In our element

We stand completely captivated by the mesmerising jellyfish. Their domed shapes, pinpricked with a hundred tiny lights, pulse silently through the water, wafting their frilly eight-part underskirts, while tubes tipped with more little neon brightness trail behind. They are a miracle of construction, and heaven knows what they are actually doing. The pleated and curling corals, come-hither anemones, darting iridescent fish, smooth spotted indigo frogs, rippling reeds are all marvellous and surprising inspiration for the Btec fashion students I was with at the Horniman museum. Their observational drawings were contributing to a printed skirt project, themed ‘underwater’.

I must go and see the ballgowns at the V&A – those billowing cream tentacles are ripe for transforming into frou-frou hems and cosseted shoulders.

Across town at the Royal Academy the magnificent Bronze exhibition is full of other types of ingenuity and art – from the statuesque titans of  Renaissance figures to the tiniest copulating grasshoppers from Ghana. No need to pick a favourite, but I love this little Bronze Age chariot carrying the disc of the sun. It lay hidden in a northern bog for centuries, but went on shining nonetheless, kept safe by being lost.

“If the Sun and Moon should doubt, They’d immediately Go out.” William Blake

The contrast and breadth of forms is enormous; the beauty of the opening exhibit is a wonder – dredged from amongst its fellows long hidden fathoms below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. Damaged as it is, limbs missing and broken, newly released from the water this Greek dancing satyr flies in the air with breathtaking grace and strength – a  paralympian in his true element.

And below the social surface of our lives the invisible strands of connection seem to run hither and thither. Almost the best thing about visiting the London Design Festival was the extraordinary re-meeting I had with an erstwhile hitch-hiker I’d given a lift to early one summer Sunday morning. It had transpired on the journey south (she was making for the Eurostar, I was off to the archive in Rye) that she was a student of textiles – yes! – and the interview from which she was travelling home to Germany had resulted in a textile studio job here in the autumn. And sure enough last week there she was, neat and smiling, at her employer’s stand! Thumbs up to coincidence.

But don’t run away with the idea that it’s been non-stop gadding about for me these last two weeks! Oh no – the blog is a little late because I’ve been painting painting painting into the small hours of almost every day with a lot of lovely work to be completed.

Translating gardens of flowers into patterns on cloth is always a favourite job. A lot of that has been going on – and my first special edition silk scarves are on their way – below is a sneak at the painted sunflowers floral, which will soon be available from my online shop along with the printed cards, and joined by a 2013 calendar too …..Other designs have travelled further afield – more of that later….

And I’m very pleased to say the first group of designs I’ve done in collaboration with WestElm in the USA are now on their website.

Thanks to Alan, Molly and to the Garlands for their lovely garden.

10 thoughts on “In our element

  1. Madrid to London is so near and yet so far. I must make the effort to do more when I am in London and appreciate more what is here in Madrid, on my doorstep. But what a coincidence, your meeting with “erstwhile hitch-hiker” ! “El mundo es un panuelo” as they say in Spain, “the world is a handkerchief”, which reminds me, I wear one of yours in my jacket pocket and feel joyful when I catch a glimpse of it. That’s the effect you have on people, Sarah!

  2. William Blake wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” But you, Sarah, see the rainbow outside the cavern. Nature gave you vision without the grey filter through which most Brits view their moist, misty northern hemisphere island. Each time I open your missives, my eyes and soul light up.

  3. As effervescant as ever. I particularly like the subtle bronzes this time. <Must get to that exhibition.
    Going to a Big Draw event at the sir John Soane's Museum on Piranesi which should be exciting. Best wishes, April

  4. Every time I read your posts I wish and wish I was living back in England. Then thank goodness I finish reading and come to my Brooklyn NYC senses. But talk about inspiring and then frustrating that I can’t go to all the things you get to (HOW do you find the time?).
    You are brilliant.

  5. Hi Sarah, I enjoy receiving your updates, they are always really interesting and inspiring. I particularly love to see your lively, vibrant, handpainted designs. Thank you for the support you have given my blog. Annemarie

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