Threads and Yarns - Wellcome Foundation

Craft and conversation have gone hand in hand for generations and the Wellcome Trust’s 75th Anniversary presented the perfect opportunity to capture personal experiences of health and well-being during a series of craft workshops. These workshops enabled participants to discover how areas of public health have changed through individual stories.

BA Textile Design students, under the guidance of course leader Anne Marr, ran sessions at the V&A with senior citizens from the Camden and Euston area, crafting flowers from coloured yarns whilst their personal aural histories were captured.

Fascinating and shocking accounts ranging from gall bladder operations on the kitchen table to backstreet abortions were revealed and recorded and the collated oral histories now reside at the British Library and Wellcome Library.

This enabled the Wellcome Trust’s network of researchers in science, history of medicine and medical humanities to examine accounts of biomedical advances over the past 75 years and develop responses to them.

Dr Amy Sanders of the Wellcome Trust:

Threads and Yarns was a key part of the Wellcome Trust’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. Using a creative making process enabled us to hear the voices of older people who had lived through extraordinary changes in healthcare and to share their stories with textiles students, medical researchers and the wider public through the jointly created artwork.

The 125 flowers, eight of which were interactive, were then turned into an installation by the students with the help of the Queen Mary G.Hack Group, which was exhibited at the V&A Sackler Centre as well as the Bloomsbury Festival at SOAS. Jo Morrison, Digital Projects Director at CSM said the artwork’s design was ‘inspired by the floor tiling at the V&A Museum, and has a clinical-craft aesthetic’. 

The work went on to influence future research design at Queen Mary and a paper by Anne Marr (Course Leader BA Textile Design, CSM) and Jo Morrison was published in the Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice. 

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