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Orla Kiely- A Life in Pattern Exhibition Review

I recently went along to an Orla Kiely exhibition in Dove Cot Studios in Edinburgh. Formerly a Victorian Swimming baths the building is now a wonderful arts and crafts centre dedicated mostly to weaving with the pool itself now being were huge looms are set up and used. It's also got a bloody great cafe which made me want another sandwich even though I was full!

Anyway. The exhibition. I was only familiar through Kiely's work through the odd bit of trendy homeware I see in John Lewis and gift shops. All very vintage and pretty but I often only seen the Vine pattern she is so famous for. I was expecting to see more of the same sort of thing but goodness me it's a fabulous exhibition and really taught me loads about Kiely, both the designer and the businesswoman.

The exhibition starts with a wall of her various patterns and quotes. The thing that really struck me was how well her destict style seems to adapt. She has done much more than her usual flowers and leaves and instead we seen swimmers, dogs, cars and much more than the usual Kiely that we see in the shop on a radio.

Another room shows desktops of Kielys process. Let me tell you, its no quick fixes or cheap tat for this Queen, she wants high quality design made in a high quality way! There's also a TV set up showing various interviews with Kiely over the years and that's when we can really appreciate Kiely the businesswoman. We get to hear here how her famous stem pattern in her words 'keeps the lights on' and allows her to do more creative things while keeping herself and others in employment. I really admire this as I think it's all too easy to be a diva and say you're always trying to push the creative envelope but at the end of the day we all need to make a living and being a romantic starving artist is only going to get you so far!

After this, we got to see a brilliant Wall of handbags. This sounds trivial but honestly, it was like the mother of handbag walls. I was half expecting a Knight of the round table to come and out and tell me to 'choose wisely' and I'd have to guess which one leads to eternal life. It was a really beautiful way of showing of all her surface pattern work in a mightily impressive way and I had fun looking at them all and how they worked. This part of the exhibition also had a lovely selection of her fashion. If you've never seen her clothing before it's (like her patterns) vintage inspired but she's very good at putting her patterns together in a way that makes them seem modern and ambitious. Why I try to mix patterns together, I end up looking like a fell into a dressing up shop and got dragged through the clown section (please note I still go out in these outfits in hopes of starting a new trend) but Orla knows how to create these outfits. From the handbags to the tights. They're great and I found them really inspiring.

Hold me back!

This was my favourite outfit. Bag is so gorgeous and love that outer wear look on a dress.

Love this bow! Deep in thought about how I can wear one!

The last section of exhibition was one of the funnest. We'd heard on one of the previous video clips that Orla had decided to showcase some of her fashion in an Alice and Wonderland style and here we got to see that. Giant dresses where hung from the ceiling like huge great partition walls (definitely how I'd divide my dream apartment!) and given lots of space to look and appreciate them. I absolutely loved this as it gave me a chance to enjoy the style and fabric design of the dress and the sheer size made it lots of fun to duck under them and have a full 360 view. I'm keeping with Alice in Wonderland they also had tiny dolls dressed up in Kiely's work that juxtaposed wonderfully and made the whole experience feel immersive.

Here's me for scale, though I am a shorty!

Cute tiny one!

I'd really recommend the exhibition if you're in Edinburgh and its well worth your time. I think they've put a huge amount of effort to not just have a dry exhibition just on the walls. There's lots more bits that I haven't mentioned here. The exhibition runs until the 29th of June and you get 10% off in the gift shop too!

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