USA Press Release July 2019

“Spirit of Mayflower” UK Sculptor Journeys by Sea to Mirror Pilgrims’ Journey

Artist in Residence at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum August 11- 25, 2019

Provincetown, Mass. (July 2, 2019) When sculptor Rachel Carter departs Liverpool, England on July 27 via freighter, she will be tracing the Atlantic crossing of the Mayflower Pilgrims while she is working on her project “The Language of Sculpture -Spirit of Mayflower.”  Carter’s journey in the U.S. will end in Provincetown where she will be an Artist-in-Residence at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM) from August 11th through 25th.  

During her 13-day voyage on a freighter, she will be cut off from the outside world and will be charting her journey through a texture diary where she will spend time knotting, stitching and twisting twines and ropes while reading excerpts of William Bradford’s journals he wrote about his Mayflower crossing in 1620. She will also be using ancient weaving methods of macramé to weave new patterns that are inspired by the Wampum belts of the Wampanoag indigenous people.  

“I am making my own pilgrimage to get my own sense of 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,” said Carter.

PMPM Executive Director Dr. K. David Weidner, said that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Museum and its visitors. “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.   “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.” 

The ultimate finished product, when she returns to the U.K., will be a 3D sculpture of a female figure outfitted with a Tudor gown with a fitted kirtle and a full skirt adorned with weavings she will have made on her journey in addition to weavings made with 50 women from the Pilgrim roots area of the U.K. The 3D sculpture will be used to cast a bronze statue depicting Pilgrim Women to be exhibited throughout the U.K. during the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ voyage to America. The Pilgrim Women sculpture will also feature a woman holding an apple, the Pilgrim 400 apple, a special species being grown in the U.K. for the anniversary and which will also be planted in Provincetown. 

 “The Pilgrim Women sculpture could really change the way fine arts can reinterpret history and story-telling and incorporate items that may be too delicate to touch. By scanning them and making 3D casts, we can create new sculptures that will withstand exhibitions and displays,” she said. 

Carter’s project was inspired by research into her own family history that she can trace to the 1500’s in the Midlands of the U.K. from where several Mayflower Pilgrims were from. She said that her family never moved from that region and were illiterate but could weave complex items as frame work knitters. 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. 

 When Carter is in her Artist-in-Residence at the PMPM, she will display the textile art she made on the freighter voyage and talk to Museum visitors about her project. She will also provide Museum visitors with the opportunity to learn how to weave. 

Prior to her Provincetown Museum Artist-in-Residence, she will visit the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University to see Wampanoag artifacts and other artifacts from the 17th centry recently uncovered in Cambridge, Mass. on an archeological dig.  Her project, “The Language of Sculpture -Spirit of Mayflower” is supported by the Arts Council England. 

About the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum 

Dedicated in 1910, the Monument commemorates the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Provincetown in 1620.  Here they signed the historic Mayflower Compact, the first agreement to establish a government by the people in the ‘new world;’ which became the cornerstone of American democracy. They explored the Cape for five weeks before sailing on to Plymouth. At 252 feet, the Monument is an engineering marvel and the tallest granite tower in the United States. Visitors can climb the Monument’s 116 steps and 60 ramps at a leisurely pace and enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire Cape and visit our webcam for a live “View from the Top.” The Provincetown Museum at the base of the Monument presents engaging exhibitions of important chapters in our national heritage and the Town’s history and oversees Provincetown 400, the committee developing the commemorations for 2020, the 400thanniversary of the Mayflower voyage and landing in Provincetown.  Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum is a non-profit educational, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. For more information please visit

Spirit of Mayflower: Ancient Techniques & Digital

Over the last year I have been working with NTU (Nottingham Trent University) within their Enabling Innovation program to embrace digital technologies within my practice. At first I was a little sceptical about the possibilities of this new burgeoning technology to try and capture the delicate details of something hand woven, but I think we are beginning to see some positive results.

The first items I gave them were some spiral forms made using the corn dollie 5 stranded spiral weave, which they digitally mapped and then printed with the new 3d clay printer. The results were very interesting and I shall share these with you in a later post.

After experimenting with clay, we moved on to a 3d printer with a synthetic polymer, and the test piece was a length of macrame knots woven in a 4mm thick cotton cord. The piece was worked over a wire core to enable the technicians to suspend the weaving and capture a 360° view of the work. The scan was sent to print and the results are very promising. The printed work has captured the threads of the cotton well and the movement of the weave is visible in every twist and turn.

What next? The scans of handwoven work could be further manipulated and produced at differing scales which could lend itself to large scale works. Now I need to see if a scan can capture something much more delicate than a chunky series of Crown Knots, and scan a panel of macrame.

Spiralled Celtic Braid.jpg

Scan of the Crown Knots

Spirit of Mayflower: Hawkers and the Bramley's in the 1800's

Part of my Spirit of Mayflower project is exploring migration and family history inspired by the Mayflower story. My family history is peppered with stories of migration, albeit smaller in miles, the times and circumstances would still have caused great upheaval.

