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Jo Mabbutt

Decorative Artist

Talks and Lectures

Artists and the Theatre

The theatre from its earliest form was a setting for magnificent productions of drama, ballet and opera and through the use of ornate costumes, complex stage sets and ingenious machinery, these performances were the source of wonder and awe. Many painters, sculptors, fashion designers and architects have been understandably drawn to the theatre and we examine how they rose to the challenge of designing for these ‘larger than life canvases’.

From the profound influence of perspective in the early Renaissance, through the early development of opera and ballet, plays, masques, and fêtes, we look at Serge Diaghilev’s legacy of working with avant-garde painters, and how 20th century modernist and abstract collaborations between painters and sculptors with choreographers have been particularly inspiring.

Behind the London Livery Companies – Objects and Stories

Over the centuries the Livery Companies of the City of London have accumulated fascinating treasures and intriguing objects which represent their craft and trade and reveal the stories behind some of the world’s oldest crafts and guilds which have kept pace with modern times and are still very relevant today. They also give an insight into the Livery Companies’ medieval beginnings, their halls and traditional ceremonies.

Reinventing themselves despite ravages of fire and warfare and challenges to their monopolies, today Livery Companies are revived and thrive through their philanthropic vocation, their continued support of trades, crafts and professions and their part in the system of local government in the City of London.

Gilded Glories – The Fascinating History of Gilded Decoration

The art of beating gold leaf and gilding dates back to ancient Egypt. Traditionally craftsmen pounded gold for hours to create sheets thin enough to cover the most finely detailed surfaces.

For over 22 centuries from Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus to Rachel Whiteread’s gilded frieze for the Whitechapel Gallery, skilled artisans have exploited paper-thin metal leaf to enrich materials such as wood, metal, marble, leather, paper, glass, porcelain and textiles – even food and drink.

Artists and craftsmen have illuminated manuscripts and icons, decorated noble houses from top to bottom, adorned domes inside and out, embellished erotic canvases, and gilded chocolate and schnapps. Gold leaf continues to be used as the ultimate faux decoration and dazzling ornamentation.

Gilding The Lace

Jo talks about her development journey from decorative painter to lace gilder.

Her initial training was in wood graining, marbling, gilding, specialist paint finishes and interior design.  She upskilled at Central St Martin’s College of Art and developed a totally new direction bringing new life to antique and vintage lace, crochet and tatting by gilding with real metal leaf.

Jo produces framed gilded antique lace and prints, jewellery, fashion accessories, interior items, Christmas decorations and cards. She undertakes commissions gilding clients’ own treasured lace, produces contemporary framed gilded lace and prints for show homes and collaborates with other designers.

Jo also gives specialist workshops all over the country on various metallics themes.

The Thames – Theatre of Pageantry and Pleasure

London’s grandest thoroughfare for centuries, the Thames has hosted royal weddings and state funerals, fireworks and music, coronations and pageants, processions and civic festivities. Teaming with life and busy with shipping, the River has also been the playground of both royalty and the common man.

Noble buildings and palaces rose from the river, both private and public pleasure gardens swept down to the river and the shores have hosted playgrounds for East End children, festivals and hunting grounds for mudlarks. In Edmund Spenser’s words, the Thames has ‘dansed as a stage’ providing the theatre for a myriad of pursuits and entertainment from frost fairs and races to pleasure trips.

The Field of Cloth of Gold

In June 1520 Henry VIII and Francis I meet to ratify an Anglo-French alliance and celebrate the betrothal of Henry’s daughter Mary to the Dauphin. The two handsome ‘Renaissance Princes’ have imperial ambitions and are eager to display themselves as magnificent nobleman and warrior kings. Each brings an entourage of 6,000 to a field south of Calais for 18 days of various events and entertainments staged to display the skill and splendour of each King and country.

The logistics of transporting, accommodating, feeding and watering, protecting and entertaining the English contingent for this spectacular event is staggering and the adornment of the entire Field and everyone present is equally fascinating. How was it all achieved?

What is a Painter-Stainer? Inside an Ancient City Livery Company

Originally created as two companies in the 1200s to protect their respective trades, the Paynters and Steyners came together in 1502. For centuries the Painter-Stainers decorated Royal palaces, coaches and barges, heraldic banners and arms, churches and even theatres. Disputes with other Livery Companies and the College of Heralds run through their history and artists such as Sir James Thornhill and Sir Godfrey Kneller were members producing ephemeral decorations for Lord Mayor’s pageants to portraits and landscapes.

Key to the creation of the Royal Academy, the Company has welcomed many prominent academicians from Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lord Leighton to Sir Hugh Casson. Today the company continues to support education and training of both fine and decorative art. The Company has affiliations with the armed forces and eleven Painter-Stainer Liverymen have served as Lord Mayor of London since 1922.