The first in a series of Raw Materials exhibitions at the Nunnery Gallery, which will delve into the history of the local River Lea valley through the ‘raw materials’ that paved the way for the area’s extensive and important industrial development. Beginning with the material wood, the exhibition will bring together archival objects – many of which are not usually on public display – furniture, tools, stories and new commissions, painting a vivid picture of this important, and increasingly less-visible, part of east London’s history.
A new commission from resident artist Silke Dettmers will feature alongside the objects, offering a surreal reflection that subtly mimics the forms and materials of industry. The Building Crafts College, founded by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters in 1893, has also been a partner of the project, incorporating its research on heritage techniques into its furniture making course, and students will be exhibiting their newly crafted cabinets as part of the exhibition.
Wood, a versatile and integral material to the development of industry, began its journey raw: imported through the Thames and up the River Lea to feed the many businesses that once lined the riverbanks. Raw Materials: Wood delves into this past, from timber yards and sawmills, such as James Latham in Hackney, to leading furniture makers, together with newly recorded stories from those that remember a fast-disappearing industrial east London. Exploring stories of industrial change, movement and immigration, including businesses’ aptitude to adapt during times of war and changing communities, Raw Materials brings to light a history that is more relevant today than ever.
Uniquely, the project’s research has been carried out and the stories made visible through the hard work and research of a local community-led steering group, to whom we offer our special thanks and who will be on hand throughout the exhibition to answer questions. A diverse event programme will accompany the show, including wood workshops, riverside walks and boat tours; for a full programme please see rawmaterials.bowarts.org.
This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Foundation for Future London. With special thanks to Hackney, Haringey and Newham archives, and the Buildings Crafts College, The Carpernters’ Company, Geffrye Museum, Jewish Museum London and the V&A for their support.
Please share your stories of wood and industry along the River Lea with us using #RawMaterialsWood