The Sweet Nostalgia of Out of the Blue

The last three weeks of the Out of the Blue exhibition are upon us and it’s time to put out our ‘last chance to see’ call for visitors. In this article, Visual Arts Exhibitions Manager Kirsty shares how the vibrant exhibition often inspires trips down memory lane for its visitors.

Aside from the enormous and unbelievable transformation of the gallery, which really needs to be seen to be believed, there’s been a wonderful reaction to the exhibition that I wanted to share.

Chatting to visitors, a common phrase I’ve heard is “that takes me back”. Nostalgia is a really big draw to Out of the Blue, and it’s been fascinating to discover how deeply connected people are to the Designers Guild brand.

I’ve met visitors with stories of precious remnants of fabric, humbly purchased on paydays to cover the seat cushions on their grandmother’s old armchair. Transformed, the chair became the star piece, elevating and lifting everything up along with it, making them smile every time they entered the room. It seems, much like owning an iconic Chanel jacket, Designers Guild’s distinctive fabrics - be it just a cushion’s worth or two - have been noted and respected as a mark of chic quality in the homes of many aspiring individuals over the years.

For other visitors, it’s the time-period and the colours and tastes of a decade that bring back memories of holidays, of places and people; “that summer when…”, “or our tiny first flat…”, textiles are such great triggers for memories. The displays are like picture postcards and the exhibition is our memory box.

Textiles can also carry an enormous sense of visual identity, through their patterns, colours and textures. I recognise how the Guild’s exotic collections, inspired by Italy, France and India, came at a time when package holidays abroad had only just begun and the most we had travelled was in front of the TV, watching Judith Chalmers present Wish You Were Here! Designers Guild were inspiring people to bring those cultures into their own home, to have a taste of Venice or Paris, to be exotic.

I can see my own transformation in the room, too, in how my tastes have changed. I’m reminded of the colours and fabrics of my past, of my grandparents and parents houses, of my student flat, and my first homely purchases. I reflect on the triumphs and embarrassments of past decorating escapades – the first time I was allowed to decorate my own room and the bad colour advice I once gave a friend.

Like all of the exhibitions we host at The Gallery, reminiscence is a really important aspect alongside the curator’s direction. We bring our past into the gallery with us each time and it adds a little flavour to what we see and feel. I was drawn to Out of the Blue for my love of colour, textiles and pattern, and visiting again, I found my mind wandering around old family photos and thinking about my mum trying to teach me how to use a sewing machine.

It's time well spent on this trip down memory lane. I leave the exhibition, as many do, with excitement about what I could do next… it gets me dreaming, inventing, crafting, imagining. Its as if looking back gives us a new direction to go forward. As Tricia says, even if its just a pot of paint or a new cushion cover, you can do anything you want.

Out of the Blue closes at The Arc, Winchester on Monday 29 August. Ticket prices include unlimited repeat visits to the exhibition so why not bring someone new and exchange memories and ideas?

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