Worker Bees

Close up of the hand embroidered bees in yellow and slate grey

One of the many things I have rediscovered in the past year is my love of books and in particular reading Lancashire dialect poetry. This new piece of work titled Worker Bees was designed after reading one of these poems.

A little about ‘Worker Bees’.

The growth of cotton manufacturing during the industrial revolution changed the landscape of Northern towns forever. Workers lived in rows of terraced homes within earshot of the Mill they worked in, each long day of work starting with the call of the factory bell. By 1860 there were 2650 cotton mills in Lancashire, employing more than 440 000 people and producing half of the World’s cotton.

The outer border of the piece features an excerpt from a poem by Lancashire Dialect poet W. M. Billington – first published in The Blackburn Times in July 1864. The poem tells the tale of a chap who overslept and was abruptly awoken by the sound of the factory bells.
The central panel of worker bees has been symbolic of Manchester’s historic textile industry since 1842.

In the 1800’s Manchester was full of cotton mills and hundreds of hard-working people went to work in these buildings. The mills came to be described as ‘hives of activity’ because they were so busy, and the employees were likened to worker bees as they put so much effort into their jobs.

Worker Bees - Reverse of the work in progress - wooden reels of vintage threads in yellow and slate grey and the reverse of hand embroidered bees
Reverse of the work
Worker Bees -hand embroidered in vintage threads in yellow and slate grey
Worker Bees
hand embroidered words around the outer border, words in Lancashire dialect from a poem written in 1864
Hand embroidered words from a poem written in 1864

This piece is a nod to James and Jane Nixon, my ancestors who worked as weavers in the Mills in Blackburn at the time this poem was written.

Worker Bees is part of a body of work about my Lancashire roots.

Size 11.75 x 11.75 cm. Hand embroidered and hand stitched using vintage Sylko threads onto cotton cloth which has been eco rust printed.

Postcard Project Exhibition

Postcard project poster

I am pleased to announce that ‘Pandemic Object 2020‘ has been selected by curator Polly Bates for the ‘Artists Responding To’ Postcard Project Exhibition. The Exhibition will take place on the weekend of 14th August – 15th August with an event on the opening night of 14th August between 18:00-21:30.

The event is to be held at 147 Stoke Newington, Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 0NY. For further information on the event follow this link.

In November 2020 my work was accepted for inclusion in the project book. Since then, Polly has been waiting patiently to be able to share all the artworks in a physical exhibition.

“To make sure that our exhibition will be enjoyed in a safe space we will be implementing precautions such as a one-way route through the show, and we will be acting on any government guidelines that are current for August. We have also made the opening night of the exhibition a ticketed event, so that we can limit the number of visitors to make a safer environment.” Tickets are available via Eventbrite.

Postcard Project Exhibition Poster showing a blue background with a red post box and details and dates of the exhibition
Postcard Project Exhibition Poster
Pandemic Object 2020 Sewing Machine
Created during Lockdown #2: Pandemic Object 2020 – The Sewing Machine
Pandemic Object 2020 Sewing Machine
Pandemic Object 2020 in Print
'Artists Responding To' Postcard Project Book
‘Artists Responding To’ Postcard Project Book

“At the beginning of November 2020, and the start of the UK’s second national lockdown, ARTISTS RESPONDING TO … sent 200 postcards across the UK to 200 artists. These artists were invited to reflect on the year 2020 and create artwork directly onto the postcards. The postcards involved in this project have been curated into an Art Book. The artworks in this book share personal experiences that we can all relate to, and although they are small in size, they are hugely powerful.” – Polly Bates curator at Artists Responding To.

Pen drawing onto card ; Size 10cm x 15cm. This is one of three piecee of art I completed during Lockdown #2 in November 2020. The others are ‘4 Hours in History’ and ‘Self Portrait’.

Copies of The Postcard Project Book are available to buy from https://www.artistsrespondingto.co.uk/shop-1

Stitch Your Story Exhibition

Stitch Your Story

This new piece titled ‘A Weaver’s Tale’ is on its way to the Stitch Your Story Exhibition curated by Jamie Chalmers aka Mr X Stitch. The artwork will be mounted into 6 inch embroidery hoops and displayed within Blackburn Cathedral 1-31st October 2021.

Stitch Your Story Exhibition hand embroidered red Lancashire rose
Completed piece

The story behind the about the artwork: ‘A Weaver’s Tale’ – The tale of Mary Nixon:

Mary, a weaver and her husband Tom, an overlooker and union steward, worked in one of the many cotton mills in Blackburn.

Job security in the Lancashire Cotton Mills in the late 1890’s was very precarious. Hazardous working conditions brought about the rise of unions. One fight was to add guards on the ends of the shuttle race to prevent the shuttle shooting out of the end of the loom injuring weavers.

After an accident where a weaver was hit in the face with a flying shuttle, there was a call to strike. The union stewards stepped forward and the cotton mills came out on strike insisting shuttle guards were installed. Eventually the mill owners relented, but the union stewards, their wives and any family member who worked in the mills were all blacklisted. None could find work in Blackburn or the surrounding districts.

Mary and Tom found moved their family and found work in Barnoldswick or ‘Barlick’ where their third child Henry was born.

The decline of the cotton mills in the 1930’s meant another move for Tom and Mary this time to a small farm in the Rossendale Valley. Henry married a local girl and had they had a little girl. – That little girl was my mum.

Size 14 x 14 cm. Hand embroidered and hand stitched with DMC stranded embroidery thread on calico.

This piece forms part of a collection of work based on my Lancashire roots.

Stitch Your Story Exhibition - The final red stitch
The final red stitch

Stitch Your Story

“As part of this year’s biennial we are inviting people across the country and hopefully the globe to share their own story of migration and belonging in a crowd-sourced collection of stitched hoops curated by Jamie Chalmers (Mr X Stitch) featuring representations from people’s journeys and reflections on their personal heritage.

Using a 6” hoop stitchers are encouraged to share the stories of where they ended up where they are now. Whether this journey be across continents or down the street, in a literal depiction or an abstract impression, we invite you to share in stitch how you got there and what your place and community means to you now.

Stitchers will be given free rein to express themselves within their hoops, but the outcome will be to share their personal story in stitch with the Textile Biennial audience, with the installation hung in a mass installation as part of the biennial programme.

The collection of pieces will be hung using ceiling suspension and fishing wire to create an installation that visitors can walk through and explore to create a moving exhibition (quite literally as the air movement in the space will cause the hoops to sway) that people can discover and come to learn not only about the places that are represented, but also the global community of stitchers that have participated.”

Stitch Your Story Exhibition is part of a large programme of events for the British Textile Biennial held across Lancashire in October.