Paisley Thread Mill Museum

Earlier this week I got the chance to attend an evening at the Paisley Thread Mill Museum to celebrate the 'relaunched' display of their amazing archive of sewing supplies, patterns, patents and tools from when the mill was operational (and from sources further afield).

Paisley Thread Mill Museum, Rebecca Johnstone

Reels of cotton are suspended from the ceiling in the foyer in a rainbow of colours providing a vibrant 'welcome'.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

The archive is displayed in glass cabinets on the mezzanine level, including many pieces gifted to the museum from people in the local area. The aim is to preserve the social and industrial heritage and history of the Paisley and Renfrewshire Thread Mills for future education and enjoyment.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

I've always been a sucker for vintage artefacts, but seeing the old spools and now-vintage packaging with the old-fashioned designs; I was in my element.

Just look at the colours! And the typography!

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

We heard poetry featuring the 'Mill Girls' and I imagined snippets of what their lives might have been like, starting work there at 12 or 14; hard graft during the week culminating in the anticipation of going 'to the dancing' at the weekend.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

I love this miniature sewing machine with the ornate decoration on the side. How sweet but how many stitches has it sewn? How many hands have turned that wheel? What was it's primary sewing function? Finishing tiny pieces perhaps, or hemming, or making lace?

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

The display of all these different types of thread and sewing tools is gorgeous and so inviting, making me want to dig out my sewing box and start making something fabulous or reworking an older, vintage piece - make do and mend at its best!

I have my own stash of Anchor mill embroidery threads too in an array of colours (like many people), but it's funny to think they all originally came from this Thread Mill in the heart of Paisley.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

Looking at these things reminds me of my Nana's old sewing basket and the carded wool I inherited from her, along with a love of knitting (and the know-how - my Nana taught me to knit and there's really nothing like learning first-hand like that). Her knitting always held a faint whiff of talcum powder and her favourite 'toilet water'.

So many memories are held, suspended in time, in these things that we keep and treasure and unwittingly bestow on our children and grandchildren.

I wonder if my son will be interested in these things one day? Probably not!

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

I remember playing with old cotton reels like they were something so wondrous. The shiny gold of the end-label livery looks so regal here.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

Reels of cotton ready for weaving? Warp and weft forming the pattern, right to left and left to right.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone
Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

Seeing this old spinning wheel had me thinking of fairy tales like Rumpelstiltskin; weaving straw into gold. The production of textiles that will outlast us all certainly seems like alchemy.

Thread Mill Museum, Paisley, Rebecca Johnstone

It was so nice to see these things in their new setting for all to enjoy, and I left itching to get going with needle and thread.

Visit the Paisley Thread Mill Museum on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 12-4pm and get stitching!

Scotland Re:Designed, Glasgow 2017

"You can take the designer out of Scotland, but can you take Scotland out of the designer?"

 Morag MacPherson Textiles

Morag MacPherson Textiles

Last week I attended a networking breakfast and panel discussion at SWG3 in Glasgow, part of Scotland Re:Designed 2017, where Hilary Alexander posed this leading question to designers Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare and Fashion Scout Martyn Roberts.

 Hilary Alexander OBE, Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare, Martyn Roberts

Hilary Alexander OBE, Holly Fulton, Kestin Hare, Martyn Roberts

Are Scottish designers just desperate to negate the stereotype of 'tartan tat'?

The consensus was that Scottish and UK-based designers are embracing their heritage in different ways, celebrating other textiles like Harris Tweed and Scottish Cashmere because using tartan can feel like 'too much of a cliche'; despite being a go-to for stalwarts such as Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.

Meanwhile, Hilary loved SIOBHAN MACKENZIE'S new take on the kilt, using both tartan + silk paired with surface embellishments such as diamante and crystal; a radical reinvention of the form forging new ways (and new target markets) for the modern customer.

Siobhan MacKenzie kilt, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

The message for Scottish designers was to 'embrace the heritage' of tartan, reinvent it, make it cool again.

