Who’s That Girl?

Whos That Girl?

In 2018 Est.1761 commissioned Salford Makers, led by artist Sally Gilford to seek out the hidden and neglected stories of  women in the Bridgewater Archive Collections. Taking inspiration from photographs, maps, letters and other historical artefacts, Sally produced Who’s That Girl? a project curated to interpret the women’s hidden stories into design. 

Working closely with historian Mark Charnley, Sally carried out research into various archives and collections across Greater Manchester to uncover stories of the forgotten women on the Bridgewater Canal.

Collaborating with Salford Makers Jessie Stringer-Fewtrill, Julia Roy-Williams & Natalie Linney , and artists Cheryl O’Meara, Eva Elliot , Vicky Clarke & Jennifer Reid, Sally commissioned each person to produce work in response to her research. The work was then interpreted into designs that resulted in an exclusive range of bespoke products.

Salford Makers also delivered an accompanying series of workshops inspired by the different processes used in the making: printing with nature, knotting techniques for jewellery, textile screen printing and cushion making. These community workshops gave local people the opportunity to learn new skills and continue the tradition of making.  


Flower Parties 

Natalie & Sally worked together to tell the story of early 1900’s women who arranged ‘Flower Parties’ along the canal. The parties were used as a cover for women to come together and drink alcohol, as the public consumption of alcohol by women was considered socially unacceptable. As laws were passed to prohibit women drinking in public houses, these ladies took matters into their own hands by arranging their own events. 

In response to this Natalie and Sally created textile pieces which were eco dyed using sorghum, a flowering plant that  is used in the alcohol making process. The sorghum was prepared in a large dye bath and once the bath started to develop a brick red colour the fabrics were ready to be submerged, tied using different Shibori techniques. Once the fabrics were dyed the pieces were then screen printed using designs made from images of barley and hops. 

Jennifer Reid & <Thread{ } Collective

Jennifer Reid a preeminent (maybe celebrated?)  broadside balladress of the Manchester region, was commissioned to compose a ballad in response to Sally’s research.

Jennifer’s vocals were captured and translated into print designs using code and generative code with <Thread{ } collective of which Sally is one third and who also form part of Salford Makers.

Using software Ableton Live to process Jennifer’s vocals, the sounds were then visualised by exploring video synthesis and data through changes in frequency, attack and timbre. These visuals were then re-created using hand screen printed processes and turned into digital print designs.


Pit Brow Lasses

Sally collaborated with Julia Roy-Williams to create a range of silver jewellery exploring the fastening worn by the women who worked in the coal mines. 

The Pit Brow Lasses worked in mines alongside men until 1842 when a law was passed to prohibit women going underground. Unable to work as they had done so previously, the women took to the surface carrying out equally laborious work such as pulling coal carts, sorting coal onto conveyor belts and loading wagons.

The Pit Brow Lasses are considered to be the first women to wear trousers, which was the source of huge controversy. To pull coal in carts from the mines the women wore harness-style belts with chains, these belts wore holes into their clothing and the women were often demonised for their appearance. 

Sally & Julia explored the symbolism of the belt fastenings – something which illustrates the expectation of how women are expected to behave and look versus how in reality they needed to possess strength and resilience. 

The materials and processes they used to create the jewellery also reflected the industrial making on the canal. Their work also features hidden messages and acid-etched surface patterns taken from Sally’s screen prints of Jennifer Reid’s vocals.


Cartes des Vistes

Inspired by “The power to fix the gaze: Gender and class in Victorian photographs of pit‐brow women” written by Sarah Edge. Sally looked at the objectification of women through the production of postcards of portraits of the Pit Brow Lasses – “Cartes des Vistes” .These postcards were sold and mostly purchased by middle and upper class men who gained pleasure from looking at the women. This contrasted greatly with the Victorian ideologies of feminism and moral supremacy.


Sanctions on Women

Unrealistic sanctions and expectations placed onto women were commonplace in the Victorian era. This specific story highlights the ridiculous rules enforced onto normal women for doing nothing more than living.

The Duke of Bridgewater stood on a bridge in the Delph at Worsley, and a woman passed by him on her way home from working. She must have been working with cotton in the industrial yard as some of the fluff from her dress transferred onto the Duke’s clothing. Because of the fluff attached to the Duke’s clothes, he banned all women from using the bridge, this meant they had to walk a much longer route to the other side after their long days at work. 

To tell this story Sally & Eva Elliot created a collection of porcelain jewellery which references this moment – the infliction of power – over gender and class – for something so menial. 

Sally used fluff to interpret surface print designs that were then screen printed and transferred onto porcelain and fabric. Fluff was also used to imprint into the surface of the porcelain to create textures and pattern. The shapes of the porcelain pieces reflect the movement and fluidity of the canal and waterways. The fabric printed was also used to make a selection of products for this commission.


Women’s Craft on the Canal

Craft along the Salford canal was very prevalent and women would use crochet to create intricate designs to adorn the interiors of their boat cabins. Using their skills to decorate their interiors gave the women a chance to personalise their own spaces and create their own sense of style. Crocheting would be used to make anything and everything, from curtains to bonnets and clothing. 

Crocheting may have been welcomed as a therapeutic antidote to the contrasting, hard, laborious work the women endured during working hours. 

Taking actual crochet pieces and using them to create gelatine prints, Sally worked with Cheryl O’Meara to transform this object into a digitised print design.