YAG Workshop, Tuesday 02 April 2013

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YAG Workshop, Tuesday 02 April 2013

Today the Youth Advisors met with Amy Miller, Curator of Decorative Arts & Material Culture, Research & Curatorial at Royal Museums Greenwich, and Louise Simkiss, Adult Learning Manager. Joan and Piarve tell us about what they got up to…

Meeting in the Queen’s House with Amy Miller

Amy and Louise talked to us about the Alice Kettle Garden of England exhibition inspired by the flamboyant Tudor and Stuart eras and then we moved on to the National Maritime Museum to see the extraordinary Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ which is inspired by Nelson’s flagship Victory and Batik textiles ad well as European history and African culture. I found exploring different materials and different techniques to create materials interesting. Understanding how different cultures wore fabrics and interpreted colours was interesting. We also got an introduction to the Silver Arts Award.

Reviews of Alice Kettle’s The Garden of England (in the Queen’s House until 18 August 2013)

Mercedes Thompson


Alice Kettle’s ‘The Garden of England’ is an exhibition in The Queen’s House, taking inspiration from the historical figures around Greenwich.  The first part of the exhibition I went to see was the ‘Flower Helix’ on the Tulip Staircase.  I learnt that the artist was not Kettle alone, but also her students, who had helped to create the beautiful flowers for this wonderful piece. I also visited ‘The Flower Bed’, an installation made of synthetic fabrics with the exception of wool, due to the fabric-eating insects beneath the floorboards.  I really liked this piece because the colours were rather vibrant; I also thought that Kettle’s idea of incorporating patterns from the clothing of royal figures, such as Elizabeth I, was quite unique.  The last piece I saw was a stitch of ‘Queen Henrietta Maria’, which I found amazing as it had a lot of texture and a broad range of colours.  The exhibition was excellent, and I appreciated that Kettle and her students had made a variety of different flowers for the visitor to take away as a souvenir.

My review will be shared through the blog, and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experience of this exhibition through writing this review.  The evidence I have for my attendance at this event will be in the form of photos.

Piarve Wetshi
Art is a fantastic way to express history, and Alice kettle, an English based textile designer, who works at the Manchester Metropolitan University, used art to show us a glimpse of culture during the Tudor and Stuart era. Alice Kettle was inspired by many famous figures of this time including Queen Elizabeth I, but the main 2 inspirations came from 2 women: Queen Henrietta Maria and Ann of Denmark.

The first piece which was introduced was called the Flower Helix, which dangled from the tulip stairs, the first ever cantilevered staircases built in the UK. The primary material of this art piece was white lace, a colour of significance in this era. All the flowers attached to the piece were handmade; the white flowers represented peal parsley, a flower which grows mainly in England during the summer; whilst the multicolours represent the costumes of the kings and queens of that era.

White lace was used throughout Alice’s work at the Queens house, for instances to frame her second piece of art work I saw: ‘The Flower Bed’, which was an artistic representation of the Garden of England. Many decades ago, in the 17th century the Queens House was not situated amongst a busy road, surrounded by on-going traffic, with residence walking their dogs and sunbathing in Greenwich Park, whilst the students across the road sit their exams. The same Queens House (almost 400 years old today) was the original building, surrounded by great country land, facing the Greenwich palace, the famous landmark of which Henry VII was born.

The flower bed piece was inspired by the garden, as it was a place of extravagance and abundance for the royals. The flower bed contains multiple colours, representing the outburst of colours and emblems of this time period; containing flowers created by Alice Kettle herself, both handmade and machine made, but also pieces from well-known figures of the age, including pieces from the famous Queen Elizabeth and the painting of Ann of Denmark created to clear rumours of her infidelity. Alice Kettle very smartly combined elements of scenario and the characteristics of the most important figures of the queen’s house, by placing significant pieces of the royal’s costumes, onto her creation. This was cleverly done, and the way she connected factors of the past into a modern looking piece was very creative.

Yasmine Yasin
The Garden of England is a very elaborately designed exhibition, located in the Queen’s House. The exhibit presents three eye-catching works of art that portray the past monarchs and courtiers of the Queen’s House. It successfully captures the original atmosphere as a ‘garden retreat’ of Queen’s House.

