What I did at the weekend


As part of my day job, I chair a scholarly organisation of academics working with critical or alternative ideas about management and organising, SCOS, which stands for Standing Conference on Organisational Symbolism.  I am currently SCOSBoss.  This weekend was our Spring board meeting, and because the conference will be held in Utrecht in July 2014 we went on a visit to the university where it will be held for a look round.  It’s a really lovely place, a bit like Amsterdam but less busy and frantic.  I’ve always found Amsterdam a bit febrile, but Utrecht is much more relaxed, and half an hour from Schiphol by train.

Obviously there was serious business to be done, but our hosts arranged a walking tour of the city after the board meeting.  And naturally, as we were appreciating the Roman origins and the havoc caused by the Reformation and the various invading armies that this part of the Netherlands experienced, I was on the look out for shops.  There are two canals in Utrecht and one of them has a wonderful art shop, a bead shop and – of course – a quilting shop.


The quilt shop which is called Carol Cox is really lovely.  She seems to specialise in Japanese fabric and in gently faded colourways.


I particularly liked the way that she had some quite small scale pieces of patchwork framed as little works of art rather than turned into wall hangings.  I think this gives patchwork the dignity it deserves.


I bought some really exquisite Japanese fabric which has pattern on the reverse made by the weave:


And here are the fabrics in the same order on the reverse:


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I alos bought some fat quarters of a genuine Dutch fabric, a dress weight version of a reproduction chintz which I loved for the design and the sheen, but also the subtle colours:


As ever, I could have spent an absolute fortune.  There was a hitch with my mastercard not being acceptable, so while I was digging around for the euros the lady who served me, who might have been Carol herself, gave me a lovely piece of very pale blue fine linen as a free gift. I thought that was a lovely gesture.

I couldn’t resist this book which is in Dutch but has great pictures:


It has a slightly different edge to textiles than you get in British collections, and I reasoned to myself that it wasn’t likely that I would come across it again, so I had better grab it while I saw it.

By the way, be careful if you decide to google Carol Cox.  There is a very enthusiastic amateur pornographer of the same name and you might not end up on the site you were expecting.

On the way back to the hotel I went into a wonderful art supply shop.  It had the full range of my current favourite Posca pens, and this lovely display of powdered pigment, plus the glass pestles to mix them with oil.


After that was the bead shop which had the beads in printers’ trays in chests of drawers:


Utrecht also seems to be a home for yarnbombers, and this is one of the most extensive ones I have ever seen:

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It turned out to be a sort of advertising installation for a children’s shop over the bridge, but it was one of the more visually appealing yarn bombs I’ve come across.

Finally, at the airport I bought a copy of this magazine, again in Dutch, but for paper lovers, it was a real treat:


I would definitely buy it in a British edition.


There is a nice website and blog for this publication, but I couldn’t see if you can get an English version.

So, throw in the Museum of Contemporary Aborginal Art and the Miffy museum and it’s a location for a textile/art lover’s perfect weekend.


What I did at the weekend








It is very nearly my birthday and the Medieval Historian has to do work of national importance on that day, clearly, so on Sunday I had my official birthday.  We went to the recently refurbished and generally made-over Holburne Museum in Bath to see a small exhibition of sumptuous portraits: Painted Pomp: Art and Fashion in the Age of Shakespeare.   The exhibition is very small and is mainly portraits with a few examples of clothing of the period, as well as a pair of costumes from the Globe theatre and a video showing you how the clothes were put on, but it is really gorgeous.  The paintings  glow and if you are interested in textiles you can clearly see examples of just about everything you might be interested in from embroidery (including blackwork), beading, passementerie, pleating, pinning and printing.  It really ought to be called ‘Attention all lacemakers’, though, because there are wonderful examples of lace, both painted and in person, as it were, as well as lots of illustrations about how items such as ruffs were worn.  If, like me, you love decoration to the point of excess, it is sheer delight.  I was very taken with the pom poms at the knee in the example above with the gold lace hanky affairs hanging from them.  As the Medieval Historian pointed out, these people can not have done any work at all, and given that they changed their undershirts several times a day, they must have stayed indoors at court for most of their lives.

The paintings are now owned by English Heritage, and are  full-length portraits by William Larkin, painted around 1613-18.   The Exhibition is on until 6 May 2013, half price for Art Fund members.




