Author Archives: Katherine

Volunteers sat at tables with art cards

Last weekend, staff from The Courtauld were thrilled to join colleagues at Ulster Museum to run a variety of activities themed around our current exhibition Bloomsbury: A Collective.

Over two jam-packed days, there were interactive sessions for volunteers, guided tours of the exhibition for members of the public, and a drop-in family day.

Volunteers from across National Museums NI sites, spent a full day with Fran Herrick from The Courtauld’s education team, finding out more about Art History and the Bloomsbury exhibition, and having a go at getting creative themselves with some drawing and printing based on the collections of Ulster Museum and The Courtauld.

On Saturday, younger visitors made all kinds of fantastic stamps inspired by Omega workshop and Bloomsbury designs, and printed them into their own Omega books, much like the book of woodblock prints featured in the exhibition.

Upcoming events include an audio described informal visit for anyone experiencing sight loss, and a series of online discussions featuring experts and artists inspired by the Bloomsbury Group.

Bloomsbury: A Collective is open at Ulster Museum until 16th October 2022. You can find out more on the Ulster Museum website.

Omega Now! Competition Winners’ Products Now On Sale

Omega Now! products in shop display

Earlier this year, in collaboration with Ulster Museum, we ran a joint competition for students aged 14-18 to create a surface design inspired by the designs of the Omega Workshops and received over 40 entries from schools across Northern Ireland and England. The winning designs are now on sale to celebrate the Bloomsbury: A Collective exhibition, open in Belfast until October, which features designs by Omega Workshop artists.

It was an all-Northern Ireland shortlist, with the winning entry by Lily Stuart from Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock. Runners-up were Molly O’Grady and Faye Gardiner from, Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock and Lurgan College, respectively. Lily’s design features on a tote bag, while Molly’s and Faye’s designs feature on note pads – all of which are currently on sale at the Ulster Museum and The Courtauld gift shops.

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI said: “I want to congratulate Lily, Molly, Faye and all the young people who entered this competition. The vast range of entries demonstrates the incredible talent and artistic flair of our young people, and I hope exhibitions such as Bloomsbury: A Collective, and museums in general, continue to inspire them, and like minded people, in sparking their creativity.

“I am delighted that we are able to continue this valued partnership with The Courtauld by delivering projects that allow our audiences to engage with us in diverse and immersive ways.”

Take a look at the products in The Courtauld’s online shop.

Bloomsbury: A Collective Now Open at Ulster Museum

Bloomsbury exhibition view of gallery

A new exhibition featuring works by Bloomsbury Group artists in The Courtauld’s collection is now open at Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Bloomsbury: A Collective showcases works from both The Courtauld and Ulster Museum collections, and is the third exhibition in our ongoing partnership.

The art, literature and ideas generated by the Bloomsbury Group would have an enormous influence on the rest of the twentieth century, and this exhibition takes an introductory look at the Bloomsbury Group, specifically three central artists within it – Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant. It also shares work by the Omega workshop, a group of designers who sought to translate the ethos of the Bloomsbury Group into beautiful, tangible objects.

Over the coming months, the exhibition will also provide inspiration for workshops with young people, local communities and visitors to the museum, as well as a series of online events in the autumn in collaboration with The Courtauld’s Research Forum.

Find out more on the Ulster Museum website.

 

Sights and Sounds of the Courtauld Factory

Display of fashion in Wolverhampton archives

Developed by Courtauld National Partner volunteers, this new exhibition, Sights and Sounds, includes documents, photographs, oral histories and objects that evoke lives and experiences of workers at the Courtauld Factory, demolished in 1972 but historically situated in Whitmore Reans from 1925 until it’s closure in 1970. Visitors can experience a soundscape created by young artists, using artificial intelligence to create new sounds and images that bring the factory and worker’s memories to life.

The exhibition is open until 30th April at Wolverhampton Archives.

Voices of Courtaulds events in Flintshire

Talk in Holywell Library

To complement the Voices of Courtaulds exhibition at Greenfield Valley, which captures local residents’ memories of the Courtaulds Ltd factories, several related events have taken place in recent weeks.

Last week, John Miners, textile expert and former Courtaulds Ltd employee, traveled from Essex to present a lively history of the beginnings of the company and it’s impact on communities. The well-attended talk at Holywell Library prompted lots of discussion and included the chance to handle samples of wool, silk and rayon.

