You can imagine my surprise when, having exited the V&A museum, face burrowed in a copy of the 'Quilts' exhibition leaflet, mid convo with hubby, I turned and almost walked directly into one of these beauties! Looking further ahead I saw another.... and then another.......and then another.
Indeed, an entire herd of these wildly painted Asian Elephants have stormed the streets of Central London. They are part of a new campaign by Elephant Family to raise awareness of the plight of this magnificent species. I can't really think of a more wonderful amalgamation - animal charities and art! Two of my own passions! You'd think that these guys would be pretty conspicuous, but oddly enough, with all the hustle and bustle of the city, the elephants almost merge in with their backdrop until you are (quite literally in my case!) right on top of them.
These particular examples have been stationed in and around Covent Garden - but they are all over the place! If you get a chance go and check them out! I love them! Of course, if you can spare a few pennies then use the link above to pop over to the website and make a donation. Hopefully, with enough support we can save these awe-inspiring beasts for future generations to adore and admire.
And now to the 'Quilt' exhibition itself! You'll imagine my dismay when I noticed the short, succinct sentence 'NO PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED' at the bottom of my ticket! So much for sharing my experience with you guys! You'll have to make do with this picture that I took in the museum foyer of a gargantuan installation constructed from what I assume to be either blown glass or acrylic....
(Notice the funky borders that I am now able to put around my images thanks to the new camera I received for my birthday! Whoop!)
The exhibition featured a breath-taking array of quilts, skills and workmanship and truly did place the entire concept of the craft firmly within a historical and sociological context. The exhibition was arranged in five thematic displays - 'the domestic landscape', 'private thoughts/political debates', ' virtue and virtuosity', 'making a living', and 'meeting the past'.
One of the most impressive sights, for me personally, was, in fact, the very first item to be displayed. Upon entering the exhibition area one immediately encounters a four poster bed that is elaborately adorned with patchwork bed hangings made from cotton, linen, fustian and silk. The work is dated from the 1730-1750 period. I've 'borrowed' this close-up image of the patchwork design from the V&A website, but nothing could fully capture the sheer brilliance of the actual item.
I think, perhaps, what is most striking about these bed hangings, aside from the vibrancy of the colours (am I the only one that struggles to visualise previous centuries in anything other than a romanticised sepia, with pastel highlights?!) is the physical form that they took when displayed. So often we see quilts thrown over beds, on the back of armchairs or displayed flat as wall hangings. But here, the pelmets, coverlet and curtains combine to create an almost animated three dimensional form - an entire cube of patchwork. Never before have I seen anything like it - and supposedly we are more advanced these days. The necessary skill inherent in hand-piecing all the individual elements of a quilt like this are, quite simply, phenomenal!
Multitudinous pieces caught my eye and would be well worth commenting on - if only I had the images to share with you! It did strike me, however, just how many 'alternative' fabrics were used in quilts of old. I understand that every little scrap was valuable and that nothing would, or could, be wasted. I also understand that cotton has fundamental properties that make it an ideal candidate for the job, especially for those just beginning to learn the requisite skills. I just cannot comprehend why modern quilters rarely implement silk in their designs - it is so widely available these days and, if the quilts at the exhibition are anything to go by, it adds a real touch of luxury and splendour to the finished item regardless of the quantity used! I also found it fairly amusing to note on one particular quilt that the Victorians were producing a relatively large-scale leapard print cotton! Logically there is nothing to suggest for a moment that they would not be doing this - it just seemed a) incongrous in a design that largely featured traditional florals, and b) that the desire for animal prints is a thoroughly contemporary stylistic choice (although I recognise now that this is an entirely erroneous supposition!)!!!
Now, regretfully, I am going to wind things up here. The last 48 hours have been something of a nightmare in the Mother's Ruin household. We've had it all - solicitors, sick relatives and, as if to remind me that I could not escape from my troubles by heading into the office, I spent most of Monday morning at the vets with a very poorly pussy cat.
On a happier note - I received an extremely exciting message via my Folksy shop on Saturday. More about THAT soon!
Mother's Ruin xxx