Contemporary Art Exhibitions
British Textile Biennial 2021
Connected Cloth: Exploring the global nature of textiles, The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery, Haslingden Road, Rawtenstall, BB4 6RE.
An exhibition of contemporary textile art by The 62 Group of Textile Artists for the British Textile Biennial.
The 62 Group is a highly regarded artists exhibiting group, which aims to challenge the boundaries of textile practice through an ambitious and innovative annual programme of exhibitions. Since its establishment in 1962, some of the most highly regarded British textile artists have been members of the 62 Group. Membership of the group is now international and currently includes artists from Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, and USA. The hope is to challenge viewers to consider the role that textiles play in all our lives and the many unexpected ways we find connection through cloth. https://www.62group.org.uk/exhibitions/connected-cloth-exhibition/
The theme of this year’s events focuses on the global context of textiles, textile production and the relationships it creates both historically and now.
Members of the 62 Group have created new artworks that investigate this theme from a wide range of viewpoints and divergent textile media. Several of the artists have focused on the speciﬁc relationship that Lancashire has with global textile industries.
Exhibiting artists are: Eszter Bornemisza, Lucy Brown, Hazel Bruce, Daisy Collingridge, Isobel Currie, Caren Garfen, Emily Jo Gibbs, Maggie Henton, Claire Johnson, Teresa Whitfield, Paddy Killer, Jennifer Smith-Windsor, Flox den Hartog Jager, Hannah Lamb, Debbie Lyddon, Jae Maries, Jane McKeating, Richard McVetis, Vanessa Rolf, Lynn Setterington, Kay Smith, Sally Spinks, Sue Stone.
Hazel Bruce is a well-established textile artist who teaches embroidery at Ulster University. Irish Sampler was made under the constraints of the pandemic and COVID secure conditions. The Ulster linen industry, specifically the whitework embroidery made on industrial embroidery machines by thousands of girls and young women at the turn of the 19th Century was a significant inspiration for this work. This artist acknowledged the need for hard work and precision through practice to produce good quality work, and of the potential for expressive mark making and pattern making from using machine embroidery. This piece of work represents the endless samples made when showing people how to use the machines, the meandering line, the marks, the patterns. Through such a technique understanding of the past year has been forged to honour all these women and girls who spent their lives embroidering linen. Traditional red and white Ulster quilts inspired the colour and Irish Sampler was worked on an embroidered linen cloth, reworking a domestic textile, working freely, following no pattern, making marks. Irish Sampler was one of my favourite textile pieces from this exhibition, in the flesh it was beautifully worked linen which fully respected the cloth and its provenance. I focused upon Irish Sampler for some considerable time to fully value the skill, workmanship, and expertise. The creative way the red cotton thread had been applied encouraged me to persevere with machine embroidery using vintage linen.
Hazel Bruce makes collages with fabric, cutting things up, joining pieces together and cutting again. She loves repetition, using reclaimed vintage materials with a repeat straight line and the horizontal line created when tailor tacking. More recently, she has been constructing work using Irish machine stitching on linen using a repeat satin stitch block to build up the surface in an exploratory and experimental way. https://www.textileartist.org/
As Eszter Bornemisza was already well known to me as an influential source regarding my own continuing development prior to this exhibition I was keen to see her work. I really liked her use of related materials, printing techniques and the sculptural effects from doing so. The Loop was inspired by this artists’ research into the archives of the former textile mill, the Goldberger factory in Budapest, which included weaving, printing, and tailing departments. Eszter Bornemisza was immediately attracted to the mill’s sample books as they gave an extensive history of fabric printing. Such sampling processes gave rise to links with the artist’s own experimental sampling processes throughout the years. Eszter Bornemisza utilised worn, discarded Jacquard loom card loop, which she joined together to display her many printed samples as evidenced within the sampling books from the mill. Through hand stitching the loom card loop together it created a sense of repeat which was in keeping with her narrative and using recycled materials to create minimal waste, to save everything and to throw out little. Through doing so this reminded the artist of the closed loop system where waste is recycled back into the production process as much as possible to ensure optimal efficiency of resources.
This piece of stitched applique was constructed and transformed using layers of silk organza which are commonly woven in China and India. Emily Jo Gibbs researched extensively to understand more of the mill workers experience of their work to accurately portray how they worked through photographic imagery from the mills. This portrait promoted the value of making by creating work that celebrates the skill, dexterity and the creative problem solving of people who make things. This textile artist sought to respect the work undertaken by such individuals who work with cloth, and she reflected upon their cultural differences and the silk threads that connect them.
