Salts Mill where the exhibition is held was the largest textile factory in the world when it was built in 1853 and could produce 18 miles of alpaca cloth every day.
The exhibition fills the upper floor which was the old spinning room, and shows the work of 23 textile artists who were each chosen to create site sensitive work. The history of this amazing space is palpable and has inspired each artist in uniquely different ways.
Lesley Millar gave a fantastic tour of the exhibition and explained each of the pieces of work in such a brilliantly accessible way with enormous enthusiasm, it was a real pleasure.
Masae Bamba has based her work on her daughters first attempts at writing as a means of capturing the memory before it is lost. Indigo dyed cloth printed with the Japanese characters her daughter wrote. In Japan there is a legend that the Japanese alphabet was thrown into the sea and washed up on the shore and the order of the alphabet has been kept. The piece of work created resembles the froth of the sea on a shore line, and beautifully captures these ideas.
My personal favourite at the exhibition, Caroline Bartlett’s work is stunning. Using a collection of textile samples that have personal resonance to her, pressed into roundels of porcelain. These imprints are placed into the center of wool fabric that is stretched within embroidery hoops. The fabric missing from the imprints is embroidered in (replaced/recreated) over the stitched fabric. The hanging sides are dyed as if to convey the absorption of the history of the place from the dirt of the floor. Beautiful and very moving with an almost ghostly essence, these really were fantastic.
A series of sacks hanging in the gallery space, weighty and heavy, they look like they could have been there for years. Detritus has collected underneath which adds to the feeling of time passing but the sacks are also tethered as if to stop them (memories) floating away.
Caren Garfen has undertaken a stunning amount of work. Based on meticulous research on the lives of women who worked at the mill, each woman has been immortalised with a wooden cotton reel that has a ‘memory plaque’ detailing information about their work.
Inspired by the flagstone floor, Diana Harrison’s work comprises of sourced cotton handkerchief’s that have been over-dyed with black and discharge printed. They are laid on the floor following the lines of the flagstones. Handkerchief’s would have been seen as a special item only used for special occasions but are rarely used nowadays (a distant memory).
Katherine Hinsberg measured the width and length of the whole spinning room with a single red thread. She then used the thread to weave the physical memory of the room as an open weave cloth at a ratio of 1:100.
Inspired by the peeling walls, Peta Jacobs has created a ghostly essence of the past by screen printing an archive photograph of members of the Bradford wool exchange using the devoré technique to take away the essence of the past.
Two sweaters knitted without a pattern. She then reconstructed the two sweaters, the second with cut parts from the first and the first darned with patches from elsewhere. She reworks knitting as a way of holding on to the past and restoring memories.
This artist has collected the waste product from spooling silk and compressed it into cubes. A cocoon weighs 0.5g and each cube weighs 2 kilos which equates to 2,000 cocoons. A way of immortalising the lives of the silk worms as well as the lives of the factory workers who worked at Salts Mill.
When Karina Thompson first visited the space for the exhibition her first reaction was to run the length of the room. She monitored her heart rate and recorded her footprints in the factory dirt as she ran the length of the room 15 times, to represent the amount of fabric that could be produced at Salts Mill. She then digitally embroidered a length of textile 100mx0.5m which has been laid along the floor.
Carefully placed cooked rice placed jewel like onto silk threads, Yoriko Yoneyama has created a huge chandelier of work that shines in the light from the skylights. Historically rice was a precious commodity in Japan but is now freely wasted without a thought. Mirrors placed around the piece represent the water that is required to grow rice and also in the process of textile production.