Friday, 31 May 2013

Blue sheep, changing lights and woven flooring

I really wasn’t looking for anything fibre- or sheep-related when walking between meetings in London last week: the sign just jumped out and hit me. With an hour to kill, a reasonable afternoon’s weather and an almost direct route heading east along the Clerkenwell Road in London, I originally intended to light a candle en route and remember an old friend. 

The cleaner at my first PR job, the lovely lady concerned was a true Cockney, born within the sound of Bow Bells amongst the Italian community around Clerkenwell. We’d sometimes nip in to St Peter’s Italian Church at lunchtime and light candles together: neither of us were Catholic but the practice made a quiet statement of faith in something bigger for both of us. Yet the Clerkenwell I now found before me, some 35 years later, was fairly unrecognizable, being gradually gentrified. 

The only advantage of this gentrification is the influx of design businesses of all kinds, from furniture to flooring. So there it was: an invitation a weaver couldn’t resist – to enter the world of Altro flooring and have a go weaving with its colourful offcuts. Alas my watch told me I didn’t have time to pitch in there, much though I wanted to have a go, but watching was fascinating! It was Altro’s contribution to Clerkenwell Design Week, which, I then discovered, was on its final day, with happenings all along my proposed walking route. 
Next I came across a blue sheep with some white inanimate companions, pointing to the Sedus office furniture showroom; then a fascinating sculptural and coloured light installation by Alexander Mulligan in conjunction with creative design group Nicholas Alexander – the sculpture represented the swift passage of animals and people through Clerkenwell to Smithfield in historic times. Lastly I only by then had time to briefly admire the utter artistry of a willow sculpture, much like structure with an over-arching roof yet lit by fibre optics and small flower-shaped bronze-gold lights by Sharon Marston. Wonderful work indeed. 

So next time you’re early for an appointment, it just goes to show that the creators of Stingray were absolutely right: “anything can happen in the next half hour” so see what you can find. Sheep, weaving and fibres of all kinds are never too far away! Here’s wishing you a week of equally fascinating discoveries.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Tulips, Textiles and Travels

Focussing my ‘phone camera is one area of ‘continuing professional development’ that I’ve yet to get completely under my belt. You know the feeling: you’re out and about and see something wildly beautiful, zap out with the camera, only later to discover that what you thought was the focus button in fact is nothing of the sort. You’d think I’d have learned how to do it by now, as I’ve been on frequent ‘Textile Travels’ from west to east in the last few weeks.  

WonderWool Wales was just as it said on the tin: wonderful. This year’s visual treats were provided by the felters, with some amazing work on show. For me, the best was the many-layered, complex and beautiful work of felter Caroline Merrell of Felt in the Factory. Her felted chair covering was a masterpiece: my picture on the ‘phone camera just doesn’t do it justice. She apparently runs felted footstool courses, which I’m now desperate to do, as I’ve got a really old footstool that could really do with this kind of felty-facelift.   

Felt in the Factory also had a neat machine on their stand called a Groovi, which takes out all the hard work in the rolling and enables you to do deep layered felt that you can then cut and shape. Good for people with arthritis in their hands who can’t do the heavy wet rolling, though a bit of rolling is very good for getting rid of unwanted flab in the upper arms... says she, knowingly. I suppose it’s a matter of what’s easiest – and of course of the expense of a big machine like that.  

My next foray with the ‘phone camera was this last weekend’s Textile Fair at the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree. A friend spotted this piece of cloth for sale, all tied up in Shibori style. The myriad of little pinches of cloth, all tied with ultimate precision, reminded me of springs in a mattress. The utter patience of the person who prepared this! It was just one of many international textile cultures present at the fair. I bought some scraps of Kente cloth to try to learn the language (another long-term project for when I retire), and some African bark cloth with a feel under your fingers that’s totally unique.  

Braintree has a long association with textile company Warners, just as neighbouring town Halstead has a long association with the well-known textile family Courtaulds. It was in Halstead recently that the ‘phone camera came out again, this time with a great deal more success, to capture this colourists’ dream bunch of tulips. The florist who put them together is an artist in her own right: Monet couldn’t have done any better I’m sure. And at least I got them squarely in focus – which is in itself a small miracle. Here’s wishing you a weekend of small miracles of your own, and lots of focus to concentrate on enjoying them.