The Wish Post by Mister Finch at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to visit The Wish Post, an exhibition by the textile artist Mister Finch. His embroidered menagerie is on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until the 23rd of September. More than 75 individual soft sculptures depict characters from The Wish Post story, written alongside the exhibition. For one night each year, the characters in the story have the chance to make their wishes come true. The animals breathe their wishes into envelopes and post them in toadstool postboxes ahead of the annual Wish Post festival. Given that the exhibition combined two of my biggest loves, embroidery, and fairytales, it was with great anticipation that we set off on our adventure to a gorgeous yet rainy YSP.
Before you enter the gallery space, examples of works line the staircase. A selection of the toadstool postboxes and a pair of squirrels sit on shelves above head height. Exquisitely made, the models act as sentries above the staircase. Finch’s trademark toadstools bring a sense of quirkiness and whimsy to the space while the squirrels combine old-English charm with meticulous construction. Although, I couldn’t help but feel that the placement of them was rather strange. It acts as a form of signposting and draws people towards the exhibition. However, it detracted from the story by divorcing them from the rest of the exhibition.
Leading up to the exhibition, a wall display depicts tiny letters carried on the wind. These small illustrations guide you to the door of the exhibition. This added touch is really quite immersive and draws you into the world of The Wish Post. It builds excitement before you even enter the gallery. There is a similar piece as you first enter the Visitor Centre with large letters suspended in a display window like Harrods or Selfridges.
In a gallery upstairs, the exhibition took place. Ahead, sit two swans, that are decidedly elegant and regal looking. The layered fabric used to create their wings is very effective. There are also badgers, hares, foxes, mice, moles and hedgehogs (or ring-a-dings as Mister Finch likes to call them). The animals are all humanised, dressed in dapper outfits and looking like they have walked out of a Beatrix Potter book. The attention to detail in each of the pieces is incredibly mindful, down to the tiny little thimbles attached to the animal’s tails.
Almost every piece was displayed on a reclaimed drawer and the furniture customised with toadstools. Having always loved toadstools, I would love one of the tables for my studio. The animals all stood in groups according to their species in a regimented fashion. This gave viewers the opportunity to see the pieces and admire the detail involved in their construction. It wasn’t until my fiance pointed out that the whole place looked like a shop display that I realised why I didn’t feel as enchanted as I had hoped to be. The whole exhibition did feel like one giant shop display. A very elegantly choreographed shop display but a shop display nonetheless.
Thankfully, my sense of wonder and childlike bewilderment was saved in the gift shop. I picked up the book that went along with the exhibition and the story of The Wish Post came to life in my hands. The book illustrates the story with high-quality tableau photography. Some of these images were used in the promotion. Maybe that explains my surprise when I actually saw the set-up of the exhibition. In this case, it would have been better to purchase the book before seeing the exhibition. Displaying textile works in a fine art context can be challenging. If you don’t get a chance to see the exhibition then definitely try and get your hands on this book. I wish that more of that magic had made its way into the curation of the exhibition. The book will delight any textile enthusiast.