The Art Workers’ Guild
Funded by the Welcome Foundation, this event focussed on discussion, exploring in considerable detail the various techniques for handling thread in both textiles and surgery.
Craftspeople and surgical practitioners gave alternate demonstrations of their particular uses and handling of threads, with detailed discussion of the characteristics and construction of the threads used for each very specific purpose; which characteristics were desirable for each task and how certain thread behaviours are, with skill, overcome or exploited, according to necessity.
Medical practitioners demonstrated and talked through various techniques of stitching, describing the need for precise needle angle (echoed in embroidery), the different pressures and tensions (different in each hand), and the difficulties of working at a depth, from above. The craftspeople demonstrated spinning, lacemaking, embroidery and puppetry, and a fly-fisherman, with pinpoint accuracy, cast a line the length of the Hall.
The tying of knots emerged as central to what the medical practitioners felt could be learned from the craftspeople. Fleur Oakes, maker of contemporary needlelace, said knots ’are both contentious and vital! Everyone had an issue with them - whether they should be seen, felt or made and then how they were made. Names were not always given to the knots being made and some were not able to describe how they made their knots. I think that the anatomy of the knot is worth looking at. There are rhymes in knitting which describe the yarn as it passes...perhaps we need a poet.’
Francis Wells (cardiac surgeon at the Papworth Hospital) felt that students of surgery would gain much from interaction with those who practice and teach textiles, and Guild members participating felt that this cross-cultural exchange was interestingly liberating. Both groups felt there was much else that could usefully be explored.
Organised by Professor Roger Kneebone
Filmed at the Art Workers’ Guild, Monday 1 September, 2014
Film by Bea Moyes at Smart Docs
Demonstrations and discussion featuring:
Gunther Kress, Fleur Oakes, Luke Jennings, Laura Coates, Colin Bicknell, Kath Nicholson, Rachel Warr, Ronnie le Drew, Sue Dacre, Fernando Bello, Przemyslaw Korzeniowski, Rachael Matthews,and Francis Wells