On Friday nights, the V&A offers inspiring talks featuring some of the biggest names in art, design and culture.
Last Friday’s talk celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. The theme was the inspiration of nature.
The speakers were designer Celia Birtwell, naturalist Richard Mabey, journalist Anna Pavord and David Mabberley, the keeper of Kew’s Herbarium. (When there are portraits of Michelangelo, Holbein and Inigo Jones watching from the walls of the lecture theatre, you need an impressive line up like this!)
Acclaimed designer Celia Birtwell was top of the bill. Celebrated for her hand-drawn floral print fabric, Celia revealed she created one of her famous prints while sketching at the V&A. Celia talked us through many of her famous designs, sharing the inspiration behind each piece.
(If you’re wishing you had a designer budget to buy Celia’s work, she’s recently designed a purse-friendly new cover for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights!)
Richard Mabey spoke about the devastation caused by the big storm of 1987. Kew lost many rare trees, but unexpectedly the damage wasn’t all bad, as it gave the scientists access to the roots and their underground world for the first time.
Anna Pavord described the wild landscapes of Kazakhstan, Scotland and Cumbria. Anna’s eloquent thoughts about nature provided an enjoyable take on the way the natural world can inspire the written word.
The Herbarium at Kew contains more than 7 million plant specimens and many paintings of plants. The drawings are stored by species so you’ll find all the cabbage paintings together. David Mabberley spoke about the illustration side of the collection and the way it inspires Kew’s conservation work.
Did you know that the illustration of plants dates back to antiquity? That repeatedly drawing a plant from previous drawings over centuries creates a sort of Chinese whispers effect of changing and simplifying the information? David also told the audience a story about a drawing of a mythical Barnacle Goose Tree from the 1500s which convinced a few people that geese grow on trees.
All that in just over an hour! You can book a ticket to a Friday night talk for £8 (£6 concessions) and it’s worth every penny. At the end, there’s usually a chance for you to ask questions and get books signed.
Find out what’s coming up at the V&A’s Friday Talks here. Your favourite designers might be up next!