This crop is the only other image I could find, but again gives a good idea of the lace and, in this instance, the rather wonderful proto-punk slashing on the underskirt.

Our enjoyment of the show was enhanced greatly, not, by a group of elderly Bath residents braying loudly all the way round, talking about their mother’s frightful snobbery.  Not having money is apparently no excuse for not having a pretty dress.  So I learned something there too.

Otherwise, there was a surprisingly wonderful exhibition of folded linen napkins, which sounds dull, but as they were folded into castles, fish, goddesses with cornucopia, and the double-headed Hapsburg eagle, they were genuinely delightful.  There was also a helpful video tutorial and hands-on station that would make Martha Steward jealous.

Finally, the remodelling of the museum has been a big success, I thought.  It looks like the same architect who did the Ashmolean and medieval wing of the VandA, all steel and glass, but the cafe is really lovely:




You really got a sense of being in the park, and in summer, I imagine, it will be lovely to sit outside.

Brayers apart, then, a lovely afternoon and highly recommended if you can get to Bath.






Kafou: Haiti, Art and Vodou at Nottingham Comtempoary



Whenever I come up to my mother’s house I try to get to Notttingham Contemporary, which is a gallery specialising in contemporary art – as you might expect from the name.   I like it because it is always thought provoking.  The film of the Crusades seen from the Muslim perspective shown  through the medium of puppets was really memorable, for example, and I still wish I could get a copy.  The current show, however, is Kafou: Haiti, Art and Vodou.   I love to go to shows which really show you something new, and where you come out thinking that you have learned something.  As I knew nothing about art in Haiti, in this case, it wasn’t difficult.  There was a lot of weird and wonderful painting of various sorts, but as a textile type, I loved the flags or ‘drapeaux’ which were originally made for ceremonial purposes, but are now made as art.  They are made with thousands of sequins packed in together with locking beads to make whole shimmering surfaces.  I didn’t have long enough in the gallery to study them, and it would be worth going again to catalogue the various ways that the sequins were applied to get the various effects.  There was a mermaid swimming through water which was done in sequins stacked together so that only quarters showed.  I have no idea how that was done, but it gave a wonderful rippled texture to the whole.



This shows the density of the sequins as they are the only elements making up the design.




This shows the vigour of the designs.




This gives some idea of scale.

There were also some fascinating sculptures which I would have liked to have sketched, and one wonderful painting which I thought could be the basis for something I might make:



The show is enormous with all sorts of paintings and objects, from Vodou spiritual work to scenes of every day life.  I would really recommend a visit if you have the opportunity, but it ends on 6 January, so time is limited.



The photos on this blog came from another blog: http://ohsuchaprimadonna.blogspot.co.uk,which has a better description of the exhibition than I give!

St Laura and the Nuits blanches

On Friday night I found myself completely unable to sleep: wide awake, thoughts racing through my head.  I tried all those relaxation exercises, but after a while I gave in and got up.  I went downstairs and make some instant Horlicks.  We must be the last people on earth that either a. do this, or b. even have Horlicks on the premises.  I have no idea if it works, but I like the ritual.  You feel you are doing something about the insomnia.  Anyway, while I had been tossing and turning I had been thinking about a new quilt for the Laura Ashley project which I want to be on a big scale to match the Anita Roddick quilt.  The problem is that the tiny Laura Ashley prints really only lend themselves to traditional pieced patchwork and doing anything on any scale is hard.  Then I started to think about another project which has long been on the back burner with my lovely friend Beatriz on contemporary occupational saints.  Beatriz is interested in South American practices such as taxi drivers having their saints prominently displayed on their dashboards.  I am fascinated by the project but have found it hard to start.  Then I began to think about Laura Ashley as the patron saint of patchwork and patchworkers – well, Saint Laura at least.  I don’t want to be creating creepy things about an actual person.  So, I thought I could do a medieval job on this and have a generic face rather than a portrait, and then no-one would be offended or upset.

