Patterns of Tactility and Sound
: Collaboration through Sensory Textile Practice with the Visually Impaired at Macclesfield Museums

  • Francesca Lockett Richardson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This practice-led research explores community engagement practices using textile practices of hand and digital printing, and hand weaving by a textile artist through a longitudinal case study with two museums in the historical silk town of Macclesfield, England. This research was undertaken by me as the artist-researcher together with a community of visually impaired participants who live locally to the museums. The community group experienced barriers in fully engaging with the museums. This study forms part of a wider debate on heritage sites collaborating with contemporary artists, community engaged textile practices within the museum context and the use of sensory encounters with archive objects to attract new audiences from diverse backgrounds such as disabled people. This research focuses on the two specific museum locations The Silk Museum and Paradise Mill. Visually impaired members of the charity called the East Cheshire Eye Society participated through creative practice community engagement events by exploring further into the archive unearthing hidden histories. This creative textile practice produced a catalogue of experimental artworks and two on-site art installations. My findings came through the documentation and analysis of ethnographic and autoethnographic methods of observations, reflections, and participants voices. Incorporating the senses of touch and sound into my textile practices brought about new connections of knowledge to place, and cultural identity. The museum and the textile artist acted as a conduit to resume the need to gather in a place and have social connection, with those interactions acting as a method of bonding to people and place. The considerations and sensibilities of working with the museum, the visually impaired and the exploration of materials is outlined as a note for future collaborations. The exhibitions raised awareness that the visually impaired can equally take part in the arts, raising the profile of the charity of those with sight loss showing that the unseen can be seen. The working with and making of silk textiles acted as a metaphor for the challenges and difficulties faced both in its contemporary construction with the visually impaired just as it was for the ninetieth century blind mill workers.
Date of Award14 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorClaire Barber (Main Supervisor) & Jill Townsley (Co-Supervisor)

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