Three Established Textiles Groups in the North

The North of England has long been a heartland for exciting Textiles work.

Textile manufacturing and design has been a Northern tradition since the beginnings of the industry, way back in the 18th Century.

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, Britain was slowly becoming one of the biggest economical powers in the world. At that time, power and money was made with trade. Through the slow extension of their colonial empire, the businessmen of Britain were finding better, more efficient ways of trading the raw materials needed for textiles production, from the indigenous people of other countries, in return for the smallest of trinkets.

Although we might be able to look back on the ‘work’ that the pioneers of the British Empire carried out as rather brutal and exploitative, if it weren’t for these hard-headed men, then the explosion of the Textiles industry might never have happened.

The sheer magnitude of the British trade operation meant that by the mid-nineteenth century there were over 10,000 buildings dedicated to the production of cotton, wool, flax, hemp, jute and silk. Although these buildings cropped up all over the country, never were they more prevalent than up in the North of Britain. The goods and money might have flowed through London, but many of the finest specimens of British textiles was stitched together in Northern towns like Manchester, Birmingham and, of course, Leeds.

From the mid-twentieth century onwards, the British Empire was beginning to lose it’s economic power over the rest of the world. Commonwealth countries began to demand more of their colonists, foreign powers such as China began to develop winning industrial methods and competition caused thousands of mills to close down.

Britain might not be the Textiles powerhouse that it once was, but a thriving art and design scene still exists here, with Northern groups of artists at the forefront of the movement.

These five groups are consistently working through the North of England, producing new art, holding workshops and hosting exhibitions. Check them out here to see what they’re what up to this year:

Textile 21

The textiles artists of Textiles 21 have been producing and exhibiting their work around unique locations in the North for nearly 10 years now. Their members vary from silk specialists Nabila Nagi, who takes her inspiration from the relationship between human nature and the wider nature of the earth, to Norma Hopkins, whose use of allegory and symbolism is expressed through computer textile design.

See their work at: Shaped by Time from 1st Oct 2017-4th Feb 2018 at Ordsall Hall, Ordsall


Formed in 1995, Threadmill have been meeting regularly since their inception and are constantly working to innovate and explore new avenues of design in the world of Textiles. Many of the artists who collaborate in this group are teachers or instructors who are seeking to develop their own skills outside of their work environment – like Jenny Morgan who uses a mixture of computerised domestic work and hand-stitching to tell the story of her own development.

See their work: The Silk Route (The Neverending Journey) from 16th September 2017 to 10th November 2017 at The Silk Museum, Macclesfield

36 Lime Street

One of the oldest and largest studios for textile artists in the North, 36 Lime Street is the home for over 40 different artists and designers who work in a broad range of styles and disciplines. Housed in a former flax mill, the artists are spread over a massive five floors where they have been collaborating and innovating since the studio’s inception in 1983.

See their work: Mani Kambo | Jaunus from 8th September to 17th September 2017 and David Orme from 29th September 2017 to 8th October 2017 at 36 Lime Street Gallery, Newcastle

Memories of Bayeux & More Tapestries

I was fortunate enough recently to take a trip to the gorgeous town of Bayeux to visit the eponymous tapestry.

69 meters of surprisingly vibrant material stretch around the cramped exhibition rooms, telling the story of William the Conqueror’s Invasion of England. The piece was estimated to be finished in the 11th Century, around 1078. That such a work has been looked after and protected for so long, is a real testament to the historical importance that it holds.Normans_Bayeux

As you walk slowly around the room, you can practically breathe in the history. Gazing at the sheer variety of stitchwork styles and patterns, you can tell that many different people had worked on this. Like the grandest of Cathedrals, the tapestry was completed over a great deal of time. It took approximately a decade to complete, or so historians believe, having been commissioned at some point in the 1070s.

You can listen to a laughably dated audio guide as you walk round. With the press of a button, it will describe to you the separate panels on the walls giving valuable context and historical facts. Put the audio guide down though, and you can still understand the narrative that is being told – that’s how illustrative these panels are.

I’d remembered studying it as a child, but never fully understanding its purpose or full meaning.

Tapestry is a medium that is seldom used in today’s modern circles. Of course, there are a few artists who utilise it to good effect.

Two such artists jump to mind. Both have had works exhibited in Liverpool’s wonderful Walker Art Gallery, just a short train ride away from our home here in Leeds.tabitha-moses
Charles Saatchi’s chosen son, Grayson Perry is one of these. His collection of textiles The Vanity of Small Differences, was a mammoth work of grotesqueness. Similarly to the Bayeux Tapestry, Perry’s work told a story, however this was one of acute social relevance. Covering issues such as police brutality, LGBT rights and bigotry – these colourful works were both accessible and challenging in the same breath,

Similarly colourful, yet brutally honest and wonderfully brave – Tabitha Moses’ Liverpool Art Prize Winning Investment catalogues the emotional journey that the artist and her husband embarked on, when they discovered their infertility. An abstract piece, Moses’ pieces are just as large as Perry’s yet they intimate a much quieter, desolate emotional landscape. Just as colourful yet not as brash or loud.

