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Geffrye Museum Presents Sitting the Light Fantastic: an installation by Kei Ito

The Geffrye Museum presents Sitting the Light Fantastic: an installation by Kei Ito, on view through Autumn 2012. Kei Ito’s Sitting the Light Fantastic will form the centre-piece of the newly refurbished front garden at the Geffrye Museum.

Ito has designed an installation of lighting that is extraordinary and beautiful, and will be located on either side of the main path. It will be an ethereal parade of larger than life-size chairs and lamps, reflecting the museum’s themes and drawing on the global cultural influences that have shaped furniture, ornaments and textiles in English homes. The steel framework of each chair will be covered with a unique ‘fibre-optic textile’, devised specially for this installation. The ‘textile’ will feature patterns inspired by the Geffrye collection and, from dusk, the chairs will glow, creating a sense of magic. Highly visible, they will intrigue travellers passing by on Kingsland Road, a major route into London.

Kei Ito has been fascinated by a number of items in the collection, including magnificent storks on a 19th century gasolier. She is using a stork as the leitmotif in her installation. The bird will travel through a ‘parallel world’, which reflects Ito’s interpretation of the Geffrye’s collections. Each part of the work will be based on a different theme or pattern from the museum, and the stork will feature on each item. For example, one will be a ‘housing estate’ of birds’ houses, another will take the form of a cherry blossom tree, with glowing fibre-optic flowers. One of the chairs will be ‘upholstered’ with fibre-optic fabric depicting a maze, based on an Islamic pattern, in which the stork will be hiding.

Kei Ito is a fashion designer who is internationally acclaimed for her adventurous creations. Her London practice includes costume design for dance and theatre, fashion design for individual clients, and the accessories label ‘Always Sky Above’. She also creates innovative items of textile and costume, specifically for gallery exhibitions. Her work is distinguished by an interest in new possibilities of pattern cutting through explorations in geometry, and in different costume and textile traditions. Ito’s costume design work has been seen in a number of productions staged at the London Coliseum, Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival. Throughout her career, Kei Ito has worked to push forward the boundaries of her experience and her craft – always challenging herself with new possibilities. The museumaker commission represents both a new departure in her work – and a natural progression. She has learnt the art of forging metal, in order to design and fabricate the structure for her installation. Her experiments with techniques for creating the fibre-optic fabric are an extension of her already formidable skills as a textile artist.

The Geffrye Museum explores the homes of the English urban middle classes from 1600 to the present day. It celebrates domesticity through its series of ‘period’ living rooms, which display its collections of furniture, textiles, paintings and decorative arts. The museum is set in elegant Grade I listed 18th century almshouses, with a contemporary wing, surrounded by attractive gardens, which include an award-winning walled herb garden and a series of period gardens. The museum has a strong track record of working with contemporary designer-makers.

museumaker is a prestigious national project involving sixteen museums across the country. It is unlocking the creative potential of collections through imaginative interchanges between the heritage and contemporary craft sectors. It is supported by Arts Council England (ACE), Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and its Renaissance Programme. As well as offering new experiences for existing museum visitors, museumaker is establishing innovative ways of developing audiences, including young people. Each museum has commissioned one or more outstanding makers to create intriguing new work in response to the venue, its associations and collections. For further information on museumaker, see

Image: Prototype for the Geffrye’s front garden installation by Kei Ito, Geffrye Museum

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