Sunday, 17 July 2016

Trip to Edinburgh to see The Celts Exhibition and the new Art, Design and Fashion galleries

It was an overcast but pretty warm Friday the other week when I headed off to Edinburgh for the day to visit The Celts exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.  I don't think it ever really matters what the weather is like in Edinburgh as it always looks so beautiful.  I must have taken hundreds of photos over the last few years just of the buildings alone.

I headed along to the National Museum and I have to admit my mind was primarily on food first of all since I had been up since 5:15am to get there! I therefore headed to the Museum Brasserie for a bite to eat.  I loved the little details such as The Celts exhibition signs on the table and even additions to the menu for The Celts. They had specials which were modern takes on Celt inspired dishes.  These were, 'Pan fried Highland game venison sausages, sweet potato mash, roast silverskin onions, smoked Ayrshire bacon and red onion gravy'. The second option was 'Sticky Ayrshire pork ribs baked in Eden Mill Golden ale, honey and star anise, apple and fennel slaw, bucket of rustic chips'. I am certainly going to go back and get the venison sausages option, but on this day I opted for something a bit lighter but still incredibly filling which was homemade asparagus soup with an Isle of Mull cheddar cheese scone. I absolutely love how they mention where their different ingredients have come from.  I think it really adds to the dish to know you're eating delicious Scottish produce.

The Celts exhibition itself was a no photography zone but I took some photographs of my souvenirs which you can see here. The exhibition was quite busy and there was so much to see so I'm thinking of going back again before it finishes. I did however see a lot of incredible objects.  These objects for me are really hard to get my head around.  Their vibrancy, detail, and the sheer skill it took to make them have survived in such incredible condition after all these years. I have to keep reminding myself of just how old they actually are. I also love the mystery around The Celts, and how even after all the research that has been done, trying to work out their imagery and symbols, we really will never truly know what they mean.  We can get a good idea and possibly we're quite close, but we can never ask them to find out a definite answer.  I really like that.

I have a few favourite objects although it was difficult to pick. I like intricate small objects as they're the kind that I like to draw and one of those was the Ashmanhaugh boar figure which you can see in the postcard on the top left in the photograph above. What this object was used for isn't fully known but they think it may have sat on the top of a helmet. They think that boars may have been a symbol of courage and protection in battle so this would fit with it possibly having been from a helmet. I personally love its face and stance with the details added along its back. 

My other favourite piece not pictured here was the Gundestrup cauldron. Here is a link to the British Museum's tumblr with photos of the cauldron. The piece is vast and as you walk up to it the eyes of what look to be Gods of another time stare out from the sides.  It was found in a bog in Denmark where it had been buried around 2000 years ago. The sides both inside and out are lined with panels of long forgotten stories. It's incredibly mysterious to look at, a powerful object that isn't and will never be fully understood.

Many of the souvenirs for The Celts exhibition were designed by Emily Hogarth who is a wonderful paper cutting illustrator from Edinburgh.  I picked up one of the tote bags designed by her along with a lovely paper cut card.  You can see more of Emily's work at As you can see I'm quite into the colour orange just now! I also picked up some postcards, a bookmark and one of the catalogues, 'Celts Art and Identity' by Ian Leins. I'll certainly be heading back again before it finishes on the 25th of September. 

I headed into the rest of the museum after my Celts visit to see the new Art, Design and Fashion galleries, first though I had to stop off to visit Dolly the sheep in her revolving case.  I picked up this rather pop art looking postcard of her on the way out. 

Then it was onto the new Art, Design and Fashion section which was stunning! Ever since I was very wee, I've always loved looking at clothes in museums, mainly because I like to try and imagine the person that once wore them.  I think it's incredible that we have pieces such as these that have been kept in an incredible condition for centuries, allowing us a small glimpse into a time so different from our own. 

Above you can see on the left a pair of women's gloves from around 1610 to 1630.  The detail on the gauntlets includes a Tudor rose, embroidered on to white satin and trimmed with gold lace. The women's shoes on the right are thought to be Italian from around 1660 to 1670 and were originally embroidered in black silk across the front of the foot.  These two pieces look incredibly beautiful now  so in their original state they must have taken your breath away!

