Making America: a collaborative project with Bath Spa Mixed Media Textiles students

November 11, 2013 - Zoe Dennington

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This week I took a morning away from the Museum to visit Bath Spa’s second year undergraduate Mixed Media Textiles students at their studio on Dartmouth Avenue.

The group will be working on a partnership project with the Museum throughout the 2013/14 academic year, which will culminate in an exhibition at the Museum between 3rd and 6th June 2014.

Bath Spa’s Mixed Media Textiles course allows students to experiment with a wide variety of textile techniques, often blending traditional crafts such as weaving, quilting, and knitting with exciting contemporary materials and processes.

Course leader Sue Bradley and I designed a brief that asked students to create a piece of work in response to the Museum’s permanent collection or temporary exhibition with reference to the theme of ‘making’.  I was keen to encourage the students to explore the various forms of hand-making to be found in the Museum’s collection and to consider the relevance of these traditional crafts to their own work.

The students had an initial study visit to the Museum in which they spent time exploring the Period Rooms and sketching. They then created mood boards presenting their research and ideas for the project, which they were able to show me when I visited. They were very enthusiastic about working with the Museum and it was really exciting to see how varied their responses to the collection had been.


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One student was inspired by our collection of Navajo weaving. She has also taken close-up pictures of rusted metal and intends to recreate these colours and textures through weaving. The rust images bear a resemblance to maps or aerial photographs, and the student would like to explore how she could represent the Navajo ‘Long Walk’ through her work.


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Another student was inspired by the various portraits of Native American people found in our American Heritage exhibition. She was keen to explore materials found in our Native American collection, such as leather, beadwork, quillwork, and feathers, in a new context.

Other students picked starting points as diverse as corsetry, immigration stories, objects from Gangsters and Gunslingers – including Dillinger’s death mask, and of course our wonderful quilt collection. I’m looking forward to working with them further and seeing how their work develops. I will keep you all updated as the project progresses.