Saturday, 28 January 2012

Lecture: Exoticism in Design

Through this lecture we looked at the different kinds of Orientalism upto 1900. At this point the word "orientalism" referred to everything from Middle-Eastern Europe all the way to Japan, this shows the lack of understanding of the vast area and the wide range of cultures within the area, this lack of understanding meant that attitudes were based as much on European fantasies as on reality. Europeans over-simplified that colonial societies, and based their opinions on stereotypes; that all these cultures were the same and that they were all inferior to westerners. Despite this views of the Orient, it's interesting to look at how popular oriental influences were in art and design. Chinoiserie became elite exoticism, fusing Chinese and western decorative styles, a great example of this influence is the Pagoda built in Kew Gardens in 1761. Japanese Exoticism became in very influencial in design from 1860, many westerners took ideas from Japan, and used them to transform designs. Japanese influence spread into art as well as design, Van Gogh saying " all my work is founded on Japanese art" really cements this idea. However, Japanese art was very decadent and beautiful in Japan, but was seen as new and revolutionary in Europe, proving that there was no real understanding of far eastern cultures.
Another element of this lecture was the idea of Orientalism and the Veiled Woman. From 1800, Europeans saw Middle Eastern cultures as defined by this idea of "orientalism". These "oriental" people were supposed to be more passionate than Europeans, then began a European fascination of women who were covered up in public and hidden indoors in the "hareem", This gave the feeling of forbidden fruit. All of these views came from misleading and incorrect  stories from the east, which fed these fantasies europeans held of the orient. It was interesting to look at the origins of veiling in different cultures, as all major world religions have codes of modesty for women, usually interpreted as covering hair and head as a sign of obedience to God. In the past in Christian Europe everyone covered their heads outside the home, whereas nowadays it is a way of marking special occasions, such as church hats and bridal veils, or a way for women  to mark themselves as separate such as Nuns. The fascination with the veiled women from the east would also have come about as Middle Eastern women's clothes were the complete opposite of European womens; faces covered, bodies loose - not corseted like western women. This is why Poiret's designs of trousers for women were so controversial, as for the first time in European fashion attention was drawn to womens legs through hareem trousers, similar to those of the women in the hareems. Its interesting to see the massive influence of "oriental" styles throughout European history, despite the lack of understanding of the region and its culture.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lecture: Collecting Things, Collecting People

This lecture introduced us to the origins of collecting and displaying objects and the ways in which this is done. The origins of museums is that they are "cabinets of curiosity", the displaying of unknown and interesting things, usually meaning foreign objects that the majority of people would not have come across. Colonialism played a strong part in the origins of museums as when new territories were discovered and more often than not plundered, and these new exotic artefacts would be brought back and displayed. These artefacts could then show the differences between "them" and "us", and how much more "advanced" the west was. Colonialism was not the only reason for this type of collecting; huge scientfic developments in this period led to such collecting too, as new partd of the world were discovered so were all of its inhabitants. One of the most interesting points made in the lecture was that of the politics of display; how artefacts from non-British cultures are displayed in a much different way to British artefacts.

Lecture: Trade between East and West

This lecture with Dr Clare Rose really opened my eyes to the true extent of how important India is and has been for a very long time in the production of textiles. From my History A Level I knew the importance of India in the British Empire due to their natural resources such as cotton and indigo which made them of great importance to the textiles trade, however the fact that their chintz printing techniques were so much more advanced than western techniques of the time was really surprising. Maybe its small minded of me to assume that western countries would have more advanced printing techniques, but I found it fascinating that India's reputation as the greatest textiles producer reached back as far as the Bible; having God's wisdom compared to gold, jewels and textiles from India. I was also surprised to find that it took Europeans over 200 years to replicate the Indian chintz printing technique, however I was not so shocked to hear how Britain eventually turned the tables so that they had the advantage. Britain studied Indian and Asian and African tastes so they could design and manufacture printed textiles to sell back to these places, thereby undercutting their local markets, a horrible example of the British Empire causing destruction by controlling and strangling the Indian textiles trade. It's a funny thought to realise that in current times a lot of local businesses and trades in Britain are ignored as there are cheaper alternatives available in countries such as India, therefore undercutting the British markets.

The V&A visit that accompanied this lecture helped me realise the massive difference in quality between the Indian and British replica textiles of the time. The Indian textiles were full of vibrant colours in beautiful patterns, all printed perfectly, whilst the European versions never quite met these high standards; the prints would be slightly offplace where the colours overlapped when they shouldn't, making them look cheap and shoddy in comparison. The popularity of these Indian textiles was also clear by how many of the furnishing displays had chintz fabrics, showing that the popularity of Indian textiles went beyond cashmere shawls to actually furnishing an entire house.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pop Up 2

My chosen theme for the second Pop Up project is that of aging or the autumn of life. My objects are mostly natural objects - plant matter, fibres, combined with an old beer bottle and small old fashioned ornaments which to me represent autumn or old. I have focused more on texture and colour for this project, as I feel that will assist me more in the next two technical blocks; weave and knit.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Screen Prints

I have come to the end of my second technical block; Print. I must admit I loved every part of it, except the slow pace at which everything happens, as there is so much waiting with cleaning/drying the screens and drying/steaming fabric, so I found my already very limited patience wearing thin at times. However, the beautiful outcomes and the huge range of techniques made up for the waiting around. I particularly enjoyed that I got to do a devoré print (even though we weren't supposed too shhh), I came close to a complete breakdown when the fabric wouldn't dye to the colour I wanted (wanted turquoise, and got green, so dyed it blue and still got green...) then the arrival of an ex tutor only increased the raised stress levels, however the outcome was so nice and so cool to make that I don't really care that I was so stressed that day.
devoré - "turquoise" and gold dye

acid dye - supposedly brown...

acid dye and discharge ink

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