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  • Writer's pictureLiz O' Connell

Textile Narratives and Domestic Dynamics

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Below are photos from my (socially distanced) visit to the fascinating Sunny Bank Mills archive in Leeds (very close to where I was born). Rachel, the archivist, is profoundly knowledgeable and extremely accomplished in her ability to illustrate the skills and the history of the Mills, as well as recounting the lives of those working in the textile industry and discussing it all within the context of today. Her inspiration has, in turn, provided me with the stimulation to develop ideas about filming, drawing, and making art work that relates to small gestures and location, as well as being able to see and get a feel of worsted samples and their manufacturing processes at first hand.

Archives Sunny Bank Mills, Leeds, West Yorkshire

(photos taken on visit and kindly reproduced with permission)

In the past few weeks, I have started to fully resolve some of my lines of enquiry and to use, once more, the appropriation of domestic materials in my research; this time, however, by filming the process.

This has created insights into the interesting uses of material and surface, all through exploring the expectations of the domestic and art expression.

With the easing of lockdown, I was able to visit (as mentioned above) the textile archives at Sunny Bank Mills in Leeds so as to acquaint myself with the place, its processes, and the working lives of people in the textile industry. This experience has very much been pivotal to the 'glass weaving' I will do next. Through a historical approach, i.e. looking at worsted weaving and social histories, I have been able to interpret women's social and emotional 'roles' using weaving processes, and I aim to, and indeed will, complete woven pieces about fixing, mending, and the state of being 'threadbare'; a theme I have touched upon before.

Domestic Dynamics

(using ordinary domestic materials)

Gestures with domestic materials (using glass on canvas)

Photograph of the process: Invisible work

Reappropriating domestic materials and drawing, using implements.

Glass and Paint

Invisible work: glass and household detergents on canvas

Film samples and projections

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Aug 17, 2020

The mill visit looks fascinating. I love your idea of 'small gestures and location'. I know you've already represented this in Objects and Ideas, but everytime I hang washing on the line, particulary in summer, I am taken straight back to pegging washing on the line with Jenny, my mother. Her advising how to hang certain things, and to always peg knickers at the gussett....I find this activity deeply rewarding and comforting. Even though I have the luxury of an automatic washing machine and don't have to get my hands wet and raw to clean the clothes, there is a thread in laundry that binds us women together. Thank you for your wonderful, thought provoking work and stunning visuals.

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