At the heart of this exhibition is the Don Little Collection. Donald Little, Don to his many friends, lived in Chippenham his entire life and bequeathed to the museum his vast collection of postcards, photographs and ephemera relating to the town. This collection reflects the many interests of this much-loved and respected individual who was at the heart of community life in the town.
Displayed alongside the Don Little Collection are works created especially for the exhibition by the Bath Textile Artists, many of whom live in the local area round Chippenham. As a group they represent many forms of textile work including hand and machine stitching, dyeing, silk painting and collage.
The Don Little Collection reflects a variety of aspects and approaches to collecting and collectors. Don applied a systematic approach to the collecting of Chippenham postcards and post marks, attempting to collect one of every type, carefully researching and arranging them by date or theme.
Other collecting areas developed organically, through his work with Westinghouse and the Ministry of Defence, and through leisure and his time serving on committees for the Constitutional Club, Carnival and various athletics associations.
Finally, Don sought out all things Chippenham, from Goss China featuring the Town Crest to early invoices, maps and memorabilia. Much more diverse, this group of material was frequently enhanced by donations from people who knew of Don’s love for the town.
When introduced to the material in the Don Little Collection I was drawn to the documents of everyday life. What struck me, primarily, was the change from the importance of the items for the participants originally and our perception of them now. The items range from a mortgage to a shopping list; an apprentice indenture to a whist drive card; safe conduct pass to a bill for fish. I wanted to create textile pieces to represent the transience of the documents.
For the Ephemera piece, I printed onto light fabrics (silk/organza) and, with embroidery, gave them definition. I added a wax patina to suggest aging. I suspended them flying from the case, guided by Don at the centre top row, bringing them to our attention. The individual letters of Don’s name and Chippenham were embroidered on organdie.
For the Patchwork of Life, I wanted to show that even though the documents may not have had a personal connection to Don, his collection of them contributed to who he was. The documents were printed on silk, mounted on stabiliser and cut to produce log cabin strips. A small amount of embroidery was added. All materials and props used are vintage collected over many years.
I’m fascinated by layers; the depth that can be created, the shadows that can be formed, and although the subject matter might alter, layers within the work remain. I enjoy using a range of materials, traditional to the unconventional. Enabling me to look at a variety of techniques from the expected stitch to the more unusual techniques such as mixed media.
Within the ‘Don Little’ Collection’, I was interested in the many photographs Don had accumulated, particularly the personal photographs relating to his own family memories. Seeing the photos of people and a life gone by, led to thoughts about how we remember our pasts and the people we know, and how over time, the threads of our memories start to unravel and become less clear.
Fading Memories is a piece based on a photograph of Don Little’s uncle, Fred. Through the use of layers and unraveling threads, I have tried to show how over time, our once vivid memory of someone we knew well, becomes faded, unraveled and just a distant memory.
Remembrance combines ephemera, clear information about a past event with our faded memories of the people who the ephemera relates to. We keep ephemera in scrapbooks to remind us of past events but when we look at them, we only have unraveled threads in our minds of the people involved.
To my sweetheart is inspired by a framed collection of embroidered postcards from the First World War, featuring bunches of flowers. The sentimental words are poignant as many of the soldiers would not return to their sweethearts at the end of the war.
Waiting, 1917 shows the thoughts and dreams of the girl waiting at home. The soldiers also dream, not only of conflict but of that nice cup of tea back home. The stitched threads convey not only the results of war but happier memories too.
Photographs and postcards transferred onto material were used in Not To Be Forgotten to depict some of the devastation of war locally, plus the helping hand of nurses and doctors in repairing bodies and minds. The stitching helps to convey the calm and the chaos of that time. As then like now we depend on those in the caring professions.
It has been such a distracting year with the pandemic. I, like many artistic friends, have found it difficult to bend my mind to creativity. Fortunately I had visited the museum at Chippenham before the infection took hold and was staggered by the sheer amount of items collected by Don Little.
I had taken many photographs of the postal cancellation marks and decided to choose my favourites from the hundred or so I had recorded. These I developed into a series of three pieces Found at Chippenham, More to Pay and There Used to be a Penny Post.
The item that really excited me was the Postal Map of 1839. It showed the routes in order of importance, depending on the thickness of the lines. The most important ones being those used by the London/Bristol Mail Coaches. Minor postal routes being those out to villages, like Swindon. It brought a shock of realisation of how the coming of the railways changed everything. In 1839 Chippenham was a vital staging post in the delivery of the mail. So all roads did lead to Chippenham.
