Welcome to the Wool House

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Katy Evans visits Wool House, the Campaign for Wool's biggest – and most accomplished – celebration of wool so far.

On a grey and rainy Friday morning last week, Editor Emma and I jumped on the train up to London to go and visit the brand new exhibition WOOL HOUSE, held in the West Wing of another rather grand house (no not that one), Somerset House to be exact. Having heard rave reviews from the press launch, and the growing enthusiastic reviewees on Twitter and Facebook, we were holding WOOL HOUSE in high expectation. Luckily, we were not dissapointed!

Having entered the famous courtyard of Somerset House, we looked around for the sign pointing to the exhibition. "That'll be it then." Emma pointed out as we took in the pen of live sheep, enthusiastic herders and even more enthusiastic visitors taking photographs. The sheep seemed pretty pleased with their adoring public too.

The main aim of WOOL HOUSE is to showcase the versatility of wool, both in terms of practicality and being aesthetically pleasing, providing comfort and beauty. To welcome visitors and make them feel at home (in a way that wool does so easily) the entrance foyer is decked out to look like a grand home built for comfort AND style. The amazing chequers carpet, designed by curator Arabella McNie to look like tiles, had me fooled immediately as it was only later I realised it was, in actual fact, carpet, and the Mammoth chair, upholstered in Mangolian Longhaired fleece, is definitely my kind of way of saying 'Come in, take a load off.'

You are then led down a corridor, complete with stunning multi-coloured floor runner, to the start of the room sets, each an entire room installation by designers who use wool extensively in their work. From Donna Wilson's fantastical nursery to Kit Kemp's prototype bedroom for the currently-under-construction Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, these were stunning showcases from seriously impressive designers that set the tone for a sophisticated and elegant exhibition.

Next came the Fashion galleries, with beautiful designs from Vivienne Westwood to Mark Fast to Saville Row. And none of your peeking at through glass, these you could reach out and touch and feel the quality. I really liked the lack of pretension here. Plus, that might just be the closest I'm ever going to get to an original Vivienne Westwood. 

At the other end of the corridor, where we'd been hearing a steady rumbling of clacking, chatting and laughter, we discovered the craft rooms; demonstrations in progress, and a rather large amount of people (both men and women) up to their eyeballs in fibre - and thoroughly enjoying themselves. We witnessed a Rowan crochet workshop on the go, Artisan in Residence, weaver Jason Collingwood, had a whole room to himself and his huge loom, and towers of beautifully coloured yarn piled up and looking delicious.

As I made my way back to the entrance lobby, having long lost Emma to the various woolly delights, I discovered her sat chatting with Bridgitte Kelly, Event Director for the Campaign for Wool, and whose brainchild WOOL HOUSE is. Having congratulated her on the success of the exhibition, it was plenty busy as we went round, and getting busier, it was interesting to hear first hand how the show came about, what it entailed, how it is constantly evolving even as it is open to the public as well as what's next for the Campaign. Wait, how do you top this?

I was thoroughly impressd with WOOL HOUSE, from the beautifully designed use of space to the calibre of artsists involved and the sophistication of the works on display. It's open until 24th March and FREE to enter so get yourself down there to show your support for the briliant Campaign and a wonderful show!

For more infomation, events listing, workshops and demonstrations visit www.campaignforwool.org/wool-house. And if you go, don't forget to big it up on Facebook and Twitter using  #woolhouse to spread the word!




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