Category: Fashion

Out and About: Grethe Wittrock’s Reception and Lecture at Fuller Craft Museum

We were pleased to catch up with Grethe Wittrock and fans of her work at the Fuller Craft Museum yesterday, to hear her speak and to celebrate the opening of her first solo exhibition the US.

Grethe Wittrock at her Fuller Craft Museum Exhibition Opening. photo by Tom Grotta

Grethe Wittrock at her Fuller Craft Museum Exhibition Opening. photo by Tom Grotta

The installation, of sails that Wittrock has re-purposed and re-envisioned, dyed and cut, is dramatic, its shifting shadows giving visitors a sense of being near the sea.

Titilayo Ngwenya, Director of Communication filming Grethe Wittrrock, European Magpie. Photo by Tom Grotta

Titilayo Ngwenya, Director of Communication filming Grethe Wittrrock, European Magpie. Photo by Tom Grotta

In her lecture, Wittrock spoke about this work and about her initial SAIL project at the Danish Arts Workshops using sails from the training vessel Georg Stage, which is moored at Holmen in Copenhagen in between cruises. Wittrock began by punching holes and tying knots through the sails to create designs and then transitioned to painting and dying them an finally to cutting sails and sailcloth to resemble bird wings.

Grethe Wittrock Fuller Exhibition Lecture. Photo by Tom Grotta

Grethe Wittrock Fuller Exhibition Lecture. Photo by Tom Grotta

The maritime signal colors of neon orange and yellow are the dominating colors in the project, and patterns representing rope bindings, nautical maps and underwater seascapes are transferred by means of printing and perforation. Wittrock’s dual goal is to shape the material in accordance with her idea while also incorporating the potential and expression of the material itself. The SAIL project is based on a piece of age-old utilitarian textile that has served in all sorts of wind and weather conditions, and which is a carrier of stories from voyages to destinations near and far.

Wittrock explained that she grew up near a stony shore and sea and sky, stones and birds are consistent influences in her work.The exhibition, Grethe Wittrock: Nordic Currents, is at the Fuller through January 31, 2015, 455 Oak Street, Brockton, MA. http://fullercraft.org/event/nordic-currents-grethe-wittrock/


Dispatches: Palm Beach, Florida

Tom behind a work by Chang Yeonsoon and in front of a Jun Tomita ikat. 2011 © Carter Grotta - courtesy cbgimages.com

Dawn MacNutt and Ceca Georgieva installation photo by Carter Grotta

We took a few days off and visited Florida last week. More rest than recreation, but we managed to visit Cocktail Culture at the Norton, which we had seen previously at the RISD Museum. Great fun! We wound up at the Apple Store and admired the iPhone cases by Fresh Fiber and appreciated the jewel-toned, stretched raw silk panels in our room at the Omphoy Resort.  We also visited friends who have two great works of fiber art: a pair of Dawn MacNutts from the Kindred Spirit series and Landscape for Men by Ceca Georgieva. On the Florida fiber art front, though, it’s hard to beat our in-laws’ collection.

John McQueen (1994) JUST UNDER THE RECORD private Collection photo by Tom Grotta

Here’s Tom behind an abaca square by Chang Yeonsoon and in front of an ikat by Jun Tomita, along with shots of a fanciful marlin by John McQueen,

two bows by Masakazu Kobayashi

Masakazu Kobayashi installation photo by Tom grotta

and work by Keiji Nio.

Blue Keiji Nio, photo by Tom Grotta


Dispatches: Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art

Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, photo ©2011, Tom Grotta

Alphonse Mattia, Architect’s Valet Chair, 1989. Museum purchase with Funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Courtesy of Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design

We delivered our aspiring artist (now on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/
shop/cbgarts?ref=seller_info
) to the pre-college program at RISD last week and had a chance to visit the art museum in the same trip.

The on-going exhibition iof 20th century art and design items from the permanent collection, Subject to Change, was well selected. Highlights during our visit were a weaving of saran monofilament from 1962 by Jack Lenor Larsen, a small but exquisite painting by Agnes Martin, the Architect’s Valet Chair by Alphonse Mattia (a professor at RISD) and the iconic Valentine typewriter by Olivetti. The items are changed continuously; the textiles rotated every five months to protect from light damage.

