Why put art in an industrial history museum?

Installing an artwork actually on a piece of equipment from the museum’s collection of machinery brought this question to the fore. I didn’t want to obscure the creel frame or distract from it. On the other hand, as an artist, my principal function wasn’t to educate – the museum does this well itself. I did want to celebrate this often-ignored piece of equipment and to encourage people to look at it closely, to enjoy it and maybe in so doing also to understand a little of what role it played. So my bobbins take the form of the functional bobbins, and the creel is rigged up as it would have been. Beyond that, in this piece, the joy of colour and texture is the driving force.

The wooden frame of the creel is a beautiful deep auburn.blog 4

The colours around the mill outside are constantly changing – greens, oranges, browns, blues, yellows.

blog 5It was time to get the dye pots out!

dye pots

I used acid dyes, so-called because they rely on a vinegar soak to facilitate the chemical bond with the dyes. So for a few days the house smelled like a pickling factory but I chose my days when the door was open and there were drying possibilities in the garden.

I soaked the bobbins six at a time, dyed each one individually, fixed them in the microwave, rinsed them until my fingers turned green

and then dried them, first in the garden,

drying pods

then they took over the airing cupboard,

airing cupboard

and then the radiators.


After four days of this, I had multi-coloured hands…but also a 130 bobbin rainbow !


Another day of dyeing saw the Blue faced Leicester roving ready to be bundled into 130 5m lengths.

Time then to unite the two elements, to see each bobbin again as an individual in the crowd, to hold it, reform it in part with the felting needle, reveal the colours of the core wool under the light felting of the Bergschaf and add stitch.


After the frenzy of the dyeing days, this is slow, careful, gentle work. A few each day in the evening and the hope that it will all be finished by June!

The need for photos for a copy deadline for a feature in Felt Matters, the journal of the International Feltmakers Association, meant I took some of the bobbins to the museum and installed them on the creel for a photoshoot. I was both nervous and excited to see whether it would look how I imagined…

One happy felter!



4 thoughts on “Why put art in an industrial history museum?

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