Emily Jo Gibbs is a British Artist who over the last two decades has established an international reputation for her delicate textiles. In her current practice Emily creates hand-stitched Portraits and Still Life’s with a graphic quality, observing the quiet beauty of the overlooked. Emily has received significant critical acclaim and examples of her work are in The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Crafts Council Collection and The Museum of Fine Art, Houston. She is a member of Contemporary Applied Arts, The 62 Group of Textile Artists, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. https://www.emilyjogibbs.co.uk/
Made in Grimsby by Sue Stone documents a small lifestyle clothing brand called Anywear using applique. This textile piece highlighted an Edwardian shop premises in Grimsby as womenswear was designed & made in Grimsby from cloth that travelled from far and wide. During the lifespan of the business the need to become more commercial had replaced the ‘one off’ designs. By 2002 the designer had had enough and Anywear closed its doors. https://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/
Sue Stone is a British artist based in Grimsby, who is best known for figurative, textural compositions that often feature a fish, a symbol of her heritage. Inspired by people, place, and time the work often documents the life of those around her, which has an emphasis on hand embroidery often combined with machine stitch, appliqué, and paint. In keeping with more recent work Sue Stone focuses upon social history and collected memories which are used to create the illusion of a journey through life. Her textile work has been exhibited widely in the Uk and Europe, and in Japan, Pakistan, and the USA. As an experienced speaker and teacher Sue has delivered workshops to groups throughout the UK and in France, the USA and Canada.
Sue Stone trained in embroidery at Goldsmiths College in London before returning to her hometown of Grimsby to start a clothing and manufacturing business which she ran with my husband for 28 years returning to full time stitched artwork in 2003. Sue Stone is an exhibiting member of the internationally renowned 62 Group of Textile Artists and a Fellow of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. https://www.sparkgrimsby.co.uk/member/sue-stone/
Lynn Setterington produced a transnational quilt for this exhibition, one that spoke to all nations involved in clothing manufacture and the globalisation of textiles however for her she focused upon the story of cotton and the migration of textile workers to the UK to be employed within the mills of Lancashire. The quilt was made up of over 1200 circles of repurposed fabric from Lancashire but originally sourced from around the world to make Suffolk puffs, which was constructed over 6 months. Through the patchwork use of colour, pattern and the word global connections sewn into the quilt highlighted textiles capacity to unite and connect. http://www.lynnsetterington.co.uk/
Lynn Setterington is an internationally recognised artist working in the textiles arena and her work explores contemporary issues in society and how stitch can be used to commemorate people and communities, as a method to share with and to celebrate the everyday. She focuses upon the overlooked aspect of social history and folk art. Lynn trained at York College of Arts and Technology and Goldsmiths College London and was a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University where she was awarded a Public Engagement Fellowship. Lynn’s PhD from UCA, Farnham builds on her extensive knowledge of investigating the hidden values and tensions in stitch-based engagement including the intertwining of the ethical and aesthetic values. Her quilts and cloths are held in many major public museums including the V&A, Crafts Council, IQSC and Whitworth Art Gallery.
For Isobel Currie Overcast Stitch Globe represented the universal personal and cultural stories woven into the long history of the textile industry to see it as a globe, as a complete whole. The textile artist noted that the exploration of three-dimensional overcast stitch uses the threads to depict the repeating connections and crossing lines of textile trade and world-wide networks throughout history. Isobel Currie noted that the passage of each thread around the globe emulated point to point journeys, which reflected the range of individual trades and exchanges with the migration of people alongside materials, techniques and ideas within textile manufacture and consumption.
Isobel Currie and her love of thread and fine work was nurtured in early life and developed in her studies at Manchester Polytechnic, now Manchester Metropolitan University. She creates breathtakingly intricate work using simple, traditional hand stitches, which she puts her own twist on by exploring their three-dimensional potential. Her continuing interest is in exploring the three-dimensional nature of stitch. The way that thread travels through space, interacts with various surfaces and itself to create sculptural shapes. she seeks out three-dimensional forms that she can render in stitch. Inspiration comes from the geometric patterns, rhythms, and shapes found in natural landscapes including the beautiful combination of order and structure with variation and change.
Flox den Hartog Jager extensively researched the textile industry to create Kiss of Death. This textile artist came across an article on the Kiss of Death in the textile industry which noted the custom by weavers of sucking on the shuttle to pull the thread through the spool. This custom of Kissing the Shuttle was often done by every weaver over 300 times a day. Unfortunately by doing so infectious diseases were often passed on within the factory especially tuberculosis during the 19th and early 20th century. This custom was abolished by law in 1952.
