Steve Messam

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Twisted Cromford


Date: 2012

Client: Self-initiated

Location: The First Mill, Cromford, Derbyshire. UK

Dimensions: 4m x 6m x 35m

Materials: polyester cotton, wood

Further info: blog post

Made with the kind permission and collaboration with the Arkwright Society: Cromford Mills Website

supported by Arts Council England


Twisted is a largescale textile installation in Arkwright's first mill at Cromford. Two frames at either end of the building are connected with thousands of threads. The twisting motion between the frames creates an architectural form that shifts in perspective; barely there up close the lines appear and disappear along the length. The twisting motion echoing the process of spinning, the scale revealing the vastness of the mill building.

The idea is based on the concept of creating volume and form with a one dimensional surface resulting in a complex space that plays with visual scale and enclosure. The form morphs and alters with the changing of the angle of view, adding lightness and dynamism to an otherwise empty and neglected space.

The first Mill at Cromford is a building of international significance. Truly the birthplace of the industrial revolution and mechanised mass production. This was the first factory in the world and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A more transient sister piece was created at a former cotton spinning mill in Shanghai. 'Twisted Shanghai' was made using red lasers and only existed for one night due to regulations restricting the work of non-chinese artists at the moment. Images of this piece will accompany the Cromford piece in June.

In the 19th Century Shanghai was the world’s largest producers of cotton. It was said the cotton produced in myriad of mills along the Suzhou Creek could cover the whole of China. Today the cotton mills have largely gone, but China remains the largest manufacturing country in the world. A process which started at the first mill building in Cromford.

By creating two pieces - in Cromford and in Shanghai - the piece aims to tell the story of mass-manufacturing and the global importance of the humble brick and stone building in rural Derbyshire.

Twist stands over 6 metres tall at its highest point and stretches over 30 metres along the length of the building. Around 50 miles of thread are used  - threaded between the frames. Elastic bands help even the tension across the piece. It was created by a team of 4 people over 4 days. All the materials will be recycled at the end of the exhibition period.