REEL LIVES, 2013

SITE SPECIFIC

Held in the permanent collection at Salts Mill, Saltaire

This site-specific artwork was created in memory of, and in recognition of, the real women of Saltaire drawn from the 1891 census. Women who were born in the parish, worked in the textile industry, married and had children there.  Each woman has her own ‘memory plaque’ with her name, year of birth, age, marital status and occupation.

“Imagine my delight when I saw the name Ellen Tennant on the Caren Garfen exhibit. She was my Great Aunt! and lived at 14 Albert Road with her family.”

“Imagine my delight when I saw the name Ellen Tennant on the Caren Garfen exhibit. She was my Great Aunt! and lived at 14 Albert Road with her family.”


In-depth study of the census has produced evidence that 160 single women were mill workers, and a further 42 had other occupations, e.g. dressmakers, milliners, etc. Fifty-one married women were entered of whom one-fifth were working. Of the latter, only three were employed in the mill, and none of these had children. 

“A beautiful, memorable exhibition. I was amazed to find the names Crabtree, Barrett & Taylor on Caren Garfen’s work, as all my forebears had these names & worked in the mills in Rossendale, Lancashire!”

“A beautiful, memorable exhibition. I was amazed to find the names Crabtree, Barrett & Taylor on Caren Garfen’s work, as all my forebears had these names & worked in the mills in Rossendale, Lancashire!”


One-quarter of the reels were placed into a storage area in the wall of the spinning room in Salts Mill. These reels were a metaphor for those women who, once they married, were discarded as mill workers.


Tied by the Apron Strings illustrates the inequalities in occupational choices between males and females in the 19th century. Women’s occupations are hand sewn in pink onto one of the apron ties, and side labels give figures of how many women worked in particular jobs in the mid-1800s. On the second tie, the wide varieties of employment open to men, taken from the 1891 census, are sewn in blue.  

Tied By The Apron Strings

Tied By The Apron Strings

Photo credit: Susan Crowe


Process: Hand stitch

Materials: Textile, silk threads, vintage bobbins, vintage sewing accessories


Exhibited in:

Cloth & Memory 2, Salts Mill, Saltaire, West Yorkshire (2013)

People and Process, Salts Mill, Saltaire, West Yorkshire (2014-2016)

Tied By The Apron Strings also exhibited in Construct, Ruthin Craft Centre, Denbighshire, North Wales (2014)