A contemporary textiles installation and atmospheric lantern lit walk was created for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. This major commission, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England for the World Heritage Site’s Great Place Scheme was the second of 3 programmed arts commissions. Entitled “Thread” and the creation of Japanese textile artist Seiko Kinoshita, the commission drew attention to the rich heritage of Belper, in the heart of the World Heritage Site.
Seiko brought together two concepts for this work. The first, “Threading through Time” was an installation combining hundreds of bobbins, cotton thread and a soundscape which was installed into the historic basement area of Strutt’s North Mill museum in Belper from 18th October -3rd November 2019. Seiko researched and recorded sounds from inside different textile mills, including the Tomioka Silk Mill World Heritage Site in Japan, John Smedley Ltd, Masson Mills and Usui Seishi, the largest silk mill in Japan. Seiko spoke to people who work and have worked in textile mills, as she was interested in how the rhythm of the machinery stays in people’s minds and how they are remembered.
The exhibition took place at Strutts North Mill museum, Belper from 18th October to 3rd November. It was part of the Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days Festival and Japanese Season of Culture. Belper’s Strutt North Mill is one of the world’s first fireproof buildings and the world’s second water-powered cotton spinning mill. The North Mill houses a museum telling the story of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site in Belper.
The second concept, “Threading through Communities,” was a community lantern event. Seiko created a lantern design inspired by the shape of the cotton bobbin, and the Japanese tradition of illuminating paths with lanterns. The lanterns combined cotton thread, including John Smedley’s Sea Island cotton, paper and other natural materials to thread through each lantern to create beautiful effects. She worked with local community groups such as the Belper Clusters Heritage Group, schools, Church and craft groups to make the lanterns which were then installed in St Peter’s Church. The event will shone a light on the significance of the area, and also transfered skills and ideas to the community groups about how they could continue this type of event into the future.
Seiko Kinoshita is a contemporary textile artist based in Sheffield. Her work is innovative and thought provoking and she has exhibited at venues such as the Silk Mill in Derby, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and Sheffield Cathedral.
Seiko said, “I felt very privileged to work on this project. Strutt’s North Mill is full of hidden interesting history and heritage. I was especially inspired by how the socially – minded Strutt family built a thriving community in Belper and I wanted to shine a spotlight on the unique areas they built and create an opportunity for communities to get together. I was also fascinated by the World Heritage Site status of Derwent Valley Mills and found many similarities to the Tomioka Silk Mill in Japan which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2014. I hope my installation brought together the unique aspects of those mills, memories and the future of the Derwent Valley. ”