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Twelve Tempting Textile Gifts for Christmas 2014

Denna Jones

Our eclectic range of twelve textile related gifts includes three experiential gifts – exhibitions in London, New York, and Berlin. Whether for others or yourself, there’s something here for everyone.

On the border of the Blenheim Palace estate lies the village of Woodstock where The Cotswold Tailor creates bespoke suits as fine as those found in Savile Row. In-house designer Alexandra Stevens uses the textile scraps to create unique animal motif tweed cushions. English wildlife she depicts includes fox, badger, and the red squirrel. Pay attention to her clever details such as different sized button eyes to indicate receding perspective. All cushions are unique as they are dependent on fabric available from the tailor. Fancy your beloved pet or a different animal as a tweed cushion? Stevens can work from a photo to create a bespoke design.

Red squirrel tweed cushion by Alexandra Stevens for The Cotswold Tailor Cat tweed cushion by Alexandra Stevens for The Cotswold Tailor

Are digital devices banned from the Christmas dinner table? Poor you. When conversation lulls or re-hashing what’s on telly takes its toll, be sure you’ve gifted the host with an analogue version of Wikipedia – Bertjan Pot’s Font of the Loom tablecloth (presumably wordplay on the American underwear brand Fruit of the Loom). Dip your head in silent reflection and immerse yourself in hundreds of random lines from Wikipedia printed densely across the jacquard woven cotton and Lurex cloth. In a colourway called “Dim Grey”, the design was inspired by the advanced technical capabilities of the TextielLab’s computerised loom.

Bertjan Pot Font of the Loom tablecloth for Textielmuseum

The exhibition Fancy Bizarre Brute. New German Design of the 1980s, Bröhan-Museum Landesmuseum für Jugendstil, Art Deco und Funktionalismus, Berlin reflects on the radical style and ironic materials and methods of Neues Deutsches Design (1982-1989) – one of the final cultural achievements of West Germany before reunification in 1989. The exhibition includes the “campfire” carpet in Andreas Brandolini’s Deutsches Wohnzimmer ensemble for Documenta 8, and Herbert Jakob Weinand’s Carpet Berlin. The look is Post Modernism suffused with the unique edge that resulted from the physical and psychological isolation created by the Berlin wall.

Andreas Brandolini DEUTSCHES WOHNZIMMER (GERMAN LIVING ROOM) – ENSEMBLE FOR  DOCUMENTA 8 1987 Museum für Konkrete Kunst, Ingolstadt, and Andreas Brandolini Photo Martin Adam, Berlin SMALL Herbert Jakob Weinand CARPET BERLIN 1985 Wool, Private Collection Photo Martin Adam, Berlin

Science states beauty is often (always?) symmetrical. Not only are MJ’s (as fans call them) perfect pairs of socks, but they’re designed and manufactured by two brothers, underscoring how symmetry and beauty reign at Marko John’s. A small family business, Marko John’s have been making superior socks in England since 1895. Hand-linked for a seamless toe, the cotton is spun and dyed using traditional techniques. Everything is made in England from design to the manufacture, to the printing and packaging. The Winter ’14 gift box is only available for a limited time, but gift boxes of college socks or a hand picked selection are available year round.

Marko John's socks winter 2014 giftbox

Two Mughal-inspired life-sized tents by Francesco Clemente might be the perfect place to contemplate the nature of good and evil during a season where the scales of holiday justice weigh naughty against nice. Clemente’s Two Tents at Mary Boone Gallery, New York (until 20 December 2014), juxtaposes his “Angels’ Tent” and “Devil’s Tent”. The tent exteriors were embroidered and silkscreened in Jodhpur; their interiors painted by Clemente. The title of the Angels’ tent is plural while the Devil’s tent is singular. If this were a football match the unmatched sides would matter, but in the eternal struggle between good and evil, who can say. A companion exhibition “Francesco Clemente: Inspired by India’, is at Rubin Museum of Art, New York, until 2 February 2015.

Francesco Clemente  “Angels’ Tent” (DETAIL) 118” by 236” by 158” tempera-cotton, wood, embroidery, hand stitching 2013-2014 Courtesy Mart Boone Gallery, New York Francesco Clemente “Devil’s Tent” (DETAIL) 118” by 236” by 158” tempera, cotton, wood, embroidery, hand stitching 2013-2014 Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York

‘Tis the season to consider updating the chimney breast with a hand-braided brass-framed mirror. ‘Colour Wheels” by mixed media embroidery designer Aimee Betts in collaboration with London framers John Jones is exclusive to The New Craftsmen, Mayfair, London. The oval brass mirror is overlaid with ombré-effect (akin to a colour wheel) cords designed by Betts on a circular knitting machine and inspired by metal finishes and patination in the John Jones workshop.

