Showcase Shows Case for Paterson Pavilion

Model open structure with blocksand vertical uprights supporting a roof of crossbeams against blue background

And the winner…

…of the Hatton Showcase: Design For A Touring Pavilion 2017…


Oh get on with it

….Toby Paterson!

Cue shot of tearful artist receiving the crown and a kiss from last year’s winner before teetering down the catwalk to embark upon a year-long programme of travelling the world to spread peace, love and harmony (and if time, defeat the forces of Evil and Injustice).

OK, the announcement was a bit more restrained than that (we put it on the website). However it did necessitate Paterson attending a press conference and fielding questions from the artistically cerebral to the frankly just plain odd (‘What would you like on your gravestone?’), which unsurprisingly did stump him somewhat (although my personal favourite is ‘Well this sucks’).

Showcase is an external art installation designed to promote the Hatton during its closure, and will be located outside various Newcastle and Gateshead cultural venues from March to August 2017. An initial open call to artists resulted in three proposals being shortlisted, with Paterson’s being selected following an exhibition at the Laing that featured his design along with those of local artist Catrin Huber and a joint submission by Harriet Sutcliffe and Jack Mutton.

Paterson’s winning entry has had to tick a range of boxes: reference the Hatton’s collection and history, contain an interactive element to engage visitors and stand up as an art installation in its own right. And all this while being robust enough to cope with six months of touring, constant exposure to the elements and unsupervised visitor response, or what Paterson refers to as being ‘Friday-night proof’.

One feature of his proposal was the work of Victor Pasmore, artist and Head of Painting at Newcastle University from 1954-1961, in particular his design for the Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee in 1969:

External photo of large abstract building consisting of concrete blocks , set across a pond in a setting of open grass area and surrounding houses

Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee – Victor Pasmore, 1969 (image courtesy of Picnicin, Wikimedia Commons)

Left: Apollo Pavilion – Victor Pasmore, 1969 (image Right: Model for Hatton Showcase Pavilion – Toby Paterson, 2016

Left: Apollo Pavilion – Victor Pasmore, 1969 (image Right: Model for Hatton Showcase Pavilion – Toby Paterson, 2016

Paterson first saw the Apollo when he visited the site in 1998 and views Pasmore as one of the major figures of British abstract art: ‘He’s right up there in my top five. He constantly challenged himself, completely upending the way he was working and we don’t give him enough credit for that.’ The design for Showcase features concrete blocks (‘a little nod to Pasmore’s Pavilion’) and steel uprights, which Paterson is confident should be sturdy enough to ‘stop the shenanigans’.

Since graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 1995, Paterson’s creations have included several outdoor installations:

External photo of large light-blue abstract structure sitting on grassed areas with London Twoer Bridge in backcround

Powder Blue Orthogonal Pavilion – Toby Paterson, 2008 (image courtesy of artist)

External photo of large abstract structure comprising stone walls within metal framework set in grassy parkland with trees in background

Resetting – Toby Paterson, 2013 (image courtesy of artist)

External photo of abstract large light-blue structure set on top of hill overlooking town with church steeple prominent

Points of Contact – Toby Paterson, 2014-2016 (image courtesy of artist)

‘I like people to interact with the works… Pasmore’s Pavilion was very consciously functional and while my Powder Blue Pavilion didn’t appear to be anything specific, I was there once when it was sunny and some kids had been playing in the fountains nearby – their mums had hung their t-shirts on the structure to dry and I thought “Yes! We did it!”’.

Another way Paterson hopes visitors will engage with Showcase is through a display of replica posters for Hatton exhibitions dating back to the sixties: ‘It’s a very visible connection with the gallery’s history and collection, and because we’ll be changing them every few days, hopefully people will keep coming back’.

Model open structure with blocksand vertical uprights supporting a roof of crossbeams against blue background - also displaying several small posters within model

Model of Hatton Showcase Pavilion by Toby Paterson, 2016

While delighted to win the Showcase commission, Paterson now has to deal with the many challenges of turning his concept into a full-scale touring installation: ‘At the moment we’re between “Great we get to do this!” and “Oh, how are we going to do this?”. But problems can force you to be more creative – there’s nothing more terrifying for an artist than having complete freedom to do whatever you want’.

