Rachael Matthews and Louise Harries on Working with Wool… AKA ‘Louder than Bombs’

The Prick Your Finger haberdashery, with hand-crocheted signage made of Rough Fell wool Yarn

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/68272572″ iframe=”true” /]

The Prick Your Finger jingle, made by Felicity Ford during the first KNITSONIK residency, 2011

Last year during WOVEMBER we featured this piece about Rachael Matthews and the Prick Your Finger haberdashery, highlighting some of the ways in which the work of Prick Your Finger is closing the gap between producers and consumers of WOOL. Later on today we shall be hearing about two very different Woolmills and how they work, and what kind of work they have inspired, so to set the scene, we thought we would revisit ‘Murder at the Wool Hall’ which is one of the Prick Your Finger projects discussed in last year’s article. Murder at the Wool Hall was jointly created by Rachael Matthews and Louise Harries and ran from 16 – 20 March, 2010, at the Stanley Picker Gallery in London.

Aprons for ‘Murder at the Wool Hall’ handprinted by Prick Your Finger

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/68272047″ iframe=”true” /]

Interview with Rachael Matthews at ‘Murder at the Wool Hall’

This year, Tom has dug through the wonderful project archives of ‘Murder at the Wool Hall’ and has collated a selection of blog posts to convey some sense of the cultural impact, creativity, and closing-the-gap brilliance of this fantastic Prick Your Finger project!


A Prick Your Finger Residency at the Stanley Picker Gallery

Prick Your Finger were invited for a residency at the Stanley Picker Gallery as part of their Louder Than Bombs exhibition series:http://www.stanleypickergallery.org/exhibitions/louder-than-bombs/. Louder Than Bombs: Art, Action & Activism asked artists to respond to a quote from Joseph Beuys;

“art that cannot shape society and therefore also cannot penetrate the heart questions of society, [and] in the end influence the question of capital, is no art”

– Joseph Beuys, 1985

Louise Harries and Rachael Matthews of Prick Your Finger turned the gallery into a factory sweat-shop and constructed the world’s first bicycle powered wool mill, which was used to turn unwanted sheep fleeces from within the M25 into a range of seductive yarns: “we’re asking the world to listen to sensible ways of profiting from nature without exploitation.” Visitors were given an opportunity to learn about the different stages of crafting yarn, assisting with carding and spinning different types of fleece in order to create knitwear of their own.

50g wool from within the M25, carded and photographed by Felicity Ford

The week at the Wool Hall included charting production line efficiency on the walls of the factory office, and providing regular tea breaks to ensure worker satisfaction, and culminated in a chance for participants to clock-in some extra evening hours during Overtime at the Factory Disco.

A diary was kept on the Prick Your Finger blog. Here are some tasty, woollen excerpts and gorgeous pictures, all content © Prick Your Finger and used here with kind permission:

It took us a while to unload the car and van, but David F and Jackie at the Stanley Picker Gallery had tea and coffee on the go for us as soon as we arrived. Alex was helping us set up and launched straight into the drop spindling,

along with Ali, Yoko and Diana, who made great progress and produced a lot of yarn.

David M and Terry, started fixing the bike to the training stand. We are to generate power for our factory with the bike and were hoping the bike would be blue, so it looks like Kraftwork’s ‘Tour de France’ on the red platform, and it was! Terry has cycled all over the world on that bike and won many competitions.

…Felix cracked on with recording our sounds, interviewing us for her blog “The Domestic Soundscape’ and carding.

Meanwhile, Zarah finished stitching together our aprons, which have a print of the first carding machine on the front.

…Jane knitted her spinning on the knitting machine.

When It came to 6 o’clock, Louise rang the bell, and we didn’t want to go home, but we had to, and we will be back again tomorrow.

Frazzle is hooked on the drop spindle. I challenged him to stay up all night spinning, and I think he might have done just that!

He’s aiming for a cardigan, and at this rate he’ll get there.



Louise collected data all week and correleated it on the wall of her office. There were pie charts for time spent by individuals, tally of visitor numbers, and graphs showing how much yarn we produced as the week progressed.

Information came from Clocking In/Out sheets and forms to be filled out next to each machine.


We had a lovely day yesterday catching up with our curators, and other artists from the Louder Than Bombs show at Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston in March. Our meeting was at the Live Art Development Agency, who part curated the show, and the aim was to reflect on and discuss what happened. The legacy of our residency has been really good for us.

It’s been beneficial performing our work in a Live Art context and relating our labour to the Joseph Beuys quote around which the show was based. The situation we created has given us a clearer vision as to how Prick Your Finger could grow in the years to come. Our research has given us more to write about, more images to brand ourselves with, and more reasons to get out into the world and make a difference. As Fugazi so rightfully sang, ‘Cos what a difference a little difference would make.’

There’s a lovely little film of us all and check out my Mother’s hands on the spinning wheel, she’s getting really good!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PtGHaapaS0&w=560&h=315]

Many thanks to Rachael Matthews, Louise Harries and Prick Your Finger for creating such a great project and for allowing us to share insights into your temporary wool mill here on the WOVEMBER blog!