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Cloth Club, our group of people who come together to learn textile skills, have worked on a project that explores the wonders of freeform crochet and knitting. Taking inspiration from Vivan Sundaram’s Riverscape held within our Middlesbrough Collection, is an aerial depiction of the River Tees and surrounding areas. Cloth Club spent some time examining and unpicking this artwork, using it as a focal point to develop a textile landscape of the River Tees.

Cloth Club’s tapestry is made up of small pieces of freeform knitting and crochet patches called scumbles. Freeform Knitting and crocheting is a technique of seemingly random combination of crochet, knitting and in some cases other fibres to make a piece that is not constrained by patterns, colours, stitches or other limitations.

The group used several in-depth photographs of the River Tees to plan and design the shape and form of the tapestry. The project has been the most inclusive project the group has embarked on to date, crocheting and knitting have been a very successful way to involve an array of our MIMA visitors. It could be accessed and enjoyed by many regardless of barriers such as language and ability, allowing many visitors the opportunity to connect and contribute to the artwork. The craft has been a catalyst for conversation and storytelling, members of the group doing independent research on myths and legends attributed to the River Tees, the project has given confidence to members who have been quiet and reserved in past projects, sometimes leading on sessions and teaching new members how to knit/crochet. What became evident from the project is the way the project has mapped a journey for the group, it depicts ownership and connection the group feels to their town.

Collection Reflection, Bella Smith, April 2020 © MIMA

Vivan Sundaram made this drawing during a programme that invited artists from countries including India, Japan and Poland to the area to respond to the River Tees. The aerial view shows natural landscape and heavy industry, detailing the multiple uses of the river and the complex ecological characteristics of this area.

[above text from 'Middlesbrough Collection, Why Are We Here? With Black Artists and Modernism' exhibition, 23/03/19 - 29/03/20.]

Riverscape is an international arts initiative developed by Cleveland Arts and Teesside Tomorrow.

Artists from Japan, India, Poland and Great Britain have worked in Cleveland UK in 1992/93 to study the river Tees and its links with people, community and industry.

Riverscape is one of a number of projects supported by Cleveland Arts to draw attention to the river- a major feature in shaping Cleveland’s history and identity.

Riverscape celebrates major works by artists Takashi Ikezawa, Vivan Sundaram, Hanna Luczak and Graham Crowley – I am grateful to them for their commitment and creative response to the challenge of Riverscape.

[above text from Cleveland Arts Director Alistair Snow in the accompanying publication, 1993]

Presented by Tees Valley Arts

Charcoal and pastel on paper

Where you'll find this

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art