Huge excitement here at the Polar Museum in Cambridge as plans get underway for the launch of our Snow Queen Retold text and textiles exhibition in August. For the past six months, I have been collaborating with the astonishingly talented and endlessly enthusiastic costume designer Lindsey Holmes on a project that reinterprets Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale through costume and poetry.
My next collection, Call Her Alaska, is a contemporary re-imagining of The Snow Queen. The poems aim to invoke the spirit of the fairytale rather than re-tell it. Lindsey has read the poems and is creating an incredible costume in response – and yet costume seems to slim a word for an installation that functions as a Snow Queen’s cape, a map and a storytelling tent all at once!
I was still at the researching stage, making the most of the library, artefacts and archives in my new role as Invited Poet at the Polar Museum when Lindsey arrived one blustery day. She was a costume maker without a story, I was a poet with the bones of a collection and nothing to hang them on. The fairytale had resonated deeply with us both since childhood and the rest, as they say, is history. As we met up to discuss, explore and play with ideas we became fascinated by the fairytale’s dualities: the hot feelings explored in a frozen landscape; the imperfect natural world struggling against logic, mathematics and reason; the innocence of childhood doing battle with the bitterness of adult greed and envy. Where else could host a display of these polarities than the Polar Museum?
Fairytales can be brutal, surprising, surreal – much like the physical and mental landscapes of explorers in the polar regions. We wanted to create a safe space to oppose these forces. From the very beginning of our work together, we shared a vision: that the collaboration should should somehow function as both an item of clothing, but also as a den – a place to hide away and yet also to place explore the fairytale; a place for both children and inner children to kick off their shoes and crawl about inside, a completely interactive space. Many of the items Gerda gains or loses on her journey are secreted inside the poetry-embroidered tent – why not come along and see how many you can find?
The Snow Queen Retold: Text & Textiles exhibition runs from Friday 16th – Saturday 31st August.