This project uses archive images of artists’ smocks as the catalyst for constructed textile narratives, which combine hand and digital stitching technologies to reference the history of Manchester School of Art.

The archive photographs, dating from the 1920’s and 1930’s depict the original craft workshops at the School of Art, and contain an image of Adolphe Valette with one of his students, Charles Witham, wearing an artist’s smock. Further research surveyed literature regarding smocks created for rural life in Britain. Nineteenth century ‘Surrey Everyday Smocks’ , were particularly relevant, as these smocks were shirt-like in appearance and cut in a traditional English manner.

The two pieces I produced, 1838 and 1900, combined the constructional details from these rural smocks with those of contemporary menswear. They ‘up-cycled’ carefully sourced fabrics, including formal shirts and re-claimed bed linen from the old Manchester Polytechnic halls of residence.
Specific detailing in the garments, such as the ‘Manchester School of Art’ embroidery detail was taken from the entrance to the Municipal School of Art Building (Grosvenor Building) and  embroidered using Ethos software on the Brother digital embroidery machine. Additional printed imagery was sourced from the Special Collections archive.

1838 was exhibited at Art School!Historic Perspectives, MMU, March 2009, and was acquired for the Special Collection at MMU.

I was invited by the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing to exhibit at the 2012 Beijing Fashion Art International Exhibition at CAFA during Beijing Design Week, October 2012. This led to the development of the second work 1900, which was conceived as an installation piece (as opposed to the wearable garment 1838) and emphasized its ‘Englishness’ in response to the exhibition theme of ‘Home’.

Catalogue 2012 Fashion Art Exhibition, Beijing.
Published article in Embroidery Magazine. March 2010. Learning Curve Manchester Metropolitan University's Special Collections. June Hill