Archives for posts with tag: V&A
Controlled office chaos

Controlled office chaos

I think this picture of my office says it all – planning for the Patchwork Social, coming up this Bank Holiday weekend at the V&A, has had me organizing, cutting, prepping, and sewing for the last several weeks.  I’m in my element, though – a huge event requiring lots of logistical thought PLUS the creativity of sewing PLUS doing good for others?  Wow.  I couldn’t ask for more.

The weekend is going to be full of great activities – including sewing patchwork blocks by hand or machine, making a ‘virtual quilt’ from designs inspired by the museum’s collections, and learning how to re-purpose your old clothes and textiles into new treasures with Sarah Baulch of ReVampt.  There are also family activities and the chance to cheer on members of Girlguiding London and South East Region (LaSER) as they sew towards their craft badges.

The ‘doing good’ part is because all of the hand- and machine-sewn patchwork is going to be made into quilts for Project Linus UK, a charity supporting seriously ill and traumatised children.  Project Linus will be donating the finished quilts to Great Ormond Street Hospital and Kids Company.

I was running up some example quilts yesterday with the beautiful fabric we’ve got – all 200 metres of it donated by Coats Crafts, plus needles and thread too – and feeling so happy that what I was making was going to go towards making a difference in the life of a child in distress.  It was such a good feeling – now I realize why all the Project Linus volunteers I’ve met are so dedicated to their work.  Over 20 people from Project Linus will be volunteering this weekend, and some of them have already been a great help in cutting and prepping some of the fabric.  (If I’d had to do all 200 metres myself I’d have gone nuts!)

I’m really looking forward to the event and hope that everyone who comes will enjoy it.  In fact, I’m wishing it were tomorrow already.  I may not be able to sleep tonight!

'Here's one I made earlier!'

'Here's one I made earlier!'

Coverlet by Ann West, 1820.  Museum no. T.23-2007

Coverlet by Ann West, 1820. Museum no. T.23-2007

The Quilts exhibition has opened!  OK, so it opened last week and I just wasn’t on the ball to write a blog entry immediately after seeing it at the private view and I was on a plane to Ottawa right after that.  But I’ve just seen it again today and it is truly fabulous.  It’s garnering rave reviews, and quilters from all over the world are in London to see it.  I met with a trio of Texan ladies a few days ago who organize the International Quilt Festival, among other things, and they just loved it.  It was such a pleasure to talk to them about the events and courses my department has been organizing, and about the interactives that have been created to go with the exhibition (such as the fabulous Quilt of Quilts, where you can upload images of your own quilts!  I added three of mine.)

Chintz bed hangings, 1730-50.  Museum no 242-1908.

Chintz bed hangings, 1730-50. Museum no 242-1908.

The quilts themselves are breathtaking.  I particularly loved the patchwork commemorating the Duke of Wellington, with the paper pieces still intact on the back of the patchwork, and its odd little rhyme which is not at all what it seems at first read.  I also loved the ‘Alphabet of Love and Courtship’, especially Q for Quakings.  And the patchwork made by Girl Guides for their group leader while in Changi prison in Singapore during World War II was heart-rending.  There are a number of contemporary quilts commissioned for the exhibition, and I had the luck to meet maker Sarah Impey at the private view and talk with her about how she made her wonderful piece ‘Punctuation’.

V&A/Liberty limited edition fabric

V&A/Liberty limited edition fabric

Of course, the shop is also stocked with irresistible goodies.  I’ve already bought some of the wonderful limited edition fabrics made by V&A and Liberty Art Fabrics.  All 18 of the patterns are gorgeous but I like ‘Petals’ best.

The years of work that Sue Prichard, the curator, and Claire Smith, the assistant curator, have put into this exhibition has paid off – it’s just fabulous.  All quilters or sewing aficionados should go see it.  I hope they will also come to the Patchwork Social, which I’m organizing for the first May bank holiday weekend, 1-3 May.  We’ll be sewing patchwork blocks to be put together as quilts for the charity Project Linus UK to support children with serious illness or trauma.  I’m really excited about the event and we have so many lovely people from Project Linus who are going to be volunteering at the event and helping people with their sewing.  If you are a quilter or are interested in making a simple patchwork block for charity, it would be great to see you there.

