Now closed

Generation: The People and Production of Kidderminster

Stunning windows into the past were discovered at our 2021 Summer Exhibition, which has now closed.

Our exhibition, Generation, was curated to tell the story of a Kidderminster industry and community with photographs and objects from the Museum of Carpet archive. It explored connections and shared experiences between generations in Kidderminster who worked in the same carpet factories and lived in the town. It inspired intergenerational conversation and a sense of community and confidence in a time of seismic change.

Our photographs were displayed alongside the public’s! The images which were submitted to our Photography Open Call completed the story and continue the discussion of what Kidderminster means to us now.

Woven Forms: Breaking the Boundaries

Saturday 29th June – Saturday 28th September 2019

Weaving is the action of interlacing two distinct sets of threads at right angles to each other to form a pliable material. It is one of the most ancient crafts and it remains essentially unchanged to this day.

Artists, designers and industrialists search for innovative ways of developing their product. This exhibition celebrates woven forms that break the boundaries of traditional flat woven cloth.

Jan Bowman

Weaving artist Jan Bowman is renowned for breaking the boundaries of weaving by creating woven spatial divides, panels and sculptural pieces that challenge the conventional limits of the discipline by transforming traditional woven forms into contemporary installations. Examples of her work can be seen at the Collect Exhibition and the Saatchi Gallery this spring.  Bringing this woven installation out of London and to the West Midlands will offer a new audience exposure to something that has only previously been on display in the south.

‘We work from deep levels of intuition and feeling; deeply embedded in our collective consciousness is the intuitive awareness of our relationship to nature and the environment’

The Green Imperative. Victor Papanek


The exhibition showcases a four-part sculptural installation and woven panels by weaving artist Jan Bowman that are inspired by starling murmurations and the natural world. The Installation ‘Murmuration’ comprises of four large-scale, hand woven works which interpret the amazing spectacle of starling murmurations. The  pieces echo the starling flock’s swooning orchestration of air born acrobatics, their grace, ephemerality and intensity as they jostle for safe position before leaving their roost few by few to join the vast space and freedom of the sky. ‘Murmuration’ is more than an installation. ‘Murmuration’ is a visual metaphor for a change in personal and emotional well-being, influenced by the security of the collective, the uncertainty of life and the prevailing hope new beginnings offer.

Alongside Jan’s work are beautiful examples of woven Rya Rugs and Ulster Carpets’ spectacular Sacramento Airport ‘Flying Carpet’.

Ply Split Braiding

Woven Forms: Breaking the Boundaries also features the talented work of Julie Hedges, a specialist in decorative ply-split braiding. Julie designs and makes wearable and sculptural pieces using the traditional ply-splitting method. She breaks the boundaries of weaving by creating braided forms without using the loom. This ‘off loom’ technique affords the braids to be made and combined to make more complex designs. Julie regularly shows her work with the Braid society and recently joined the Soft Engineering textile group, showing her work with them at Whitchurch Silk Mill, Hants. She is an inspirational teacher and runs ply-split braiding workshops across the UK and has also taught in the USA, Italy and India. On display in the Museum are a series of items including three peppers, bows, baskets, seed heads braided from linen and water hyacinth, silk and cotton necklaces, and silk and cotton bracelets. Each item is unique and mark a wonderful contrast to the ‘on loom’ woven installations created by Jan Bowman.

The Sacramento Carpet

Artist Seyed Alavi collaborated with Ulster Carpets to design and weave a carpet for Sacramento Airport that is like no other.

“Artist Seyed Alavi certainly put Ulster Carpets to the test when he came up with an idea to feature aerial views of the local area on a new carpet at Sacramento Airport. But we specialise in turning these concepts into a reality and this remarkably detailed design has created a memorable welcome for the millions of travellers who go through the airport every year.”

