Artist Harriet Lawton has been working with the people of Padiham to create a Label Trail inspired by the Gawthorpe Textile Collection. Here she shares her experience of working with Super Slow Way.
In October 2015 I was contacted by Gawthorpe Textiles Collection and asked to create a commission in response to their textile archive. Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth amassed a stunning textile collection when she lived in the Hall and was interested in everything, from everyday textiles made for Lancashire homes to exotic fabrics from foreign lands. I was really excited to have the opportunity to work with Gawthorpe as they are an organisation I’ve admired since being a student at Manchester School of Art.
I began the project with a research day at Gawthorpe Hall. Although it is amazing to be given the opportunity to explore such an extensive archive, it was overwhelming as I was searching for something to bring focus to my project. I looked mainly at handstitch pieces, particularly samplers, as I was interested in textiles communicating narratives.
After a day looking at the archive, I realised the things I had fallen in love with were Miss Rachel’s labels. Miss Rachel meticulously labelled each sample using hand-made labels and green ink. The labels are works of art in themselves, each containing little symbols and codes along with a written description of the piece.
Following this visit I came up with the concept for my project. As Miss Rachel had labelled her collection, I decided I wanted to work with local people to label Padiham town. I decided to call the project ‘Cataloguing Padiham’, and carry out a series of workshops in the town where I would ask local people to create labels which captured the town’s unique stories.
I ran open workshops at FixHub in Padiham as well as workshops with the Brownies, Guides and Rangers at St Leonard’s and Crosshills Sheltered Accomodation. In total we create 94 labels using green ink and hand stitch. Some are funny, some nostalgic, some poignant and together they capture the spirit of Padiham and its people.
After finishing the workshop series in March, I have been developing the labels into a series of artworks. My practice is very design-focused and I love to explore a collection and design from it. In order to display the original workshop labels at Gawthorpe I decided to make them into design pieces, creating a series of digitally printed silk fabric squares which capture the entire collection. I also embellished some of the original workshop labels onto the surface of these labels. You can see these pieces hanging on the walls of the gallery at Gawthorpe Hall.
I also decided to create an outdoor series of labels that could be displayed throughout the town. I transformed 30 of the original workshop labels into A4 size pieces using laser cutting. The original writing from the labels has been laser cut from the wooden surface, and then a green Perspex backing attached to give the impression of green ink. These labels appear throughout Padiham high street, in a trail which stretches between St Leonard’s church to Gawthorpe Hall. You can pick up a trail map from Gawthorpe itself or from a few of the businesses in Padiham- just look out for a ‘Cataloguing Padiham’ poster to know where they are available.
I wanted to create a piece of work that would act as my own personal response to Padiham and the collection. My practice is object-focused, so I decided to gather objects locally and respond to them. I have created a collection of ceramic, water-jet cut labels which are cut from plates which I gathered in Lancashire charity shops. Each plate has green detailing on it and I have finished the labels with green ribbon, to capture a sense of the green ink of Miss Rachel’s labels. These pieces are on display at Gawthorpe Hall, in the centre of the gallery space.
The ‘Cataloguing Padiham’ exhibition will run from 1st July until 11th September. We are having an opening event on 8th July from 6-8pm, with drinks and nibbles in the grounds of the hall followed by a visit to the exhibition itself. If you would like to join us, please R.S.V.P to firstname.lastname@example.org.