Monday, 11 March 2013

Three Artists

Zandra Rhodes was born in Chatham, Kent, UK in 1940.  Zandra remembered her   mother, who was a fitter for the Paris fashion House of Worth and later a lecturer at Medway College of Art in the following context ‘I loved painting, drawing and dressing up. I had some lovely dolls – May and Jacqueline – and I used to make clothes for them….I absolutely loved dressing up and our mother loved helping us with our outfits’.  Sadly her mother died in the 1950 and would not see her success as a designer. 
Studying at Medway College and then at The Royal College of Art in London her major area of study was printed textile design. Her early textile designs were considered too outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers so she decided to make dresses from her own fabrics and pioneered the very special use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garments she created. This belief and energy would see a range of other ventures; owning shops – her first in 1967 in partnership with Sylvia Ayton, then solo in 1969 with a store just off Bond Street in 1975.
With her bright pink hair, theatrical make-up and art jewellery, she has stamped her identity on the international world of fashion. She was one of the new wave of British designers who put London at the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1970's. Her unique use of bold prints, feminine patterns and theatrical use of colour has given her garments a timeless quality that makes them unmistakably a Rhodes creation.  Image on left 1969 caftan image on right from 2012 fashion show see link:
She was recognised for her work as Designer of the Year in 1972 and 1974 and since then a continuing fashion collection alongside commissions in ceramic, electrical components, make up, book design and jeweller.
In 2001 theatrical costume design led to work for Opera designing both sets and costume. Zandra has also devoted much of her time to setting up the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, dedicated to showing the work of fashion and textile designers from the 1950's onwards.
Zandra Rhodes was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1997 in recognition of her contribution to fashion and textiles and has nine Honorary Doctorates and in May 2010 was installed as Chancellor of the University of the Creative Arts (UCA) in the Banqueting House, Whitehall UK.
She has also supported charities and these two designs show her distinctive look is also apparent in small objects.
Pushing the Envelope Initiative to raise literacy logo and Breast Cancer charity brooch

Deidre Hawken
What a wonderful invitation to take a  trip down memory lane. In a previous life I was fortunate to be involved in the millinery world when it had such celebrities as Philip Somerville and Frederick Fox in place with still a hint of the influence from the 50’s and 60’s of Mitzi Lorenz and Otto Lucas and was to get a jolt of new blood in Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy in the 80’s and 90’s and still current to the present day. 
I had not appreciated the impact of Deidre  Hawken so was delight to read of her progress from  training in Theatre Design at Central St Martins  to a change of direction, when she was 54, from costume props for the theatre and film to study millinery through winning a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust. In 1998 she studied with Rose Cory and had a short internship with Stephen Jones and studied hats at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Hawken was acclaimed for her costume design particularly in the film Angels and Insects in which she was head dress maker. 
Inspired by sources such as surrealism, historical forms and modern cuisine… she uses a limited range of materials, silk organza, silk taffeta, silk velvet, fine glove leather, strip straw and occasionally felt. These are manipulated using hat forms she designs herself.  Every component is hand dyed and hand sewn, and many hats are one-off pieces bought by collectors or museums. This mushroom hat made with gloving leather and the glorious swirl of silk 'cakes' shows how texture plays an integral part in getting the feel of the original item despite using completely different medium.

“I begin to make a hat by building it up as a maqette [i.e. as a model on the head] this means I get the balance right, everything has to work on the head, and the finished hat must look witty.”
Deirdre trained in Theatre Design at Central St Martins and has exhibited her work widely within the UK and internationally.  While known for her miniature food inspired shapes she also has a range of fashion hats which sadly I was unable to download pictures  but they can be found on her site:
She has exhibited her work widely within  UK and internationally, including the Victoria and Albert Museum London, Crafts Council London, The Royal Festival Hall London, The Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow and at Julie Artisans' Gallery in New York. Her work is in various public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum London, the Philadelphia Museum of Art USA, and the Hat Museum UK.  Deirdre is also a fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

Moving from the miniature pieces of Deidre Hawken to the works of...
Janet Ecelman who works at the other extremity – taking spirals to a huge scale.   I first became aware of Ecelman when the Make Lace not War exhibition took place in Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
Since graduating from Harvard College in 1987, and later completed graduate degrees in painting and counselling psychology. Echelman lived in BaliIndonesia, in 1988 -1992 where fishing and nets was to prove an inspiration that moved her from her previous artistic work: she attributes this to the loss of her painitng equipment-what a fortunate event for us to now be able to enjoy her 'new'career!  A Fulbright Award resulted in her first public sculpture, Bellbottoms, shown above, in Mahaballipuram, India
She combines  ancient craft practices, such as traditional Lithuanian lace designs in Trying To Hide With Your Tail In The Air- see right, with cutting-edge technology to create what she describes as ‘an oasis of sculpture’, delicate enough to be choreographed by the wind. This sculpture utilises regional patterns of Lithuanian lace in a 3-dimensional sculpture that is permanently suspended between trees at an outdoor sculpture museum. According to the museum director, during its first five years, the sculpture has required no maintenance and remains true to its original colour and structural integrity.Hand-knotted nylon lace, stainless steel, enamel paint, steel cable, and two oak trees; 30 ft. height x 12 ft. width x 12 ft. width.Location Museum of the Centre of Europe,VilniusLithuania, 1998
She created her first permanent installation, She Changes, shown to the left in 2005 in Porto, Portugal. 
According to Sculpture Magazine, her work in Portugal charts "a bold new direction for sculpture" and is "one of the truly significant public artworks in recent years." 
2011 Guggenheim Fellowship her works, in mainly urban spaces, sees building-scale sculptures that join with forces of nature: wind, water, and light. Using unlikely materials—from fishing net to atomised water particles—to create dynamic, accessible art environments in cities worldwide.  When Idol Magazine asked Janet Echelman to describe her work in three words, she answered ‘voluptuous, ethereal, and monumental’. She also noted that she had, ‘sought inspiration from whatever was around me’ adding that she ‘saw her art work as a catalyst for a contemplative experience … to learn and to hear your own inner voice, and to develop a relationship with it- it is your greatest resource. Give everything you can to grow, develop and nurture it’

Perhaps my favourite title and detail is this piece made in 2009, Her Secret is Patience, installation, Phoenix, Arizona, using a combination of hand and machine knotted high tenacity coloured polyester. Video detail is available on her website:

Tsunami 1.26 Commissioned by Denver Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Programme to link 35 countries in Western Hemisphere effected by 2010 earthquake shortened day by 1.26micro seconds 230 ft. long x 63 ft. x 30 ft.  This piece was shown in Syndney Australia in 2011.
On March 3, 2011, Echelman  during the Threads of Discovery session made a keynote speech, Taking Imagination Seriously.  Echelman had been recognised by TED, an organisation with an inspiring list of initiatives and individuals who  have 'ideas worth spreading' acknowledged.  This shows one of her 10 minute presentations.

While all three artist use very different materials the essence of their individuality is to chose textiles which complement their designs and make a statement that goes beyond the piece being made.

1 comment:

  1. I have just stopped everything to look at your video links for Janet Echelman Judith as I had never heard of her. What an amazing lady and I must agree with you "Her Scret is Patience" is such a wonderful design. Would love to see one of her scultures for real!