About Northampton Museums

Home of the largest collection of shoes! Collections also include art, costume, military history, social history, archaeology and natural sciences

Constance Howard ‘Northamptonshire Churches and Buildings’

Constance Howard ‘Northamptonshire Churches and Buildings’

Earlier this month some of the Collections team un-rolled one of the famous Constance Howard hangings she designed and made for the museum in 1973. We had to take over a conference room in the Guildhall for an afternoon as it was the only space big enough for the 330cm by 505cm textile.

Constance Howard was part of the vanguard of the modern embroidery renaissance and in her role as Head of Textile and Fashion at Goldsmiths she influenced generations of embroiderers and textile artists. With her iconic green hair Howard pioneered the re-interpretation of traditional embroidery techniques like Gold work and Crewel work using modern materials, including household items like tin foil and milk bottle tops. She was born in Northampton and trained as an illustrator and engraver before setting up the Embroidery depart at Goldsmiths in 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

The hanging depicts buildings around Northamptonshire and celebrates the varied architecture of the county and its role in historical events. The Iron Age Desborough Mirror, now held by the British Museum, has a prominent place as does the Althorp House.

 

This is one of a pair of wall hangings that were commissioned by the Friends of the Northampton Museum, the companion hanging celebrates the Fashion and Footwear history of the town. We are hoping to put both of the hangings on display when the expanded museum re-opens so their condition needs to be assessed to ensure that they won’t be damaged by being on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To do this we first unrolled the wall hanging so that we could look at it in detailed looking for any areas of damage where the 45 year old textile that would need to be stabilised by a conservator. The very liner design harks back to her training as an engraver. Although she designed the hanging to be stitched in sections, by herself and a team of embroiderers, the pieces merge together effortlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

It was fascinating to get up close to Howard’s embroidery to see how delicate and detailed her stitches are even on an object designed to be viewed from afar. She used lots of different materials and threads to create a layered effect evoking the textures of the buildings through applique and a variety of different stitches. Though, unfortunately none of her famous milk bottle tops.

 

 

 

 

 

After completing our condition report for both the front and back we re-rolled the hanging so that it could be returned to the museum store until we are ready to prepare it to go on display.

 

 

For more information about Constance Howard http://www.gold.ac.uk/textile-collection/constance/

 

Advertisements

Shoe of the Month – Webb’s Wonders

Webb’s Wonders

This classic Oxford shoe was made by the George Webb factory.

George Webb and his two sons, Dennis and Frank established the business in 1927. They manufactured men’s welted footwear at the Mentone Works in Brockton Street, Kingsthorpe Northampton. The works were extended in 1935 and again in 1967. In the 1960s they also opened factories in both Wellingborough and Walgrave.

George Webb made beautiful men’s shoes under the brands of Mentone, Castillo, World-Walk and Savile Row.

Oxford Shoe by Webb's

Oxford Shoe by Webb’s

 

Shoe of the Month – Authentic Shoes

Authentic Shoes

Japanese shoemaker Toshinosuke Takegahara of the Authentic Shoe & Company hand made this pair of exquisite leather toe thong sandals. They show perfectly the great skill involved in creating such traditional footwear.

Authentic Shoes

Authentic Shoes

This style is known as Zori in Japan. The design is thought to have been developed in the mid 16th century by Sen-no-rikyu, one of Japan’s famous artists. It was a very practical sandal as it ensured that the wearer’s feet were kept dry on the snow covered ground. Special socks called tabi would have been worn which have a separate big toe to enable them to be worn more comfortably. You may have seen similar shoes called geta. These have a toe thong too but have an elevated platform sole.

 

 

Shoe of the Month – Mary Quant Fashion Boots

Groovy

In the 1960s swinging London became the capital of the fashion world.

Famous as being inventor of the mini skirt, Mary Quant was one of the first designers to aim fashion at the hip and happening trendsetting girls on the street.

Quant’s Chelsea boutique Bazaar opened in 1955 where in the early 1960s she launched her London look of slim line shift dresses with rising hemlines that showed plenty of leg.

‘Legs never had it so good’, boasted the British press.

As hemlines rose, the increase in expanse of leg drew attention to the feet. Quant brought out her Quant a Foot range of fashion boots in bright coloured plastics. These are from the early 1960s.

Mary Quant Fashion Boots

Mary Quant Fashion Boots

 

Shoe of the Month – Clown Jam Shoes

Clown Jam

This pair of customised bright pink glitter shoes were worn by Clown Jam. Clown Jam was one of Northampton’s most popular faces.

Clown Jam was a member of Clowns International for 40 years. He worked with many famous circuses including Zippo Circus and Billy Smart’s Circus. He regularly undertook charity work, entertaining children here and abroad. He appeared at the Lord Mayor’s show every year and was a member of the royal variety club of Great Britain.

Clown Jam Shoes

Clown Jam Shoes

 

We also have Clown Jam’s outfit in the collection too.

Shoe of the Month – Red or Dead

Red or Dead

In 1982 Wayne Hemingway and his wife rented a stall on Camden Market selling second-hand clothes and footwear. Their selling was a success and within a year they had expanded to 16 stalls to be followed by a string of shops. At first they sold 1950s and 60s canvas shoes and Dr Martens.

In 1986 Red or Dead launched their first original footwear range. This included the ‘Watch Shoe’ which was made popular by the boy band Bros. In 1989 they produced their ‘Space Baby’ range.

Red or Dead Space Baby Shoe

Red or Dead Space Baby Shoe

Red or Dead is a reference to Wayne Hemmingway’s ancestry. He is the son of Billy Two Rivers, a Mohawk Indian chief who became heavy weight champion of the world in the 1950s.

Shoe of the Month-Rollermania

Rollermania

The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop-rock band from the 60s and 70s. With their unforgettable haircuts, good looks and half-mast tartan trousers they had a strong following among teenage girls. Rollermania peaked in the mid-70s with a stream of top hits including the classics Remember (Sha-la-la), Keep on Dancing, Bye Bye Baby, Shang-a-Lang and Summer Love Sensations.

Bay City Rollers Shoes

Bay City Rollers Shoes

The band made an impact on teen fashion. Fans supported them wearing tartan scarves, homemade tartan trousers and even Bay City Roller inspired shoes. Designed by Barrie K, these shoes were made in 1975.