Above top left we have a women's dress in white cotton which has been printed by wood block. The material is Indian and it was from around 1740 to 1750.  I love the shape of this dress and to think of the skill that went into printing it with woodblock.
The outfit on the top right is for a little boy, a matching coat, waistcoat and breeches all made in brown silk velvet from around 1760 to 1775. I can't imagine this would have been the most comfortable outfit for a child to wear.
On the bottom left was what I thought, quite an usual dress from around 1810 to 1820. A black net embroidered piece hangs over a white cotton dress.  I've never seen this sort of dress before from this period. 
On the bottom right is a dress that looks to be from the 1920s to 1930s.  I didn't quite manage to catch the details of this one but it's very much a flapper era style with lovely bead work.

I really liked the set up of this whole gallery as the lighting and mannequins made it feel like a fashion show with various catwalks cutting through the room.

I didn't get the details about the outfit on the left (slaps wrist) but I love its shape.  The dress on the right is from around 1810 and made me think of Elizabeth Bennet! I think this would be a really pretty dress to wear. 

This ladies cotton dress above in yellow cotton has such an abstract design that it almost looks modern if it wasn't for the overall shape.

This woman's dress above from around the 1740s has a mirror repeat pattern of foliage and has a sacque back style meaning it is unfitted and sort of hangs down. Yet another dress which would have looked stunning on the wearer.


This American ball gown by Ceil Chapman from the mid 1950s is made of a gorgeous pale beige taffeta with curving pleats lined by stiffened paper. It's hard to see in this photograph but the way the light hit it gave it a beautiful pearlescent sheen.

The magenta corset seen in the top left photo is beautiful.  It's from around 1890 to 1900 and has a lovely little yellow ribbon detailing the front. It's made of silk satin and trimmed with cream lace. 
The women's blouse covered in war time slogans in bright coloured panels, dates form the late 1930s to 1950s and is designed by Bianca Mosca.
Below these are two more mannequins really adding to the layout of the exhibition. The mannequin on left revolved on a platform, allowing you to see the full form of the dress.

This Mantua dress from the 1750s stole the show for me though.  The print on it was so beautiful and those hips are huge!


Two more pieces I loved were 'A la Rusee Kokoshnik' by Anya Caliendo dated 2016 on the left and this Vivienne Westwood jacket and bondage trousers on the right from Autumn/Winter 93/94.

I moved on to the sculpture and ceramics section and by far my favourite piece of sculpture was Angel by Claire Curneen, 2005. The face is just perfect and the gold glazing on the textured terracotta really shines in the lighting.

These two pieces were brilliant too.  I didn't catch the name or the maker of the one on the left but it was so tiny! The piece on the right is Rocket Boy by Karen Akester which I really liked too. 

 I again (slaps wrist a few more times), didn't get the name or maker of this piece above but I loved the simplicity of it. It's difficult sometimes to put into words why something has caught my eye or why I like something more that something else.  My reasons for listing some of these pieces may not be very in depth but it really is difficult.  Sometimes I just like something...because I like it.

 This collection of objects above made me want to draw. What a brilliant display of handmade hooks and to be honest you may see my own drawn version popping up on here soon.

 So after spending my day at the National Museum I made my way back towards the train station.  I was planning on going to the RSA Open Exhibition to see my drawing on display but unfortunately my floating knees had other ideas.  I didn't fall over or anything but I could hardly walk and it took me a long time even just to get to the train station.  I plan to head back through in August though to see my drawing.

I popped into a little antiques shop on Cockburn Street that I've been visiting for years and found these two amazing old photographs that you can see below.  They are perfect for my collection and I was even more excited to find writing on the back of both of them.

The first one below is very faded but incredibly beautiful.  The back has writing that appears to read 'received this on 2nd/3rd? April 1911'.

 The second is again, beautiful and the writing on the back says 'christening of Violet...Narci & Rose, Julia'. Two very special photographs that I'm so happy to now have in my collection.

 I also stopped by Hannah Zakari which is a lovely little shop on Candlemaker Row selling jewellery and accessories by independent designers. I got myself two new enamel pins, one from Finest Imaginary and the other from Stay At Home Club.  I saw others too and it was very hard to choose so I'm going to have to go back and pick some more.

It was a really lovely day and apart from my floating knees, even the rain didn't put a damper on the day.  Always a pleasure Edinburgh, and I'll be back soon!

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