Whitchurch Silk Mill

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Soft Engineering: Textiles Taking Shape
From Saturday 30 March 2019 -  10:30
To Sunday 23 June 2019 - 17:00


This exhibition, which brings together the work of knitter Alison Ellen, braidmaker Julie Hedges and weavers Ann Richards and Deirdre Wood, encourages the visitor to look at textiles and the processes of designing and making them in a wonderfully refreshing way.


These four makers create work on widely different scales, encompassing large wall pieces, garments, scarves and textile jewellery, but 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 resulting from the repetition/shifting of simple shapes, pleating, folding, twisting and interlacing.


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.


For Ann, it is the different spin directions of high-twist yarns that create subtly curving scarves, while contrasts of both yarn twist and fibre give shape to bracelets and neckpieces. As with Deirdre’s work, these pieces are flat and 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.


Fundamental to the design and structure of Julie’s ply-split braiding is the construction of highly twisted plied cords whose quality is determined by her choice of yarn and the cord making process. The braiding method involves these cords being taken through each another, splitting the plies in various ways, to create many different structures. This technique, together with the use of highly twisted cords, dictates the shapes that emerge to form 3D sculptural pieces, neckpieces and bracelets.



The artists said “It's been an exciting and stimulating project working together and developing ideas through weaving, braiding and knitting that are still evolving. We are also very pleased to be showing our exhibition in the beautiful, newly-renovated Whitchurch Silk Mill.


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