Shirt Tales

Artist and tailor Richard Bliss has recently opened an exhibition in our ground floor pod. Shirt Tales showcases five shirts that Richard has hand made that represent the feelings and inspiration he experienced when reading texts by the Venerable Bede, Phillis Wheatley, Lewis Carroll, Elinor Brent-Dyer and Julia Darling.

The Scribe’s Shirt echoes the colours used by Bede and his fellow monks to create the imagery in the Codex Amiatinus

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

For Lewis Carroll, who regularly visited his cousins at Whitburn, Richard created The Logical Fantasist’s Shirt which features quirky links to Alice in Wonderland.

The Head Girl’s Shirt is inspired by South Shields author Elinor Brent-Dyer, creator of the hugely successful Chalet School books, first published in 1923. The garment combines the values of leadership and decision making with the practical uniforms of British girls’ schools in the British inter-war period.

The Painter’s and Poet’s Shirt celebrates 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 published in London in 1773 – the first book to be published by a black woman during her lifetime. The shirt celebrates not only Phillis but also artist Lubaina Himid, who became, in 2017, the first black woman to win the Turner Prize.

“I am interested in how our ideas about clothing are caught up with conventional ideas about colours, styles and patterns. And in these five shirts, I’ve attempted to break some of the ‘rules’ of what a man’s shirt should be. The idea is that they move beyond simple clothing and become blank canvases upon which to tell story in their own right.”   Richard Bliss

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

The free exhibition runs until 2 June.

Helen Wales, Marketing & Communications