Who’s That Girl? / Est 1761 The Bridgewater Canal in Salford

Commissioned by Est 1761, I embarked on an exploration of the untold narratives of the women within the Bridgewater Archive Collections.

focusing on specific themes derived from extensive research, I collaborated with fellow Salford Makers to craft an exclusive range of products for Salford Museum & Art Gallery. I also curated and delivered a series of workshops inspired by various making processes, including printing with nature, jewellery knotting techniques, textile screen printing, and cushion making. These community workshops provided locals with the opportunity to acquire new skills while upholding Salford’s rich tradition of craftsmanship, all inspired by the heritage of the Bridgewater Canal.

The collection of products was made available for purchase at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, displayed using props and furniture curated and supplied by Stockyard North Salvage.

The designs reflected themes as detailed below: 

Flower Parties: Collaborating with Natalie Linney, we delved into the historical “flower parties” organised by women along the canal, concealed gatherings where alcohol consumption was deemed socially taboo. Our textile pieces, crafted using natural dye, gelatin printing, and screen printing techniques, were inspired by plants utilised in alcohol production, such as hops, barley, and sorghum. Together, we designed and printed a range of silk scarves featuring screen-printed detail.

Jennifer Reid & <Thread{ } Collective: Jennifer Reid, renowned broadside balladress of Manchester, composed a ballad in response to my research, subsequently translated into print designs using code and generative code with the <Thread{ } collective, of which I am a member. Through software manipulation and visual exploration, we transformed Jennifer’s vocals into hand-screened and digitally printed designs.

Pit Brow Lasses: In collaboration with Julia Roy-Williams, we explored the symbolism of belt fastenings worn by Pit Brow Lasses, symbolising societal expectations juxtaposed with the women’s actual strength and resilience. Our silver jewellery pieces, reflecting industrial canal-making processes, featured hidden messages and acid-etched surface patterns drawn from my screen prints of Jennifer Reid’s vocals.

Sanctions on Women: Partnering with Eva Elliot, we crafted porcelain jewellery referencing a historical incident where a female worker’s dress fluff inadvertently led to a ban on women using a bridge. Through surface print designs and fluff imprints, we captured the fluidity of the canal, symbolising power dynamics over gender and class.

Cartes des Vistes: Drawing from the objectification of pit brow lasses through the production and sale of postcards, I created print designs inspired by microscopic images of retinas, emphasising the weight of the male gaze.

Women’s Craft on the Canal: Inspired by the tradition of crochet on the canals, I crafted original motifs from gelatin prints of crochet lace, later translated into digital print designs by Cheryl O’Meara. This ode to women’s craftsmanship served as a therapeutic antidote to the laborious work endured on the canals.

Collaborating artists:

Cheryl O’Meara

Vicky Clarke

Jessie Fewtrill

Julia Roy-Williams

Natalie Linney 

Eva Elliot

Jennifer Reid 

Art Illuminated

Visit the Est 1761 website to find out more about the themes, ideas & processes behind the work and the makers involved.