“Until recently ‘manufacturing’ was thought of as a dirty word, and factories considered dirty places that were hidden from the public, far away from the consumers of their products. This has changed over the last few years, in part prompted by the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. Now factories are opening their doors and are finding that their customers increasingly want to know where and how their purchases are made.
I saw this first-hand on a recent visit to La Manufacture Bohin in Northern France. The former manager bought the failing company in 1996, which has since opened up its doors to the public who can now visit the factory and see how their pins and needles are made, enjoying a modern museum that celebrates the company’s past, the genealogy of the local area as well as an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions culminating in a fascinating visitor experiece. Contrary to expectation, their productivity has actually increased, as the workers relish the attention. I am not the only visitor to be inspired by a pin factory. Adam Smith the Scottish philosopher and father of modern economics quotes the factory as an example of the division of labour in his treaties The Wealth of Nations 1776.
Bohin pins can be found around the world; from the pinscreen animation of Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker, to the intricate embroidery produced by Karen Nicol. In this issue, we visit Karen’s beautiful London home as she prepares for a white Christmas. We also examine the ribbon weaving industry in Warwickshire and discover that as well as a culturally defining past, the industry has a thriving future thanks in part to the efforts of Neil Halford, whose 30 year career has helped sustain the tradition at Benton and Johnson, part of the larger company Toye, Kenning and Spencer; one of the oldest family-run businesses in the country. Their vibrant gold threads and silk ribbons bring the festivities to the front of our minds as we settle into winter. If you do make it to a service of carols this year, take a moment to look up at the stained glass and see if you can spot some textiles shining through the panes above.” Polly Leonard, Founder, Selvedge Magazine