Handstitched textile art from the Street of Tentmakers, Cairo

Tuesday 9th to Thursday 30th May 2017

Although the demand for the opulent tented palaces of past Sultans has long gone, the skills needed to decorate these tents live on and are now being used by Egyptian craftsmen to create stunning works of textile art, a selection of which go on show at Salisbury’s Fisherton Mill this spring.

Ranging in size from an eye-catching 2 metre tall wall hanging to a series of smaller panels, these textiles are worked with dramatic designs in applied blocks of cotton. Many depict the geometric patterns often associated with Islamic art, but the use of brilliant new colours and ever more complex designs have given them a decidedly contemporary twist.

Originally these hangings were made to decorate the inside of tents used for special occasions such as weddings and other ceremonial events. Gradually such tents fell out of fashion and the demand for the hangings declined accordingly, with the growing tourist market replacing the domestic market. The number of craftsmen or tentmakers declined too and now there are less than 100 working in Cairo, all based in the old tentmaking street Chariah El-Khiamiah.

These remaining craftsmen – and following tradition they are all men rather than women – still work using the traditional techniques of handstitched appliqué, but have increasingly felt free to experiment with new designs and update their craft for the 21st century. The result is a series of textiles which retain their traditional handmade aesthetic while looking very much at home either in a contemporary house or gallery space.

In recent years the Tentmakers have built up an international reputation, with their breakthrough coming in 2011 at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. Since then they have exhibited in Europe, Australia and the USA and later on this year their work will go on show in South Africa, but before then art lovers in Wiltshire have a chance to view their extraordinary examples of textile art. (And there will even be a chance to learn some of the skills and techniques involved in their creation as some of the Tentmakers will visit Fisherton Mill to host a series workshops on their craft).

For more information about the two one-day workshops on 15th and 16th May 2017, please visit the Tentmakers of Cairo Workshops page.

Admission free.

Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, 9.30am-5.30pm

Exhibition Closed:  Saturday 13th May  9.30 to 1pm and Saturday 20th May  9.30 to 1pm