Located at the north west corner of Harlow, within easy reach of Hertford, Parndon Mill is a little gem on the River Stort. Beautiful at any time of year, it comes into its own in spring as the surrounding waterways come back to life.
The mill provides a workspace for artists, craftspeople, designers and architects who share ideas and skills, through collaborative projects. The ground floor gallery presents eight annual exhibitions. For the next six weeks (5th April to 13th May), it will house contemporary textile art from 15 members of Herts Textile Arts. We are a lively group, using a variety of textile techniques including quilting, tapestry, patchwork, hand and machine embroidery, dyeing and shibori, felting, printed textiles, costumes and 3D textile art. Our group was formed in 2004 under the umbrella of Herts Visual Arts.
This exhibition is entitled Ebb and Flow and hosts a variety of different pieces, all of which have been inspired by Hertfordshire’s waterways. The ribbons of water running through Hertfordshire – its ponds, canals, chalk streams, and springs – have been explored from historical and present day perspectives.
As one of the artists involved in the group, I have spent a thoroughly enjoyable year preparing for this exhibition. My first piece was inspired by the history of watercress farming in Hertfordshire; the result is a small framed quilt depicting transitions from 19th century watercress beds to the present day, when many former farms have been turned into valuable nature reserves (Lemsford Springs, for example).
My second piece is a wet-felted and embroidered display of the foliage that can be found when walking the river and tow-paths in summer. It seemed a nice idea to use a textile which is made by hand, using lots of water!
My third entry in the exhibition arose by chance. I attended a poetry reading by the 2016 Canal Laureate Luke Kennard, who was jointly appointed by the Canal & River Trust and the Poetry Society. (See the Waterlines website for more poetry.)
Luke read his piece, Heroni…
“Four herons. Heroni? Anyway, within the space of half an hour this is as many heroni as I’ve seen in my lifetime up to this point. The way they take off like someone struggling to put up an umbrella on a windy day. Then they use their necks in a kind of retching movement to … reel themselves towards the sky. And after that they look impossibly graceful”
… which gave me an instant vision of a hand-embroidered heron struggling to rise into the air.
I have been enormously privileged to work with a group of such talented artists with such diverse techniques and experiences. We took our work to the mill last week for hanging and it will be very exciting to throw open the doors and welcome all who come to see our work.
We really hope everyone who visits will be inspired by the art and the waterways that inspired it. See you there!
Ebb and Flow opened on 5th April. Click here for more infomation.
About the author
This is a guest post from Frances Green.
Frances’ work uses a range of mixed media techniques, combining textiles, printing, painting and the written word. Her pieces are often inspired by the inter-connectedness of the natural world, history and folklore and she has exhibited at the Hertford Art Society, Courtyard Arts, International Feltmakers’ Association, HVA Textile Group and the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Threads of Time I and II projects.