The Day I Found Myself In Wonderland

I am a big fan of Lewis Carroll, specifically, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. I adored the books when I was a young child, and equally loved the 1951 Disney movie. Indeed, my absolute favourite Disney movie has always been, and shall always be, Alice in Wonderland. It only occurred to me recently that this may be slightly odd, as it is one of only a handful of Disney films that do not feature a romantic storyline.

I continued my adoration of Alice throughout my formative education years, my final year University dissertation was based on Alice, and indeed my penultimate final year assignment was based on Through the Looking Glass. My workroom bookshelf is heaving with various different editions of Alice, including a copy I have had since I was 5, and a pop-up book edition.

Back in December, I briefly talked about an exhibition that was due to open in May; in this blog post here. Well, it now being May, I attended the exhibition at the weekend. But, even better than that, I booked a ticket to attend the Alice & Fashion one day conference, that was held in conjunction with the exhibition.

The conference was held at the same venue as the exhibition; The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. I arrived bright & early, and was able to look around the exhibition just after registering for the conference.

The exhibition is small, I had expected it to be bigger, but it is perfectly formed. It features an original children’s dress from the late 1800’s, Liberty print fabrics, various books & magazine incarnations of Alice, Japanese interpretations of Alice, and much more.

My favourite item from the exhibition was a MGM studios shot of Deborah Kerr, wearing a novelty print Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland blouse.

The conference was fascinating, it featured various speakers discussing different aspects of Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland. Will Brooker opened the conference with his paper on ‘A Two-Way Looking Glass: Alice and Popular Culture’. This piece was particularly interesting to me, as I had no idea of some of the literature/comics/television dramas that incarnations of Alice had popped up in. Indeed, I discovered that Alice & the Mad Hatter both appeared in DC Comics Batman (coincidentally, in a very similar storyline that has just aired on Gotham if any of you watch it).

Kiera Vaclavik then gave her paper on ‘Alice: A Dedicated Follower of Fashion’. Kiera is the curator of the Alice Look exhibition, so it was wonderful to meet her and hear her insights on Alice’s dress and fashion.

I also heard from Aneesh Barai, on his ‘Interwar Alice’ paper, Josephine Rout on her ‘Alice & the Pirates’ paper; and more.

One of the absolute highlights of the conference for me, was being able to handle objects from the museum archives & from private collectors. I loved seeing some of the Liberty’s fabrics up-close, and seeing some of the beautiful prints from their ‘Pictures and Conversations’ SS15 collection (I actually ordered some of their beautiful fabric, just waiting for it to arrive! I simply couldn’t resist..)

It was wonderful to see original vintage sewing patterns from the 1950s that featured Alice, specifically to be made-up for a child’s fancy dress party.

I also got to meet Josie Smith, the pattern cutter for Roksanda, who has a dress featured in the exhibition. The dress is made from fabric actually printed with Carroll’s text & John Tenniel’s illustrations. It was wonderful to meet her and see her pattern pieces and prototypes, especially after seeing the final dress in the exhibition!

I had a marvellous time, and I’m so glad that I booked a place to attend the conference. I discovered lots of information and facts that I was previously unaware of, and indeed, this has only served to increase my curiosity..

The exhibition The Alice Look runs until 1st November 2015 at the Museum of Childhood.

Until next time dears! (Unless any of you happen to fall down a rabbit hole..)

In Quest of Beauty

At the start of the year, I discovered that the Russell-Cotes museum in Bournemouth was to hold a world exclusive retrospective of Alphonse Mucha’s work – In Quest of Beauty. This was rather exciting news to behold, as The Mucha Foundation have not exhibited in the UK for almost 15 years, so naturally I knew I had to see this exhibition.

I actually lived in Bournemouth for three years whilst I was studying for my degree, so the town itself was rather familiar to me. Having said that, I hadn’t returned to Bournemouth since I graduated, so it had changed quite a bit – new shops springing up, an abundance of coffee shops and Tesco Metros, and a Cath Kidston were all new additions for me.

The weather forecast looked extremely promising for the day – bright sunshine, warm, overall very pleasant. However, the reality was somewhat different.. I arrived in Bournemouth to a thick cloud of fog & mist, which literally permeated throughout the entire town. It lasted the whole day, so it was overall rather chilly and overcast (not the bright sun-fest I had expected it to be!) As a result, my hair set flopped in a rather spectacularly bad way – hence the absence of hair/outfit pictures (and I was on my own, so I would have felt like a goon trying to attempt a ‘selfie’).

Anyways, fog & hair flops aside, I arrived at the Russell-Cotes. I had forgotten what a magnificent building it is, the house itself is crammed with all sorts of artefacts and objects, it really it a feast for the eyes.

The Mucha exhibition was situated in two rooms and split into three sections; Women – Icons & Muses, Le Style Mucha, and finally Beauty – the Power of Inspiration. Overall I was very impressed with the exhibition and the pieces chosen to be displayed in the show. For some reason, I thought the more ‘well known’ pieces would be omitted, but they were indeed present. The beautiful ‘The Seasons’ were displayed in all their glory, as were ‘The Flowers’ series, and theatre posters depicting his muse Sarah Bernhardt.

NOTE: Photography was not permitted in the Mucha exhibition itself, although was permitted in the house. The pictures of Mucha’s work which feature here are from prints that were displayed in the café gallery (where photography was permitted).

I was particularly impressed with Mucha’s sketches and drawings, the detail in these was truly breath-taking. I also thought that some of his pattern repeats based on natural objects would serve as beautiful wallpaper or fabric prints, even in todays times.

I definitely recommend paying Mucha – In Quest of Beauty a visit, as the exhibition itself is wonderful, and likewise the Russell-Cotes is a fabulous place to have a good mooch around and explore.

Mucha – In Quest of Beauty is on at the Russell-Cotes Museum, Bournemouth until 27th September 2015.