Tattoo-inspired quilt goes on show at London department store
Textile artist Louise Gardiner has been commissioned to create a giant painted and embroidered quilt as part of Liberty's 140th anniversary celebrations. The quilt will be displayed in the department store's window from 23 April for a month and will then be on show in the store's new Haberdashery Department for a further 11 months.
The quilt, titled Steering the Lighthouse of Love, takes Victorian maritime tattoos as its theme, inspired by the fact that the famous Tudor-style department store was built using timbers from two naval ships, HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. It depicts a stylised red and white lighthouse beaming out over stormy seas set within a rope frame. Beneath is a ship's wheel surrounded by old English roses and steered by two busty ladies reminiscent of the female figures sailors had tattooed on their arms. Above is a decorative scroll worked with the name Liberty and supported by two pouting mermaids, while other motifs include swallows and union jacks.
Gardiner spent some time researching historical maritime tattoos and was attracted to their subversive, faintly cheeky nature. To reflect this she has used the strong reds, blues and blacks associated with traditional tattoos, but has also added brasher colours such as neon, gold and metallic and has placed the central lighthouse in frame of high-visibility fabric which will glow in the dark. 'I am trying to make the embroidery a bit more rock-and-roll and edgy', she explains.
Xxxx from Liberty, who commissioned the piece said "Lou made a quilt for our window in 2010 and we're delighted that she has produced "The Liberty Lighthouse of Love" for our special birthday celebration."
The quilt measures 1.6 m x 2.3 m and is the largest single piece Gardiner has ever made. The making process was highly time consuming and involved machine embroidering a full scale drawing of the design onto the linen ground using a domestic sewing machine. Next the embroidered outlines were worked up using a combination of appliqué, paint, ink and further embroidery to create a multi-layered, textured piece. The finished panel was then entirely quilted. However in spite of the complexity of the work, Gardiner created it in an astonishing two weeks due to the tight deadlines – both an extraordinary technical and artistic achievement.
Louise Gardiner 's previous commissions include 'You Blow Me Away', a set of five panels commissioned for the Crafts Council for Collect at the Saatchi Gallery in 2012; a wall hanging for the Royal Oldham Hospital in Manchester and 'Licky Lips Genie', a previous commission for Liberty made in 2010. She also works for private clients, hosts embroidery workshops and produces a line of printed silk scarves, cushions and quilts inspired by her one-off embroidered work.