Saturday 29 July 2023

Hannah Lamb - Fragment of a Dress Performance Piece

Jenny Skinner wearing Fragment of a Dress by Hannah Lamb after the performance

In 2022 the Bronte Parsonage Museum commissioned textile artist Hannah Lamb to create a piece for them.  That piece was Fragment of a DressInspired by the museum's collection of small fragments of cloth associated with the Bronte family, especially Charlotte, and knowing that textiles and clothing are imbued with memories of special times in our lives, Hannah collected stories from museum visitors about items of clothing that they held dear. Each story took the form of a hand written note about the item and what it meant to them. Using these personal responses, Hannah and her students and colleagues stitched a series of embroidered panels onto silk organza, which Hannah then incorporated into the finished "Fragment of a Dress" which had a mid 19th century silhouette. It was on display at the Bronte Parsonage until the end of December 2022.

Here are some of the embroidered panels.  I would like to have seen what all the panels said.  I don't know if the panels were just a selection of the stories collected or all of them...


Hannah Lamb - Fragment of a Dress (embroidered panel detail)

Hannah Lamb - Fragment of a Dress (embroidered panel detail

Hannah Lamb - Fragment of a Dress (embroidered panel detail

On the 1 July 2023 in the Spinning Mill attic at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley, Hannah & Jenny created a performance piece of the deconstruction of Fragment of a Dress, returning it to fragments.  The Spinning Mill attic is an empty space full of atmosphere...

Spinning Mill attic

Hannah's cyanotype prints of the embroidered skirt were on display and a soundtrack was playing in the background...

Hannah Lamb - Fragment of a Dress Cyanotype

Hannah Lamb - Fragment of a Dress Cyanotype

The dress, worn by Jenny Skinner, was cut into pieces by the audience.  This was achieved by Jenny handing a pair of scissors to each audience member, in turn, to cut a fragment after which Hannah stitched a certificate of authenticity onto each piece with her vintage hand operated sewing machine. Each fragment cutter could keep their fragment as a souvenir. The very first piece was cut by Hannah herself. She cut a sliver through several of the embroidered panels.  This seemed to give "permission" to cut a fragment however you chose.  Some cut slivers and some cut out whole embroidered panels.  These acts of deconstruction were filmed by Lucy Forrester of Proud Fox Studio.

Hannah Lamb's Vintage Sewing Machine

Hannah Lamb's Accoutrements

It was a very interesting performance - watching what people chose to cut and wondering what might become of the pieces.  I thought it was quite an act of faith on Hannah's part to see her beautiful and considered work "destroyed" in front of her (Hannah's use of the term "deconstruction" makes it seem less harsh).  I certainly found the responsibility of cutting into the piece a little unnerving.  I couldn't really concentrate on the soundtrack that was playing at the time and only caught "fragments" of what was being said.  I think it was the stories people had left her about their treasured clothing. 

Jenny Skinner & Hannah Lamb

A further performance happened later in the day.  I went to the first performance.  I particularly wanted to go to this as I hadn't been able to see the dress when it was on display at the Bronte Parsonage Museum.  I wanted to see it "whole" before it was deconstructed. I don't know if it is now completely "gone" or if there is more to fragment.  No doubt we will hear more from Hannah about its progress and I hope we will see the filmed outcome.   

I thought you might like to see the fragment I cut...

Fragment of a Dress: Fragment 3

I hope my fragment will go on to have a new life in something I make.

Saturday 22 July 2023

More fabric necklaces head to cambridge contemporary crafts

Hippystitch Fabric Necklaces

This is just to let you know that a new selection of my fabric necklaces have made their way to cambridge contemporary crafts this week.  Can't decide which my favourite Liberty print is.

Go and take a look - cambridge contemporary crafts have lots of great things that would be perfect for a present or a treat. As well as jewellery, there are ceramics, prints and paper, sculptures, glass, textiles and cards. Find them at 5 Bene't Street, Cambridge, CB2 3QN.

Sunday 16 July 2023

Ai Weiwei: Making Sense at the Design Museum, London

Ai Weiwei - Backpack Snake & Left Right Studio Material

Ai Weiwei: Making Sense is on at the Design Museum in London until 30 July 2023 so you've still got time to visit. The exhibition is a commentary on design and our changing values - have we just made technical progress or have we lost an element of craftmanship and cultural sensibility on the way? He explores the tensions between past and present, hand and machine, precious and worthless, construction and destruction.

The exhibit, pictured below, consists of 4000 Stone Age tools that Ai Weiwei found cheaply at fleamarkets.  Any one item could be a museum exhibit but here they are treated as ordinary - a layer of forgotten and undervalued history.  Consisting of axe heads, chisels, knives and wheels they are supposed to remind us that the origins of design are bound up with the need to survive.  This was my favourite piece...

Ai Weiwei - Still Life

This Bubble is the largest sphere it is possible to make in the kiln without it cracking...

Ai Weiwei - Bubble

The fragments in the foreground of the first picture are the remains of porcelain sculptures (see Bubble above) that were destroyed when his "Left Right" studio in Beijing was destroyed by the Chinese state in 2018.  He has turned this destruction into an exhibit.

Filling one wall of the gallery was Ai Weiwei's Lego Water Lilies, a recreation of Claude Monet's famous painting but using manufactured Lego bricks rather than brushstrokes.  Introduced into this reproduction of a "natural" landscape, which was in fact by constructed by Monet at Giverny, is a dark doorway (far right) which represents the door to the underground dugout where Ai and his father, A1 Qing, lived in forced exile in the 1960s.  Quite a contrast of landscapes!

Ai Weiwei - Water Lilies #1 (Lego)

Ai Weiwei - Water Lilies #1 (detail) Lego

There were two large snakes adorning the gallery walls - a Life Vest Snake (below) and a Backpack Snake (top).  The Life Vest Snake references the victims of the refugee crisis in Europe and the Backpack Snake the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake which killed many schoolchildren.  Made from everyday objects these sculptures draw attention to the disempowered in society...

Ai Weiwei - Life Vest Snake

The Nian Nian Souvenir bears the names of the 5197 schoolchildren that died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  Each name is stamped in an ancient script using a hand-carved jade seal - see the detail below.  These were very beautiful. 

Ai Weiwei - Nian Nian Souvenir (detail)

One of the floor exhibits is made up of 200 000 handmade high quality porcelain balls.  They are cannonballs made during the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE).  Ai Weiwei was struck by the fact that such an apparently delicate material was once used as a war weapon...

Ai Weiwei - Untitled (Porcelain Balls) 

There was another exhibit from the Song dynasty which consisted of 250 000 spouts from handmade teapots and wine ewers.  If the pots were not perfect the spout was broken off.  This gives an indication of the scale of the porcelain industry at that time. Ai Weiwei also sees it as a commentary on freedom of speech or lack of it with the spouts/mouths removed.

Ai Weiwei - Spouts

Ai Weiwei - Spouts (detail)

The success of this exhibition lies in the scale of the exhibits.  I think a single item would have much less impact than the many from Ai Weiwei's varied collections that are displayed here. There was plenty more to see but it's not a huge exhibition so you're unlikely to get gallery fatigue. The Design Museum has an interesting shop but no cafe, although there are plenty nearby.  

Well worth a visit - go see if you can!