The tapestry is an art form worth following and supporting. The time and planning that goes into one’s conception has not cheapened over the ages.  

From the Bayeux Tapestry to Perry and Tabitha’s astonishing works, they catalogue human life in an intimate and hard-earned fashion.

Leeds And Its Hard Edges

Brute as in unchanged or original, as in ‘raw’. It all comes from ‘béton brut’ meaning simply ‘raw concrete’. And that is the origin core of ‘Brutalism’ the architectural style that was a dominant part of the modernism movement in Architecture which reached out from the 1950’s and through to the 1970’s. For a period of time, for a reason many struggle to truly grasp quite why this style became so popular. And it is strange: it seems so quickly obvious to us that the style is ugly and just, well, brutish!



Yet they do, to many, have an enduring appeal and perhaps even a beauty. Such architecture may not be popular these days with almost all Architects rejecting anything approaching such a un-aesthetically pleasing style. That’s the case which is a shame for all those out there who find such beauty in these hard edges and big grey expanses. There are many buildings like this in Leeds, spread out north, west, east and south. Across the university (as presented beautifully in the picture above) and throughout the centre.


Very much ‘throughout’ the city centre actually, as there is no particular area or district in which Brutalism holds sway over all. It is perhaps somewhat more common in the north of the city where lies the business district, never one to shower itself in aesthetic glory if we’re honest…


We recognize these grey brutal edges and structures from around all of Leeds if we’re honest, though they are certainly on the decline. Very few architects are working with the style these days and many of the Brutalist buildings around Leeds have been demolished or are potentially in the firing line. But for me these shapes and colours have an enduring appeal that I think should not be dismissed. Sure, they are not the prettiest buildings in the city, but they can feel exactly how they where once intended to feel: ambitious, democratic, egalitarian, futuristic, public and, in certain lights at certain times, beautiful.

Architectural Emporium (Architects from Liverpool), recently revamped the famous Castleton Mill, showing that even the most derelict buildings can have new life breathed into them with a little innovation.


As is said: in certain lights at certain times.

Of light and the city: the art of neon

The history of the city is a story of darkness and light. It is a story of conflict. The darkness tries to swallow the city everyday, and the light fights it back. In early London very few streets would be lit at night meaning that when it was dark, it simply was dark. There was no lifeline of light through the blackness, the rules of the day where rewritten and the streets where owned by the daring and the desperate. It is hard to operate power when you cannot see your subject and you cannot see yourself, power is to an extent built on a superiority of knowledge and ability, of equipment and know how, but the authority that lives in the light can evaporate in the dark. The dark is dangerous, because the dark is democratic. Cities though are definied by their stubborn unwillingness to allow the dark to stop them, cities need all hours of the day, cities need to live in the darkness. Cities need light. something strange

There is something permanently and mysteriously beautiful about neon. Even when you can see every fitting and every wire it still seems to be floating magically in mid air. It penetrates the darkness in such a way that it seems to be written onto the world itself. Nothing could be more of the city than this: neon plays with and recreates reality just as the city does, by the time it is finished it is the man made, rather than the natural, that has become the overbearing sub-structure of our reality. Neon writes in the air and is undeniable. It is beautiful.



My love affair with neon goes back to being a first year art student from the deep dark country side arriving in the big city for the first time. Though various mistakes and poor organisation ended up getting of on the last train and wondering out into a city shrouded in darkness. Wondering down seedy streets that seemed to jump out of some old film noir detective drama or gangster movie, I saw neon as the definition of all that was urban life. Garish and beautiful, dangerous and daring, bright and terrifying. Yet all the time somehow inviting.

‘Bar Martini’ one of the beautiful neon signs.

Neon is not as every present as it once was in the city, so it needs to be celebrated now more than ever. I plan to celebrate it at any opportunity, in the house and out the window. To all I say: get neon, show neon, use neon. It is what the city is about.



Art and the City Part 1: Purpose and Artifice.

I want to think about something today. I want to think about the relationship between the urban spaces which the majority of us live in and how these modern worlds are influenced and populated by art, in both its recognised and un-recognised forms. Public art has a fascinating history and is reaching a point now where it is become more integrated into the landscape and is finding place and purpose amongst are cities in more novel and varied ways than ever before. We no longer look only for the statue rising up in the centre of the town square or the sculpture tiding over the green park, we are talking about artists using the city as a canvas in scales both grand and modest.