As discussion turned to the changes in the industry, such as the mechanism for brands and studios to present their collections no longer reliant on a catwalk show at Fashion Week, the panel agreed Scotland has the edge over a city like London as a working base for new designers. Offering not only cheaper accommodation and studio rents in the city, Scotland also boasts bountiful rural spaces for creative reflection and inspiration leading to less chance of burn-out.

I particularly loved that Holly mentioned Grantown-on-Spey (in the Scottish Highlands) as her 'secret retreat', as it's also a place I know and love having spent my formative teenage years there (though at the time I'd happily have swapped it for London!).

"London is more inspiring and creative than Paris", Holly Fulton

But...

As Alexander McQueen apparently once said: "there's more to Scotland than haggis and whisky".

And thanks to platforms like Scotland Re:Designed, Scotland feels like the place to be.

Scotland Re:Designed Hypermarket 2017, SWG3

Juxtaposed with the industrial concrete warehouse vibe of the SWG3 Galvanizers exhibition space, I was able to spy the brands exhibiting as part of the event, ahead of the hypermarket that took place over the weekend.

This guy was ready for the cold-snap, dressed in scarves and hat by OLIVE PEARSON DESIGNS:

Olive Pearson Designs, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

Everyone loved the bold, limited palette geometrics from JENNIFER KENT:

Jennifer Kent, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
Jennifer Kent, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

And the quirky, fun slogan knitwear and vibrant textures of CATS BROTHERS:

CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
CATS BROTHERS, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

The innovative and bright 3D-printed jewellery of LYNNE MACLACHLAN took the SR:D Award for Accessories, presented by Hilary Alexander:

Lynne MacLachlan 3D printed jewellery, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

As a notorious magpie and maximalist, I was drawn to ISOLATED HEROES (as always), and wished I'd booked in for their weekend slogan-sweater-sequin workshop... next time.

Isolated Heroes, Scotland Re:Designed 2017
Isolated Heroes, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

RHONA MCCALLUM'S bold, geometric jewellery really caught my attention, particularly the stackable square rings.

I also loved the leather and shearling gilets from NONCHALANT - in Scotland, it's about keeping warm as well as having 'the look'!

Nonchalant, Scotland Re:Designed 2017

Finally, the afternoon session was about sustainability and the circular economy, a big trend I touched on in my previous post.

With the fashion industry second only to oil in terms of world pollution, designers big and small need to consider the impact of their choices right through the supply chain.

James Lang from the Scottish Leather Group talked about the innovative ways they recycle old leather into energy to make more leather, and give the small off-cuts that would once have been landfill-bound, to designers who make items such as wallets, bags and purses to ensure 'zero waste' as far as possible.

Again the issue of 'investment fashion' rather than fast-fashion came up, and the morphing of the seasons to negate the need for the continuous treadmill of collections that not only contribute to a throw-away mentality, but also lead to burn-out and exhaustion for designers trying to 'do it all'.

All of these issues are important to consider behind the glitz and glamour of beautifully crafted fashion, and it was good to see them featuring so prominently on the (SCOTTISH) agenda.

I left the event brimming with ideas and inspiration for just how the change we seek is the change we choose to make, and how collaboration, asking questions and following your own ethical and moral compass are crucial components for success (alongside talent, persistence, patience...)

 Rory Hutton, Fashion Foundry

Rory Hutton, Fashion Foundry

Here's a few final snippets of advice from the morning session with Hilary et al for budding fashion designers:

  • Always wear your own designs (where possible!) = self-promotion
  • Say 'NO' to Sale or Return - don't hold stock or bankroll someone else's business
  • Aim high and value yourself and your skills - from the start
  • Get attention, trial techniques, be clever with the materials available to you
  • ...But don't do too many things - hone in on your niche

Scottish fashion, interiors and design is at the forefront of the industry and a truly exciting place to be. Having a platform such as Scotland Re:Designed to shine the spotlight on the enviable talent and innovation only makes it more exciting.

Scotland Re:Designed is the national organisation for fashion, accessories and interior designers, providing showrooms & exhibitions, annual awards and runway show calendar and stories, events and business support opportunities. 

