Doncaster women's stake in sculpture project celebrating 400th anniversary of Mayflower voyage

Women’s groups in Doncaster are a major part of a project by Nottinghamshire sculptor, Rachel Carter, as she celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage to the US.

By Nigel Booth
Wednesday, 24 July, 2019, 16:28
Examples of the weaving technique that Rachel Carter will use

The Mayflower took the Pilgrim fathers to the United States 400 years ago and Rachel is making the same trip on a freight ship as part of a year-long project.

When Rachel arrives in the US she will begin an artist-in-residency at the Provincetown Monument and Museum and create further works for a final sculpture.

she will continue to create elements of the sculpture with women's groups in areas of the UK where some of the original pilgrims came from, including Doncaster.

Rachel Carter in Tudor inspired clothing

While on board the ship she will keep a diary and voice recordings about her thoughts, feelings and experiences and begin to weave parts for a sculpture to commemorate the anniversary in 2020.

Rachel will recreate the 1620 Atlantic crossing of the Mayflower Pilgrims, completely cut off from communication, spending her time working on her project ‘The language of Sculpture – Spirit of Mayflower,’ before she arrives in America to carry out an Artist-in-Residency at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM) in Boston MA.

Speaking about the crossing Rachel said: “I am making my own pilgrimage to get a sense of the feeling and isolation from my family. I wanted to experience what it would be like to be completely cut off from the rest of the world, and express my experience through textile sculpture.”

Rachel departed from Liverpool on July 27. She will chart her journey through a texture diary where she will spend time knotting, stitching and twisting twines and ropes while reading extracts of William Bradford’s journals he wrote about his own Mayflower crossing during her 13-day voyage.

Rachel with weaving by Rhys Jones

She will also be using ancient weaving methods of macramé to weave new patterns that are inspired by the Wampum belts of North America’s native Wampanoag people.

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Once in Provincetown Rachel will begin her Artist-in-Residency at the PMPM, displaying the textile art that she made during the crossing, talking to Museum visitors about her project and provide them with the opportunity to learn how to weave.

Upon her return Rachel will combine the weavings created during the Atlantic crossing with 50 new weavings from a series of workshops that will engage women from across the UK Pilgrim Roots areas; Doncaster, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire to create a sculpture of female figure, outfitted with a Tudor-style dress with a fitted kirtle and full skirt.

The 3D sculpture will be used to cast a bronze statue depicting Pilgrim Women to be exhibited throughout the UK during the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ voyage to America.

A replica of the Mayflower

The project was inspired by Rachel’s research into her own family history, which she has traced back to the 1500s, she learnt that many of her ancestors were weavers working in the textile industries of Nottingham and their history is peppered with stories of migration, albeit sometimes smaller in miles, the times and circumstances would still have caused great upheaval.

She relates her family’s roots as weavers with the native Wampanoag people who created weavings that chronicled their milestones and historic events, two distinct groups with no obvious connection but who were similarly experienced in story telling through textiles.

The language of Sculpture – Spirit of Mayflower’ is supported by Arts Council England and endorsed by Mayflower 400 as a Spirit of Mayflower project.

PMPM executive director Dr K David Weidner, said that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Museum and its visitors and added: “Rachel Carter’s Artist-in-Residency is unique because it’s a cross-cultural exchange and also an opportunity for visitors to see history in the making. Rachel’s textile sculpture and expression of her own pilgrimage is an important part of our programming connected to the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in Provincetown,” said Dr. Weidner.

He further added: “Rachel’s journey, like present day pilgrims that visit Provincetown for safe-harbor, illustrates spirit and determination. Rachel Carter’s visit to the PMPM supports our inclusive mission of diversity, tolerance, and protecting and promoting our history.” When Rachel is in her Artist-in-Residence at the PMPM, she will display the textile art she made on the freighter voyage.