Stories from residents at former home of Prime Minister David Lloyd George brought to life in art as part of Brighton’s Artists Open Houses Festival 2017
Stephanie Smart, Artist In Residence at the Elizabethan mansion Danny House, will be bringing to life the war-time memories of its elderly residents, weaving them into beautiful and intricate lifesize paper dresses as part of an exhibition called Maison de Papier, to go on show during the Artists Open Houses May festival 2017.
Danny House, a beautiful Grade 1 Elizabethan mansion in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, was once home to Prime Minister David Lloyd George. It will be opening its doors for the first time as an Open House. The Artists Open Houses Festival 2017, the largest event of its kind in the UK, will take place in Brighton, Hove and beyond over four weekends of May, starting Saturday 6th May.
Artist Stephanie Smart creates life-size garments and footwear using only paper and thread. Inspired by the way people are shaped by memories and experiences, Stephanie’s work seeks to display the particular stories we each “wear” around ourselves, creating a collage of illustrated and written details that she weaves into her designs. Maison de Papier will be her first historical fashion collection. On show will be garments influenced by fashion from different eras from Danny House’s history, including the 17th century, the Victorian era and the 1950s.
Stephanie has conducted research using the collections of the V&A and Brighton and Worthing museums. She’s also been influenced by the Sussex countryside surrounding Danny House, but her primary inspiration has come from the lives of past and present residents. One of the dresses to be shown is designed around a parachute and inspired by a current resident, and former Normandy paratrooper, who is now suffering with alzheimers.
Stephanie says, “I wanted to do a project working with the elderly due to personal observation of the type of isolation that can come about as a side effect of ageing. I also believe that capturing details of real lives, memories that will soon be lost, is fascinating, important, and encourages community cohesion. I think visual art can have a profound effect, as regards social engagement, on so many levels, and likewise sharing personal stories. For this project each conversation I’ve had with a resident started with their memories of an item of clothing.”
Other residents’ stories featured in the exhibition at Danny House include those belonging to Oz, 97. Oz, only the 8th lady in Canada to sign up for the Women’s Army Core during World War II, came over to the UK on the QE2. Having lived in Canada, South Africa, Singapore and London, Oz is a former seamstress and has loved helping Stephanie with stitched details on certain pieces.
Barbara, 91, acquired several tailor-made items while working in Rome for the UN during the 1950s. Her husband Kenneth, 93, still proudly owns the army jacket he wore during WW2 as a paratrooper before marrying and working alongside his wife at the UN in Rome.
Then there is the story of Morgan, 91, and his array of dapper, jewel-toned suits. Before working as a writer, poet and theatre director in his later years, Morgan penned over 42 textbooks as a teacher of French in his native Canada, his methodology becoming part of the country’s official syllabus and influencing the way languages were learnt around the globe with his then-pioneering use of spoken learning. After turning down an offer from Oxford University press, his textbooks sold over 7 million copies with Painters & Hall and DC Heath.
Danny House itself has a wealth of history, dating back to 1586, and has been a home to housing figures from Sir George Goring, to Henry Campion and even the former Prime Minister David Lloyd George during WW1. This exhibition, an intricately crafted installation in a unique venue, will appeal not only to lovers of art and craft but also to those with an interest in Britain’s social and cultural history.
The Maison de Papier
May 6/7, May 13/14/ May20/21/ 27/28
New Way Lane
Stephanie’s work has been supported by Arts Council, Seawhite of Brighton and Orchard Framing.
Full Artist Open Houses listings can be found at www.aoh.org.uk