Inside the Collection

Stewart Walton for ‘Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced’

Portrait of Stewart Walton
Portrait of artist, illustrator and furniture designer Stewart Walton. Photograph by Leo Cackett.

One of the greatest pleasures when developing a museum exhibition is collaborating with a breadth of highly talented creatives. In the case of Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced, Kat Bond and Fil Bartkowiak in our design team collaborated with Stewart Walton, an artist, illustrator and furniture designer based in England to create our paper doll making activity space. In this post, the team explain how they worked together from concept through to the final product.

Stewart Walton and Collette

Stewart has a long history of illustrating for Collette, particularly during her live runway shows. He began his career as an illustrator for a cookery book before being drawn into television and interior design and, more recently, furniture. Stewart also has a gift for drawing live events, which began in 1996 at the famous Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts in Somerset, England.

Painting of David Bowie performing live at Glastonbury Festival
David Bowie performing live at Glastonbury Festival. Image courtesy of Stewart Walton.

Stewart’s work at Glastonbury received the attention of fashion designer, Collette Dinnigan, who was so impressed that she invited him to draw backstage at her Paris shows. Stewart says:

The whole experience is completely frantic with models, hairdressers, make-up artists, fitters, photographers, caterers – you name it – all concentrating on doing the best possible job. There’s no time to compose at all! I just drew what was happening and looked at the drawings afterwards!

Stewart turned these illustrations into fashion show invitations and Christmas cards for Collette by adding splashes of colour and text. You can see some of these on display in Collette’s inspiration room in our exhibition.

Stewart's illustrated gift card on display in Collette's inspiration room
Stewart’s illustrated gift card on display in Collette’s inspiration room in ‘Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced’. Photography MAAS.

Sketching in Paris

During the exhibition’s development, we were extremely mindful of Stewart’s whimsical illustrations and keen to see them included. As we wanted to create an activity space that harnessed the creative energy of visitors, we decided to explore the idea of a paper doll making activity. It was envisaged that visitors could colour-in and dress up paper dolls using printed fabrics from dresses featured in the show. These could then be mounted in a Parisian landscape that depicts many of the sites significant to Collette’s story. It made perfect sense to invite Stewart to not only illustrate this Parisian scene for us, but to also draw the paper-doll figures that visitors can dress.

Stewart sketching in the Jardin du Tuileries
Stewart sketching in the Jardin du Tuileries. Image courtesy of Sally Walton.

This is how Stewart describes the experience of creating the sketches:

This opportunity was unlike anything I’ve been invited to do before. It was so much fun! The idea was put to me with quite short notice, but I didn’t hesitate for a minute. We set off early one morning for Paris and were there by lunch. Our hotel appears in the mural, so that was my starting point – sitting opposite it in the Jardin de Tuileries with my sketchbook. My wife, Sally, worked out my schedule and kept the focus! People will stop and have a look, but I’m used to it and keep drawing, not tempted to chat. Collette had sent a list of monuments and buildings she’d like featured so we kept to that. We left Paris on the evening train with lots of sketches. It was such a pleasure to work for Collette because she really values the freshness of those drawings and didn’t want anything ‘tidied up’. As someone who has lagged behind a bit on the technology side I was happy to hand it all over to the design team at MAAS to work their magic and make it all work as a mural.

Detail of Stewart sketching a Parisian street scene
Detail of Stewart sketching a Parisian street scene. Image courtesy of Sally Walton.
One of the final sketches produced for the activity scene
One of the final sketches produced for the activity backdrop. Image courtesy of Stewart Walton.

The Museum Design Process

Back at MAAS, Kat and Fil took the illustrations and began to work them into the activity space in the exhibition. They say:

Upon receiving Stewart’s mix of illustrated Parisian landmarks and streetscapes, we thought it was natural for the final design to reflect a logical arrangement with respect to the city. We drew a line on a map of Paris, pinpointing their locations, as if taking a stroll along the Rue di Rivoli towards the Arc de Triomphe.

Fil and Kat's map of Paris!
Fil and Kat’s map of Paris!

Once this was decided, we used InDesign and Photoshop to play around with scale and bring consistency to the elements found across all the illustrations. A few further streetscape illustrations were added to bring some depth to the image, and to fill out the length of the wall we had allocated for this panorama.

With the paper dolls, the lady and child figure were traced with an offset outline that would be the cut line when sent to production. We then selected garments from Collette’s collection that would work with these figures and created silhouettes of the clothes. Collette added some further details and these were sent to a laser cutter to create the polycarbonate templates used in the activity area. Similarly, in consultation with Collette and the curators, fabrics were selected from her collections. Once digitized, these fabrics were then resized to suit the scale of the paper dolls and the files sent off to be printed.

The activity space in 'Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced'
The activity space in ‘Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced’ featuring Stewart’s striking illustrations. Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski © MAAS.
Panorama shot of Stewart's Parisian landscape illustrations
Panorama shot of Stewart’s Parisian landscape illustrations. Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski © MAAS.
Photograph of paper dolls
Some of our visitors’ creations dressing up Stewart’s paper doll designs. Photography MAAS.

I think you will agree that the final product of this paper-doll making activity looks absolutely delightful! If you’re in Sydney, come and try it out yourself in Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced until 28 August 2016.

Post by Melanie Pitkin, Assistant Curator

 

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