Artist: Claire Barber

Archive: Bolton Library & Museum Services

Project: Spinning wheels, muffins and hedges in repeat

My work is broad ranging including temporary site-responsive interventions inspired by the way people relate to the environment around them – the work growing from the place and information activated by my research. Themes are broad ranging and combine elements of industrial history and nature studies, inflatable construction and activism in clothing and textile design. 

My project for Artivist GM was about deciphering the different (hi)stories that I encountered through archival research. I uncovered an account of a 15 -year old boy called Isaac Entwistle, who walked to St Peter’s Field from Affetside. When I, as a visitor to Affetside, attempted to retrace Entwistle’s steps I travelled as he would have, by walking and recorded my journey in photographs, depicting elements that he would have seen such as roadside hedges, hay, shadows of leaves on the path, features he would have known as an implicit tactile understanding since childhood. I noticed a piece of sheep’s fleece caught onto a nail and spinning into a fine thread in the breeze. It helped me make a connection to the heritage of making, providing a tangible connection to the past. This led me to Samuel Crompton, the Bolton-born inventor of the Spinning Mule. I was able to discover more about Crompton through his hand-written letters in the Bolton Museum Archives. Words copied from the page were placed side-by-side and understood as a structural, rhythmic formation almost woven in appearance; an allegory of the role of labour and skill continued in a series of digitally printed handkerchiefs titled Spinning wheels, muffins and hedges in repeat (2019). 

During this project I worked with the archivist Caroline Furey, who presented me with resources, including the story of Isaac Entwistle and helped me to located letters by Samuel Crompton. My artwork was presented in the exhibition in Peterloo: Bolton Textile Works and the Fight for Democracy at Up Close Gallery in Bolton Museum and was curated by Matthew Watson.

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