Saturday, 18 February 2012

Smiths Row Exhibition: Block Party

Smiths Row
This exhibition, in the clean and light gallery in Bury St Edmunds, claims to "[reveal] the contemporary applications and creative possibilities of pattern cutting." It's curated by Lucy Orta. As I'm not really a seamstress, I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy this, but it was an intriguing exhibition nevertheless. Most of the exhibits were quite a long way removed from the traditional pattern cutting that I remember from my mum's Butterick makes of the 1980s - the gallery says they look "poetically" at the craft - but a couple of the exhibits really appealed to me: in one, a garment had been made from fabric cut from the old-style paper patterns that I remember, but the pieces had been put to new uses - eg, a pattern piece for a sleeve used around a neck, or a lapel piece used as a waistband. Possibly not a great way of making a wearable garment, but instead quite an interesting revelation (to me!) about how one conforms, in a way, when following a (paper or indeed a knitting) pattern - doing what it says, slavishly! So there was something quite amusing and provocative about 'perverting' the paper pattern, or 'rebelling' against the paper pattern in this way.

The second exhibit I particularly enjoyed was of a glove made from a super-modern version of chain-mail - lots of cream links forming a 3D garment. The caption suggested that ultra-modern technology would create the fabric around the physical form, thus eliminating waste. Initially, I thought this was great: no waste, better for the environment . . .   but then I thought of the great uses that waste fabric snippets can be put to. An obvious example: patchwork. I used to always love a little patchwork cushion that my grandmother had, made from tiny little misshapen scraps of fabrics from her favourite worn-out dresses. What would happen to little memory-box works like patchwork if we had the fabric moulded to us, stitch by stitch, rather than piece by piece?

These are descriptions of just two exhibits which stuck in my mind; I think I'll have to go again and look harder at more of them!

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