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Artist behind The Great Tapestry of Scotland exhibits Dundee Tapestry

  25 Jan '24   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Andrew Crummy MBE, the artist behind the Great Tapestry of Scotland, a project which was spearheaded by Alexander McCall Smith, has been working with a community of stitchers in Dundee to complete a new project- the Dundee Tapestry. Consisting of 35 exquisite hand-stitched panels made by teams of volunteer stitchers, this new embroidered tapestry will go on display at V&A Dundee from Saturday, 20 January to Sunday, 28 April (free to visit).

Over 140 volunteer stitchers from Dundee and the surrounding area have been working on the panels since the spring of 2022, with many taking up a needle and thread for the first time and learning new skills from the more experienced. Together, they have collaborated to tell Dundee’s unique story, stitch by stitch.

The stories illustrated in the Dundee Tapestry reach far beyond the well-known headlines of jute, jam and journalism. Drawing on stories and experiences of Dundee’s communities from the mid-19th century to today, the panels explore the city’s industrial heritage, its creative achievements, its biodiversity and its people from 1850 through to the present day.

The Dundee Tapestry project was conceived and developed by John Fyffe of the Weaver Incorporation of Dundee, one of the city’s Nine Incorporated Trades, who said: 

“The Dundee Tapestry is a form of visual storytelling which tells the amazing history of our city, including the highs and lows, the hardships and hopes.  An immense amount of time and dedication has gone into this large-scale community project and we are all incredibly proud of what has been achieved together.”

“The volunteer stitchers have worked tirelessly for two years, even finding ways to work on the tapestry throughout the pandemic, and now we really can’t wait to share their work with everyone over the next few months at V&A Dundee”

As Dundee looks forward, The Dundee Tapestry reveals the city’s past, present and future through eight illustrative themes which include Communities; Nature; Industry; Women; Education; Culture and Creative; International and Futures.

Some of the detail visitors can expect to see include, the Dundee Culture panel reflecting on Dundonians’ resilience and collective sense of humour which includes a selection of embroidered words and phrases in Dundee dialect.  

Individual panels dedicated to NatureBotanic Garden and The Eden Project sit alongside a Health panel, dedicated to some of the medical firsts achieved within the city, as well as celebrating health professionals who have transformed medical practices for people across the world, in specialisms as diverse as keyhole surgery, midwifery, ophthalmology and radiotherapy.

Dundee WomenThe Four Marys and She Town are three panels which recognise women of Dundee who made their mark on the city and the world. She Town pays homage to women who may not have received the recognition in their lifetimes, including welder Bella Keyzer, suffragettes Ethel Moorhead and Lila Clunas and councillor Agnes Husband.

Creativity and Culture in Dundee is depicted through individual panels dedicated to Comics and CharactersGamingTheatre and WritersMusic and Dancehalls and Sporting Dundee with a panel dedicated to Lochee born singer-songwriter Michael Marra

Dundee’s strong international connections are spotlighted in panels dedicated to Dundee’s twin cities and influence on the world. As Dundee’s linen industry grew, the proceeds were inextricably linked to the enslavement of people from Africa and the Indies. The Osnaburg Linenpanel acknowledges the links between Dundee and the business of enslavement in the city’s history. The panel depicts links that exist today through the city’s statues, buildings and street names.

The UNESCO City of Design panel reflects on some of the important milestones that have contributed to Dundee’s design renaissance, including Maggie’s Centre at Ninewells Hospital designed by architect Frank Gehry in 2003, Dundee becoming the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design in 2014 and the city welcoming V&A Dundee in 2018.

Dr Frances Stevenson, senior lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design is a textile designer and one of the founders of the project.  She was invited by Andrew Crummy MBE, the artist behind the Great Tapestry of Scotland to co-design the panels.

Dr Frances Stevenson said, “Researching and illustrating the history, social history and current events associated with Dundee has been fascinating. Stitchers worked with the project design team to find relevant information that we could incorporate into the panels. As a result, we have depicted well known facts such as the city’s connection with Jute, as well as small details that may not be so well known. Did you know the official voice behind Mickey Mouse was Jimmy Macdonald who was born in Dundee, and Dundee Wisconsin claims to be the UFO capital of the World….how great is that!”

Students from DJCAD’s Interior and Environmental Design course have designed the exhibition stands, with construction being carried out by carpentry and joinery students from Dundee and Angus College. Joanna Mawdsley, Head of Learning at V&A Dundee, said “The Dundee Tapestry is a wonderful co-designed community artwork that celebrates the history and creativity of our city in glorious stitch. We’re so happy to have it on display and look forward to people coming to V&A Dundee to enjoy the experience of seeing the completed Dundee Tapestry.” 

A series of themed talks, events and activities are planned to take place at V&A Dundee, engaging audiences with both the design process and the themes depicted in the Dundee Tapestry. The first of these will take place on Sunday, 10 March with award-winning Scottish designer Chloe Patience who will lead a day-long masterclass in 3-dimensional thread techniques, bead and sequin work, teaching attendees how to make their very own miniature tapestry. Please visit V&A Dundee website for further information. www.vam.ac.uk/dundeeThe Dundee Tapestry (vam.ac.uk)

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