The Bradford Textile Archive is held at Bradford College, West Yorkshire. It houses a wide range of textiles, sample books, ledgers and books relating to the textile industry in Bradford and also items specific to the College's long history of textile education, such as student work books. As a lecturer at Bradford College I am lucky enough to have regular access to the archive and last year based a project on the use of archives in creative practice. As luck would have it, around the same time archivist Helen Farrar was putting together an Arts Council bid for an exhibition called Pick & Mix. For the exhibition 22 artists and makers (including my friend Claire Wellesley-Smith) were invited to respond to the archive, creating work across a range of media.
My own work took inspiration from the contents of one brown archive box, which represents the working life of Bradford textile designer and former student Mr George Arnold Stead. The documents represent his personal record of designs created during a lifetime in textiles. The box also contains mementos and pamphlets from the Listers Mill.
I chose to interpret a 7 metre length of Stead's point paper designs as a ‘ghost’ of the original, stripped of its original meaning as a technical weave document. Working with tracing paper and cross stitch I started to map out the designs. Using stitch references the largely forgotten manufacture of sewing and embroidery threads in Bradford, of which Lister’s was a world leader before the 1930’s.
The mammoth task of stitching the work took much longer than I realised. I worked almost non-stop during Christmas do complete it. Most definitely a very slow act of making...
...the final stitch (above) but not the end of making. Part way through making the stitched piece I realised it would work well as a negative for cyanotype. So I created a partner piece in silk, capturing the ghost of the blocks of pattern and stitched details. It was slightly nerve wracking creating such a big blueprint but fortunately it worked out pretty well.
The final step was hanging the work, called 'Draft'.