Birds of Paradise Installation – Behind the Scenes with Wim Mertens

15 10 2014

Wednesday 15th October

In the lead up to the opening of ‘Birds of Paradise: Plumes and Feathers in Fashion’ we thought it would be interesting to go behind the scenes with Wim Mertens, Curator of the Collections at MoMu who arrived on Monday to install the exhibition. The exhibition was on show at Antwerp’s Fashion Musuem, MoMu from March to August, and since closing in Antwerp the fantastic designer dresses, feather accessories, hats and shoes have been carefully packed and shipped to Barnard Castle ready for installation and opening on Saturday 25th October.

Dresses having just been unpacked from Antwerp

Dresses having just been unpacked from Antwerp

Before the mannequins can be dressed, there is a considerable amount of work to be done to them to create the shape of a real body underneath the clothes. To help Wim with this important preparation work, two of the Museum’s Textile Conservation interns, Maria and Emily are sewing tulle netting to the bottom of the busts, to create the structure, covered by a second layer of soft cotton sewn in place to avoid the coarseness of the netting damaging the costumes. Creating the impression of something underneath the costumes, making the mannequins ‘come alive’ is even more important with the dresses adorned with feathers, as feathers add a playful and elegant dimension to the costumes. The idea is to try to create a sense of movement and flexibility and the impression that the dresses are being worn by ‘real’ models.

Maria adding structure to the bust for dressing with trousers

Maria adding structure to the bust for dressing with trousers

As well as legs for trousers, and extended bodies for skirts, arm-like structures can be added to the shoulders of the busts to add volume to the sleeves.

Maria & Emily dressing the mannequin

Maria & Emily dressing the mannequin

Wim, Maria and Emily are working in the Glass Cube in the Fashion & Textile Gallery, which is temporarily closed to visitors. Hannah, our new Assistant Curator of Fashion & Textiles and Joanna, Keeper of Fashion & Textiles are busy in the Gallery preparing the display cases for some of the costumes and, as it’s all hands on deck to get the installation finished on time, they are being ably-assisted by volunteers. Hannah gave me an exclusive peek at the samples of feather work which have been made especially for the exhibition by Parisian design house, Maison Lemarié, one of the last of its kind, specialising in the art of the plumassier.

Hannah showing me the samples of feather work

Hannah showing me the samples of feather work

This fashion house has specialised in processing plumes, primarily for French Haute Couture, since 1880. From the small glimpse I had, the samples look truly beautiful and reflect some of the feather work on the dress by Dior from its Haute Couture 2013 collection, which I was lucky enough to witness Wim unpacking. From first impressions, this fashion exhibition is going to be breath-taking.

Wim unoacks the Dior dress from the Haute Couture 2013 collection

Wim unpacks the Dior dress from the Haute Couture 2013 collection

 

Dior Haute Couture 2013

Dior Haute Couture 2013

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications & Fundraising Officer

 

Thursday 16th October

Yesterday saw Maria and Emily finish preparing the small mannequins/busts so they are all dressed, and start on the full mannequins.

 

Dior Haute Couture 2013

Dior Haute Couture 2013

 

This morning was the unpacking of a glorious creation nicknamed the ‘beast’, who will be greeting visitors in the English Interior Gallery. Her real name is Chimera, who was, according to Greek mythology, a monstrous fire-breathing female creature, part animal, part snake.

 

Unpacking of Chimera

Unpacking of Chimera

 

Designed by the French Couturier, Thierry Mugler, this elegant ‘creature’ consists of a fantastical animal skin; the bodice in thermally shaped synthetic scales (by Jean-Jacques Hurcun) is embellished with ostrich feathers, sequins, rhinestones, horsehair and bead embroidery (by Mr Pearl who is known for his obsession with corsets), while the headdress is comprised of dyed swan and goose feathers, sequins and beads (by Eric Haley).

 

Unpacking of Chimera

Unpacking of Chimera

 

This stunning dress is so heavy that it takes more than 1 person to lift it. One model had the privilege, or the misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to show this dress on the catwalk. It took a machine to lift them onto the stage, where she was unable to walk so stood looking amazing but hardly able to breathe!

