Leeds Industrial Museum exhibition pays tribute to textile trade with sculptures

The mechanical giants that powered Leeds’s historic dominance of the global textile trade may not be the most obvious artist’s muse.

Thursday, 27th June 2019, 11:39 am
Exhibition of sculptures by artist Helen Riddle, the Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

But a new exhibition in what was once the world’s largest woollen mill will reimagine those impressive industrial engines as striking works of modern art as the city celebrates its sculptural heritage.

Artist Helen Riddle has created a series of stylish sculptures inspired by the imposing machinery at Leeds Industrial Museum, which will go on display at the site this weekend in an exhibition named the Doffer and the Fancy: Reimagining the Machine.

A sculpture by Helen Riddle. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Part of Index, a fringe festival during Yorkshire Sculpture International, the pieces aim to offer a new insight into the museum’s collection of traditional textile equipment.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The machines include vintage Singer sewing machines, carding machines once used to sort wool fibres during production and the museum’s spectacular traditional looms, which aremore than a century old.

Helen, who has a studio space at the Art House in Wakefield, said: “I like walking around the machines, seeing the forms and shapes change as I move, light and dark, hard and soft and also, like with a sculpture, looking through the forms to catch sight of what lies beyond.

“Drawing underpins it all because drawing involves looking deeply. Seeing the lines, the angles, the shapes the forms. Starting from a point and moving outwards until it all fitstogether.

"Once I’ve seen something, I can’t unsee it and with that comes a form of understanding and intimacy. Next time I walk past that machine I feel a closer connection.”

Helen’s sculptures use specialist techniques including wet-felting and needle-felting as well as dyeing, hand stitch, free-motion embroidery, and print.

In 2018, she took part in a group exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum with fellow members of the International Feltmakers Association, which inspired her to return for this latest show.

Once a global leader in textile production, what is now Leeds Industrial Museum in Armley was built in 1805 by noted industrialist Benjamin Gott.

Although production there ended in 1969, the site reopened as the museum in 1982 and is home to traditional looms and a spectacular array of vintage textile equipment, some of which is still operational.

For more details about the exhibition and event, visit https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/armleymills