I’m currently in the middle of a conference for PhD students in OR, but I skived off this afternoon to go and see an exhibition at Nottingham Castle. There are actually three separate exhibitions happening together and all are about silk.
The main focus is Living in Silk, an exhibition — or part of an exhibition — from China. The original exhibition was put together for the Beijing Olympics and some of the items have come to the UK to mark the London Olympics. Definitely the best Olympic-related event I’ve come across so far! There are fragments of silk which are 1,800 years old, contemporary digital designs and many examples from the years in between. I particularly liked the Tang dynasty silks, which were in extraordinarily good shape for such old textiles, but the contemporary designs were also very striking. (I have been rummaging around online trying to see whether there are any photos from the exhibition I can link to, but the best I have come up with is the facebook page of the gallery — scroll down the timeline to March and there are some links to pictures posted on twitter, but they aren’t all that great.)
The exhibition also includes a loom and several scale models of looms. Fabulous! The miniature drawloom is a treat. The full-size loom was an interesting design, with the warp beam higher than the back beam and an ingenious brake. I’ve tried to sketch it and to photograph my sketch — I’m not absolutely convinced it will come out the right way up, but I’ll take a chance. The weaver just has to reach up and pull the handle of the brake towards her/him to release the spoke on the warp beam: very neat. (There is a lot more wooden superstructure than I have shown here. But you knew that.)
One of the linked exhibitions is based on Chinese textiles from the museum’s own collection — mostly from the 19th century — and there were some interesting comments on the lower quality of the garments made at that time for export to the west. This section also had some nice interactive bits: you are never too old for interactive displays, I say.
And the final part was a project by fashion students at Nottingham Trent: they had designed collections inspired by the theme of the Silk Road and ideas of nationality and identity. Only a couple of the garments were on display, but there were some wonderful, large photographs (so WHY no online gallery??). My favourite collection was The Silk Connection by Dinah Azoyine: silk couture dresses, with colours and patterns as if they had been made from Kente cloth, modelled by a Chinese girl.
All in all, I reckon it was a good use of my afternoon. And I promise to go to some more seminars tomorrow…