Volunteer Stories: Louise tells us why she volunteers at Two Temple Place

We rely on our fantastic team of friendly and dedicated volunteers to make our exhibitions a success. Our volunteers take on a public-facing role that includes supervising the exhibition spaces and answering visitor questions. Below, Louise shares her experience of volunteering at Two Temple Place earlier this year:

"I started volunteering at Two Temple Place shortly after moving to London, following finishing my Fine Art Degree at Newcastle University. Whilst working in London, I started volunteering with the mindset to continue to develop and learn from museums and galleries, as I have done in the past at The Tetley Gallery in Leeds. I hoped to gain further insight into paths my career may follow in the arts, however I found I came away from the experience with a lot more! Moving to a new city was quite daunting, however volunteering every weekend, meeting new people and being inspired by the incredible exhibition, really helped make London feel less overwhelming.   

I have an interest in clothing and textiles within my own artwork, thus the collection of textiles by seven pioneering women was so exciting for me. In my own art practice, I look at reality from an alternative perspective by playing with the logic and materiality of clothing by remaking them in alternative materials, such as ceramics, digital image, and in drawing. I aim to imply value and reflect on the everyday nature of clothing. I drew connections in my own art practice with the Unbound exhibition, especially with collectors and practitioners like Muriel Rose and Enid Marx. My favourite room of the exhibition had to be the Library, where Rose and Marx’s collections were shown. In the Library I really enjoyed the cosier, more domestic setting, highlighting Rose and Marx’s values… that more ordinary stuff, and crafts are worth our attention. I loved the hand quilted tea cosies displayed in this room, and also the block printed Chaise Lounge by Enid Marx; also a favourite of many of the visitors.

Installation view of Quilted Tea Cosy Date Unknown, Cotton. University for the Creative Arts at Farnham; Quilted Tea Cosy Date Unknown, Cotton. Private Collection. Photography by Richard Eaton Photography.

Installation view of Enid Marx, Chaise Lounge Date Unknown. Block printed undyed linen with cotton lining. Compton Verney Art Gallery. Photography by Richard Eaton Photography. 

In the Lower Gallery, certain pieces stood out to me because of the way it made me reflect on how we use textiles in our day-to-day lives. I also had many conversations with visitors about this as well. The majority of textiles we use in our homes today are not handmade or personalised; in contrast to the beautifully embroidered garments and even towels which were part of the collections by Edith Durham, Louisa Pesel and Olive Matthews collections.

Installation view of Net Headdress, Sctuari, North Albania, Date Unknown. Fine Gauze with gold thread embroidery; Jelek, Ipek 1912-1913. Violet velvet with silk braids, gold cord and coral beads; Moslem Albanian Oversocks Date Unknown. Black wool with fine gold thread chain stitch.

Overall, for me the exhibition was about value. The value of women as collectors in their own right, and of textiles being valued as an art form worthy of attention. Textiles have increasingly become a celebrated art form in themselves; demonstrated by the more contemporary artworks in the Great Hall. However, this was not always the case. The idea of value in terms of textiles and craft, first came to my attention when reading the Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker at university. The book emphasised a duality to the history of textiles and craft. On one hand, embroidery and textiles were seen as an act of submission within the household, stereotyped as feminine and undervalued. However, on the other hand, women working with textiles, as presented in the exhibition, were actually acts of defiance and strength. 

I really enjoyed sharing ideas surrounding the exhibition with the visitors; everyone left the exhibition amazed at the vast variety of textiles that span 100 years of collecting.  Next I have a placement volunteering at the Design Museum, working with the Create and Make family programme. I am really excited to continue to develop and learn from volunteering in different areas of museums and galleries, to help see where my career in the arts may go!"