William Clark & Sons Awarded British Fashion and Technology Research & Development Grant

October 13th, 2021

One of the oldest industrial linen processes in the world awarded brand new funding to pioneer sustainable future developments

Northern Ireland textile manufacturer, William Clark and Sons is delighted to announce that they have been awarded the British Fashion and Textile Technology (BFTT) R&D Grant to pioneer sustainable and innovative developments with their signature Beetling process – one of the oldest linen processes still in operation in Ireland today.

William Clark & Sons are reporting that the grant will allow them to breathe contemporary life and relevance into the historic process of Beetling – a now globally unique finish created through mechanical pounding using beech hammers which produces a highly desirable sheen on linen, unrivalled by modern finishing equipment. Traditionally this product is used in tailoring for seam reinforcement due to the fine linen that the process creates making it almost invisible when used in garment construction. Beetled linen found new fame and popularity when it was featured heavily in the Alexander McQueen SS20 collection, stepping out from being hidden in garments to being a decorative fabric. The traditional finish is created entirely naturally with starch which is fragile and can easily mark which limits its usage outside special items.

The project is set to last 15 months and will research eco and sustainable products that can embed inherent stain resistant qualities in the finished product while staying true to the historic nature of the process, creating more durable fabrics and opening up end uses from fashion and accessories to interiors. This will involve establishing a controlled production environment for the Beetling engines to gain more scientific control over manufacturing and installation of video technology to give consumers an insight into the production of this unique linen, which takes in the region of 140 hours to gain its character sheen. William Clark & Sons will be working with local weavers based in Northern Ireland to produce a sustainable collection of fabrics.

Creative Director, Duncan Neil commented: “Working with BFTT, the University of the Arts and Leeds University will give us access to up-to-date knowledge and research on eco chemistry which will be hugely beneficial in progressing the beetled finish.” A Project Lead post will be created to manage the project and partners with the new range of beetled linens set to secure the future of this historic process within Northern Ireland.

Duncan concluded: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be the first Northern Irish business to be awarded the BFTT grant and we look forward to championing innovation within the region and Irish Linen industry.”

It was recently the annual open day at Flax Mills textiles outside Dungiven, an inspiring and hugely enjoyable day as always that all of us at the factory look forward to each September. Many of you will be aware of the beautiful woven fabrics Marian and Hermann produce at their home and mill, with a passion for linen in particular but all natural fibres that can be grown ethically and sustainably. Flax Mill Textiles are one of our favourite customers; they are the most authentic customer we have when we look at how William Clark started out, processing fabrics woven by local weavers, with their base being just 16 miles away. Their ‘slow’ and considered approach to design and manufacturing is just what the world needs, now more than ever. This is part of the reason they love bringing linen to us to beetle, giving their wonderful linen a beautiful lustre without adding any chemicals or finishing agents, just the pure power of the beetling engine creating a stunning look and feel to their fabrics. See what Hermann has to say on the process with this link;

Open Day 2019


This month we caught up with Katie Larmour, owner and creator of Katie Larmour Design. Katie is an Irish Linen designer-maker who creates ‘luxury couture cushions’ from her studio based in Belfast. Katie’s unique work has caught our eye over the years and we were excited to spend some time hearing more about her journey with Irish Linen.

Can you tell us a little about your journey within the fashion and textile industry? 

I have been involved with Belfast Fashionweek for a number of years now, both as the official ‘face’ of the event through their advertising campaigns, as stage host, and also as presenter of ‘Belfast Fashionweek TV’. I love interviewing all the up and coming designers behind the scenes and hearing their stories. Fashion has definitely been an influence in my work, directly in the use of precious antique and vintage designer silk scarves which are a fashion item that I transform into one-of-a-kind luxury cushions, and then also with some of my ‘Artisan Linen’ designs. These are cushions created from linen alone, as in my two signature pieces, the bow and the rose cushion, which have been inspired by the flamboyant bows and elaborate flower-like ruffle detailed on couture dresses like the 1950’s Dior, Valentino or Giambattista Valli ballgowns, whether it’s oversized shapes of sweeping fabric or in tiny intricate details. My cushions are artisan made, constructed in a similar way to a bespoke garment by skilled seamstresses with precision and care, the cloth sculpted by hand and the finishing touches hand stitched. In a world of throw-away fashions I wanted to create products that felt timeless and more enduring in a world of ever changing fads and trends.  

