Centuries of inspiration stamped in new art project

Mother and son try their hand at embossing

Artists have begun a year-long creative collaboration inspired by Bradford’s Textile Archive.

The Inkerwoven project, a partnership between Yorkshire printmaking group Inkers and the Bradford School of Art at Bradford College, officially launched at the Dye House Gallery in the Lister Building.

It was launched on the same day as a new exhibition by collagist and poet Robert Galeta, giving art lovers the chance to view visual work, poetry, book collaborations and other objects from his collection.

Supported by artists from Inkers, people attending the special event tried their hand at embossing, using objects arranged on glass sheets to create unique works of art, and drypoint etching.

The event was officially opened by Bradford Lord Mayor Doreen Lee, herself a former textiles student at the Bradford School of Art. She said: “We’re very proud to have an art college in Bradford and long may it go on!

“Textiles is what Bradford is about.”

It is due to Bradford’s historic connections with the wool trade that the city has a Lord Mayor, Cllr Lee explained, with it having been awarded the dignity of a Lord Mayoralty in 1907.

Helen Farrar, Curator of Textiles at Bradford College, explained the Textile Archive has a register of people who studied at Bradford Technical School going back to the 1890s.

The purpose of the school, which opened in 1882, was "technical, scientific, artistic and general instruction in the various processes involved in the production of Worsted, Woollen, Silk and Cotton fabrics." It had four departments, Textiles, Art and Design, Engineering, and Chemistry and Dyeing. She added: “Its reputation was fabulous!”

Back then students were predominantly male, with the first female student arriving in 1897, the second in 1918 and the third, Marianne Straub, in 1932. Arriving from her home country of Switzerland, where technical colleges did not accept women, Helen told how Marianne was still not allowed into the Bradford school’s textiles department as the subject was still considered too technical for women. Yet Marianne went on to become one of the leading commercial textile designers between the 1940s and 1960s, designing upholstery for the likes of London Transport.

June Russell, Inkers artist, said the Inkerwoven project was a year-long creative response to the archive, which holds textile samples dating back to the 18th century and features artists the likes of Salvador Dali.

The Inkers group will spend a year researching the Textile Archive and creating new works of art. The project was made possible after the Arts Council awarded them £10,000 last year.

Work-in-progress exhibitions of Inkers’ artwork will be held throughout the year, with the final exhibition being held at the Dye House Gallery from 8 October 2020 until 26 March 2021. Artists will lead workshops at venues in Halifax, Bradford, Leeds and Slaithwaite, where members of the public will be invited to try their hand at creating new works of art.

Inkers is a group of independent contemporary printmakers based in West Yorkshire, who have been working and exhibiting together since 2000. The group currently has an exhibition celebrating its 20th year at Dean Clough Galleries in Halifax. Members frequently create work in response to gallery and museum collections, and there have been two popular exhibitions of this work in Bradford; at the Industrial Museum in 2016 and at Cliffe Castle in 2017.

The full programme of events is available online via the Inkers website. You can find out more at www.inkers-printmakers.co.uk.

You can find out more about the exhibition of Robert Galeta’s work on the Bradford College website.