Enfilade

Exhibition | Silk: From Spitalfields to Sudbury

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on August 5, 2017

Now on view at Gainsborough’s House:

Silk: From Spitalfields to Sudbury
Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk, 17 June – 8 October 2017

The market town of Sudbury in Suffolk has a surprising history. Regarded today as Great Britain’s most important centre for silk manufacture, Sudbury produces nearly 95 per cent of the nation’s woven silk textiles from its three working mills: Vanners Silk Weavers, Stephen Walters & Sons, and Gainsborough Silks. Dating back to the late 1700s, Sudbury’s nascent silk industry was facilitated by the town’s former history as a wool centre, to which many family members of the Sudbury-born artist Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727–1788) plied their trade.

The exhibition Silk: From Spitalfields to Sudbury will explore the local and national history of silk in England from the eighteenth century to the present day, focussing on the diaspora of silk manufacture from Spitalfields in London to Sudbury in Suffolk. In the first part of the exhibition, the formation of the English silk industry in Spitalfields in the early 1700s will be examined, highlighting the important Huguenot silk weavers who formed the basis of this work force. Objects displayed will illustrate the processes of design and manufacture and include everything from silk pattern books and historic costume to paintings and drawings featuring silk fashions of the era.

In the second part of the exhibition, the focus will turn to the relocation of silk manufacture from London to Suffolk over the course of the nineteenth century, exploring the history of Sudbury’s silk mills and the textiles they produced. Objects on show from the town’s three mills, in addition to the Sudbury manufacturer Humphries Weaving, will illustrate the many types of silk made in Sudbury, past and present—from furnishing textiles for historic palaces to contemporary design fabrics made for major British fashion houses.

This exhibition will draw together artworks and textiles from both national and local collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Norfolk Museums Service, and the Warner Textile Archive. As the childhood home of the artist Thomas Gainsborough situated at the very heart of the nation’s active silk industry, Gainsborough’s House is ideally placed to tell this important story of silk in England, from Spitalfields to Sudbury.

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Study Day | 300 Years of Silk

Posted in conferences (to attend), exhibitions by Editor on August 5, 2017

One of a pair of shoes, ca 1720; leather sole, with brocaded silk uppers with silk woven in Spitalfields
(London: V&A, T.446&A-1913)

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300 Years of Silk: A Study Day at Gainsborough’s House
Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk, 26 September 2017

Join us for 300 Years of Silk, an exclusive Silk Study Day held at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury, Suffolk. Hosted by textile specialists Mary Schoeser and Kate Wigley of the School of Textiles, Coggeshall, and Keeper of Art & Place Louisa Brouwer of Gainsborough’s House, this event will feature a series of informative lectures, interactive handling sessions and a curator-led tour of the current exhibition, Silk: From Spitalfields to Sudbury (17 June — 8 October 2017). The daylong programme will include opportunities to study a range of silk textiles from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries in close detail and will offer privileged access to the Sudbury silk mill Vanners Silk Weavers, with guided tours led around this vibrant working factory in the afternoon.

Organised to accompany the current exhibition Silk: From Spitalfields to Sudbury at Gainsborough’s House, this Study Day will explore the fascinating history of the English silk industry, focussing on the town of Sudbury, Suffolk—regarded today as Great Britain’s most important centre for silk manufacture. Sudbury now produces more woven silk textiles than anywhere else in the nation, with four working firms still in operation: Vanners Silk Weavers, The Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company, Stephen Walters & Sons, and The Humphries Weaving Company. Dating back to the early years of the nineteenth century, Sudbury’s nascent silk industry was facilitated by the town’s former history as a wool centre, to which many family members of the Sudbury-born artist Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727–1788) plied their trade.

Open to students, curators, and textile enthusiasts alike, this Study Day offers full access to Gainsborough’s House in the historic market town of Sudbury, located just 1 hour 20 minutes by train from London Liverpool Street. The day will run from 10am to 5pm and cost £80 per person (inc. VAT). Tickets will include tea, coffee, and biscuits upon arrival, followed by a light sandwich lunch in the afternoon. For further enquiries and to reserve your place, please contact louisa@gainsborough.org. Limited places are available so early booking is recommended.

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