'SAMPLE' at the Lighthouse

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

SAMPLE was a must-see for me as a fledgling surface pattern designer with a background in textile design - and right on my doorstep too.

The premise of the exhibition was to showcase specially commissioned designs from members of COLLECT SCOTLAND, a platform for Scottish printed textile design, shining a light on this 'hidden discipline'.

(It's considered 'hidden' because it's an industry where designers are not always given credit for their work - a sad fact across many creative disciplines.)

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Huge panels of fabric hung from the ceiling with bold and dramatic prints.

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I loved the Matisse-esque cut-out vibe of this piece:

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

And the rough, textured markings of this in a very satisfying monochrome:

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

While these mountains - of fire and ice - really drew me in:

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

There was a real diversity of work, inspired by 5 key trends identified by COLLECT:

Chiaroscuro, Earthly Paradise, Cut and Paste, Emotional Landscape and Remembered Dreams.

They all sound so inspiring I want to use them myself to spark some ideas. I especially love 'Chiaroscuro' and 'Remembered Dreams' as prompts.

My dreams are very vivid, I always dream in colour and sometimes I even dream in pattern...

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

I was drawn too to the colours and the energy in the swan design below; colours I wouldn't normally choose to work with myself. I wonder which theme it was inspired by?

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Meanwhile the organic feel of the black and white 'sample' below has so much timeless energy, reminiscent of rocks and crystals and the inner workings of the world.

Like mountains or worms or a particular type of cloud or striations in the sand when the tide goes out...

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Another really great aspect of the exhibition was to go 'behind the scenes' and see the moodboards and vision that each designer had when first thinking about their collections.

Immersing in other people's process and inspirations is one of my favourite things to do (and I quite fancy getting some of those lovely wooden stands too!)

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

There were initial sketches and drawings to view, which I also found fascinating and an aspect you don't normally get to see.

Rather you see the final iteration with no comprehension of how many versions there might have been, or how much work was initiated but never reached the final print.

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

Finally, there were places to sit and books to delve and artefacts to ponder and engage with. A nice touch and it made me feel like I was viewing each designer's work in their 'SAMPLE studio'.

SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow
SAMPLE exhibition, The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The showcase included a retrospective of work previously exhibited at Premiere Vision, Paris; an aspiration of my own for the future.

If you live locally, then SAMPLE is on until 18th June at The Lighthouse, Glasgow. I recommend it.

I didn't manage to capture the designer's names behind each individual design, but all members of COLLECT are profiled on their website.

Mucha: In Quest of Beauty

Alphonse Mucha exhibition, Kelvingrove Art Gallery Autumn 2016

As soon as I heard about the Mucha exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow, I couldn't wait to go.

The aim of art is to glorify beauty; the expression of beauty is by emotion. The person who can communicate his emotions to the soul of others is the artist." Alphonse Mucha

I feel so lucky to have had access to Mucha's body of work right here on my doorstep, but I also thought I knew his work pretty well already. Nope.

The revelation of the 'Q' formula was huge for me, and ever since my visit I've been seeing circles and 'Q's - and circles that could be Q's - in everything. The circle of life. The eternal circle. The face. The cyclical nature of life and death, of the seasons. All of those things.

I didn't know about the 'Zodiac' design either, a colour lithograph from 1896:

The distinctive design incorporates the mystic signs of the zodiac, motifs from nature, elaborate jewels and a prominent halo to make associations with lavish Byzantine religious art."

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

I bought the postcard, however my own sign (Pisces) is not fully visible. I wonder what sign Sarah Bernhardt was? I did know about her.

One can say that rarely has someone's soul been more faithfully exteriorised... Every feature of her face, every movement of her clothing, was profoundly conditioned by her spiritual need."

Sarah Bernhardt, Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Mucha's friendship with Bernhardt gave him in-depth knowledge of her theatrical expressions, but all of his women with their decorative halos appear like secular Madonnas."

Sarah Bernhardt, Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Mucha believed that beautiful works of art elevated people's morale and improved the quality of their lives. His design formula, known as 'le style Mucha', became a visual language for communicating his message of beauty."

