A 200-year-old farm cart has been given a new lease of life to draw attention to issues around sustainability in the art world.

Levenshulme artist Jenny Steele has been working with a group of older women in Gorton to transform the two centuries old wooden cart into a symbol for sustainability.

Using locally sourced natural and recycled materials, the group has been constructing a large and intricate woven structure on top of the Georgian era wagon. The Gorton Rush Cart will be on display at Rogue Artists’ Studios in Openshaw on Saturdays in June.

At 2m high and 2m long, the decommissioned cart was bought at a farm sale in Rochdale by artist Jenny, who vowed to reinvigorate this historic farm vehicle with new purpose.

Working with eight former members of the artists’ group Gorton Visual Arts, Jenny has been weaving together thousands of strands of grasses, willow and dogwood to create a canopy-style structure on top of the vintage cart. The materials were handpicked from sites across Fallowfield Loop and Debdale Park.

Woven amongst the local flora are sustainably sourced textiles, found by the artist in charity shops, textile recycling ventures and saved from landfill.

As well as raising issues around sustainability, the project, which has been supported by Arts Council England, is also about teaching new skills. The artist has been sharing her experience of two traditional crafts, weaving and passementerie, the little-known art of handcrafting trimmings such as tassels and fringes to apply to furniture or clothing.

Margaret Painter, from Gorton, worked with Jenny to create the artwork. She said: “I had no idea what weaving involved. It is not as easy as it appears. I did get used to weaving with a lot of encouragement from Jenny. I never realised that grasses and ribbon could be woven into the wool.

“Having seen the rush cart and the group’s woven pieces of work, it really brought the project to life and all the effort involved was worthwhile.”

Participant Rita Oakley, also from Gorton, said, “I was so pleased to be given the chance to be involved in the weaving project, as I’ve never done weaving before.

“I was amazed when Jenny pointed out that grass could be weaved with ribbon and wool and the grass would change colour. It’s so interesting to learn.”

Jenny said: “With textiles being the third largest form of landfill, it has become increasingly important for me to use materials that are sustainable as possible.

“Working as an artist, there is a large amount of waste and damaging carbon footprint when using fabrics, dyes, yarns and trimmings.

“Most materials required for fabricating artworks are purchased brand new from suppliers, creating further negative impact via packaging and transportation.

“For this project, I have been using locally sourced plants that we have collected ourselves. The textiles that are being added into the weaving are mostly recycled, discarded or diverted from landfill.”

Jenny, a Scottish artist who has been living in Manchester since 2011, has been working with heritage crafts including hand weaving, basket weaving and passementerie since 2020. Prior to that, her work was largely in drawing, painting and printmaking.


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