Mid-shot photo of male, slim, red hair, grey sweater and wearing blue tartan scarf against grey background

Toby Paterson ( Photo by Johan Nieuwenhuize)

The Hatton Gallery Capital development is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Singing Sands of the Northumberland Coast

Several years ago while cataloguing material in the Hancock Museum rock collection I came across some packets of sand. They didn’t contain a great deal of information apart from the localities that the sand had been collected from – the Libyan Desert, Biarritz, Cote des Basques beach and Tasmania, Binnalong Bay, to name but three. Some samples were gathered much closer to home, from beaches at Holy Island (Lindisfarne), Druridge Bay and Alnmouth. Intriguing notes such as ‘Singing sand (Blyth D: sang on beach)’ provided tantalising clues as to the origins of the collection, but I was too busy to dig deeper.

Object number:  NEWHM : 2005.H1374

Sample of Singing Sand from Australia. Object number:  NEWHM : 2005.H1374

Object number:  NEWHM : 2005.H1322

Sample of Singing Sand from Japan. Object number:  NEWHM : 2005.H1322

Several months later a retired researcher contacted me about our ‘Singing Sand’ collection. Putting two and two together, the packets of sand started to make sense. A little online research revealed a series of publications dating from the 1960s that summarised the findings of a musical sand research project at King’s College (Newcastle upon Tyne).

MUSICAL SAND Part 1: The Singing Sands of the Seashore.

MUSICAL SAND: The Singing Sands of the Seashore, Part 1

In the 1960s, inspired by a passage from the ‘Cruise of the Betsy’ (published in 1858), a project aiming to provide an explanation for the singing sands phenomenon was embarked upon by a group of Newcastle-based academics. The starting point was a geological investigation to examine the physical properties of the sand grains – sphericity, absence of dust on the surface of the grains and uniformity of grain-size. It was concluded that dry beach sand would not sing in the absence of any one of these conditions. Acoustic experiments were also conducted in the laboratory, sound being produced by striking the sand with a pestle.

Intrigued by these findings, working with Tim Shaw of Newcastle University in the spirit of preliminary creative research to inform a potentially larger piece of work that is still being considered, we are hoping to make audio recordings on local beaches where the sand has been reported to sing.

I’m already planning a Summer break on Eigg, in anticipation of hearing the famous Singing Sands on the north coast of the island.

Druridge Bay, Northumberland

More information about singing sand in the collection can be found at:

My Top 10 Pincushions (part 2) – A Guest Blog by Zoe-Marie Dobbs

Read part 1 for an introduction and numbers 10-6

From the Elizabethan Age until the 19th Century, the pincushion was seen as an essential element of a woman’s boudoir with a beautiful, decorative cushion needed to house her large collection of costly pins. A well-equipped lady would need to own several thousand pins for dressmaking purposes. As well as for needlework and lace-making, pins were also used to fasten garments. A woman would also need to carry a small supply of emergency pins while she was out in case she needed to fix any mishap with her dress. These were often carried in small cylindrical cases known as pincushion boxes or pin poppets.

The ownership of a beautiful, skilfully embellished pincushion (usually handmade and hand embroidered by the owner) was also used as a way to demonstrate a women’s female accomplishments and needlework abilities. This would denote a woman’s capacity to manage her household through the making, mending and decoration of clothes for herself and her family.

In the past, pincushions were not merely seen as practical household items but as keepsakes, decorative objet d’art, trinkets, souvenirs, treasured gifts and even family heirlooms.

Here are my final 5 pincushions.

5 – ‘Sweetheart’ pincushion, 19th century


Object number – TWCMS : J11773

Large ‘Sweetheart’ pincushions such as this one appear frequently during the Victorian era and are often richly embellished with glass topped pins, metal sequins and fringed edging. They were commonly given as gifts and love tokens. This pincushion was presumably given by a man from Aldershot as a present to his wife of girlfriend. The front of this highly decorative pincushion is of burgundy velvet and decorated with glass topped pins which form the inscription ‘A present love from Aldershot’. Pins are arranged in flowers and star shapes on either side of the pincushion. There is a contrasting heart-shaped piece of cream silk satin in the centre of the pincushion with the inscription ‘J + O’. This example dates from 1800-1899.