During this week I have been delving into the lives of my Gt, Gt, Gt Grandfather Thomas Bramley who was born in Leicestershire c.1848 and was later baptised at St Mary’s Church, Blidworth, Nottinghamshire. His father was a shopkeeper in Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire and Thomas followed his father into the family business as life as a Hawker.

During a visit to Nottingham Archives I have found some fascinating stories about him and his family, which included moving multiple times, finding himself in the bankruptcy court in 1878, changing his entire families surname and moving them to Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Life in Ilkeston under a false name must have been difficult, and he took up a job as a coal miner. This career change must not have been a good fit for Thomas as I find him back as a Licensed Hawker and reverting to his true name in 1891. In fact the whole family help out as hawkers, his wife Ann, son John Thomas and daughter Floria are Hawkers Assistants in the 1891 census. 

After some time Thomas and wife Ann move back to Hucknall Torkard, but some of their children stay in Ilkeston carrying on with the family trade. Son John Thomas Bramley marries Elizabeth and has a son, also called John Thomas.  Luckily I managed to find a picture on the local history group facebook page, showing wife Elizabeth with their son. The shop was on Nottingham Road and later moved to White Lion Square where it remained a local hardware shop up until the 1970’/80’s when the area was redeveloped.

Reading the facebook posts really helped bring this part of my family history alive, with many people remembering popping into old Mr Bramley’s shop.

Although I don’t yet know much of what became of Thomas Bramley once back in Hucknall, I did find him in Kelly’s Directory of Nottinghamshire in 1900 listed as an Earthenware Dealer.

Wife Ann received poor relief around this time, listed as ‘Infirm’ she was awarded £3 S2 D6, she later died in 1901 aged just 53 years of age.

Bramley’s shop, 356 Nottingham Road, Ilkeston c.1901

Bramley’s shop, 356 Nottingham Road, Ilkeston c.1901

Language of Sculpture: A Spirit of Mayflower Project 

This week I have been looking forward towards embracing new technology within my sculptural work, and also looking back at the turning point in my career.

One of the aims of this project is to develop my skills with CAD (Computer Aided Design) to draw out the fluid shapes of the sculpture and then apply a texture to the surface that can be further adjusted. Two weeks into my Artist Residency at Nottingham College I have accomplished drawing out a dice with each spot featuring a delicate bevel, and created a sphere with an outer covering of an image.

The second artist residency at Nottingham Trent University will begin shortly and run alongside the first, during my time with NTU, I’ll be scanning hand woven textures such as macrame panels, to digitally map and record my weaving. It is these woven maps that I will be combining with the fluid shapes within the CAD drawings.

I took a look back at one of my earlier sculpture developments today. It’s aim was to try and capture hand woven willow in Bronze. Told it was technically impossible, I persevered and successfully cast an 80cm diameter woven sphere with Pangolin foundry, which now sits proudly in the Derwent Valley World Heritage at Belper’s North Mill, Derbyshire.

Before the sculpture was installed in Belper, it was first shown at the 100th RHS Chelsea Flower show and then exhibited at Change of Heart at the University of Leicester’s Botanical Gardens.

Rachel Carter has won widespread acclaim for her woven works in willow, using the tree’s flexible withies to build up geometric shapes layer by layer. She is a regular exhibitor at the annual Chelsea Flower Show where the natural, hand-made quality of her work is warmly embraced. Although  her woven creations have somewhat limited life span compared with works in more durable materials such as bronze or stone, this ephemeral quality has not deterred collectors. Most see it as an important part of the work - an echo of the universal rhythm of life and death to which ultimately everything must conform. However, driven by a technical curiosity towards materials, Carter recently began working with the renowned Pangolin bronze foundry in Chalford, Gloucestershire with a view to exploring the viability of translating her willow technique into bronze. The Pangolin team has yet to encounter a challenge it cannot meet, as Carter’s shimmering Bronze Grand Sphere (2013) is bountiful proof. This woven bronze sphere marks a significant moment in the development of Carter’s working method, although she will continue to weave in willow.

Change of Heart, University of Leicester 2014

Curated by Almuth Tebbenhoff FRBS

Original Bronze Grand Sphere 80cm diameter

Original Bronze Grand Sphere 80cm diameter

Language of Sculpture: A Spirit of Mayflower Project 

This new project will aim to digitally capture and bring knotting it into the modern age whilst still retaining the touch of the hand. I’ll explore storytelling, visual art and history through the textural language of sculpture. 

Exploring migration and family history, and inspired by the Mayflower story, I’ll be creating a modern version of the Atlantic crossing, then encounter the woven history of the Wampanoag tribe of America held at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. 

This two year project will begin this week with a twin Artist residency at Nottingham College learning Computer Aided Design and at Nottingham Trent University learning scanning and digital mapping.