Tuesday 19 October 2010

Stories through drawing workshop

If you are in Stoke this Saturday I am running a workshop at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery as part of the Big Draw. The workshop is all about stories and drawing and will encourage you to explore your ideas in new and fun ways!

There will of course be a burlesque slant, so if you love gorgeous vintage items, you're in for a treat!

The workshop will run twice during the day so choose your time:

1.30pm- 4.00pm
Booking essential

See the museum's website for booking details.

Monday 18 October 2010

A second skin

Gilda takes off her gloves

'Mother said you could always tell a lady by her hands' whined Suellen in 'Gone With the Wind' as she looking longingly at her own dirty fingers and ragged nails. (Poor Suellen, she had it hard after the civil war!)

Gloves played a huge part in everyday society for many centuries defining a 'Lady' and her worth. Pretty pink pale hands untouched by sun and hard work marked you out as upper class and civilised.

Gloves, for women at least, continued to play a huge role in dress and couture after the Second world war, and there was even a glove ettiquette as outlined by Lady Bagot in the introduction to her clothing exhibition; 'Long evening dresses were worn on all formal occassions with long white gloves'. Although she quite daringly rebelled against this rule by wearing pink kid elbow gloves with many of her evening ensembles!

There is something so tactile and alluring about gloves. When not being worn simply as a device to keep warm, they also elevate the wearer to someone untouchable and unable to touch making them different and intriguing!

In her 1946 film Rita Hayworth played her defining role as Gilda, a sizzling temptress who knew how to use her gloves to captivate an audience and her man. In fact the best striptease I have ever seen was performed by the elegant Dirty Martini. The audience were spellbound and completely silent as they watched her inch her long gloves slowly down her full arms pulling each finger loose seductivley with her teeth. She removed all her clothes after this but it was the act of removing her gloves and freeing her hands which stayed in my mind and entranced me the most.

All these thoughts were racing around the back off my mind when I viewed the gloves housed in Stoke's Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for my collaborative project. The immense number of ladies gloves they have was overwhemling but oh so bewitching!

Peeling back the tissue paper to uncover each enchanting pair was a joy; Mitts, gauntlets mittens and muffs. How intiguing to think they once graced a lady's hands, for evening entertainment, lunchtime engagments and dangerous liasons? Needless to say gloves will feature in my dressing room set adding to the overall story.

It seems the meaning and symbolism about gloves faded as they became less and less necessary from the 60's onwards. As with many things the romance has evaporated. But I know there are still a few glove afficiandos out there who have supreme respect for the hand coverings which single out a lady from the rest of the crowd. I often have enjoyed donning a pair of half length leather beauties for a night out and the attention they have got me!

But to illustrate how powerful gloves could be in their heyday here is a nice little anecdote told to me by the Museum's Collections Officer:

If a gent really liked a girl he would show his affections by giving her a gift of gloves. The gloves would have to reflect her in some way and couldn't be too racey! As gloves were part of everyday wear they were quite a personal item to buy and the man had to be thoughtful in his choice.

If the lady reciprocated his affections she would show this by wearing the gloves to church the following Sunday. What a compliment! But if she didn't like the man or wished to discourage him, she would wear mittens instead.

So next time you see a woman in a pair of gloves (excluding the rubber and woolly kind) show her the respect those gloves demand, she is a lady after all!

Friday 15 October 2010

The fictional Wife

The many gentlemen candidates for 'The Husband'

I was back in Stoke last Tuesday continuing my collaborative project with Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
I am using the Decorative Arts collection at the museum to create a dressing room set. It is my intention that every item of clothing, every object and placement will help to illustrate a story. Like looking at a crime scene it will be the viewers job to piece the clues together and come to a conclusion. To find out more and see where my ideas came from see some of my older posts.

Tuesday's visit was all about photographs. After rifling through handbags, cosmetics, jewelllery and accessories all of which are housed in the museum's extensive Decorative Arts collection, I am now looking for more personal touches to anchor the narrative. I was looking for photos to represent the main character and owner of the dressing room her husband and also various other pictures of events and loved ones to add interest and back story.

Lady Bagot studio portrait 1953

I've been hugely inspired by Lady Bagot of Staffordshire who donated a splendid collection of her clothing and accessories dating from the 1940's-1970's (more of this to come). The character I want to portray will be a socialite like Lady Bagot and high profile. I'm basing the dressing room set in a 40's 50's era as it represents a particular glamour that is hard to beat in later decades. Fortunately many of the artifacts I've already sourced for the set fit into this time slot too.

The photographic collection at the museum is divided into dates and catagories with many photos donated by the local people of Stoke. Myself and Carol, a volunteer at the museum, began by pulling out a huge file each, titled 'Women 1900-1950' and proceeded to whittle down likely candidates for my 'Lady' character.

It was so much fun and a real eye opener to see peoples everyday lives portrayed; everything from working class terraces to formal portraits. We found many interesting individuals like the rather serious looking old lady in a very uncomfortable black dress (a widow?) who was corseted up to the eyeballs. She was doing her best Queen Victoria impression (unwittingly) with the legend 'Auntie Lisem Filch in the garden' inked along the bottom of the photo.