A-maze-ing Laughter by Yue Minjun, Vancouver

Urbanisation has reached such a peak that the term itself now almost feels redundant, the world does not feel like it is urbanising. It has urbanised. The world is urban.  The vast majority of current living people live in cities and the vast majority were born there. They have not been urbanised. This is their home, the only home they know. This is their natural environment. And art is part of that environment, but how does it relate?

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“Guns” by David Černý, Prague

When Art is making a comment on society and life, what is the point of that comment just being shouted behind social lock and key in some gallery or museum? If you have something to say and you think it matters you should say it loud where the most people can hear it no? Why whisper it to a few of your friends? That is the way of cowardice. Art should never be cowardly.


Guerilla Girls, Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum? (1990), New York

The above was a billboard for the Public Art Fund in New York designed by feminist art collective ‘Guerilla Girls’. They were given the opportunity to speak to the city, and they yelled. Their work is (clearly) particularly explicit, it tells the people exactly what it is they are angry about in no uncertain terms. Our city streets should be exactly the forum for this kind of debate, this is why we need public art to be commissioned not by council people and politicians who must justify their choices at all times, great art is never made by committee. The ‘public’ in ‘public art’ refers only to location, not to designer or controller. The artist is the controller. Long may they reign.

Art in the Home

Here at Leeds Tapestry we are not just interested in public art, though we would never wish to reduce its importance, we feel that art can and should imbue all aspects of one’s daily life with beauty and meaning. We know the transformative power of art and beauty and we feel that on some level everybody knows this power. We all listen to a particular song at a particular time and are moved to tears. We all see a certain picture at a certain time and have to stop and feel some things for a short while. We have all stopped and stared at something beautiful, something awe-inspiring, something that transforms your world and you. Something great. That is Art, no matter what.


The Sistine Chapel. Most certainly art.

What I am hoping to be getting at here is that art is not always something that happens with in a picture frame, it is not the reserve of the artists and the elites, the galleries and the Gary-Art-Farty’s of this world. It can and should belong to all of us and it DOES belong to all of us. It is everywhere, it is in your house, you make it, like, all the time.

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I painted this. It depicts Mr and Mrs Tony Blair.

The reason this is all coming to me is that we had a conservatory installed last week and it just had a very profound effect on me. It is really hard to describe. i just felt like, I don’t know, like I was inside and outside at the same time. It is just incredible, I don’t know how they do it.

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Damn you glass deception trap!

We got a conservatory from Allerton Windows in Bootle and it really is beautiful, it is art in our house and it really is beautiful. And the men and women who put it up where artists. It was all very impressive and I’m trying to appreciate it every time I see it. So I’m writing this to implore you  to do the same. Appreciate what is around you a little more, and please tell us what it is you’e found to appreciate. We wan’t to know! We must know! PLEASE LET US KNOW!


We are so alone.

The Art Lover’s Guide to Leeds

Like many of England’s largest cities, Leeds has a thriving art scene which is fascinating both to its own citizens as well as to those visiting from all over the world. From the traditional Leeds Art Gallery to the trendy White Cloth Gallery, it has something for everyone who loves arts and crafts.

Leeds Art Gallery

This is usually the first stop for many on their artistic exploration of Leeds, or Yorkshire for that matter. The collection within is considered to have national importance, featuring works from local artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore as well as Rodin and Francis Bacon, and is one of the best organisations of twentieth century British art anywhere in the country.

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Gallery Munro House

An independent venue run by two out-of-towners, the Gallery Munro House is strictly focused on photography, fine art and illustration, and has a surprisingly quick turnaround of pieces. The Gallery, which is owned by two Central St Martins alumni, is also frequently used for the Leeds Student Photography Festival and brief pop-up events.

Craft Centre and Design Gallery

While you won’t see any famous artists here, you could be in for a real treat! This venue both shows and sells independent artwork from the UK, and exhibits as many as 300 different artists at a time. The artwork displayed is constantly changing, especially with dedicated season exhibitions, and hosts a wonderfully eclectic mix of materials and inspirations.


The Bono Art Gallery

Thankfully this isn’t a gallery dedicated to the U2 singer but named after its owner Robert Bono of Italy. Around ten miles outside of the city centre in the small town of Otley you can experience Mediterranean abstract art from Bono with his distinctive double-sided paintings. Local talents are also given a good showcase, with different exhibitions every month.


