Woolman’s account of Wool Modern exhibition launch

11:54 09 September in Events, Industry News, Thoughts

woolmodern-animation-slide-5Martin Curtis, Joint Managing Director at Curtis Wool Direct Ltd, reports on Wool Modern – a new exhibition organised by Woolmark andThe Campaign for Wool, launched as part of Wool Week 2011. The show has been designed to promote and highlight the advantages of wool over man-made synthetics, across a wide range of products and applications.

“It is not often that the boys from “up north” get invited to the big city “down south” so it was with eager anticipation that we packed up after the wool sale, polished our clogs so clean you could see your face in them and set off to find fame and fortune…..

So what if we got screwed by the mini-cab driver, everyone has to make a living…. and we arrived at La Galleria, Pall Mall, London. There was a line of paparazzi outside the entrance of New Zealand House and I did say, “Don’t worry, you can save your film film as we aren’t famous!” and one wag retorted “Don’t worry, we know you aren’t!” So we had a good laugh and a great start to the evening.

Moet & Chandon on arrival, thank you so much, it was really appreciated and perfectly served. Shame Black Sheep Bitter wasn’t on offer too but we managed!


The stream of famous people who made their way through to the Exhibition was like watching the latest movie premiere…in fact, this was our “Wool Oscars Night” with Oscar winning Colin Firth and his beautiful wife Livia (sorry ladies!) in attendance (both with links to the wool industry). I stood next to Vivienne Westwood, a wonderful supporter of the Campaign for Wool and I wish I had plucked up the courage to say “Thank you!” but somehow it seemed a little, well, pathetic. Perhaps if she would like to visit our scouring and combing plants “Up North” in Bradford I will be more prepared and less tongue-tied (maybe I should have been auditioned for The King’s Speech?).

Of all the works of art in the Exhibition and I must say, they were “works of art”, creative, inspiring and technically brilliant, I have one favourite that stands out. I am sure I am expected to choose an item that is made from our wool, like the Stitch Stools by Claire-Anne O’Brien made from Jamieson and Smith’s Real Shetland yarn, or the cloth made by Moon’s in Guiseley, or the knitwear made from Laxton’s yarns or one of the other pieces that would help boost our wool or top sales…. But no, my personal favourite was the piece that is priceless, the piece that I feel epitomises the whole Campaign for Wool, the Wool Installation by Angela Wright. Vested interest, a little bit maybe, but we aren’t selling it!

We have tried to support Angela for a little while now and we were delighted that her work was selected for the Exhibition.

wool installation wright

The yarn that Angela used to make her installation was actually quite special and epitomises the way in which the whole Campaign for Wool has evolved. We had the idea of creating a wool yarn that was made from wool which was grown in as many different countries of the world as possible! This meant that we had to blend wool from Norway (Viking Wool), Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, The USA, South Africa, South America, Ireland and many others; indeed wool from 40 different countries!

Not many people know this (was Michael Cane there too?) but wool grown in different countries from different breeds of sheep is very different! We have crossbreds, merinos, lowland sheep, highland sheep… a whole load of different sheep and they all produce different types and qualities of wool. From the very finest softest wool to the coarser stronger ones, we have hundreds of types. The problems with making a yarn from such varied wool types are numerous; mixing long and short, fine and coarse, lustrous and dull, crimpy and flat it is a technical nightmare. So, we asked an even more famous spinner if he was prepared to take on this task? Richard Collinge and his team at Fred Lawton’s said they were prepared to do it: “Well, we sent the wool over and turned off our telephones.”

Angela, who knew all about what we were up to suggested that we had to move things along a bit because working out how she would prepare the literally miles and miles of yarn by hand was going to take her ages. Rachel at Lawton’s was brilliant, I don’t think anything ruffles her and Richard lead from the front and moved heaven and earth to get the yarn made and delivered on time.

Blending together the wool is just like blending together the various wool growing bodies. With care and consideration from all quarters, with a single goal in mind, the wools were mixed together, carded with kindness and spun with grace! Where there is a will there is a way and perhaps this is the perfect time to mention how all this has come about?

Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, attended the Exhibition and immediately upon their arrival created an air of enthusiasm and excitement that was simply infectious. Who else could have blended together the strong individual interests from wool growers from all around the world? Who else could unite an industry and lead us all towards the same goal (the oppositions and not our own!)? Who else would have learned so much so quickly about an industry that has a heritage going back centuries? I can’t think of anyone else in the whole world!

Do go and see the Exhibition if you can. It is free to enter and you might or might not agree with my choice….. You might even bump in to Ant and Dec and the whole Campaign for Wool team to whom we up North are equally grateful for all their tireless efforts on behalf of our truly great industry!”

“Sheepish” – Harrods’ video for Wool Modern & Campaign for Wool

Subscribe below to read more

By subscribing, you agree to be added to SBID’s mailing list. As the industry’s standard bearer organisation, we strive to bring you the most up to date news and access to exclusive industry content through our various newsletters.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required