What were your first thoughts when you were approached by Begg & Co to create this sculpture? 

I was Intrigued about how such a collaboration would take shape.I had images in my head from the start, which weren’t that different to the finished work.

 

What have you learnt about Begg & Co in your research?

They’re a small friendly company specialising in a high-end product, drawing on old traditional techniques combined with contemporary designs and methods, this combination is what produces their very beautiful, unique, fine textile scarves.

They are NOT corporate, which was reassuring and I think contributes to the special uniqueness of the scarves.

 

Did your visit to the factory inspire you?

Yes, it gave me lots of ideas, particularly with the large reels/bobbins; I had an idea for a huge scale installation from seeing them, a sort of giant’s textile studio! I loved the machines, both old and new and it’s the juxtaposition of old and contemporary that I’m interested in with my own work. I have explored this in other contexts, such as ‘Flood’ in York, which was a massive installation made from recycled computer power supplies sited in an 11th century deconsecrated church.

I was fascinated with the repetition, of many things, such as coloured threads, machines, reels and of methods being repeated, over and over, this again is what I explore in my own practice. There were lots of parallels with my processes and the processes used by Begg & Co, though in a different context and with a different outcome. I grew up in Manchester in the 1960’s when the remnants of the textile industry were still in evidence, I visited old textile mills and studied the history of Manchester and its textile industry so visiting Begg & Co’s factory and seeing these processes wasn’t unfamiliar to me. However its far more refined and contemporary.

 

What struck you about all the steps in the production of a Begg & Co scarf?

The attention to detail, at every stage.

Inventive problem solving in order to get what they want, however tricky.

 

Were there any parts of the process that surprised you? Or even, did the number of processes in the production of a scarf surprise you?

Yes and No, I know that to make anything well and to that quality and design it takes much, thought, work, time and dedication so in that way no but seeing it of course I was surprised because it was so finely tuned and there was so much attention to every detail. I think the quality control and checking every inch again and again surprised me most. Some of the clever methods used to resolve weaving problems with fine materials was delightfully surprising!

 

And how did you use what you learned about the brand's heritage and production values in the creation of 'Troupe'?

I made figures that draw from, or play on traditional shirt front designs.

I also worked with a small fine art metal workshop so that the same care and thought could be applied to the works at every step of the process, in order to make them individual and not have a corporate or machine made feel.

 

Tell us a little about the process of its creation and how the metal juxtaposes with the softness of the cashmere scarves?

I began making drawings to develop the design of the figures and work through different ideas on paper. I checked in with Begg & Co’s Sales & Marketing Director, Ann Ryley along the way to get feedback and her thoughts and contributions. I had a couple of old manikins in my studio, which I used to test scarves on, to be sure that the forms I made would hold and show off all the scarves fully. I realised that as well as the chest the neck and shoulder forms are crucial, acting as the main structure or scaffold which gives the scarves their 3D form. This was pivotal in my decisions when making the full necks, shoulders and chests on each figure. However keeping this structure as minimal as I could get away with so it looked good yet presented options to hang, wrap, tie and display the scarves in a diverse multitude of ways. Long outstretched arms, hooks, hands, legs, curved metal bars spaced and bent in many directions.

 

Have there been challenges along the way?

Of course! I think that’s inevitable with commissions and when working creatively with others.

I prefer to refer to these challenges as creative problem solving!

 

How was working with metal as a material for you – is it something you’ve experimented with in the past anyway?

Great! I did work with metal when I was at college and have worked with materials that behave similarly, such as computer components, which are a combination of metal and other hard materials. Working with metal, welding, grinding bending opened up possibilities for new works and ways to resolve issues I have with other work.

 

 

The end result is Troupe – what do you believe are the successes of this project? Are you pleased with it?

Yes I’m VERY pleased with it!

Its quirky, strong and harks back to some of my old work.

The figures do work as scarf display units – they’re fit for purpose and I love the juxtaposition of the steel with the soft textiles, one compliments the other and enhances their difference...the scarves look even softer against the steel, there’s a tacit quality about it.

 

 

If you could describe the process of working with Begg & Co in three words what would they be?

Intriguing

Fascinating

Challenging

 

And what have you learnt from working with Begg & Co?

That it can be great as an artist to collaborate with industry especially with a small company like Begg & Co, it’s more intimate, I got to meet lots of their employees and really see how the company works. It is a great, well run company and I wish there were more companies like Begg & Co out there, companies who are willing to work with artists and be open and confident enough to believe in their product enough to take this kind of a risk. It is a risk relying on trust and belief.

 

Are you a natural scarf wearer?

YES, especially my new Begg & Co Staffa Rouge!