 

Front of Gaultier

Front of Gaultier

 

Rooster Gaultier arm detail

Rooster Gaultier arm detail

Later today or early tomorrow sees the unveiling of the impressive dress by Olivier Theskens for Rochas. A white replica of the blue version worn by actress Nicole Kidman at a red carpet event, we are not sure how she managed to get to said event as it would certainly not fit in a car, anyone have any ideas?

 

Prada

Prada

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Friday 17th October

Wim spent yesterday dressing three full mannequins with outfits by Ann Demeulemeester, a fashion designer whose eponymous label is mainly showcased at the annual Paris Fashion Week. Along with Dries Van Noten she is known in the fashion industry as one of the ‘Antwerp Six’.

Her first collection appeared in Paris in 1991 featuring outfits showcasing feathers from pigeons, roosters and crows. Her intention was to elevate the status of these birds to something more interesting and note-worthy.

Use of rooster feather to elevate their status

Use of rooster feather to elevate their status

Ann considers the use of feathers to have a poetic nature, referencing themes from 19th century French poetry such as freedom, liberty and the opportunity to ‘fly away’. Ann believes that there is an incredible perfection to feathers, and there is no way of imitating them.

Ann Demeulemeester - top made from pigeon feathers

Ann Demeulemeester – top made from pigeon feathers

Often her designs combine elements of both masculinity and femininity, seen in the costume from her Autumn/Winter 2011-12 collection using crows’ feathers with references to an ammunition belt.

Ann Demeulemeester - ammunition

Ann Demeulemeester – ammunition

Another costume uses rooster feathers to decorate a waistcoat, an item of clothing usually associated with men, but teamed with an elegant, fine leather skirt, creating a more feminine feel. The rooster feathers are black with a natural green sheen, dyed with red to create a gradient of colour and almost iridescence.

Waistcoat & leather skirt

Waistcoat & leather skirt

The three full costumes by Ann Demeulemeester will be accompanied by a headdress made of rooster feathers designed by her, and a black waistcoat made of rooster feathers tinged with green. The headdress was worn by P J Harvey, an English musician, singer-songwriter, poet, composer and occasional artist. Wim explained that although the waistcoat made of rooster feathers is designed to look like you can just ‘throw it on’ and wear it in a ‘playful style, Ann is actually very particular about the way her clothes are worn.

Rooster feather waistcoat

Rooster feather waistcoat

During the exhibition, a film will be playing of Ann Demeulemeester’s Autumn/Winter 2010-2011 collection, along with music by P J Harvey.

Headdress worn by P J Harvey

Headdress worn by P J Harvey

Monday proves to be an exciting day of installation as Wim’s colleague from MoMu, Robby arrives to display the feather fashion accessories, shoes and fans. Don’t miss the next blog by Rachael as we enter the final week before opening…

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications & Fundraising Officer

Monday 20th October

Friday saw the installation of the first mannequins in the showcases (on the right hand side for those of you who know the gallery). These three dresses represent what is known as trompe-l’oeil – a trick of the eye to make the feathers on these dresses appear real.

 

Trompe-l'oeil dresses installed

Trompe-l’oeil dresses installed

Other dresses which have now been mounted include the Nina Ricci currently residing in the glass cube and which featured in the recent documentary on Anna Wintour, Editor of American Vogue.

Dress by Nina Ricci

Dress by Nina Ricci

 

And, as promised, the dress by Olivier Theskens for Rochas looks as stunning as we thought it would.

Dress by Olivier Theskens for Rochas

Dress by Olivier Theskens for Rochas

 

Robby & Wim working on the display cases

Robby & Wim working on the display cases

 

Robby Timmermans has arrived, Momu’s production manager. He is responsible for the staging of the exhibition and is busy at work starting on the major display of all the accessories. All in all we can safely say it is all coming together wonderfully, what an exhibition it is going to be. Roll on opening night!