Furnishing textile, ca. 1939 American linen; plain weave, hand screen‐printed; 35.5" x 26.25" Gift of Howard and Schaffer, Inc. Courtesy of the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Cocktail Culture catalog available from risd/works

The Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980 exhibit is a delight. (“Highballs and High Art,” The New York Times dubbed it.)  One of the largest exhibitions in the Museum’s history, it combines more than 200 items — fashion, film, jewelry, fine art, design and commercial fabrics from Prohibition to disco; from Dansk to Dior. You have until the end of July to transport yourself to a more glamorous time — if you can’t make it in person, there’s a slide show at InStylehttp://news.instyle.com/
photo-gallery/?postgallery=51241#4
and a lavishly illustrated catalog, Cocktail Culture, available from risd/works: http://www.risdworks.com.


Stitching on the Silver Screen: Bright Star



From Bright Star: Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) examines a piece of handwork.

In the film Bright Star, released last month, sewing, fashion and handwork play more than walk-on parts. Set in London in 1818, the film chronicles a secret, and ill-fated, love affair between the young English poet, John Keats (Ben Whishaw), and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), an out-spoken student of high fashion. They make an unlikely pair, he thinking her a stylish minx, and she unimpressed not only by his poetry but by literature in general. “My stitching has more merit and admirers than both of your two scribblings put together,” Fanny tells John Keats and Charles Brown, as they dismiss her so they can work on their poetry. “And I can make money from it.” That scene illustrates a key conflict in the film, between Fanny’s “utilitarian talent and his ethereal one, a woman’s ‘craft’ versus a man’s ‘high art,'” Elizabeth Bales Frank observes in her blog review of the film.

The film’s director, Jane Campion, spends time sewing herself — including embroidering pillowslips for her daughter and her own friends. Campion told Livia Bloom of Filmmaker magazine that “Sewing is a literal metaphor for making one’s will, stitch after stitch. Louise Bourgeois also has a lot of sewing and waiting in her work. I love that this film is an opportunity to look at the world, or look at an event, or at Keats happening, through the eyes of someone who was a sew-er and a wait-er.”

Campion’s eye for needlework detail is evident from the opening scene, an extreme close-up of a needle piercing a cloth. It’s “a close image, very close, so close that you can see the fibers of the cloth furring its surface,” says Frank in her review. “This, then, will be a film about intimacy and domesticity, about creativity and limitations.” In other shots, the camera will linger on buttonholes, and seek out hats, pointy shoes, an embroidered silk pillowcase and a lavishly layered triple mushroom collar. The film ends as it begins, with Fanny sewing, this time her widow’s gown.

“In that period there weren’t many opportunities for women to express themselves,” Campion has observed. “They sewed and they waited; it has a kind of rhythm — needle in, needle out — to me that’s kind of poetic.”

2.FashionPlates_Image2_Detail.JPG

A detail from the earliest plate in Fanny Brawne's book, dated 1812. Between 1821, when Keats died, and 1933 her book contains few entries. Her interest in fashion seemed to return after she married Louis Lindon.

Even Abbie Cornish, the 26-year-old Australian actress who played Fanny, picked up needle and thread to better inhabit the character. That Fanny created her own clothes and had a reputation for her flamboyant dress were key, according to Cornish. “You look back to her journals and they’re filled with drawings, different embroidery patterns and fabric swatches.” Fanny Brawne kept a Fashion Plate Book, from the time she was 12, in which she collected fashion, theatrical and costume illustrations. She wrote letters to Keats’ sister Fanny offering advice on fashion, textiles and London dressmakers and including diagrams to enhance her explanations. Fanny also occupied herself with embroidery, sewing and knitting. The Keats House Collection contains a few items that she created including a fichu scarf. A display about Fanny and fashion can be seen at the Keats House.


Check It Out: All in the Family

The fashion line, Vena Cava boasts fans from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Rita Wilson to the Gossip Girls set. Started in 2003 by a two graduates of Parsons School of Design, who had been friends since high school, the line received back-to-back nominations for the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund Award in 2007 and 2008 and has garnered well-deserved acclaim for its “fresh spin on vintage mixed with an arty palette and hand-drawn prints.” Vena Cava collections have been inspired by Japan, Egyptian history and this year, wall murals of South Africa’s Ndebele tribe.

Admittedly, we are not so fashion forward around here. But we do love the Vena Cave blog, Viva Vena Cava at blogspot. http://www.vivavenacava.blogspot.com/ There are interesting textile finds — a Navajo rug, a beaded wall hanging. And lots of other posts of interest, from a Safety Pin Vest (a DIY version of the Safety Pin Camisole from the designers’ Spring 2010 line ) to photos of elaborately carved Sculptures of Cheese. But why did we check it out in the first place? Because Sophie Buhai, one of the firm’s principals (the other is Lisa Maycock) is Tom’s second cousin. And we’re proud. Check it out.