Exhibition: Soft Engineering | Textiles Taking Shape

Three leading textile artists will be exhibiting their innovative work in Winchester Discovery Centre, City Space from 13 January to 18 February 2018.

Having pursued separate careers in knitting and weaving, Deirdre Wood, Ann Richards and Alison Ellen found they had many common threads that have now inspired them to work together on this joint exhibition.

Their different approaches interconnect and cross over in intriguing and sometimes surprising ways. Soft Engineering introduces a central theme of textiles taking shape through the interplay of raw material and structure, and the exhibition shows how this plays out in varied ways, with spontaneously emerging shapes, the repetition/shifting of simple shapes, pleating, folding, twisting, and double-sided fabrics.

These three makers create work on widely different scales, encompassing large wall pieces, garments, scarves and textile jewellery.

Deirdre uses fibres with contrasting physical properties to create dramatic curved strips and circles, designed for architectural settings.

These pieces remain straight while being woven, but begin to reshape themselves when cut from the loom, finally achieving their finished shapes after being soaked in water.

It is the different spin directions of high-twist yarns that allow Ann to create subtly curving scarves, while contrasts of both yarn twist and fibre give shape to her bracelets.

Once again, these pieces are rectangular on the loom and only acquire their shape during wet finishing, as the absorption of water releases the energy of high-twist yarns.

Alison uses different stitch combinations to shape the fabric, a process that is vividly demonstrated in her display of differently shaped ‘squares’, where each piece has the same number of stitches and rows.

This shaping does not rely upon wet finishing because the shapes develop spontaneously in the knitting process itself. Alison exploits these principles in her garments, accessories and sculptural pieces, allowing the shapes to subtly emerge.

The artists said “It’s been an exciting and stimulating project working together and developing ideas through weaving and knitting which are still evolving. We are also pleased to be showing our exhibition on our home ground in this light, spacious gallery in Winchester.”

Soft Engineering: Textiles Taking Shape is a free exhibition, with suggested donation, which opens on

Dates: Saturday 13 January –  18 February 2018.

Venue: City Space, operated by Hampshire Cultural Trust, is open

Opening times: Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday 11am to 3pm, closed Bank Holidays. Check the Winchester Discovery Centre website – www.hants.gov.uk/wdc – for holiday opening hours.

Image order  & text credits: Ann Richards, Deirdre Wood, and Alison Ellen

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