I started to make sketches in my workbook based on drawings I had done in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, National Museum of Catalan Art which is in Barcelona and which I have blogged about before.  It is the Medieval Historian’s idea of paradise.  I really love the Romanesque fresco collections such as this, which is probably the most famous image:

So you can see that these were taken from the interiors of Catalan churches and preserved (against theft, apparently) in the museum.  I love the boldness of the painting:

I know of old, though, that they never have the image you want in the bookshop, so I do a lot of sketching.  Here are the pages from my sketchbook which I intend to use for the project:

While I was having the sleepless night I decided to experiment with a technique I haven’t used before – contour drawing with closed eyes.  The idea is to develop spatial awareness in your drawing and to free it up.  It is really tempting to cheat and open your eyes.  So you just draw the outlines of whatever it is but don’t look.  When you have done that you can work on the drawing in any way you like.  I coloured in the outlines and was really surprised to find the fifties feel to the drawings and the Cubist echoes.  I can’t use them for the project but I enjoyed doing them:

The drawings weren’t too bad, but the detail was always off-set which gives it the Cubist feel:

There’s a hint of Picasso in it:

More on the project as it gets going, but it felt like a surprisingly productive way to spend a sleepless night.

Oh, and it turns out that there is a Saint Laura – this from Wikipedia:

Saint Laura of Cordoba’ (SpanishSanta Laura de Córdoba) (died 864) was a Spanish Christian who lived in Muslim Spain during the 9th century. She was born in Córdoba, and became a nun at Cuteclara after her husband died, eventually rising to become an abbess. She was martyred by Muslims who took her captive and scalded her to death by placing her in a vat of boiling lead. Her feast day is on 19 October; she is one of the Martyrs of Córdoba.

But the position of patron saint of patchworkers appears to be vacant.

Collections, collecting and unexpected encounters

I had a slightly strange day yesterday.  I went for a meeting about a research project that we are about to start and the team met in the Wellcome Collection’s cafe.  The cafe is great and there is a wonderful bookshop which stocks titles roughly to do with ‘Science’ and there is always something interesting to discover.  As ever, I bought too many books, but imagine my delight when I saw a bin full of cuddly furry microbes from a company called ThinkGeek.

I have been after one of these for some time, and I chose the hilarious e-coli:

I have been looking for one of these as a teaching prop – the old notion of bringing two things together to form something new – soft toys and bacteria, but also about bringing shocking or disgusting things together – what a shame that the Wellcome didn’t stock the ebola virus toy, for example.  This will make a good product of the week for my classes on creativity next term.   In case you are already scratching your heads about Christmas presents, according to the makers these make great ‘gag gifts’: I gave you e-coli for Christmas, that sort of thing.

The exhibition which is currently on at the Wellcome is called ‘Superhuman’ and it is about enhancing the capabilities of the human body.  As ever with the Wellcome, the exhibitions are thought-provoking.  I don’t mind wearing spectacles but can never fully relax with the Olympics because of the possibility that the athletes are doped or drug enhanced.  So, I am happy with some performance enhancement activity but not all of it.  That aside, I was really beside myself with excitement when I saw a genuine Nike Waffle running shoe in one of the cabinets:

This is the revolutionary soled-shoe that more or less started Nike as a business, and which I mention regularly when I talk about organisational storytelling and narrative.  The story, which is often repeated, is that Coach Braverman, who was the co-founder of Nike along with Phil Knight, was having breakfast one Sunday morning and suddenly noticed that the pattern on his waffle would make a fantastic sole for a running shoe.  He skipped church, went out into the garage and found some liquid latex to try out the design in his waffle iron and the rest is history.  I tell this story as an example of the divine intervention or inspiration or miraculous in organisational foundation stories.  So it was fascinating to see one of the shoes:

Having told this story over and over again for a number of years, I was really delighted finally to see the shoe.

After the exhibition I had a bit of time to kill, so I went with my accomplice and project leader, Beatriz, to Liberty’s.  Imagine my delight when I come upon yet another example that I use in my teaching, Cire Trudon candles:

These are pricey candles, they were on sale for £60 each.  One of the things that I try to get my students to understand is that creativity isn’t about the earth-shattering everyday such as coming up with an entirely new way to light our homes.  They are far more likely to be working on variations on a theme.  So, how do we resell/reimagine/rebrand/re-engineer something like the humble candle?  There is a whole lecture on this and Cire Trudon is one of my favourite examples.

The company is apparently the oldest manufacturer of candles in the world and they take great pains over every aspect of the candle – the wick, the container and so on, and, of course, the smell.  So this is an example:

Solis rex

Fragrance of the Mirror Gallery and the vast wooden floor of the Château de Versailles, vapours of wax, candelabras and palace. This kingly and solar perfume blends a green and wooded wake of coniferous trees to the sumptuous dizziness of incense with a light ray of citrus.

