The Dyeing Trade
Calderdale once produced more fustian clothes than anywhere else on earth. Over the past hundred years the mills have gradually been converted into homes, offices, workshops and, particularly in Hebden Bridge, into artist studios.
Yet the cacophonous churn of the textile mill and ammoniacal tang of the tanneries has not vanished completely. Even today echoes of industry can be found in artwork produced under the same roofs.
This exhibition continued that theme. Commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Dyers and designed and produced by two Hebden artists, Phil O'Farrell & Karl Theobald, it commemorated the vast Yorkshire textile dyeing industry that dominated our valley 150 years ago.
Shown through a series of large stained glass panels, visitors learned how North Sea kelp, Yorkshire shale and London urine (!) were combined to form alum, the essential fixative used for dyeing clothes and indeed, stained glass windows.
They also witnessed stained glass manufacture in person as Karl constructed the final window of the series in the gallery itself.
The Journey of Alum
The series of stained glass windows aimed to tell the tale of alum, the essential mordant used in c18 dyes.
Please click on the categories below to explore the journey and read brief extracts from the exhibition.
Alum production from Yorkshire slate required large quantities of human urine. At first this was obtained locally, then further afield - from Newcastle to Hull. Eventually the industry became so large that barrels had to be shipped from the capital.
Alum's three key ingredients were ammonia, potassium and aluminium sulphate, obtained from urine, seaweed and shale respectively. They were all transported to vast alum houses along the coast of East Yorkshire.
Alum was packed and shipped to dyers and tanners around the country.