Golden spider silk cape at the V and A

I saved this special exhibit at the V&A for a separate post, because it’s just so captivating and crazy.

This is a cape woven and embroidered entirely from spider silk. The silk from over 1.2 million spiders, to be more exact (but don’t feel sad if you’re a spider lover – they were all released into the wild afterwards to roam free). It took four years and hundreds of people to make and it’s now on free display at the museum until June.

The best thing about this is that the yellow colour is entirely natural. The silk from the spiders comes out in this shimmering golden saffron shade, which is stunning when you see it in person.

The embroidery patterns are incredible, with raised spiders and foliage running all over the cape.

There’s a page on the V&A website about it here. You should definitely watch the video which gives you a great overview of the process and the finished object. Apparently the silk is so smooth and light the cape almost feels weightless. I loved this quote from one of the creators:

‘This isn’t about fashion. This is about creating something magical’

If you’re anywhere near London and you’re interested in textiles, I urge you to go and see this fairy-tale object. It reminds me of the grandmother princess spinning away at an invisible thread in the Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

It makes me happy that something so ridiculous, beautiful, and totally unique now exists.

Dogs of London

Is there anything better than watching other people walk their dogs?  All the fun of a cute puppy without the muddy paws, trips to the vet, and massive food bills.

Our local park is my favourite place in the world for dog-watching, second only to Cramond shore in Edinburgh (where I once watched a tiny dog chasing the waves away from the shore and back for a full half-hour. I think he was hoping the tide would go out so he wouldn’t lose face).

So you can see why this is my new favourite tea-towel:

As modelled by one of my kitchen cabinets

I think my favourite is the Belgravia corgi. You can get it from the Garudio Studiage website here.

If you REALLY like dogs they also sell this adorable puppy :

Don’t worry, he doesn’t need feeding as he comes flatpacked. Not much good for walks but I think he’d look nice on my sideboard.

Deckchair, eyes, and puppets at Morley

In June I went to Morley College Gallery to see the Textile Foundation exhibition. I did this course from 2009-10 and I wish I could do it all over again. It’s a part-time, one-year course and the teachers and facilities are amazing.

Morley are now also running a part-time Fine Art Foundation course which I would love to do. If I was rich I would spend my life taking different art and design courses (if I could fit them into a hectic schedule of lounging about, reading Jilly Cooper novels and eating chocolate).

These are my favourites from the June 2011 exhibition – I’ve taken all the info on the designers from their artist’s statements.

Monika Haeussler-Goeschl was inspired by the glove puppets of Paul Glee to create this piece. It’s a framework of a person, with lines leading out to 7 different puppets, each of which represents a different aspect of personality based on Freud’s theories. Very interesting idea and different to anything else in the show.

Personality Puppets

Here’s my favourite puppet – The Controller. Scary.

Eileen Egerton was inspired by 1984, using the eye as a symbol and metaphor for fear, love and wisdom. They really remind me of African wax-prints and I love the colours she’s chosen, and how she’s created a palette with the same print.

Fabric samples

Eye wall hanging

Teresa Kirk‘s project was a homage to Morecambe, 1950s textiles, and ‘cheerful optimism, child-like pleasure and fun’. This was my favourite, with three deckchairs perched on a sandy floor against a blue background. I completely love her ice-cream print and want it as an A-line skirt (or a swimming costume! How amazing?)

Deckchair prints
Ice-cream flavours on the left, and Eric Morecambe on the right

Katie Thomas created these silk scarves, which are all based on the ‘unusual beauty’ of Deptford in South London. They’re discharge dyed and printed. Love the colours and how they’ve been hung up on a washing line.

Sadly you can’t go and see this exhibition, on account of it ending two months ago, but go along next year! And there’s always something interesting on at the Gallery.

Gocco Printing with the Seaside Sisters

Last week I booked myself on a Gocco screen-printing workshop with the Seaside Sisters at Craft Central in Clerkenwell. I am a total evening class junkie and have been on more adult education courses than you’ve had hot dinners (probably), but since my last drawing class finished in June I needed another quick fix of craftiness.

