Major Touring Exhibition of the Quaker Tapestry to visit the Ironbridge Gorge Museum

17th December 2012

Major Touring Exhibition of the Quaker Tapestry to visit the Ironbridge Gorge Museum A major free exhibition of captivating and colourful panels of embroidery from the Quaker Tapestry Centre in Kendal, Cumbria will be on display at the Coalbrookdale Gallery, adjacent to Enginuity in the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire from 22nd May to 5th June 2013. It will be open 7 days a week.

A masterpiece of storytelling and a celebration of life, people and events across the centuries, the modern bright textile panels give a fascinating insight into key events of the last 350 years from a Quaker perspective. Coming to Shropshire for the first time, they have been created by some 4,000 men, women and children aged between 4 and 90 years, from 15 different countries and were embroidered over a 15 year period between 1981 and 1996.

The award-winning tapestry celebrates Quaker ideas, faith and practice from the 17th century to the present day. The panels  chosen for display at the museum include subjects as diverse as trade, welfare, the Irish potato famine, railways, the slave trade, prison reform and simplicity to name a few – there is even a panel depicting Coalbrookdale with its Quaker Ironmasters’ houses and furnaces!

The stories of the people who made the panels are as interesting as the history contained within the panels themselves. Bridget Guest, Artistic Director and General Manager of the centre in Kendal, said: "A retired engineer who only attended a workshop to drop off his wife was inspired to embroider a sailing ship. Later he said ‘That week’s work is likely to be more enduring than anything else I have ever done in my life... ...already I know some of the factories I built have been closed and demolished’.

“And, in some cases, the panels made perilous journeys in order to be done. One teacher took the Elizabeth Fry panel to share the making with Quakers across Australia and left it to make its own way back with people adding to the stitching at each place.”

Each of the tapestry panels measures 25ins (635mm) x 21ins (533mm) and was created in the ‘narrative crewel embroidery’ style of the Bayeux Tapestry, which allows the design to ‘dance’ freely across the surface of the canvas. A special Quaker stitch was invented by Anne Wynn-Wilson and accepted by the Royal School of Needlework to produce the lettering and other details.

The free exhibition also includes a display of Quaker artefacts from the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s Collection, children’s activity sheets, gift shop and opportunities to see embroiderers working.

Since its first public exhibition, the tapestry has travelled to more than 150 venues in the UK, Europe and America. After the two-week exhibition at Ironbridge the panels will return to the Quaker Tapestry Centre in Kendal where the permanent exhibition is open to the public for most of the year. The project has created other legacies as new groups have been inspired to make tapestries using this collaborative approach as a way to commemorate special events.

For further information about the Quaker Tapestry exhibition, which will be open daily 10am - 5pm from 22nd May to 5th 2013, contact the Ironbridge Visitor Information Centre on Tel: 01952 433 424 or visit www.ironbridge.org.uk; details about the Quaker Tapestry can be found on www.quaker-tapestry.co.uk. The Gorge is easily reached via the M6 and M54 motorways exiting at Telford (M54 junction 4 or 6).