Anyone may come and go

Tillet Block (detail)
Tillet Block (detail), 2020

For the past year, Preston Street Union have been working with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, investigating the flow of people, artefacts and ideas that have enabled Exeter to prosper. Anyone may come and go is a new work resulting from collective research into the construction of tillet wrappers used in the city’s historic cloth trade.

At the height of the wool industry, traders wrapped lengths of fabric for export in elaborate envelopes known as tillets. The tillets were decorated with ornate, specially commissioned prints, which acted as a branding device. While some of the sizeable wooden printing blocks used to make such prints can be seen in the RAMM collection, no known examples of complete tillets have survived, and so their construction and use is a matter of some speculation.

Working with the RAMM Collections and new research gathered by local historian Dr. Michael A Patrick, Preston Street Union have re-imagined a tillet wrapper marked with a collectively created contemporary design that draws attention to the creative industries. The block from which the design is printed has been carved using traditional techniques by Saena Ku and printed with assistance from Double Elephant Print Workshop. The wrapper encloses a 15-metre length of red woollen cloth that was previously used by Preston Street Union in the work SERGE/SURGE, a series of live actions around Exeter’s city wall in 2019, commissioned by RAMM.

A paper print of the design will be distributed throughout Exeter and beyond in a contemporary act of trade and distribution. Preston Street Union invites anyone and everyone to endorse and display this collectively created poster, which is centred around the words ‘Anyone may come and go’, taken from Exeter’s annual Lammas Fair proclamation.

Commissioned by RAMM | Supported by Arts Council England

PSU extend thanks to Kathy Norris, Exeter Phoenix, Topos and Topsham Museum.

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