Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dialogue of Dreams: textile artist Lauren Shanley

Applique cushion and shirt by Lauren Shanley

Occasionally, with a sudden jolt of pure pleasure, I am reminded of why, and how much, I love textile art. Such a moment occurred this week when I spotted a remarkable applique cushion at a friend's house and discovered it was by one of my fabric heroines, Lauren Shanley http://www.laurenshanley.co.uk/index.htm. By happenstance, I was wearing a summer overshirt made by Lauren in a similar style and so, of course, I asked to be photographed with it. (My argument that the fact they went so well together meant I was morally entitled to take ownership of the cushion did not cut much ice.)

The cushion and shirt are made in a glorious mash-up of 1920s and 30s fabrics and cut-up tray cloths, napkins and tablecloths embroidered by hand over transfer patterns. The cushion features a sweet crinoline lady with french knots and hollyhocks. It is a style I have learnt to love - below are some examples that I've collected - reflecting the optimism and joy of the new garden suburbs that allowed pre-war homemakers to escape, on the newly constructed Underground lines, the city grime and restrictions of  living with the in-laws and to move to little houses with a stained-glass rising sun above the front door and roses round the porch. It may sound, and look, a little twee, but it is still a powerful dream. A dream that Kath Kidston and Farrow & Ball among many others continue to tap into.

Lauren  is a truly gifted artist and designer-maker of clothes, wall art, bags and cushions whose work has inspired me for many years, my interest in the fabrics, colours and icons of India and South America trailing in her wake. Her studio/workshop in the Oxo Tower on the South Bank is an exotic visual feast http://www.laurenshanley.co.uk/shop.html, as is her home, where the walls are eye-popping fuchsia, orange and turquoise - all in the same room - the small conservatory is covered in broken china and mirror mosaic and the loo is a shell grotto. Having many years ago stumbled across her shop, I bought my first Lauren Shanley jacket (I still wear it) the day before an important first date. Reader, I married him, and I commissioned Lauren to make my wedding coat.

My wedding coat by Lauren Shanley

Lauren is very generous with her expertise and will be giving a talk, Dialogue of Dreams, on October 28, and a full-day practical workshop, Subversive Stitch, on October 29 in York alongside the Quilt Museum and Gallery exhibition It's all in the Making: patchwork and quilting unpicked, which will include two of her works. Both the exhibition (I've had a sneak preview of the catalogue) and Lauren's events promise to be memorable. Do go along.

Booking for talk: http://bqsg.quiltersguild.org.uk/events/view/bqsg-talk-dialog-of-dreams
Booking for workshop: http://www.quiltmuseum.org.uk/events/adult-community-learners/01409.html
Or email maxinemarch@waitrose.com

Exhibition: http://www.quiltmuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/forthcoming/its-all-in-the-making-patchwork-and-quilting-unpicked-by-british-quilt-study-group.html

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