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A Textile Vocabulary – Textile Archive

The aim of the next exercise in the Observing and Capturing part of A Textile Vocabulary is to work from an archive to generate a folio of visual work. I have had to identify an archive and select 3 textile pieces to work from.

In Shrewsbury, 17 miles from me there is a new, Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. I have approached their Collections and Curatorial services and have received a brilliant reply with a link to a database of textiles kept by Shropshire Museums. 

I had a quick look through the collection online, just scanning to see what grabbed my attention.  There are lots of dresses and costumes but I’m not especially interested in fashion (I’m sure my friend’s will agree!). There was also some beautiful examples of embroidery used as decoration. These immediately made me feel inadequate and I was worried that should I select these pieces I would focus on the technical aspect of the stitching and although they would be interesting they would not, for me, be a good primary source for exploration and design. 

With this in mind, I found myself immediately drawn to a driver’s dustcoat, because of it’s pale cream colour and the immediate visual evidence of use which gives the impression of experience. Here is a garment with a function, well used and full of organic detail.

  
This lead me to consider a theme to link my three pieces and to help me to select my next two pieces. I like the idea of looking at used, stained fabric garments, in a pale colour to reduce the distractions of colour. And where possible with destinct signs of wear & tear, including repairs, stains and creases.

I looked through the catalogue and found this simple smock. I love it’s naive construction and the folk embroidery  in the same colour as the smock. There is also some staining and a small repair. Which I am hoping will be a perfect model for observation drawings and mark making.

  

My final selection is a far more detailed smock, to tell you the truth I find this piece quite spooky and I will be interested to see if the actual garment gives me the same feelings. I specifically chose this smock because the catalogue description states there is a patch repair on the right arm, which I am hoping will give some interesting texture in the form of some darning or appliqué. 

  
In addition to these items the collection includes some needlework samples from the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century that show darning and repair techniques and the very helpful curator at the museum has offered to include these in my request. 

This is the first time I have ever had to do anything like this and have been very impressed by the helpfulness of both the regimental museum in Lichfield and the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.  

I am hoping to be able to make a trip to see my selection next week. In the meantime I might just do a bit of research into the 3 types of garments and start thinking about their stories.

It’s a great relief to be actually making some progress on this exercise. 

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