Shirt Tales

24 January 2019 – 2 June 2019

Shirt Tales was an exhibition created by artist and tailor Richard Bliss in our ground floor pod. The exhibition showcased five shirts that Richard had hand-made which represented the feelings and inspiration he experience when reading text by the Venerable Bede, Phillis Wheatley, Lewis Carol, Elinor Brent Dyer and Julia Darling.

The Scribe Shirt – This echoed the colours used by Bede and his fellow monks to create the imagery in the Codex Amiatinus.

The Archivist’s Shirt – This drew on the character of Gert in Julia Darling’s first novel Crocodile Soup. Gert works in a municipal museum, cataloguing its exhibits and Richard used the record cards typed by archivists such as Gert as his inspiration.

The Logical Fantasist’s Shirt – Lewis Carroll regularly visited his cousins at Whitburn and so Richard created this shirt with quirky links to Alice in Wonderland.

The Head Girl’s Shirt – Inspired by South Shields author Elinor Brent-Dyer, creator of the hugely successful Chalet School books, this garment combined the values of leadership and decision making with the practical uniforms of British girls’ schools in the British inter-war period.

The Painter’s Poet Shirt – This shirt celebrated the life and times of Phillis Wheatley, who was kidnapped into slavery at the age of eight. Her collection: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was the first book to be published by a black woman during her lifetime. The shirt not only celebrated Phillis but also artist Lubaina Himid, who, in 2017, became the first black woman to win the Turner Prize.

In addition to the shirts visitors could also listen to readings from each of the authors’ work.

About the Artist

Richard Bliss is a textile artist who worked on a project titled The Quest for the Perfect Shirt ( – a project exploring masculinity one shirt at a time. Richard has exhibited his work at The Science Museum in London, The Harris Gallery in Preston (alongside the 2017 Turner Prize Winner, Lubaina Himid CBE), and at various festivals including Curious in Newcastle and Jabberwocky Market in Darlington.

Richard is interested in how collaboration can create a different kind of art.

Much of his work is carried out in public, sewing his shirts in all sorts of locations including trains, shops and markets.

The conversations and reactions of the public to the work then become integrated into his work, sometimes radically changing the final piece from its original plan.

Richard often collaborates with other artists, most recently curating ‘Raising the Flag’; a series of events in Baltic Square led by musicians, dancers and other performers, all of whom were asked to react to and/or perform with, the exhibition ‘Our Kisses are Petals’, by Lubaina Himid, as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.