4 – Souvenir pincushion, early 20th century


Object number – TWCMS : J13114

This pincushion dates from 1899-1919 and was most likely purchased as a souvenir keepsake during a seaside holiday. The front and back are surrounded by a border of small iridescent moon shells. On the front is a painted scene of three children playing on the beach with boats in the background. Pins would have been stuck around the outside of this pincushion.

Towards the end of the Georgian era, a London manufacturer, of Paternoster Row, began to make some of the first souvenir pincushions with picturesque views or buildings of historical interest, printed on silk, to be sold as souvenirs at popular bars and pubs. Pin wheel cushions of this time often feature similar decoration with a picture painted on silk or fine fabric. Handmade crafts and artwork made with seashells was very popular in during 19th century. During this period several magazines offered instructions in shell handicrafts and sold quantities of shells of various shapes and sizes to be used for different projects.

3 – Brocade pincushion, 19th century


Object number – TWCMS : J13127

This gold and cream brocade pincushion is encased with cream lace and decorated with canary yellow silk ribbon and bows on each side. This pincushion dates from 1800-1899. Many court dressmakers made extra money by selling scraps of costly, embroidered cloth to be made into pincushions. Pincushions were made from material used from unwanted articles of clothing such as embroidered waistcoats or brocaded gold and silver gowns.  Pincushions would even be constructed out of scraps from an outfit worn during a special occasion.

Some Pincushions of this period were embroidered with political messages or slogans as well as bible verses and religious sentiments. Such items could be used to display the personal views or pious high-mindedness of the owner.

2 – Embellished pincushion, 19th century


Object number – TWCMS : J11798

This large, richly embellished pincushion dating from 1800-1899 is densely covered with clear glass seed beads and bugle beads of grey, yellow, red, green and blue. It is decorated with image of a pouring jug with a small bird resting on the handle and is edged with a decoration of looped clear seed beads. Items like these could be bought, or made at home. In the 19th Century, magazines like ‘The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ showed readers how to make various needlework objects including pincushions. The fine needlework skills honed by ladies in the embroidery of samplers in the 19th century was put to good use in the making of attractive personalised pincushions.

During the Victoria Era, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and mass production, pincushions and other sewing tools were produced more cheaply and at a faster rate than ever before. Highly decorative pincushions were produced in large number in a wide variety of shapes including crinoline dolls, fruit, wheelbarrows, books, hats and animals.

Pincushions become more of a necessity in the home during this time.  ‘The Ladies’ Work Table Book’ (published in 1858) decreed: “A large pincushion, having two covers on it should belong to each toilet table. The covers are merely a bag into which the cushion is slipped. This may be either worked or plain and should have small tassels in each corner and a frill fringe all round.”

1 – Soldier’s pincushion, 19th century


Object number – TWCMS : J13106

This elaborate pincushion dating from 1800-1899 would have been made by a soldier who was away fighting at war as a gift for his wife or girlfriend. From the Boer War until WW2, it was traditional for British soldiers and sailors to make pincushions for their wives, mothers and girlfriends at home. Queen Victoria who was very fond of needlework, first suggested that soldiers be encouraged to take up needlework as a therapeutic distraction from the rigours of battle. Many soldiers were given special commercially sold kits to make pincushions such as this one. Many pincushions were made using feed sacks, horsehair, scraps and velvet ribbon and felt. This type of pincushion is usually heart shaped and highly decorative. This pincushion is decorated with glass-topped pins stuck through beads and features a coloured woven silk message, flags and the regimental name and badge. The woven silk squares with the messages which decorate either side of the pincushion are known as cigarette silks. A cigarette silk is a small piece of printed or woven satin which was given away in men’s cigarette packets as part of a marketing ploy. Similar silks were also given away in cigar packets. Many of these types of pincushion were preserved as important family keepsakes.

