Inspired by the East – how the Islamic world influenced western art @ The British Museum (tbc)

notes taken at visit on Friday 15 November 2019

Interest because birthplace of Christianity
Vehicle for interaction is Ottoman Empire

Copies of Ottoman artefacts, some accurate copies some only inspired

Two beautiful examples of ceramic, large basin from Egypt/ Syria and Persian bowl, the ceramic copies are modelled on inlaid metalworking of the 1300’s

European craftworkers found Arabic inscriptions appealing, also the distinctive pear shape of mosque lamps’, some examples of lamps and ‘Persian Blue’ Persian Safavid (1650-1720)
‘Rediscovered techniques of gilding and enamelling caused a revolution in glass decorating eg Beaker and Stoppered Jar (1914-1916)

Glazed and gilded ceramics eg Veneto (1629) and Italian plate ‘might have been made to respond to taste for Ottoman ceramics. The intricate flowers and leaves can be seen in a near-contemporary Ottoman glazed and gilded ceramic plate'(1600-1625) which look similar

Tiles (1850)
‘Advances in industry allowed them to be mass produced. Developments in sanitation and healthcare meant they were valued as easily cleaned surfaces. This meant an interest in re-creating Middle Eastern and North African interiors, often imaginatively:
– smoking rooms
– steam baths
– Islamic style tiles from floor to ceiling
Ottoman designs, directly copied or influenced colour schemes eg RMS Titanic cooling room of their Turkish baths (1908 picture)’

More examples of beautiful tiles eg 1. relief moulded and glazed ceramic: France (1880) La Faiencerie de Longwy 2. printed and glazed ceramic UK (1890) Maw & Co.

Alhambra model
fortified palace of Granada 1350 built towards the end of Muslim rule in Southern Spain
model created possibly:
– to assist repairs of the palace
– for souvenirs
– to teach art and design

1600 – 1799 Candlesticks very large gilt copper from Turkey

Other areas of influence include music and literature, examples given are Aida, Aladdin and 1001 nights or Arabian Nights

‘Images of Muslims engaging with their faith
– at prayer
– on Haji pilgrimage
– studying in madrasa school
such depictions of religious certainty may also reflect a response to the anxieties of the time. European society and morality were in a state of flux under pressure from industrialisation and secularisation’
eg men on prayer rugs in the middle of the desert


Mary Quant @ V&A

visited on Wednesday 16 October 2019 and Friday 25 October 2019

This exhibition brings together a beautiful selection of clothes and memorabilia from the years of Mary Quant’s influence on the world of fashion and the way people, especially women, could feel about themselves. Some lent to the V&A by private individuals, giving the exhibition an intimacy which seemed to me to continue the way she presented herself. In films she spoke of her ideas and aspirations: clothes, she mentioned, were meant to make a woman

vam Quant and Alexander

– be noticed
– feel sexy
– feel good

Bringing this sense of wellness to a mass market, through the way a person could look, seemed to have informed her choices throughout her career.

Mary Quant born 1930, Blackheath, to Welsh parents,
longed to train in high fashion,
set up Bazaar, shop in King’s Road

looking for exciting wholesale garments to stock in Bazaar

vam Mary Quant sketch and wool pinafore dress and A-line skirt

bought materials from Harrods and adapted Butterick patterns to her liking, for instance pyjama dress, featured in Harpers Bazaar magazine in 1955
Saturday evening was her time for window dressing

inspiration from schoolgirl uniforms: dropped waist pinafore, pinafore pleats

‘borrowing from the boys’ Mary Quant drew inspiration from gents suits and military uniforms –  high necked dresses, large buttons, perhaps and large playful ties?
some dress names referred directly to the inspiration, for instance:
‘Butchers striped dress’ in blue and white stripes with narrow orange edging
‘Bank of England dress’ in striped twill, formal tailoring
‘Sailor dress’ revived for women in narrow blue or red stripes

vam Mary Quant pinafore

Mary Quant’s simple shapes made the most of patterns and textures of woven wool
Mary Quant’s focus on design was evident in every aspect of her work, from the design of her carrier bag with very large lettering to the emblematic daisy and throughout her collection.

She seemed to be looking for the perfect design which according to her needed to be functional, sexy and attract attention as well as being mass producible.

vam Mary Quant 3 minidresses

This latter aspect seemed to lead her towards jersey dresses in multiple designs which the customer could vary according to preference: round collar, high collar, long sleeve, zip closure, pockets

Innovative materials:
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

vam Mary Quant the wet look

She said she was bewitched by the ‘super shiny man made stuff in shrieking colours’
needed specialist machinery to manufacture
collaborated with Aligator Rainwear to procure commercially viable range of Mary Quant PVC raincoats in 1965

vam Mary Quant jersey minidresses

Mary Quant discovered a new type of wool jersey, heat bonded to acetate, available in the brightest colours, previously used for underwear, rugby and football kits

Mary Quant revolutionised the textile industry and further developed this, bringing the new idea from America of intimate apparel, jersey loungewear, to be worn only at home

Her influence was extensive and many of her designs seem to me still perfectly viable today!