...Ellie Laycock & Hunted and Stuffed.
I didn’t think I was ‘good’ at history......
Dry teachers, stuffy rooms, monotonous lists of dates and facts, fidgeting about waiting for the bell to sound our release.
History just never came to life.
Who wants to be stuck in the past? It’s all gone. Boring. Dead.
All focus was on the future. Do this to become that. Keep your eye on the prize. This time next year, Rodney...
So I filed that away under ‘can’t do it’ and got on with what I could do which seemed to be art, more specifically photography, which I discovered whilst completing my Sculpture degree. Working my way up the ranks with a load of tech under my belt, girl in a man’s world, knowing my f-stop from my elbow, I liked it and did quite well.
Then I had a family and suddenly 16 hour shoots and impromptu trips away were not so easy to manage. People needed feeding fish fingers and didn’t like it if I didn’t pick them up from school for 3 days.
So I asked my mum, Denise, to finally teach me how to use a sewing machine. Starting with the vintage textiles I’d accumulated, we founded Hunted and Stuffed in 2011 and began our investigations.
We started to reinvent and celebrate the things that were great but have been forgotten, things that survive, things that speak of the skilled hands that made them, of the stories and histories of the makers, things that carry their own story for people to embrace.
Because stories are vital to us; we use them to entertain and delight our loved ones, to soothe small children off to sleep and we have them as inherent truths about ourselves. They are our language and our currency when everything else falls away.
As we get older, we find history creeping in everywhere. We begin to look back to where we’ve come from as well as where we are going. Looking back to look forward. A broader picture. Taking the best of what’s gone to forge our best futures. Because who we are informs who we become.
"We may be captains of our own ships, scouring the wide oceans or sailing straight to treasure island, but the port we sailed out of has some kind of influence, some kind of hold. Even if we don’t want it to."
Everything is connected.
We are all part of one big tapestry.
Then I sourced this vintage Gannex wool, and it set me off on an adventure. I wanted to discover its history: not only to do it justice but to be able to be authentic in its reinvention.
I discovered that it had been made in a Mill in Elland, Yorkshire, a mill that has since been demolished and turned into a business park.
I learned about Lord Kagan, who invented the fabric, a refugee who fled Stalinist Lithuania before making his fortune in textiles in Yorkshire and then spectacularly falling from grace.
I noticed that his mill was not far from the Bean Ing Mill in Leeds that my maternal grandmother Lily worked at in the 1950’s (and which probably made her deaf). Suddenly ‘history’ was coming to life.
Somehow this fabric was a part of me too and I had to unpick why. I discovered who had worn the fabric – which is why the resulting cushions are named after British Prime Minister Harold
Wilson and The Duke
Of Edinburgh – and now they become part of our story.
And it grew. I discovered that my grandmother’s father, Walter Jordan, was also a weaver. That’s now four generations of us, all textile workers. That was until he died in WW1 on 1st July 1916, the first day at the Battle of the Somme, one of over 20,000 to die that single day. Now this story reaches to France, the National Archives, medal cards and war memorials.
But where did he learn those skills? From his mother, I discover, my great great grandmother Mary Ann Dixon. Now we are in Yorkshire in 1875, five generations back.
Ok, now I get the hint. It’s in my blood – I just took a while to find out....
So what does that mean? It means we make everything in the UK
for a start, because it helps create jobs. The kind of jobs that sustained people like my ancestors and possibly yours too.
It means that we make everything with integrity
, because Great Great Granny Dixon is still watching, and you are too.
It means that we put our heart, soul and history
into what we make.
What we make are heirlooms for the future
. For all our futures.
What we make is HOMEWARE WITH HISTORY.
- Ellie Laycock
Hunted and Stuffed