According to one account I read there was much sniffing of the wooden floors in Versailles to get the exact smell, and on a cursory whiff yesterday, it really did seem to capture that aroma of slightly dusty stately homes.  They were also presented under glass cloche, so it was a whole performance to smell them, and I felt like some sort of ‘nose’ in a parfumier.  This is a photo of the candles on sale in New York, but it gives an idea:

I would like the students to see the ludicrousness of all this, to see how their buyer behaviour is being manipulated, or at least to understand the branding processes at work.  I don’t know if I succeed, but it is the critical management studies approach,  which is what I hope I practice, in action.

I was thinking on the way home, though, about the magpie delight I had with these three encounters with products.  I don’t collect any of them, but it was the collector’s delight at recognising something valuable in a pile of stuff.  They too are just stuff until we attach meaning to them.  But there is also the joy of completing a collection, even if it is not an actual one.  The delight of recognition.  The joy in being connoisseur with the skills and knowledge to see something from afar.  This is a form of collecting.  Benjamin, one of my very favourite theorists, was fascinated by collecting and collections and wrote about what might be termed ‘high end’ collecting, as well as survival collecting or scavenging.  His work on collecting rare books is lovely, and he completely captures the visceral thrill and adrenaline rush of getting something which finally fills a gap in a collection.  I think I had that on a small scale yesterday, finally getting to see the rare beast of the waffle shoe, where I least expected it, in a glass case among glass eyes, and prosthetics and video art about plastic surgery.  The unexpectedness of the encounter gave it great power.

Superhuman is on at the Wellcome Collection from 19 July-16 October 2012.

The Wellcome Collection describes itself as a free destination for the incurably curious.

Oh, and I think I may have been sitting opposite Jarvis Cocker on the tube.

Ballgowns at the V&A

On Monday, Lisa, a new friend and colleague, and I met in London, and, as part of our time together, went to the ballgown exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.   We were more interested in talking about our work than looking at great art, so this show was preferable to, say, the invisible art at the Hayward Gallery, which is probably great but requiring a fair bit of concentration.  The ballgowns were perfect: visually delightful and enough nostalgia for the two of us to get to know each other effortlessly by talking about what we remember our mothers wearing or what we loved as children.

The catalogue, of course, is absolutely sumptuous.  The Victoria and Albert have recently started to outdo themselves with a series of books about costume and design, and this catalogue is definitely one of them.   The exhibition appeared to be colour-themed rather than chronological, and it was grouped around broad themes such as the ball, the wearers, the big occasion, and now the red carpet, but the dresses that were chosen seemed to be in a very similar palette in their groupings.  Upstairs was a gallery full of contemporary ballgowns had some breathtaking dresses.  So, all in all, a very good show for some escapism and wallowing in the loveliness of yards and yards of the very best fabric and half a ton of crystal beads.  And, of course, as I was wandering round, I tried hard not to think about the privilege on view, the energetic symbolic maintenance of the British class system or the celebration of anorexia in most of the contemporary frocks.  That aside, perfect.

Anyway, I wanted to do this post because it was only when I got home and looked at the catalogue that I realised that the slide show projected around the walls of the contemporary part of the show had models with the most spectacular hats/heads made out of altered books.  The books themselves weren’t in the show which is a great pity, but are lovingly reproduced in the catalogue for which they were made.  So, here are a few of the altered books headrests I could find on the web:

And this stunning creation, which was on one of the loveliest dresses in the show:

The headpiece was an explosion of butterflies out of the book:

So, if you like altered books, it’s worth getting the catalogue for a whole range of really inspiring ideas.  And the interesting part for me was that they weren’t the creation of a book artist, but of the set designer for the photoshoot, Vincent Olivieri.  He and the photographer, David Hughes, deliberately chose to work with books.  According to the catalogue:

That Hughes and Olivieri used books creates a reference to a fairy-tale or story-book context befitting the grandness of the idea of the ball gown and the sense of occasion it implies.  This could be an imaginary fiction as much as the real story or biography of the previous owner of the gown.  The use of second-hand books also represents the new function of the dresses as historical artefacts now collected and stored by the V&A, itself a seat of learning and an repository of books and knowledge.

