Sunday, 6 June 2010

005: "Sanctuary" Catalogue

This is the text catalogue to go along with my final piece for my Foundation Art & Design course at UCF, Sanctuary, which was on exhibition in The Poly, Falmouth, UK in May-June 2010. Photographs in [this] post and on Deviant Art.

“Sanctuary” is my final studio work on the part-time Foundation Course, but the idea for this piece was born nearly two years ago, after watching a 1976 film called “Obsession” by Brian De Palma (FIG. 1). Part of the film features one of those archetypal, beautiful, small chapels which abound in Italy. Whilst it did not look very promising from the outside, the interior was shown to be the exact opposite: full of tapestries, cobalt blue painted starry skies and gold-showered, adoring Madonnas shining in dim candlelight. It surprised me that the exterior gave absolutely no hint as to the treasure that it enclosed.

The idea of creating a shrine within a dress may not at first seem to be a natural progression. Initially, I simply wanted to use the imagery of a chapel in a dress design, alluding to the cult of fashion as well as the idea of sanctuary and the concealing of our emotions (and ourselves) from others.

It was only after seeing the excellent 2009 exhibition, “Telling Tales: Fear and Fantasy in Contemporary Design” at the V&A, London that my idea for “Sanctuary” really took shape. “Telling Tales” was based around the work of product designers, or those otherwise untrained in Fine Art, who draw upon their design training to produce work which is, “more symbolic than functional...more decorative. Not intended for mass production but are more like personal statements.” 2 Many of the works included in the exhibition were based around a narrative such as those used in fairy stories. V&A curator, Gareth Williams discussed how, “ works are able to carry a lot of meaning and that they can communicate very well as design objects because we can read it as the functionality of it, we can understand it in some fundamental way. People can be touched by the universal truths.” 3

I have always seen fashion design as being as great a canvas for expression as Fine Art or Sculpture. I loved the idea of having a meaningful theme as the basis for something as universally recognisable as a dress and a functional piece of clothing. Dress has a wealth of history in terms of adornment and, in turn, the enhancement of the wearer. I wanted to draw upon the idea of clothing providing protection, not only in terms of functional, physical protection from the elements and our environment, but also as emotional protection. I thought about how, when I feel vulnerable on a bad day, I wear baggy clothes which literally envelop and obscure me, almost as if I can hide in them. I spoke to others about it and found that while most of my women friends did the same thing, in contrast, men seemed to be more concerned with the functionality and comfort of their clothes. I found the idea of seeking refuge in clothing very interesting and it led me back to the idea of sanctuary. From the outside we could appear calm and ordinary looking, inside a sea of ornate, swirling stories and emotions. I wanted my dress to have a little secret.

One piece in the "Telling Tales" exhibition which particularly impressed me was Jurgen Bey’s, Linnenkasthuis (”Linen-Cupboard-House”), 2002 (FIG. 2) which is reminicent of children’s hiding places. Made from bedsheets and pegs strewn over tables to create their own little hidey-hole in the world, this piece inspired me to create a dress which was interactive in the sense that it would offer refuge and gave the individual a private place to think. It also linked in with the "hiding" theme. It seems to me that typically, solitude and a specific place, often an enclosed one, are offered to encourage deep thought and it seems necessary for people to have their own space from time to time from an early age. Perhaps we hide in our baggy clothes on our "off" days until we're able to think our way out of this state and feel better about ourselves again?

I began work by researching religious art and architecture for inspiration and found that the dome as a structure is common throughout innumerable cultures and eras. The shape reminded me of crinolines, especially those from the peak of the wide crinoline skirt of the 1860s, with some being as much as 6ft in diameter. These huge bell-shaped forms were in themselves, domes.

The crinoline’s function as wearable art was to disguise and hide the human form. I saw the space beneath the crinoline as something which could be exploited and decided upon making the space into a kind of sanctuary which is hidden from the outside. It was important to me to create something interactive for my final piece as it was to be on display to the public. Thoughts of how to include the viewer were therefore always in my mind. By creating a little space inside the dress, I felt that it immediately added another level of interest and meaning to the dress - communicating my ideas about hiding within clothing or hiding behind appearances.

