Commissioned to participate in ‘Cloth & Memory II’, a site-specific exhibition located in the Unesco World Heritage Site: Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorkshire in 2013. The exhibition featured 23 artists drawn from a UK and international cohort, curated by Lesley Miller Professor of Textile Culture, University for the Creative Arts. The space 168m x 16m was the original Spinning Room, with the unrestored peeling walls and floors still holding the smells and marks of oil and wool.
‘Production Line : Peoples Lives’
Installation. Eight recesses 31cm x 93cm x 28cm with individual works of various sizes from 15cm x 5cm x 12cm to 21cm x 10cm x 20cm.
Technique: Hand felted artist made needle felt and transfer printing.
Materials: Merino wool tops, alpaca and silk fibres and threads. Second hand cloth, transfer ink and stiffening medium.
Felt is a silencing material. It absorbs sound and memory.
The continual line of minature cloth legnths hold motionless memories in the folds. Of the expansive noise and moving threads of the spinning machines within the intimate quiet recesses of the bobbin holders.
Not all detail is revealed, colour and surfaces hide within. As with the original Salts sample books of which only two remain. Specific cultural colours of social history and patterns influenced by colonialism only imerge when unfolding the pages. An inticing suggestion of the secrets glimpsed within are the frayed threads slipping between the paper edges.
The exposed tangeled edge of threads are in contrast to the worn cloth fragments carrying traces of human activities and lives embedded within. A shadow which we have to seek, peer into the folds for the individual.
Marks of hand labour: labelling and classifying, collected and stacked from the ledgers and pattern books from later local mills. Lines of materials ordered and cloth made, the product of dexterity, skills and inventiveness.
Contstructing the minatures evoke childhood reminiscences as thread is unravelled from bobbins saved from a visit to a silk mill where a great uncle worked. Or a mother’s collection of wooden spools of thread; an inheritated line of collections and creativity.
The line of mass production is represented by the use of industrial made needle felt. Created by the artist during a residency at Huddersfield University retaining memories of previous projects and working spaces. Manipulated into folding book forms by hand felting additional fibres and threads, including alpaca, silk and cotton.
The labelled books suggest a souviner, an object which moves history into ones personal space. A commodified memory of a heritage site and a cultural experience. Picking up threads of past lives.
© Jeanette Appleton 2018