The Seaside Sisters had decked out the foyer of Craft Central with a truly amazing collection of vintage seaside-themed tat. I particularly loved the snowglobes and the novelty pens.

Seaside novelty pens

Touristy patches

Seaside snowglobes

Vintage sewing bits and bobs

I’d never tried Gocco printing before. It was all the rage on Craftster a few years back, and I looked into buying a machine then. Unfortunately they’ve now been discontinued and the parts are getting mega-expensive – you need two lightbulbs to expose each screen, and they each cost about £2 (And they’re single use only!)

So for the workshop, Xtina showed us how to expose our images in the Gocco, and then we used normal screen-printing techniques to print the images onto paper (you can also print inside the Gocco, I think using special oil-based inks).

I had great plans to create some kind of stunning artwork in preparation for the workshop, but unfortunately life got in the way as usual. Luckily I work right next to the Geffreye Museum so I popped there at lunch to do some last-minute sketching. My eye was caught by this colourful 1960s tea-set:

Tea-set in the Geffreye Museum

Here’s my interpretation, photocopied and ready to be Gocco-ed. You may well notice my somewhat wonky interpretation of perspective – the cup in particularly looks like it’s trying hard to exist in more than the usual 3 dimensions. However it basically captures what I liked about the piece (the awesome flower-y pattern).

Original photocopy of artwork

Here are two of the Gocco machines – a newer model on the left, and one of the first models on the right.

Two different Goccos

To expose your images onto a screen, you lift up the top half of the Gocco and place your image inside, with some screen mesh on top.

The top part that looks like a handle is actually a giant lightbulb, like an old-fashioned camera flash. You stick your (expensive) lightbulbs in there, and then press down hard on the top hinge. This bit is extremely fun as the machine gives out a massive flash and the whole top half lights up. When you open up the Gocco, hey presto, your images has been burnt through the screen.

I much preferred this to the messy, long-winded process of screen-printing – stretching your screen across a huge frame with staples, covering your mesh with stinky emulsion, waiting for it to dry, using the massive scary exposing machine, and then power-rinsing off the screen. This was super-fun and clean in comparison!

Xtina also showed us her new Thermofax machine, which is an alternative way to expose images onto a screen. It’s pretty expensive to buy, but the only consumable you need is the mesh (which comes on a giant roll). It works exactly like a laminating machine. You put your image and the mesh in a plastic pouch and then feed it through, which only takes seconds. This was fun to watch, although it did give me distressing flashbacks to a summer job I once had which involved spending two days sitting in an empty room laminating 400 signs. I now find it hard to look at anything laminated.

Thermofax machine

Here’s my screen all ready to be attached to a plastic frame:

Printing screen all taped up

Once the screen was all taped down, we got down to some serious printing. This was trickier than I thought – I’ve been used to printing with big screens on fabric, and pressing quite hard with the squeegee to get the image nice and clear. With the smaller Gocco screen, you need a light touch and less printing medium, so a lot of my prints were smudgy and over-inked.

Xtina Lamb of Printed Wonders was leading the workshop, and she kindly gave me a hand with my last few prints, meaning I had at least three that weren’t too smudged. I also realised that the image looks better on a big piece of paper – crammed into the postcard, it doesn’t really have room to breathe, but surrounded by lots of nice white space it looks a bit classier.

Sorry for the terrible picture – I actually framed the best print and gave it to my friend for her 30th birthday, but forgot to get a photo before I gave it away.

This was an amazing workshop, and the best thing was that we each got our screen to take away, so I’m going to experiment some more at home. I have some fabric ink so I was trying to think of something I could embellish with a printed coffee-pot. All I could think of was a tea-cosy, but I think it’ll be a cold day in hell before I start sewing tea-cosies for anyone. I also think it’s a little bit too twee to put on any clothing, but I’ll get my thinking cap on.

Thanks to the Seaside Sisters for a brilliant Friday evening!