It is now possible to view an earlier online event on The Courtauld’s YouTube channel. Samuel Courtauld: From Rayon to Impressionism, had more than 60 viewers, and explored how the success of Courtaulds Ltd contributed to to founding of The Courtauld Gallery.

Voices of Courtaulds is open at Greenfield Valley Heritage Park over the Easter holidays, find out more on their website.

Omega Now! New competition for young people

The Bloomsbury Room at The Courtauld

We are thrilled to announce that our new competition for young people aged 14-18 is now open! In partnership with Ulster Museum we are running a competition inspired by the wonderful Omega Workshops designs in our collection, and we are asking for new ideas inspired by the Omega style and values, which will be manufactured onto card or textiles products and featured for sale in our gift shops..

The winners will have the chance to work with our retail teams to see their design made into a product and sold in Belfast and London, and the opportunity to see it in the store.

The Omega Workshops created a range of bold and colourful objects for the home, including rugs, ceramics, furniture and clothing, examples are on display in The Courtauld Gallery’s Bloomsbury Room.

A toolkit of inspiration and details of how to take part are available on the Omega Now! webpage.

 

Volunteering Experiences – Courtaulds Carrickfergus

A purple dress

We are sharing the experiences of some of our volunteers in a series of blogs by the team behind the Memories from Carrickfergus exhibition and film. This week we hear from Aimee Palmer;

The Courtaulds project has been an interesting and enjoyable project to volunteer on, from the initial research stage, to learning about the history of the company and all the factories they had. The information we gathered as a group helped us to create a short film, booklet and online exhibition, and I especially liked that we got to interview former employees about their stories and experiences of working at the factory.

Before interviewing the former employees, we had to do a photo call at the Ulster Museum to help us gather a response. Thankfully, there was a lot of interest in it and past employees were eager to come forward to tell their story. I interviewed a man called Billy; he started off as an apprentice, working in the painting and decorating department. It was great hearing his stories of his time there and how he looked back on his apprenticeship with such fondness.

Volunteering has been a nice way to connect with people during the pandemic. Our weekly Teams meetings kept us all in touch with one another, and it was good to work on something with the other volunteers and also to collaborate with staff from National Museums NI to complete the project.

Valerie Wilson, Curator of Textiles, provided us with fabulous examples of Courtaulds products within the collection held at the Ulster Folk Museum which were a great inspiration to us.

The project has pushed me out of my comfort zone by reaching out to the public and interviewing people, which is something I have never done before, so I feel that I have gained new skills from the process. It has also given me more confidence for any future volunteer projects like this one.

(Image: purple and white tank top of acetate and polyester, made by Courtaulds’ CELESTA brand around the mid -1970s)

Volunteering Experiences – Courtaulds Carrickfergus

Courtauld factory, Carrickfergus

We are sharing the experiences of some of our volunteers in a series of blogs by the team behind the Memories from Carrickfergus exhibition and film. This week Joanne White tells us her story; 

The opportunity to become involved as a volunteer for this project came out of the blue and at a strange time, in the middle of a global pandemic. I received an unexpected email from National Museums NI in November 2020 seeking volunteers for ‘an exciting project’ to carry out research into Courtaulds Ltd, a UK based manufacturer of fabric and clothing, who had a site in Carrickfergus. I was vaguely aware of the factory building having worked in the local area, but I knew very little of its history or that of Courtaulds, other than it had an art gallery in London.

My first task as a volunteer was researching the history of the Courtaulds factory at Carrickfergus. This included locating local news stories, film archive footage and the products made at the factory. For the newspaper stories, I was asked to concentrate on the 1970s-1980s. It became apparent that I was reading about the steady decline of a factory and industry during this period. The confidence that the Carrickfergus factory had when it first opened in 1950 was gradually overtaken by job losses, competition from overseas markets and ongoing trading difficulties.

Once our research was completed, we decided to focus on producing a film about the factory at Carrickfergus consisting of interviews with former workers and their relatives. This was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the project. I was fortunate to be able to meet with Bill, Dot, Robert and Brendan. Although the factory had been closed for forty years, I was struck by the affection they retained in working for Courtaulds. A repeated phrase during the interviews was ‘factory family’ and former employees highlighted the opportunities which they had been given such as to live locally, earn a decent salary, gain qualifications or apply for promotions.

