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Published: 12 October 2019

By Andy Ross

The power of textiles

A visitor to the studio in August has a connection which is very close to home.

In the middle of the North Sea, in a far-flung corner of the UK, one could be forgiven for thinking that we are so out of most people's experience that we are out of touch with the rest of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. In these days of air travel, the internet, mobile 'phones and email, we are as connected as everywhere else but sometimes that ease of virtual communication really comes to life. 

Heather and Tony came into the studio to visit and we got chatting. It turns out that they lived in Zimbabwe, then called "Rhodesia", and had fond memories of being there. The conversation turned to an organisation which I know well, having visited their gallery many, many times in Bulawayo, my home town. 

Jairos Jiri is named after the man who started the organisation. He was a philanthropist and humitarian, dedicating his life to helping people who were disabled by establishing many centres of learning, support and employment. Mr Jiri was awarded an MBE for his work to go along with his MA (Hons) at a time when the rights of disabled people were severely curtailed and many were locked away or destitute, reduced to begging on the streets of the colonial cities. 

As part of the work, crafts were introduced and expanded, among them basketweaving (we have one of the baskets in the studio in Yell from the company) and sewing. Heather ordered a wedding dress to be made in the 1970's and thought that perhaps she still had it in the loft so I asked if we could see pictures. 

Now that Tony and Heather live in Australia I did not think we would see those pictures any time soon but last week an email arrived with this lovely dress and proud owner of it! Isn't it so of its time? I love the delicate embroidery. What a lot of style it has.

Isn't it marvellous that we have such instant connections nowadays, across the globe, and isn't it amazing how small the world can sometimes be? Thank you for sending the pictures, both of you. I am sure Jairos Jiri would be pleased that you still have your beautiful dress and such lovely memories.