Barber, Claire (2015) Vanishing Textile Industries. In: The Guild Exhibition, 6th October 2015, The University of Leeds. (Unpublished)

A presentation on the theme of vanishing textiles within my practice will be discussed through three distinct projects I have created. I will begin with 'One to Twenty' developed with Steve Swindells during with a commission called Maximum Exposure which was intended to expose enigmatic or unknown aspects of Somerset. The commission gave us the opportunity to explore the glove making industry in Somerset, specifically within the small town of Yeovil. The second artwork I will discuss is called 'Mining Couture' also created in collaboration with Steve Swindells. 'Mining Couture' was one of seven commissions delivered through Leicestershire County Council’s Snibston Discovery Museum formerly Snibston Colliery between June 2010 and March 2012. During the commission we started to considered the multi layered lost industry of coal mining in Leicestershire. What I brought to the collaboration was a response to coal mining pitched from my understanding of textiles, with the language of fabrics construction, pattern cutting and dye colour creating a distinctive and personal voice within the artwork.
The final artwork I will discuss is called 'The Sleeping Bag Project' which is a project that occurred in the midst of the economic downturn in the summer 2009, and a need to provide bedding to guests at a homeless shelter in Bradford during the winter months. I will briefly trace out my involvement in the project as I feel it is relevant within our discussion on the vanishing textiles industries in the UK and how textiles maybe reconfigured so that they are relevant to contemporary political debates, artworks and new audiences.
The Sleeping Bag Project reinforces the essential starting points for the projects I have presented that occur through my sensitivity to a location and the importance of site in relation to my reinterpretation of industrially manufactured textiles. I am interested in what can be offered by the hand made and the commercially manufactured product. In this instance 'The Sleeping Bag Project' could be considered a metaphor which uses hand process, like washing sleeping bags, to reinvigorate and enlighten a manufactured product, that due to rapid commercialisation can make things disappear so very quickly. The hope is that within the vanishing textile industries that the handmade can bring something else to society – and this is the role that I think the textile artist can offer.

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