7/15: Unveiling Some History at Churchville Fabrics

Artists selected to be part of Surface & Structure will be sharing their thoughts and ideas here on the blog. This first bit of shared information comes from Katherine Shozawa, an artist originally from Canada, currently living in Philadelphia, who has in her past taken a specific interest in the history of labor. She will be working with Churchville Fabrics, located in Kensington, which has a very interesting and somewhat mysterious past.

From Katherine’s second visit to Churchville:

“On my second visit to Churchville Fabrics, Bob Indoe walked me through the fulling process of a blue/grey heather wool weave from fuller to dryer — the machines all about 60 years old, the same age as Bob, it turns out, who with the shop assistant Sean seemed to move at the same speed as the side-load fulling machine.”

“I also met Jay (warper) who has been warping for 40+ years and Linda (mender/twister) who invited me to observe their warping practice, a process (drawing frame, harness and heddles) that compares to the process captured in the turn of the century photographs of Churchville Fabrics when it was Quaker Felt.  I would like to know more about these images…

“I am thinking about the intersection of contrasting yet interdependent modes of making — handmade/hand-constructed and machine-made/computer generated — like the two Jacquard looms in the shop, one run on hard-card/endless paper patterns (punched holes) and the other on computerized patterns on floppy disks.”

Churchville only has a handful of employees today but processes an immense amount of fabrics. One of their specialties is matching fabrics for antique cars, which is a very arduous process. Having to replicate a design with the correct patterns and colors and then program a machine to make a very specific weave takes a long time, and there are only few people skilled enough to do this work thoroughly from start to finish. Bob Indoe is one of those very knowledgeable individuals. Others like him are hard to come by, and the textile industry’s survival is defendant folks that know this craft and know these machines.

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