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Published: 31 July 2021

By Andy Ross

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Article of the Week - number seventy-one - a pirn

In 2012 Pirate Technics installed a giant baobab at the South Bank Centre. 

Using more than 80 different fabrics the team worked with Chelsea School of Art and Design students to create rings of material that were stacked on top of each other to form the sculpture, which stood at a massive 18 metres high (46 foot). The fabrics referenced the role that the trees play in Africa where often people gather in the shade of the spreading giants for conversation and meetings. 

At the height of the tree were strung these pirns. They were tied in bunches so that they gently clashed together, making a soft wood-on-wood sound, and one of the pirns was added to the studio collection. 

Pirns are the spindles upon which threads are wound in order to weave. These pirns would have been slotted into wooden shuttles for industrial weaving and the pirns that were used on the baobab were gathered from an abandoned factory in Spain and brought over to the UK for the sculpture. With its brass fitted end and wound rubber body the example in the collection is a good example of early 20th Century weaving technology.