Warner Textile Archive Textile Fair

On Sunday 7th May 2017 I visited the Textile Fair organised by the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree Essex.  The fair incorporates a textile exhibition, talks, “have a go” activities, opportunity to view a small part of the Warner Textile Archive, trade stalls and a pop up tearoom.

We started our visit at Braintree Town Hall where the trade stalls and pop up tearoom were set up.  After sampling a large piece of home made fruit cake and a cup of tea we walked from the Town Hall to Braintree Museum which is just around the corner, where the exhibition of new work by East Anglian Stitch Textiles (EAST) entitled ‘Following a Thread’ was on display.  The textile work was a beautiful range of work from bright quilts to depictions of personal journeys.  We were able to take photographs so here are a few.

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One of the ‘have a go’ activities was monoprinting which involved spreading acrylic paints on a laminated A4 sheet, making marks into the acrylic paint using a variety of implements and then laying over a piece of cotton calico resulting in the paint image being transferred onto the fabric. I had not tried this technique before and it gave very good results.

Playing with monoprinting


We went to hear a talk entitled ‘An Exhibition on Historic Silk at Gainsborough’s House’ by Louisa Brouwer, who is the ‘Keeper of Art & Place’ at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury Suffolk. Her talk was about a forthcoming exhibition on the history of Silk and the connection between Spitalfields in London and Sudbury, which is the only place in the UK where silk is still produced.

In the afternoon we walked down to the Warner Textile Archive to have a look at a small selection of the Archive’s collection of textiles. The archivist had selected a range of fabrics that incorporated geometric designs from the early 1900’s until the closure of Warner’s Mills in the early 1970’s.  We saw fabrics designed by Marianne Straub and Alec Hunter.  Also on display were a collection of garments made by the fashion house Oasis who recently worked together with the Warner Textile Archive.  The design team from Oasis selected 5 different historic designs from the Archive and translated them into affordable fabrics for todays fashion market.  The designs were a wonderful example of how important the Archive is in not only preserving these samples for the future but enabling them to be rediscovered for a new audience.





My Blue Suitcase – a lecture by Amanda Clayton

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture by the wonderful textile artist Amanda Clayton for the Colne and Colchester Embroiders’ Guild on 29th April 2017 at Firstsite in Colchester Essex.  Amanda took us on a journey through her “life of stitching, her education, influences, philosophies and experiences”.  She started by talking about her childhood memories, her family, Aunt Kate and her education which included being taught by Anwar Shemza the artist.  She brought along lots of little bits of memorabilia from that period of her life, school books, stitched pieces and match boxes of collected items.  During her time at school she was influenced by art and lots of different crafts including printmaking and not initially by textiles.

Part of her philosophy is “visual awareness without money” and she had examples of printed papers, pieces of found china, floral transfers, pieces of antique lace and lots of other items which she uses to start building a collection of found and saved objects to initiate new creative streams.  Using everyday objects in a grander context.  Amanda also described creativity as “a thing that sometimes may not work” but that even small ideas are significant and it is important to record all of them so they can be revisited in the future.  She talked about her sketchbooks and that she has a “studio diary” which she uses at home and a smaller sketchbook which she takes out with her.  If she has forgotten her pen she uses something else like a needle to make puncture holes in the pages just so she can record something she feels is important.

Anwar Shemza was a big influence in Amanda’s life and she said one of his quotes was “You are only as good as your next piece of work” and she has carried this motto with her throughout her life.  She talked about success and contentment and how we measure these things in our life and craft.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of her story for those who get the opportunity to see her lecture “My Blue Suitcase” but she was very generous, informative and inspirational.   Amanda had a large selection of her work that had previously been exhibited and we were able to handle and examine her beautiful hand stitched textiles.

Amanda’s website is https:///www.amandajclayton.co.uk which I recommend visiting.

The above was written from notes that I made during Amanda’s lecture.

Warner Textile Archive

Recently I arranged a visit to the Warner Textile Archive at Braintree in Essex with my local branch of the Essex Handicraft Association.

The archive is housed in the original grade II listed textile mill.  It is the second largest collection of flat textiles in the UK after the V&A and includes 10,000 paper designs in notebooks, sample books, rule papers, print blocks and ledgers. The archive is a wonderful historical tour of British textile design.

An interesting talk was given by one of the archivists on the history of the mill and then we spent some time in the Exhibition Gallery looking at a wide range of fabrics, design papers, printing blocks and photographs of the mill and workers in production.

