Photo: Princess Su Su's snowball ring by Nora Fok.
Kristen Bailey packs needle and thread and slips inside the wallpaper to spin some yarns with Princess Su Su.
Princess Su Su, an exhibition of textile art with a twist, is on at Hove Museum & Art Gallery until January 25, 2004.
The show is a collaboration between ten textile artists, commissioned to make items for Princess Su Su’s wardrobe.
"Once upon a time there was a hardworking princess... Princess Su Su did not look like a ‘real’ princess, she did not have long blonde hair… or a velvet gown. Her hair was short and brown with bits of grey. Her frocks were made of paper…"
Photo: Princess Su Su's cobweb skirt shoes by Susan Cutts.
Su Su lives in the wallpapers of a castle, unnoticed by its occupants. She is invisible because all her clothes match the wallpapers – cream, white and translucent. Many are embroidered with words from the dreams which Su Su retrieves every morning from the spider’s web over her bed.
"She had taught herself to sew, embroider, weave and knit because she had heard so many tales of young women… asked to do impossible tasks (to spin wheat into gold, for example) to buy their freedom."
Su Su’s story, detailed on wall panels between the exhibits, is fascinating yet melancholy. She lives in hiding, in solitude, in a colourless world.
As with many before it, there is a sinister element to this modern fairy story. A softly quilted muff is stuck full of pins, and Su Su’s bedsocks, knitted for her by Freddie Robins, are oversized, with mutated heels.
Photo: Princess Su Su's jewels by Nora Fok.
There’s great beauty here too. Ghosts of dresses are displayed with pairs of Susan Cutts’ delicate paper shoes. Grace Neilson’s shimmering ‘Cobweb Skirt’ is pinned into a corner of the room, ready to catch Su Su’s dreams. Suzanne Langston-Jones’ ‘Curtain Dress’ – five tulle garments appliqued with flowers and butterflies - floats in mid-air over a plinth filled with dressmaker’s pins.
There are several pieces by Nora Fok, including a delicate ring which looks like a dandelion clock, a huge neckpiece resembling a profusion of soap bubbles, and the wonderful ‘Rain Drops’ – dozens of droplets made from glass beads trapped inside knitted monofilament, cascading from the ceiling.
One room is devoted to the young and young-at-heart. There are glamourous, colourful dressing-up clothes and you can compose your own fairytale on a paper garment and hang it on the washing line.
Beauty, technical excellence, wit and imagination run through the show like gossamer thread. It is a show to fascinate princesses and princes of all ages.