

Bedecked tree at the Kaffe expo, the American Museum, Claverton Manor, Bath


The pictures don’t do the original concept justice as the fabric on the shades had faded considerably over the 6 months of the exhibition. You have to wonder how long it took the team to set this up last March; I assume it was a cherry-picker job. It makes me want to do something similar (though on a much smaller scale) with this year’s Christmas tree, possibly even decorating a tree outside, for a change. How about you?

Pompoms and lampshades

Pompoms and lampshades


Here was a rendition of Kaffe’s studio, complete with painting area on the left.

Studio area

Kaffe’s studio


A blazing yellow area.

Cushions, cats and cardigans

Cushions, cats and cardigans


A tactile section.

Please touch! I appreciated this.

Please touch! I really appreciated this touch.


Glorious needlepoint.

Kaffe cabinet

Needlepoint cushions


Plenty of vegetation.

Kaffe veg

Vegetables and flowers


Some nods to items in the museum’s collection.

Early American portraits

Early American portraits


Beautiful neutrals.

Tumbling blocks

Tumbling blocks


And a wall of Kaffe quips and wisdom.

Kaffe quotation wall

Kaffe quotation wall


Meanwhile, back in the main house (Claverton Manor proper, rather than the modern exhibition building), there were a few Kaffe touches on display for the determined visitor. It was fascinating to see the spreads and colourway varieties for a selection of printed textile patterns – apologies for the quality of the image.


Design sheet

Design sheet


But I was really smitten by these quiet inked line drawings of the museum’s room sets. Kaffe is an old friend to the museum and worked these in the 1960s, when the museum was brand new. Astonishingly little has changed in those room sets (which illustrate America from its early colonial days). As a Penn Dutch girl by ancestry, I loved his rendition of the decorative tinware, particuarly that perky coffee pot. And how fascinatingly un-Kaffe is this absence of colour? – not to mention un-Penn Dutch.


Kaffe's early work for the American Work, 1960s.

Kaffe’s early work for the American Work, 1960s.


In the museum’s Penn Dutch room, the mass of highly decorated stuff can be riotously hard to swallow, but the beautiful folk-art lines of those plain tinware cookie cutters are delicious in their simplicity and always draw me back.


Penn Dutch artefacts from the American Museum

Penn Dutch artefacts from the American Museum


And then home

And then home


That’s all for now, though I’m hoping to be back here more regularly soon. Meanwhile, I’m now signed  up on Instagram and find that an interesting place to post. Please join me. 





Nov 11

Selvedge Winter Fair


Yesterday I had a really magical day in London at the Selvedge Winter Fair.

It was my first time at a Selvedge event though I’ve been hoping to get to one for years. Selvedge magazine — in case you haven’t encountered its square format, matt paper, and distinctive print scent — has to be the read of choice for the textile cognoscenti. It’s always creatively stimulating and often delightfully obscure. The visuals are exemplary, and the tone of the text is knowledgeable, direct and unpatronising. Published six times a year, Selvedge is available infrequently enough for you to work up an appetite for the next issue, and to make the £9.95 cover price just about affordable (though, of course, you get a better deal if you subscribe).

So eager was I to be at the head of the queue for the Winter Fair’s 10am start that, blearily clutching my Earl Grey, I caught the 7.13 train from Bath Spa. The fair, by reputation, fills up fast, so getting in early to a relatively uncrowded hall is worth making the effort for. It wasn’t just the fair; I was looking forward to meeting up with a handful of friends there too. And, according to plan, there were just a couple of people ahead of me when the doors opened.

The Chelsea Town Hall location was a new one for Selvedge, much bigger than those previously used. It is grand and capacious and did the job, though the lighting in some areas left something to be desired.

As I wandered around I was a little starstruck by some of the craftspeople and their beautiful wares, many  familiar from the pages of the magazine. Ellie Evans pincushions, for instance. They are marvellously weighty in the hand, being full to the brim with emery.


And I have long been drawn to these felt clogs, spotted on the Selvedge Drygoods stall…

Selvedge Winter Fair 2012

Julie Arkell had a stall. I didn’t speak to her, but one of the joys of an event like this is being able to deal directly with the designer/maker, to hear unmediated how they have created an item you are interested in buying. That is a really charming experience. As was getting to spend so much time with talented and delightful fellow visitors Ruth, Alison, Jo and Jo’s sister-in-law. Thanks to all for hanging out  — I really had the best time.

