I’m currently working with Fee Doran (aka Mrs.Jones) to create some garments from my drawings for a new commission that curators Day+Gluckman (Lucy Day and Elisa Gluckman) offered me for their upcoming show, Fifties, Fashion and Emerging Feminism at Collyer Bristow Gallery, which also includes a new commission by Freddie Robbins and work by WESSIELING.
Yesterday I received a package of stories, from Lancasters Marsh History group about life and clothes in the 50s as part of my research. The stories from the group, along with much of my other research into the legacy of the 50s really underlined how dramatically life seemed to change afterwards. Having not lived through the 50s I look back on it from two conflicting perspectives. In one way I think of it through the furniture and decorations I saw when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s that made me think of the 50s as an austere, constricting time, not one I would have liked, as a women, to live in. I look back to it as a time of austerity and of conservative values embodied in codes of behaviour, dress, traditions, gender, race and class hierarchies, when the glamour of high fashion was based on rigid expectations of a woman’s role in the home in society. I also think of the cold war, fear of communism, fear of the ‘other’. In contrast have seen the hope and imagination in the 1950’s visions of the future and I hear memories of strong communities, care neighbourlyness, the freedom to play and run about the streets many children had, that is almost unimaginable now, and of the huge inventiveness and creativity that flowered in and after that time, and of the lives people new to the UK built in difficult times. I learned when I started working in the arts I learned about the hugely inventive developments in design, art, architecture… (Rae and Charles Eames, Lucienne Day…).
For the commission we were asked to respond to iconic images of John French and the fabric prints of Joyce Clissold that Day+Gluckman are including in the show, as well as the Festival of Britain. This led me through a route that encompassed my interests in technology development, myths of place, everyday life and back to Lancaster where I have recently been working on As It Comes a project about Lancasters Traders, to think about Horrockses the cotton manufacturer who launched an iconic ready to wear collection in the late 40s. This brought me back to the Marsh History group in Lancaster. who are such great storytellers; its something to do with their blend of straight talking but kind Lancashire humour and an uncanny ability to remember the mundane and extraordinary detail of everyday life more then 50 years ago.
I’m creating a series of fabric designs and working with Fee Doran (Mrs.Jones) to create custom garments for the show, alongside a series of drawings that reflect the mythical image of glamorous 50s fashion and new domestic technology against the lived experience of the everyday. I’ll be incorporating traces of embroidery and snippets of conversation into folds, pleats and hems.
You’ll be able to see the finished work from: 26 May – 21 September, 2011
at Collyer Bristow Gallery, 4 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4TF
FIFTIES, FASHION and EMERGING FEMINISM:
Iconic John French prints, from the V&A Archive, alongside highlights from the Museum and Study Collection at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, work by WESSIELING, and new commissions by artists Alice Angus with Fee Doran (aka Mrs.Jones) and Freddie Robins responding to the world of fashion.