Street Art

Art in Liverpool goes far beyond the doors of the numerous art galleries, and out into the streets where passers-by get to experience it close up. From signs instructing people to “Go throw yourself into the sea” at Clarence Dock, to graffiti under the railway archers, to massive steel curtains and philosophical junction  boxes, it’s best to keep your eyes peeled when exploring the city.


Further Afield

If you feel like stepping out of Leeds for the day, there are many wonderful places nearby to enjoy a little creativity. The York Art Gallery holds a lot of traditional pieces of art, but around the city you will frequently find pop-up graffiti murals and even ice sculptures and ice vodka luges. For more permanent pieces, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield makes for an interesting walk, and the Media Museum in Bradford is perfect for people whose ideal art involves film, television, photography and animation.

While some may still see art galleries as dusty buildings filled with paintings of aristocrats – don’t worry, there are still a few of these – they can be so much more, and no more so than in Leeds. The next time you visit choose carefully which gallery, museum or street art you peruse – things change quickly in the art world and it would be a shame to miss a thing!

Five Tips to Make Your Caravan Trip Less Stressful

Owning your own caravan or motor home is great fun, especially when the holidays roll around, but there are a few accessories that would make it much more comfortable and enjoyable, especially if you’re staying a way from holiday homes. Just some of these are:


  • Motorhome or caravan levellers, for use with a fridge. Unlike normal home fridges, some fridges that you find in caravans don’t have compressors, so in order for it to work well it needs to be level or four degreees either side. This is important when you run a three way fridge, whether it’s gas, 120 volt or 240 volt.


  • A spirit level! Check that your motorhome is pretty much level so that all of your appliances will work at their best. There are different shapes to choose from and can be mounted in a few places although near the jockey wheel tends to be most convenient, allowing for quick adjustments.


  • If you caravan has a shower, a toilet and a full kitchen, you might need more than the two standard water tanks which are often installed. A fresh water drinking hose which has been made just for caravans is designed so that leaving it out in the sun doesn’t affect the quality of the water, as it would with a normal garden. You should also have a waste water hose that can be rolled up, with a smooth bore internally to prevent water staying in the pipe to rot or spread.


  • The Couple Mate is an incredibly handy invention for anyone towing a caravan. It’s a self-aligning accessory that makes it possible to locate the trailer’s coupling without needed physical guidance. It doubles up as a theft deterrent, as it can be padlocked together once fitted. It’s perfect for anyone travelling although particularly revolutionary for solo travellers.


  • Towing mirrors are some of the most valuable pieces of kit in your collection. Although the type of them varies on your own vehicle, what mirrors are on the vehicle being towed and what you like yourself, there is a wide range to choose from. Newer, ratchet-type mirrors for caravans are now the most successful in all kinds of vehicles as they’re much less likely to be torn off.


With the correct accessories, your time in the caravan can be much easier and simpler than before – and by reducing the stress of things going wrong you will have more time to enjoy the experience of being out on the road. So stock up now before your next holiday!


The Best Art Galleries In Yorkshire

The creative and confident spirit of Yorkshire can be witnessed from its diverse and wide range of art galleries, museums and craft centres. From the art exhibitions in urban centres and art galleries in market towns, to the mighty sculptures in parks, there are a lot of talent and potential that still remains untapped. Art In Yorkshire is an event established and organized to get more people involved in appreciating and exploring the various art galleries in the region. These celebrations aim to promote these local galleries that are funded publicly so as to support the rich culture of art in Yorkshire.

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There is an art fund set aside where millions are raised every year through public collections. The revenue is used to purchase the various works of art to promote the various talented individuals and groups. As you plan to take your visit across Yorkshire, you should first get to know the various museums and galleries taking part in the event so that you get to explore every aspect that interests you. At the end of the day, you will hopefully be inspired to order a certain piece of art which will be delivered at your doorstep.

What To Expect

There are literally hundreds of art galleries in Yorkshire, thus, there is no limit to the variety of artwork you will get to see and probably purchase. There are paintings and ceramics where you will get to enjoy a fine display of well organized exhibition programmes. There are paintings of the National Portrait gallery can also be found in large numbers across the region. In the museums, you can find archaeological and geological collections found centuries ago in various regions across Europe. Apart from such collections, there are other hundreds of prints, paintings, drawings, photographs and posters from years back that are available for those who appreciate the ancient works of art.


The Best Galleries

With hundreds of such galleries, singling out the ones that stand out is not easy. However, some have been there for years and they have continued to stand out with their amazing work. Some of them include; The York Art Gallery, The Yorkshire Museum, National Railway Museum, Beningbrough Hall, Art and Rose and Bils and Rye. There are other many galleries and museums within York and its surroundings that you can visit and appreciate the diversity of talent present. It is definitely going to be a year to remember for the various artists in Yorkshire.