Page 1

Stella Adams-Schofield I am very interested in the way in which textiles, because they are now cheap and readily available, have become an incidental part of our lives. Until recently cloth was a valuable commodity due to the labour intensive nature of the manufacture – time taken to process the initial fibre then to spin it, weave or knit it, colour it and finish it. It is no wonder that cloth was expensive and every piece considered precious.With the introduction of intensive farming methods and synthetic fibres, machinery to spin, weave and knit cloth and chemical dyes to colour it, we now take cloth for granted and replace it quickly when it shows signs of wear. At Powells Greengrocers I was inspired by the stack of paper, plastic, hessian and netting sacks containing potatoes, peanuts and so on that I came across in the corner of the shop.These sacks are all textile products that we use and throw away without a second thought. Whilst exploring the kitchens at Howgills Bakery and Café I was inspired by the worn surfaces of the oven gloves and tea towels.These are everyday textiles that are essential to the bakery and tea room but are cheap and easy to replace when they are worn out.

at Farfield Mill:

The Read Threads Stella Adams-Schofield and Karen Griffiths formed The Read Threads in 2010 after they both received Masters degrees in Contemporary Applied Arts from the University of Cumbria.Their MA research was in essence about making the invisible visible in the domestic setting, Karen through the process of examining the dirt and wear inherent in the hidden corners of the home and wardrobe, Stella through examining the processes involved in creating textiles and the forensic evidence contained in clothing and domestic textiles. At Farfield Mill, a month-long residency during May 2011 allowed them to extend their research methodologies beyond the domestic setting into the workplace.

Through their exploration and interpretation of the mill’s spaces, they hope to encourage people to look at the work process and where it takes place with new eyes, seeing the unseen or unnoticed; the beauty and the stories left by the passing of human hands and bodies over long periods of time. From the historic working environment of the mill they moved out into the modern world of work and applied the same process to four businesses in Sedbergh. During August 2011 this work was exhibited in the businesses as part of an ‘Art Path’ leading visitors around the town and out to Farfield Mill.

The Read Threads are very grateful that both the residency and the exhibition received funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England.We’d also like to thank Farfield Mill Arts & Heritage Centre for the use of their residency studio.

Emerging Talent:

The Read Threads 24th September until the 13th November 2011

Karen Griffit hs After starting the residency exploring the evidence of past working lives at Farfield Mill it was interesting to compare these archaeological traces with those from the modern world of work. As it turned out I chose two businesses who are both involved in giving new life to old things and so counter-intuitively the industrial consumption of materials in the mill was contrasted with the essential sustainability of the modern businesses. As someone who uses recycled textiles in her work I found this particularly appropriate. In The Chair Workshop, chairs are restored using natural materials and I found inspiration in one of the wooden worktops where the chairs are slowly moved round and round while they are being reseated. The worktop was scored with shining curved lines like the marks left on ice by skaters. At RFG Hollett & Son booksellers, I found an ingenious set of curved brass runners let into the beautiful parquet floor. Their purpose is to allow access to the shop windows and they are polished and worn to a wonderful patina. I was drawn to create pieces inspired by both the brass screws in the runners with their dark wax rings and also the rows of dark varnished wooden bookshelves which line the shop.

Karen Griffit hs

Stella Adams-Schofield As an artist my work often references historical textile craft practice and ‘living through’ the making of the textile is very important to me. In the development of my site specific work for Farfield Mill, I wanted to experience the textile processes that had originally taken place in and around the mill. I have, therefore, become immersed in knitting, weaving and felting woollen yarn, filming the process from the maker’s perspective, recording and preserving the act of making.

When Farfield Mill was developed, care was taken to preserve the marks and signs that were such an integral part of its history as a working woollen mill. These included the worn and oil-stained floorboards. Returning in 2011 to take part in The Read Threads residency I found the floors with their dense, dark marks fascinating.

The resulting felted knitted or woven cloth forms the basis of the pillar wrappings that also reference the marks that human contact has left on the mill – the visible marks such as the dints and scratches on the silver pillars and the invisible sound memories contained within the building, particularly the songs that were sung by the spinners, weavers and knitters.

The oil marks are essentially the ghosts of where looms and other mill machinery stood. All the moving parts had to be regularly lubricated using mineral oil. Over countless years the pools of oil have solidified and become encrusted with wool fibres and dirt.They have become fossilized representatives of the important part oil played in this outpost of the Industrial Revolution. My ‘Floorboard’ pieces are a response to these complex images.

‘... all the womenfolk who used to sing as the shuttles flew.’ Thomas Gibson who worked at the mill in the 1930s

Today, our dependence on oil tells an altogether darker story and my prodded ‘Oil Pool’ pieces make reference to the burning oil wells of the Middle East and post-earthquake Japan. Photograph: © Adam Lewis 2011

Emerging Talent: The Read Threads 2011  

Exhibition catalogue produced for The Read Threads exhibition at Farfield Mill Arts & Heritage Centre Autumn 2011