Art, design and history have been interwoven to create a fascinating new exhibition that aims to rekindle Scotland’s ancient love of linen.
Our Linen Stories, which is accompanied by talks and other activities, will be launched in the exhibition space at Custom Lane in Leith today (Saturday, 5 May) and will later tour Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.
It celebrates the role the cloth, and the flax from which it’s made, has played in the past – telling tales of weavers and workers, of migrant skills, and of trade routes and industrial might.
The exhibition also shows what is being done with these amazing materials today and how they can help us build a sustainable, innovative, high tech future.
The man behind the initiative is Edinburgh-based former GP John Ennis who believes that Our Linen Stories will feature a series of historic, artistic and contemporary design firsts.
Dr Ennis said: ‘When people think of Scottish textiles it’s often tartans, tweeds and Paisley shawls that spring to mind. But linen should be up there too. Its role in the story of Scotland was huge but it’s slipping out of history and at risk of being forgotten.
‘Just as importantly Scotland is lagging behind some other countries in recognising that flax and related innovative composite materials can play an invaluable part in achieving our ambitions to build an innovative, high tech, low waste future.
‘Our Linen Stories brings together new artworks and the latest in product design with stories, songs, poetry and historical research to highlight what a powerful part they played in making the Scotland of today and how much they could contribute to the Scotland of tomorrow.’
The exhibition features work by a dozen designers, including:
The first UK showing of new artworks by Linda Green, internationally acclaimed textile artist (the early results of her Creative Scotland artist bursary);
Scotland’s first showing of the new Pilgrimage linen interiors range by Duncan Neil, inspired by the sketchbooks from a 19th Scot’s tour of the Holy Land;
The first exhibition in Scotland of Christien Meindertsma Flax Chair, recently chosen as part of the permanent collections of the Vitra Museum and Design Museum London;
Folklore, history and recordings of folk songs by Scottish linen weavers;
Work by Borders artist Felicity Bristow, created as part of her award of the inaugural £10,000 Gayfield Design Commission;
A first chance to see Dutch weaver Helena Loermans’ recreation of the linens great artists such as El Greco used as the canvases for their masterpieces.
In times past, the merchandising of processed flax and woven linen from the vast mills offering fine cloth, sacking, sailcloth and tarpaulin were the foundation for one of the Scotland’s first banks – the British Linen Bank. The parts of the flax plants not used for linen allowed Edinburgh to create some of the world’s biggest rope factories.
There will be key examples of product design, such as skis from Perthshire, made using new generation composite materials derived from flax. Other exhibits range from baby slings to reading lamps.
Dr Ennis said: ‘This is a chance to see everything from art to innovative designs and products by 12 designers from Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands. Linen and flax are truly amazing – you can use them to sit on, read by, sleep under and even to ski. In this exhibition you can see, feel, read and hear about them all.’
The exhibition will be held at Custom Lane, 67 Commercial Street, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6LH, running until 26 May. Full details HERE.