Personal memorials in cloth
Two of my recent textile artworks have been purchased by museum collections in 2019. Both pieces are textile artworks with a message; much more than simply decorative quilts or embroideries. My Memorial Sampler is now in Gawthorpe Textiles Collection, Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire, and Repeat Offender Quilt is in The Brampton Museum. Both textiles have been purchased by museums which have a strong connection with the works, after they have been exhibited.
I started my professional career working in museums, after doing a Masters Degree in Museum Studies. Museums are still my favourite places to spend time, particularly in textile and social history collections. I left my museum career aged 30 in 2005 to pursue my ambition to make a living out of textiles. Over the subsequent 14 years, I have worked in partnership with museums and heritage collections many times and still get a thrill of excitement when I discover new objects, collections, personal and community stories and buildings. Museums and heritage suffuse my work, they are inseparable to who I am as a person and as an artist. Having work in museum collections, to be preserved forever and accessible to researchers and historians and textile enthusiasts is a real honour.
Memorial Sampler, purchased by Gawthorpe Textiles Collection is a memorial to over 100 lost loved ones with names gathered through social media and from exhibition visitors to Ruth’s exhibition at Gawthorpe in 2018.
We are thrilled to have been able to add this piece to our collection. Not only to mark our collaboration with Ruth Singer but also as it has such a personal link to our visitors who nominated names for inclusion. Gawthorpe Textiles Collection
I am particularly delighted that Memorial Sampler has been purchased for the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection. I have spent time at Gawthorpe doing research in their collections several times and exhibiting there in 2018 was a highlight of my professional artist career. The Memorial Sampler is a deeply emotional piece of work, gathering the names of loved ones who have died. I started with a couple of my own and then asked on social media for contributions. I added these to the piece during the exhibition when I worked in the gallery on Meet The Artist days. I also asked for contributions from visitors to the exhibition over the 3 months it was on show, and after the exhibition I slowly stitched in all of those names too, adding up to over 100 personal memories. It has been an honour to be trusted with these precious memories and to be able to bring together all those lost loved ones. It seems fitting that this piece will be preserved in the collections which inspired it.
– – – – –
We collect objects that relate to the history of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme; the ‘Repeat Offender Quilt’ features Agnes Herrity a criminal from Newcastle-under-Lyme. For us this was an excellent opportunity to collect a quality piece of contemporary artwork featuring a fascinating part of our local history. Clare Griffiths, Collections Officer, Brampton Museum
Criminal Quilts is a textile and heritage project created by me in partnership with Staffordshire Record Office. The project is centred around the stories of women photographed in Stafford Prison 1877-1916. Our research project gathered together over 500 mugshot photographs of women and I created a series of textiles inspired by the stories. This project grew out of an earlier commission for Shire Hall Gallery which has also been purchased by Staffordshire County Council museum collection.
Repeat Offender is a screen-printed textile piece, printed on vintage cloth, created with the support of University of Wolverhampton Textiles and Fashion team. Purchased by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council for the collections of The Brampton Museum, Staffordshire. This piece is part of Criminal Quilts and was purchased for this collection because the woman featured, Agnes Herrity was from Newcastle-under-Lyme. Agnes quickly became one of the stars of the Criminal Quilts project, as she features several times in the prison mugshots.
This quilt is made from screen printed cloth using an image created from this 1897 photograph of Agnes Herrity. She was photographed (on release from prison) five times between 1897 and 1910. She lived in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. Agnes clearly had a hard life, living in slum housing and making a meagre living. She was convicted regularly of drunkenness, theft and assault. I have used screen printing because it uses photographic process which reflects the historic photographs. The use of repeating images refers to Agnes’ repeated prison sentences.
Screen printed by hand on modern linen, antique printed cotton, vintage cotton and new cotton hand printed with marbling design taken from the endpapers of one of the prison albums. It is backed with an old shawl, reminiscent of those seen in many of the photographs.
About the Museums
Gawthorpe Textiles Collection (GTC) is the operating name of independent charity the Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth Textile Collections.
Based at Gawthorpe Hall, we work alongside the National Trust and Lancashire County Council, who together share responsibility for Gawthorpe Hall and its estate. The charity was founded in 1959 by the Honourable Rachel Beatrice Kay-Shuttleworth MBE (1886- 1967), a life long collector of global textile and craft items.
The Brampton Museum is the local history museum for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire and is run by the Borough Council. They collect items related to the local area.
About the Artist
Ruth Singer is an artist-maker with a background working in museums. She has been exhibiting her work since 2005 and has exhibited her work widely in museums and galleries across the UK. She often works in collaboration with museums and heritage and has completed a number of artist residencies and commissions in the last few years. Find out more here.