“She paints her face to hide her face.
Her eyes are deep water.”
- (Narrator) Memoirs of a Geisha, 20054

At first all the decoration was to be on the outside of the dress, but this quickly and literally inverted. Candlelit chapels and the work of Hussein Chayalan’s inspired use of LED lights in his 2007 Airbourne collection (FIG. 3), gave me the idea of lighting the interior of the crinoline to replicate stars in the night sky. The outside was to be intentionally quite plain while I was going to decorate the interior of the petticoat with religious imagery and illuminate it with fairy lights. However, as the work progressed into the actual making of the dress, I found the ideas reversing and the dress itself became more important. I enjoyed experimenting with creating different textures and effects from, for example, an unassuming fabric like calico. The dress design became more of a focus. By the time I got around to creating the interior, I became worried that the message was getting too lofty and communicated in too heavy-handed a manner. I feared that it would take away from the impact of the dress itself. Although I still wanted the dress to have a secret inside, I now wanted to simplify it, remove the religious imagery and simply create a calm space.

I began by creating a crinoline out of willow. It is quite a large crinoline in diameter, but instead of it being a full crinoline, it extends down to just below hip level. It is still a very strong, stable structure and gives the same effect as a full crinoline but allows the inside of the dress to be visible.

The fairy lights are sandwiched between two layers of black polyester lining fabric which was then stitched to the bottom circumference of the crinoline. Calico, painted with cobalt-blue acrylic paint, was attached to the crinoline to act both as a petticoat and as a black-out so that the lights show up and also to create more of an ‘enclosed room’ feeling. The mixture of wild and fragrant flowers are a reference to flowers bedecking churches and I hope, add to the peaceful feeling, of the creation.

..”Only in separation - marriage, and birth, And death, and thoughts of these - for which was built This special shell? For, though I've no idea What this accoutered frowsty barn is worth, It pleases me to stand in silence here;...” - “Church Going”, Philip Larkin5

As dress was designed around the crinoline this to some extent dictated the silhouette of the design. I tried to create a more contemporary cut to offset the ‘Cinderella’ effect. The design itself was always a very strict with asymmetric elements inspired by the lines of modern architecture to accentuate certain shapes. Stomachers of the 16th-18th centuries and the corsetry in the designs of Christian Dior’s Spring 2006 Haute Couture collection were also very inspiring to me.

After draping a toile of the bodice, I began by making a base from calico which I starched and boned to hold its shape. Calico was used as the main fabric as a juxtaposition to the rather ornate crinoline interior and also to offset the softer textures. I used at least 25 metres in total due to the shrinkage from treating the textured fabric. I wanted to leave it in as raw a state as possible and therefore is unhemmed. A tester piece I hemmed showed that too much handling caused the texture to ‘fall’ a little. Once dry, however, the fabric holds very well and with some manipulation and stitching it in place, creates interesting forms around the dress bodice. It looked very organic and achieved a contemporary twist on typical layers of lace and tulle from conventional ballgown dresses.

In terms of the fabric, on a recent art trip to Berlin, I loved the textures and meanings of Anselm Kiefer’s work. One particular piece, called Die Welle (The Wave) or Lilith am Roten Meer, 1990 (FIG. 4), mixes the industrial textures of lead, steel wire and ash upon canvas with delicate cotton shirts and dresses. The contrast of materials was very inspiring to me and I looked into creating texture in fabric which would look hard but organic. I had decided upon using calico for the main body of the dress. Contortion pleating involves the fabric being dampened down, pleated, twisted into a knot and then dried. It creates a texture which is at once like flowing water, tree bark and stone.
This was then placed and stitched onto the plain calico bodice and skirt. The plain section of the bodice is designed to accentuate the differing textures of the material. The ruching at the back follows the nature of the material and twists, curves and flows around the bodice before falling like a waterfall to the ground.

