HNC – Autumn Block – Day 7

After two days in the workshop the class returns to the lecture room for an introduction to the Historical and Contextual Referencing Module. Taught by Pam Brook this is delivered in Year 1 across three intensive days and leads to an assessment based on a 15 minute presentation supported by a research file.

Grove Library

Grove Library

Our lecturer is an impressive teacher and communicator who throughout the six hours of contact time engaged the class thoroughly and actively. She created two opportunities for the class to share and communicate. First, introducing  ourselves through describing our aspirations and interests. Second, following a library induction session, we were asked to ‘find a book and choose an image to share and discuss’. Both opportunities were invaluable on a personal level and enjoyable as an opportunity to learn more about the people we have been spending the last week amongst, and as a way of recognizing the breadth of imagination and intention we collectively bring to this course. 

Pam took us through the course outline and requirements. She encouraged us to actively contribute to illustrating concepts such as critical evaluation. This meant that no one felt intimidated by the language or undermined by any lack of educational experience.

The historical studies began with a sequence of PowerPoint slides on Modernism: the triumph of the present over the past (Robert Hughes – Shock of the New). This was a sensible and revealing presentation that included examples of Pam’s own research field and practice surrounding her recent book on Morecombe’s Midland Hotel, a modernist structure of the 1930s now restored with many of its original features and furnishings. The journey through the design and textile aspects of Modernism took us from Braque to the costume design of Sonia Delauney, to Cubism, Railway posters of Morecombe, the Bauhaus, Mondrian, Corbusier, Art Deco and the fascinating Schroeder House in Utrecht created by Walter Gropius. What came out of this presentation was how influential textile designers have been in realising in both utilitarian and artistic work the value of primary colour and functional simplicity in design, structure and form.

A Jacquard Woven Design of 1934

A Jacquard Woven Design of 1934

The morning ended with a brief session in the Textile Workshop’s computer suite by introducing us to the potential and value of databases, access to library journals and museum archives on line. This tied in nicely with the aformentioned library induction where we found out how to access the library catalogue, make and save to disk or e-mail, details of publications held. The illustration on the left was downloaded from a collection of textile images held by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

The day concluded  with a timeline presentation taking the class through a sequence of illustrations beginning with the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19C up to the 1960s Op Art of Bridget Riley that was such an influence of high-street fashion of Mary Quant and others. The process of moving through such a timeline provided opportunities for a host of discussion topics and observations. It was invaluable to see and make connections between the individual ‘bits’ of knowledge most of us already possessed but would have had difficulty in piecing coherently together.

A sample from the Driver Hartley collection

A sample from the Driver Hartley collection

At the end of this sequence of illustrations Pam produced two wonderful ‘guide’ books from the College’s Textile Archive. These were woven pattern and printed textile books containing samples and weaving specifications collected by the company Driver Hartley in nearby Keithley. They proved a fascinating and colourful record of the richness of woven and printed textiles in the mid 20C and helped us connect with the ‘real’ and local world much of what we had encountered through slide and published illustrations earlier in the day.


Print samples from the Driver Hartley Mill

Print samples from the Driver Hartley Mill

These two books reminded us yet again of the importance of the area of West Yorkshire surrounding Bradford as a crucible for woven textile production in the last century, and how valuable what remains of that legacy can be to the contemporary designer and textile practitioner.

Afterword: from my first visit to the College library I came away with three books – Mary Schoeser’s monograph on Marianne Straub, a study of the textile art of the Bauhaus by Sigrid Weltge and A Weaver’s Life – Ethel Mairet (1872 -1952) by Margot Coates. This last book formed the focus of my brief presentation taking  as my image an example of a handspun vegetable-dyed eri silk. I found the colours unusual and refreshing set into the plainest of weave structures. Mairet is an artist I had never heard of, but I’d certainly come across many of her contemporaries and associates – particularly the members of the Ditchling community in East Sussex of which she was part.


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