Textile students display work in major new exhibition at The Bowes Museum
Textile students from The Northern School of Art have been inspired by The Bowes Museum’s unique fine and decorative arts collection to create a 21st century series of ornamental objects and textiles for a new exhibition.
The Modern Makers exhibition at The Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, which opens on 11 March and runs until 18 June 2023, showcases work by the next generation of artists, makers and designers, including pieces created by the School’s BA (Hons) Textiles & Surface Design alongside digital artwork by the School’s Middlesbrough campus UAL Extended Diploma in Textiles & Surface Design and Creative Kids Saturday Club students.
Through a series of ornamental objects and textiles, this show presents the students’ 21st century responses to one of the most significant fine and decorative arts collections in the country.
Visitors will be able to visualise and ‘feel’ the Museum through the work, in the students’ use of form, pattern and texture, which will be the themes of the exhibition. It aims to demystify the designerly thinking process and will show how the Museum’s curators have been reinspired by the students pieces to put on show items from the Museum’s 50,000 piece collection that they’ve been reminded of.
Shown alongside rarely seen and re-sited pieces, the exploratory series of work introduces people to the production process behind an exhibited object; showcasing the stages from initial design to realised artwork through a collection of source drawings and film.
Viewers will be able to find out what makes the many Museum’s pieces on show unique and the skills their creators have used to produce them.An embroidery of Joshua Reynolds has been brought out of storage for the exhibition as Mary Linwood was a pioneer in the art of ‘needle painting’ in the late 18th century and achieved great acclaim during her lifetime. Her stitching mimics an artist’s brushstrokes and creates an almost lifelike textural quality to her work.
Similarly a sketch of flowers and fern by Museum co-founder, Joséphine Bowes, will be on display, illustrating the exquisitely rendered drawings of pressed flowers and ferns, highlighting their lace-like shapes so much you can almost sense their brittleness.
An armchair made by the fashionable Parisian firm Monbro et fils âiné, who supplied furniture for the Museum’s founders’ homes in France, will be on view showing the way pattern is adapted to form with the decorative upholstery and the placing of the elaborate brass mounts on the frame.
And a Rococo Bracket clock with an asymmetric design with flowers and foliage that generates a sense of movement and freedom from the usual formality and symmetry of 18th century design and form.
Visitors will have the chance to follow the different layers of thought and development that go into making a final object, from the very first ideas being jotted down in sketch books to the creation of design boards, films about the printing processes involved through to seeing the finished product.
It will include pieces by 32 students on The Northern School of Art’s BA (Hons) Textiles & Surface Design course, who have worked with the Museum for 18 months, exploring the collection and taking inspiration to produce work.
Students have used traditional and contemporary approaches to colour and composition that are diverse in nature to print the works on a range of ceramics and fabrics, with techniques including screen and hand printing to using hot dyeing, discharge and illuminated discharge printing where the colour is changed, bleached and replaced; and pigment, foil, flock, puff binder and devore where colour adheres to the top of the surface it is printed onto.
Sustainability is at the core of many of the objects the students have created, with the use of recycled or repurposed items in their products. There was also a collaboration with students at St George C of E primary and Bader primary schools, as well as Bishop Auckland College, The Northern School of Art’s Extended Diploma Textiles Course and the School’s popular Creative Kids Saturday Club, whose work has been digitally collaged together and printed onto voiles that will be in the exhibition.
The Bowes Museum’s Director of Programmes and Collections, Vicky Sturrs, said: “Bringing our collection objects and artworks into contemporary life, seeing them in new ways and through different lenses is always exciting and intriguing. New work presented by local artists, makers and designers from The Northern School of Art, inspired by the Museum’s collection, shows us what they find particularly relevant and inspiring in today’s creative practice; I love seeing the enduring potential for curiosity within this collection.
“For me, what’s interesting is that Modern Makers also demystifies the making process and the cyclical design and ever-evolving stages from idea to artwork that are so usually hidden. It gives an insight into the way that, for many makers, the creative process is never complete, but constantly and continually developing to spark the next idea.”
BA (Hons) Textiles & Surface Design Senior Lecturer, Jayne Hemmins, added, “We are really excited to be collaborating with The Bowes Museum on this exhibition during the 250th anniversary of the silver swan. The movement within this amazing piece has inspired the concept of the exhibition and the design process will be documented as part of the curation. Our students are responding to the historical artefacts within the Museum to create contemporary pieces of design in which image, colour and technique will be explored in contemporary, innovative ways.”
UAL Extended Diploma in Textiles & Surface Design & UAL Extended Diploma for Fashion programme leader, Caroline Forknall, said, “Working with the prestigious Bowes Museum has been a fantastic experience, the students are excited at the prospect of being selected to be on display in what is often described as the V&A of the north. The relationship we have with partners like this offers students great opportunities to build their experiences and portfolios.”
Modern Makers opens at 10am on Saturday, 11 March and runs until 5pm on Sunday, 18 June. The Bowes Museum is situated in Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP and is open every day from 10am to 5pm.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an events programme and from April onwards there will be artists, makers and designers in the Museum every Saturday from 1pm to 3pm for people to come in and have a go at working with practising artists to learn new techniques and try out new skills and be inspired by them, the exhibition and collection.
- On Saturday, 18 March from 10am to 12 noon there will be a hand embroidery session led by embroiderer and alumna of The Northern School of Art, Jo Stenberg, where participants can respond to the exhibition and work with a variety of materials and embellishments to create an embroidery sample full of colour.
- Jo will lead an Online Teacher’s Workshop on Tuesday, 21 March, from 4pm to 6pm where a range of conventional and non conventional embellishments and processes will be introduced to allow people to produce an embroidery which can be subversive in content to develop diverse approaches to stitch in response to the collection and exhibition. Art packs will be provided to support the session.
- On Saturday, 25 March there will be a Children’s Colour and Stitch workshop from 10am to 12 noon where youngsters can enjoy a fun event with no previous experience of sewing.
- And on Saturday, 29th April visitors can join a tour of the exhibition and a talk by The Northern School of Art Lecturers, Lyndon Lowe and Amanda Smith on the importance of drawing within art education and beyond into the creative industries.
Entry to The Bowes Museum is £12.50 for local membership, available to people who live in Darlington and County Durham, £14.50 for membership for people who live elsewhere or £17.50 for a day ticket. Admission can be booked on the Museum website here:
Entry to the Museum shop and Cafe Bowes is free.
If you are interested in studying BA (Hons) Textiles & Surface Design the exhibition is a great opportunity to gain insight in to the valuable opportunities and live briefs our students work on and the high standard of work they create.
You can find out more about UAL Extended Diploma in Textiles & Surface Design here. To find out more about Saturday Club click here.