Fine Art and History of Art student, George Toon, tells us how to ‘Talk Textiles’ at the Constance Howard Gallery.
You may have seen posters around Goldsmiths for Talking Textiles and probably didn’t pay that much attention. However I, as a Fine Art and History of Art student who practices embroidery, decided to have a look. There haven’t been many textile artists mentioned in my lectures and Talking Textiles seemed like the perfect opportunity to rectify that.
For over an hour we explored parts of the Constance Howard Collection, which is currently devoted solely to textile art. I was able to not only see and discuss the work but also to feel and touch the intricate fabrics, ranging from 17th century Jacobean embroidery, used to embellish bed curtains, to 1920s flapper dresses, and everything in between. It felt like almost an honour to touch these pieces that I have read about and studied for years: the different techniques and materials used in creating the pieces were astounding. I realised that the theoretical works you read in texts have a life of their own, and that people spent days, maybe even weeks, creating them.
For you textile creatives out there, they even encourage you to bring your own work along, or heirlooms which they date and discover its history. One woman brought in an old patch work quilt and Dr Jenny Doussan, curator of the Gallery, suggested that it was made in the 1920s. I personally plan to bring my embroidery to the next event and ask for suggestions on how to improve my technique and ask for artisans, galleries, and exhibitions that can help develop and inspire my practice.
Even if you’re not into your French knots and chain stitches I would highly recommend checking it out, not just for the free tea and coffee that they serve, but just for the chance to touch something roughly three centuries old. I doubt you’d be able to have access to that anywhere else without needing some form of post-graduate degree authentication.
There is, as you might suspect with embroidery and lace making, a horde of Women’s Institute old ladies with their baggy jumpers and glasses hanging about. But amongst their ramblings and photographs of their grandchildren, they provide fantastic gems of textile knowledge. I conservatively estimated that there was a combined three hundred years of knowledge between the attendees.
Talking Textiles takes place once a month at the Constance Howard Gallery, normally between 13:00 and 14:30.
Photos: George Toon