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

Tuesday 21st October

Yesterday saw the near completion of another case dedicated to Peacocks; the only accessory now awaited is the milliner Stephen Jones’ hat made from peacock feathers, which was designed for Liberty in London.

 

Prada Dress, Peacock Fan (dated late 19th Century) and Dior Shoes

Prada Dress, Peacock Fan (dated late 19th Century) and Dior Shoes

 

This display of the exotic bird feathers can lead to several layers of interpretation; with the symbol of pride and the connotations of luxury and elegance.

 

Moving to the hats section of the exhibition, there are numerous from the MoMu collection ready for display in the major showcase.

Hats from MoMu

Hats from MoMu

 

Shoes from MoMu

Shoes from MoMu

Two of the hats included in this display are completely new to the show and loaned via Stephen Jones. They are based on aeroplanes, using feathers as part of the design. Robby continues to work on the setting of these showcases so all accessories are shown to their full potential.

Spirit and Hawk held by Wim

Spirit and Hawk held by Wim

Today sees more dresses being prepared for display; this means humidifying the soft part of the feathers known as the beard, giving them volume. Imagine blow-drying hair. . . well this task is done exactly the same with steam instead of hot air! The feathers need fluffing and dampening so they reshape allowing the dresses to look as good as new.

'Steaming' the feathers

‘Steaming’ the feathers

 

Volumising!

Volumising!

 

By Rachael Fletcher, Marketing Officer

 

Wednesday 22nd October

Having not been to the Fashion & Textiles Gallery since my last blog on Friday, when I arrived there this morning the transformation was incredible. The team, which is growing by the minute, dressed a mannequin with the Alexander McQueen gown yesterday, and today it was lifted up onto a plinth in the Glass Cube to make it one of the first costumes you’ll see on entering the Gallery.

Alexander McQueen dress

Alexander McQueen dress

On the main showcase wall in between the shoes and hats, there will be a display of feather fans. Wim unpacked three to show me how he handles them with the utmost care and gently fans them into position on their acrylic mounts in the cases. The first he showed me is an historical asymmetrical fan from MoMu’s collection, made of Lady Amhurst pheasant feathers, dated c. 1890-1900. The second and third were from the Royal Collection and usually reside in the Royal Palace of Belgium. There was a fabulous blue one, which Wim fanned out and displayed, and another in beautiful pink ostrich feathers which was an engagement gift to Queen Astrid of Belgium in 1928 from the Province of Limburg. You can just make out the tiny royal coat of arms in the photograph.

Fan of Lady Amhurst feathers

Fan of Lady Amhurst feathers

 

Blue fan from the Royal Collection

Blue fan from the Royal Collection

Queen Astrid's fan

Queen Astrid’s fan

Royal coat of arms

Royal coat of arms

The ‘beast’ by Thierry Mugler which Rachael included in her blog on Thursday 16th was next installed in the English Interiors Gallery to greet and wow visitors en route to Fashion & Textiles.

Chimera in English Interiors

Chimera in English Interiors

Although there will be finishing touches added to the Galley tomorrow morning before the preview, and then opening to the public on Saturday, Wim thought it would be a fitting conclusion to the blog to feature the unpacking of the ‘butterfly dress’ by Thierry Mugler which has been one of our signature images for the show. Taking it out of the huge box it arrived in, was a three-man job with Robby’s wife, Griet giving Wim and Robby a helping hand. The dress by Mugler signifies the blossoming beauty of a woman, as she undergoes a metamorphosis from a woman to a butterfly. It’s from Mugler’s Haute Couture Spring Summer 97 collection and it is very special as it is made by the Parisian plummasier Maison Lemarié. Once safely installed on a mannequin on the first plinth as you enter the Gallery, it really made a breath-taking fashion statement.

