Skip to main content
Read page text


A natural affinity for animals, an understanding of their graceful movements and the ability to translate them into striking patterns on the page – Klaus Haapaniemi’s talents are well established. Perhaps that’s why discovering he’s moving in new directions is so exciting. Fingers crossed his recent foray into costume design for the Finnish National Opera will be the first of many. The designs for the production of The Cunning Little Vixen, a Czech opera by Leoš Janáček, are simply wonderful. They helped tell a sad and comic story that explores the co-existence of animals, humans and the eternal cycle of life. And though the opera may have ended, the charming characters – a flute playing deer, a smart badger in his fur coat and silk shoes, the eponymous vixen and the fox who dance in the shadows of the mystical forest – have been captured forever on a new range of decorative tableware for Iittala. Called Tanssi, which means ‘dance’ in Finnish, the collection includes ceramics and interior textiles. To mark its launch Haapaniemi commissioned studio Pocko Lab to create a animation that brought his folkloric animals to life, this time as 2D puppets. The resulting feature, just a minute or so long, combines Eastern shadow puppetry, Victorian theatre and a generous dash of magic – you can view it now on the Selvedge blog.,,


THE COLLECTING BUG Artist Pae White’s vast array of Vera Neumann textiles

Ptolemy Mann meets Bagpuss creators Peter and Joan Firmin SMALLFILMS – B I G I MAGINATION

In a white farmhouse near Canterbury, Kent I meet an elegant couple, Peter and Joan Firmin, who had a huge impact on my childhood even though we have never met. Any child of the 1970s and 80s will know exactly who I am describing if I mention pink marmalade fur, whiskers and a pair of twinkling blue eyes.

The cosy dining room where we sit seems familiar; this generously proportioned bay window was once the backdrop of a shop owned by a little girl called Emily. A place where creatures would come to life under the watchful eye of a cat called Bagpuss. Peter Firmin is a man of extraordinary imagination – I’m in awe when I realise not only did he create Bagpuss but also the Clangers, The Saga of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine and Pogles’ Wood not to crafting mention Basil Brush – “Boom, Boom, Boom”. These characters are so deeply embedded in my childhood and millions of others that an attack of nostalgia is inevitable.

Joan and Peter met at Central School of Art in 1952. He was studying illustration and she, bookbinding – they quickly married and he was soon offered a job making props, which in turn led to an opportunity to work on a children’s programme called ‘Playbox’ which ran throughout the 50s and 60s and was filmed and broadcast, live, every week with three cameras and three animators. Peter met his long term collaborator Oliver Postgate and their company Smallfilms began to take


An artistic family background and home inspires Grace Lane's hand crafted characters A L L CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

It’s about three o-clock in the afternoon and Grace Lane is busily working on one of her many creations lined up on the desk in the newly built studio at the back of her Lincolnshire home. There’s a gentle echo of Radio Four and two lanky dogs (Greyhound, Woody and Italian Spinone, Demo) lolling on the rug waiting with a watchful eye on Grace's miniature thimble to be put down, a sure sign that a walk will be on the cards.

Having lived for three years in London whilst doing her degree in Costume for Performance, Grace always looked forward to coming



Thirty-five galleries from across the world, 400 leading makers, eight ambitious installations – this year’s Collect is something of a numbers game but one in particular caught our eye. Among the major British makers with individual showcases at the fair, renowned weaver Ann Sutton will be presenting new works – and making no concession to the fact that she turns 80 this year. Awarded an MBE for services to textiles, she has written nine books on woven textiles, though her most recent work has makes use of mediums fresh to her – painting and drawing. Through the latter she has moved back into three dimensions with her use of monofilament and her explorations show no sign of slowing. Collect itself continues to cover new ground too. Now in its fourth year it includes a second floor space showcasing installation work and dubbed “COLLECT Open”. Other highlights include the latest Crafts Council touring exhibition I AM HERE, Tord Boontje’s presentation of 11 chairs he has designed over the last decade, and a Caroline Broadhead performance piece. If that wasn’t enough – there will also be a programme of talks including the popular on-stand booth talks where you can hear the world’s best makers talking about their work. COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects, 8-11 May 2015, Saatchi Gallery, Duke Of York's HQ, King's Road, London SW3 4RY, T: +44 (0)20 7811 3070,,



72 SMALLFILMS BIG CREATIVITY Ptolemy Mann is charmed and inspired by Bagpuss creators Peter and Joan Firmin 76 HOUSE OF LOVE Beth Smith meets Jay and Niki, founders of The Cloth House, and finds a couple wrapped up in finding rare fabrics Portrait by Richard Nicholson

COHABIT stunning interiors beautifully photographed 68 ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL An artistic family background inspires Grace Lane’s hand crafted characters Written by Sian Williams and photographed by Polly Ellis page 64 Right top and middle: Too much night, again, installation view, South London Gallery, London page 64 left and bottom: Weaving, Unsung, 2009, installation view, 53rd Biennale di Venezia, Venice,

page 65 Chiacchiere 2004, 3 mobiles, thread, paper variable dimensions

Left: Magnificent Obsessions, The Artist as Collector, 2015

The Californian multimedia artist Pae White continually references textiles in her work. Constructed from fragile, transient materials, her large-scale sculptural works include gold-lined popcorn kernels suspended from transparent thread; paper shapes strung on thread to capture the feeling of a swarm of bees; and tapestries of billowing smoke plumes.

For Oslo Opera, she designed a stage curtain that mimicked crumpled tinfoil. Two years ago, for her solo show at the South London Gallery, she created an immersive site-specific installation (inspired by her own experience of insomnia) in which vast quantities of coloured yarn criss-crossed the room to create super graphics spelling out “tiger time” and “unmattering”.

