Norwich’s Duvet of Love

PUBLISHED: 10:15 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:15 27 February 2020

David Shenton's Duvet of Love  Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

David Shenton's Duvet of Love Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Norfolk Museums Service

You can’t help peering closely, pointing out your favourites, feeling nostalgic, and above all being moved by this heartfelt labour of love.

David Shenton's Duvet of Love  Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceDavid Shenton's Duvet of Love Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

The Duvet of Love is a mosaic made with thousands of pin badges collected by artist, illustrator and cartoonist David Shenton throughout his life, starting with his Cycling Proficiency badge earned in the 1950s.

He wore badges during his years as an art student in the 1960s celebrating pop groups and hippy culture but also collected advertising and holiday camp badges to add to the collection.

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In 1970 David moved to Norwich, still collecting badges, some advertising local businesses and events such as the pantomime at Norwich Theatre Royal and even a badge produced by the Eastern Daily Press. It was during this time that David came out and his collection grew to include political badges calling for Gay Rights, supporting the Anti-Nazi League and the miners' strike and from the 1980s onwards raising awareness about HIV and AIDS. During the 1980s two of his close friends from Norwich, Martin and Nicolas, died of HIV and as David says in a statement accompanying the donation: "The picture isn't a portrait of Martin and Nicolas, it's just a memorial of my time in Norwich, with the local badges, of my friends, with the political and LGBT+ badges, and the tragedy of their deaths with the red AIDS ribbons… and yet I tried to make the picture as loving and happy as I could."

The Duvet of Love by David Shenton - an EDP badge. Picture: Norfolk Museums ServiceThe Duvet of Love by David Shenton - an EDP badge. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

The collection of badges alone is a social historian's dream; but David has transformed his collection into a work of art. Initially arranging them into a rainbow formation, he created the Duvet of Love in the early 1990s for an exhibition and the badges have stayed put ever since. The composition and graphic style of the figures reflect David's practice as a cartoonist and the way the image is built with small units or 'pixels' of colour is also reminiscent of knitting pattern designs. Knitting is another creative medium used by David in his artistic practice to create knitted medals, storyboards for cartoons and even a knitted protest placard - its message? "Kindly Ease The Tension."

For the past few years the Duvet of Love has been on display in the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell to coincide with Norwich's Pride March in July. This summer it will take pride of place in the Textile Treasures exhibition at Norwich Castle which opens on the day of the Pride March, July 26, and runs until September 6. In this show the duvet will be placed next to another wall hanging, this one made by an engaged couple in 1890s Great Yarmouth, a scrapbook quilt with applique and embroidered motifs of everyday life and popular culture, not a million miles away from a collection of badges. Further along the same wall will be a panel from Anna Margaretta Brereton's patchwork bed-hangings which she made as a therapy while grieving for her son. These three objects, separated by 200 years express love and friendship, joy and grief, giving an insight into people's lives through the textiles they created.

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