"This work is based on individual pieces of cloth that are part of the textile archive held by Bradford College. The sample books - weighty, large leather-bound volumes from 1872 - were originally put together by John Forbes Watson as ‘trade museums’, to be shown in chambers of commerce and design schools in Britain and India.
The Victorian obsession with collecting, classifying and cataloguing is exemplified in these sample books. The oddly spelt place names and small comments about the nature and purpose of the cloths, printed in English, with hand-written sample numbers, form an ordered collection that belies the beautifully constructed, dyed or woven fabrics themselves.
I am interested in the sample books as containers of ordinary treasure, scraps and fragments of brand new cloth that are over a hundred years old. Made by highly skilled people for very practical use, I find the textures and colours of the fabrics were and are still, very beautiful. I wanted to work with the original colours of some of the samples, but to greatly enlarge the scale of those pieces, using digitally printed cloth. I have also made smaller embroideries that are pieced together using prints of two or more samples.
Each of the individual digitally printed, pieced appliquéd and embroidered pieces, refers to specific samples from the archive. I have included the sample number in recognition of the original but anonymous weaver, dyer or embroiderer. I have also used particular words translated into languages that refer to the countries of origin for each piece.
All the work has been hand sewn and quilted , a reference to the Kantha tradition of re-using old fabric by quilting together layers of worn cloth, using a decorative running stitch. I like to think that it might be possible that some of the original fabrics, of which the archive has just a small sample, could have been worn, re-used, re-sewn layer on layer, over the years."
Lorna Jewitt, September 2010