How I loved reading that: Mucha was a man of the people: "I was happy to be involved for art for the people and not for private drawing rooms... it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles."

And by pairing each of the Arts with a natural motif - for example birdsong alongside music - Mucha emphasises the contribution of nature to creative inspiration.

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

The marvellous poem of the human body...and the music of lines and colours emanating from flowers and leaves and fruits are the most obvious teachers of our eyes and taste."

These ladies seem like forerunners to Mary Cicely Barker'sThe Flower Fairies, albeit more worldly, more spirited, similar to those in 'The Seasons'.

Could I dare to call them nymphs?

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Women remained central to the composition of Mucha's later works, but they became spiritual symbols... [Below] The woman holds primroses, which enhances the sensory nature of the design."

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Then there was the advertising...

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

Mucha's advertising posters reflect the rich texture of modern life in La Belle Epoque, Paris (one of my favourite periods in history). The subjects range from diverse consumer products, to cultural events and tourism. Incorporating decorative motifs and allegorical elements, central to all these compositions is the female figure, alluring potential consumers with her beauty."

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016
Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

There are hints of William Morris's swirling floral and leaf repeats and the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh, both of whom played a part in the emergence of the Art Nouveau design movement that swept across Europe.

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

I particularly loved the contemplative, far-away gaze of the lady below. I think she's my favourite.

Maybe she's bored, or simply resigned to her fate? She's advertising a bike and it looks like the kind of item she would need - or want - the least. Where is she taking her leaves (sage?) and: is that a hammer?

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

As I left, lingering long in the exhibition shop along the way, my mind was abuzz with Q's and circles and tendrils. Flowers. Nature. Pastels. Red. Gold. Thorns. Daisy crowns. Primroses. Stars.

These symbols return over and over again in Mucha's art and I love that instantly he was able to manifest his signature style. Surely that is every artist and creatives' dream?

Alphonse Mucha 'In Quest of Beauty' exhibition, Autumn 2016

A picture I believe, acts aggressively. Unhindered it penetrates through the viewer's eyes into his soul"

Mucha: In Quest of Beauty runs until 19th February 2017 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.

I was delighted it was permissible to take photographs (no flash) throughout the exhibition, however the lighting was low to protect the original pieces which has affected the quality of these images. A photograph can never hope to be as good as seeing the art in person, but I hope it gives a flavour of 'Mucha in Glasgow', and what to expect for anyone planning a visit themselves, or for those further afield.

PaisleyMake Festival: Fashion & Design Showcase

Yesterday I went 'behind the scenes' of Paisley Museum's pattern archives as part of the PaisleyMake festival of creativity and design celebrations. For a student of textiles and a lover of all things pattern, it was catnip and Christmas come early. (Cue selfie with a loom!) Rebecca Johnstone, Paisley Museum

As the Paisley2021 City of Culture UK bid gains momentum, the spotlight is on Scottish designers as they showcase their wares in Paisley Abbey for the PaisleyMake festival in partnership with Scotland Re:Designed.

As part of the showcase, experts from across the fashion and textile industry are speaking on topics such as innovation, collaboration and smart textiles. (Find out who and when.)

Being a local designer myself, I was delighted to get a sneak-peek, and was drawn to this colourful stand featuring designs and prints by Mairi Helena.

Scotland Re:Designed, PaisleyMake, Paisley Abbey

The hat and glove sets by Green Thomas lured me with their patterns, and the 100% lambswool scarves had me thinking: hello autumn accessories.

Green Thomas Hat and Gloves, Paisley MakeScotland Re:Designed, PaisleyMake, Paisley Abbey

Other designers selected to exhibit include: Barbra Kolasinski, Natasha Marshall, Rebecca Torres, Niki Fulton, Pea Cooper Millinery, Vonne Alley and Siobhan Mackenzie. (Full list plus links.)

The place to be is Paisley Abbey in the heart of the town, flanked by one of the many colourful lions for the Pride of Paisley summer art trail. 

A 'Pride of Paisley' lion outside Paisley Abbey

The striking Paisley-pattern weave on these decorated pillars create a really eye-catching entrance to the Abbey - thank Dyane Lanez of Tout Petit.

