I recently had the pleasure of working with Nicola Dale as part of her film, Close Readings. At the end of March, it was shown as part of See What I See, a collection of films by artists, curated by Nicola at Manchester Art Gallery.
My involvement came out of a chat about current projects over a cup of tea and a bourbon. Nicola was describing the performative walk she would be doing between The Portico and John Rylands libraries. She would be filmed walking across the city centre with a book on her head. My immediate question was, “How is it going to stay on?”
A few weeks later she asked me if I could come up with a millinery solution. I jumped at the chance of making something where function was so important. I instantly thought of rolls of fabric which I’ve seen women around the world use to balance water containers and baskets on their heads.
I set about making a prototype for Nicola to test. This worked so I created a donut of fabric from strips of white cotton – tightly bound and stitched together. During the make, I really liked the how the strip of fabric was falling and really liked its veil like appearance. There was something very Queen Victoria about it. The edges were left raw and started to fray which gave this a really interesting quality. The film also showed it moving beautifully in the wind. And it served its purpose – she was able to walk quite fast with confidence that the book she was carrying was not going to fall.
Nicola has described herself as and artist first, sculptor 2nd and performer 3rd. These are the elements of millinery that I am interested in and perhaps these worlds are not so far apart. Working with an artist who comes at it from a completely different perspective, forces me to continually, rethink the how and why of my own work. Its always exciting when that happens!
Find out more about Nicola Dale here: www.nicoladale.com