How To Find Artistic Inspiration At Any Time

I really appreciate other people’s artwork. I know how important it is to study the success of others if you want to find your own, and success doesn’t have to mean becoming rich and famous, y’know! It can just be looking at something you’ve made any being super proud. Sometimes it can be hard to find inspiration, especially when your mind is busy with too many other things. But here’s how I find inspiration when I’m struggling….

Get Outside – It’s difficult to be creative if you’re shut in your bedroom or lounging about at home. Sometimes you can find inspiration online, but other times you need to leave the house. Going out can help to refresh your mind and open you up to new ideas. You can go to a museum, gallery or library to find something to inspire you, I do this as often as possible and write heaps of blog posts about exhibitions that inspire me. It’s great sitting in front of a painting, photograph, artifact or sculpture with a notebook or drawing pad and doing whatever comes to mind. But you don’t have to go anywhere in particular. You could just walk around and see what you find that inspires you, it really is ALL around you!

Go Shopping for Some Art – I think it’s important to surround yourself with art if you want to feel inspired more often. It doesn’t have to cost much to buy something to put on your wall or a book or poetry to read. And if you don’t have much money at all, it’s always possible to find things for free. Your can order things online using stores like Cordair Art, or you could go out and find somewhere that sells things you love. Art can be many different things too. It could be a handmade item you pick up at a market stall. The important thing is that someone has put their creativity into it, and it inspires you to do the same.

 

Use Other Media – You don’t have to stick to the medium you work with when you’re looking for inspiration. If you want to draw or paint, reading a book could help to inspire you. Watching a TV show or movie might get you thinking about something you want to do. Listening to music could help you visualize a new concept or give you some inspirational words, music is a massive inspiration for me. So, don’t limit yourself to only using one medium for inspiration, keep trying new ideas, it makes for so much more fun!

Look at Your Own Work – Sometimes we start things and then put them down and never look at them again. Or we finish a piece but then put it in the back of a drawer, so easily done! Going back to your finished and unfinished pieces is an ace way to be creative. You might pick up something you’ve started again, or it might inspire you to begin a new project…. so many creative adventures to have!

I get it, finding inspiration can be hard, but you really have to consciously look for it, be reday and willing to be inspired and it will come to you, just wait and see!

Getting to Know Knitwear

knit 10

Ooof! If there’s one thing I love about the colder weather that’s creeping in, it’s getting all cosy with knitwear and so it was without hesitation that as Autumn started showing it’s blustery face I swooped down to the beautiful Bermondsey to take in the latest exhibition at The Fashion and Textile Museum; called KNITWEAR, Chanel to Westwood. I’ve not been to an exhibition at this place which I haven’t adored, it’s the most informal, welcoming and relaxed atmosphere and the size of the exhibition space means that each show is perfectly digestible and you don’t need to spend hours making sure you’ve seen everything there is to see. Although that being said, I get the feeling that staff wouldn’t mind one bit if you fancied lingering the whole day long looking at the fashion on display. Sometimes with the more epic fashion exhibitions at venues such as the V & A, it can be kinda overwhelming and you feel like you need to invest the bulk of your day taking in all the sights and remembering all the information you are learning. Sometimes, that’s great, you wanna loose yourself in a magical exhibition, in an amazing venue for hours and hours, but, there’s a lot to be said for those small and perfectly formed exhibitions in smaller places which can be enjoyed as part of your day rather than as all of it. For me, this is where The Fashion and Textile Museum excel.
This exhibition was a super display of knitted fashions spanning the last century and, was interestingly predominantly made up of the personal collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield. It was more a showing off of their vast and spectacular collection than a timeline of knitting, allowing the whole thing to feel slightly more light-heated than historically rigid. With amaaaazing examples on show, we get to see the journey of knitwear; it’s early use for warmth and function, knitted swimwear and evening dresses of the 1920’s, the ‘make do and mend’ trend for unravelling jumpers to use the yarn again, embellished angora sweaters from the 50’s, futuristic knits from the likes of Couregges in the 60’s, novelty and folklore knits in the 70’s and the experimental bold knitwear from the 80’s! This exhibition is thorough without being too heavy and you get a really good grasp of knitwear and it’s past, there’s plenty to swoon over, especially, for me, the 1920’s fine knit gowns! The layout was a bit dark for me, the displays were sectioned into large wooden shipping crates, with some piled two high so it pulled the small space in quite close and felt a bit gloomy, but, the actual garments themselves were all pretty well lit and what I always like about this place is you can peep your eyes up real close to the displays and see every stitch! A gorgeous exhibition that leaves me gasping to get a look at more of Cleo and Marks incredibly large private collection of vintage fashion….. making mine just seem teeny in comparison.

collageknitwit1collageknitwit2

 KNITWEAR, Chanel to Westwood is on at the FTM until 18th January 2015

To find out more about Cleo and Mark Butterfield visit their blog

Too Much of a Good Thing is Wonderful

“I don’t dress this way to go unnoticed”

