We had such a great response to Polly Leonard's blog On the Topic of Craft that we thought we'd share with you some of the conversations it has since sparked. Published here is the lovely email we received from Lynda Pimblett-Burns.
I was interested in Polly Leonard’s article about craft and can understand what Polly is getting at. Artisan and hobby craft are two different beasts. I was reminded of growing up in Lancashire where the craft of a good weaver was highly sought after. School leavers 14/15 yrs in my day, studied the craft either directly from an experienced weaver or went to college to become the loom engineers. My mother not wanting me to be a mill worker encouraged me into other positions. I wanted to go to art school but that not being an option I went as an office junior to learn all aspects and attending night school. However this did not entail me at 17 finding a boyfriend who I knew I would love forever.
I got together permanently with Peter in 1967 and to get us off to a better start I left my £3 a week junior position and secured a job as an week £11 trainee at my mother's mill without telling her. Initially I wanted the money, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the work which was very hard. I became interested in what Mum wove. She ran 24 automatic Northrop looms and I filled the battery which dropped the bobbin into the shuttle automatic. Woe betide if I got it wrong. I once remember chatting to her as she maintained her warp behind the loom while I banged the bobbin on the beam only to find the warp had been cut right across by the metal at the top of the bobbin. All hands were on deck including mine to help repair the warp and had a flee in my ear for days. Mum was brought up by her peers and the management.
I started to look at what she wove which varied with the commissions. I learned about the technicalities of the different weaving processes, carding, spinning, warps, wefts, heddles, thrums to name a few. I loved it and went from there to weave silks, damasks, linen, cottons and towels. I worked 4 Victorian looms without pins and kissed the shuttle to draw the thread through and had to watch like a hawk to ensure weaving at its best. Okay this was manufacturing weaving not artisan but the crafts I learned during that time have stayed with me for the rest of my life and I still miss the art and craft of making work.
It was a tough life, double day shifts one week, getting up at 4.30am the following week coming home in the evening at 11pm. I contracted bronchitis 3 times coming out of a heated steamy workplace on a snowy freezing night. I stayed in the weaving mills for 10 years after which I am ashamed to say I went for the easy option of RSA refresher courses and went back into office work completing my working life in corporate finance. My Mum stayed there until she died at 47, I could not let her death be in vain and I did what she wanted of me and got a good wage in an easy environment. Office work may be stressful but nothing like the graft of my Mum.
So it is fabulous to see the beautiful artisan work coming out of studios from artists whose fabulous craft is evident and who don’t go for the easy option like me. These lovely textile workers who get little acknowledgment in the media apart from of companies like Selvedge. More power to their elbows (and feet). Thank you.
If Selvedge has sparked something with you, why not share it with us?