Ulster carpets design studio

Seyed used aerial photographs of Sacramento as the basis for his design, recalling the experience of flying. By depicting the larger geographical area the carpet reinforces a sense of belonging and creates a connection with the local landscape for the traveller. In this way the carpet can be experienced as a ‘welcome’ for visitors arriving in Sacramento.

“Quite literally, it is a flooring work of art that showcases our ability to create intricate carpet designs that can also stand up to the rigorous demands of a busy airport. It took a lot of time and effort to translate the aerial photography into a design suitable for a carpet and the depth of colour and texture we have created is testament to our manufacturing expertise.”

Aeiral images and design concepts were given to Ulster Carpets’ design team who translated the images into a format for woven Axminster carpet. To weave such a large and complex design is almost impossible without the aid of new technology. The Sacramento Airport project could only really be realised by using Ulster Carpets’ unique patented PSYLO (Pre-selected Yarn Loading Operation) Axminster weaving technology. PSYLO’s capacity to offer total design freedom and an unsurpassed range of colours provided Seyed with the opportunity to create a design that breaks the boundaries of traditional woven carpet.

“It was a pleasure to be working alongside Seyed to realise his vision and I believe Sacramento Airport also deserve credit for their commitment to enhancing the travel experience of their customers. It is amazing to think that millions of people travelling through the airport are enjoying this visually stunning carpet.”

John Nagler, Ulster Carpets

Alongside the exhibition the museum will be hosting a series of events and workshops that focus on traditional craft skills in order to educate and promote well-being. A seminar will be delivered by members of the Museum Collections Team with the opportunity to see original designs for woven carpets from the Museum archive Workshops including braiding, paper cut and rag rugging will expand the programme. The workshops are intended to enable participants to learn new skills, gain a sense of achievement and promote well-being. Research shows that learning a new skill and being creative is associated with greater optimism and improved ability to get the most from life.

Woven Forms Press Release 2019

Journey to Japan

3rd July – 29th September 2018

Until 1868 Japan was a closed country. Only very limited travel was permitted to and from its islands and its unique culture experienced almost no influence from the outside world. Following the opening of Japan’s borders, adventurous westerners began to make the gruelling journey to Japan.

Journey to Japan follows the experience of Michael Tomkinson (1841-1921) of Tomkinsons, who made the treacherous journey from Kidderminster to Yokohama in 1888 by land and sea.

He travelled across the Atlantic on the RMS Etruria, and across USA by steam train from New York to San Francisco. There he boarded the SS Belgic to Yokohama, Japan’s first European trading port. His journey took over two months.

Tomkinson fell in love with Japan and its art, collecting beautiful objects through his art dealer. He amassed a substantial and valuable collection which he housed in a Japanese museum in the grounds of his house, Franche Hall, near Kidderminster.

“The art of the Japanese astonishes us by its increased strength, its poetry, sweet forms and sweet harmonies.”

Michael Tomkinson

Journey to Japan offers a unique contribution to understanding ‘Japonisme’, the craze for Japanese art and design which swept Europe during the late 19th century and inspired major western artists of the time.

It highlights how the journey of a single man and the foundation of a single collection of Japanese objects and art in Kidderminster, ‘the carpet capital of the world’, brought Japanese influence to carpet design in the UK.

Journey to Japan juxtaposes dramatic Edo-period silk paintings of the natural world and landscapes with intricate nineteenth-century katagami stencils, hand-cut from mulberry paper, from the original Tomkinson collection now housed in the Museum of Carpet.

The main exhibition is complemented by displays which explore the tangible impact of the Tomkinson collection and the wider trend of Japanese artistic influence on Kidderminster carpet design. They highlight similarities and parallels between katagami motifs and patterns and late nineteenth and early twentieth-century designs from the Museum of Carpet collection.

The Journey to Japan exhibition was opened on 3rd July by David Adam of Adam Carpets. The opening featured an insightful introduction by katagami scholar Mamiko Markham, who kindly loaned objects from her personal collection to the exhibition.