Arts Derbyshire


Fashion designers turned sculptors Lucille Lewin and Nicole Farhi exhibit at The Harley Foundation this summer

Find a passion for clay at The Harley Foundation, North Nottinghamshire, with a new sculpture exhibition this summer.

In Good Company is a new exhibition by celebrated fashion designers turned sculptors Lucille Lewin and Nicole Farhi, and will be on show at The Harley Foundation, North Nottinghamshire, from 1 July until 24 September.

These names may be familiar from fashion – Lucille founded the brand Whistles while Nicole was Head Designer at French Connection and founder of the eponymous Nicole Farhi label.

In Good Company is a celebration of the creativity and friendship of Lucille Lewin and Nicole Farhi who both independently and unbeknown to each other, left their long, stellar careers in fashion to have new, equally successful, careers as full-time sculptors.

The starting point for much of the work by both women is the clay but their approach to working with the material is very different. Lewin works in porcelain clay which is modelled, dipped, slipped, cast, thrown, cut up, pressed and extruded. The elements are then broken and reassembled through gestural acts over months of handmaking. Farhi’s engagement with clay is very visceral and emotional, for her the clay is the starting point and the finished piece is then cast.

Lucille and Nicole are not the only celebrities to eschew the bright lights and find joy in clay. Henry Holland has also taken a successful sidestep from fashion to pottery, and Brad Pitt, Serena Williams, and Leonardo di Caprio also reportedly enjoy time at the potter’s wheel.

The exhibition celebrates the joy of making – the well-being benefits it can bring, its power to forge friendships and connect with our creativity.

So, what is it about this art form that is so appealing? For Nicole, from the moment she was first handed a lump of clay at a sculpture class she fell in love with the medium and knew it was for her. During the pandemic sculpting provided freedom and focus during the lockdown. During this time of isolation, she determinedly spent her time modelling clay busts of aspirational figures. Although fashion had dominated her early career, she had trained in art and fashion and had always had a passion for sculpture. It was a natural progression for Nicole to move into this field. This exhibition will show 100 of Nicole’s Heads which have been sculpted in clay over the last 5 years, she then casts them in ciment fondu before she hand paints them.
Lucille discovered her love of clay whilst dropping a friend at an evening class and found herself drawn in. This passion led her, in her 60s, to apply and be accepted for a Masters in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 2017 and winning the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramic Prize in her last year of study.
Lucille’s organic sculptural pieces are a striking contrast to Nicole’s figurative busts, her works – Second Nature – reference the chaos humanity has created and the wonder of nature and its ability to regenerate and mutate to survive. Her pure white pieces take inspiration from the early alchemists that discovered the process of making porcelain and find similarities between the culture and politics of the Age of Enlightenment – and our own.
These two artists came together with their friend Selina Skipwith, an independent art advisor and curator and have developed a series of In Good Company projects.
Selina Skipwith says:
“In Good Company is a very special exhibition as it shows the work of two amazing women who have both followed their passion and forged new successful careers as sculptors following their previous successes in the fashion world. Lucille and Nicole inspire women of all ages to think about starting new careers, not necessarily in the arts, whatever stage they are in life.”
Lisa Gee, Director of The Harley Foundation, says:
“While this exhibition is by two celebrities, it reminds us that we can all get great enjoyment from making. There’s something magical about taking a lump of soft clay and turning it into a finished artwork. What’s more, you have to give the work your full attention – it provides a way to step out of your everyday. Whether you make figurative work, functional pots or abstracts – or simply enjoy the process and squash your clay back into a ball again – it’s easy to see why many people are drawn to this medium.”
Visitors to the Harley Foundation can also try ceramics for themselves, with regular classes in the specialist Harley Pottery Studio. Classes are available from Beginner level taster sessions to Advanced skills workshops.
– In Good Company is showing 1 July – 24 September 2023 at The Harley Foundation, North Nottinghamshire.
– The exhibition and a large, free car park are free to enter. The gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm, Sunday 10am – 4pm. Closed Mondays.

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