The flower helix (a white spiracle staircase -like structure embedded with soft pink flowers) was the first exhibit we came across which beautifully complemented the ‘Tulip stairs’. We also saw the portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria which was constructed entirely of thread like material. The tension which held the threads in place gave the illusion that the picture was 3D. These two exhibits gave be a good briefing on how you can use simple materials and techniques  that can be put together to create complicated art work.

Having said that, the work that struck me the most was the flower bed, that had been inspired by the museum’s portrait collection. The designs were taken straight from the decorative clothing of the paintings of the monarchs and courtiers, this highlighted their importance and presence in the garden. For example, the flowerbed was framed by lace was inspired by the cuff around Elizabeth 1’s neck which was also seen as a ‘frame’ around her. Although Alice Kettle used the painting for inspiration, she also added a few of her own ideas to the creation of the flowerbed this made it seem very original.

Fatim Conteh
Today I went to see and exhibition by the textile artist Alice Kettle. It was composed of three pieces of artwork collectively called ‘The Garden of England’. Out of the three, my favourite was the Flower Bed. I’ve always had an interest in textiles do seeing this was very impressive and interesting. I also liked the way that the various elements of the Flower Bed were picked out from the various portraits. It was as if each piece forms part of a larger history. I enjoyed the fact you try and find these small bits in the painting as it adds a sort of depth to it all. The small pieces of material you could take away was also a nice touch. It’s the little things that can show a person’s creativity.

I would recommend you go see this exhibition. It was certainly a pleasure on the eyes. It was colourful and overall the exhibition has a lot of Tudor and Stuart history. If you’re interested in that period of history, this is certainly for you.


Tianna Oti
In this exhibition, there were 2 main art pieces, the Garden of England which I’d describe as a giant patchwork and the tulip staircase with a flower helix in the middle. Both are unique and special and inspired me to think outside of the box with artwork I create myself in the future. The Garden of England was inspired by the King and Queen and I liked it as Alice had taken symbolic features from their clothing like colours and carnations and put it all together in 1 piece of art. The art was almost like a game and the way it was structured in the museum as there were paintings of the monarchs surrounding the art so you could look at the art then locate the features on the paintings. The 2nd piece of art in the exhibition was the Flower Helix in the middle of the Tulip Staircase. This was very pretty and really made the staircase (Tulip Staircase) stand out.

Frances Woodall
Alice Kettle’s Garden of England was based heavily around the language of emblems and colours from the 17th century. First, we saw the Flower Helix on the Tulip Staircase, incorporating the idea of Anne of Denmark’s lace, simple white and pink colours displayed. As we proceeded to the room Alice curated the emphasis on colour and people was clear. Two specific people Alice was inspired by were Anne of Denmark and Henrietta Maria, who the Queen’s House was built for. In the Flower Bed we saw elements drawn from portraits, colours and patterns especially. The floral motifs were emblems from the two women, for example the English rose from Elizabeth I was there, as was carnation silver featured in many portraits. The maidens blush, symbolising modestly from Anne of Denmark could clearly be seen. The portrait of Henrietta Maria herself was an abundance of colour and pattern. In addition, the order of crescent given to Nelson by the Turkish Sultan made the exhibition especially unique to the National Maritime Museum. The emphasis on women, history and idea of emblems and colours made the exhibition unusual, interesting, exuberant and a place of complete abundance.

Davina Bucknor
My first impression of ‘The Garden of England’ was interesting. The exhibition consists of three pieces, Queen Henrietta Maria, Flower Bed and Flower Helix. The first I observed was the Flower Helix installation in the Tulip Stairs. When I began to look at the installation it reminded me of the words elegancy and purity because white is the main colour of it.

This installation was inspired by Greenwich history. What I found really interesting was the fact that she took inspiration from the white lace that was used for the Tudors’ costumes and the flowers at that time and incorporated that in such a way that it captures the beauty of the Tulip Stairs as you look up and as you lower your view you see bits of blue and pink flowers that are complementary to the delicate white strings of fabric flowing down. It made me conjure feelings of happiness and freedom. This installation has inspired me to think of art differently how to create something unique from things that I think you usually don’t get inspiration from. It surprised me that she looked at the details of paintings like what they wore in detail, e.g.. jewels on their clothing and the history behind that. When it comes to certain forms of art, e.g.. photography, textiles etc. there is always a meaning behind it, wither personal, historical and many other things.