Flox den Hartog Jager was interested in stitch from early life as well as the more intellectual pursuit of studying symbols, religion and mythology, which has been the greatest influence on her work. Flox den Hartog Jager tells stories through fabric manipulation and stitch to create metaphorical interpretations of angels, demons, and Apocalyptic motifs. This textile artist often preps her fabrics with a variety of techniques, especially monoprinting and resist and uses stencils and hand embroidery to create mythical visual tales including the use of monoprinting, wax and flour resists. As and when a preferred image is realised she starts making a background mostly with thin white ink-stained muslin and then pins the paper stencils on the cloth and hand embroiders freely around them from piles of pieces of textile that have been worked on before using monoprint, discharge, resist, screenprint, batik, etc, to create the atmosphere and composition. https://www.textileartist.org/
The making of Belt originated from lengthy research processes including the investigation of the poor working conditions which were experienced globally in the textile industry. Debbie Lyddon however focused upon the local working conditions of those textile workers in Lancashire textile mills during the industrial revolution and how they coped in such unhealthy and dangerous work environments. Often the mill workers would tap their feet, heel to toe and toe to heel, in time to the rhythm of the machines to keep warm and to life their mood which led onto complex clog dancing which copied the rhythmic repetitions of the machinery in use. Belt therefore is a score, a visualisation of the continuous, recurring rhythms made by the moving parts of textile machines which were originally recorded at Quarry Bank Mill. (The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery, 2021).
As noted by Debbie Lyddon she is an artist and maker whose creative practice includes mixed media cloths, sculptures, installations and drawing. Her interest lies in how we perceive natural phenomena – air, wind, water, light and sound – in the environment. Inspiration comes from walking, noticing and collecting. As an artist and a classically trained musician, her work is not only inspired by things that can be seen but also by things that can be heard and touched. Her practice explores coastal locations and the processes of change that are engendered on the landscape and the objects in it. Debbie Lyddon strives to evoke a multi-sensory interpretation of her surroundings and to promote an awareness of the relationship between the visual, aural and tactile landscape. https://www.textileartist.org/
Sally Spinks investigated and used flock as one of the worlds oldest reuse and recycle processes as it uses tiny cotton or wool fibres which have resulted from fabric production. Through flock coming from repeat patterns and having the potential to be joined to form a continuous and connected lattice and new larger designs her artwork emulated this process with hand-tufted carpets (The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery, 2021).
Sally Spinks has a natural curiosity around the changing nature of class and channels this interest using predominately hand tufted and knitted textiles to create artworks that question our relationship to the medium as well as how we perceive our place in the world. She is interested in how economic developments have shifted both the notion of class and the rise of the culture of ‘me’ rather than the collective aspiration of ‘we’ with the impact this has on our lives, relationships and the way we work. Exploring the use of code in this context and how this becomes inclusive or exclusive depending on perception, your place in the class system and your sense of belonging has been central to her practice. Using code to cover, conceal or divert attention from our inability to talk openly about certain issues, including mental health, is a subject that she is currently researching to inform her most recent works. the medium of textiles, especially anything wool or yarn related, and aims to use her work to push the boundaries of how the medium is perceived in the wider art world. She also chooses to use natural fibres and British wool where possible in her work. Her pieces range from large site-specific installations, such as knitting with vast amounts of heat ducting, to incredibly small and detailed works using cotton thread on tiny 1mm knitting needles. Repetition in both the stitches she uses as well as making several versions or series of the same work is also a major feature of her art. https://www.62group.org.uk/artist/sally-spinks/
Hannah Lamb noted that this exhibition aims to challenge viewers to consider the role that textile plays in all our lives and the many unexpected ways we find connection through cloth. The work itself took inspiration from the stories hidden within printers and dyers notebooks of the 18th and 19th century. Through the archive collections this textile artist was able to access considerable information concerning the dye recipes, technical notes and samples of cloth which reflected the latest innovations in the textile industries of the north of England. That said Hannah Lamb acknowledged that such archives were devoid of the much more complex and multi-layered narrative. The British textile industries represent a global story which included the exploitation of people, cultural property and identity, and the destruction of natural habitats. Hannah Lamb sought to represent these incomplete stories visually through textiles, print, stitch and mixed media work. https://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/whats-on/connected-cloth-exploring-the-global-nature-of-textiles
Hannah Lamb noted that the relationship I have with textiles as an artist is both my creative media and my muse. Cloth is ever present in our lives, from cradle to grave. That close relationship allows us to convey meaning through a common language of tactility, texture and movement. The textile artist said that she works in deeply emotional and personal ways to generate the ideas behind some of the pieces. She works with contrasting materials and effects; vintage chintz and softly quilted materials suggest a romantic vision of domesticity; while blackened, torn and bound materials represent turmoil and change alongside layers of different techniques and materials to create a sense of time and subtle variations of surface. The work is not all planned out beforehand but instead allows for elements to come together, building things up and joining pieces through time. https://www.selvedge.org/blogs/selvedge/poetic-cloth-interview-with-hannah-lamb