17 January 2013
by Alice Richardson
My Re-Mex residency in Mexico was the most fantastic experience. I loved every minute. The city is incredible, drenched in culture and french renaissance architecture. It has a vast mix of old and new world slammed together happily cohabiting the streets, with sky rise office buildings next to ancient churches.
Itzel (from the British Council) and Carla's team are super friendly and made me feel really welcome. I achieved lots whilst out there. In three weeks we managed to put on an exhibition in downtown Mexico city, a fashion show in the Zoccalo (main square of downtown), and I did a talk to two classes at a design University in the city. It was interesting to go into a design school out there as they see fashion and design in a slightly different way than we do. I think they are taught how to create something in one way and never risk pushing it into something more. Whereas, in the UK, we are encouraged to really explore technique and style in unusual ways, broadening skills by seeing how far you can push something and finding inspiration from the strangest and most minor places to evolve it into something grander. When speaking to the students they had never thought of stitch in anything other than the finest needlepoint, whitework, or simplest machine stitch. It was eye opening and fun to help broaden their conceptions of stitch a little.
I was asked a lot, by both the locals and students, about what I thought of Mexico before coming here and had my perceptions changed. I immediately think of the bold colours and food but being there my views evolved and I vocally extolled the virtues of the city, it's opulent culture and even in the broken elements of the city you could still see the beauty, textures and mix of materials. The students couldn't see what I was talking about. I suppose we all take for granted what we see surrounding us everyday.
I tried to soak up as much as I could over the month. I spent three weeks in Mexico City, then flew to Merida and saw some of the Pyramids and heritage of Mayan Mexico as well as spending a day in Playa del Carmen swimming in the Carribean sea! Thought it would be criminal to go all that way and not see a bit of paradise! :)
Mexico invests heavily in cultivating minds and offering art to the locals. Every Sunday they have free entrance to all museums and everyone seems to embrace it with queues filing around buildings to get in. Weekly street exhibitions also offer inspiration to the masses as everyone spills on to the pavement to explore and photograph what's on show.
Being there during Day of the Dead I got to experience a celebration on mass scale. The main street, fills with hand crafted monster creatures created by more than 200 local mexican designers in celebration of the day. They sculpt them out of papier mache and hand paint them all with vivid colours. The textures and shapes, are hopefully going to inspire a new collection of work.
I also visited Xchimilco, where we rented a boat to a small island, a shrine of decaying dolls and teddy's dredged from the river and hung on string all around the island. It was a mental image as nature had worn the childhood naivety away revealing a corpse of empty shells. Creatures had started eating away at the eyes and hair, crawling over every inch of the headless bodies and bodiless heads!
I managed to explore a vast array of Exhibitions and museums including National Museum of History, Museo de Arte Populare (has fantastic ceramics, textiles and sculptures) Museo de Arte Moderno, (exhibition of women surrealist artists which I loved), Anthropology museum, which is so vast I had to do it in two trips. Visited Freida Khalo's house and Diego Riveira's studio, saw a Mexican Folkloric ballet at the Palacio de Belle Artes, as well as experiencing the many array of Marguerita flavours! ha ha I pretty much photographed every inch of the city, trying to capture snippets of inspiration which I'm now piecing together and trying to figure out way to feed this into my own work.
Alice Richardson is a recent Royal College of Art graduate, who specializes in embroidery and constructed textiles. She received the Swarovski Elements Student Prize at the WGSN Global Fashion Awards in New York in 2011, and has worked on both womenswear, and menswear collections shown at London Fashion Week:
Re-Mex is an EU cultural fund project related to the environment and recycling of materials in Design, Performing Arts and Sonic Landscape. Activities involve working with artists from Mexico, UK, Germany, Sweden and Poland.
Our purpose in this project is to expose young audiences in Mexico directly to a diverse range of fresh, innovative and intellectually stimulating activities from the UK with the capacity of demonstrate the creative and multi-cultural society that is the UK today, thus improving perceptions of the UK.