Shezara Maria Francis
The Garden of England exhibition by Alice Kettle is comprised of three main parts. The first part we saw when we were toured by Amy Miller, Curator of Decorative Arts and Material Culture, was the art piece on the Tulip Stairs. The flower art plays with the garden history of the Queen’s House, but also uses Queen Anne’s lace and colours and emblems of the two women that owned the property, Queen Anne of Denmark and Queen Henrietta Maria. I liked it because of its numerous links to the Tulip Stairs, and the history of the area, but also that the flowers were stitched by students in London.

When we entered the Garden of England exhibition room, Ms Miller told us about the portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria and the fabric garden in the centre of the room that Alice kettle had created, and how Ms Kettle had curated the room and drawn inspiration from.

The pieces are full of colour, costumes, extravaganza and an abundance of symbols and patterns from the bordering portraits on the walls. Kettle uses the jewel design from the painting of Queen Elizabeth I, the cords and pattern from that of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and the ribbon design from an unidentified young lady from the time of Charles I.

Rachel Davis
As a textile artist, her work is not only decorative, it is also intricate, but also very beautiful. For one of her pieces, she used the architecture of the Queen’s House Tulip Stairs to recreate a familiar image using fabrics and stitches such as crochet, knitting and wirework – all of which come together to form its own shape. Some od the sections are floral, connecting with the ‘tulips’ which are actually a fleur-de-lys. The stairs themselves are symmetrical, completely different from the form, as  her form is more unique; due to the materials such as lace and ribbon (somewhat delicate materials) being more mineral and able to move around, meaning it’s not as rigid as the ironwork stairs, almost contrasting, as both are decorative objects. I like how she uses traditional women’s craft to recreate traditional artworks of kings and queens to make new works.

To find out more about the exhibition installation at the Queen’s House and all the behind-the-scenes updates, please click here

Reviews of Yinka Shonibare’sNelson’s Ship in a Bottle 

At Yinka Shonibare’s Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle

Bethanie Tokenge
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, (born 1962) is a British-Nigerian artist.  Mr Shonibare created an artwork that displays both African and British cultures which influenced his characteristics and his identity. The well-known artwork is known as ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’. Mr Shonibare based part his ideas from the Battle of Trafalgar that happened on the 21st October 1805; while ensuring some part of his African heritage was also present.

The combination of both British and African traditions indicates that Mr Shonibare believes both cultures play a role in his life.  Personally I believe Mr Shonibare also portrays that two or more countries uniting as one can lead to a good outcome. It also emphasised the phrase that ‘two heads are better than one’ which to me is representing him too. While showing the co-operation of both British and African traditions Mr Shonibare indicates the empire in which trade was very important within history.

The material on the ship included Dutch wax-printed cotton. Which Mr Shonibare himself purchased from Brixton market, where some Africans within London would go to buy such material to produce an outfit known as African attire. This is usually purchased most during a special occasion.

Piarve Wetshi
A ship in a bottle is a concept many of us are aware of, which can symbolise maritime life. Has anyone ever tried creating the biggest ship in the bottle? Yinka Shonibare attempted this challenge, and was pretty successful. Yinka was raised in Britain, however was born in Nigeria. Having African blood, with British surroundings can sometimes create internal cultural conflict, and raise questions such as which culture to embrace? Should I commit more to my Nigerian roots? Yinka decided to mix the cultures together in with his Nelson Ship in a Bottle project, not only is his impressive works one of the biggest ship in the bottles I have ever seen, but the flags used on the ship represent both British and African history. The pattern of the flags refer back to the victorious Battle of Trafalgar, however the pattern is made using a wax resistant technique, using Dutch wax, which is a technique used in Africa to create African clothing. Dutch wax was a huge trade good between the Dutch and Africa, and until this day, the biggest Dutch wax factories are situated in Africa. By creating a historically significant battle for Britain using a traditional African method, Yinka combines two different cultures together in a creative and artistic manner.