I just had the best time making my own film in iMovie!  At the V&A we’re doing a b-movie weekend and having people come in, shoot some film in the galleries, and then edit their clips in iMovie (see the results at  

I shot some film myself last night on my own camera and used a lull in today’s activities to make my own movie: Nightmare Mouse!  You can see it on my YouTube channel: 

The blue stuffed toy starring as the evil nightmare mouse was sewn by me a few months ago, as one of the first things I made on the sewing machine my sister gave us for our wedding present.  The hedgehog puppet belongs to my husband!

Lion Rampant tile

Lion Rampant tile

A few days ago we bought a very small pumpkin and I spent a couple of hours carving it.  I don’t usually like to do faces, so I tried to find a good design that was visually pleasing and semi-Halloween-like, but not using the usual scary face or ghost or haunted house theme.  Last year I picked a stylized design of a wheat sheaf and really loved the result, so this year I wanted to do something similarly stylized.  I chose a gothic revival image of a lion rampant, from a ceramic tile at the V&A.  It’s got a face that’s sort of demon-like, so the Halloween theme is still there, and the claws look pretty fiery and scary.  It was a great design to choose because it only had about 7 different areas to cut out but they all had some visual intricacies so I could really test my skill with the knife.

Inked lion rampant on pumpkin

Inked lion rampant on pumpkin

After inking the picture onto the pumpkin (I did it freehand with just a regular ballpoint pen), I got an X-Acto knife (evidently it’s called a Stanley knife here in the UK) and used only the very tip of the blade, scoring cross-hatches in all the areas I wanted to remove.  Then I used one of my jewellery files (I probably shouldn’t ever use it for jewellery again!) to gouge out the sections I’d scored.  I could have used a vegetable peeler tip, I guess.  The little pieces came out pretty easily and I didn’t gouge too deep – about half a centimetre.  After I finished the carving, I cut off the top of the pumpkin and scraped out the seeds.  Light didn’t show through the design well enough, so I thinned out the wall of the pumpkin from inside with a spoon – much easier than digging deeper into the design.

I did it a few days ago so now it’s starting to wizen a little, but it should still be fine for tomorrow night!

The finished pumpkin - in the daytime

The finished pumpkin - in the daytime

Yesterday I posted about the Flickr Design Challenge at Designerama!, which is happening this weekend at the V&A.  Alongside that activity, the digital team is also putting on an SMS wall projection with the help of multi-disciplinary artists Troika.

For the SMS projection, we’ll be asking participants to text a response from their mobile phone to finish the following sentence:  ‘If I were a designer, I would design…’  Their responses will be projected onto a wall in the Sackler Centre in an ever-changing formation.

For me there are so many answers I could probably fill up the whole wall:

  • an eco-house in the middle of nowhere
  • a library with built-in bookshelves to hold all our books
  • letterpress greeting cards
  • pretty tablecloths and napkins
  • a transport system that doesn’t break down
  • woodblock prints inspired by Japanese design
  • a handbag with the perfect number of pockets
  • a drop-dead gorgeous evening dress
  • a bed that’s truly comfortable
  • a sustainable and organic garden
  • a cookbook with delicious recipes and photos to salivate over
  • delicate ceramic bowls and cups
  • patterns for fabrics
  • book covers for children’s books

There are so many things I could add to this list!  I’m really looking forward to seeing how visitors respond to this question.  I also hope that they realize that when they text their answer, they do understand that being a designer isn’t a totally unattainable thing.  They’re already designing many parts of their own lives, sometimes without even realizing it.  To imply that they’d have to be a Designer with a capital D in order to create useful and beautiful things will be counter to the whole spirit of the activity.  The outcome we hope for is that texting an answer will inspire someone to actually start to create the thing that they say they would design.

Japanese hair comb, 19th century

Japanese hair comb, 19th century

This weekend, the V&A is hosting Designerama!, an event to celebrate the opening of the new Sackler Centre for arts education.  The digital team (that’s me and two colleagues) are hosting the V&A Flickr Design Challenge.  We’ll be lending digital cameras to museum visitors and asking them to take pictures of their favourite objects that embody good design, then upload them to the Flickr group we’ve created.

I went around the museum today taking pictures of my favourites to upload ahead of time – like this Japanese silk kimono fabric and this short, squat silver teapot by Christopher Dresser.  We’re looking forward to finding out what other people consider the objects that represent good design.  I’m sure there will be countless definitions of what people actually consider good design.  How do you define good design?