[Image: Hand-painted design for handwoven silk tissue ‘Warwick’, c.1893]

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded the Museum, Archive and Conservation Award from The Textile Society to support our project, An Artist in Silk: Revealing the imagination of the nineteenth-century silk industry.

The grant of £3,774 will enable us to survey and assess our earliest hand-painted paper designs. The project will allow us to re-pack the artwork and offer future conservation recommendations, alongside cataloguing and digitisation of the collection. We will also develop an online and in-person engagement programme exploring the artistry and expertise of designers and weavers of nineteenth-century silks.

The obituary in 1908 for Benjamin Warner, the founder of Warner & Sons, states that the “gentleman has not been inaptly styled an artist in silk; he took delight in the production of beautiful goods which would reflect credit on the workman no less than on the country of their origin.” The intricate preliminary painted paper designs within the collection shed light on the extraordinary talent and expertise of the designers and weavers associated with Warner & Sons in the late-nineteenth century who were able to imagine and translate complex designs into sumptuous silks.

Alongside the significant collection of Warner & Sons, the Warner Textile Archive also holds fabric samples and paper designs from several textile manufacturing companies that were purchased by Warner & Sons in the late-nineteenth century. These include the only remaining collections of artwork and samples from Daniel Walters & Sons, who were one of the largest silk manufacturers in the UK in the mid-nineteenth century until Warner & Sons absorbed the company into their own in 1895. In addition, artwork and samples from important silk manufacturers Norris & Co., Keith & Co., and H. Scott Richmond remain within the Warner Textile Archive. The early paper design artwork created by these firms held at the Warner Textile Archive has not yet been explored fully but has the ability to tell us a great deal about the history of silk designing and manufacturing in nineteenth-century Britain through the designs from several industry leaders.

Support from The Textile Society enables us to move forward considerably with our broader conservation, cataloguing and engagement aims. We hope that focusing on the early history of silk manufacturing will unlock hidden histories, including uncovering forgotten designers and weavers, and allow us to explore and capture the significance of the collection in the wider context of textile history that has not been previously shared with public stakeholders.

We are grateful to The Textile Society for their interest in our project and supporting us to develop our cataloguing and engagement plans for our paper designs.