Activity: Talk or presentation types › Invited talk
A pair of gloves represent many things to many people worldwide, the story of glove-making encompasses history, technology, politics, religion, and fashion. A pair of gloves signify origin, significance, construction and purpose. The art of glove-making is still considered today as a specialist craft. There has been a glove-making industry in Somerset since the 14th century; at its height the industry in Yeovil consisted of 32 different glove-making companies. Today Somerset is still a major county for glove-making in the UK, Southcombe Brothers, Burfields & Co and Pittards of Yeovil being the most renowned. The Yeovil Glove archive has a distinctive collection of gloves each containing different histories and significance in respect of the wearer and art and craft.At Southcombe Brothers we found a glove-making industry indebted to specialist craft making skills accrued from generations of glovers since 1847. Through initial visits in summer 2011 we encountered the many stages of glove making from the dyeing process, through to drying, cutting and sewing; we observed the use of traditional tools, often with hand crafted processes implicit in the production such as cutting forms, wooden drums for drying, horizontal industrial sewing machines and metal glove irons, polished and shiny through day to day use. Our parallel exposure to Yeovil glove archive presented neatly stored and preserved equipment such as glove irons, cutters and industrial sewing machines, some which were almost identical to some of those in use at Southcombe. It was this duality we discovered between the use of generations of knowledge and experience in traditional craft skills and progressive technical innovation relevant to the protective glove market which we found exciting from the outset. Thus Southcombe became part of the inspiration and formed the development phase, with an emphasis on the fireman’s glove or ‘Firemaster’ coming through as an important element of the research. One to Twenty, created in ubiquitous grey and black vinyl inflatable form traces the exterior shapes of glove patterns used to create the Firemaster glove at Southcombe at a precise ratio of 1:20, comprising a complete length of over 13 metres. When the audience negotiates the different boundaries of the work by moving around or over it, they tread within the template of the Southcombe glove that has been used for over 160 years. When installed on land outside One to Twenty becomes an active work emphasising performance, when removed from outdoor and placed indoor within the formality of a gallery setting a different aspect of the gloves history is revealed going back to the 16th century during which time social order and aesthetic formed a strict construct and division within society. What’s left outside when the installation is taken down is the ghostly formation left scorched in the ground.