Allison SMITH Art

Notion Nanny is a collaborative touring project that originated in the United Kingdom in 2005 and was developed with London-based curatorial partnership B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope.

Once popular in Victorian England, "notion nannies" are dolls that depict the village character type of a peddler woman wearing a red cloak and holding a basket overflowing with miniature wares. Although little is known about these dolls, they may have commemorated the dying social custom of itinerant traders who traversed the countryside carrying household goods, sewing notions, and home remedies, as well as news and information. Their baskets contain a tiny world of 18th and early 19th century material culture, offering up abundant examples of bygone craft traditions. I like to think of the notion nanny as a custodian of ideas.

For this project, I took on the role of an itinerant apprentice working with self-identified "traditional" makers, engaging them in a dialogue about the politics and the economies of the handmade, asking them, "What could be considered 'revolutionary' about your 'traditional' craft practice?"

With a major grant from Arts Council England and additional funding from the Jerwood Charity, Notion Nanny evolved as a series of residencies, performative public programs, and a cumulative traveling exhibition that has made stops in Cumbria, London, Shropshire, New England, the Bay Area, and New York. At each location, I have worked with local crafts practitioners to produce objects for my own life-size Notion Nanny doll. Skills I've learned so far include blacksmithing, basket weaving, lace making, linen weaving, wheat braiding, felt making, pottery, wood carving, millinery, horn carving, tin work, stained glass, letterpress printing, and many more.

The Notion Nanny website includes a travel blog from 2005-2007 and includes more information on the project and the unique "guild" of participants that formed around it.


Notion Nanny
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny
2007

MATRIX 222 "Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Curated by Elizabeth Thomas. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Collection of the Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo credit Sibila Savage.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Letterpress, pewter
Trade Cards, Guild Pin Seal
2005
Letterpress, pewter

Designed by Amelia Grohman with drawings and text by Allison Smith. Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Glazed cotton
Bonnet
2006
Glazed cotton

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Oak and leather
Swill Basket
2005
Oak and leather

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Recycled junk mail
Handmade Stationery
2002
Recycled junk mail

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Slipware
Diggers Charger
2006
Slipware

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Painted linen
Suprematist Change Purses
2005
Painted linen

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Needlepoint, wool
Penny Thief Pin Cushion
2006
Needlepoint, wool

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Wrought steel
Toasting Fork
2007
Wrought steel

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Woven linen
Twill Tape
2006
Woven linen

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Horn
Scrimshaw Ale Mugs
2005
Horn

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Wrought steel, beeswax
Loom Light
2006
Wrought steel, beeswax

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Stained glass
Surrender Flag
2007
Stained glass

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Cotton
Patchwork Compass Rose
Cotton

Made by Kitty Smith. Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Punched tin
Dust Pan
2006
Punched tin

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Embroidered linen
Notions Bag
2007
Embroidered linen

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Woven cotton
Overshot Runner
2007
Woven cotton

Made by Travis Meinolf. Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Earthenware
Bucket
2004
Earthenware

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Glazed earthenware
French Revolutionary Ceramics
2004
Glazed earthenware

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Braided wheat
Token
2006
Braided wheat

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Corn Husk, cotton
Doll
2006
Corn Husk, cotton

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Blown glass, leather
Mason Jar
2001
Blown glass, leather

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Hand molded felt
Mittens
2006
Hand molded felt

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Felt, pins, sequins, beads
Convalescent Soldier Pin Cushion
2005
Felt, pins, sequins, beads

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Wool, linen, silk
Phrygian Cap
2006
Wool, linen, silk

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Linen
Ruskin Lace
2005
Linen

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Needle felt
Hand Grenade Pin Cushion
2006
Needle felt

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Ceramic
US Naval Warship Tile
2007
Ceramic

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Letterpress
Trader's Tag
2007
Letterpress

Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Embroidery on cotton aida cloth
Dove Cottage Pin Cushion
2005
Embroidery on cotton aida cloth

Photo credit Cathy Carver.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny Watercolor on paper
Untitled
2007
Watercolor on paper

Exhibited in MATRIX 222 "Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Curated by Elizabeth Thomas. Collection of Elizabeth Kessinides. Photo credit Cathy Carver.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny (installation view)
2006

"Ahistoric Occasion: On the Uses of History," Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams. Curated by Nato Thompson. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Collection of The Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo credit Laura Mueller.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny
2006

"Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," Qube gallery, Oswestry Community Action, Shropshire, United Kingdom. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Co-curated by Jo Davis. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Collection of The Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo credit Qube.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny (basket detail)
2006
Please click on image again for more detail.

"Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," Qube gallery, Oswestry Community Action, Shropshire, United Kingdom. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Co-curated by Jo Davis. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Collection of The Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo credit Qube.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny (installation view)
2005
Please click on image again for more detail.

"Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," Studio Voltaire, London. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Co-curated by Joe Scotland. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Collection of The Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo credit Daphne Fitzpatrick.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny (Tea Party)
2005
Please click on image again for more detail.

"Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," Studio Voltaire, London. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Co-curated by Joe Scotland. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Photo credit Sophie Hope.

Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny (installation view)
2005
Please click on image again for more detail.

"Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," Studio Voltaire, London. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Co-curated by Joe Scotland. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Photo credit Gareth Harmer.
Allison SMITH Notion Nanny
Notion Nanny
2005

"Allison Smith: Notion Nanny," Studio Voltaire, London. Originally commissioned by B+B, Sarah Carrington and Sophie Hope. Co-curated by Joe Scotland. Supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charity, and Craftspace Touring. Collection of The Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo credit Gareth Harmer.

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