To Be Held / Islington Mill, Salford

I have been commissioned to make a new body of work as part of the heritage restoration of the Islington Mill, which is a Grade II-listed, six-storey Georgian mill building located in Salford, Greater Manchester.

The creative brief was to create new work inspired by items from Islington Mill’s heritage gazetteer, a Salford Archaeology document detailing features of heritage significance on the fifth and sixth floors of Islington Mill.

A resident of Islington Mill since 2009, I have witnessed the building’s journey of change, transformation, challenges and hope. Whilst this work creates an everlasting portal to the past, it also seeks to offer a sense of protection and resilience to the future preservation of the building and its tenants.

One item in particular, a cross, which was discovered on the 6th floor, with its apotropaic nature and roots in superstition have been a central point for this work.

“A small decorative motif on the central purlin of the southern pitch, placed approximately centrally, and comprising what appears to be a cross within a circle. It was constructed using hobnails, with squared pyramidal heads. Such features are rare, and may represent a superstition similar to placing shoes beneath floors to ward off evil spirits”.

Islington Mill Gazetteer

Exploring the materiality of the building, I created sculptural pieces from this motif, timber marks, compression scars, floor tiles, hoists, sprinkler systems, rivets, columns, hooks, bolts, trusses and purlins. 

Architectural forms have been subverted into precious objects, designed to be held, worn and cherished. 

The use of digital alongside traditional processes and materials nods to this poignant moment in time in Islington Mill’s history.  Technological advancements will have an impact like never seen before on the way artists and creative communities operate. Whilst we currently reflect on the past, the future beckons.

A fabric suit of armour laden with ‘gold’ featuring prints from casts of the floor tiles, pays homage to the endeavours of the factory workers, makers and artists who have been and will be the lifeblood of the building. Their endless toil, commitment and resilience in using their creative currency to survive whilst also acknowledging the delicacy of the communities who reside.  Soil chromatography prints also featured on this piece are a visual representation of the DNA of the earth on which the building stands. 

I have now returned this work to where it came from, a ritual offering to the building for eternal protection and good luck.  It is concealed within the walls of Islington Mill to be discovered once again in years to come when the building takes on a different form in its next life.

This commission has also been included in the doctoral work of Sarah Bellisario  for The Art of Healing – symbolic objects and transformational making: Making, creating and assembling in spiritual, creative and faith healing practice.

Thank you to artist fabricators Dundas Digital, Sewist, Jessie Fewtril, photographer Joe Smith & Studio Assistant, Becky Miller.