Forget what you think you know about tie-dye based on your primary school experience; when all you needed was elastic bands, one shade of purple dye and a white cotton drawstring bag to wow the crowds – well, your mum at least. There’s a lot more to it than that, as this retrospective of Marian Clayden (1937-2015) makes clear.
The exhibition celebrates her transition from textile artist to fashion designer, but while her fashion line, Clayden Inc, was undoubtedly a commercial success, her work is so much more impressive when not in clothing form. As textiles, they’re beautiful: rich with colour they hang there like giant magic-eye drawings. The patterns on the fabrics are precise and delicate, and the global influences in her work evident from the bird footprints in ‘Adrift’ to the scarab beetle in ‘Pectoral.’ Also on display are the clamps and clips Clayden used to make her abstract shapes – aggressive and faintly industrial, they look like they would be equally at home in one of Soho’s sex shops.
Clayden’s designs are stunning when hanging on the wall, or in a rope-based structural work, but when translated on to actaul clothes, it all goes a bit English-lit-teacher-in-a-regional-comprehensive. Visit it as a textile exhibition and you’ll be impressed; go expecting great fashion, considerably less so.