Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Crossings, cakes and the Couture of Mary Little's Bius designs.

Look at what’s happened to the Great British Victoria Sponge. It’s been supersized. I had a slice of this humungous cake last week when I was down in Cirencester delivering Reg to New Brewery Arts for their first Open. I applied to this exhibition as soon as I saw that Charmian Adams was to be one of the selectors. The theme of the exhibition is “Crossings” so I decided that "Reg" was most suited to this show. Sometimes I think that he reminds me of some futuristic bridge over a motorway (something a bit Will Alsop?) but he also shows the crossing from this world to the world of Frillip Moolog.

For me those 1950’s photo images of the mountains & lakes (complete with lone fisher) on the table mats are so kitsch and at the same time poignant. They remind me of the Rocky Mountains as viewed on my Mum’s old Viewfinder. Wow what a different world the viewfinder took me to…

I have wanted to meet Charmian Adams after reading an article in Crafts Magazine (2007) where she talked about her passion for craftsmanship, and her personal collection of contemporary handmade objects. In the magazine photograph I spotted a Mary Little chair (I think its “Valerie” from the Coat of Arms Collection) and I was even more interested in this passionate collector and also finding out more about Mary Little.

I took these photos of Magret now part of the V&A's collection of Contemporary Furniture.
I quickly realised that I already had images of “Liz” another of Mary’s chairs in my source file from university days. She was shortlisted for the 1999 Jerwood Applied Arts Prize. Liz also features in the Domestic Animals section of Peter Dormer’s book, “Furniture today- its design and craft” (1995). She and her partner Peter Wheeler now live and work in Connecticut USA where their design business bius is based. Back in the early 80’s she was at RCA doing her MA in furniture design and I was in Edinburgh at Heriot-Watt University studying Accountancy. But we do have plenty in common including: skills in sewing and dress making and a love of textures achievable from textiles. She approaches upholstery via dress making and tailoring techniques (as I have been doing). We both have an interest in costume, mine more the musical / showbiz end and hers from regional and historical costumes.
"Over the years they have developed a unique expertise in upholstery derived from contemporary production techniques with an inspirational root in semi-soft, artefacts from a breadth of cultures, such as ancient Eastern costume, medieval European headwear , and contemporary sportswear." (from their tutor profile on California College of the Arts).

The bius website now has a plethora of images of their highly sensual and sculptural furniture designed both for private and public commissions.
As usual I am drawn to mavericks who plough their own furrow making the work that they feel inspired to make whether or not it is seen as being "in fashion".
Mary Little and Peter Wheeler aim to make so much more than furniture they make creations which (in their own words) are "rich in spirit and character" to enhance your sense of well being. I can believe that sitting in one of their chairs is very definitely an experience.

I spoke to Charmian Adams at the Opening event on Friday and am looking forward to taking her up on her very kind offer to visit her home for an audience with “Valerie” and I am also sure that at some point in the future that my path and Mary Little’s will cross. I am confident that she is completely in tune with the world of Frillip Moolog.

And the link between cakes and Mary Little? My Nan taught me how to bake. As I have mentioned before Nan was a very special person to me and much of my work draws on my childhood memories, a great many of which are of times spent with Nan. I still remember the special shopping trip to Woolworths in Dunfermline when I was about six years old. We went specially to choose this, my very first recipe book.

I have always loved costumes with overskirts and many of my childhood drawings have dresses which could be described as “billowing”. Dominic Lutyen’s description of Little’s “Binita, “…which looks like a billowing couture gown in furniture form….”, explains it all!

Contrast the rustic charm of these Viennese Whirls with this luxury design in a top London cake emporium!
Opening times and details of the 38 artists exhiiting in "Crossings", New Brewery Arts, Cirencester.

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