Sarah Hulme: Opening the Seam

Updated: May 22, 2020

An interview with Sarah Hulme, HNC Contemporary Constructed Textiles student at Bradford School of Art.

My featured work is about the story of my great-great-grandparents who moved from Staffordshire to Altofts near Wakefield in 1870 to start work at Pope and Pearson’s, West Riding Colliery. The narrative is told through a series of squares using dye, print and stitch. They tell the story of the struggles of life as a coal miner and miner’s wife in Victorian/Edwardian Britain. My work depicts the lack of life choices, the physical and mental ‘darkness’ of working down a mine and continual ‘wash days’ for the wives. This is contrasted with the ‘lightness’ a colliery school education provided to future generations. My grandparents received scholarships through education and became teachers. They left a predestined life as a miner and miner’s wife behind.

Q. Within ‘Opening the Seam’, your intersection of print and stitch come together to present personal narratives which are greatly inspired by your great-great-grandparents. How have you found the process of researching and incorporating your family history within your work?

The process of researching and incorporating my family history into my final collection was really interesting. My research included visiting the National Coal Mining Museum's archive in Wakefield to look at items of Edwardian miners’ clothing. I was shocked how miners didn’t have workwear and wore suits that became rigid with coal dust, worn, ripped and darned.I visited Beamish Museum’s colliery village and The Mining Art Museum in Bishop Auckland. These all provided me with a great visual grounding as to what life was like as a miner in the 1870s.I also spoke with a local history author and resident of Altofts about the pit and colliery life during my ancestor’s time. Speaking to my relatives also provided me with stories that brought home to me how positive the amazing sense of community and family was, despite the hard, physical nature of their lives.

Q. Whilst your inspiration largely comes from your own personal family heritage, how do you feel your local environment of Yorkshire, has influenced your work?

Yorkshire provides such an amazing wealth of source material for my work. In particular, around my local area in Wakefield there are nature reserves created out of abandoned collieries, imposing mill buildings, canal-side walks, pit terraces, converted colliery chapels and schools, weathered Normanton brick buildings and worn stone work creating a sense of history, dilapidation and passing of time.

Q. Can you tell us a bit more about your practice as a whole?

My practice is inspired by my local industrial heritage, history and personal narratives. I use subtle tones and surface design to tell stories through print and stitch. Working with natural fibres I repurpose historical textiles in my work. I use Edwardian objects that are damaged, discarded or dismissed as useless to restore their beauty and make them into desirable objects of display.

Q. What are your plans following the completion of your studies?

I plan to carry on dyeing, printing and stitching future textile projects inspired by Yorkshire’s industrial heritage. My plan is to create a small collection of art textile objects to sell. Once lockdown is over, I hope to volunteer for The Art House in Wakefield on a community print project with asylum seekers and refugees.


To see more of Sarah Hulme's work click the link below


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