Spot the similarity?
A Fabric of the North exhibit has been attracting awed comments from visitors, one of whom wrote: "Dot Seddon’s Contained at Teesport ... gives the impression of a massive powerful structure that we only see part of." An appropriate comment for an area built on steel.
What we hadn't realised was that Dot's tapestry had been turned into a flag, and proudly flown from the rooftops of Middlesbrough Town Hall - sideways, by the look of it, but what the heck. The flag was placed by an Arts Council-supported project, under the no-nonsense message: "Artists live here, artists work here. Be proud."
If you want to see more of Dot's work, she's got a very moving tapestry portrait in the current Open Exhibition at the Baltic, in Gateshead.
More comments from some of our early visitors:
"Shirley Ross: On the Shoulders of Giants - a large monumental tapestry reflecting the age of steam in monochrome. Fabulous! It was particularly interesting to see examples of Shirley’s process of design sketches, developing on paper, seeing it refined into a working drawing as a guide for the final work on display."
"Kirkleatham Museum... was a truly lovely setting and it must be said that the relatively small rooms where the tapestries were displayed contributed to a feeling of intimacy. Tapestries were grouped by theme and this also added to the enjoyment of viewing them. I wish I could have spent longer looking at each exhibit but that would have taken so long as there was such variety."
"Other weavings which leapt out -
They liked what they saw. What did you think of your visit? Click a Comments link and let us know.
Here's a short video clip featuring Joanne Hodgson, Manager of Kirkleatham Museum, Jane Riley, the designer of the Fabric of the North exhibition, and Sally Reckert, who brought the exhibition together in the first place. If you can't get to FOTN, this'll give you some idea of what you're missing. And if you're thinking of visiting, it'll convince you.
Sorry we can't show the video right here, but this website is run on a shoe-string! Click the link, though, and you can enjoy the clip on Facebook.
The online workshops by inspirational weavers Alastair Duncan and Michael Crompton have all filled up. But don't despair! Both artists have kindly offered to do an extra series of workshops if there are enough takers. If you've seen - or listened to (oh, yes) - their works in real life or online, you'll want to know more. Just visit ZOOM! and add your name to the reserve list.
Here are some general impressions from early visitors. Comments on individual works will follow.
"An amazing amount of tapestry weaving. So much inspiration from the weavings exhibited. A privilege to be there."
"Fabric of The North may well prove to be a seminal moment in raising awareness in the region to the place of woven tapestry as an art form. A real privilege to have seen such a wonderful variety of artistic styles and, of course, such superb technical execution."
Here we see multi-media weaver Alastair Duncan completing the setup of Interconnection, one of his famous 'sound weavings'. It's worth reading the artist's catalogue entry in full:
"This is an audio-interactive tapestry with sensors embedded in the weave which, when triggered by proximity of a viewer's hand, will play sound clips additional to the background looping 50 min soundscape. The design for Interconnection suggests a confusion of natural and urban or industrial “jungle” and the audio links to this with different natural and man-made sounds. The design and weaving of the tapestry plus the audio production, electronics and computer coding took over two years to complete."
Quite amazing... If you can't afford to buy the work (£20,000, since you ask) you can at least learn something about the artist's techniques in a series of online sessions (£15 for three one-hour workshops). See ZOOM! above.
[Post edited 14 October after feedback from the artist: the work is no longer activated by touch but by proximity. The complications of Covid...]
Visitors to Fabric of the North may be puzzled by this little figure - unless they're from North Shields, that is.
The North Shields Dolly is a wooden statue, displayed in the Tyneside shipping town of that name. The first-generation Dolly was a ship's figurehead, put up in 1814. Sailors would cut a chip off her to take to sea for good luck. Not surprisingly she didn't last long, and a second-generation Dolly followed, then a third... And the current one is Number Six.
Local weaver Jean Hall took up tapestry weaving just three years ago, at the Darlington Weaving Rooms, at the sprightly age of 82. This little tapestry is her recollection of Dolly Number Five, modelled on a fishwife with her creel full of fish, on the way to market.
Every piece has its story.
This is the amazing sight that greeted volunteers at Kirkleatham Museum as they carefully uncrated Margaret Crowther's superb tapestry, Low Tide, North Yorks. Isn't that going to look amazing when hung on the wall? You can almost smell the brine.