I love a bit of yarn-bombing but maybe this is weave-wrapping?

Decorated pillars at the entrance to Paisley Abbey

And while the focus is on modern innovations, and for many people tartan is the first thing that leaps to mind as the go-to Scottish textile, it's hard to imagine today's Paisley town-centre as a once-thriving textile hub, home to hand-weavers threading the intricate design of the now-infamous 'floral teardrop' into shawls that were sold around the world.

Paisley Shawl collection, Paisley Museum Paisley Shawl collection, Paisley MuseumPaisley Pattern archive, Paisley Museum

Paisley Museum's design archives proffer an inspirational legacy for a new generation of artisans and designers to reconnect with Paisley's many treasures, perhaps re-working the 'Paisley pattern' or the 'Paisley print' for the modern era of fashion and textile design?

I intend to rise to this challenge and will be drawing (literally!) my inspiration from the early European and Indian influences, as well as key motifs from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements.

I look forward to featuring more of the archival pattern books that Dr Dan Coughlan, Curator of Textiles at Paisley Museum, was kind enough to share, but for now I'll leave you with some more creative inspiration from the Scotland Re:Designed showcase - until 3rd September 2016.

Jewellery by Others Are at PaisleyMake festival

Rings by Others Are.

Gatekeeper Art by Lil Brookes

Intricate Gatekeeper Art by Lil Brookes.

PaisleyMake street signs, Paisley

NB: Although I was lucky enough to attend a local Blogger Preview to the collections at both Paisley Museum and the PaisleyMake showcase, this is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.

Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet: Rob Ryan

Rob Ryan! In Scotland! In Falkirk! Accessible! Free!

When I read about Rob Ryan's exhibition 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', I couldn't wait to visit. I've admired his work for a long time, so the opportunity to see the original paper-cuts in real life was unmissable.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkEach word - each letter -  has been intricately carved in paper and card.

Black and white and primary colours. Hypnotic, emotional words. Aspirational ideals about life, love, relationships, the planet, the stars. Cities, towns, forests and secret spaces mapped out in paper.

The houses are crookedly cute, the birds 'tweet' and 'cheep' and every cut of the knife reveals and encloses the space beneath it in intricate relief.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

'The Pearl's Story' was one of my favourites: evocative, detailed, true, bittersweet and personifying the treasure of the ocean.

There was a lot of monochrome, which chimes with me, and it was obvious a lot of the work was very personal.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkRob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkSomeone had written in the comments book that the pieces were 'too expensive', but I don't think you can ever truly put a price on someone's creative vision, ability and time.

(You can buy Rob Ryan original artwork, prints and more here. I think they are priceless, and I'm saving up for this).

What I love particularly about Rob's work is the sense that what you see is just a snapshot of a moment, like in absorbing the details of the scenes he creates we're privy to a tiny moment in the great big universe of time and motion and that, well, love hasn't even got started yet.

Then there were the ceramics. How I love this vibrant design that 'thanks' the summer of 2008 for its warmth. Gratitude on a plate!

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkThe exhibition is in the Park Gallery, but Callander House offers plenty of interesting artefacts and historical details to browse. Of most interest for me were a mock-up vintage record shop, a sweetie shop, a printer's studio... And a tea room. (I recommend the 'Royal Scottish' blend.)

The grounds are peaceful and impressive for a wander - I stumbled into these two lovebirds and there were plenty of real ducks and swans too.

Callendar House, FalkirkFinally, this smiley face just had to be snapped #facesinthings!

Callendar House, FalkirkRob Ryan's exhibition 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet' runs until 4th September 2016, at the Park Gallery, Callendar House, Falkirk.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

Fairy Tale Fashion: 'Alice Day' down the rabbit hole

One golden afternoon on 4 July 1862, Charles Dodgson, an Oxford don, took the 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating picnic up the River Thames from Folly Bridge in Oxford. To amuse the children he told them a story about a little girl, sitting bored by a riverbank, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called Wonderland...

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

To celebrate 'Alice Day' (today, 2nd July) I'm sharing photos from the Fairy Tale Fashion exhibition that ran at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York, at the start of the year.

