Wednesday 29 November 2017

The Textile Stories Study Day - Working Textiles: Textile Workers

The Textile Stories Study Day - Working Textiles: Textile Workers
Saturday 14th April 2018, 9.30am - 4.00pm

The Guildhall, University Centre Shrewsbury, Frankwell Quay,  Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ
Tickets: £25.00 including lunch and refreshments

This Textile Stories Study Day, in collaboration with the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings Visitor Centre in Shrewsbury, will explore textiles in relation to work, working people and working practices.  There will be talks, displays and demonstrations which will examine textiles from many different angles.

From smocks, to tatting, to workers' experiences in the Flax Mill, to the cotton mills of Manchester, the event will examine many of the interesting ideas and histories associated with working with fabric.

This will be the sixth Textile Stories Study Day to be organised by the English Department, University Chester and is designed for anyone interested in textiles and their fascinating stories.

There will be a variety of stalls selling textile products, along with demonstrations and informational areas.

To book a place please use the following link on the University of Chester's Storefront site:
Book a place: The Textile Stories Study Day - Working Textiles: Textile Workers

For more information contact Professor Deborah Wynne:

Monday 15 May 2017

The Story of Silk: A Study Day at the Silk Museum, Macclesfield.

The fifth Textile Stories Study Day took place on 1st April 2017 at the Silk Museum, Macclesfield. The day focused on exploring the history, manufacture and uses of silk.


The event started off with a lecture by Dr Katherine Wilson, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Chester and an expert in European luxury fabrics of the late medieval period. In a fascinating talk, titled Europe's Rich Fabric: The Growth of Luxury Textiles, Dr Wilson discussed the development of the silk trade in Italy, the Netherlands and France, and how it contributed to a consumer boom in luxury goods. Focusing on Dijon in France, she explained that an examination of the wills and inventories of shopkeepers and merchants showed that silk goods, and other luxury textiles, were widely owned and bequeathed after death. Her talk was wonderfully illustrated with images of beautifully decorated silken items, from cloaks to altar cloths.

Following Katherine’s talk, participants were able to enjoy a guided tour of the silk museum’s facilities, which included viewing items from the collection which were not normally on display and seeing the looms in action. It was possible to get a sense of how the workers at the silk mill must have felt as they worked the machinery in rather cramped and noisy conditions.

A practical session was offered in the form of a creative workshop, Crafting Silk Stories. This was organised by Emily Wilkinson, an artist and poet who takes her inspiration from the natural world and textiles. Emily encouraged participants to create books based on their personal responses to and ideas about silk. Using text, images and scraps of fabric, people created some fascinating small books to take home and keep.

The final talk of the day, Taming the Wild': Thomas Wardle's transformation of the wild silks of India was given by Dr Brenda King, Chair of the Textile Society. She spoke about Thomas Wardle, a local silk manufacturer whose experiments with natural dyes and Indian tussar silks prompted William Morris to travel to Leek to study with him. Dr King explained how problematic the dyeing of raw silk had been until Wardle found ways to use plants to produce silks in wonderful colours. She also discussed the work of Wardle’s wife, Elizabeth, who taught embroidery and was responsible for many of the exquisite church textiles which were created as part of the Arts and Crafts Movement.


Participants also brought beautiful examples of silk items with them, which were a joy to see, meanwhile the till was busy ringing as people bought books, scarves, ties, handkerchiefs and postcards in the Museum’s gift shop.

Deborah Wynne, Professor of English at the University of Chester and Sue Hughes, Director of the Silk Museum, collaborated on the organisation of this event. They would like to thank Jan Gibson for taking the photographs and Brenda Rewhorn for helping with the workshop.
Our next study day will focus on textiles and working people and will take place in April 2018 in Shrewsbury. More details will follow in the near future.

Monday 30 January 2017

An Interview with Emily Wilkinson

Deborah Wynne asks Emily about her practice as a poet and artist.
DW:  You use text quite often in your art, do the words inspire the artwork, or does the art inspire the words?
EW: They usually evolve at the same time, I find that making visual work evokes a mood which then informs the language I am attracted to, and vice versa. Having said that, I sometimes write words inspired by a visual piece or a photograph, but don’t often come up with artwork based on pre-existing words.
DW: How do you source the materials in your textile art and collages?
EW: I collect magazines, second hand books, postcards and bits of ephemera. It helps to be a bit of a hoarder! I also save scraps of nice paper and offcuts of fabric. Most of the fabrics I use are second hand; either finds from charity shops or old things I cut up. I also create my own surfaces by putting papers and fabrics through processes to make texture and alter colours. Scrapstores are a great resource too, and luckily we have one locally in Church Stretton. 
DW: The natural world seems to be a considerable inspiration for your work – why is this the case?
EW: I’m a country girl at heart and feel happiest when surrounded by nature or not far from wild places. By working creatively with or in landscapes I think we explore our inner emotional worlds. I suppose that for some people that might be cities or urban environments, but for me it’s mountains and oceans. I also find our connection as humans to the natural world fascinating, and care about protecting the environment. 
DW: What are the challenges of creating 3D artwork?
EW: Some of my 3D work is actually quite flat so in a way it’s not so different to working with collage, just in relief. With items such as my paper shoes it’s more like creating a garment from a pattern, these are quite fiddly to make however! I haven’t worked on a large scale in 3D which is where the real challenge would probably come in. 
DW: What are your favourite textile fabrics to work with?
EW: As mentioned earlier I like to work with second hand fabrics to give them a new life, I also like the sense of history and stories they carry. Wool is lovely to work with and I enjoy other natural fibres like linen, bamboo and silk which is one of the reasons I am really looking forward to working with you at Macclesfield Silk Museum next April.
DW: What inspires you to create book arts?
EW: I’ve always loved books and have read a lot since early childhood. I love them as tactile, comforting, intriguing objects and am not draw to kindles or e-books in the slightest! 
DW: How did your film poem, Lines of Flight develop?
EW: It came out of a series of conversations with a friend (and other writer of the piece) Jeppe Dyrendom Grauggard who I met through the Dark Mountain Project ( At the time he was living in Berlin and I in Scotland, and after talking about subjects like home, nomadism and belonging we started an exchange where we filmed clips from the environments we lived in and started writing from them. We were very pleased indeed when it got screened at the Antwerp Filmpoem Festival about three years ago. 
Emily Wilkinson will be running a creative workshop at the Story of Silk event at Macclesfield Silk Museum on 1st April 2017. To find out more about this event, see the previous blog post or email: