Exhibitions at Pickford’s House including 18th Century clothing and 20th Century works by Derbyshire artist embroiderers

At Pickford’s House in Derby there is a combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions and this blog post combines two of the those – one being the permanent clothing exhibition relating to what Joseph Pickford and his family would have worn during the 1800’s and the second an exhibition by 3  current artist embroiderers based here in Derbyshire.

img_7572Before I write firstly about the clothing exhibition I wanted to include this rug designed and made by Janet Kenworthy in 1994 and based on the Georgian garden at the back of the house.

img_7579The garden is a small enclosed area formally set out and the designer of the rug has captured it perfectly in her beautifully rendered work.  There is a combination of yarns used for different textures and colours.

Joseph Pickford was a prominent architect in Derby and the house he designed and built for his family was also very much intended to showcase his work to potential clients in order to secure potential contracts.  The clothing on display in one of the rooms is very much in keeping with the status of the family and is something I want to go back and study as my interest in historical clothing grows.

img_7540The first piece I chose is a Spencer jacket of around 1815 and was popular during the Regency period as it went perfectly with the empire waisted gowns so fashionable at the time.  This style of jacket was fitted with either a flat or standing collar and was usually made of linen but wool or silk was also used.  This particular jacket is made of silk with white brocaded flowers and piped with white satin.

Please note all the information I have on the clothing is information provided with the exhibits.

I note the shoes in this part of the exhibit which are of silk and satin with paste buckles and of the same period.  The rich fabrics which were used for dresses were also used for shoes – painted leathers and metal braid trims were also used for the shoes.

img_7541The cream silk apron is embroidered with silk threads.  Apparently these aprons could be purchased ready made or ready drawn so that the lady of the house could embroider herself and then worn over a hoop so that there were very few folds.  The embroidery on this apron was exquisitely done in satin stitch.

img_7545The next image is one of a silk stomacher which is a an embroidered corset which was an essential part of a women’s wardrobe at the time.  These stomachers were worn at the front of the bodice as an infill and were pinned to an undergarment.  Often the corsets were designed to blend seamlessly with the dress but others were done in order to compliment the dress as in this example.  The corset is as exquisitely embroidered as you would expect and the colours absolutely beautiful.  Open fronted bodices had a practical purpose as different stomachers and petticoats could be used to change the look of a dress and in addition they also allowed for the the lady’s body shape to change.  There was a further practical financial purpose in that it was easier and cheaper to purchase a new stomacher as opposed to a full dress if the lady required one.  17th and 18th century corsets were usually cone shaped and flat fronted according to the information and hence the stomachers followed the same pattern and during the early part of the 18th century embroidered flower versions came into fashion along with the addition of bows and faux lacing.  I love both the triangular shape of this corset and the embroidery and it really brings to mind the phrase ‘they don’t make them like that any more’!

img_7559This exquisite gown is made circa 1750 of cream silk brocade which has been woven to give the illusion of an embroidered fabric.

This gown as got the impression stomacher which has been decorated with ruffles and silk lace but the whole of the bodice fastens on the left hand side.  The bodice is worn over a cream silk quilted petticoat which can be seen at the front of the dress and is exquisite – part of my background is quilting and consequentially this was of great interest.

When you see the dress in person you can see the slits which are for the pockets that were separate and attached by tape and suspended on the waist.

img_7546Also on display were items of gentlemen’s clothing and frustratingly I did not get any information on this embroidered waistcoat but it is part of the court suit and it strikes as similar fabrics to the dresses on display so feel it may be silk or satin with rich silk thread embroidery.

img_7547The gentleman’s court suit is circa 1790.  The jacket is a long flared jacket and heavily embroidered with motifs, buttons and sequins.    The gentleman would have also worn embroidered silk stockings, high heeled shoes and also a soft cravat tied  at the neck or stiff neckcloth which buckled at the back.

img_7533There were other items of interest in this collection from the time period but unfortunately my photographs are not clear enough due to the low light needed for the exhibits to preserve them.  However there is one jacket that deserves special mention as it is by Katherine Newbury who is a graduate of The Arts University of Bournemouth.  The jacket is a reproduction of a Layton Jacket and is a 17th Century women’s waistcoat made in linen and heavily embroidered in silk threads, silver and silver-gilt thread and then lined with silk.  The jacket dates from around 1610-1615 when it was made and then 1620 when it was altered apparently appears in a portrait of Margaret Layton by the artist Marcus Gheeraerts  the Younger (or attributed to him).  The jacket was unaltered and almost unworn so combine this with the embroidery and this jacket is very special.  This reproduction took a total of 864 hours over a period of 18 weeks including all the research, drafting, practice embroidery right through to the finished piece bearing in mind that Katherine had to effectively learn the historical embroidery techniques from scratch.  It is a remarkable piece of work and one that has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

img_7742As a complete contrast to the clothing at the top of the house there is a room that is used for temporary exhibitions and at the time I visited it was being used for an exhibition of 20th Century artist embroiderers.  The three artists displaying their work in this room are Sybil Francis, Rebecca Crompton and Beatrice Atkinson.

My first photograph is by Rebecca and is hand embroidered around 1998.  I love the combination of colours for the fabric background which has been done in blocks overlaid with the circular embroidery.

img_7761The next piece is called Flying Bird by Beatrice Atkinson.  Beatrice has used a combination of machine and hand embroidery for this piece and is stunningly beautiful.

Before I go further I must state that my one complaint with this room for this exhibition was the light as it meant that it was a little difficult at times to see the works without reflections although on the other hand it also meant the colours could be seen in all their beauty along with the exquisite workmanship.

img_7748The next piece I have chosen is perhaps my favourite of these and is entitled Broken Reflections by Rebecca Crompton.  I love the use of the colour for the background and the combination of the stitches for each area which give an impression of different fabrics.  The background is overlaid with further embroidery which brings a further element to the piece and breaks up the work as if rain is spattering down which is clearly the intention of the artist.

img_7745Quiet Night by Beatrice Atkinson is beautifully stitched in machine and hand embroidery and is of a very simple dandelion type flower – perhaps something many of us see as a weed but when viewed as a flower so pretty and Beatrice has enhance this simple beauty with her subtle soft colours and choice of stitches.

img_7750My other favourite piece of work rather daftly I did not take a note of which of the 3 artists made it but I still want to include it as I really loved the combination of colours and variety of stitches used.  The maker has used a combination of machine and hand embroidery on this floral design clearly based on a vase of flowers.

Every piece of work in this small exhibition is beautifully and highly skilled and it was a real treat to see these in addition to the exhibition of the Embroiderer’s Guild in the room next door.

Overall the exhibitions at Pickford’s House are wonderfully set out and with clear concise information that ensures the visitor has the knowledge to be able to enjoy each exhibit.  The combination of modern and historical textiles exhibited in a museum which displays the rooms as they would have been at the time of the original architect and his family, with some later alterations for the subsequent owners of course,  has made for a really interesting couple of visits for myself and my fiance and has benefited both of modules I have been studying at the moment.

As I finish this blog piece I ask myself the question of how these exhibitions may affect my own work and the answer is simple – I have been able to see textiles and piece of work that span time with a wide  variety of techniques which I can reflect back on for inspiration.  I have seen how the different techniques can be combined together in a variety of threads and yarns to create a design and composition.  I am further inspired by the historical textiles as this is an ever growing interest and one that I have stated from the beginning of my modules that I hope to develop in the future to be part of my own textiles practice.

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