Soft Engineering: Textiles Taking Shape

Four leading textile artists will be exhibiting their work at Whitchurch Silk Mill from 30 March to 23 june 2019.

Having pursued separate careers in weaving, knitting and braiding Ann Richards , Deirdre Wood , Alison Ellen, and Julie Hedges, found they had many common threads that have now inspired them to work together on this joint exhibition.

Their different approaches interconnect and cross over in intriguing and sometimes surprising ways. Soft Engineering introduces a central theme of textiles taking shape through the interplay of raw material and structure, and the exhibition shows how this plays out in varied ways, with spontaneously emerging shapes, the repetition/shifting of simple shapes, pleating, folding, twisting, and double-sided fabrics.

These four makers create work on widely different scales, encompassing large wall pieces, garments, scarves, sculptural pieces and textile jewellery.

Deirdre uses fibres with contrasting physical properties to create dramatic curved strips and circles, designed for architectural settings.These pieces remain straight while being woven, but begin to reshape themselves when cut from the loom, finally achieving their finished shapes after being soaked in water.

It is the different spin directions of high-twist yarns that allow Ann to create subtly curving scarves, while contrasts of both yarn twist and fibre allow pleats and origami effects to emerge in neckpieces and bracelets. Once again, these pieces are rectangular on the loom and only acquire their shape during wet finishing, as the absorption of water releases the energy of high-twist yarns.

Alison uses different stitch combinations to shape the fabric, a process that is vividly demonstrated in her display of differently shaped ‘squares’, where each piece has the same number of stitches and rows.This shaping does not rely upon wet finishing because the shapes develop spontaneously in the knitting process itself. Alison exploits these principles in her garments, accessories and sculptural pieces, allowing the shapes to subtly emerge.

Julie has researched the technique of ply-split braiding, and has pushed it far beyond its traditional uses for animal harnesses, producing dramatic sculptural pieces and textile jewellery. The technique relies on the use of highly twisted plied cords that are braided by being taken through one another, splitting the plies in various ways. The braiding method and the use of highly twisted cords act together to shape the pie

Whitchurch Silk Mill:

Admission is by entrance to Whitchurch Silk Mill. There are also Talks and Workshops accompanying the exhibition. See the website for further information

Dates: Saturday 30 March  –  Sunday 23 June 2019

Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday and Bank Holidays,  10.30 – 17.00

Images and Text: From the top downwards images: Ann Richards: Origami neckpieces, Deirdre Wood – Escape, Alison Ellen: Wrap jacket, Julie Hedges: Coil neckpiece

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