On my recent American road-trip holiday, we spent three days in Las Vegas. I was last in Vegas when I was 21 and this time my memories aren’t as fond; it was busier, stinkier, hotter and tackier than ever. Too many stag do’s, drunken business trips, and voyeuristic tourists have turned this magical kitsch city into a bad night in a sweaty nightclub. Alas, it appears that any glamour has long gone. But, luckily, as I was walking past The Cosmopolitan hotel and casino, I saw a sparkle of the city’s past glamour; in a small but perfectly formed exhibition showcasing the sequin festooned stage outfits of pianist Liberace. Phew.lib15alib16alib20a

In Las Vegas, both now and in it’s heyday, it seems that the bigger, the tackier, the more brash, indulgent and extravagant; the better. And who better to have lived by this idea than glittering entertainer Liberace. I don’t know a lot about him, I know he was a child prodigy on the piano, I know he was camp and theatrical and that between the 50’s and 70’s he was the highest paid entertainer in the world, wowzers. Liberace’s love affair with flamboyance began when, as a younger man he was watching pianist Hildegarde and was told ‘you’ve got to get a gimmick‘. Liberace then went and bought a gold candelabra from a thrift store and placed it on top of his piano whilst performing. This was just the start, his signature style of kitsch European opulence was born. Much of his career was spent playing residencies in Vegas at hotels such as Flamingo where I stayed, and up until 3 years ago there was a permanent museum in the city dedicated just to him. It would seem that Liberace and Las Vegas go hand in hand, this ace pop-up exhibition at Cosmopolitan celebrated the over the top, in your face, bedazzling style that you would expect from America’s most garish city. The title of the exhibition states it perfectly;

‘Too much of a good thing is wonderful: Liberace and The Art of Costume’

collagelib1

King Neptune Suit

This suit dazzled audiences around the country and was replicated for the recent movie ‘Behind The Candelabra’. The beads elaborately create the look of waves, shells and sea coral.

collagelib2

‘Rhinestone Suit’

Whoosh, someone went crazy with the rhinestones on this one. As with many of his suits this is made from a sturdy polyester gabardine but the embellishments completely cover the utility fabric. The crystal rhinestones are rim set- a now obsolete technique that encloses the stone within a circular mount and then attaches it to the fabric.

collagelib3‘Purple and Phoenix Suit’   

Liberace sure knew how to make an entrance and at Radio City Music Hall in 1986 he came onto the stage from above- showcasing this suits bird motif and glittering plumage! The birds are outlined in crystal seed beads and pink French curled Ostrich feathers make up their tails. Feathers featured in many of his costumes, making it hard for preserving the collection.

collagelib4‘Matador Suit and Cape’

Crikey this one’s pretty glam! Liberace wore this costume for his 1981 performances in Mexico City. The elaborate sequin work on the cape is accomplished with the now obsolete Cornely machine, a chain stitch machine which allowed the individual application of beads and sequins.

collagelib5‘Hapsburg-inspired Suit and Cape’ 

This rather camp ensemble was designed by Michael Travis in 1983, it features a double headed Eagle associated with the rulers of the Austrian Empire; The Hapsburgs. Heavily appliqued using gold lame and bands of gold bugle beads to make up it’s lavish appearance. The cape is trimmed in Sable fur.

collagelib6‘Red, White and Blue Hot Pants Ensemble’

Woah, it doesn’t get much more American than this! Liberace wore this rather patriotic number in 1986 as a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. The embellishments of silver bugle beads and crystals give the illusion of separate garments but it is in fact a jumpsuit, making costume changes easier. Audiences loved how this suit demonstrated Liberace’s wonderful sense of humour.

collagelib7‘Christmas Suit and Cape’

I wish Father Christmas was real and that he wore this. In 1980 Liberace wore this gabardine and white fox cape for his Christmas shows at Las Vegas Hilton. The cape demonstrates the skill of Anna Nateece, a Greek born fur designer, the cape was entirely lined in silver sequins…oh my!

This pop-up exhibition was a delight, a perfectly delivered slice of old style Vegas glamour, the Vegas I treasure, where neon signs were a novelty, people dressed up for the shows and casinos, and when a trip to this city was a glistening indulgence. There are rumours that the permanent Liberace Museum (it was open for 31 years and closed in the recession) will reopen in a new downtown location, which would be marvelous, you gotta admit that this guy had some pretty exciting style and it would be a real shame to hide that away in this sequin-celebrating city.

 

Fashion Galore, Blown Away.

Isabella Blow, 2002 by Diego Uchitel

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! What a spectacular fashion exhibition indeed. Curated by Alistair O’Neil and Shonagh Marshall, this Somerset House exhibition was a pure thrill to see. I visited on a late night Thursday on the week that it opened, a dark cold wintery London evening. Somerset House is breathtaking in this season, with the skate rink full of whizzing, wrapped up festive people and the Christmas tree that seems as big as a Cathedral; perfection. This exhibition used the same space which housed the Valentino exhibition, but this time the space was used so much better and felt like a much more slick and modern curation.