Magdalene Keany (2012) Introduction: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words, Ballgowns: British Glamour since 1950.  London: V&A Publishing, pp. 10 and 13.

So, an added bonus when I got home.  The exhibition continues until 6 January 2013, and I intend to go back with my sketchbook.

St Fagans National History Museum – handling quilts collection


On Thursday I gave myself the great treat of a coach trip to St Fagans Museum of National History, just outside Cardiif in South Wales.  It was Bristol Quilters’ Annual Summer Outing, and we went to see the handling collection of vintage Welsh quilts.  What a good idea a handling collection is.  There is something about quilts which just makes you want to touch them.  They are lovely to look at, but imagine having this on a table in front of you and not being able to touch:



The curator, Elen Philipps, assured us that the donors had all agreed that the quilts could be touched when they gave  them so there was no guilt attached to running our fingers over them, although we did all wash our hands on entry.

I am not a great connoisseur of antique quilts.  I love them, but I am not particularly knowledgeable about them.  So this is just a few photographs of the beautiful things we were able to see and touch:








Elen Philipps was a very good guide to the quilts and had chosen an interesting selection to present from very high quality whole cloths to utilitarian ones which interesting stories.  She was very good at balancing setting the objects in their historical context with a clear love of the textiles themselves.  She also put us onto a fantastic exhibition of red and white quilts, Infinite Variety which were shown at the Museum of Folk Art in New York.  There is a great You Tube video which shows how innovative the mounting of the quilts was.  I would have loved to have seen it.

St Fagans also has some quilts on display in its permanent gallery, and a rather eclectic selection of fashion associated with Wales.  It also has lovely gardens, and is mainly known for its buildings which have been saved from decay and demolition and rebuilt brick by brick on the site.  It was also lovely to have a day out in the company of like-minded people.

What I did at the weekend II

After the success of the trip to the Design Museum in Denmark, it would have been greedy to have hoped for much more, but on Saturday my magnificent hosts Sara and Alf and my new partner in art, Sara’s son Mathias, went to the Louisiana Museum north of Copenhagen.  The museum itself is a stunning building in a lovely park and it is situated on the coast.   You can see this from this picture of the cafe:

And they serve a Danish speciality, strawberry tarts:

There is a wonderful shop which is the only place I would go Christmas shopping if I lived in Copenhagen.  It’s a good job I was having trouble with my credit card or it could have been a very expensive trip indeed.

One of the real highlights, though, for me, was the provision of activities for children.  So, not just a treasure hunt with a clipboard, but a whole children’s wing housing three floors of activities and workshops.  There are small suitcases themed to go with the sculpture park or the current exhibitions and they contain materials so that the children can respond to the art in a variety of media.  It is brilliantly well thought out.

The day ended with me and Sara and Mathias making clay sculptures together of the Giacomettis we had seen in the gallery.  The children’s wing is sponsored by Panduro which helps as there is an endless supply of materials, but there are also plenty of staff on hand and a strong sense of generosity of spirit about the place.  I love using clay – real clay, which is cool and responsive, so it was the perfect thing to do before going to the airport to get my flight home.

While I was there the current exhibition is called Pink Caviar and is a show of recent acquisitions.  The first installation on the way into the gallery was of large enamel painted panels which immediately struck me as ready made quilt designs:

And here is my grainy shot of the same thing:

And a moody shot of the reflection in the window:

The gallery is clearly a huge success.   I think it’s because it is such a complete aesthetic experience and on a sunny day it was quite beautiful inside and out.  But, as Mathias pointed out, next time we go we go straight to the clay station and get working.  Food and shopping can wait!

What I did at the weekend





Sometimes life is awful and other times the gods take your blessing bucket, fill it up, press it down and then put a bit more in.  This is the case for me with what is often a deeply boring part of an academic’s job: external examining.  This is the way in which universities ensure comparability of standards across the sector and it involves looking at student work from another university and agreeing that it is equivalent to that done on your degrees.  So it’s basically yet more marking.  But, fortune has seen fit to give me two lovely programmes to audit, one at Ashridge in the UK and one in Copenhagen.  All of which is a long-winded introduction to today’s post in which I want to write about Rokoko Mania, an exhibition at the Danish Design Museum in Copenhagen.

