Monday, 28 November 2016

THE NEW CRAFTSMEN AT THOMAS'S CAFE, BURBERRY

After the gargantuan success of Maker's House [see below], Burberry and The New Craftsmen have continued their collaboration with an over-haul of Thomas's Cafe which is adjacent to Burberry's Regent Street store. 
A place to escape the West End's hoards of stampeding festive shoppers, Thomas's, re-vamped in the subtle, simple but luxurious flair we've come to expect from The New Craftsmen, is an oasis of understated cosy calm.  From the furnishings to the crockery there is the stamp of high-end considered craftsmanship and gentle colour partnered with a weekly changing menu of British fare. 



Above, Thomas's Cafe

To celebrate Thomas's new coat of paint, in the run up to Christmas, there will be a calendar of events. Every week a craftsperson will be stationed upstairs in the gift department demonstrating their skills.
I was thrilled to come and make tassels from 18-20th November and produced three new designs in exclusive Burberry colours in Shetland wool, and my signature horsehair using many techniques that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

Above and below, set up and ready to tasselate

A tasseltastic table

Above, trimming tassels,
Below, the three exclusive designs for this project.
Available from Thomas's Cafe until 24th December




                               








































Thomas's Cafe Events at Burberry Regent Street in conjunction with The New Craftsmen

THE MAKERS HOUSE
London is full of magical places. Some are permanent, always present like an uplifting old acquaintance who always brings you joy, others those discoveries you make when looking up from a street you've walked a thousand times and never noticed, and some are fleeting moments, here today gone tomorrow, but still somehow manage to embed their presence in your city psyche. Burberry Makers House was one such spellbinding location.  Conjured up for a week and housed in what was the old Foyle's bookshop on Charing Cross Road, but now cavorting around the mind's cosmos, as will, sadly, the building that housed it, which is going to be demolished to make way for more generic 'luxury' flats.
This event, in conjunction with The New Craftsman, was to mark Burberry's new 'See now, buy now' concept of live streaming its show which would then be instantly available to purchase. They could have stopped there but instead went on to create an extraordinary event that became the talk of the town and may have changed the way fashion operates.
This was a match of two halves-an upstairs-downstairs scenario. After having entered from the sooty, scurry of Soho, through a calm, statue be-decked courtyard garden and Thomas's Cafe onto the ground floor, you were greeted by the flurry of activity of makers and artisans. Sculptors, print-makers, saddlers, bookbinders to embroiderers and a passementier worked on individual and collective pieces, inspired by Christopher Bailey's main points of reference for the Burberry collection, Virginia Woolf's Orlando and decorators like Nancy Lancaster. 
The ground floor also served as a mood broad plastered with sketches, swatches and ideas to illustrate the journey of the new collection from concept to actuality.
There were themed areas from The Library where JamesPlumb installed a beautiful twisted staircase that spiralled to nowhere in a space lit with the softness and warmth of candle light to The Ditchley Bed, inspired by beds of state like the Great Bed Of Ware.


Above and Below, the garden.

Above,The mood wall.


Above, JamesPlumb's Library Stairs installation where Pin Drop gave daily live readings from Orlando.
At the top was a seat to curl up on and hide in the warm darkness. 
The Ditchley Bed, which makers added to from patchwork by Rachael Scott to embroidered cushions from The Royal School Of Needlework, Aimee Betts and Harriet Styles over the course of the week.

The Burberry trench coat fabric tented space where Rosalind Wyatt   delighted visitors with personal calligraphy and then Tom of Holland mended invisibly.

Above where Grant McCaig sandblasted visitors.


Above,
Thomas Merritt's sculpture in progress.




The precision workshop where myself, Aimee Betts and Harriet worked.

On the first, plushly, bespoke British woven carpeted floor the collection was displayed in full on mannequins in the exact same way it had been shown on the catwalk. You could get, undisturbed, up close and personal to every garment, and they were beautiful, not just visually, but in their construction, and, yes, I did check every seam [I'm not OCD for nothing, you know]. The attention to detail-the thin silk piping on the pyjama style shirts, the shaped jacket vents-was perfect. 


Stairway to Heaven

Above and below the clothes as they appeared on the catwalk

A military inspired ensemble

My favourite jumper
Yes, please!


…And then, shock, horror, Makers House was open to the public. Yes, the hoi polloi was allowed to come and become part of that elusive, exclusive and elitist [I've been pushed out of the way by the odd fashion editor in my time for being too lowly!] fashion bubble. And how they came- over 22 thousand visited to touch, watch and talk. An immersive experience that all could partake and a rare chance to see makers demonstrate their processes and skills.
I first realised I was involved with a slice of enchantment when I stepped out of Charring Cross Road's fumes into a building site. Although still under construction, the space exuded a premonition of what was to come, but it wasn't until during the orchestra's first rehearsal of the specially commissioned composition that was to accompany the catwalk show that the wonderment of what was to follow really hit home. Everyone stopped to listen and there wasn't a dry eye in the house when the last note faded from sound.
For me, at an age when everything is just slightly over my shoulder rather than a great expanse in front of me, Makers House took on a poignancy I hadn't expected. After 25 years in the creative industries I've been blessed to work on many incredible projects with an array of exceptionally talented and creative bodies but this felt like the pinnacle of what has been an extraordinary journey.
It also made me question the future of my craft. When I retire as the last working passementerie weaver in London, it's highly likely my industry in this city will die and maybe the only way forward is a re-emergence of the concept of patronage to keep it alive. This event gave me the support and a highly visible platform to highlight those imperilled skills and maybe such exposure will help keep endangered crafts such as passementerie alive.
Burberry's Makers House has also become a truly magical memory and one I've put in that part of the brain marked treasure trove.



