The Foundling Museum & MIND


Love ~ in ~ Knots

A pilot arts and health project (Autumn 2021) at the Foundling Museum in partnership with MIND Camden, led by artist Katriona Beales.

The Foundling Museum holds the largest collection of 18th century textiles due to the way scraps of fabric, ribbon or clothing were used as tokens when children were given to the Foundling Hospital’s care. Some of these were knotted, a gesture used in the 18th Century to describe an intensity of feeling.

“…As the song suggests, ribbons in favourite colours were worn by sweethearts as material emblems of attachment. Their emotional significance was particularly strong when  the beloved was absent. The emotion rendered could be more intense by tying the ribbon in knots, known as loveknots, defined by Samuel Johnson in 1755 in his famous dictionary as ‘A complicated figure, by which affection interchanged is figured’. The effect could be intensified yet further by attaching other love tokens, such as coins or rings, to the ribbon, hanging it around the neck, or tying to an item of clothing for great intimacy…

One reason that ribbons served as powerful tokens of mothers’ love for babies left at the Foundlong Hospital was therefore, because they were universally recognized symbols of love, especially in circumstances of separation and loss.”

In ‘Threads of Feeling’  p.44 & 45

Starting with making love knots we will be transforming materials and adding layers of meaning through interlacing physical and digital processes – particularly interlacing traditional craft based techniques with 2 and 3D scanning.

Reclaiming the notion of ladies of quality and distinction & extending that to the women who gave their children to the foundling. Feminist readings of the Foundlings history. Not just focused on the aristocratic women who enabled the Foundling to begin but also the lives of ordinary women making impossible decisions as evidenced through the textile token collection.