Saturday, 26 July 2014

All eight


Birds in the Park

Although not entirely original in its conception (think Gromit Unleashed) we've taken a slightly different approach to large fibreglass animal figures. Ours are based on the Golden Pheasants that were once in the aviary of Barbara St John at Croome, and are perched in trees.

The eight models were made by Will Datson and they're just over 2m long. There were four artists working with us: Sharon Farrelly, Lucy Hutchinson, Santhanha Nguyen, and James Birkin, all of whom had work shown at the New Art West Midlands show earlier this year. They spent a day with pupils from St Barnabus school at Croome (who all seemed to know much more about Croome than I do), and used their ideas for the designs for half the birds, then their own ideas for the other four. The results are are so diverse and they are all very appealing in their own way.

Will then returned to Croome and hoisted them up into a number of trees around the park, and fixed them firmly to branches.

New shoes

Soul to Sole has just gone through an expansion phase with a number of new shoes (and footprints) being added, and it is really getting very close to where we want it to be. The creativity and variety of approach by the different artists to our installation on the myriad people who have lived at Croome is boundless. Amongst others, there are now four sets of footprints in clay, of adults who lived in the Hare Krishna community when they were children, and a pair of porcelain shoes with leather quarters and heels representing Wendy Hogarth, one of the WWII WRENS from RAF Defford. The footprints were made by Anna Mitchell, and the porcelain ones by Lisa Sheppy. We've some more shoes coming over the next few weeks, and we're going to re-do the lighting too.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Fabric of the Nation

I was at Heelis this week for a meeting with a group of people in the National Trust who are embarking on a project to renovate and restore the huge collection of tapestries, textiles and clothing that the Trust has - over 100,000 items in fact. There's a lot of conservation work to be done, and the project would be a five-year one. It sounds like the sort of thing which could get a lot of attention, and of course it sits nicely with our tapestry project. Although, of course, we intend to have new tapestries made.

If there's so much work to be done conserving textiles, it does beg the question whether we should be making something new, but it's the best way to draw attention to the craft of tapestry-making. In terms of the story of textiles within the Trust's collection, it arguably gives a contemporary relevancy to all the pieces already in existence.

There are a number of large tapestry panels at Heelis and although I didn't remember to take a photo of them, I did pass a shop in the shopping place next door which was selling creme eggs in bags of ten for £2.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


I've just written a blog post about my recent trip to the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh, and whilst editing my photo, I came across ones I took in Birmingham a month ago when I went to see Grayson Perry's tapestries, The Vanity of Small Differences at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

I was very impressed with the museum itself, but nothing could prepare me for the tapestries. They are very engaging works, with multiple artistic and cultural references, and striking use of text and narrative. Having them at Croome is going to be quite something.

Dovecot Studios

It’s been a while since I blogged as things have been extremely busy, and blogging has felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford.

I visited Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh on Friday morning, meeting with director David Weir, general manager Sandra Crow, master weaver Naomi Roberson and other weavers working on different pieces. It was a fascinating morning.

As well as having beautiful interior spaces, the Studios have an ethos very akin to our approach at Croome – one of developing work through collaborations and conversations. They also have a chequered history, much like Croome, and had a radical overhaul in the late 1990s.

We talked at length about how we might collaborate on a tapestry programme at Croome, and there are a number of possibilities of what we might do and how we might go about it. Needless to say, it would be a big project (as the Croome tapestry room deserves), with the tangible outcome of a Croome tapestry in one form or another. Details will follow as things unfold…

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Spent the day at Kelmarsh Hall today. It’s where a large part of what remains of the Croome collection is housed, a good deal of it on display on the first floor. As it is closed to the public at this time of year, we had the house to ourselves, giving us plenty of time and space to have a good look at everything.

On the ground floor of the house there is a room with some fantastic Chinese wallpaper, presumably much like that which 
used to be in the Chinese bedroom at Croome: hand-painted in China, it looked like it had been cut into pieces then reassembled at Kelmarsh. One or two things were evidently painted on in-situ. Jane also mentioned a young designer called Lucy Hutchinson who has produced some Chinese wallpaper, to be shown at the New Art West Midlands 2014 exhibition.

From wallpapers to the large oil paintings of the Coventry family, there is so much to decode – especially with portraits. When confronted with a portrait I always wonder who (if anyone) has the upper hand: the artist or the subject?

A lot of the furniture is exquisite, although there are some larger pieces that I didn’t find terribly exciting. Of course, this style of furniture was very new and unusual when new, 
but Adam’s style has been so much copied and reproduced that in the more ordinary pieces there was little of real interest for me. It was also early in his career when he was designing these pieces.

I enjoyed the recurrence of the claws on the feet of chairs and small tables. I suppose this has allusions to Greek and Roman emperors, and adventure in Africa. And the French furniture and ceramics were rather nice too. All the designs and shapes are organic and pre-industrial in inspiration, as are the materials, of course.
It strikes me how there is a fetishisation (verging on worship) of historical/antique objects and works of art, often with a value (not only monetary) assigned to them that is way beyond what might seem reasonable. 
The same can be seen with contemporary objects, like Apple products, or shoes, and it also applies to any work by an individual designer/artist.
I imagine this has always been the case: since humans first fashioned objects from raw materials – initially for a particular purpose (be it functional and/or decorative) but then affording their owners a status (be it self-reflexive and/or by third-parties) that is purely subjective.
But it was a beautifully sunny day, and I'm sure we'll have plenty more to do with Kelmarsh.