A passementier ponders her future and that of her craft.

BIG thank you to
Christopher Bailey
and his amazing team,
The New Craftsmen
and their amazing team,
My fellow awe-inspiring makers

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

HOUSE AND GARDEN POP UP SHOP

For the first time ever House And Garden, that almanac of interiors, is making a foray into retailing with their pop up shop in Bloomsbury. They have chosen wares from some of their favourite designers and I'm cock-a-hoop that I'm one of them.
You'll be able to buy our colourful Formosa Diffusion key tassels, tiebacks and rosettes and we are delighted to announce new colour ways will be launched for this event.





Our new tieback, key tassel and rosette colours.
Launching at the House and Garden Pop Up
and then available from Jessica Light Shop.

House and Garden Pop Up Shop
Pentreath And Hall,
17 Rugby Street, Bloomsbury, 
London WC1N 3QT 

17-30 October 2016

Monday, 12 September 2016

BURBERRY MAKERS HOUSE

It's shaping up to be a mammoth month as far as showing is concerned. Like last year the Tassel Queen is here, there, but not quite everywhere. First stop is the Burberry Makers House.
THE LONDON DESIGN FAIR.
Second stop is the newly named London Design Fair, but an old friend in that it incorporates SuperBrands and Tent, which celebrates it's 10th anniversary. We'll be showing an installation on the new floor.



Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A BRIEF RESPITE

Running one's own business can often mean long hours and not much free time let alone actual holidays! I have to improvise and compromise on ways of detangling my brain at the end of a long week.
A long standing method of tranquillising the tension is to meander around museums and galleries. I find looking at artistry of all dipliplines calming, uplifting and inspiring, helping me get back into the Urban Croft with renewed vigour.
Two recent exhibitions that have more than sufficed in evoking all the above responses were Georgiana Houghton-Spirt Drawings at The Courthold Gallery and Winifred Knights at The Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Georgina Houghton was a victorian spiritualist who, with no formal art training, produced the most extraordinary abstract paintings that wouldn't look out of place next to any modern artist and which she always claimed were made whilst in one of her seance trances.

Above, 'Glory be to God' 1864 Georgiana Houghton.

The results are linear spiralling concentrics, like an out of control spirograph. Delicate white hairline marks, like gossamer spiders silk, overlay layers of colourful, primary swirls and give great depth to these paintings. You really feel you are looking into the dark recesses of a tangled mind or another world.
Houghton's art was ridiculed at the time, not for its spiritual nature-those victorians, especially the Pre-Raphaelites [Rossetti was especially interested in parapsychology], loved a bump in the night, even Ruskin attended a seance-but because her work was, visually, so far ahead of its time [most of the exhibits were painted in the 1860s] and mainly because she was a woman.
By complete contrast, Winifred Knights' paintings, a prize-winning, Slade-trainned artist, are considered, calm and serene. Knights was very influenced by Italian Renaissance Art, which is evident in the composition of her pictures. Her aesthetic placement of subject matter is meticulously planned and harmonious. She was also inspired by Rural Socialism, which, depending on your point of view, could be considered no less fantastical than Houghton's spiritualism. I, for one, have never understood this concept of rural romanticism, where baking bread barefoot or rearing rare-breed pigs fed only on imported Iberican acorns is the solution to all one's woes. As His Wellerness once sang 'In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you' whereas in the country no one can hear you scream [unless there's a referendum]
Still Winifred Knights' paintings were very beautiful to behold and made me want to rush home and get my paints out.

A View To The East From The British School At Rome, 1922, Winifred Knights

I did actually manage a little sojourn in the village of Yegen, once home to the British author Gerald Brenan, high up in the mountains of Andalusia, and it was glorious, and yes, I did wonder if maybe I could live somewhere like this. The idea of a hammock under an orange tree could be seen as the epitome of a rural idyl. Sneaking off for shady siestas with my book didn't get much closer to Heaven, but I realised the real luxury was having the time to do it and if I had all the time in the world it would cease to be that.

Above and below, my home for a week in the village of Yegen

The view from my bedroom window

Above and below, simplicity personified in the interiors

Sunset in the Sierra's

Above, a rather hot day on the Med [which incidentally is a great white shark breeding ground-biggest one ever recorded was found by a fisherman off the coast of Corsica]

Above, the little luxuries of life-a hammock, a book and a glass of wine.
Above and below,
Various views of the Sierra Nevada.

I always take paper, pens, pencils and paint when I travel. Sometimes they never make it out of my case, but this time, maybe thanks to Winifred Knights, they were unpacked and utilised. Those mountains were darn difficult to draw though, and without sounding too shamanesque, they were definite shape shifters and changed every time I looked up from my sketch book.
It was the briefest of respites because, as we hurtle with the speed of sound towards The London Design Festival, I have a workload even a beast of burden would have trouble shouldering.
Talking of The London Design Festival I'm showing at The London Design Fair to help celebrate Tent London's 10th anniversary, which is where I launched Jessica Light Trims and Tassels in 2008, so it's welcome homecoming for me. 

Trade tickets available from The London Design Fair.