I’m a bit of a Magpie with too many collections and a serious addiction to domestic china – I love cups and saucers, plates and bowls and constantly kid myself they are coming home with me because they are functional. I love the look of a cake stand heaped high with tasty treats and am equally tempted by the many and various shapes, patterns and eras of the wares they are served on, oh yes, and I can never resist investigating a back-stamp!
There are also items picked up along the way that have great shape but disastrous decoration and even they have been smuggled over the threshold to be squirreled away for some unknown purpose. So when I heard about Esther Coombs and up-cycling, I was intrigued. I just missed her workshop at the V&A but then I heard she would be running a course in a tea shop I was on that train / bus for High Tea at Highgate.
First there was excellently brewed tea and a fascinating talk about low-fired ceramics and the long history of recycling in the ceramics industry.
Then the 10 tea drinkers started drawing on their cups and plates and a dreamy hush fell over the room.
Tracey Emin Room 1 of the show was the most satisfying, the great thing was to see the blankets and the pier structure together, to see the textures and fading colours of the blanket and assorted textiles – the ugly beautifulness of fabric, text, context and content. The final rooms left us feeling sloganed out, annoyed and aggravated. Two things did pull at me – the framed blanket with the words “Why be afraid when I will be the one to carry you to heaven” and a print with a half naked woman and the words “I wonder if you remember me?” , it’s hard not to connect with such vulnerability.
Inside, on the lower floor, was The Museum of 1951, a celebration of The Festival of Britain and the seen everywhere at the moment 50’s revival.
Even in 1951 fifty women were piecing together history out of bits of blanket and old fabrics.
In the 1951 map above places were defined by local conversations.
Towards the afternoon’s end we wandered into the South Bank Shop only to find some of Esther’s work on display in the window, our journey had come full circle.