In residence at Herbert Parkinson, artists Stephanie Jefferies and Sarah Marsh spent time on the factory floor, enjoyed lunchtimes in the canteen and explored the archives held at Odney Hall, gathering sensory memories of sound, touch and smell connected with the manufacturer.
Herbert Parkinson has been part of the John Lewis Partnership since 1953 and shared its 70th Anniversary with the 2023 Festival week. Recurring themes emerged within the stories collected, particularly the Loom Room; the ethereal and ever-present, beating heart of the factory.
Children and families were invited to enter the sensory playscape and explore memories gathered from the factory floor, woven through the immersive space. The sculptural objects and sensory experiences that formed North Light were beautifully crafted with an early years audience, accessibility and inclusion in mind. The environment encased its audiences in the wonder of play – featuring a soothing, rhythmic soundscape, relaxing projections, and interactive visuals.
The Partners of Herbert Parkinson, the name by which all staff are known, inspired the playful and reciprocal nature of the space with practical insight, suggestions and an immense creative energy; merging material, machine and the human touch. During the exhibition, audiences of all ages experienced the flow of the factory floor, searched for the ever present heartbeat of the looms and interacted with touchable objects, wearable pieces and soft sculpture.
Slide – Inspired by Jacquard Looms and the Factory Floor, Co-Designed & Fabricated by Three Create; Sound Installation, Buffalo Sounds – Lins Wilson, Jon Foulger, Tom Hudson; Projections, Jessica Wild; Interactive Visuals, Liam Jefferies.
We have been welcomed by the whole Herbert Parkinson team, who have gone above and beyond to realise visions, support abstract ideas and to be so generous with their time (and patience)! We honestly feel part of the Herbert Parkinson family, and will never forget the experience, collecting beautifully poetic sensory memories that are the perfect reflection of the community spirit that is so tangible across the factory floor.
Stephanie Jefferies and Sarah Marsh are artists and play specialists, currently working together as a collective to create sensory inspired and child-led environments for play, in a variety of internationally renowned cultural settings across the UK. Their respective specialisms inform their collective practice. Stephanie is an early years and Montessori trained educator and designer with experience of project managing the design and build of contemporary play installations. Sarah is a sensory-led artist, working with primarily neurodivergent communities and SEN audiences to create tactile and multi-sensory environments evolved through observation and interaction.
The artists’ making and art practices have followed an almost identical trajectory, from which they have developed a uniquely reciprocal working relationship. The sensitivity of their practice can be felt in their work; developing interactive, sensory spaces with organisations including Whitechapel Gallery, Tate, The Tetley, Whitworth Art Gallery, The Mosaic Rooms, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth Wakefield.
Herbert Parkinson Textile Factory based in Darwen, Lancashire became part of the John Lewis Partnership in 1953, and ever since has been a thriving example of UK design, quality and craftsmanship. Combining the best of modern technology and traditional skills, Herbert Parkinson makes many of John Lewis’s own brand soft furnishings, duvets, pillows, and all of their Made to Measure products.
Herbert Parkinson is a major employer in the local community, with over 250 partners working there. They are committed to supporting the textile industry and have been successful in keeping British manufacturing at the heart of Lancashire.