OCA Study visit 26th June 2013 – London (Research point 1)


I had a very interesting visit to the Goldsmiths college in London with the OCA on the 26th June. We had a wonderful time looking at the Constance Howard Collection archives, the 62 group’s latest exhibition after which we visited Alice Kettle’s installations at the Queen’s house in Greenwich.

It was a wonderful opportunity for us to meet up with other students and Sarah Taylor, and see new work from the 62 group of textile artists at the Constance Howard Gallery, Goldsmiths University of London, at Deptford Town Hall.

The Constance Howard Collection archives and “Small Talk”

It was fascinating to see the Constance Howard samples at Goldsmiths. I had studied Constance and her work whilst doing my C&G embroidery courses but had only seen the samples in photos. The chance to actually touch and look closely at the samples was a great  privilege. Lizzie from Goldsmiths was very helpful with any questions we had and was very knowledgeable. She had laid a selection of samples out ready for us when we arrived and we had a suitable amount of time to examine them without rushing. They were well laid out with plenty of space which made it easier for us to study and the lighting was good as well. The Harlequins piece was an absolute treat to get up close to, so vibrant and typical of the design of the late 1950’s period with it’s bright colours and geometric patterns.

The most interesting thing to me was how relevant these samples still are even all these years on. I took lots of pictures to act as a resource for ideas, unfortunately I cannot post any on here as it is a public space and we had to sign to say we wouldn’t. I did however take a lot of photo’s which I shall put into my paper log.

‘Small Talk’ by the 62 Group is running from 4 June to 25 July 2013 at the Constance Howard Gallery 
Goldsmiths, University of London
 Deptford Town Hall Building
 New Cross Road
 SE14 6AF. The Exhibition concentrates on bringing together new small-scale work by the group members in a range of mediums including digitally printed textiles and video.

The exhibition was well laid out in the relatively small space. and the exhibits were well displayed. Methods of display varied between wall hung, free standing and ceiling hung work. A small screen was utilised to show the video work. The lighting in the room was very good, nice bright daylight illuminated the exhibits so they were easy to view and examine. The explanations of the exhibits was also good with each explanation displayed on a small card next to the corresponding piece making it easy for the viewer to cross reference. All in all the exhibition was visually appealing and stimulating to view.

I noticed quite a few of the pieces were quite simple in design and technique but executed to perfection. One of my favorites was ‘he is so like you’ by Emily Jo Gibbs: The description in the catalog states: ‘Emily thoughtfully observes her family. One of the things Emily admires about her husband is that he dares to be different; he is interested in the unusual and nonconformist. He also enjoys provoking a reaction; the irony is their son is just the same and drives his father to distraction. Technique: Hand Stitched. Materials: Linen and silk organza.’ It is an incredibly moving and beautiful piece beautifully executed and so simple in appearance. I found a link to further information here: http://www.axisweb.org/seCVPG.aspx?ARTISTID=11605

Audrey Walker’s ‘the sleeper’ was another work I found particularly interesting. Technique: Hand stitching. Materials: Cotton and silk threads over denim. The mark making using stitch was amazing. On a blue background only stitches were used to create both colour and texture. It is something I would love to have a go at in the future. Sadly I cannot find a picture to link to at the moment but there is more info on all the 62 group artists here: http://www.62group.org.uk/

The Garden of England – Alice Kettle

The Royal museums, Greenwich’s website advertised the show as “Showcased in the Queen’s HouseThe Garden of England is a series of three new works by major British textile artist Alice Kettle. Drawing on the Museum’s portrait collection The Garden of England looks at the queens and courtiers involved with the Queen’s House, and its original setting as a garden retreat. The exhibition captures the richness and flamboyance of the Stuart court.”

I am not usually a great fan of Alice Kettle’s work but the installations at the Queens House in Greenwich were amazing – particularly the ‘Flower Helix’ above the tulip stairs. I must admit that I had seen Alice’s call for stitchers to help with the making of the thousands of flowers that make up this piece on her Facebook page;  I was too late to join in by the time I saw it which was such a shame as I would have loved to have been involved! It filled the space so beautifully and was really inspirational. We climbed the stairs to take a closer look and see it from many different angles! http://alicekettle.co.uk/?p=825.

It was also great to fascinating to see the ‘Flower bed’ displayed with the portraits that inspired it. Picking out the relevant motifs taken from the portraits kept us occupied for a while and gave me some great inspiration, particularly for using motifs in my own work and relating them to a source. The Stuart and Tudor period is a favorite historical period of mine, I have always admired the costumes, tapestries and embroidery of the time so I related quite strongly to it as a piece. 

All in all an interesting and varied day. Full of inspirational pieces and fascinating insights into great textile artists from both past and present. I would definitely recommend a trip to the Constance Howard Collection at Goldsmiths. It is also worth visiting for the building itself which has very strong Arts & Crafts / Art Nouveau details which were exquisite, particularly the brass plates on the internal doors!

Bibliography / links:

The Constance Howard Book of Stitches, Batsford 1979 2005 ISBN 0 7134 8938 3



Royal Museums Greenwich website:http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/the-garden-of-england



About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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