Friday, 30 October 2015

Fabric of India - V&A Exhibition

The first thing you see as you enter The Fabric of India exhibition at the V&A Museum is a strikingly large floor-spread, hanging behind an almost fluorescent dress. At first glance, these two textile artifacts seem worlds apart, but when you start to unpick and look closer at the details, their pairing makes complete sense.

Together, the 1650 printed floor-spread and Manish Arora's widly embellished dress from his 2007 debut collection embody exactly what this exhibition is all about. Arora's embroidered and printed butterflies use traditional centuries-old techniques to push the boundaries of contemporary design. They illustrate the journey of Indian textiles from delicate hand dyework, embroidery and embellishment to a technological, global industry. Both antique and modern are equally significant in today's design culture. Here, the V&A manages to weave the many strands of what we can call "Indian Textiles" into one very informative, inspiring and memorable exhibition.

You could say colour is key in Indian fabrics, so it is wonderful that so much wall space is given to large piece of rich, hand-dyed fabrics. Each coloured fabric is complimented with videos and samples explaining the dye process and origins of each pigment, or the harvesting of silk threads. It is a great introduction into the technical side of antique textiles. A stand-out piece for me was the 1850 skirt panel with beetle wings, glowing in a myriad of blue and greens.

I could have stood before the Embroidered Map Shawl (c.1870, Srinagar, Kashmir) for hours. The intricacy of this piece is breath-taking, and just imagining the time it took to hand stitch is mind blowing. This is most probably my favourite textile item I have ever seen - what could be better than an embroidered version of old time cartography?! Each intricate tent and window and leaf is stitched in beautifully preserved colours, in cartoonish perspective. Even the fish and birds are included, swooping along the river bank. No wonder this shawl was never intended to be worn - there is simply too much there to admire!

Of course textiles extend much further than dresses and shawls, but as a costume designer I often forget to think of textiles used as outdoor props like tents and flags. There is a fantastic example of an immense flag with many triangles patched together. This particular one was used in religious ceremonies, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of symbolic textiles. Flags have been used for centuries: in war, on ships, as patriotic emblems or chivalric decoration... I think it would be a very interesting research topic!

Next, pass through a peaceful red corridor to the Royal Courts. Here you get a sense of how these beautiful textiles would have been used in their original contexts. I loved the experience of sitting under a tent roof, listening to music and twittering birds - it really helped to bring everything in the room to life. Just beside the tent are glass cabinets with clothing that can be viewed 360°. Throughout the galleries, the clarity of the displays really allows you to appreciate each and every piece.

Moving along the Indian textile journey, and towards the final rooms of the exhibition, you can start to see how fabrics from across the world, not just India, started to influence each other thanks to emerging trade routes. A bed cover made in India for use in Portugal uses typical Indian quilting and embroidery, however the characters are clearly in European dress.

The way in which the textiles are presented throughout the exhibition echoes their original purpose as traded goods - not pieces to be looked at in museums. Fabrics are draped on rolls or bolts as in fabric shops, and some even retain their original labels.

Finally, the journey ends in the modern day, and there are many examples of contemporary designers using traditional crafts to produce new Indian textiles - for fashion, interiors and as art. An Hermes shawl (2014), much smaller than original Indian shawls, is embellished with classic hand embroidery. Coming full circle, Manish Arora's glistening 2015 beaded top and skirt mirrors the striking beetle wing embellishment from the first gallery. Nothing ever truly becomes outdated in textiles - materials are developed over time, and tried-and-tested techniques are pushed even further by modern machinery and modern hands, to create something just as special as its antique counterpart.

The Fabric of India is on at the V&A Museum in London until January 2016. See here for more information:V&A Website

Thursday, 3 September 2015

"Edmond" Animation - Puppet Costumes

This time last year I was working with Eva Roelfs on a very fun project - designing and making miniature animation puppet costumes! You may think that smaller means easier, but when you're searching for minute floral prints and stitching teeny weeny shirt collars by hand, you quickly start to feel like a clumsy giant sewing with rope off a ship... But there is also nothing cuter than crafting tiny glasses in thread covered wire, or adorable felt bunny ears.

"Edmond" is a short animation, directed by Nina Gantz (National Film and Television School). All the characters are felted animatable puppets. The costumes are made from fabric that we hand dyed and embroidered or patched to create natural, soft textures.

So far, "Edmond" has won awards 2 awards including Best Short Film at Annecy Film Festival and is shortlisted for Best Short Film at BFI London Film Festival.

Costume designer: Eva Roelfs
Assistant Costume designer: Megan Doyle

Check out the trailer below:

The last photo in this post is from the "Edmond" page on Facebook - follow here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Set Box - Les Liaisons Dangereuses

In second year at LCF, I designed a stage ballet version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses - blog post with my finished costume here. I really, really loved this project and still do, especially my concept: highlighting the fragility and dilapidation of the excess French aristocracy through the use of transparent fabrics, powder, mirrors and a set design evocative deceit and secrecy. A twist on an 18th century pleasure garden and French chateau interior, the set depicts a tangled web of lies and cracked hall of mirrors, lying almost like an untouched graveyard behind the uneasy baroque gate.

