Oakland, California-based weaver Adele Stafford is revitalising the industry by slowing it down: she not only collaborates with American farmers who raise sheep and grow cotton, but also weaves cloth from these natural fibers entirely by hand, using an 18th century dobby loom. Her Voices of Industry project – and label – tells stories via textiles, stories that are composed by farmer and weaver together.
Stafford named her endeavour after the Voices of Industry (VOI) newspaper, written and produced by workers during the American Industrial Revolution in Lowell, Massachusetts, from 1845-1848. VOI, with its emphasis on workers' and womens’ rights under industrialism, found a readership in the ‘Factory Girls’ who comprised some 75 percent of the labourers at the Lowell cotton mills. When the union leader Sarah Bagley became editor of the paper, she introduced a ‘Female Department’, inviting women to write and air their concerns.
In the spirit of Bagley, Stafford's Voices of Industry cultivates a relationship between producers and product. As she writes in her mission statement: ‘We consider the farmers who grow cotton and wool as co-conspirators and friends. We invest in the independent grower, the biodynamic alchemist and the punk rock shepherdess. Our work is an extension of agriculture and we care deeply about that origin.’
You can read this article in full in Selvedge issue 83.