The Isle of Dogs Flax Exchange

Exhibition runs from 25 May – 15 September 2024
Open every day 9am–5pm

The exhibition at Poplar Union on May 25th is the culmination of a series of workshops with local groups and volunteers involved in the planting, harvesting, spinning, dyeing, weaving and stitching of flax.

The exhibition displays flax crops grown on the island, tools for processing it artworks using flax by practitioners involved in the exchange including Alexia Doyne-Ditmas, Ankhmaa Batchuluun, Diana Furlong, Divya Obson, Jen Cable, Julia Shannahan, Ros Stoddart and Scherry Shi.

The Flax Exchange project was initiated in Walton-on-the-Naze by Shane Waltener and The Nose, a project space and bookshop in North East Essex. It drew inspiration ‘soil to soil textile practices and the idea of a textile ‘fibershed’, a term coined by sustainability campaigner Rebecca Burgess describing networks connecting growers, makers and consumers.

The film by Laura Bushell documents the project and the making of Flax Suite, a series od making action performed at Poplar Union on May 25th. With this performance, sustainable textile processes have been crafted into a series of making actions by Shane Waltener and the participants, in collaboration with sound artists Otto Willberg and Elisha Millard, performance artist Merlin Nova and dance artist Laura Glaser.

These making actions make up the performance of Flax Suite, which borrows its title from Western Classical music referring to an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral band piece. Flax Piece #2-10 will be part of this suite. Flax Piece #1 was originally performed at the Nose in Essex, where the project started, with Shane processing flax from accompanied by musician Merlin Nova.

The project at the Isle of Dogs came out of an interest to grow linen on the island, an area that used to be referred to as the warehouse of the world and where fabric was shipped to from all around the globe but hasn’t been produced there for a very long time. We were interested in found out what would this fabric look like and what skills and resources would be needed to produce it?

The project has not only been about growing flax for fibre, it’s been about growing a community of people who met regularly to exchange skills, knowledge and stories about craft, about textiles making and reimagine our relationship through use of material resources to landscape and the environment.

Shane Waltener