Tuesday 29 December 2009

Crossley Mosaics

It was a friend, Jean Panter, who once asked that I should 'do something on Crossley Mosaics'. Jean, living at that time with her charming sister Anne in the aptly named Octagon at Woodstock had invited me over to photograph her Ackworth School Sampler by Deborah Cockin for our School Girl Samplers from Ackworth book. She asked me, and I foolishly promised her, to make sure the sampler was never reproduced as a stitching pattern. I failed her. Two years later both Jean and Anne were dead, having died within weeks of each other. And today whilst tidying up my files, I found a small booklet by R A Innes on the Crossley Mosaics sent to me by Jean.
I have written before about the Crossley Mill at Dean Clough in Halifax, once the largest carpet factory in the world and now converted into offices and a Travelodge where I habitually stay when I am in Halifax. Sometime in the middle of the 19th century a German refugee surnamed Schubert came to work for John Crossley and so began the interesting sideline of making wool mosaics. As a child, visiting the sea-side, I would watch as makers of sticks of peppermint rock somehow incorporated the name of the sea-side resort. The name ran right through the length of the stick, so that wherever you whacked it to break off a piece, the name of the resort could still clearly be read. If you can imagine this, then you can understand how Crossley Mosaics are made. Coloured strands of wool around 6 feet in length (approx 2 metres) were laid in progressive rows in a rectangular steel frame, such that the ends when viewed face-on produced a picture. A piece of linen spread with adhesive was then fixed to the ends and, the adhesive having dried, a slice was cut from the wool matrix, leaving a pile of an eighth of an inch thickness on the linen. Between 90-95 mosaics could be sliced from one setting of the wools. And, by alternating the end of the wool matrix from which the mosaics were sliced, mirror images of the same picture could be produced. Here you can see a mosaic of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, which was designed for the 1851 Exhibition. It measures 90cm x 52.5cm and if you look closely at the Prince of Wales motto - Ich Dien - above Edward's head and below his feathers, you will see that the motto appears in reverse! Crossley Mosaics were sold as table rugs, and wall hangings, door mats and screens and although I could find no price for this particular mosaic, a mosaic of approximately the same size sold for 5s 4p (26p in today's money but not today's value). I wish I could have done better for you, Jean.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post. You described the method very clearly and I recognized it as having been used for some 19th century ceramics (can't remember what it is called in the ceramics world). This is the first I've heard of this sort of fabric mosaic, would love to see some in person.