From the Postal Map I cut a lino block and printed it in black on a white ground to produce All Roads Lead to Chippenham. This set my mind to thinking of the Mail Coach bowling along between dark hedges and snowy fields, making sure that vital letters and documents got through.
Don Little made an extensive collection of commemorative china; plates, bowls, mugs, tankards and jugs, all with variations of the Chippenham coat of arms. I chose one jug with an elegant shape to inspire three pieces Chippenham Jug Pink, Yellow and Blue using some vintage fabrics in different colourways.
Inspired by Chippenham itself and Don’s collection of small china jugs and ornaments, I used old photographs and images from some of the old china pots to create piece Chippenham Past and Present showing elements of Chippenham as it was and as it is now.
I also chose little pots and jugs that I loved the shape of and then semi-abstracted them to create this Hand Painted Silk piece Juggling with Jugs.
I take my inspiration from the natural world. My most recent work has concentrated on appliqué techniques interpreting landscape or specific architectural details into an abstract form. I use mixed media techniques to provide the interest and detail in the work, and include both hand and machine embroidery to enhance the detail.
In recent pieces The Street 1 and 2, The Shambles and Time Off I have used as my source of inspiration old postcards of Chippenham, especially two streets. These documents were left to the Museum by Don Little and are a great record of Chippenham’s past.
When I first moved here in the early seventies, Chippenham was still a Westinghouse town. Many if not most of the men and women we met seemed to work at Westinghouse and at the end of the working day, New Road was filled with people on bicycles rushing home. Having come from a more rural area I was fascinated.
So when we were shown the huge number of items in the Don Little collection and I had to choose an area to work with I found myself drawn to the Westinghouse boxes. There seemed to be two main areas to consider.
The newsletters had articles describing the places where Westinghouse had engineering projects or sold things such as railway signals, braking systems and rectifiers. I realised that Westinghouse Famous all Over the World was indeed the case, so in my hanging I have shown the Westinghouse factory at the centre of a web that leads out to many, though not all, of the countries it dealt with.
In my Road Race, Cross Country Race and Finishing Line pieces I have printed photographs onto the backgrounds and used hand and machine stitch to delineate and add detail. All backgrounds are hand dyed and I have used applied slips and trapunto quilting on “Finishing Line” to give more of a 3D effect.
I chose to look at the Don Little collection of Carnival memorabilia. As a long time resident of Chippenham I have many happy memories of taking my children to see the carnival.
I was very interested to learn that the carnival started in 1923 in order to raise money for Chippenham Cottage Hospital. Photographs from that year show some of the entrants for the motorkharna. I was intrigued by the idea of a MotorKhana, and took one of the cars as inspiration for a piece of work. I made a stenciled image of the car and used wording from the original programme. Techniques used were machine quilting, hand stitching and couching.
For my second piece of work I looked at a newspaper clipping from 1929 where a group of boys were standing on guard over A Mile of Pennies, with their hand written notices. I used free motion machining to stitch this and I found a penny dated 1907 in my button box!
The last piece A Queen’s Wave celebrates Chippenham Carnival Queens. They were introduced in 1933. There must have been so many. This piece shows figures and quotes from newspaper cuttings, which described carnivals over the years. For this I used free motion machining and cold-water soluble fabric.
“In February 2020, which feels an age ago and before lockdown, our group met up in the museum. There we were able to see and with great curiosity delve through boxes and boxes of the Don Little archives. Each of us took photos, made drawings and references of the objects that interested us the most. From Don Little’s eclectic bequest we hope you can see how we were inspired to create our textile work, and hope very much that you enjoy this exhibition.”
Bath Textile Artists: Diane Jackson, Becca Birtles, Carolyn Long, Barbara Butler, Yvonne Auld, Gloria Pugh, Heather Martin, and Christine Cook. Membership is by invitation, and information about us and how to join can be found on our website.
A number of the original pieces in this exhibition are for sale, and are priced individually. Please contact the museum on email@example.com for more details. Browse prints, cards and silk scarves by Bath Textile Artists in our Online Shop here, with free Chippenham delivery or postage (£3.50).
The Museum Jukebox is a new way to experience the collections and exhibitions of Chippenham Museum.
For our first Museum Jukebox piece we invited local musician and composer Cressida Nash to response to the Loose Threads exhibition. Thank you to Chippenham Borough Lands Charity for funding this performance as part of Fringe February.
An extremely accomplished musician and based in Chippenham since 2015, Cressida’s experience spans performance, composition, music therapy, teaching and community work which we detail in her biography here. Discover Cressida’s inspirations behind each piece in Following the Thread here.