Benjamin Warner bought New Mills in Braintree in 1895.  New Mills was an existing silk mill that had gone into liquidation and Benjamin Warner moved his company from Spitalfields in London to Braintree, joining  Courtaulds who already had a mill there. Other nearby areas known for silk weaving are Halstead in Essex and Sudbury in Suffolk.

Warner & Sons were a very successful company weaving silks and velvets for all the English coronations from 1902 to 1971 when weaving at New Mills ceased. In their height they produced fabrics for palaces, stately homes, ocean liners and royal residences.

Warner & Sons embraced change throughout their history moving from hand looms to power looms, they used renowned designers producing high quality silks, velvets and traditional chintzes.  In 1927 they purchased a printing works at Dartford in Kent enabling to extend their range of fabrics further.  During the war years they produced parachute silk and were involved with the design and production of utility fabrics.

Alec Hunter, Marianne Straub and  Eddie Squires were some of the designers who kept Warner & Sons at the forefront of textile design.

Warner & Sons closed in 1990 and the brand sold to new owners.  The historical archive was saved by various charitable bodies and individuals in 2004 and is now called the Warner Textile Archive.

Further information taken from;

Two Centuries of Creativity – a textile collection of national importance – Warner Textile Archive (booklet purchased from the Warner Textile Archive)










Turner Contemporary – Margate Kent                                                                                                       Joachim Koester – The Other Side of the Sky – 25th February 2016

Exhibition of the work of Danish artist Joachim Koester paired with selected watercolours by JMW Turner.  Koester’s work covers the past 10 years and plays with the art of storytelling through 16mm film, sound and photography, taking a journey to different times, places and states of consciousness.  Turner’s work is a group of watercolours which offer a new perspective on the painter’s later watery landscapes.

Flickering film projectors, photos of abandoned American property following the US subprime mortgage crisis and images of cannabis plants. In the area where Turner’s exploratory watercolours are exhibited was a large ‘building’ constructed of lengths of reclaimed timber. Inside this structure is another film being played from a projector.


Joachim Koester – hut instalation – photo by Manu Palomeque – https://moosejawwoodworks.com

I have wanted to visit the Turner Contemporary for a while but have never found the time. We had treated ourselves to a few days away in Deal so it seemed like the ideal opportunity.  I did not know in advance, who or what was being exhibited so I had no preconceptions.

I did not find anything inspiring about this exhibition, I could not relate to the flickering images of lines and patterns bouncing around on the large projection screens. Images of people dancing around in a state of ‘Tarantism’, photographs of Cannabis plants and empty American commercial property did not connect with me.  Maybe because I haven’t tried any type of recreational drug, I could not appreciate the journey or feeling he was trying to portray.

Turners group of watercolours show his brush marks and experiments with colour which are more relevant to me in my journey in textile studies.

Also being displayed within the Turner Contemporary was a exhibition of work by a Kent based artist Rose Wylie, again not someone I had heard of before.  There was a selection of her work and a video of her talking about her work.  You see her working and being interviewed in her studio.


Rose Wylie – Inglorious Basterds 2013 – https://www.newarteditions.com


Her paintings are simple in execution, they are bold in colour and cover a wide and varied subject matter.  She talked about painting scenes from films and includes the name of the director and the character in her images.

I really like her work and although I don’t know exactly what each piece is about they are interesting and bold.  She herself is a fascinating character.

I have not been to many exhibitions and I know that I have a lot to learn about how other people express their creativeness, this is just the start of my journey into a new world.



Stitch Stories – Cas Holmes – Batsford 2015 – London

Sources of inspiration –  Carolyn Genders – A&C Black 2002 – London

Mark-making in Textile Art – Helen Parrott – Batsford 2013 – London

Slow Stitch – Claire Wellesley-Smith – Batsford 2015 – London

Drawn to Stitch – Gwen Hedley – Batsford 2010 – London

New design in stitchery – Donald J. Willcox – Van Nostrand Reinhold 1970 – New York

Designs for machine embroidery – Ira Lillow – Charles T Branford (USA)  1975 – London

Scribble Stitchery – Barbara Snook – Batsford 1972 – Tiptree, Essex




Embroidery Magazine – Embroiders Guild

Selvedge magazine – Selvedge Ltd – London. http://www.selvedge.org