Coal Seams was created for the 62 Group exhibition ''Connected Cloth'' as part of the 2021 British Textile Biennial. The theme of the Biennial focuses on the global context of textiles, textile production, and the relationships it creates historically and now.
The starting point for this work was Coal’s importance in the cotton industrial revolution. It was vital to Lancashire’s dominance of this industry, but wherever Coal was, change happened; it left its mark and defined this country and the world for decades to come. The textile industry-funded growth, towns grew from nowhere, and people came from worldwide.
Arriving in Scotland at the beginning of the twentieth century, McVetis’ family took up work in the newly opened Lady Victoria Colliery in Newtongrange, Scotland. The colliery site was chosen because of its proximity to the Waverly Railway Line, making it an ideal location for transporting Coal to the textile mills in the borders.
McVetis’ dad began his mining career at the age of 16, a forty-year career that saw him mine the coal seams in Scotland, Staffordshire and South Africa. Consequently, the politics and de-industrialization of the 1980s meant that his parents emigrated to Emalahleni (meaning place of coal) previously named Witbank, South Africa, where he was born.
The pattern pieces printed onto the fabric are those of the first miners’ coat, designed and conceived in Rugeley, Staffordshire, his mom’s hometown, and where they returned to after ten years in South Africa. As it was to be known, the Donkey Jacket, is a symbol of the British manual labourer and the political left.
Using the intensive labour-process of hand embroidery, ‘Coals Seams’ maps and bring to the surface the underground and hidden landscapes of this elemental material formed over three hundred million years ago. It examines McVetis’ family connection to material, place, class and race; and how, like the seams that shape a garment, Coal continues to shape our lives.
Cotton on wool, hand embroidery, seeding and couching stitch, heat transfer printing.
Archive material + original documents
75 x 115cm