Monday, 2 September 2013

Transported Art - Boston and South Holland

Transported Art is a strategic, community-focused programme which aims to get more people in Boston Borough and South Holland enjoying and participating in arts activities.  It is funded by the Creative People and Places fund from Arts Council England.

Since its launch in May 2013 there have been an amazing assortment of artists working within this funded programme to get people to engage in art activities. There has been music, dance, museums, mosaics stained glass, photography, knitting, choirs and so much more. I was selected to be one to the artists involved in delivering workshops as part of the consultancy event and last month in the two pop up shops in Boston and Holbeach. 

The plan was to travel around the two areas with some hand crank singer sewing machines so everyone could have a go from the very young to the very young at heart! I decided to use woad to dye fabric to make the bags and corsages from. This is a traditional plant dye grown in northern climates    which gives a blue colour and  has been used for thousands of years. Woad was grown in Boston and South Holland  until the 1930's. Throughout the programme so many people came up and told me their woad memories. Memories of Grandparents working in the woad fields, making woad balls, sitting on the horse used to pull the grinding stones as it was led away at the end of the day and memories of the devastation of a compulsory purchase order of farm land used to grow woad by the local council. 
I went to music festivals, bird reserves, markets, school fetes and into already established groups.
The machines behaved themselves, the youngest was from1921, the oldest from 1913! Just like with the woad  the sewing machines evoked strong memories in people. One man told me he had used a hand crank sewing machine during WW2 to mend uniforms. This got me thinking that all of my sewing machines had lived through the war, they have seen different sewing styles, and just how many people have turned the wooden crank to initiate sewing. Many people spoke of wedding dresses being make by hand crank or treadle sewing machines and lots of memories of playing with Grandma's button tin. 
Throughout my project over 300 people made bags or corsages. I was thrilled when two young girls came up to me who had made bags a few weeks before when I was on Boston market. They had enjoyed using the machines so much that they had bought one from a carboot sale and had already made bags and cushions using tutorials from the Internet. 
The machines were transported by car.
And sometimes by trolley. 

The machines are now back in the studio for new needles and maybe a tiny bit of oil before their next adventure.


  1. Wow, what an eccellent idea. I made my very first dress on my Mum's old crank machine and that led on to me studying at Btec and Degree level. Moving on,,,,I love it when students have said that they have asked for a sewing machine for Christmas, that really makes it all worth while. Using the Singer website i managed to date my machine (Yes, I ended up buying one from a Charity shop in Seaford) at 1936!

  2. I have taken an old hand machine to a craft fair to demonstrate on and ended up making a bag that then went on my stall. The machine had more interest than the things I was selling at the time.

    1. This old machines really spark people's interest. This was the same when I demonstrated woad dyeing at the Lincolnshire County Show. Just like your experience people were more interested in the sewing machine behind me.

  3. great dyeing, must be very heavy transporting all those machines about,,but great fun,


Thank you so much for leaving me a comment. It is lovely to get feedback from anyone. I would love to reply to comments so keep checking back.