A day out! Well, half a day. Well, about two hours out really, and then I pretty much stopped functioning… The Ankle Formerly Known as Sprained has been playing up this week, to the point where I have had to dust off ye olde purple walking sticke again. I am not sure why it is so painful but, as with everything these days, I have decided to blame the government. Specifically, I am blaming Alec Salmond (Scotland’s First Minister, for those who aren’t intimately acquainted with devolved politics) whose presence at the university several days ago led to the closure (for security reasons) of a number of entrances on our extremely hilly campus, and hence to some very long and very steep detours. In principle this is reasonable enough, and the closure was only for 15 tiny minutes — but in that case, what bright spark decided that the particular minutes needed to be at lecture changeover time?
Nonetheless, I had belatedly realised that “the Anni Albers exhibition” (as it is currently known in the UK) was already at the Dovecot Studios and due to pack up and leave in a week’s time. This is a two-part exhibition which was shown at the Ruthin Craft Centre earlier in the year and had me seriously wondering if I could devise another foray into Wales, so it would hardly do to miss it when it is now just down the road.
The first part of the exhibition shows some of the design work of Anni Albers. It is hard to write her name without inserting “the legendary” in front of it. The work on display includes screenprints, weaving and some pieces of jewellery made from ordinary hardware. The last of these was quite new to me and I loved the neckalce made from hairgrips. I must have lost several hundred hairgrips during my schooldays. They were ghastly to wear but a lot of fun to play with, so I completely understand the impulse to turn them into a necklace.
I felt there could have been more detail about the woven textiles and how they were constructed. My favourite piece in the exhibition was simply labelled, “Drapery. Yarns unknown.” The cloth was a peachy-orange colour and had a beautiful all-over pattern in cream with a sort of random progression to it. Leaning over as far as I could to peer at it, I could see that this patterning came from slubs in the weft yarn which were fairly regular but not quite periodic with the width of the cloth. Thus the slubs lined up in groups, but the groups gradually shifted across the cloth. This is not easy to describe! The slubby weft alternated with a “normal” weft, but I couldn’t make out whether it had its own pattern pick in between some tabby or whether the whole cloth was in plain weave. Next time I must take binoculars.
There were also some display cases showing small woven samples and it was lovely to see that these were exactly the samples that every weaver makes: there was plain weave, some thick-and-thin, a few twills, colour-and-weave effects… and in a wide variety of fibres from silk to jute to metallics. Samples. Love ’em.
The second part of the exhibition had works from a number of contemporary artists who have been inspired by Albers. One of those artists is Laura Thomas, so you can see some pictures of this part of the exhibition on her blog. I enjoyed the diversity of the work on display: there was colour, there was structure, there were bold shapes, but not all at once and in-yer-face. Each artist had gone in their own very personal direction.
Stuart and I were both very taken with the work of Dörte Behn, which we hadn’t seen before. We were also very taken with her background as a doctor who also studied philosophy and then came to weaving later. The main piece on display was a pair of interlocking linen tubes. In cross-section you would see two squares overlapping at one corner. However, it was a very tall piece — as if these squares had just been stretched into the third dimension as far as was possible, and she had just had to stop because the weaving hit the ceiling. The linen was a very open weave so you walked around it you saw the surfaces through each other and the shapes appeared to change. You can see some similar pieces on her website.
We also managed a little side-trip to Edinburgh’s treasure house of craft, Concrete Wardrobe. Once upon a time, when I was doing a presentation for the Bradford course, I interviewed James Donald — one of the CW proprietors — about his weaving practice. I don’t think he can possibly remember this as he was totally jet-lagged at the time, having just flown in from a trade fair in San Francisco. This morning, funnily enough, James was away looking at the Albers exhibition, while we had the pleasure of meeting the charming and knowledgeable Michael. A lovely time was spent chatting about weaving, cloth and craft. Michael also thought it would be fun to phone James on his mobile and remind him of the bacon-butty fuelled interview, so we had a very entertaining three-way conversation!
I had rather hoped that we might also pay a visit to Hannah Zakari, which opened in July last year, but my ankle said STOP. We had planned to come home early anyway — before the end of the Six Nations match at Murrayfield — so we just spent half an hour sitting in a café with a cup of tea while we waited for the train, and were home in time to catch the result. 🙂
It is my fond hope that the above is reasonably coherent and not just babble. I’ve been posting less often than I would like recently as I don’t seem to be able to marshal my thoughts into order. The noise in my head as they all go flying round and round is quite exhausting, and it takes me a very long time to get anything like a sentence to form. However, I am hoping this is just a stressful phase which will soon pass. In the light of recent events around the world, I am inclined to think Alice’s rules are a good way ahead.