Curating Creativity in Cumbria

I recently visited Ulverston and The Shop Floor Project. I was as fascinated by the shop, situated on the central Market Street, as I was the captivating, quirky website. The site is presented as a shop front, and the looking and shopping experience is fun and intriguing as you click on each category to reveal creatively presented and unique products. The Project was founded by mother and daughter duo, Denise and Samantha Allan. Both professional artists and curators, they see the Project as ‘a series of curated spaces filled with objects that fulfill their main criteria; that the object is worthy of keeping and passing down through generations – be it a handwoven Herdwick blanket, a hand beaten wall sconce from Sweden or a miniscule bronze cast of a hummingbirds skull’ (as quoted from the website).

The Shop Floor project shop front

The Shop Floor project shop front

The physical shop therefore, is a sort of cross between a museum, gallery and craft boutique, displaying a range of beautiful hand-crafted textiles, ceramics, jewellery, prints and more, accompanied by the story behind each product range. I particularly liked the patterned hand-knitted mittens from the Faroe isles, scarves by Holly Berry, that spell out words in Morse Code within a bold coloured geometric pattern and simple and elegant circular baskets woven by the Tuareg. The Tuareg are one of the last remaining Nomadic tribes in Saharan Africa, and sections of the baskets are dyed with Indigo, the strongly treasured and symbolic dye that represents water and, on a technical level, marks where the weaver has started and stopped.

I also couldn’t resist buying one of Samantha’s own notebooks bound in cloth printed in watercolour sketches of patterns found in African Kente cloth, that she saw in the Horniman Museum.

The Project has received a lot of press recognition, including the likes of World of Interiors and Selvedge Magazine, and has a large and growing customer base from all over the world. This is well deserved as the Project is supporting and promoting ethically and lovingly made high quality products each that have a unique character and story, making it all the more special for the buyer.

Swarthmoor Hall

Swarthmoor Hall

After leaving The Shopfloor Project, I had a bit of time to kill before my train, so taking Sam’s advice, I headed to Swarthmoor Hall where Denise Allan is currently artist in residence and has created a collection of work for the current exhibition In Silence. The Hall was just a short walk away through the village, across a river and a field. It is an Elizabethan house, particularly significant to the Society of Friends, the Quakers where the society’s founder George Fox stayed with owners Thomas and Margaret Fell. Denise’s work is inspired by the landscape within which the hall is situated as well as the people who lived in the hall.

The dining room of Swarthmoor Hall. On the table is a runner with digitally printed plates mirroring the real plates on the table. each imprinted with quotes from the Household account book of Sarah Fell

The dining room of Swarthmoor Hall. On the table is a runner with digitally printed plates mirroring the real plates on the table. Each are imprinted with quotes from the Household account book of Sarah Fell

Printed ceramic plates, digitally printed cushions and painted boxes all illustrating the surrounding landscape of the Hall with scenes and quotes taken from Sarah Fell’s Household Account book, sit unobtrusively along the traditional furniture and provide pleasant surprises throughout the house, and insights into the daily life of the people who lived there.

One of Denise's plates sits alongside traditional blue and white pottery on the dresser in the dining room

One of Denise’s plates sits alongside traditional blue and white pottery on the dresser in the dining room

The bed in Margaret Fell's room. 11 years after Thomas Fell's death, Margaret Fell married George Fox and was a driving force in the Quaker movement. She had 9 children and lived until the age of 88.

The bed in Margaret Fell’s room. 11 years after Thomas Fell’s death, Margaret Fell married George Fox and was a driving force in the Quaker movement. She had 9 children and lived until the age of 88.

 

Painted mitten box

Painted mitten box

 In Silence exhibition details:

28 Oct – 20 Dec 2013 and 6 Jan – 28 Mar 2014.

11.00am – 3.00pm, Monday – Friday (Sunday 1-4pm by appointment only)

http://www.swarthmoorhall.co.uk/

The Shop Floor Project:

OPEN  MON-SAT  10 – 5PM

(WED 10 – 1PM)

60 Market St, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 7LT


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