Weaving histories: contemporary textiles at Hardwick Hall


Yesterday, I made another trip to Hardwick Hall to help (well, mainly watch) textile artist Jan Garside and her collaborators install a set of three responses to our research, and to the themes of the ‘Virtue and Vice’ exhibition.

Jan’s textile triptych, titled ‘Drawing Room’, was inspired by our discussions of collaboration and practices of making in early modern England, and by our attention to the material ‘conversions’ and transformations that structure the rich textile collections held at Hardwick Hall. A very beautiful hand-woven ‘book’ considers questions of women’s writing and creativity, as well as capturing the collaborative, contingent, and often vulnerable nature of the creative process.

Book in Flower shape, Jan Garside

Book Natural Linen Side

Whilst the time-consuming and difficult techniques of hand-weaving have produced a delicate and apparently ephemeral object, Jan’s second piece relies on modern technology in the form of a jacquard loom. It’s difficult to capture the full effect of the piece in the picture, so here’s a shot showing some of the details of the fabric.


This large hanging is suspended in front of one of the windows, capturing something of the luxury and texture of the space back when it was Bess of Hardwick’s bedchamber. Jan’s design reflects the exhibition themes, incorporating elements which range from sixteenth-century letters to Islamic patterns.

Detail of the Jacquard Hanging

And finally, Jan (with a little help from her collaborators) kept the fabric theme but expressed it in the strikingly modern form of an acrylic firescreen.

Fire Screen Jan Garside

Jan’s gorgeous design is based upon the lace cuff sported by Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford in a portrait which hangs in the Long Gallery at Hardwick.

Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford

Converted into a new medium, the pattern is really striking. Next to the other two elements of the installation, this screen asks us to reflect on the tension between vulnerability and durability in the fabrics and objects found at Hardwick. Jan started to think about using acrylic as a way to comment on our approach to historic objects, and the ways in which we look at and through them, trying to catch a glimpse of past narratives, and the stories historical actors told about themselves.


One thought on “Weaving histories: contemporary textiles at Hardwick Hall

  1. Pingback: Embroidery commission for Jan Garside | Ruth Singer

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