It was my first visit to New York in February, and I discovered the exhibition by accident, Alice-like, when I wasn't looking for it. Immediately falling down the rabbit hole, I spent over an hour marvelling at the clever fashion interpretations of everyone's favourite fairy tales.

Beginning in the thick velvety drapes of a prickly 'forest' with Little Red Riding Hood, the exhibition lured me through a magical realm of to-die-for couture and the fantastical machinations of childhood fairy tale viewed through an adult lens.

I thought the paper mask for the face of the wolf was a clever, contemporary take on the theme. The jewelled velvet gown was sumptuous (Dolce & Gabbana), and the padded, vinyl-hooded cape was by one of my favourite designers, Comme des Garçons.

Next: Beauty & the Beast. The paper mask again denotes the beast (without relying on ugliness or the grotesque). In fact, he looks rather like a lion?

The detailing of the floral layers really caught my attention here, having been a 'corsage queen' in my day. These shoes in the form of furry 'beast' claws were a real wonder:

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

Christian Louboutin's 'Alex' pumps embody the dynamic of beauty and beastliness. Taking the form of a lion's foot, their craftsmanship is extraordinary: the fur-like texture is created using dense embroidery, and the 'claws' are made from glittering rhinestones. Wow.

'I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!'

This Manish Arora dress (2008) was displayed in true fairy tale style with fabric playing cards, bunny mask and checkerboard tights.

I'm sure the real Alice would have been delighted and proud with this nod to Wonderland. Meanwhile...

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

The Nicholas Kirkwood Alice shoe (2010) combines numerous Wonderland motifs, including the red roses favoured by the Queen of Hearts, a tiny tea set referencing the Mad Hatter's tea party, and the White Rabbit's pocket watch.

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

The Swan Maidens: a huntsman observes seven swan maiden sisters as they remove their featured robes to bathe in the river...

The Swans were one of my favourite sequences as the blue lights and the dazzling costumes served to transport you right there to the lake, the 'black swan' evening dress taking centre stage. Signet to swan.

The Wizard of Oz is another classic tale, and I love the sleek, sexy lines of 'the witch' costume here, and of course, the much-coveted 'Lady Lynch' ruby slippers by Christian Louboutin.

Dorothy's were made from fashionable, late 1930's pumps adorned with sequins and rhinestones. A modern-day Dorothy would undoubtedly prefer shoes by Christian Louboutin...

I was stunned to discover the original slippers were in fact silver, only turning red to capitalise on the use of Technicolour in the original 1939 film. That's turned a million Dorothy-dreams on their heads then. (Off with their heads!)

Moving on, The Bear Prince is a story I'd never heard before.

I like the juxtaposition of lace in the female costume that contrasts with the rugged tweed and rough edges of the Princes' outfit, the caged head indicating a need for restraint.

Clearly red is symbolic of the battle between good and evil, right and wrong; daring, poisoned, passionate red - as if we didn't know that already.

Finally, one of my childhood favourites (though I think I've said this about them all) - The Snow Queen - with the best shoes of the exhibition (a close call to make) - and Sleeping Beauty in her embellished nightgown.

Snowflakes are linked to what the scholar Erica Weitzman refers to as the "frigid mathematical perfection" of the Snow Queen's world (Alexander McQueen evening dress, centre, 2008)

Meanwhile, mirrors are often symbols of vanity and frivolity (mirror, mirror, on the wall...), but here this mirrored Tom Ford dress (centre) and matching shoes offer a beautiful counterpoint to "the demon's nasty mirror shattering into millions and billions of bits".

What fabulous imagery; snowflakes and mirrors. Shattered snowflakes and mathematical mirrors. Mathematical snowflakes and shattered mirrors.

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New YorkThe shoes for me were a huge part of the exhibition experience so I couldn't finish without including the hat made from shoes, the most stunning take on Dorothy's ruby slippers, or the pivotal element in Cinderella's story.

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New YorkThis design is by Stephen Jones (1997) and apparently he designed his collection around the plot of The Red Shoes, referencing the talismanic ballet pumps.

