Cromford Mills community artwork will pay homage to forgotten labor and slave labor in the cotton industry

British artist Hetain Patel, whose ancestors picked cotton in Kenya and India, will spearhead the Cotton Labor project at Cromford Mills, which also pays tribute to the victims of slave labor.

Residents of Cromford are invited to bring unwanted clothing and fabrics to the artwork which will use yarn to weave portraits for a sculpture.

Hetain said: “Sir Richard Arkwright is remembered today as one of Britain’s great industrialists, and his legacy is celebrated at Cromford Mills.

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Hetain Patel runs the Cotton Labor community art project in Cromford Mills.

“Cotton Labor aims to shine a light on the hundreds of forgotten workers who helped build the cotton industry, many of them women and children. It is also a poignant reminder of the enslaved labor involved in the wider cotton industry.

“Like all my work, I want Cotton Labor to make a human connection and show how the cotton industry has connected people of all ages, races, genders and backgrounds.”

The large-scale symbolic portraits will be woven into a mesh structure using threads from clothing, textiles and materials. Hetain is keen to work with community members in the area to create the thread and inspire the portraits.

Cromford residents who would be interested in being featured in the artwork through the depiction of their portraits are asked to contact Learning and Engagement Coordinator Eleanor Gunn via email at: [email protected] before April 4 to find out more.

People are also encouraged to donate unwanted, clean and ideally brightly colored clothing or fabric swatches, to be made into yarn to weave the portraits. Donations should be dropped off at The Mill Shop, Cromford Mills, labeled “FAO: Eleanor Gunn” by May 15.

Cromford Mills will host two workshops led by Hetain to create the artwork. If you live in the community and would like to participate in the June 25 and July 2 workshops, email Eleanor at: [email protected] before April 30.

Hetain will share more information about the Cotton Labor project in an online conference on Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m. The conference is free and you can reserve your ticket at:

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