Saltaire is so creative a place and has so many opportunities it is easy to become complacent and insular. But the recent announcement by Saltaire Inspired that there will be no Arts Trail this year was just the jolt I needed to start thinking about spreading my wings. And the result is – I am very happy to say – drum roll please – and let’s have another one for good measure – is that during March to June next year I will be an Artist in Residence at East Riddlesden Hall, a National Trust property on the outskirts of Keighley here in West Yorkshire. It is only a 30 minute cycle ride away along the canal – a lovely commute!
My scaffold loom will be coming with me and I’ll be working on a project inspired by the hall, and I’ll be brow-beating innocent visitors into having a go at weaving alongside me; there’ll be activities for kids too.
It had been suggested that I might like to set myself up in the Great Hall, but I had spied an unused alcove at the end of an upstairs corridor that seemed to have loom written across it. It is self-contained and well lit, perfect really for me and what I want to do. Fortunately the staff there were incredibly friendly, enthusiastic and accommodating – that little piece of East Riddlesden is where I’ll be from March.
The house is a bit of a haven for anyone who loves historical textiles – it has a great collection that includes stumpwork, crewel work, blackwork and samplers, as well as spinning and winding equipment. They even have a special room for folk to try their hand at sewing and embroidery with yarns and materials.
They also have a Flemish Tapestry from the 1600s depicting David and Abigail in the Great Hall (the first thing that has to be removed in the event of a fire apparently), and it was a privilege to get close to it – it seems to be woven at around 12-14 warps per inch which isn’t too far off my 8; ok I have a bit to go but it is not too bad!
So visitors to East Riddlesden will be able to see an original tapestry in the Great Hall, go upstairs and see one being made, and then have a go at weaving themselves. This is such a great opportunity to promote weaving and tapestry weaving in particular – I am feeling very lucky and excited right now. And the joy at getting my bedroom back – even for a few months – is unending!
I did have it in my head the I’d be at East Riddlesden over the summer, but this spring period is also when the National Trust is promoting ‘Discovery’ as a theme, which includes discovering new skills – so it does dovetail rather perfectly. However it means I have to get a move on with the Hanging Tree if I am going to get it finished in December and I’ll then work on some smaller pieces until the residency starts – I don’t really do small, so that will be a challenge in itself. To be fair, progress has been good on the Hanging Tree and a few cm has now hit the quarter mark and I am finally up off the floor and onto a footstool – heaven!