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Exclusive: Kirstie Allsopp on the joys of quilting 16 March, 2010

Posted by CandidaB in Candida's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: mydeco

Just in time for the much talked about Quilts exhibition at the V&A this month, I caught up with homemade home domestic goddess Kirstie Allsopp about the joys of quilting.

How are you involved with the exhibition?

I will be giving a talk at the V&A about quilting tonight at the Director’s Circle Dinner – I am so excited. I literally cannot wait to walk through the doors and see the exhibition.

It all started when we visited this amazing quilter in Devon, called Jo Colwill.  She is a premier quilter and teaches the craft; that’s what really sparked my interest.

Why do you think the exhibition is important?

Quilts are really special in that each one has a narrative behind it; they magically combine history, artistic talent and skill. Looking at a quilt, you can pick up clues about the circumstances in which it was crafted – the economy, current design trends, what was squandered, what was recycled…

I have always had a huge respect for skilled needlewomen.

V&A quilt

Image credit: Bishops Court quilt, 1690-1700. Unknown maker © V&A Images

Why do you think quilting has had such a revival lately?

I think quilts have always been popular to buy, but somewhere along the way we lost touch with making things. Women today work, and they feel out of touch with the act of creating something. I think there’s a new demand for doing things which ground you in family life.  If you’re on a train miles away going to a meeting, for example, and you are sewing or quilting, it transports you to your family and your home.

That’s another reason quilting is so popular: it’s portable. You can do it anywhere.

Also, if you look at the evolution of the quilt in America, it started very much as a community project, and I think this still lives on today. People love groups – I have worked with a few crafts groups – knitting, sewing etc – and everyone there is so happy to socialise as well as learn. You come away with so much more than just a skill.

Do you quilt? Honestly?

At first I was daunted by the size of them, I won’t lie. But that changed when I worked with Angel, from London-based design shop Tobias and the Angel. She taught me how to make quilted lavender cushions, and it was such fun and really easy. Small quilted things like that make great presents for the home.

Do many men quilt, do you think?

I have only ever seen one, but I am sure there will be more!


London Design Festival? Yes please. 9 October, 2009

Posted by HIM in mydeco guest blogger.
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When it comes to the London Design Festival, there’s little – in my eyes, at least – that the capital’s most understated celebration of all things creative can do wrong. That said, most years it seems that there’s almost just too much to see, and 100% Design’s hulking Earls Court location certainly doesn’t help.

As with any major creative event where the predominant collective activity is to spectate – things can get pretty tiresome, pretty quickly. A well-positioned lamp here, a repetitive chair there – it all comes coated in a blur after a while – and I’m not just referring to Big Game’s latest fade-out collection.

This year however, it felt as though the designers were working that little bit harder to give themselves the edge – and in honour of the all-round improvement in offerings, it seemed only right and proper to pick out a few favourites from the span of this year’s festival.

Thomas Heatherwick's Extrusions exhibition at Haunch of Venison

Thomas Heatherwick's Extrusions exhibition at Haunch of Venison

First up we have Thomas Heatherwick’s mesmeric Extrusions exhibition, which remains on show at Mayfair’s Haunch of Venison Gallery until November 7th. Featuring a lucid range of sliced-up, stretched, crumpled and polished ribbons of aluminium – Heatherwick’s exhibition is the culmination of 8 years in the pursuit of a 100 meter-long extruded aluminium bench.

Whilst Heatherwick may not have achieved his somewhat ambitious target, the resulting six slices are nonetheless impressive. Take into account the 300 man-hours spent polishing them up – and they’re all but celestial.

Next up – and I’d be shunned from polite society if I neglected to include at least one piece of overtly eco-stable design – comes Gallery Fumi’s Corn Craft exhibition.

Gallery Fumi's Corn Craft exhibition, courtesy of Studio Toogood

Gallery Fumi's Corn Craft exhibition, courtesy of Studio Toogood

Featuring a range of commissioned pieces from a smattering of big name designers – think Max Lamb and Nacho Carbonell – the only (curious) catch was that each piece had to have been produced with that Mexican favourite, corn, firmly in mind. The low-slung corn ear-inspired table from Raw Edges was a particular highlight, whilst Max Lamb and Gemma Holt’s barley-influenced blown glass was unassuming – and yes, sustainable – design at its best.

Last, but by no means least, comes the veritable jewel in the Design Festival crown, Wallpaper* magazine’s Chair Arch – which came inspired by Queen Victoria’s rather less high-gloss chair arch of 1877. Taking residence outside the ever-so-fitting locale of London’s V&A Museum, the arch came constructed from 160 original Ercol stacking chairs.

Wallpaper* magazine's soaring, V&A-bound Chair Arch

Wallpaper* magazine's soaring, V&A-bound Chair Arch

Soaring languidly over the V&A’s John Madejski Garden, the overlapping arches – one in a graded rainbow hue, and the other in untreated wood – came together to form an organic, self-supporting structure – the sight of which literally whispered high-design elegance. But let’s face it, this is Wallpaper* we’re talking about, we’d have been foolish to expect anything less.