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Soft Engineering: Textiles Taking Shape

Left: Deirdre Wood, Top right: Alison Ellen, Bottom right: Ann Richards

This touring exhibition brings together the work of three textile designer-makers: Alison Ellen, Ann Richards and Deirdre Wood.

Having pursued separate careers in knitting and weaving, they find many common threads that have inspired them to work together on this joint exhibition. Despite employing different techniques and structures, their approaches interconnect and cross over in intriguing and sometimes surprising ways. A central theme - textiles taking shape through the interplay of raw material and structure - plays out in varied ways: repetition/displacement of simple shapes, pleating, folding, twisting and double-sided fabrics.

The processes of folding are explored in various forms, from soft ridges, such as ribbing in knitting, to sharp accordion pleats and ‘origami’ effects. Folding, pleating and ribbing also work well in the design of fabrics with very different sides and these effects, together with other double-sided techniques, will be shown in garments, textile jewellery and wall hangings. Although twisting is an apparently simple technique, it offers many possibilities for developing texture and shape, taking the work firmly into the third dimension.

These range from the intriguing mathematical properties of the Möbius strip to the complex patterns that can be created through the repetition of many turns and the assembling of multiple elements. Finished pieces of work are complemented by explanatory materials, including loomstate pieces, photographs and paper models, showing the processes of making and finishing.