Culture Trip 38 – Designs for Life @ The Shipley Art Gallery

I wrote this piece for a magazine job application, sadly I did not get the job. So I have decided to post it on my blog, so you can enjoy it 🙂

Design is all around us; as shown in the new exhibition at The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead.  People want things that are not only useful to them but they are nice to look at.

The Designs for Life exhibition contains hundreds of objects made in many parts of the world over the past 2000 years. Taken from the collections of the Tyne and Wear Archive Museums, they explore the ways in which we use materials and traditional techniques to express and excite the way we live our lives.

The exhibition entrance is welcomed by Chair, 2000 by Ali Rhind. The chair is made of wood and felt, Rhind, has used the rug tug technique as a form of upholstery. The rags are made from hand-dyed second-hand blankets. So many people have used these blankets which is important to the artist as it means the chair has a history. 


You can expect a sensory experience in The Shipley Art Gallery, there is a tile panel spelling the titled exhibition and each tile has been designed by an artist in the textile industry. The gallery entices you to touch and experience the features of each tile.


There are a range of mixed media art pieces hung around the room, Cloned Immaculate Embroidery and mixed media are by Michael Brennand- Wood, Bedfordshire, 2003. It is part of a series called A Field of Centres which explored shapes and mathematical patterns that have been found in early textiles around the world. The embroidery is done by machine and the 3-D elements added by hand.


Artists may choose materials that are chosen for specific properties such as colour, texture, weight or flexibility. Some of the artists have used unconventional materials to illustrate a point. Quilt ‘Assault and Battery 3’ PVC plastic and turkey feathers By Michele Walker Brighton, 2001. This piece combines traditional methods and modern materials to inform audiences about factory farming. Michele Walker was disturbed by the sight of a turkey battery farm so she used some of the feathers by the slaughtered birds to pad the piece.  The Quilt uses Traditional quilting patterns of stripes to create a cage and feathers.


The Shipley Art Gallery celebrates the North East’s quilting history in the collection. They have a quilting group which is led by textile artists Louise Underwood, has met regularly since 1986. To celebrate the quilting project, the participants have made a square for the quilt. The pieces use a selection of traditional paper piece signs combined with new designs created by the group. 


Hidden away, you have to look for this Narita Bloom Cloth by Matthew Harris. Matthew Harris is a textile graduate and has been working with textiles since 2000. Harris makes work by dying, cutting and hand stitching materials to create pieces that look at pattern, lines and colours on the cloth. 


The Shipley Art Gallery shows us how design is the deliberate shaping of something to meet our needs.

Designs for Life is a permanent exhibition.

For more information about Shipley Art Gallery click here 

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