Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dogs etc. - Domenica More Gordon

I have always been an unashamed dog lover (the unashamedness becoming a little more pronounced - and the Kirstie Alsopp fan-dom, becoming a little more intense - in my early post-university days, upon reading this Observer article about Kirstie's misspent Bedales-youth: "Kirstie wore velvet hairbands and kilts and Puffa bodywarmers, when everyone else wore ripped jeans and DMs and grandad overcoats. She had framed pictures of domestic pets on her bedside locker, and liked mum music...Elkie Brookes, Neil Diamond" - how could you not love her?!) - and yet I have NEVER been one of those people who invests time and energy in pet-related artefacts. Soppy paintings of dogs staring lovingly into the eyes of little blue-eyed, ringletted Violet Elizabeth Botts have always left me cold, as have dog-portraits as accessories and, if I'm honest, most dog portaiture. This is my idea of decorative hell.

For some reason, though, I just can't get enough of Domenica More Gordon's dogs. They are the antidote to sentimental animal kitsch - partly because they don't seem to be trying to be anything else. They are individual, idiosyncratic, bizarrely realistic - and utterly sweet. I want them all - they make me want to stage my own little Crufts, in my own little pint-sized NEC. I can make them jump over match-stick hurdles, while pretending I'm Claire Balding.... but I digress.

Domenica More Gordon is from East Lothian and lives in Inveresk. She is the daughter of Harry More Gordon (watercolourist, owner of the most elegant studio I have ever seen, and landlord to Clarissa Dickson Wright - and he and Domenica are both included in her memoirs, Spilling the Beans and Rifling Through my Drawers). She studied textiles at Central St. Martins (following in the footsteps of her textile-designer mother) and over the last few years has been taking the art world by storm with her miniature felted dogs - the excitement culiminating in a Dog Sale at the end of 2011, in which the successful puchasers were chosen from a "well-shaken" hat.

Each dog takes several days to make, and is faithfully copied from photographs of its subject. They are "dry-felted" (which involves stabbing unspun wool with a felting needle) - a process which is particularly successful at capturing that shaggy roughness peculiar to Border Terriers. It also means that the wool itself is central to the finished work; whether it is wool she forages locally from barbed wire fences and the like, or the curly long fleece which is sent from Greece by a friend (good for mongrels, apparently), or the rare St. Kilda wool hand-collected by her friends (the only place where these Soay sheep have traditionally been found). The dogs therefore not only capture the personalities of each of the dogs, portayed in myriad instinctive ways (what a birder might call "giss", or gestalt) - from the colouring and texture of their coats, to the angle of their heads, or the ways in which they cock their ears, to sometimes, I swear, the plaintiff look of entreaty in their eyes -  but they also embody the places, processes and materials which have contributed to their creation as objects. For me, this is key to their appeal and to their success: they are what they are. They proudly proclaim both their wooliness and their dogginess - in stark contrast to much else animal "art" around....

Rather admirably, Domenica realises that not everyone can afford £150-£600 for one of her originals and so has created Dog Making Kits (currently sold out), for those who want to try dry-felting a miniature dog of their own. These come with instructions and a supply of needles and of wool (though probably not of the hand-picked St. Kilda variety) and give the option of making a grey dog, a white dog, or a sausage dog (a terrier option please Domenica...?).

"I chose dogs because they are such good channels of emotion, ideal for capturing that childhood intense connection with an object.  We also have three beloved dogs, one terrier, one rescued mongrel from Greece and another from Hong Kong which was rescued by my sister. I could watch them all for hours and I am always drawing them...two of them, the Greek mongrel and the Terrier are usually with me in my studio and I have to be careful to keep my work out of their reach as I have found some of my wool dogs in a fairly battered state in their dog baskets.  I take it as a compliment and feel that I have achieved a certain level of intense connection, at least with them. Actually, I think it’s the smell of the wool..."

Dogginess and wooliness - what more could you possibly want?


  1. do you do a kit for a standard wire haired dachshund please?

  2. Hi there - I'm afraid not. I am just an admirer rather than a producer of these dogs, and the associated paraphernalia. Have tried in vain to get hold of some of the kits myself...

  3. Hi,

    I am desperately trying to contact Dominica's Father (Harry More Gordon). I have tried all types of searches - most favoured one is the Francis Kyle Gallery - but they won't contact Mr. Gordon on my behalf.

    I have two watercolour paintings with the initials HMG (pale, pastel colours, whereas his infamous work is vivid deep colours).

    I bought the two paintings from a charity shop in Liverpool. I have studied his hand writing (via the Francis Kyle pictures of his work) and am 99.9% they are his earlier work when he first started working with watercolours.

    I have had the two paintings authenticated by an antique dealer as being original works and not prints. Plus they say they are around 50 years old.

    Can you suggest any way at all I could contact Mr. Gordon or his daughter to finally find out if I have purchased two beautiful paintings of his work?

    I look forward to your reply.

    Kind regards,
    Barbara Smith (Liverpool)
    P.S. The dogs are so cute - I am a dedicated animal lover!

  4. Hello, love the dogs. I have been trying to find out if Harry More Gordon still undertakes commissions? Any help gratefully received.