Colour Exhibition – Swiss Fibre Art

I’m pleased to announce that Worker Bees and Sound of the Mill #1 & #2 are part of the Colour Exhibition curated by Swiss Fibre Art. The textile exhibition takes place at Galerie Kalina, Am Plat71 1, D-94209 Regen, Germany 2nd-30th July 2022.

Given that ‘Black, Grey & Yellow’ is the exhibition’s colour theme, the first thing that popped into my head was a Manchester worker bee, and because I wanted a slightly industrial and aged look to the work, I chose to stitch into eco printed cloth.

Colour Exhibition - Worker Bees -hand embroidered in vintage threads in yellow and slate grey
Colour Exhibition: Worker Bees – hand embroidered in vintage threads in yellow and slate grey.

I usually stitch in red thread, so this was a challenge for me. I liked the result so much that I created two companion pieces called Sound of the Mill #1 & #2. Each piece features Lancashire dialect poetry from ‘The Cotton Mill’ poem first published in The Bolton Chronicle in 1864.

Colour Exhibition: Sound of the Mill #1
Sound of the Mill #1
Sound of the Mill #2
Sound of the Mill #2

Following this exhibition, the artworks are travelling to a gallery in Switzerland.

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.