The residency at Robert Smail’s is into its last month. Using the archives as source material, I was particularly interested in 1914 edition of The St Ronan’s Standard. As the First World War began to unfold, the mills adjusted their working schedule, women took over jobs from the men and the orders changed from blue to Khaki. One story I was struck by was the welcoming into the town of a Belgium family fleeing from war torn Belgium. The story in a newspaper wrote and printed by locals, sits in stark contrast to the xenophobic rhetoric of today’s media. We should look to the past and understand the capabilities of a small, textile town, coping with upheaval and still having time to welcome a family from Belgium.
The residency at Robert Smail’s has provided an excellent opportunity to get to know some fantastically creative young people from the local area. Based in the old ‘Co-op’ building in Chapel Street, the Innerleithen Youth Club took part in the first of three printmaking sessions, learning how to use a traditional printing press. Inspired by the 150 year anniversary of Robert Smail’s Printing Works, the creative sessions gave the young people an opportunity to consider the archive of work at Robert Smail’s from a different perspective. All the young people were familiar with Smail’s, visiting the jobbing press as part of a school experience, trying their hand at printing and learning about heritage of the works.
The second session provided the young people with an opportunity to explore the process of screen printing and work more collaboratively. I have been making ‘garland’ sized broadsides using traditional type setting and photo lithography. I like the unusual shape of the paper which inspired me to encourage the young people to try their hand at printing a very long strip of lining paper. The results are fantastic!