But really, they had me at 'Glass Slipper' (Noritaka Tatehana, 2014):

What a fantastical way to escape the responsibilities of real life and immerse in the glory of these costumes. The exhibition ran from January - April 2016, and I'm so glad I happened into it. It was obviously meant to be.

Fairy Tale Fashion was a unique and imaginative exhibition that examined fairy tales through the lens of high fashion. In versions of numerous fairy tales by authors such as Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, it is evident that dress was often used to symbolize a character’s transformation, vanity, power, or privilege. Colleen Hill, associate curator, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York

Glasgow School of Art: Degree Show 2016

I was lucky enough to attend the preview of the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show last week, leaving with my head full of ideas and inspiration (wishing I was back at university myself with access to all that TIME and resource to freely CREATE and EXPERIMENT...) My favourite part? The textiles, of course.

I was really struck by Rosie Noon's collection; the sheer embroidery words that look like they've been scraped into skin. The details are texturally intricate with so many elements to draw the eye.

I wanted to know more about the themes surrounding this work, and luckily, Rosie details her starting point and inspiration:

My graduate embroidery collection was instigated by the discovery of a photograph album documenting the mysterious life of 'Silvia'. Inspired by the repetition of women in mid-century dresses standing against blurred, floral backgrounds, contrasted by handwritten annotation of places and dates, I looked to re-appropriate these qualities in creating a new story through collage aesthetic in drawing and textile processes.

This connection to the past through a single photograph is catnip to a writer, textile lover and diarist like myself! Gorgeous work.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSANext I was enthralled by the beautiful tactile surface elements in Penny Hewitt's work. She describes her collection:

Capturing the repetition and structures within organic form, closely exploring irregular repeat patterns.

The colours made me think of the fashion collection in my fictional novel, and I wanted to take these samples home and pin them to my wall!

Degree Show - Textiles - GSA

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAI couldn't help but see a buoyant jellyfish suspended here in Niamh Brannan's display, the clash of colours so riotous, playful, fun and daring.

Her collection puts me in mind of Mary Katrantzou prints in tactile form. Or a statement window display in a European capital? KaDeWe in Berlin springs to mind; a slew of designer handbags in matching jellyfish attire.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSA Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThese sponge-fronds attached to plastic tubing put me in mind of medical textiles and the innovations in that area. They would certainly make for 'fashionable arteries'!

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThe crisp geometric folds and stitches in paper, fabric, leather and digitally cut vinyl designed by Rochelle McGuinness really caught my eye, their application mocked up in lampshades and reminding me of some of the Cubist ceramics for sale at the Kubista museum in Prague.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThe method of display that Eliza Glanville uses is so fresh, funky and playful. I love her collage work and sketches and how both these elements feed into her textile designs.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAMore faces. I'm enthralled by faces! Katie O'Brien describes her collection:

Tufting, embellishment and fraying techniques are explored within distinctive arrangements of colour, composition and contrasting materials...

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAA knitted wire dress - 'entanglement' - by Kirsty Lamont:

Entanglement aims to challenge the perceived dichotomy between island and city life. Rather than seeing city life and Island life as two sides of a dichotomy I suggest that they are in fact far more interlinked than people suppose, and that they exist as an ‘entanglement’. Rather than viewing knitting in two halves with ‘traditional’ island knitwear on one side and ‘modern’ textile technology knitwear on the other, my aim is to create something more akin to a gradient where the two sides become enmeshed together in the centre.

Meanwhile, the intricate embroidery of Maja Bjork's collection is both fun and compelling.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThese kinds of textiles really excite me as I imagine them 50ft tall and billowing from the atriums of important buildings; tongue-in-cheek depictions perhaps of the people who reside inside?

After wandering the textile displays I ventured upstairs, passing gorgeous, architectural jewellery and spoons cast in silver made to resemble twigs. I spent the rest of the night exhausting my eyes, pointing at things, my mind whirring.

It was "an attempt to articulate" (super cool title).

 

20160616_191216Glasgow School of Art (GSA)  is indeed a hotbed of innovation. The Degree Show did not disappoint.