This Pincushion from the Imperial War Museum’s collections was made using the same cigarette silk design:

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post – thank you for reading.

Putting The Hatton Hat On

‘I look ridiculous.’

‘No you don’t, you look great.’

This brief call-and-response has been played out between myself and my partner many times over the years as she has repeatedly persuaded me, against my better judgement, to become ‘a man of hats’. Under the onslaught of relentless flattery I usually acquiesce, a decision instantly regretted the moment I leave the store. Consequently I am now the less-than-proud owner of several Fedoras and one notable Heisenberg that I only ever wear abroad. I look less Breaking Bad more Breaking Wind. Some men have a head for heights and hats, I have neither.

However certain hat occasions are unavoidable and on visiting the Hatton recently to catch up on the renovation work, I was required to wear the classic building site hard hat, despite making me resemble part of a Village People tribute act.

If you’ve ever had any building work done at home you’ll know how disruptive it can be. In refitting an entire gallery I was expecting Sodom and Gomorrah just after the moment Lot’s wife realises she’s forgotten her keys. Yet on meeting Senior Site manager Stevie Forster the immediate impression on entering the gallery was, frankly, a bit disappointing. I wanted Chaos, I wanted Shouting, I wanted Mountains of Debris and a Death Metal soundtrack that promised a lifetime of tinnitus. It was all rather calm and orderly, with neatly stacked piles of demolition detritus and nary a hint of dust. Maybe they’d had a quick tidy up before I arrived.

All the exhibition spaces will be relined with new lighting and climate controls (all new images courtesy of LDN Architects):

Former gallery 6 and proposed new design

Former Gallery 6 and proposed new design

Former Gallery 3 and propsed new design

Former Gallery 3 and proposed new design

There’ll be a new Shop and Reception Desk:

New Shop and Reception desk

A dedicated Learning Zone for schools, workshops and art classes:

Dedicated Learning Zone for schools, workshops and art classes

And the Kurt Schwitter’s Merz Barn will be restored with its own gallery:

Artist design for interior exhibition space

Impressive, huh? But wait, there’s more! The Stores will be extended and upgraded while a new Public Study Zone will give everyone, students and public alike, unprecedented access to the Hatton’s collection:

Artist desing modern interior room with large glass table, chairs, glass entry screen and art on walls

Artist design – Hatton Public Study Zone

The project is currently nearing the end of Phase I. This will be followed by Phase II. You might detect here that I’m rather winging it when it comes to my in-depth knowledge of Building Project Management. As far as I can make out, Phase I is ripping out the old stuff, Phase II is putting in the new stuff (it’s probably a bit more complicated than that). With the Gallery currently back to its roots and bare walls, it has thrown up a few surprises from its rather chequered construction past.

Originally built in 1912, the Hatton was extended to almost double its size in 1965 with further modifications in 1984. The renovations have exposed a lot of that later work, not all of which met with Stevie’s approval: ‘He must have got his brickie’s ticket off the back of a Cornflakes packet’. Exposing one wall revealed an original 1912 window that had been had been replaced in 1965 by a large steel grille – which was then electrified. Do that today and you’d probably nail the Turner Prize. And the most unusual discovery was an exhibition display case that appears in photos from the 1984 development but at some point was subsequently walled up:

Large wooden and glass display cabinet on wall of building site interior

Hatton exhibition cabinet circa 1984

The University are keen to hang on to it after its removal except there’s one slight problem: it’s locked. So if you’ve been around the Fine Art Department in the last thirty years and know where the keys are then please get in touch. Failing that, if anyone has a number for Fast Eddie Fingers…

When the Hatton reopens next Autumn it will not only signify a new era but also enrich its heritage of tales and yarns, something of which Stevie is clearly proud: ‘With a job like this you can look back and know you’re part of its history. Some day I can come here with my grandkids and say “I did that”’.

‘Revitalising The Hatton Gallery’ is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.

