Ed Kluz at Colne Valley Museum
In Praise of Makers is part of the A&H Meeting Point programme, commissioned by Colne Valley Museum in West Yorkshire in 2020. The exhibition is open until 3rd October.
Colne Valley Museum is based in Golcar near Huddersfield and is a Grade 2 listed building housed in four weaver’s cottages, built in the 1840s by a family of independent cloth manufacturers. The cottages are built into the steep hillside of Golcar and were once owned by the Pearson family who inhabited one cottage with their five adult children. The family were all hand loom weavers, later becoming power loom weavers. The other three cottages that today make up the Colne Valley Museum were initially occupied by relatives of the Pearson family.
The museum has a strong intimate atmosphere and identity. The Pearson family resided in the cottages for many years, passing it on to their children, many of whom remained within the weaving industry.
In 1910 one of the cottages was taken over by the Golcar Socialist Club who remained there until 1969, at which point the Socialist Club donated the cottage to become the Museum. The next two cottages were acquired in the early 1970s, but the upper cottage and adjoining shop were only bought in 2010. All four buildings were finally amalgamated into one visitor attraction at the beginning of 2017 – the Colne Valley Museum.
Colne Valley Museum was open to artists’ ideas and were intrigued as to how they would respond to this unique museum with its rich history in textile weaving. There were a number of areas in the brief that the museum drew attention to:
The exterior of the museum
The difference between the entrance of the museum and its rich, atmospheric and intimate interiors (not only of the lower level domestic setting but also of the light, airy working studios above) was dramatic.
The cobbled lane leading to the external yard (or croft) and the entrance of the weavers’ cottages was an opportunity for a contemporary work that could draw attention to the museum.
Colne Valley’s rich history of textiles and weaving
This was an exceptional opportunity for a textile or craft/design artist to engage actively with the specialism of the museum. Volunteers provided a valuable resource and were willing to engage with the commission, and could offer expertise and information.
The museum were especially interested in artists who could really use this resource, either in making work with the skilled volunteers or by using their expertise in making the artist/designer’s own work for either production or exhibition.
Clog making workshop
Colne Valley Museum acquired the entire contents of a clog making workshop in 1972 and this is presented within the museum, on the upper level. The workshop is rich in visual presence and atmosphere and volunteers demonstrate the craft at weekends.
Collective working and socialist principles
There is a strong identity of collective working and socialist principles within the local area that could have been attractive to artists whose practice was socially engaged or to filmmakers. This commission may have appealed to writers / digital artists and those who were interested in reflecting upon collective decision making and operating. The Luddite movement began very close to the museum, the valley has a very strong tradition of non-conformism and elected the first Labour MP. Pride in standing on your own feet is in the DNA of the valley.
“The focus and collection of the Colne Valley Museum particularly resonates with the ideas and processes within my own work. Being an illustrator and textile designer working in a non-digital way, I am a passionate believer in the handmade and self-motivated making. The Luddite movement fascinates me as a moment in British history which represents the conflict between the handmade tradition and industrialisation. I feel this is particularly relevant today as a growing community of designers and makers work remotely and independently in a global and sometimes anonymous marketplace.
The opportunity to work with a rare collection of working exhibits in the production of an artwork or collection of artworks is one which I would use to the maximum. I am also passionate about collaborating with the community of volunteers at the museum and the wider village in exchanging ideas and skills in opening up a direct dialogue which informs the final outcome of the project.
I propose to work with the wider community of Golcar and the volunteers within the museum to create and research slogans and motifs based on the collection and history of the area which praise and promote the handmade crafts which the museum preserves and promotes.” – Extract from Ed Kluz’s original application in 2019
The first episode of the Arts&Heritage podcast, hosted by Judith King, discusses In Praise of Makers with Ed Kluz, and the museum’s lead volunteer curator Melanie Williams. The podcast discusses the advantages of working with artists in the museums sector generally, as well as the more specific mutual benefits of Colne Valley Museum’s collaboration with Ed Kluz – from breaking down hierarchies between artists, audiences and volunteers to telling the alternative histories of spaces and objects and reinterpreting collections from new and defamiliarising perspectives.
Quotes from the podcast:
“The project has been a wonderful learning curve for us … We’ve been able to step back from the museum and look at it from somebody else’s eyes and that has been a great learning process for the future to carry on work like this.” – Melanie Williams, Colne Valley Museum, museum’s lead volunteer curator
“The skills that we’ve learnt through Meeting Point have led us also to move on and consider now commissioning for the future – we have a second project which is beginning to be shaped up and we would never have had those skills without being able to work with Meeting Point and also to work alongside Ed to give us the confidence to do that.” – Melanie Williams, Colne Valley Museum, museum’s lead volunteer curator
“Thanks to Meeting Point for giving me the opportunity, it has completely changed my practise and the way that I work as well, and I think the long-term relationships that are going to spring up will continue.” – Ed Kluz, artist
About the Artist
Ed Kluz is an artist, illustrator and printmaker. His work explores contemporary perceptions of the past through the reimagining of historic landscapes, buildings and objects. The ideas of early Romanticism, the Picturesque movement and antiquarian representations of topography and architecture underpin his approach to image making. He has a particular interest in the eccentric, uncanny and overlooked – follies, lost country houses and ruins provide a constant source of inspiration. As a designer and illustrator Ed has received commissions from the V&A, Faber, Folio Society, John Murray publishers, Little Toller Books and St Jude’s fabrics. Ed was born in 1980 and grew up in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. He studied fine art at the Winchester School of Art.
Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience
A creative practice-led research collaboration between major UK heritage partners.