/ Getty Images id iarm

Peter MacD


But still for such a cutting-edge artist, it comes as a surprise to find that she is a passionate collector of the vibrant homeware textiles of American designer and entrepreneur, Vera Neumann (1907-1993), see Issue 36, who was almost the Martha Stewart of her day.

In tribute to Neumann, for the Barbican’s current show, Magnificent Obsessions: The ArtistasCollector, White created an installation of over 1,000 Vera Neumann silk scarves, tea towels, napkins and bed linen. The show looks at the personal collections of postwar and contemporary artists. Displayed alongside Andy Warhol’s cookie jars and

Damien Hirst’s skulls and taxidermy, White’s installation is dazzling. You want to dive in and lose yourself in the sheer jungle of scarves.

“I wanted that feeling of a wave," she explains. "If you’re in the water and about to catch a wave, the perfect moment is when it’s starting to lift you up into a swell. It’s almost like there’s a roll of the water. I really wanted the cable to have this feeling of pulling you up with it.”

Textiles are hung asymmetrically like pennants in slanting rows of stretched wire. “It’s all magnets,” White confides. “I didn’t want it to be horizontal like a laundry line and I didn’t want to have penetrations into the textile with pins so these are very, very, small, rare earth magnets that are very strong.”

She also wanted to convey the sheer variety of the work. So scarves decorated with Vera’s dog or with emblems of love line up against each other in a “corridor” of designs. Lighting is deliberately bright so you can see all of them. “I said don’t make it precious,” she laughs.

White has collected Neumann’s textiles most of her adult life and bought her first two scarves for 10 cents each from a thrift shop. Today her collection is more than 3,000 pieces. “They were so inexpensive and so ubiquitous. I felt it was my duty to buy every single one.”

But there is a deep physical connection. 4



shape. Postgate bought a 16mm Bolex camera and their single frame stop animation technique was put straight to use with Ivor the Engine and many other programmes. Peter’s ability to shift from 2D to 3D was incredibly versatile.

One gets the sense that this was a deeply creative time in kids TV when entertainment and imagination was deemed more important than the educational, adult interaction style TV that came later with programmes like Rainbow and Playschool. These early animated shows are about storytelling, family and community and have a real sense of the handmade – they are approachable, intimate tales of mythical places and timeless characters.

Peter did everything by hand – character drawings and development, building the skeleton animatronics underneath the glorious textile characters. As we talk a toad sits on the table overlooking our conversation – Gabriel the Toad from Bagpuss to be exact – and he looks like he could start strumming his banjo any minute. In 1959 the Firmin‘s moved to Kent and set up the Smallfilms workshop in the garden. Over the next two decades, whenever the BBC or Thames Television wanted a new programme for children Smallfilms would oblige in 2D or 3D styles of animation often mixed together.

Joan was always a creative influence behind Peter’s work. Mother to six daughters she 4



back home where she felt more at peace to think and work. Since finishing her degree she has lived here. “That’s the beauty of the internet, you still have the resources to run your business even in the middle of nowhere. I’m surrounded by open fields, my lovely dogs and three plump chickens who never fail to provide an egg for my breakfast. For me working in the countryside works really well,” she says.

ltes lly E


Grace and her mother, an artist/illustrator, bought their near derelict Railway Station 11 years ago. Built in 1867 it was part of the old Lincolnshire line that ran to Stamford, three miles away, and which closed in 1929 when its fortunes failed after a general strike. Many of its features such as its tin signs were gone by the time they moved in,

but gradually over the years both have put back the character in their own creative way.

Looking about the dining room the walls are filled with old stationstyle clocks. Everywhere you look there’s a fondness for times gone by. Unloved items such as the old suitcases and laundry baskets in the study have been cleaned up and polished and now have a new sense of purpose.

The walls painted in white are almost completely covered, every inch filled with carefully grouped collections of photographs and artwork. The wall in the living room is filled with framed photographs 4



WIN 83 PRIZES THIS ISSUE Five pairs of tickets for Fashion on the Ration at The Imperial War Museum, a Volga Linen Bath Hamper worth £288 and a hand woven Fra Josephine Scarf

EVENTS Join us for this issue’s Launch Party on 6 May at William Morris Gallery. The Selvedge Spring Fair comes to Chelsea Old Town Hall, London on 25 April and reaches The Subscription Rooms, Stroud on 16 May

INFORM the latest news, reviews and exhibition listings 03 BIAS / CONTRIBUTORS A letter from the founder and notes from our contributors 07 NEWS London Craft Week, Riviera Style, Costumes by Klaus Haapaniemi, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, Pasting the Walls 08 ADVENTURES IN CLOTH Diane Gaffney in Uzbekistan 80 SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS A cheerful Gudrun Sjoden tote bag for every new subscriber and renewal. 82 BACK ISSUES Complete your collection while you still can! We currently have free shipping on all back issues. 14 LISTINGS Exhibitions, fairs and events taking place around the world in June. For up to date listings visit 86 READ Invitation Strictly Personal: 40 years of Fashion Show Invitations by Chrissie

Charlton & Vicky Fullick, Thea Porter by Kaffe Fassett 59 DESIGN FILE Micol Fontana and her sisters 88 VIEW Signature Quilts by Jessica Hemmings, Dries Van Noten Inspirations by Veeri Windels, The William Morris Family Album by Catherine Harper 95 COMING NEXT The Pop Issue: Textiles that evoke the sounds of summer

SELVEDGE ('selnid3 ) n. 1. finished differently 2. the non-fraying edge of a length of woven fabric. [: from SELF + EDGE]


My Bookmarks

Skip to main content