The story of world-renowned Harris Tweed has been captured in a new exhibition inspired by the brand’s Hebridean home. A decade in the making, ‘‘Harris Tweed: From The Land’’ is the result of a collaboration between renowned British photographer Ian Lawson and the Harris Tweed Authority – guardians of the iconic Harris Tweed Orb Mark. The exhibition was officially opened by Patrick Grant (creative director of Savile Row’s Norton & Sons) and takes each visitor on a journey into the very heart of the Scottish Outer Hebrides, the remote and romantic home of the world-famous Harris Tweed.
Each length of Harris Tweed can be traced right back to its individual weaver and mill. Made of 100% Pure New Wool, Harris Tweed is dyed, blended, carded, spun, warped, woven, finished, examined and stamped only in the Scottish Outer Hebrides by local crofters and artisans.
Woven on treadle powered looms, Harris Tweed is crafted by hand without the aid of automation or electricity. Weavers’ skills take months to learn and years to master, and every step of the Harris Tweed process is in the hands of the skilled islanders, from dyeing to delivery. The fabric is literally dyed in the wool, with separate pigments carefully blended to special ‘‘recipes’’ before being spun. Just one single yarn can contain several different colours in order to obtain the perfect tone or hue, each reflecting some aspect of the natural surroundings – heathers, mosses, lochs, mountains and sky.
Leading designers, fashion houses and artists have all embraced Harris Tweed over the years, season after season. Not just restricted to catwalks and couture, the versatile fabric is also used in bespoke interior furnishings as well as a growing range of accessories.
Featuring a working loom as a centrepiece, the pictures on display at the ‘‘Harris Tweed: From The Land’’ exhibition depict the beautiful landscape that influences the production of the fabric, as well as many characters from the islands. Also on show is a collection of beautiful Harris Tweed products and objects sourced from the cloth’s weavers and designers.
The exhibition’s home for the coming months – Rheged – is located at the northern gateway to the Lake District, at Penrith. Opened in 2000, the centre welcomes over 450,000 visitors every year. Built into a disused quarry and designed to look like a Lakeland Hill, ‘‘Harris Tweed: From The Land’’ is housed in Rheged Centre’s award-winning Gallery until Sunday 15 May 2016. The exhibition is free to view and is open from 10am to 5pm each day. The centre – in a wider celebration of Harris Tweed – will also have a dedicated shop selling Harris Tweed products and a programme of associated workshops and family events.
The ‘‘Harris Tweed: From The Land’’ exhibition’s exploration of the Outer Hebrides highlights the similarities between the fell farming heritage in Cumbria, and the traditional crofting communities that produce Harris Tweed. These communities in the Scottish Outer Hebrides share a long and rich heritage, steeped in tradition, with a commitment to provenance, design and craftsmanship.
As Norman Macdonald, chairman of the Harris Tweed Authority, commented: “The Harris Tweed: From The Land exhibition is a tremendous celebration of the famous cloth and its idyllic, rural origins. People across the globe love the fact that this is a hand-woven fabric designed on the edge of the world. These amazing photographs bring the process to life and chronicle a land which is home to a unique people and culture.”