The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre, where Scotland’s story begins, has today been revealed as the next home for The Essex House Tapestries: Life of Julie Cope. The exhibit by the globally renowned contemporary artist Grayson Perry will be displayed in the centre’s Gallery 1420 from 18 March to 14 August 2022, during Scotland’s Year of Stories.
The latest exhibit, provided by The Crafts Council Collection, continues the five-star centre’s world-renowned reputation for storytelling through the medium of tapestry and textiles. The architectural-award-winning building, located in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders was purpose built to house The Great Tapestry of Scotland, which tells the people’s true story of Scotland from millions of years BC to present day.
Essex House Tapestries
Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries mirror this compelling visual storytelling, but this time the subject is the life story of a fictional character called Julie Cope. Grayson describes the artworks as depicting “the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life.” The two tapestry panels follow key moments in Julie’s life from her birth to her untimely death following a motorbike accident.
Speaking about the exhibit, Sandy Maxwell-Forbes, Great Tapestry of Scotland Centre Director for the cultural charity Live Borders said: “We’re absolutely delighted to host Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries, particularly during the Year of Stories. Just like The Great Tapestry of Scotland, these rich and vibrant works of art tell an incredibly moving everyday life story of joy and heartbreak. Visitors to the exhibit will experience almost every emotion as they take an amazing sensory journey for the eyes and ears.”
“Grayson’s Tapestries particularly exemplify his love and understanding of the versatility of textiles as a creative medium, so it is fantastic that our stunning new purpose-built building has allowed us to bring them to Galashiels, the heartland of one of UK’s premier textile regions in The Scottish Borders.”
In addition to Grayson Perry’s acclaimed Essex House Tapestries, the exhibit in the Great Tapestry of Scotland’s Gallery 1420 will feature the Turner Prize winning artist’s own audio narration of Julie’s story.
The Essex House Tapestries: Life of Julie Cope is part of The Crafts Council Collection – the first public collection in the world to acquire any work from this series. It was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.
Speaking of the acquisition, Sumitra Upham, Head of Public Programmes at Crafts Council said: “We acquired the two tapestries in 2016 as we were struck by Perry’s creation of Julie Cope, a fictional Essex woman and her life’s trials and tribulations. Rich in cultural and architectural details, the tapestries reflect a social history of Essex and issues of class and wealth distinct to modern Britain.”
Tapestries – ideal for story-telling
Sandy Maxwell-Forbes added: “As can be seen through both The Great Tapestry of Scotland and Grayson’s artwork, tapestry is a fantastic story telling medium, as it provides the opportunity to create so many different textures through expert selection of patterns and tensions – from a crumpled crisp packet to the movement of flowing water.”
Similar to The Great Tapestry of Scotland artist Andrew Crummy, in order to produce the Tapestries Perry worked closely with tapestry weavers to translate the vivid 1970’s colour palette of his original digital drawings into a woven textile.
A description on the Crafts Council website says: “Like an Impressionist painter, through his Essex House Tapestries Grayson Perry maintains the vibrancy of the palette through a combination of woven colours that are blended by the viewer’s eye.”
The Essex House Tapestries: Life of Julie Cope will be displayed in The Great Tapestry of Scotland’s Gallery 1420 from 18 March to 14 August 2022, the Year of Stories. Standard admission to exhibit will be £5.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is operated by the charity Live Borders, which manages many of the cultural and leisure facilities in the Scottish Borders, including the five-star Jim Clark Motorsport Museum and the Heart of Hawick entertainment venue.
The brainchild of Alexander McCall Smith, The Great Tapestry of Scotland is one of the world’s largest community arts projects. It was hand-stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers from across Scotland, using 160 linen panels and over 300 miles of wool (enough to lay the entire length of Scotland from the border with England to the tip of Shetland). The panels were designed by artist Andrew Crummy, based on a narrative written by Scottish Borders-based award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat.
In addition to two galleries, the centre is home to a cafe and workshops that allow participants to meet and learn from makers in one of the UK’s premier textile regions.
The visitor centre is currently open to the public from Thursday to Monday, 9.30am to 5pm and The Stitchers Cafe is open Thursday to Monday 10am to 4pm. From the 4 April 2022, the Centre will be open 7 days a week. Ticket prices to view the Great Tapestry of Scotland vary.
To book, or for more information visit greattapestryofscotland.com.