Pulse: the shirt and the shop

Following on from a week in residence at Tower Ramparts in April, METIS returned to the shopping centre as part of Pulse Ipswich.

METIS occupied a unit at Tower Ramparts through the day on Saturday 7th June 2014. A visit to the shop, as well as including a cup of tea, offered a range of material to consider:

  • A wall of opinions, that visitors were invited to contribute to, about what matters to people about what they wear. These thoughts, opinions and stories have been collected since Pulse 2013, and some can be found on pinterest

  • A rail of clothing, made (and bought) in many different places, but repaired in Ipswich, illustrating a strong culture of make do and mend that was uncovered in Ipswich during the April residency, accompanied by a video of interviews with Ipswich makers and menders

  • A presentation of the World Factory Shirt and Digital Quilt, allowing visitors to try out the scanning technology and view prototype footage from the first factory visit, see the video telling the story of the shirt and learn about the Digital Quilt, METIS’ public research platform

World Factory – Makers and Menders from Zoe Svendsen on Vimeo

Alongside the artefacts presented in the shop, visitors also had the opportunity to be involved in events. Lucille Acevedo-Jones wowed visitors with her ‘minimal sewing’ re-purposing of four shirts into a beautiful statement dress that made use of shirt features like buttons and collars. METIS conducted a game of chance that had been created in response to research uncovered about factory management practices that allowed players to enact a factory management scenario. Jill Carson of the Wedding Dress Agency, and Danuta Tabard of New Wolsey Theatre’s costume department, gave a masterclass in how to sew a shirt, in conversation with Simon Cantrill, of Great British Sewing Bee fame.

Later that afternoon, the team repaired to New Wolsey Theatre to host another cafe event. Simon and Zoe spoke of their journey so far with World Factory, and Bianca introduced the Digital Quilt to an Ipswich audience. Expressing the team’s growing interest in not just where clothing comes from, but what happens to it once it’s been made and sold, Lucille was invited to demonstrate her re-purposing skills again, demonstrating just how simple construction can be when you use the building blocks provided in existing clothing.

Embracing the premise of doing research in public, Zoe started a discussion with Simon Cantrill about Bradford’s industrial heritage, with particular reference to his family history. Simon explained that an abundance of water in Bradford meant it was an ideal place for the textile industry to thrive both from rivers providing power to drive machinery, and from the prevalence of rain providing the ideal damp atmosphere for wool to be processed and made into yarn. Simon, who works at Bradford’s industrial museum, talked about the impact of industrialisation, and the gradual de-skilling this initiated, to the present day, now that Mill workers are much less knowledgeable, essentially servicing machinery rather than understanding how cloth is constructed. On a lighter note, Simon kept apologising for a lot of jargon introducing the audience to job titles that were largely unfamiliar: his birth certificate has his Dad identified as a Warp Twister, and Simon’s very first job at the Mill was as Greasy Percher.

The audience again proved themselves a font of knowledge, with information about clothing factories that were once sited in the East, the recycling of fabrics of different compositions, and speculating about gender politics in the fact that de-skilling in factories threatened jobs and industry on a much greater scale than pit closures in the 1980s, but was much less a public concern as the industry was mostly populated by women.

Copyright © Metis Arts 2013