Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tate Modern

Aside from the V&A, the only other thing on my short list of things to hit in London was the Tate Modern. The building itself is worth the visit. The museum opened in 2000 after being converted from an old power station. Instead of organizing their collection chronologically, the museum is organized according to key movements in the 20th century. It was an incredibly inspiring visit. Here are a few images of some of the pieces we saw there. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Golden Spider Silk at the V&A.

Our time in London was focused mostly on visiting family, but we did have one day where we got in two museum visits. First to the Victoria & Albert museum and then the Tate Modern.

First stop was the V&A, and an exhibit I was excited about, Golden Spider Silk. This exhibit had on display 2 textile pieces that were made entirely with spider silk, as well as a description and video of the process. Spider silk has always fascinated me. In college I remember learning about its incredible properties, but while production of silk from the silkworm was a task that could be put into wider production, the same was not true of spider silk. 
The catalog that accompanied the exhibit documented the history of attempts to produce spider silk for use in the textile industry. While a device for winding up the silk was eventually developed,  the main problems in nearly every attempt was the sheer numbers of spiders that would be needed to gather a significant amount of silk, and managing that many spiders would prove to be to huge task. Gathering enough flies to feed them would prove a challenge as well as keeping them all alone, since they'd eat each other if held together. Not to mention the fact that people relate differently to spiders than to worms. 
The pieces in this exhibit were made with silk harvested from millions of golden orb spiders on the island of Madagascar. Millions of spiders were used over many years to first gather all the silk, and then make the yarn, and then the fabric. What is fascinating is the golden color is the natural color of the silk. Each filament was then twisted together in groups of 12, and then plied with another 12 strand thread to create a 24 ply yarn. 
One piece was woven using a brocade structure, creating a type of cloth based on the royal cloths of 19th century Madagascar. 
The second piece was a cape, made by weaving a fine base cloth, and even finer lining. The base cloth was then embroidered by hand using the silk. The embroidered design inspired by the spiders and process of this project.
I'll confess, I'm not a huge spider fan. I used to be scared of them, but as I've gotten older that's gotten better. Still, I don't really want to be around them very much, and generally look away at any tarantula footage on nature shows. As a weaver though, I can't help but be fascinated by their webs, and interested in the properties of their silk. 

If anyone is in London, I highly recommend checking out this exhibit, on display until June 5.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First stop, London.

Our trip started out with a 3 night stay in London. D's sister lives there with her husband and two incredibly cute girls. We had a great time. We spent most of our time in London in and around their neighborhood, having family time, watching the Mamma Mia dvd repeatedly and dancing around to Dancing Queen. Not to mention some elaborate teddy bear picnics. Nothing like hanging out with a 4 year old to boost up your ego!

Saturday night it snowed in London, which was kind of a drag for us, but since it rarely snows there, people get excited about it. It was fun to see our littest niece seeing and feeling snow for the first time, and our older niece wildly excited about going sledding (or sledging as they say there). Seemed like thousands of people were on Parliament Hill, sledding down on all manner of little (or makeshift) sleds.

We were anxious to get in some quality pub time, with hearty beers and good pub food. The beer selection was great, and the food was hearty, perfect for snowy weather.

Our last night we were treated to dinner at the new Marco Pierre White restaurant, Wheeler's of St. James. (Fans of the new Anthony Bourdain show, The Layover, will recognize this restaurant.)

We mostly stayed close to home, but we did get out one day and hit the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Tate Modern. More on those tomorrow!

(I have some more photos on my Flickr page.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Plugging back in.

Whenever I go away, I try really hard to unplug. It used to be a lot harder, now it's hard to plug back in. Today I was trying to think about how to blog about our incredible trip to London and Barcelona. Where do I even begin? Our trip was filled with some of the world's best architecture, the most amazing ham I've ever eaten, and a pace of life that I envy. More to come, as I get our 1800+ photos organized.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Bag

I am seriously in love with the new bag I bought for our trip. From the MoMA Design Store, it's the perfect size, and all the pockets make it super convenient for travel. Can't wait to fill it up and put it to use.