Formerly one of Lancashire's most prominent mill towns and the world's largest producers of cotton fabrics during the industrial revolution, Burnley is now a large town with an active economy which, apart from a few exceptions, has largely moved away from its textile past. The canal infrastructure has since transformed from purely utilitarian to a more leisurely use, but the value of production and making is still embedded in the fabric of this town.
Attempting to reflect the past, present and future of this stretch of the canal, WetLab will be looking at the “Fibres of Things” and what holds spaces and communities together. Exploring processes of collective making, human-nature interactions and weaving of kinship, the lab will work with local communities to host a series of workshops and events aimed at curating and co-producing a crafted meal of fibres and pigments.
Dye baths + mordants
While stationary at Reedley Marina, the WetLab will explore the properties of naturally derived dyes inspired by the plants and flowers from local canal and canal banks. The workshop was developed in conversation with artist Sigrid Holmwood and looks at the role of natural colours and the search for colour in connection to the canal system and its history. This session will focus on the preparation of 3 dye baths, using marigolds, madder and birch leaves. Alongside the making of the dye baths, Sigrid will join the WetLab online - live from Malmo (Sweden) - to guide the creation of iron and alum mordants. These will be used to paint the tablecloth and napkins for the Burnley Canal Dinner on Saturday. The mordant painting technique we will be learning follows Michel Garcia’s method.
Tea Ceremony Workshop
Our everyday lives are filled with rituals. Our own personal habits, a routine morning coffee. Those we play out as a member of society such as waiting in queues before using the bathroom. Even new ones that have emerged out of the pandemic like washing our hands to the count of happy birthday. But if we pay attention to these, make them our own or unique for our community, they can become powerful things! During this workshop we will create a morning ceremony made by Burnley for Burnley, that will be used for the rest of Wetlab’s stay at Finsley Gate Wharf. We will drink in our surroundings, through sights, sounds and tea infusions of foraged plants.
10 ~ 11am Friday 16th, Saturday 17th
Painting with Mordants & Canal Natural Dyeing: paint and dye
After Thursday’s session on dye baths and mordants, this long afternoon workshop will focus on painting and dyeing fabric by using these canal colours: marigolds, birches and madder.
Each one-hour session will be dedicated to one of the colours, to fully explore natural and dyeing properties, stories and recollections, and various dyeing techniques. Artist Sigrid Holmwood will join us online to guide part of the dyeing process. The items which will be produced as part of the workshop will become key objects to feature on Saturday’s Burnley Canal Dinner.
Booking and drop-ins - 10 ppl max for each session
Friday 16th 2 - 5pm
(3 separate sessions)
You are invited to come and join the canal in a guided ceremony designed by local Burnley residents specially for you - a sequence of sipping, listening and sharing. We will be drinking in our surroundings, through sights, sounds and infusions of foraged plants. Learn about the herbal benefits of weeds, share your own stories of the canal and plants. We will infuse our anecdotes and knowledge and prepare ourselves for the day ahead.
Drop ins welcome
Saturday 10 - 11am
Plant weaving: Hidden Fibres
Do you know what it is that allows a plant to stand tall or crawl along the floor? We’ll be investigating the structure of plants with fibre and weaving artist; Julie Livsey. Breaking plants down into their fibres and discovering how to use them to make string, twine or fabric. On a short foraging walk we will also look for plant materials which we will use to make woven placemats to take home or add to the Wetlab dining table.
Drop ins welcome
Saturday 17th 11 ~ 1pm
Plant Weaving: Bramble Baskets
Blackberry bushes are everywhere, tumbling over each other on the verges, forming spiky barriers, acting as the ultimate test in fairytales to prevent anyone from reaching the princess… But in this session we will learn how to take them by the hand and work with them. Julie will demonstrate a simple de-thorning method before we learn traditional basket weaving techniques to turn these wild canes into serving bowls or foraging baskets (perfect for collecting their fruit in the coming months!) Booking only
Saturday 17th 2~4pm
Burnley Canal Dinner
WetLab will host a performative dinner exploring the different flavours of the canal. This collective feast will translate the canal ecosystems into delicious dishes, introducing and experimenting with wild spices and materials foraged from the canal waters and banks. The meal will be developed in collaboration with Nelson based chef Andrew Dean and in conversation with the Ripple Effect group, also based in Nelson. The meal will feature a biomass briquette rocket stove and tools and tableware fabricated during WetLabs stay at Finsley Gate Wharf. Join us to explore how unusual flavours from the canal bring together local folklore and worldwide culinary traditions.
Booking only - 15 ppl max
Canal Care Manual
Throughout the whole Wetlab programme we will be gathering conversations and investigations from various experts around methods of care and the canal. During this open session we will expand on those learnings and dive under them, adding a human layer through a social laboratory. Developing new ways of looking, seeing, feeling and knowing, there will be a number of activities to interrogate what care means to us. The result will be a set of instructions, or provocations, with which we as users could contribute to this commons, or carry with us into other areas of our lives and spaces we inhabit.
Drop ins welcome
WetLab by public works + Assembly is commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices and Super Slow Way. Produced by Abandon Normal Devices for AND Festival 2021. Delivered in partnership with Canal & River Trust and Wigan Council. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.