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Published: 24 March 2023

By Andy Ross

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Progress on the textile hub

Work in progress. The studio is taking shape. 

This week the textile hub, our new venture in Mawhera Greymouth, has been busy and there have been some surprises along the way. 

The upstairs rooms at the Regent Theatre, where the textile and costume collection is being stored and displayed, and from where the textile hub will be run, are looking good. There are now hangings on the walls, old favourites from Shetland which will be familiar to those who have visted the studios in Yell, and some that have not been displayed before. It is great to have these things around again after two or more years of storage. There is something to be said for having a space that is dedicated to textiles. Suddenly there is a reason to be collecting and a reason to share these things with like-minded people, and, just as importantly, having a place that is just for textiles has meant that there is now time and a reason for thinking about the future in a particular space. 

Two of the fashion items in the collection are currently on display in the studio.

The first event that is going to take place will actually not be in the upstairs rooms but will be downstairs in the cafe at the Regent Theatre. On April 11th, following the Easter holiday, at 10am there will be an informal "Conversations and Cloth" meeting at which one of the pieces from the collection will be shown and its history discussed. I hope this initial meeting will become a regular series and that we can eventually record the discussions to share online. For this one, we will be talking about a New Zealand fashion item from the 1960s that has its roots in Ancient Egypt and a nod to Fair Isle. How about that for worldwide influence?

At the moment we are also working on a plan to create a weaving studio in town, and, of course, a sewing group.  I will be having a chat to our local art gallery, The Left Bank, to see if we can mount exhibitions of cloth and fashion together, and we will look at how we can work with our community to support textiles across the board. I hope these things will all work together to create a real buzz around weaving, cloth and fashion, and that we can encourage people to visit and be part of this exciting project. 

As for the surprises, this week some visitors have been in the studio. One of our guests has Scottish ancestry and spoke about Galashiels and her family's involvement with the wool industry in the town. Another comes from a family of drapers and tailors, and revealed that her mother had worked downstairs from the textile rooms in a shop that sold Bernina sewing machines and cloth! It seems serendipitous to have begun a new adventure in a place that already has a history with textiles and one that is not in a distant past but within living memory.