‘STRAW BENCHES’ IS A BESPOKE SEATING PUBLIC ART COMMISSION BY ARTIST, TOM PEARMAN, CELEBRATING THE STRAW PLAITING INDUSTRY IN HOUGHTON REGIS, BEDFORDSHIRE.
The patterns found on each bench when combined form the pattern of traditional straw plaiting, in particular a straw plait called, ‘English Pearl’.
The colours found in the bench designs are based upon traditional dyed straw used for plaiting.
The overall shapes of the bench base designs reference bundles of straw and stacks of straw hats and their hat boxes.
For the research phase of the project, Tom Pearman was able to establish a contact from working on a previous project with the Wardown House Museum & Gallery and was introduced to Veronica Main MBE https://www.hatplait.co.uk/
Veronica Main MBE is the most experienced traditional straw hat plaiter in the U.K. For more than forty years she has rigorously researched the hat industries of the U.K., Europe and the United States unlocking information and learning how to recreate plaits using authentic techniques by working as a forensic curator.
Tom and Veronica met in early July 2022 in Amersham and she shared a wealth of information about Houghton Regis and its relationship to the straw plaiting industry. Veronica is one of the leading experts in straw plaiting and has a book coming in 2023 showcasing her extensive knowledge of straw plaiting.
For the engagement phase of the project, I attended Houghton Regis carnival on the 9th July 2022 and held a stall introducing my designs to date for the project, which was an excellent way to share the project with public and local community.