Unpacking the butterfly

Unpacking the butterfly

Dressing the mannequin

Dressing the mannequin

Doing up the dress

Doing up the dress

As a last glance ‘behind the scenes’ Wim explained how the dresses are grouped by themes, the soft white dresses in the Glass Cube portraying innocence, contrasted by the black Demeulemeester outfits beyond the Cube highlighting the darker side of feathers and plumes. Lost innocence, aggression, luxury and romance are just some of the alluring themes waiting to be explored by you.

Thierry Mugler's Butterfly dress

Thierry Mugler’s Butterfly dress

By Alison Nicholson, Digital Communications & Fundraising Officer

 





Pacheco Reborn

6 10 2014

The Last Communion of Saint Raymond Nonnatus’ by Francisco Pacheco is reaching the end of an 18 year journey of conservation treatment and will be shown for the first time in living memory in the new exhibition of Spanish Paintings here in The Bowes Museum on  Saturday 11th of October. Pacheco was notable as the tutor of Velazquez in 17th century Spain and for writing an important treatise on the technique of Spanish Painting. There are few examples of his work in the UK and it is a mystery how this one appeared in County Durham in the 1960’s when it was given to The Bowes Museum.

The conservation was begun by Richard Hobson in 1996 at the Museum when he was asked by the then Director Elizabeth Conran whether he could restore a badly damaged yet important work, the Pacheco. It had much flaking and abraded paint, was falling off its support and was very dirty. Richard sought lots of advice as to whether the painting was actually restorable, which is when I first examined it and he subsequently began this difficult task. Richard sadly passed away in 2004 and since then at least 7 conservators, including myself, have worked on it. The National Gallery has given invaluable help and support, and the painting has undergone a transformation. The size of the picture at 2 metres high and 2 and a half wide is a challenge in itself. It has been cleaned, had the old discoloured varnish removed, and flaking paint refixed in place. The old supporting lining canvas has been removed from the back and the old glue holding it in place painstakingly picked off with a scalpel (my fingers can confirm how painstaking this was!) Then a new canvas was attached on a specially heated suction table. Finally the painting has been revarnished and, after a year of careful retouching, the painting has been brought back to life.

The Pacheco before retouching

The Pacheco before retouching

I hope you can come to the gallery to see it and read about its fascinating history as one of a series of 6 paintings that were painted in Seville to commemorate the life of St Raymond Nonnatus and how three more works also survive.

By Jon Old, Conservation Manager





Books for Boys

16 09 2014

Recently I have been preparing toys for a loan to Palace Green Library in Durham, for their upcoming exhibition ‘Books for Boys: Heroism, Adventure & Empire at the Dawn of the First World War’. The exhibition looks at the golden age of children’s books, from late Victorian, through early 20th century, and is part of a series of exhibitions linked to the centenary of the start of the First World War.

We’ll be lending a few toys to display alongside books and original manuscripts, including these charming bandsmen soldiers, British-made in the early 1900s, of painted lead [Toy.353]. Here are just a few of them:

 

Some of the bandsmen soldiers [Toy.353]

Some of the bandsmen soldiers [Toy.353]

My fantastic conservation volunteer Susannah prepared condition reports for all of the objects, she photographed them, checked for wobbly bits (not a technical term), and packed them safely in travelling crates for the journey. Alongside the bandsmen, we’re lending a clockwork car, GNER engine and carriage, and two dolls.

 

GNER engine and carriage [Toy.1.113]

GNER engine and carriage [Toy.1.113]

I have been checking that the two textile objects – a sailor and a soldier doll – are fit for travel and display. This rag doll, dating to 1916, is dressed in full WW1 uniform, and is quite large, at 50cm tall [Toy.110]. We know very little about him, he came from an unknown donor, and the records state that he was ‘found in a cupboard’ before entering the museum’s collection. His tag names him as ‘Tommy Atkins’, and with a hand-painted face, and detailed costume, he looks to be a home-made gift for a child. He has survived in very good condition, save for a few moth holes in his woollen jacket.