The dress is made of calico and is entirely hand-sewn which was something that was very important for me to do on a personal level. Sewing by hand gives a certain connection which I lose when using a sewing machine. As this is my final piece on this course, I consider it an indulgence to be able to sew the dress by hand.

One section of the bodice has pin-tucked plain calico, sewn into a curve, which was inspired by fish gills and ribs. It adds to the flowing, organic feel of the dress and creates further texture and interest and breaks up the contortion pleated calico.

Many thanks for viewing my work and for taking the time to read this catalogue. Thank you to UCF and The Poly, Falmouth, for exhibiting it and giving me this opportunity. I cannot say how much I have enjoyed being a part of this course.

Laura Loveday, May 2010.

1. This Marble House, The Knife, from the album Silent Shout, 2006.
2. Williams, G: Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design:Narrative in Design Art: V&A Publishing: London: 2009
3. V&A podcast ( - accessible as of 1.05.2010)
4. Memoirs of a Geisha, d. Rob Marshall, 2005 5. Church Going by Philip Larkin: Collected Poems: Faber & Faber: London: 2003

Williams, G: Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design:Narrative in Design Art: V&A Publishing: London: 2009
Murray, P & L: The Art of the Renaissance: Thames & Hudson: London: 2002

Rozanne Hawksley (Mixed Media Artist):

Wolff. C: The Art of Manipulating Fabric: Krause Publications:Wisconsin: 1996
Cole. D: Textiles Now: Laurence King: London: 2008

Edmonds. J: Three Dimensional Embroidery: Batsford: London: 2009

Greenlees. K: Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists: Batsford: London: 2005

Thittichai. K: Experimental Textiles: Batsford: London: 2009

Jefferies. J, Quinn. B: Conteporary Textiles: The Fabric of Fine Art: Black Dog Publishing: London: 2008
Deschodt. A: Fortuny: Henry N. Abrams, Inc: 2001
Evans. M: Utmost Fidelity - The Painting Lives of Marianne and Adrian Stokes: Sansom & Co: 2009
Wilcox.C: Vivienne Westwood: V&A Publications: London: 2005
MacCulloch. D: A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years: Allen Lane: 2009
Rubin. M: Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary: Penguin: 2010 Milton. J: Paradise Lost: OUP:Oxford: 2005
Rosenthal.M: Anselm Kiefer (Art & Design): Prestel: 1988
Larkin.P: Collected Poems: Faber & Faber: London: 2003

"Obsession", d. Brain De Palma, 1976.

Online Articles:
Hussein Chalayan F/W 2007/8 Collection: (accessible as of 20.03.10:
LED Galaxy Dress: (accessible as of 20.0.10:

Photo credits - All online sources were accessible as of 1/05/2010.
Jurgen Bey, Linnenkasthuis (”Linen-Cupboard-House”), 2002 -

Hussein Chayalan, “Airborne” collection, 2007 -
Anselm Kiefer, Die Welle (The Wave) or Lilith am Roten Meer, 1990 - own photo
Obsession, Brian De Palma - screencaptures from the DVD
Jetawana Stupa - wikipedia 1856 Crinoline -
Martarona Chapel - wikipedia
All other photographs by Laura Loveday.

My eternal thanks go to my wonderful parents. Also to Elaine and Jan (who were very kind in proofreading this catalogue), Kirsten, Therese, Barbara, and David, all of whom have always been very supportive of me, particularly over the last two years.

My classmates, who have trudged along this road too and are a great bunch of people, super-talented and “bound for the Tate!” Particular thanks to Maria, Jules and Ana.

Thank you to my tutors, especially Claire Armitage and Jane Chetwynd, who are talented, kind, encouraging and inspirational. Claire in particular I owe great thanks as my wonderful tutor over this last year.

Laura Loveday was born on The Wirral, Merseyside and has lived in Cornwall for seven years. She has recently been accepted on the Fashion Design BA course at University College Falmouth, starting in September 2010.


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