Silk Scarf Wrap.

With the desire to present my shoes within a unique experience rolling around my mind, and the Japanese feeling already coming through, via Yuliya’s painting; I thought back to my appreciation of the artistic elements of their culture.
It was the tea that did it. As a tea lover, I’ve found the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony fascinating. The process, the elegance, the patience… to get the right quality, and serve it with reverence. A few steps later, of my mind wandering, I came across Furoshiki; a wrapping cloth traditionally used to transport clothes or gifts. This felt right … a silk wrap for the shoes. It seemed almost inevitable then, to come to the conclusion that this silk wrap could also be used as a scarf.

Although I was adamant that the shoes were to be made in Italy, I had hoped that an element could be Made in England. Maybe this was that element.

A little research ensued, and I found Beckford Silk. A family run business founded in 1975 by James and Martha Gardner, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement; making hand rolled silk scarves, in the countryside. Finding out they produce scarves for the National Gallery confirmed it for me. I’d met my friend, the artist Yuliya Lennon, there. And it provided the inspiration to Peter Saville’s “Power, Corruption & Lies” artwork, by way of Fantin-Latour’s Basket of Roses. That cover was the inspiration behind wanting an authentic painted connection to the packaging. Signs too serendipitous to ignore.

Anne Hopkins and Robbie Gardner keeping an eye on quality.

I travelled west to meet with Anne Hopkins, daughter of the founders, to discuss the best approach to the project. I rolled up to the premises just outside the small village of Beckford to see the sculpture shown at the top of this post, placed centre stage in front of the building. It’s a beautiful piece by John Poole, acquired by Anne’s father years ago. My literal mind saw the eye of a needle (a hand rolling needle perhaps?). I admitted to thinking it was a Hepworth… always good to expand my knowledge.

Getting the right tones of colour, and the perfect quality; Anne’s knowledge was invaluable. She took the time to walk me through the different areas of the business; some of the machinery being over 100 years old. Introducing me to her brother Robbie; explaining the processes and techniques they adhere to, while displaying immense pride in the quality of their production. Chatting with Victoria, their in-house designer, about our mutual appreciation of things being hand-drawn. Admiring the dexterity of Nicki, finishing the scarves using the traditional ‘hand rolling’ technique. Nicki being one of a small group of highly skilled local women Beckford have in their midst.

Victoria and Nicki

Beckford Silk has that wonderful feeling of family, combined with a dedication to local artistry and craft that I really wanted to engage with.
It also satisfied my desire of being able to produce an element that is
Made in England.

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