My feet feel like bloody stumps, I’m gasping for a cup of tea and my fingers are wrinkled from 10 hours of being encased in purple nitrate gloves. But I love installation – it’s truly the best bit of any exhibition process. After six years of planning, research, visits, more research, writing, editing, angst and agony we are almost there. The one question I’m constantly asked is – am I feeling emotional? Well not really there is still so much to do – every morning we are handed our installation schedules and assigned Team A and Team B. Conservators and technicians each weld their own trolleys and tool boxes, exhibition organisers manage deliveries and unpacking. Claire and I communicate by mobile phones – which one is needed in front of which quilt, who has the design plan, suddenly the AV technician wants to check sounds levels. We need to move two bed mounts, suddenly the mounts for the showcases arrive.
Today we started lighting the first section ‘The Domestic Landscape’ – we killed the top lights and Jo Budd’s diptych was bathed in soft light, accentuating the stitches and ripples, the shadows and softly curvaceous contours of ‘Female/Summer’. In ‘Virtue and Virtuosity’, Dinah Prentice was installing ‘Billowing Maenads’, seductively draping and illuminated against the peachy tones of the walls. We have won over the lighting engineers who want to know more about the Mary Parker quilt made from silk ribbons from the 1720-40s. Caren Garfen’s ‘How many times do I have to repeat myself’ reclines enticingly upon its bed, eagerly awaiting the installation of the Brayley and tailors’ quilts next week.
Dinah Prentice, in her studio with Billowing Maenads
At the end of the day, its hard to leave a space which is so beautifully designed, our brief was to create an intimate space, inviting both contemplation and reflection. Suddenly we stumble upon colleagues who have slipped down for a sneak preview – they loiter in the doorway, mesmerised by the sounds of birdsong from Clio Padovani’s ‘Quilting Point’.
Someone is heard to mutter – I think you have broken the mould on this one……
That of course is for you to decide.
Quilts: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories
Quilts - Hidden Histories, Untold Stories was the curator's blog for the V&A's Quilts: 1700 - 2010 exhibition