Unusually for me I’ve fallen in love with a pair of boots! It’s true I saw them one saturday through a haze of anti-histamine, thanks to another one of those pesky studio wasp’s stings, but they made me laugh out loud in the shop nonetheless. The combination of hefty DocMartens and white printed lace seemed so funny and entertaining through my doze-coloured spectacles. Ah, Pascal – I didn’t buy you then and there – I’m savouring the idea – will I, won’t I? I’ve even looked at you online – there are three versions. In the event I bought an ill-fitting pair of cheap sneekers in daft desperation; they’ll have to be returned, so I’ll take my winter socks and see whether my feet are a good match with those shiny objects of my desire. Lace-ups!
The next day I found myself back in Brittany. Unlike last year the weather was warm and sunny and the ocean beckoned. It’s lovely to return to a favourite spot. And it’s two years since I painted the little birds dashing about on the pebbles there after a storm; I’m now happy to show you the new fabric range, Sandpipers, that grew from that little picture. Produced by my friends at Michael Miller Fabrics in New York there are two colour groups – stone and denim – and I love them. They have a particularly calm and pleasing atmosphere and will be available at the month end. It’s the third range I’ve done with MMF; painted artwork for the fourth has just been completed and despatched.
Another of the great treats of the little holiday was a visit to the Capucins de Landerneau, a cultural foundation and gallery set up by the huge Breton supermarket chain Leclerc (Tesco take note). We went to see the exhibition of Chagall ‘From Poetry to Painting’. Emotionally charged, it was very moving to see the journey of this jewish man’s long span of work as he carried his stories with him, retelling and retelling them. In the current climate of migration and displacement, cultures and traditions are still being shouldered in the tattered suitcases of memory.
In the beautiful books, among them editions commissioned and printed by Vollard and Gallimard, we see the romance of his dreams glowing brightly beside bold and handsome typography. His figures hover, inhabiting the surface with passionate presence and colours that have both intensity and distance. Paintings, drawings, prints, poems, ceramics, sculpture, theatre designs – he made them all as he told his great themes, and living through two world wars, he died in his studio aged 92 in 1985.
Sophie’s work on migration – story-collecting, drawing, poetry and writing – has culminated in the book Voyage, a collaboration with the poet Karen McCarthy Woolf via RE-THINK at the National Maritime Museum is now published.
The Fond Leclerc gallery visit was followed by a picnic with friends and relations in a sunny secluded valley – lakeside view, water-mill and dining-table all thoughtfully provided. The holiday continued with my annual visit to the local treasure-trove of a market, a morning making chutney from the plentiful apples in the little orchard, and generally taking advantage of the companionable chance for pursuing ideas in daily ongoing conversations. Living alone, this is a particular treat for me.
Among the topics discussed was the meadow area of the Ty Poas garden. Back home, the other sunday I went down to Bruton to visit Durslade farm, the home of the Hauser & Wirth foundation in Somerset. The visit was specifically to see the meadow designed and planted there by the Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf, and also his garden within the cloisters. They didn’t disappoint. In the field the wide sloping prairie of grasses and flowers stretched ahead, undulating in the breeze while tribes of bees and butterflies surfed the nectar in the sun. I don’t care for the pincushion lawns in the main pathway, or the giant worm-cast structure at the top of the incline.
But they didn’t interfere with the pleasure of seeing the overall vista, and then meandering through the beds, we peered into the individual flowers and brushed against the wafting grass stems. Clearly brilliant at this time of year, it’d be a bit of a journey for me to check up on it monthly, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it works in the spring with the bulbs flowering amongst new leaves. A gorgeous day! Perhaps a modest version can be started in Brittany…
The sea of grasses, the waves of Brittany, the folds of new fabrics – they remind me of this favourite music – Saint-Saens’ Barcarolle. That name alone tells such a lilting story.
On a tinier scale I dropped in at the Corner Gallery at CraftCentral to see Tina Francis’ embroidered work exploring the stages of grief. The work is displayed in a sequence which I would habitually read from left to right, and as such shows her emergence from the monotones of deepest sorrow to the more colourful restoration of a sort of happiness. Apparently some visitors read it conversely, finding a new peace as they arrive at the monotones – interesting.
Another exhibition where time plays a big part is at the Royal Academy – David Hockney’s portraits of his friends and family.
Each painting within this series, shown as one work, was painted with no more than a three day sitting, and they are famously united by the repeated colour palette and structure within each canvas. It’s a bold project and one I enjoyed; I’m not sure Celia would welcome the blob on the end of her nose – though a green face was a favourite device of Matisse.
I nipped in to the Fashion and Textile Museum yesterday to see the new Canadian textiles commissioned by the Textile Museum of Canada, and happily by chance bumped into one of the curators, Sarah Quinton. We had a lovely chat – textiles, collections, artists, digital printing, designers. It was also great to see the little display cabinet shop the museum has made with our products – the books both the signed and numbered Special Editions and the standards, the Viva ceramics range, our silk and wool scarves and of course new stock of cards – thank you!
We’ve been beavering away on the 2017 calendar – requests are being received, and yes, it’s on its way – and also working hard on our new website and online shop, coming soon. Stocks of our best-selling scarf, Cote d’Azure on silk-satin, have been replenished, and we’ve just put the brand new indigo colourway of Bedouin Stripes crepe-de-chine silk square online too – very slinky and elegant!
If you’re feeling creative there’s still time to give yourself a treat and join the Drawing and Painting for Textiles course at Morley College – it runs on three consecutive fridays starting on the 30th September and I hope to meet some of you there…still a couple of spaces available I believe.
At the allotment the last of the potatoes have been dug and the raspberry canes may have given us their final fruits; the sprouts and parsnips are full of Christmas dinner promise. A flock of tiny long-tailed tits dashed above us with dare-devil dives, all making for the same tree for a good chatter. I love this description of their home life from my 1972 Observer’s Book of Birds “Of moss, lichens, wool and spiders’ webs, well felted together and lined with countless feathers…the nest is very deep and domed, the entrance being at the side near the top. In this stifling, feathery ball are squeezed, at night, about twelve chicks and both parents.”
And talking of tiny – have you seen this miniature book? A thumb-nail edition!