Oil, embroidery and alpaca/silk fabric on striped cotton fabric, 125 x 90 cm.

This work was inspired by Salts Mill’s 1853 sample book of alpaca/silk dress fabrics. Titus Salt, founder of Salts Mill, had perfected spinning Alpaca fibre from Peru to produce sought-after ‘lustre’ fabrics, using a silk warp and alpaca weft. These fabrics made Salts Mill famous and Salt very wealthy.

The work puts the indigenous Peruvian alpaca herders who provided Salt’s alpaca supply centre stage. They would typically be poor subsistence farmers who got paid very little for their alpaca fleeces. Not much has changed for these people in the last 150 years.

During Salt’s time, Britain dominated Peru’s textile market, importing raw materials whilst exporting mass-produced cloth to Peru - a country with its own rich textile tradition. The cotton stripe used as ‘canvas’ is an example of the kind of British fabrics that would have been sold in Peru.

The ‘silver’ alpaca/silk fabric is the result of a collaboration between the artist and The British Alpaca Fashion Company, aiming to recreate an ivy-patterned lustre fabric from Salt’s sample book using fibre from British alpacas.