Athens time

Monday, 26 April 2010

The V&A - review, and a wonderful day!

On sunday the 25th of April, I was setting off on the first train into London. It was the day I was going to see the 'Quilts 1700 - 2010' exhibition in the Victoria & Albert museum in London.

I arrived a while before the appointed hour on which I was going to meet several online blogging buddies for the first time! I was really looking forward to it!

After crossing the hall, you immediately come into a shop with some nice merchandise (but very pricey too!). I had asked at reception whether you could take photos and was told "anywhere except in the Raphael exhibition and at jewellery". Surprised I was therefore to be told in the shop by a very stern lady that photography was not allowed in the shop!! I of course asked why not? and she explained that they were very nervous about designs being copied... I wonder really ... as if I genuinely was out to copy a design, I would definitely buy the article and not rely on photographs but take it home and have it there in detail to copy! besides.. they have photos of all their merchandise on their website and in the catalogues.... Oh well... I expect she felt she had averted a major disaster!

I did however photograph the dress they had in the window... OUTside the shop (having expressly been forbidden to photograph INside the shop!). I expect that is legal. Especially as I am stating categorically that this dress is being sold by the V&A shop, that you must go and see it yourself and purchase it if possible and on no account should copy this! Understood? Good.. I wouldn't want to get into trouble...:-)

The V&A itself (through which I consequently wandered) is a maze of corridors and rooms. Most of the rooms in the upper levels are very very quiet and I seemed to be the only visitor, in spite of the great amount of people in the building who all seemed to be downstairs... The only people I met were the V&A guards, who all were very friendly and helpful.

The building is a collection of styles from new to old to modernist..

This is one of the main corridors on the main level;

Here a courtyard where the old and the modern have been successfully incorporated into the overal sheme,

with a weatherproof modern glass roof with hanging glass panes that seem to move when you walk along (only they don't , you do, creating the illusion)

Upstairs, the style completely changes and one can imagine oneself in times past..

I had a great time discovering the various sections, nearly got lost, but managed to find my friends in time!

We met, introduced, and proceeded to enter the exhibition. The entry was timed and it is advised to pre-order tickets on the website, which we had all done so we could enter together. Formalities out of the way, we could go in and were given a short publication with a little information about quilting in general and some quilt specifically.

One thing was immediately noticeable, as the first and second fabrics to be exhibited were also in the booklet... The printing was drab and so were the colours... The colours in the real quilts in the exhibition though were absolutely fabulous!

(photo courtesy of V&A exhibition publication)

This quilt e.g. (sorry it is sideways, still struggling with picasa...) had the most lovely colours in hues of light blue, dusky pink and sand, then on the darker colours the deepest blues and purples.. The absolute amazing colours were what first attracted me to this quilt, on further inspection, you notice the wonderful quilting too. However, this photo does not represent truly what the quilt was like... I also looked at the book that was for sale in the shop. Throughout the same was true... The quilts were accurately photographed, but the photo was 'flat' and the colours subdued, grays/browns, and none of the vivacity to be found in the real quilts. If you are interested in the history and the story of quilting, a lot of information is found in the book. If you are looking for 'eye candy' you will be disappointed.

The quilts themselves were wonderful. Many had a lot of pieces and many were of the 'medallion quilt' variety. Of course we must understand that at the time these quilts were made fabric was scarce and the quilts were made from any fabric that the women at the time could lay their hands on. It was amazing to see how many different fabrics were incorporated in any one quilt and, even more amazing, how they still somehow seemed in unison, due to the layout of the quilts and the colourcoordination.

The further into the exhibition we came, the more "modern" the quilts became. I say "modern", because some of the quilts were pieces of art, especially commissioned for the exhibition. Quite a few of them by artists whose primary medium is not quilting. Of course I am not against anyone using textiles and/or quilting as a medium and some of the pieces were quite amazing and thoughtprovoking. I did wonder though, as this was expressly a quilting exhibition, where the pieces were from existing quilt artists who are using the quilting medium to give a modern twist to the traditional blocks and traditionaly way of quilting. This sort of quilting was not respresented at all, and I rather missed that.

