A few weeks ago a young man popped into the shop to ask if we could display a poster in our window that would be part of a larger project around Exeter. He briefly told us a little about the concept and showed us the poster, which is beautiful! We happily agreed to display it, and we’d like to share more about this lovely project.
Serge/surge is a multifaceted art project by Peston Street Union, an Exeter-based affiliation of artists. This current project was inspired by Exeter’s historic cloth trade and the flow of people and goods that sustained it. Serge is a type of fine woollen cloth produced from 1615 in Exeter.
The wool trade was essential to Exeter's prosperity and is an important part of the city’s history. There’s a particularly lovely interactive display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) that demonstrates how wool from Devon was processed into cloth and sold on through to Exeter and then on to Europe.
The Preston Street artists have collaborated with RAMM to recreate a parcel of woollen fabric and its packaging, known as a tillet. Tillets were decorated with ornate, specially commissioned prints, which acted as a branding device. The artists have deigned their own block, which celebrated both the history of Exeter’s wool trade and the also the value of movement of people, goods, and ideas. The print block and the branded length of woollen cloth are now on display in RAMM until the 29th of March.
A copy of the print can be seen in our window, and in windows across Exeter in cafes, shops, community centres and other spaces. We love the link to our local woolly heritage and we also love the welcoming message, Anyone May Come or Go.
At the current time we are increasingly being asked to keep safe distances from each other, and we may soon miss the joy of regular social interactions. However, we can all remain open to each other in any way that we are able, reaching out to each other online if we have to, continuing to inspire and lift each other. The Preston Street Union told us:
“Most of the project was completed before the corona virus really hit, though it has given us pause for thought. It remains true, however, that this city’s prosperity is built on movement even if it sometimes gets complicated.”
If you cannot get out to see the art in RAMM there is a fantastic video about the project here.
It’s also possible to see the wonderful number of Exeter spaces that are displaying the print via the Preston Street Union Instagram page here.
You can read more about the artists and their projects here.
And you can read a little more about Exeter’s woollen trade here.