Pink Skies, Blue Streets And Teal Sidewalks: That’s Carlisle In Technicolor!

While I was taking a hairdryer to three waterlogged Barbours, Cumbria-based artist Helen Walsh was showing a group of museumgoers how to embellish fabric with beads and sequins, I discovered.

Lovely 1920s purses provided the inspiration for the September session of “Tullie Textiles,” a program held the second Sunday afternoon of each month at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, England. During the program, interested visitors take a closer look at costumes from the museum’s collection, try a new technique demonstrated by a professional textile artist, and work on their own project.

Green with envy was I for missing that. My consolation, however, was seeing Carlisle in glorious technicolor at Tullie House the next day.

Paul Leith: Technicolour Carlisle, a special exhibition at Tullie House, displays the creations of Paul Leith, a Carlisle-based artist who creates scenes of the city in colorful embellished felt collages.

Born in 1946 in South Shields, a coastal town in northeast England, Leith developed a fascination for the eye-catching displays and colorful packaging of products that stocked the shelves of the grocery his father managed. His love of color and drawing led him to study art at both the Sunderland College of Art and the Royal College of Art. During a five-week tour of Europe, he visited the Bauhaus archive in Stuttgart, Germany, leaving with an appreciation for the geometric forms and primary colors that define this modern design style.

Leith settled in London, creating packaging for shirts while working as an illustrator for an advertising agency. Throughout his 30-year career, he contributed to newspapers and publications like Radio Times, a weekly television and radio program listings magazine.  He designed book covers for Penguin…

and advertisements, including some for British Rail.

In the 1980s, Leith transitioned from his preferred media of graphite pencils and Derwent color pencils to masking fluid and acrylic paint. His style evolved too, from realistic drawings to simple geometric shapes and bold colors. Stencils helped the award-winning artist keep up with demand for his work. Changing tastes led him to trade stencils for collages crafted from tissue paper and wallpaper.

A 1998 move to Appleby-in-Westmorland brought Leith and his family to Cumbria, where he started doing more work for himself. Following a relocation to Carlisle, Leith injured his knee; while it was healing, he began making sketches of the city.

For the past seven years, he has transformed those sketches into murals, enlarging the original sketch to create a template from which pieces are cut out of 72 different colors of felt, sewn together to recreate the scene, and often embellished with embroidery…

and buttons.

The results are a vibrant depiction of Carlisle’s landmarks, such as the magnificent Carlisle Cathedral and neighborhoods like Close Street and Broad Street.

Queen Victoria reigns over Bitts Park in springtime…

while characters clothed in varying shades of carmine and a button-leaved tree complement the iconic red stone walls of Carlisle Castle.

Special exhibition-related activities for visitors included creating felt pictures and collages using the Tullie House art collection for inspiration, as well as taking home coloring pages of some of Leith’s drawings of Carlisle landmarks.  

This entry was posted in Art, Cumbria, England, Museums, Needlework, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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