Although I have been to Copenhagen a few times, I had never been to this museum which is in the swankiest part of town just up the road from the Royal Palace.  I just went on spec, but when I got there I found an exhibition which could have been made for me, looking at the links between excess and the Rococo and design.  It had some fantastic costume installations, samplers, paisley, sketchbooks and extensive examples of Yinka Shonibare MBE, one of my favourite textile artists.


Shonibare reimagines conventional imagery such as statues of Britannia using African fabrics to comment on colonialism and imperialism.  This show included screenings of a ballet he costumed, A Masked Ball, which I don’t think I would have had access to otherwise.  The above photo is of costumes from the film.  His work usually deals with headless mannequins so it was a delight to see the costumes in movement.

But the show also included the work of Nikoline Liv Andersen ,whose work I didn’t know.  Now, I don’t normally like work which seems a bit gimmicky such as this which is made from plastic drinking straws, but these three dolls, as she calls them, were absolute showstoppers:

The exquisitely crafted costumes were topped off with eighteenth-century style wigs which morphed into monkeys:

These photos are very dark because the show had a number of very old textiles on display which you can’t expose to bright light, but they give a sense of the drama of the piece.  There was also a video of the artist talking about developing the work in which she showed the working process in her sketchbook.  I would kill for one of the books.  They were artworks in their own right.

Another textile artist, Laura Baruel, took a very different approach using only white to symbolise air, water, wind and so on in more monumental figures:

So, the whole thing was a delight and as it might turn into an article about excess and luxury it might even be considered fieldwork!

One final thought.  On the way to the exhibition I went past a cafe which was full of the most beautiful men I think I have ever seen in my life.  They looked like an aftershave commercial.  I was rather taken aback by seeing so much beauty.  It is rare to see beauty so striking that it seems unreal.  Being interested in aesthetics I am interested in beauty and this is something I might return to in subsequent work.  Plus, I have never understood how some people get so far with so little obvious talent besides being pretty.  Seeing these preternaturally handsome men suddenly made me realise the power that the very beautiful can have over the not so fortunate, it is mesmerising, hypnotic and strange, like stepping into another reality or dimension.

These two aesthetic experiences one after the other left me really quite energised and exhausted at the same time.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the sketchbook and the work table, which must  be the sign of a creative day!

What I did at the weekend.

This weekend was my mother’s birthday so we went up to Nottingham for an overnight trip.  While we were there mum suggested that she would like to go to an exhibition at the Castle – the Robin Hood cash-in souvenir-drenched Castle.  I really wanted an Alan Rickman style Sheriff of Nottingham handpuppet, and if I could have thought of a way to work it into a lecture, I would have bought one.  But I digress.

The exhibition was on Chinese silk, and was a collaboration with the China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou.  I don’t think it is a travelling exhibition, so a trip to Nottingham will be necessary to see it.  It’s on until the 16 September 2012, though, so plenty of time.  There were two other really interesting exhibitions on with it.  One was a show of Chinese silk from the museum’s collection curated by the museum’s Young Art Collective, and a staircase exhibition called ‘The Styling Project 2’ which was a series of stunning photos of fashion and textile ‘concepts’ inspired by the show done by students from Nottingham Trent University School of Art and Design.  These were very witty and made me smile which is a great way to approach the show.

I am not particularly inspired by Chinese artefacts for some reason, but this was a really lovely show, Living in Silk: Chinese Textiles Through 5000 Years.  Quite simply, it had some gorgeous things.  Some exquisite lengths of woven silk, some stunning embroidered robes, interesting pieces of very old fabrics, which reminded me a lot of the trend for distressing fabric and making it look like ancient fragments that you can see in most reasonably sized contemporary textile shows.  It had a gorgeous ‘rooster’ cushion, which I thought I might be able to reproduce.  I can’t find a photograph of it, but here’s my quick sketch:

The original was quite large and I thought it might be scaled down to make an ‘object’.  Lovely shape, though.

I am not a connoisseur, so I don’t have that much to report, except that it was a nice thing to go to, and very imaginatively curated with great supporting activities.  Nottingham Castle Museum seems to have a policy of supporting textile exhibitions, possibly because of the city’s long association with the lace and hosiery and lingerie industries.  They are always quite small so you can get round in  under an hour without being exhausted.  There is a very nice cafe and bookshop.  And you get in free with an Art Fund card.  Highly recommended.