I also found it very affecting to see black and white images of single women sitting staring out to the viewer then turning the paper over to see' Mother' inscribed on the back. This was once someones beloved parent, now an anonymous figure among many others stacked into a museum basement.

In fact all the photos were very special, right down to the out of focus slightly fuzzy ones, because they all captured a moment and person in time from Stoke's past. Yet hardly anything is known about who or what or even exactly where they portray.

The 'men' section was equally fascinating. One photo of a whiskered overall wearing chap even had a descriptive story on the back; ' Taken in the yard, just got in. Just come in from work not washed. Feeding Hope's Cat. Dollie is shadow'.

As we worked our way through the decades the photos began to peter out. Why? The invention and mass distribution of digital cameras. As more people embrace the technological age old school print outs are being fazed out. It makes you wonder how historians in the future will understand our world when archives will no longer be a physical thing you can handle and compare.

Domestic servant circa 1899 taken from the Stoke on Trent Collections Explorer

From amongst the holiday snaps, studio portraits and informal pictures, we managed to create a subtle narrative of a woman, married to a rather staid formal looking gentlman. There is a picture of them dancing at a soiree and a lovely shot of her with her pekinese dog. Somewhere in her life, maybe before her marriage, there is evidence of a performance background and a relationship with a sailor. The autographed photo of him signed 'your's very truely' and the fact she has kept it in her private boudoir could hint at something more? That is up to the viewer to decide when the set is complete and I am looking forward deciding how to display the photos in a natural personal way which will evoke the life of my fictional character.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Rosie Mitchell Art and Burlesque

During her burlesque years Rosie performed as 'Novita' and was dubbed 'The Pixie of Burlesque' working alondside great jazz musicians and comics of the age. She even peformed with Gene Kelly for a TV spectacular in 1957!
An all round creative, Rosie is a singer, musician, performer and artist and had dedicated her life to these pursuits. You can see her fabulous art work and handmande sculptures on her Etsy shop, Showtime Designs

Painting by Rosie Mitchell aka Novita. Available as a pack of six cards on her shop

Monday 4 October 2010

Peaches is not the only fruit!

An angry mob surrounded us, all I could hear was shouting and yelling. Horns sounded from the passing traffic, encouraging bitter rage as placards were lifted to the skies. Sirens could be heard approaching and the flashing lights of riot vans added to the mass confusion...

...Welcome to the UK premiere of Midnight Mass!

While all this chaos was happening I was gleefully peeking through the blinds of the changing room joined by several of my fellow monsters. We were holed up inside the cinema at the Cornerhouse as the audience began to queue outside our window. The punters looked both amused and bemused as they were surrounded by a crowd of rampant librarians holding a (mock) protest against their vile representation in Peaches Christ's comdey gore film All About Evil.

I was in good company, Camp Dragula, Cleavage the Killer Clown and a lovelorn sea creature called Two Tonne Tess Tickle. There was also a very enthusiastic zombie a beautiful Hammer Horror vampiress the mendez goat and me The Bride! We were all there to perform with the queen of trash horror Peaches Christ. After a couple of rehearsals I'm pretty proud to say as B movie monsters we totally rocked the dance to Gore Gore Girls.

As the audience was finally admitted, it was time for some last minute touches to the already immaculate Peaches. The changing room got more packed as we were joined by two sets of murderous 'twins'; The brilliant dancers from Ultra Violet Violence who accompanied both live performances with their sexy usherette moves and the actual actresses who played them in the film Jade and Nikita Ramsey!

A hush finally decended upon the now seated crowd, helped of course by the annoyed shushes of the librarians who had managed to plant themselves about the theatre. Peaches Christ strutted her eight foot stuff down the aisle flanked by her villainous usherettes and we began our monster parade to the stage.

We are Gore Gore girls!
image source: AND Festival

What followed was two hours of gore, camp and carnage as live action mixed with cinema to create a 4D movie experience not to be forgotten. I loved every second of playing Elsa Manchester the Mancunian Bride of Frankenstein and dancing in front of a half horrified crowd most of who had taken the effort to dress up too!

After our fabulous performance it was the audience's turn to show off what they had as a Gore Couture fashion show took place on stage and Peaches effortlessly moved things along with a commanding charm. The librarians unable to hold back any longer bum rushed the stage and what follwed will be forever be ingrained in my brain. There was lap dancing (after taking my seat I was lucky enough to be treated to three lap dances!), singing lots of blood and as an reaction to that even some vomit, what more could you ask for?

The film All About Evil is splendidly gruesome and I sat through a lot of it peering between my fingers and squirming uncomfortabley, but also giggling and cheering especially when there was a really impressive fountain of blood. What happened to me? It must be the Peaches Effect, making it ok to enjoy a good splatter now and then.

Photo by Adrain Ade Lee

I am thrilled to have been involved and to have met some of the nicest fellow freaks (no offence) you could ever find! Thank you to Bren O Callaghan for being the most lovely producer and also stepping in as a last minute monster! And thank you to Peaches Christ for showing us the blood splattered way.