To practice my model making skills, here is a set box of my stage design, with my set design portfolio page below.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Foundling Project - Final Major Project, LCF

I can't believe I am really writing this... I have finished my degree at London College of Fashion! For the whole of our third and last year, we have been working on individual projects. I chose the textile tokens in the London Foundling Hospital archives as my starting point. From my research I developed a narrative for a museum theatre piece set in the Foundling Museum, then designed and made costumes for two main characters. It was an incredible way to finish my time at LCF - definitely not easy, but I learnt so much. I am amazed at how much can be done in only a few months and how far an idea can develop and change. I could never have imagine this would be the outcome when I first considered this as my project 12 months ago...

You can see the full series of photos below...

This project would not have been possible without the help of some really amazingly generous and hard-working people. Firstly, I'd like to thank Lucas Button and Anjelica Barbe, my wonderful actors. Thank you for always being so enthusiastic, keeping me motivated and inspired, not only for this project but also for what will come after graduation!

Huge thanks to Stephen Maycock for his beautiful photography - you really have a magical storytelling touch and without you I couldn't have translated and preserved my story in photographs.

Thank you also to Stefanie Kemp for great hair and make-up, for this project and many others that we have worked on together over the last few years! To Charlotte Wainwright, thank you for all your help on photoshoot day. Without you we would probably have had corsets on upside down and breeches on backwards, and me lost somewhere in C Block!

Final photos, click for full screen...

Wishing all of my fellow LCFPerformancers the best of luck now that we are in the big wide world of graduates. If anyone is looking for a costume designer, please hire me! If not, please come to our exhibition anyway. It's in Shoreditch, 9th-13th June, more info here: www.events.arts.ac.uk . See you there!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hertfordshire Life Interview

I was featured the April issue of Hertfordshire Life Magazine, about my work as a costume designer/maker and the Much Hadham Forge Museum costume project. The interview is now available online! Head over to www.hertfordshirelife.co.uk/people/...

I really enjoyed working on the Tudor Lord and Lady costumes, and they are now on display at Knebworth House as part of their Tudor exhibition. All my past posts about these costumes are tagged 'Much Hadham Forge Museum'.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Tudor Costumes at Knebworth House

The Tudor costumes I recently made for the Much Hadham Forge Museum have started their very own Tudor progress, with the first stop being Knebworth House in Hertfordshire! The characterful Gothic mansion started life as a Tudor stately home - both it's interior and exterior are beautiful and unusual, surrounded by gardens and open space.

A few weeks ago, I went along to Knebworth with the team from the Forge Museum to set up the costumes and take some quick press photos and short snippet videos talking about the costumes. The Tudor Lord and Lady costumes look fantastic within the Tudor setting! They form part of a costume exhibition throughout the house, which is open from March to September.

I was also interviewed by Sandra Deeble for Hertfordshire Life magazine. The four-page spread about the Much Hadham costume project and my work as an aspiring costume designer is in the April issue!

For more information about the exhibition at Knebworth : Knebworth News

See the paintings that have inspired these costumes at the Much Hadham Forge Museum.

And keep an eye out for Hertfordshire Life magazine! www.hertfordshirelife.co.uk

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Screen Printing Fabrics

My costume design Final Major Project is in full swing at the moment. Although I have been researching and developing my ideas since last summer, only now are we starting to make costumes and bring our work to life. It's a lot of work, but fun and exciting, which makes it all worth it!

My project is inspired by the London Foundling Hospital, and the textile tokens that mother's gave with their babies as an identifier and symbol of their love and hopes for a child that they probably would never see again. These small pieces of old and worn textiles embody so many emotions and are really really touching.

I will do a post about these tokens soon - in the meantime I would like to share some of my textile work on my project so far. I have been creating my own printed fabrics inspired by the tokens I have found in the Foundling Hospital archives.

I began by drawing out my bodice design with colours and rough print ideas. The theme for this bodice is flowers and blossom, as the character is a young girl who has just come to London from the countryside - she is childish, naive and girly. Using my research images, I experimented with scale on a toile of my bodice. From that, I could draw my stencils and artwork for screen printing, to create my own usable fabric.

First, I hand printed the blocks of colour using stencil cut-outs. Once that was done, I could screen print the much more detailed black outlines of the flowers. Screen printing can be a time-consuming process, so only did the most complicated part of the pattern using an exposed silkscreen. I blended the repeats with hand painting.

I am really happy with the final outcome! It's bold, quite contemporary, but still in keeping with the idea of flowers, colour and contrast to highlight the childish, girliness of my character. This is going to form the 'stomacher' part of the the bodice - I can't wait to see it in place!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Woodland Headdresses

Just wanted to share this photo of the headdresses made for a recent event at 2 Temple Place - see more here.