Having resolved not to buy anything, quite predictably all of my good intentions went out the window in the face of such extreme textile temptation. Most of my purchases were gifts and I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but here are some of the things I enjoyed seeing:

Abigail Brown‘s birds

Dyed blankets from Sasha Gibb

Knitwear by Di Gilpin

Knitwear with scrap textile strips by Mary Davis

Welsh loveliness from Damson & Slate

Upcycled blanket wares from Matilda Rose

Painted textiles from Emma Bradbury

The redwork embroidery of Stitch by Stitch

However, rest assured that I’ll be able to show you some more Selvedge Winter Fair delights in tomorrow’s Scrap of the Week.








Apr 18

Slow Dress Day

We did it! Our first Slow Art Day here in Bath has happened! Strictly speaking, we probably have to rename ours Slow Dress Day, because our canvases were the applied art of clothing – mostly dresses – in the collection of the Fashion Museum.

Silver Tissue Dress

Slow Art Day at the Bath Fashion Museum

A very small (let’s say ‘select’) crowd met outside the Fashion Museum on Saturday at 11am. OK, there were just three of us, but that’s officially a crowd in my book. Given that we were so few, we decided to go around together and discuss as we went – not quite as suggested by the organisers, but it worked for us. Just to remind you, Slow Art Day is a grassroots concept born in the US. More flash-mob than guided tour, it requires only an interested ‘host’ to pick out a few items to view, and doesn’t demand the art gallery or museum to be involved at all, though I felt it polite to brief the Fashion Museum on what might be hitting it.

The shortlist of items to view was helpful. One of our group had an unusual perspective; she’d suffered a brain haemorrhage a few years ago and now experiences information-overload very quickly, so she really appreciated paring down the options and going slower. And cutting down the items vying for our attention released us all from the anxiety of choice. We found that concentrating on less gave us the space to ask ourselves (and each other) lots of questions. How would that dress have felt to wear? Would the pointy part of that bodice have dug in when you sat down? What would have been worn underneath? Is that manikin the right shape for the period? How did they weave silver into that fabric? How expensive would a metre of that fabric have been? Would the dress have looked as muted as this when new? What exactly is the parchment in parchment lace? – would it have been possible to hide a secret message in it?! Why were the fingers on the seventeenth century gloves so extremely long? How would you have visited ‘the smallest room’ in a mantua? If you sat down in a crinoline, what happened to your skirt ? Happily, the museum has modern crinolines for visitors to try on, so we could test out this last question for ourselves. Answer: it probably depended on your crinoline: some flew up exposing your underwear, some were more demure.

Sometimes we started looking at one thing but were drawn to compare it with similar items located close by. This happened a lot in the What Will She Wear? exhibition, featuring the museum’s collection of wedding dresses (a nod to a certain royal wedding later this month). We had two of the dresses on our list but it seemed natural to contrast them with the rest of the exhibits which spanned almost 200 years. We started with the oldest wedding dress, dated 1829. It wasn’t the most beautiful, but told us something about that period. Not white but a dark champagne colour (the white-for-a wedding convention hadn’t bedded in yet), it had wide-set leg o’ mutton sleeves, lots of flouncy lace, and a curious closure down the centre front.

We experienced a few glitches: a change to one of the displays post-selection, and the closure of our lunch venue (the museum’s cafe) in order to accommodate a wedding reception. This was a teeny bit annoying as I’d thought to check ahead that the cafe would be open to the public that day. But there was something appropriate (given what we’d just been looking at) in being shooed away by the wedding photographer wanting a clean shot of the bride as she entered the beautiful Assembly Rooms. We got a great view of the dress as she swept by on her dad’s arm, and it was easy to find an alternative vendor of soup-and-a-roll for three nearby.

There were a lot of interested would-be Slow-Arters who couldn’t make it this time, and a lot of people responded really favourably to the general Slow Art Day concept, so I hope there will be more. If you’d like to be part of an unofficial follow-up Slow Art event at the Fashion Museum (possibly in May), please leave a comment and I’ll be delighted to organise it. The same principles will apply: no charge, just pay cost of your admission. Do mention if during the school day or on a Saturday works best for you. And if you fancy hosting a Slow Art Day event next year (Saturday 28th April 2012),  no experience or expertise is necessary, just lots of enthusiasm. Find out more over at the Slow Art Day site .

I’ll sign off with another 1950s’s TV gem from the creator of the Fashion Museum, the incomparable Doris Langley Moore. I particularly love the way she says ‘head’, and the bobbling period credits. Enjoy!

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