                                                                                                        Logo for heritage Lottery Fund

5 things you may not have known about mourning in Victorian times – a guest blog by Lee Joseph Peacock

In Fabricating Histories, Northumbria University, in collaboration with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, are exhibiting a collection of objects from the nineteenth century and exploring ideas around historical fashion, technology, science, literature, and art. Why is the nineteenth century so interesting to us from today’s perspective? Our guest blogger, Lee Joseph Peacock, is studying BA (Hons) Fashion Communication at Northumbria University. His upcoming dissertation project involves the weird and wonderful world of Victorian England and the mourning customs of the time.

5 things you may not have known about mourning in Victorian times.

In a time where death was acknowledged more often than life, Victorians developed many different traditions surrounding their mourning practices. With a combination of art, superstition, fashion, and technology, we are taking a look at five of the different areas linked with death formalities of the time.

1 – The dress and duration of mourning.

Mourning clothes were taken extremely seriously within Victorian times. For the lower classes, their mourning attire would have most likely been some of their most expensive clothing. Men had it simple ­- dark suits accompanied with black gloves, hatbands and cravats – whereas the women had the more uncomfortable ordeal of wearing heavy, thick fabrics to emulate the emotions of the day (and beyond). This would be paired with jet-black jewellery often combined with hair of the deceased.

The duration of wearing these clothes depended on how well the wearer knew the recently departed. A new widow would be expected to mourn her husband (and wear the full attire) for two years, unless the woman was deemed old and in that case she was expected to mourn until her own passing. Everybody else was presumed to be easier to lose! Mourning a parent would be expected to take one year, whereas grandparents and siblings would be mourned for six months. With such low age expectancies and large families, Victorians were in mourning more than they weren’t throughout their lives.

2 – Mourning dressmakers would have been some of the wealthiest members of society.

Due to mass religious practice, large families and a high death rate from undiagnosed or underlining diseases, there was always work in dressing the recently bereaved. Holding onto your mourning wear was believed to be bad luck and would bring untimely death onto the family, so most would discard their outfits after wearing them. This meant that once another family member inevitably died abruptly, more clothing would need to be made and paid for. This often gave the dressmakers – ironically – customers for life.

Mourning dresses

3 – Hair of the dead.

Hair of the deceased was used in many different ornamental ways. It was worn in jewellery such as brooches, hair accessories and pendants, but it was also used to make wreaths. These would be displayed in the home proudly for all to see. The idea of the hair wreaths had many symbolic meanings: it showcased the connections of those who had passed with the living, entwining the hair of both the deceased and living together in a decorative form.

Swivel two-faced medallion, one side with plaited hair, blonde and brunette, the side empty, displaying a black background bordered with gold band, medallion set in pinchbeck frame of intertwined design.

4 – Photographs of the deceased.  

Another popular way to commemorate the dead was having one last family portrait taken, posing the deceased with their remaining, living family members shortly after they had passed. Due to the nature of photography and technology surrounding it at the time, the deceased were always sharper in photograph than the living. This was due to photographers needing to use long exposure times when taking photographs. Long exposure time meant capturing every slight, natural movement of the living, whereas the deceased and their obvious lack of movement kept them still and in focus. Although sounding extremely disturbing in comparison to the modern day, the photographs often had the dead posed in ways that gave them the illusion of sleeping or at rest. This was especially popular with stillborn children.

Deceased child

5 – Safety Coffins.

Not strictly about the mourning practice itself, the safety coffin is one of the most iconic totems surrounding the topic of death in the nineteenth century. Due to limitations in medical science and technology, many people were pronounced dead (and in some cases rumoured to be put into the ground) prematurely. There were outbreaks of many diseases at the time that would leave the body in a comatose or trance-like state. This would then take nothing more than a careless physician or an underlying disease to pronounce the sufferer as deceased, and for the funeral preparations to begin almost instantly. Due to rumours of this spreading fast and far, large amounts of the population understandably developed Taphophobia (a fear of being buried alive). An answer to this dilemma was the safety coffin. One style of safety coffin had a bell waiting upon the grave with a chain or sturdy rope leading down to the body; the idea was that if a body awoke they would pull the chain and sound the bell for help. In theory a perfectly good idea, but in reality, unless a gravedigger was being paid to watch over the graves, there would be nobody around to hear the ringing of the bell.

Safety coffin