Colour Wheels mirror by Aimee Betts with John Johns at The New Craftsmen, Gareth Hacker Photography Colour Wheels mirror by Aimee Betts with John Johns at The New Craftsmen, Gareth Hacker Photography

Christmas is Elf and It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmas is panto and sugarplum fairies. Christmas is feasting and family. But for some Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a gram of Gothic. Visit the Royal Academy of Arts this Christmas and revel in the exhibition Charles Stewart: Black and White Gothic. Illustrator Stewart (1915-2001) was haunted by Le Fanu’s gothic novel Uncle Silas (1864). His pen and ink drawings capture the novel’s decaying house of Bartram-Haugh and its good and evil characters. Stewart assiduously studied period design, which is reflected in the sumptuous fashion of the heroine in peril and her nemesis, and the furnishings and interior design. Dark and dramatic with film stills and theatre designs, page proofs and publishing ephemera, visit this small, exquisite exhibition as antidote for too much seasonal colour and a surfeit of cheer.

Charles Stewart, 'She clasped me round the waist, and buried her face in my dress', 1947. Pen & ink drawing on Whatman board. Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London. © Estate of the artist Charles Stewart, 'Uncle Silas’ Title Page vignette, 1947. Pen & ink drawing on Whatman board. Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London © Estate of the artist

If after visiting the Royal Academy, you (re)discover the appeal of dialling back to the simplicity and power of black and white, then consider gifting a linen tote bag featuring the gestural brush strokes of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), one of Britain’s significant 20th century artists. The motif is from her screenprint ‘Two White Brushstrokes’ published posthumously in 2007 in small archival editions of twenty-five. There is a companion print with the design inverted. Her paintings, and those of her contemporaries in St Ives, Cornwall, contributed significantly to the development of Modernist British painting.

Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham linen bag

Doing the dishes is an unavoidable outcome of Christmas feasting. Manufactum’s robust, handsome, 100% recycled half linen, half cotton “Miner’s” cloth will make the job easier. While the chequered pattern is standard, colourways are dependent on leftover yarns. True to their name, the cloths were used by miners to dry their faces and the original design had a special criss-cross black pattern to hide smears of coal dust.

Manufactum Miner's cloth

Angels and devils, good and evil – there’s something about the Christmas season that conjures not only Gothic, but also “survival.” Norwegian Die Devold set up his textile factory in 1853 to supply thermal garments to fishermen. Devold’s Nansen wool pullover is named in honour of Fridtjof Nansen who wore the forerunner on his polar expedition 1893-96. Next time you feel like complaining the central heat is too low, think about the Nansen and his iced-over moustache. If you fancy Devold thermal clothing, there is only one place in London recommended for your purchase – Arthur Beale in Covent Garden. This 400-year-old chandler’s shop is one of London’s dwindling original small shops. Give them your patronage. Visit their newly re-arranged upstairs where you can find a range of inspirational maritime books – fact and fiction. Don your Devold, grab a mug of tea, pull up a fireside chair and read about Nansen’s survival exploits. Or watch Frozen for the umpteenth time.

Nansen Norwegian Sweater by Devold at Arthur Beale, London

You’ve heard the bad news? Sugar is a no-no. Too much whether fruit smoothies, carbs or sweets is a recipe for ruin. Yet you demand Christmas candy canes? Et voilà! Urban Cottage Industries presents a candy cane-like red and white cable extension lead, and a pendant light with a red and white lead – all made of flexible natural rubber fabric cable and hand built in the UK. The simple but elegant pendant light by jeweller and goldsmith Julia Cook features three metres of red and white stripe cable. More than enough to satisfy a candy cane sweet tooth. And it will last longer.

Urban Cottage Industries Julia Cook pendant light

Grandmothers across the United States used to make sock monkeys for their grandchildren. The ubiquitous sock monkey became an enduring national motif. It was a canny design of thrift and ingenuity – the red heels of socks made by Rockford provided the monkey’s distinctive face and bottom, and the rest of the sock became the body. Other brands of socks have been used, but the original is the Rockford sock monkey. The real deal is still available at Lehman’s in Amish country, Ohio, USA, locally handmade from Rockford socks. Can you resist those big red lips or the beautiful red bottom? 2014 is the year big booty breaks the Internet and that includes sock monkeys.

Rockford Sock Monkey at Lehman's Rockford socks at Lehman's
Exhibitions, Homewares, Rugs & Carpets, Textiles, Uncategorized, Wearable textiles
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