2024 Festival Dates: 6 & 7 July

Human Hands Present

Silentnight’s resident embroidery artist displayed a playful walk-in installation – a dreamlike meditation on sleep and modern machinery’s dependence on tender human hands

Film by Wash Design, commissioned by Creative Lancashire

“For me, making is about engaging your creative, critical brain with your senses and physical body, enjoying the tactile outcome”

Bella May Leonard

During her residency Bella May Leonard was struck by the scale and speed of the Silentnight factory and was inspired by the idea that the frenetic, cellular mass manufacture she encountered needed, nevertheless, to be guided by the tenderness of human hands to produce ‘sleeping products’ – things we all use but know little about.

Her work is a playful celebration of the role of the individual in the powerfully efficient manufacturing process and aims to encourage pride in the abilities and workplace heritage of Silentnight’s staff, making them part of the historical and present achievements of the company. Blackburn Cathedral’s Crypt provides a dreamlike home for her interactive installation.

In collaboration with Silentnight’s New Product Development team, the artist created a playful assembly of divan frames forming a canvas onto which she has embroidered bold shapes and patterns from production line waste.

The Artist

Bella May Leonard uses hand embroidery to gain insight into other cultures. The process of hand stitch interests because of its labour intensive qualities and elaborate possibilities.

The artist creates sculptural stitched works exploring the meaning of craftsmanship in the post-industrial West and our developing relationships to textiles. Leonard has previously studied Lancashire’s industrial heritage during commissions with Queen Street Mill and Gawthorpe Hall Textile Collection.

The Manufacturer

With 70 years of manufacturing heritage, Silentnight is a national name in the beds and mattresses sector, making products from the Barnoldswick factory since 1961. With the longest serving staff member being part of the company for 50 years, the team make products including spring, foam and gel mattresses that use technical advances and innovation to remain at the forefront of the market.

It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Bella. Her delve into our company history has reminded us of lots of great things that we used to do, and highlighted the importance that the human hand still has in today’s more machine led manufacturing.




2019 Trusts & Foundations

The National Festival Of Making Delivery Team

National Festival of Making is supported by the Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Brian Mercer Trust and Foundations and Partners. This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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