Some of these art pieces, made of other fibres, like one that looked to be made of paper.. I would have expected in an art exhibition, not in a quilting exhibition. Very nice was also a short film about men taking up quilting in prison, saying it was a lifesaver, gave them peace and gave them something worthwhile to create.

The last piece in the exhibition was from Tracey Emin. Almost (once upon a time) my neighbour in the nearby town of Margate (very near to Ramsgate where I live). She created a dressed up bed and used some lovely fabrics she had in her personal stash. Again, I did not find this falling under 'quilt' so much as under 'art'. Tracey did surprise me however by remarking of her work, that quilting is not only sewing things together (I did not write down the exact quote) but that it also is about sharing and community. Right on Tracey! The right note on which to end the exhibition!

We all went into the sunny courtyard to have a well deserved cup of tea and a sandwich! After taking a photo for posterity of course....;

(from left to right; Aneela and her daughters, Tacha, Constanza, Brioni and Katy)

I would like to say a big THANK YOU, to all of them for being such fantastic company and make me feel so welcome and part of the group. I had a fantastic day out and it was SO much better sharing it with you all. I had a brilliant time! (and not only that, collectively these ladies managed to re-fire my enthousiasm for things I had almost given up on and thrown in a corner.. it's magic!). Thank you again ladies. You are the BEST!!

After the exhibiton, there was another shop, in which some fabrics were sold and a lot of books as well as some other presents that could be bought. I picked up a pack of precut shapes.. 6 shapes in a pack and a pricetag of... £12 !! No way! There was a wide variety of quilting books and as all the present were also very pricey I managed to only buy two prints;

The top one I loved so much I could not leave it and bought half a metre (£5.75). The brown is to coordinate and a FQ (£3.50). What I love about the top print is the sort of 30's/feedsack pattern feel about it, just couldn't leave it! This whole series of prints has been especially created for the exhibition. I saw several more but somehow (don't ask me how... it being the end of the month maybe??) I managed to leave them... I am now thinking maybe I should go back one day before the exhibition ends and have another look then get some more FQ's?? mmmmm....

When I got home and tried to photograph the loot, quality control was on it straight away and approved!;

It was a lovely day and I would certainly recommend the exhibition. I loved seeing all the old quilts and the chance to meet up with online friends made it extra super special!


Liz said...

Thanks for taking me on your fabulous tour with you! I love the dress, how absurd has it become with people worrying all the time about copyright? We can no longer take a photograph simply for the pleasure of it it seems!! Sometimes I think the world is going to dissolve under worry and litigation..........!!!
Have a great week Marguerite.

Catherine said...

You've done a wonderful job of describing this exhibition and wish I could have been there. Love the beautiful old corridors and the photo of everyone with the building in the background. Thanks for the tour!

Catherine said...

Oh forgot to say that I love that 30's looking print on top and I'd want to go back for more too!!

Jenni said...

Lucky lucky you! Wish I could've seen the Exhibition. I considered buying the book, but I don't think I will. How lovely to have quilty friends to go with - are they bloggers too?

Tacha said...

It was great fun meeting you Marguerite! I had a fabulous day!

Rafael's Mum said...

They are all bloggers Jenni. We had met online but not in person and it was great to meet them all.

Glad you liked it too Tacha, wasn't it wonderful?!!

Sylvie - Madame Créative said...

Thank you for sharing your visit with us.
I wish I could have come... Maybe another time?

Susan said...

Oh, what a glorious day that had to have been. Only wish you had made it into the photos, Marg! Nice to see so many of our other quilty friends there, what fun to get together and meet up.

Thanks for all the photos, that looks like a really interesting place to wander around in. Loved it!

Jo said...

What a wonderful trip you have taken us on. I don't think I will get to see this expo of quilts, so am very thankful to you for the trip in words. I am sure you made note of some of the things I would miss, like the skip garden, that was great. If you are going to the NEC (in Birmingham) quilt expo let me know and lets see if we can meet up, sounds like fun getting to know on line friends

myBearpaw said...

I loved reading the story of your day! Thanks so much and, as I won't make it down to the exhibition, I can now imagine it all as if I had been there. Now off to read the second part!

Mandalin said...

Oh how fab Marg! I HAVE to go to the V&A next time I'm in England. And what fun to meet all those lovely blogging friends. Pea green I am!