 

‘Tommy Atkins’ [Toy.110]

‘Tommy Atkins’ [Toy.110]

This smaller sailor doll [Toy.152] has composition arms and legs, a soft body, stuffed with straw, a wax head with glass eyes, and short curly blonde hair. His sailor’s uniform is made from wool, and has suffered extensive insect damage. He needed about 6 hours of conservation to get him ready for loan – involving patching the holes in his clothes, and re-securing the loose seams. This doll was presented to The Bowes Museum in the 1980s by Mary Broke, and he is thought to date circa 1912.

 

Sailor doll during conservation [Toy.152]

Sailor doll during conservation [Toy.152]

The exhibition at Palace Green Library will run from 27th September 2014 until 11th January 2015.

By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator

 

 

 

 





Bowes Museum disappointment and delight exhibition visit

7 09 2014

thebowesmuseum:

Interesting blog by Ruth about her disappointment and delight in our current exhibitions ‘Hockney: Printmaker’ and ‘Shafts of Light’. Why not come and see for yourself and tell us about your own personal emotional engagement with the clean lines and varied themes of Hockney’s prints and, in stark contrast, the deep, evocative images of a once powerful workforce in the Great Northern Coalfield. ‘Shafts of Light’ ends Sunday 21st September and ‘Hockney Printmaker’ ends Sunday 28th September.

Originally posted on Ruth Weatherill:

I visited the Bowes Museum at the weekend, specifically to see the Hockney, Printmaker exhibition.  I was disappointed and delighted, but not in ways I had expected.

I was disappointed with the Hockney exhibition.  There was a good range of prints on display, etchings, lithographs and more experimental combinations of print making techniques.  From a technical point of view, as I am interested in print making, this was interesting, to see the different effects that are possible when making prints.  However, I wasn’t excited or moved by any of the works.

I wasn’t inspired by the swimming pool works, even though I have sat on the edge of a pool with my camera capturing light. The Japanese style prints, which, given my love of Japanese prints might have caught my eye.  They didn’t. I found them flat or too thin, if that makes sense.  There felt a certain smugness to them…

View original 224 more words





What’s in the box?

1 09 2014
Securing Lid of Crate

Securing Lid of Crate

 

We are sending one of our star pieces of lace to Switzerland, where it will be shown at the Swiss National Museum, in an exhibition titled ‘The Tie. men fashion power’. The exhibition covers the evolution of the tie, from the seventeenth century to the present day. Our piece will be shown with examples from the Swiss National Museum’s comprehensive collection, and alongside objects lent from the Rosenborg Collection in Denmark, Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris, and Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 

The Cravat in its packing crate

The Cravat in its packing crate

 

Our lace cravat with fetching blue ribbon is part of the Blackborne Lace Collection (2007.1.1.124). This huge assemblage of lace, one of the largest and most important in the world, was donated to The Bowes Museum in 2006 by the descendants of Anthony and Arthur Blackborne. They were 19th century lace dealers, and the collection includes their remaining stock, along with their study collection of historical lace.

 

Grinling Gibbons carving [W.181:1-1928] © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Grinling Gibbons carving [W.181:1-1928] © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Blackborne Lace cravat [2007.1.1.124]

Blackborne Lace cravat [2007.1.1.124]

The cravat is a reconstruction, made by historical costumier Luca Costigliolo, it brings together a panel of exquisite 17th century raised Venetian needlelace with a modern linen neck tie, and blue silk ribbon. The reconstruction draws inspiration from the famous Grinling Gibbons carving of a lace cravat, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Carved from limewood, it dates to c.1690, making it roughly contemporary.

Detail of lace panel

Detail of lace panel

 

Our Blackborne lace panel dates to 1665-85. It has a symmetrical design of leaves and flowers, developing from a central vertical motif. It is edged with a delicate triangular motif, and topped with a later bobbin-lace.

Detail of floral sprig

Detail of floral sprig

 

The cravat is now in the safe hands of our art handlers, and I will be travelling out to Zurich to meet it next week. My role is to unpack the crate, check the condition of the cravat, and liaise with the technical services team in creating a bespoke mount for it, before installing it into the display case.

