Distinguished textile historian and Chair of the Textile Society, Dr Brenda King is the author of Silk and Empire, and Dye, Print, Stitch: Textiles by Thomas and Elizabeth Wardle. She made a welcome return visit to examine our collections in 2011.
She explained, “I first came here in 1995 when I was doing research for my PhD on collections of Indian Silk in England and their connections within the English silk industry. There was no formal archive then. The Forbes Watson Textile Manufactures of India volumes were in their original display cabinet in the Principal’s office and there were things in cupboards all over the place. At that time a lot of archive material elsewhere was being skipped but Ruth Caswell (award winning costumier and fashion designer/ maker, who taught costume and textiles at Bradford College from 1986 until 1997) realised that the student notebooks and pattern cards were really valuable heritage and she fought hard for their preservation. It is thanks to Ruth that we have these resources which offer an incredible understanding of design and fibres. Coming back I can see that huge progress has been made in organising the collections. The archive is an absolute treasure trove! It was invaluable for my research.”
Brenda continued, “I am here to find objects which might be loaned for display in an exhibition at Cartwright Hall which I am working on as a consultant. Following on from my book Silk and Empire, it traces the influence of Indian design aesthetics and weaving traditions on the textile industry and the students of Bradford Technical College during the 19th and 20th centuries. We will show silk velvets from the Lister archives and student work linking to the Forbes Watson books. People don’t realise about Bradford’s role in silk manufacture but it is a very positive story. ”
The exhibition Silk, Bradford and the Sub-Continent ran at Cartwright Hall from July to November 2012.
You can see Brenda talking about it in this excellent short film: