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:
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
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