The cravat is normally on show in our Fashion & Textile Gallery. It has also been displayed in the ‘In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion’ exhibition, which was shown at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace in 2013, and again at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in 2014.

Upon its return to the Bowes Museum in early 2015, we’ll be re-installing it into the Fashion & Textile Gallery for our visitors to enjoy.

Katy Smith, Textile Conservator

 





Meet Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator of Fashion & Textiles

27 08 2014

I’m Hannah, Assistant Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Museum. I am here for three years as part of a funded programme by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. I have a background in the History of Art and History of Dress, having studied at The Courtauld Institute of Art. My specialism resides in interwar dress and I have a particular interest in French fashion designers from the 1930s.

Hannah

Hannah

 

I’ve joined the team at The Bowes Museum to work behind the scenes on the fashion and textiles store and fashion gallery re-display for 2018. I will work alongside the Curator of Fashion and Textiles, Joanna Hashagen, and Textile Conservator, Katy Smith. We are currently in the exciting process of selecting items for the gallery re-display.

 

I will soon be writing a feature on the blog called Object of the Month, showcasing items from the fashion and textile store, highlighting the stories behind our fantastic collection, so watch this space!

 

Currently on display in the Fashion and Textile Gallery are works from Northumbria University’s BA Hons Fashion and Marketing students. Their work is inspired by the First World War, in honour of the centenary. I have also selected pieces from our own collection of the period to coincide with Northumbria University’s show.

 

Birds of Paradise will be our next exhibition in the Fashion Gallery, opening on 25th October 2014.

 

By Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator (Fashion and Textiles)





World War One Fashion

10 08 2014

The Fashion & Textile Gallery is currently showcasing two displays to tie-in with the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

 

Northumbria University show

Northumbria University show

 

Students from Northumbria University’s BA Hons Fashion & Marketing course are presenting an exhibition of costume inspired by clothing of the era. Entitled Changing Times: Fashion Inspired by 1914-1918. The students have drawn upon a range of themes, from contemporary Edwardian clothing, to camouflage wear, the changes in wider society, and the traumas of the trenches. The display includes costume, lingerie, and the student’s workbooks.

 

Lingerie and workbooks

Lingerie and workbooks

 

To accompany the contemporary fashion show, we have displayed several items of costume from the museum’s own collection. These all date to 1914-18, with local connections to Teesdale and Newcastle. The display was curated by our new Assistant Curator, Hannah Jackson, while I carried out any necessary conservation work, and mounted the costumes.

 

Display of objects from the museum’s collection

Display of objects from the museum’s collection

 

One of the items on display is a leather handbag. It was purchased in Newcastle on the day the war broke out, August 4th 1914. The bag was a gift, for Abigail Fleming, of Middleton-in-Teesdale, from her mother. It is displayed with some of its contents. The original mirror has sadly been lost, but a small early plastic notecard, with propelling pencil survives, and still has Abigail’s name and address written on it. A small leather coin purse is attached by a fine metal chain. When the handbag was donated to the museum, it also contained a sewing kit, of needle and thread.

Handbag with contents

Handbag with contents

 

We are also showing a two-piece tailored wedding suit [CST.1362], worn by Frances Bradley for her marriage to Herbert Storey, both of Staindrop, Barnard Castle. They married on 18th April 1916 in the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Staindrop. The wartime economy necessitated a practical choice of daywear. The machine-made jacket and skirt are a cream twilled wool, with cream corded silk collar, cuffs and belt. Both are fully lined with a fine cream sateen. The Norfolk-style belted jacket has hip-length bias-cut basques, and the skirt is in the shorter and fuller style which appeared in 1916.

Wedding suit [CST.1362]

Wedding suit [CST.1362]

One of the more thought-provoking objects in the display is a pair of army boots [CST.1664]. The soles are still encrusted with mud, and they look as if someone has just stepped out of them. They were standard issue by the Territorial Army, and have ‘W^D’, ‘War Department’ stamped onto the leather above each ankle.

 

Army boots [CST.1664]

Army boots [CST.1664]

By Katy Smith, Textile Conservator








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