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Helen Cresswell

MA work

Title of Dissertation: The Craft House – Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth and feminine textile initiatives, 1912–1967


This thesis explores how women create cultural networks through textiles, in an examination of the collecting and craft activities of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth (1886–1967). Her ‘Craft House’ was conceived as a place of practice that would provide creative and spiritual nourishment to her local neighbourhood of Padiham and Burnley in Lancashire. In 1953 this lifetime project was finally realised through the installation of her craft collections within the Shuttleworth family home. Collecting mainly textiles, her collections demonstrated centuries of female domestic making; dismissed as ‘tat’ by the collector’s father, the Craft House transformed these objects into working tools, intended to inspire, instruct and improve potential craft practice. Examples of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth’s own making, like the bedspread pictured, were displayed and handled within this feminine textile initiative. Acting as a self-appointed cultural conduit of the craft ideology promoted by W R Lethaby and the Arts and Crafts Movement, Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth validated the worth of women’s work and encouraged feminine empowerment through textile craft.


Using extensive research conducted at this little-known collection and archive, this dissertation examines the reasons for this woman’s absence from histories of craft and collecting. My research demonstrates how Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth fashioned a matriarchal role through her textile collecting and making, and reveals how this figure positioned herself and her craft initiative within a multiplicity of feminine networks.


Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2012

  • Title of Dissertation: The Craft House – Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth and feminine textile initiatives, 1912–1967


    This thesis explores how women create cultural networks through textiles, in an examination of the collecting and craft activities of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth (1886–1967). Her ‘Craft House’ was conceived as a place of practice that would provide creative and spiritual nourishment to her local neighbourhood of Padiham and Burnley in Lancashire. In 1953 this lifetime project was finally realised through the installation of her craft collections within the Shuttleworth family home. Collecting mainly textiles, her collections demonstrated centuries of female domestic making; dismissed as ‘tat’ by the collector’s father, the Craft House transformed these objects into working tools, intended to inspire, instruct and improve potential craft practice. Examples of Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth’s own making, like the bedspread pictured, were displayed and handled within this feminine textile initiative. Acting as a self-appointed cultural conduit of the craft ideology promoted by W R Lethaby and the Arts and Crafts Movement, Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth validated the worth of women’s work and encouraged feminine empowerment through textile craft.


    Using extensive research conducted at this little-known collection and archive, this dissertation examines the reasons for this woman’s absence from histories of craft and collecting. My research demonstrates how Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth fashioned a matriarchal role through her textile collecting and making, and reveals how this figure positioned herself and her craft initiative within a multiplicity of feminine networks.


  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Oxford, 2006
  • Experience

  • Student representative, The Textile Society, 2011 to present; Column editor, Unmaking Things: A Design History Studio, 2011 to present; Cataloger and researcher, The Contemporary Embroidery Collection of Diana Springall, 2011 to present