Mercedes Thompson
Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ was an installation that really interested me because I felt that there was an air of mystery around it.  I’m sure that Shonibare intended for people to react in this way because he wanted people to wonder, ‘How was this ship placed inside this bottle?’;  as I examined his artwork, I heard a passer-by ask his group this question, greatly amusing me.  There were two different patterns on the masts of the ship, one being an anchor and a flame, the other a traditional Dutch floral design.  The reason for the former pattern was that an anchor, of course, represents the sea, making for an accurate description of Nelson’s occupation, and the flame indicated the ‘fire in Nelson’s belly’.  The floral pattern was a typical Dutch design, as Shonibare wanted to relate back to the roots of Batik design.  Batik is a fabric, and in order to print on it, Dutch wax must be poured over it.  Once this has been done, the pattern is carved into the wax.  After this, dye is poured over the fabric, and it prints onto both sides of the fabric where there is a gap in the Dutch wax. I enjoyed learning about Batik design, and I love how Shonibare put so many cultures together and made them work.

My review will be shared through the blog, and I value having learnt more about the history of design, and being able to teach others about Batik. The evidence I have for my attendance at this event will be in the form of photos.

Shezara Maria Francis
Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare is a hallmark of his work because of the fusion of European Empire and Asian/African culture.

Lots of meaning can be taken from the use of Dutch Wax in collaboration with the with the Nelson’s ship (which is flagged as it was at 21 October 1805, a significant date of the Battle of Trafalgar) creates lots of topical discussions on politics, what it is to be British, the immigration and migration etc.

The pattern on Dutch wax was designed by Shonibare and depicts the images of an anchor and flame, which have connotations with the sea, Empire and Nelson himself.

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle is the world’s largest ship encased in a bottle, and I think this adds a playful aspect to the artwork, as it leads many people to ask how such a piece was made.

Rachel Davis
I have always seen it by the entrance to the Sammy Ofer wing, standing tall and proud. However, I had never really thought about what it could stand for, who it was by or what it was about. Yinka is a British Nigerian, something which has definitely influenced the type of work he produces, as the textile-based materials are about where things come from; for example, the Dutch wax technique, popular in Africa – Ghana and Senegal, as a Dutch export back in the 19th Century. Originally made as part of the Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth project back in 2010. It definitely links in with that project, due to it being based on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, as it is based on Nelson, although I really like the cultural connotations that the fabrics represent. Colonies and perhaps finding yourself, foreshadowing Yinka’s own cultural background. Trade is clearly a theme across the work, particularly as the fabrics are of wax, a key trade material for the Dutch and their colonies.

Tianna Oti
In this exhibition, I was lucky to be able to observe the world’s largest ship in a bottle. It’s located just outside the National Maritime Museum and was created by Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian/British artist. I liked the way its structure – a ship built internally in a bottle. I also was thoroughly engaged by the Dutch wax patterns imprinted on the sail, I was interested in this as they were also used on African cloth (I am African). This artwork is creative as its brought different ideas and themes which aren’t known to many people and presented it in a way that makes it interesting. For me to see this is very special as I find it very relevant to my own culture and therefore, I know a lot about it and love to see others in the Group engaging in a culture which is otherwise very hidden as it’s different.

Frances Woodall
Made and displayed on the Fourth Plinth for 18 months, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle came to Greenwich in April 2012, comprising African and British culture. It remains the world’s largest ship in a bottle and how it fits still remains a mystery to the public. The emphasis on the British Empire and the Battle of Trafalgar was clear, as well as the African identity it was given. The anchor and flame represent Nelson and the navy, the Dutch wax sails representing Africa merging the two cultures. The wax gave patterns on both sides and there were small crackles where the wax cracked, adding a sense of detail to the ship, seen as special and unique, the wax still offers great cultural elements today and offers a lot of meaning from society. Furthermore, the trade, migration and immigration of the British Empire could been seen on the ship. Overall the merging of two cultures, the vast size, interesting sails and intricate use of wax made the ship interesting and creative.

One Comment so far:

  1. George kensah says:

    I found Tianna Oti’s written piece very interesting

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