In calling the work Silk Weaver, Lori Park dedicated the present sculpture to the oft-forgotten silk-weaving women of the East London district of Spitalfields. In 2012, the work was exhibited in Spitalfields, serving as Park's first major public display in London. The silk weavers of Spitalfields were integral to the financial and social development of the East London district. Arriving as refugees from Paris towards the end of the 17th century, large numbers of Huguenot weavers settled in the district and brought with them their skill of weaving silk, the manufacture of which could previously only be procured from the famous looms of France. So successful were these manual labourers, that there was an act passed prohibiting the importation of foreign lustrings, allowing the newly-resident weavers full monopoly of the domestic market.
However, in the 1700s there grew a fashion for printed linen and calicoes. In 1719 a riot ensued: a mob of angry weavers paraded the streets assaulting all women they found wearing the alternative garments and dousing them in ink. By the mid-19th century a treaty was enacted, allowing French silks to come into the country duty-free; the resident weavers were unable to maintain their edge on the market and in a short while their trade dwindled.
Park's magnificent, sensuous sculpture honours the women whose skills and presence so transformed East London and the capital’s fashions of the day. The anonymity of the sculpture, truncated with only the delicate torso, celebrates the community whose importance is now largely forgotten. When the sculpture was removed from Spitalfields, a campaign was launched to install a permanent sculpture as a lasting monument to the Huguenot weavers. Park's exposure to Marrakech - which has so influenced and inspired her creativity - is a poignant reflection on the history of Spitalfields, whose appropriation of another culture so hugely influenced their own development.
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