Breathing Colour | Art In Manufacturing

A Co-commission by The National Festival of Making and The British Textile Biennial.

Occupying the North Transept of Blackburn Cathedral, the form of the site-specific textile sculpture evokes the movement of cloth throughout the factory, travelling in waves and folds through the machinery. This journey is also seen in technical drawings found in the archive.

The suspended form initially lies on the cathedral floor, before reaching up to tower 9 metres into the vaulted ceiling, then descending back down. This rise and fall reflects a respiratory waveform, a deep breath in and out again; ‘Breathing Colour’ the very nature of the workforce at Standfast & Barracks which aligns so closely with the work of Margo Selby Studio.

The construction of the piece is inspired by lenticular printing, with the cloth stitched into concertinaed ‘gills’ that reveal concealed colours and forms when viewed from different angles or lifted by hand. Viewers are encouraged to engage with the installation, discovering the colour stories from which the palette is derived.


Margo Selby has collaborated with composer-artist Peter Coyte to craft a sound piece that enriches the immersive experience of the artwork, capturing sounds from the factory and evoking its history. This includes the rhythms from the machinery, the relationship between the river and the factory, as well as paying homage to the historic Standfast and Barracks brass band.

Viewable from all angles, visitors are invited to put on the headphones provided to navigate around the installation and immerse themselves in the colour and sound.

Margo Selby - colourist

The colour scape is a reflection of the people at every level behind the manufacturing at the Standfast & Barracks factory. During the residency, 160 employees chose a single tone with a memory or association behind it.

Simon Hunter from the digital department chose a shade of aquamarine blue - it reminded him of the Dodgems at Morecambe fairground - the aquamarine one with the white leather steering wheel was his favourite car.

Stuart Ray chose Scarlet red for ‘the Shrimps’ - Morecambe Bay football team.

Peter Elliston - the longest standing employee of the factory has chosen Cerise as it rhymes with Denise, his wife's name - ‘Cerise Denise’.

The colour chips along with the employee's names and stories will be printed in the selvedge of the fabric and visible for the visitors of the exhibition to read. Like the selvedge on a fabric, it is a record of the composition or a maker’s mark.

The arrangement of colour is initially inspired by the methodical organisation of the colour swatches and colour cards found in the Standfast and Barracks archive. Within the work, each of the 160 tones is distributed in scaling blocks, mathematically augmented to transition from one tone to the next to create a vibrant, uplifting optical flow.

Following on from Margo Selby’s previous artworks there is a distinct relationship between pattern making, textile construction and sound. The rhythmic patterns in the blocks within the work have been taken from the rhythms and sounds found in the factory: repetitive, mechanical rhythms, the heartbeat of the factory.

The forms directly relate to Margo’s weaving practice, reflecting the threads of the warp and the weft. The changing colours in the construction of the work are designed to evoke a sense of something alive and breathing. The manipulated pleated element once again references Margo’s core practice of constructing textiles.

‘Breathing Colour’

LEARN MORE | Art In Manufacturing

LEARN MORE | Standfast & Barracks

EVENT | National Festival of Making  - July 6 +7 2024
EVENT | Artists Talk 7 July, 2024
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