Recently, I have been developing my own artistic practice with textiles.
A creative history of Norwich can be found in our lineage of textile artists and natural dyers. From as early as the 14th century, River Wensum carried cloth to Europe and beyond, giving us an international reputation of great artistry and skill. We foraged approximately 40 different natural materials to create unique colours that we dyed, spun and wove into metres of fabric that were sold all around the world.
When thinking about Norfolk’s connections to the natural world, textiles are a beautiful but under-explored connection point. For the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, I have used a quilt to tell the story of our natural heritage.
For the Common Ground Living Landscape installation, I have created a naturally dyed fabric quilt, that stitches together our rich history of hand-dyeing with local, natural materials with traditional methods and techniques. The aim of my work is to showcase a unique historic connection between Norwich’s history and its surrounding natural landscape through our once famous natural dye practice. The piece will reanimate a largely unknown Norfolk history, highlighting the legacy of skilled natural dyers through contemporary reinterpretation. I will incorporate quilted techniques to create a work that will evoke Norfolk’s bountiful natural world and all the colours, shades and tones it can gift us. From the deep reds of the Madder plant that we once bought from merchants at our very own Madder market, to the soft oranges of locally grown onions, this work will patchwork the treasures of Norfolk’s land through the array of colours it continues to provide. Whilst this is a historic medium, it is also timeless, eternal, and its creative pathways are infinite.
This work will also provide an opportunity for reflect on Norwich’s diverse social history. Our textile practice was supported by the Dutch and Walloon refugees known as ‘The Strangers’ in 1565 who boosted our local textile practice with new techniques and materials. We are indebted to those who have crossed borders to show us new ways of working, no matter how different they may be.
The quilt patchworks naturally dyed fabric with locally sourced and foraged materials into a pattern that celebrates the city of Norwich and its colourful landscape.