The Heart of Textile Art

By | Art & Design
Sample of Karina Thompson's embroidery © Karina Thompson

Next month will see award-winning textile artist, Karina Thompson, exhibit one of the UK’s longest pieces of embroidery, created using her own heartbeat.

Having recorded her heartbeat while completing a mile and a half run around the top floor of vast Victorian textile mill, Salts Mill, the remarkable textile artist has proceeded to translate the recorded data into a series of digitally programmed stitches and embroider these onto 100 metres of Falcon Grey Hainsworth fabric.

The divinely elaborate piece also features intricate embroidery representations of the four
chambers of Karina’s heart and the hauntingly beautiful and delicate patterns made by her footsteps in over a century and a half’s worth of dust which covered the floor of Salts Mill.

The Birmingham based artist explains: “The mile and a half I ran round Salts represents an hour’s worth of wool production. It wasn’t a race, but an exercise in data capture: this was the information that would dictate the nature of my piece for the exhibition.”

Karina Thompson running round Salts Mill © Hannah Coaten

Karina Thompson running round Salts Mill © Hannah Coaten

The vast and handsome space of Salts Mill represents in itself a turn away from the negative and towards beauty, functioning as a positive alternative to the industrial squalor of Victorian England.

Built in 1853, then the most modern mill in Europe, is now an independent arts and retail venue, a major local, national and international cultural attraction, and the home of many fascinating and inspiring artworks, particularly those of their key supporter, Bradford born David Hockney.

One of Britain’s most prestigious textile mills, Hainsworth, probably best known for  manufacturing the famous Hainsworth Guard Scarlet cloth which is worn by the Queen’s Guards outside Buckingham Palace, is working closely with Karina Thompson on her exciting new and ambitious project.

Sales & Marketing Director of the Yorkshire-based seventh generation family business, Diane Simpson, says: “Hainsworth is delighted to be working with Karina on this stunning piece of art”.

Detail of Karina Thompson's embroidery © Karina Thompson

Detail of Karina Thompson’s embroidery © Karina Thompson

“I’m using the most beautiful fabric from Hainsworth for my piece” says Thompson. “I like the fact that they have a long and prestigious history of making woollen cloth and that they have been supplying the British Army since the Battle of Waterloo.

“My fabric is grey and reminds me of a wet bandsman standing at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. It’s also huge. I’m embroidering 5 metre sections at a time and they nearly fill my living room.”

The piece will become part of the collaborative project between Salts Mill and the University for the Creative Arts housed in Salts Mill’s stunning spinning room, which will see a vast selection of international artists including Machiko Agano, Jeanette Appleton, Caroline Bartlett, Rachel Gray and many, many others explore the intriguing relationship between memory and cloth.

Works by over 20 established and emerging artists will investigate the interwoven notions of memory, fabric and hidden histories imbued within the mill walls.

Within the context of the extraordinary internal architecture of the mill, artists like Karina Thompson will seek to the tale of cloth and memory through diverse mediums and techniques, and celebrate fabric, life and the enigmatic nature of personal interactions with the surrounding world.
Karina’s work will be on display from August 18 – November 3 at the major exhibition of 23 international artists – called Cloth and Memory (2) – at Salts Mill.


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