Duty Manager, Alice, discusses her time at Two Temple Place

Alice started at Two Temple Place as one of our Duty Managers for this year’s exhibition Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles. Alice was one of two Duty Mangers employed to help with the day to day running of our exhibition alongside our two internships and the exhibitions team. The Duty Manager role focuses on managing and supporting volunteers, engaging with and helping visitors, managing our shop and plays a vital role in day to day operations. Below, Alice talks about her time at Two Temple Place.

"The first time I entered Two Temple Place it was Christmas time. The Christmas tree was standing tall in the magnificent entry hall and I remember thinking to myself just how lucky I was to be able to work in such beautiful surroundings.  All the rooms at this point though were empty, just lengths of wooden flooring unobstructed by anything and I was curious to see how the space would be changed into an exhibition that would hopefully capture the attention of its visitors.  When I next came to Two Temple Place and saw the exhibition in all its glory I was astounded by the transformation.  Instead of a beautiful but empty space there was this whole exhibition which managed to completely capture my attention and interest. 

Textiles are not something I had ever really considered in any great detail despite the fact we all live our lives in them. Yet this exhibition managed to take a previously uncontemplated subject matter, introduced inspirational women I had never heard of and created this wonderful display which interested and inspired me - overall an astounding feat. The amount of space available at Two Temple Place means there is a limit to how much can be displayed, the entire history of textiles could not be presented, nor the complete histories of the women collectors but what this exhibition managed to achieve so well was presenting the public with just enough information to capture ones attention. A teasing introduction if you will from which I was encouraged to do my own exploration into the subject matter and into the inspirational women who followed their own path and created their own collections. 

Alice at Two Temple Place in front of Alice Kettle’s Three Caryatids 1988, Machine embroidery, The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

One aspect I enjoyed most about the exhibition was the focus on these seven women collectors: Edith Durham, Louisa Pesel, Olive Matthews, Muriel Rose, Enid Marx, Jennifer Harris and Nima Poovaya-Smith.  Each had their own interests within the vast realm of textiles and because of this the exhibition was able to present such a different and interesting array of items. I had a favourite in every room. In the Lower Gallery, right by the entrance door, there was a Spencer jacket, something women in the Jane Austen novels I love so much would have worn, a wonderful example of an everyday item and its place in the history of fashion. In the stairwell, the indigo balls by Hiroko Shindo, a masterful use of material and a wonderful example of dyeing, but ultimately art for the sake of art. Finally, in the Great Hall, Alice Kettle’s very impressive tapestries that seem to be the result of experimentation but turned into a remarkable work of art. I was so impressed that thousands of tiny stitches layered over and over managed to come together to make three very large and almost 3D tapestries.   

Spencer 1815-17, Embellished Silk Taffeta, Cotton Lining © The Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum. Photography by Richard Eaton Photography.

The subject of this exhibition drew a rather particular crowd.  Yes, we had curious people just popping in, we had the regulars who come to the winter exhibition every year, but what struck me most were the visitors who were truly passionate about textiles.  I had so many conversations with visitors who knew far more than I did about textiles and they would end up giving me more information, either on the women collectors, the artists themselves or the history of the pieces on display.  I had so many comments from visitors on how absorbing the exhibition was.  It sparked an interest in many (myself included) which was wonderful, but it was also encouraging to hear praise from those visitors who were already experts in the field of textiles.  I am so glad this exhibition managed to engage so many and that it was accessible to everyone."

Hiroyuki Shindo, Shindigo Space 07 2007, Hemp, Cotton, Polystyrene © The Whitworth, The University of Manchester. Photography by Richard Eaton Photography.


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