This huge exhibition celebrates the life and wardrobe of the infamous Isabella Blow whose work as a fashion Editor, Stylist, Consultant and Muse made her a prominent figure in the industry for over 20 years. A fascinating woman, born in 1958, who after a troubled upbringing whereby her parents separated, her Brother died and her Father didn’t like her, moved to New York City to study. Among many things, Blow shared an apartment with an actress, moved to Texas, worked for Guy Laroche, got married, met Anna Wintour and became her assistant. Pretty good going. She then became the assistant to Andre Leon Tally, chief Editor of US Vogue. Working for these people, the biggest names in fashion publishing, jobs that people would kill for, came naturally to Blow, hanging out in circles that included Andy Warhol, Blow was fast becoming a fashion icon. In 1986, she returned to London and worked for Michael Roberts, the then Fashion Editor of Tatler Magazine and The Sunday Times Magazine. Blow was a lucky lady in the career department, having jobs people can only dream of, and in her personal life, she was now divorced. In 1989 Blow went on to marry Art Dealer Detmar Blow. You would imagine her life to be wonderful, living a fashion dream, but she was a woman plagued by sadness and depression.

One of the things that Blow was most known and respected for was finding and nurturing British fashion talent. Most famously she discovered and nurtured Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson. She personally bought the entire first collection of McQueen by paying him in weekly installments. Philip Treacy’s hats became her signature style;

“That’s why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me. They say, ‘Oh, can I kiss you?’ I say, ‘No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye.’ I don’t want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.”

In 2007 Blow committed suicide after drinking weed killer, it followed numerous attempts at taking her own life including jumping from Hammersmith Bridge and breaking both her ankles. At the time of her death, Blow was also suffering from ovarian cancer. She had told her husband that she couldn’t fight her depression any longer. A sad end to her life, a life that was vibrant, theatrical, bold and unapologetic. Blow’s story proves so vividly that no matter what success or wealth you find in life, mental illness can take precedence and make it all seem pointless. Her life is a very valid reminder of how big an illness depression can be. Blow left behind her a wonderful legacy, her eccentricity and her genius as an artist proves how important fashion is in enabling us to express ourselves and have fun.

Fashion Galore! showcases over 100 pieces from her collection including many from the designers she discovered and launched. An amazing amount of Treacy and McQueen, all displayed to perfection, with great lighting and a wink of humour, this exhibition is truly celebratory rather than sombre. I also loved how the clothes were not behind glass, instead of treating them like rare butterflies, they are in the open so you can really peep up close and breathe in the detail. A beautiful tribute to an extraordinary woman.

isb2isb4isb5isb3ib6ib8ib7

This exhibition runs at Somerset House until 2nd March 2014, in association with The Isabella Blow Foundation.

Blumenfeld Does It Beautifully

The last few sunny days of the season are upon us and my goodness it’s been a delight this year, I have looooved the summer! To make the most of the last days of summer I figured I needed to get down to London to finally take a peep at an exhibition that was nearly ending. So, off I headed under the sunny skies to have myself a day out! Somerset House is by far one of my most favourite venues for exhibitions, this small but perfectly formed exhibition of iconic fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld was in the east wing, the same place as the Tim Walker exhibition that I blogged about in January. It’s a great, simple, elegant and informal space, I always love visiting.

Erwin Blumenfeld, 1897-1969, a Berlin born Jew, moved himself to New York City in 1941 and fast became a prolific photographer of his time, formulating his own recognisable style of playing with colour, light and manipulating his images. Becoming part of the explosion of press in the USA at the time, Blumenfeld worked for many big magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Life, Look and Cosmopolitan. In 1950, he was the highest paid Photographer in the world. This cute and stunning exhibition focused on some of the archives that were found in his studio, he left hundreds and hundreds of old original transparencies. Deteriorated and faded from time, the images were digitally reconstructed for the exhibition and printed in colours believed to be the same as the originals. Amazing.

His work wasn’t something I was over familiar with before my visit, although on seeing his work you realise just how many iconic photographs from fashion history were down to him. I adored the exhibition, I especially loved seeing the old images close up and seeing women without airbrushing, a real refresher. Blumenfelds work was beautiful, I saw a humour and an abstract surreal element to them, they seem utterly timeless but yet startingly modern. A super, sunny afternoon at Somerset House. 

 

  1. Jean Patchett, circa 1954
  2. Grace Kelly for Cosmopolitan cover, 1955, dress by Oleg Cassini
  3. Exhibition view
  4. Variants of a photograph published in US Vogue, 1950, dress by Jaques Faith, model Evelyn Tripp
  5. Exhibition view
  6. Advertising photograph for Elizabeth Arden, undated, model Evelyn Tripp
  7. Variant of ‘Do Your Part For The Red Cross’ Vogue cover, 1945
  8. Published Red Cross Vogue cover, 1945
  9. Variant of Vogue cover, 1953, dress by Traina-Norell, model Nancy Berg
  10. Published Vogue cover, 1953

The exhibition has now ended but visit Somerset House for details of other exhibitions.