Friday, 2 May 2014

things we do in bed @ Danson House

Yesterday I took a train to Bexleyheath to see a mini quilting exhibition at Danson House, a big old Georgian mansion in the middle of Danson park. Novelist Tracy Chevalier has curated the show having become a quilting enthusiast thanks to her research about the craft for her latest novel. Things We Do in Bed focuses on exactly that. The exhibition was divided into 5 rooms representing birth, sleep, sex, illness and death, with the quilts in each one relating to the theme.

Grayson Perry's striking "Right to Life" foetus quilt is pretty disturbing but also It was made in response to the American abortion debate in the 1990s. Also in the Birth room were two historical cot quilts. The quilting on the 18th C one was incredible.

The star of the Sleep room was the quilt stitched by prisoners through Fine Cell Work, a social enterprise that teaches inmates creative skills (including needlework and quilting) and provides them with the opportunity to sell their work. Each patch on the quilt was made by an individual  and accompanied by a paragraph or so (written by the maker) to explain the design.

The most disappointing of all the rooms as it only offered one 'quilt'. I feel like much more could have been made of this room.

This and the death room were probably my favourites (not sure what that says about me). I think that because quilts are normally made for someone in particular and because they are quite time-consuming to make there's a lot of thought and personal story connected to them which is why the illness room was quite touching. I loved Sue Walters 'Unchained Melody' quilt as much for the beautiful fabric choices as the story behind it. She  made it sitting by her husband's side whilst he was in the severe stages of Alzheimers. I also really liked Becky Knight's quilt that was linked to her struggle with depression. It's v.cleverly constructed with actual stones trapped between layers of fabric (emulating the weight of her depression) and an outline of a person made out of painkillers. I say it all the time but I really like how many different forms quilts can take, it's such an expressive medium.

Understandably it was all a bit morbid in here but the quilts were wonderfully creative. The coffin shaped tweed patch quilt was cool but sadly I didn't get a picture. Nor did I get a picture of the two quilts by Michele Walker which were particularly poignant. But I did take a picture of this 19th C widow's quilt which is beautiful.

We also had a look around the rest of the mansion which had recently-ish been restored to its former Georgian glory. My favourite thing was the Octagonal room, it had the most amazing carpet and wallpaper (not original but a fairly accurate reproduction of what it would have looked like). The oval staircase was also pretty special. Before getting back on the train my mum and I popped into the tea room - which was v.nice. A massive sandwich and a scone later we stepped out into the most torrential downpour. My feet got absolutely soaked on the walk to the station (damn converse) but the rain made the park, including the avenue of horse chestnuts, look incredibly green and lush.

It's a rather teeny exhibition but the price of the ticket does mean you get to wander around the rest of the house which makes the ticket price (£8) worth it I reckon.
So it's a pretty grey, chilly day but at least it's Friday, a Friday before yet another long weekend - yay!

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