Photo of myself and a friend at the Mod Madness event, checking out some Lucienne Day tea towels. Photo courtesy of the Textile Museum.After an extremely eventful summer, I am back and hoping to start posting more regularly again! I have just started work as the new part-time Collections Assistant at Dumbarton House, a Federal-period historic house museum in Georgetown with a great collection of decorative arts. This summer I was cataloging and rehousing Sewall-Belmont House and Museum's phenomenal collection of textiles related to the fight for women's suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment, including a number of significant banners used for picketing the White House in the nineteen-teens which may be on display before long!
Some of this summer's most interesting textile events have surrounded an exhibit at the Textile Museum on S Street in Washington, D.C. called "Art by the Yard: Women Design Mid-Century Britain." The exhibit closes this Sunday, September 12th, so if you have not yet been to see it I highly recommend that you go! The show focuses on textile designs by Lucienne Day, a pioneering British textile designer in the mid-century Modern style. Beginning with her groundbreakingly abstract "Calyx," the galleries showcase her imaginative, appealing, and sometimes humorous designs with ample yardage. I particularly like the back gallery, which has a room featuring textiles in situ with furniture designed by her equally famous husband, Robin Day and also shows some of her delightful tea towels. Too bad the repros cost such a fortune in the gift shop! The final room also includes the work of two of Mrs. Day's contemporaries, Jacqueline Groag and Marian Mahler.
My only complaint with the exhibit was that I felt there was far too much text-- many of the didactics elicited the dreaded TLDR (too long, didn't read) response, even from me (and I am a big reader of didactics). Still, the pieces were extraordinary, the exhibit arrangement flowed well, and the mounts were fantastic as always (with a salute to my friends in the conservation lab, Anne Ennes and Esther Methe).
The first event I attended this summer that was associated with the exhibit was a lecture by the esteemed Titi Halle, director of Cora Ginsburg LLC (possibly the best dealer of historic costumes and textiles in the country). Her talk, entitled "Cutting Edge: Textile Artists of the 20th Century," was a primer on 20th-century textile design from Raoul Dufy's work for Paul Poiret to the Bauhaus and the Weiner Werkstatte to designers of the fifties and sixties, including Mrs. Day and showed some wonderful images of examples from the Cora Ginsburg collection. It was a great refresher for me and a good basic introduction to the subject for anyone interested.
The second event I attended that was linked to the exhibit was purely for fun-- it was an evening event called "Mod Madness" that linked the mid-century theme of the exhibit to the popular fixation with Mad Men and included a bar, food for sale, a DJ and jazz combo, a silkscreen-your-own T-shirt station, and a "best mid-century dressed" contest (I was a runner-up but not a winner... next time!) It was very heavily attended, by professionals, hipsters, and museum dorks (that's my category) young and older (mostly women, but that seems to be the usual situation with museums!). Tickets were only $10 and included one ticket for a non-premium drink. A great time was had by all and I think it was a great event for the TM, although I have not heard any details from their staff. Hope to see more like it! I have noticed that young professionals are the new hot market for museums, so I expect there will be many such events in the future.
Enjoy the exhibit at the TM this weekend- and remember, they're open 10-5 on Saturday and 1-5 on Sunday and have a suggested donation of $5 (but pay what you can/want).
Did you attend either of these events? Any other great textile or museum-related events this summer? Did you enjoy this exhibit?