Textiles and Dress from Below – Criminal Clothing Research

In June I will be presenting my research on the clothing worn by women in the Stafford Prison photo albums 1877-1916 (from my Criminal Quilts project) at an academic workshop at Wolverhampton University on Thursday 7th June.

The event  Textiles and Dress from Below: Ordinary and Everyday Textiles and Dress in Museums and Historic Houses looks at every day clothing and textiles across a broad spectrum. The event is open to all and tickets are £20

 

The photographs provide an unique resource for the study of working class women’s clothing and prison issue clothing in the period. Although there are numerous collections of similar photographs very little has been published focussing on women and their clothing. The Staffordshire collections are unusually abundant with nearly 500 images, including some women who appear several times over a couple of decades. Alongside extensive research and the creation of art works inspired by these images and records, I am researching further into the details of clothing and hats which can be seen in the images. Research shows that most of the photographs were taken a few days before release from prison so it is unclear if they would be wearing their own garments or prison-issue.

A considerable number of women are shown wearing woven wool shawls, particularly in the 19th century images, which is fairly common for working women but it is still unclear how many of these are their own clothes or if the shawls were prison issue. Later photographs seem to show standard prison issue garments comprising a gingham apron, high neck collarless bodice and checked neckerchief. In many of the remaining images the women are wearing some kind of dark jacket or coat which may be prison uniform – certainly one or two images show the typical convict arrows on the garment.

Headwear is also intriguing – most of the women are wearing hats and the period range of the photos shows the fashionable development from the 1870s to the First World War.
As part of this research I am looking at comparable images from other collections, including those taken by police, which having been taken at arrest, must show women’s own clothes. There is also a possible connection between certain types of particularly showy clothing which may indicate prostitution. This paper presents the work in progress in analysing the images and comparable collections and draws connections to surviving clothing in museum collections and other resources as well as introducing my own textile work inspired by the photographs.

 

This research will also be presented in the Criminal Quilts book to be published in August 2018

 

New Work :: New York

I’m slightly astonished at the amount of new work I am churning out at the moment. I usually work on one project at a time, but suddenly, this autumn, there are lots of exhibition deadlines which is pressured but wonderful. My latest completed work is for a Design Factory showcase in New York at the Textile Art Center.

The show opens on 10th October so please do go along if you are in the area. I won’t be there, I’ll be a the Knitting & Stitching Show in London that week. I’ll be spending the next week or so making new pieces for The Knitting & Stitching Show and for The Salon exhibition in October run by EC Arts, and then I have another exhibition at the end of the year at Llantarnam Grange.

Creative Twinning - Co.Lab Craft Conversation E-vite

 

 

Commission for Shire Hall Gallery

Talking Textiles

12 January – 10 March 2013


“This exhibition features work by 8 contemporary textile artists who explore how stories are represented through their work. Using a wide range of materials, techniques and processes each artist creates unique pieces which on further inspection reveal their fascinating stories.
From life in the sixties to the women and children working in the cotton mills during the 1900s and even King Kong visiting Birmingham City Centre – this work will fascinate and intrigue you!
Exhibiting Artists: Stewart Easton, Viv Hew, Val Jackson, Faith Kane, Ruth Pigott, Donna Rumble-Smith, Ruth Singer and Christine Stanford. “

I’m exhibiting the Circles Coat which was collaboratively made earlier this year, as well as a new commission. 

Circles Coat

The commission

The curator was interested in my Monumental Folly pieces and wanted to commission a piece inspired by the Shire Hall Gallery building. The gallery is based in converted 18th century court building with surviving panelled courtrooms, pastel-coloured plasterwork ceilings, holding cells and a whole range of interesting patterns, textures and shapes. 






Normally, details like this would lead my work. I love texture, pattern and detail like this. But when I visited the building, what really struck me – almost haunted me – were the Victorian mug shots of criminals, particularly those with their hands on their chests. I didn’t exactly choose them, they chose me.




Photograps used in the work are courtesy of Staffordshire Record Office. 

I have used the motif of hands to create a collection exploring the layers of history embedded within the building and within the lives of the women shown in the photographs. Several of the pieces take the form of miniature quilts which refer back to the domestic lives of these women and I am very much influenced by the types of clothing and fabrics they might have known during their life times. The muted colour palette I have chosen also links to the sepia-toned photographs as well as the structure of the building in wood, stone and lead.

I’m still working on the collection, but I have finished a couple of pieces. 





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 Background print is an image of Shire Hall, image by kind consent of the trustees of the William Salt Library


Additional photos of all the finished pieces can be found on Flickr