To accompany the film, I participated with the other volunteers in writing a booklet entitled ‘We are Courtaulds’. The title was inspired by the people we had interviewed for the purposes of making the film. We decided early on that we wanted the design of the booklet to have a 1950s style to it which was inspired by the adverts for Courtaulds’ clothing from the period. These adverts were distinctive in their use of bold primary colours. I was also interested in their use of contrasting images set alongside each other such as the evening dress and car tyre (both produced from Courtaulds’ factory materials). On content, we all agreed that the booklet would concentrate on three main themes: place, people and product.

For me, listening to the stories of the people who made Courtaulds’ products, getting a glimpse into their lives at the factory and the friendships they made, was the most interesting part of the project. Whilst the remnants of the factory might not be around forever, I hope that the film, booklet and online exhibition all contribute towards telling the history of Courtaulds Ltd at Carrickfergus.

Volunteering Experiences – Courtaulds Carrickfergus

a group of Female Courtauld employeeses

Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing the experiences of some of our volunteers in a series of blogs by the team behind the Memories from Carrickfergus exhibition and film. This week’s story comes from Rachel Sayers;

Throughout 2021, I have found volunteering for the Courtaulds project at National Museums NI immensely enjoyable, as not only have I met some wonderful people through the project, I have also enhanced my knowledge of textile and fashion production in Northern Ireland. Researching, finding, and discussing our research has been incredibly exciting as we delved further into the people, place, and products that made Courtaulds Carrickfergus. Learning from one another every week during our digital meet-ups has afforded me new skills in using newspapers, advertisements, and other first-hand sources in historical research whilst also gleaming invaluable skills in team work and volunteering, albeit digitally!
A particular highlight was interviewing the oral history participants and hearing their wonderful stories and insights into their working lives at Courtaulds. One of my interviewees, June, lives in British Columbia but through the power of Zoom, we were able to record an interview with her – one of the benefits of the 2021 lockdown! June regaled me with her experiences of working at Courtaulds, particularly how she met her husband and trained to work in the accounting office.

June had an excellent time working for Courtaulds and made life-long friends, with one friend being her bridesmaid at her wedding in the early 1960s and regularly visiting one another in both Canada and Northern Ireland. The emphasis from all my interviewees was the comradery between workers, particularly the people you worked closely with, and a happy balance between work and play – especially the famous Christmas party held every year for staff and residents of Carrickfergus!
As someone who is interested in local dress and textile history, the stories of textile production from the interviewees and from our research greatly enhanced my own knowledge of textile production across Northern Ireland. I read with interest how rayon, nylon, polyester etc. produced at the Courtaulds factory at Carrickfergus was used in 1950s Dior inspired dress, 1960s Mary Quant style miniskirts, and the famous flares of the 1970s and worn by people from across the world. From local to global, Courtaulds-produced material was utilised by designers, dressmakers and shops across the world to produce high-quality products that started life in Carrickfergus.

Volunteering has been a wonderful highlight of my year, which has been difficult for many. Even though meetings have been conducted online, we have managed to collate interesting information into a wonderful booklet, film, and an online exhibition. The emphasis has always been on the place, people and product, which I feel is reflected in all our outcomes and I look forward to hearing feedback from our participants. I hope in the future to volunteer again with National Museums NI as the experience has been brilliant.

(Image of Courtaulds employees in their own wonderful fashions, courtesy of Frances O’Brien)

Memories of Courtaulds Carrickfergus – now online!

Courtauld factory, Carrickfergus

Since January 2021, volunteers from National Museums NI have been gathering stories and experiences of Courtaulds Ltd to understand its local impact and legacy. They have now turned these memories into an online exhibition and film which give a flavour of what the company was like to work for, and how it shaped working and social lives.

Courtaulds was the first of the man-made fibre industries to arrive in Northern Ireland, opening a factory for the production of Rayon in Carrickfergus in 1951. By 1965 over 1,300 people were employed. Its closure in 1981 was a devastating blow to the town.

The film was launched alongside a special exhibition at Carrickfergus Museum on 11th December, and both the exhibition and film are now available to view online.

Visit the virtual exhibition on Smartify.

Watch the film on YouTube