They sound very intriguing, tell us more about the scarf cushions?

I collect high end designer silk scarves such as Hermes, Chanel and Cartier in an eclectic mix of rare and unusual vintage colour-ways and fashion them into one-of-a-kind cushions, which are, of course, backed in Irish Linen. I source these from the best markets and antique dealers in Paris. My favourite place to hunt for treasure there is ‘Les Puces de Saint-Ouen’. It’s very fitting that these precious fabrics found in such an elegant city be matched with Irish Linen which is often referred to as the aristocrat of textiles. I prefer to use Irish Linen in its natural undyed form which is very fresh, its unique shade seeming to complement every single colour of scarf I use no matter how vibrant. I sell these through a New York based antique dealership called 1stdibs

Have you a favourite piece that you have produced?

There have been a number of them, including a few of my antique silk scarf cushions that I know I will never find again, as they are such gems and one-of-a-kind beauties, but if I kept every one that I fell in love with my house would be coming down in cushions …in fact it already is! A favourite pattern must be ‘Gloria’, a celestial looking print by Hermes, as I seem to keep buying the same one over and over again, but in different colour-ways.  

How did the vision for Katie Larmour Design come about?

I studied Fine & Applied Art at the University of Ulster Art College where I specialised in ceramics, but although my end of year show was focused on that medium, I was experimenting with Irish Linen even then. I combined textiles and porcelain with a delicate slip-dipping method which resulted in beautiful patterns being imprinted and fossilised within the clay. With Irish Linen being so imprinted in our city’s history and heritage I was intrigued to incorporate it into my ceramic pieces, and so took the first step into the field I am in today. 

Have your travels impacted on how you design?

Absolutely, I love to explore new places and absorb new cultures. I travel a lot and I find a wealth of inspiration everywhere I go. Last year on a trip to Venezuela I was lucky to have a private tour of ‘Villa Planchart’. It is a modernist gem by the celebrated Italian architect Gio Ponti and I was shown round by the nephew of the patron. The interior was magical and I was very impressed by the unique Mid-Century Modern decor full of fantastic geometric furniture and dramatic spaces. My ‘Tara’ cushion would fit in there perfectly. It’s the essence of the clean lines and boxy forms of the Modern Movement in art that I’ve tried to capture through my contemporary patchwork. I ended off that same year with a visit to the architectural masterpiece ‘Casa Luis Barragán’, the house and studio of Luis Barragan in Mexico City which is another development of that same aesthetic. Next on my list to visit is the Irish Modernist Eileen Gray’s villa ‘E-1027’ on the French Riviera; that would be a dream to see how an earlier Irish woman designer worked in the Modernist idiom. 

When you begin a new collection, where do you look for inspiration?

I’ve just recently completed a set of contemporary patchwork Irish Linen cushions for Heal’s of London, on sale at their flagship store for Spring/Summer 2017. Because the collection was exclusive to them I looked to their archive of iconic furniture from the past for inspiration, to draw up something special to them, and that’s where I found a range of minimalist shapes. Heal’s has a fascinating design history which spans over 200 years, with a particularly strong background in the Arts & Crafts movement, Modernist designs, traditional craftsmanship and high quality materials, so there was a natural synergy here. I used clean lines with no frills, eliminating unnecessary seam-lines to create bold block geometrics with harmony and proportion. My goal was to make a collection that could be ‘mixed and matched’. I’ve done this by keeping the colour scheme neutral and using the same combination and textures of fabric throughout, so theoretically they should all complement each other. I’m delighted to be collaborating with such an iconic and prestigious company, whose own history was inspiration itself.

Congratulations on winning a place with the British European Design Group, what was it like exhibiting with them in NYC? 

The BEDG promotes British talent to international markets. Once I learnt I was going to showcase at ICFF, North America’s luxury International Contemporary Furniture Fair, I got to work designing a whole new collection, as all my pieces up until then had been one-offs and therefore I could not reproduce them for a wholesale market. The collection I eventually exhibited there was picked up by a beautiful interior design boutique based in the Hamptons. On the journey home, I stopped by the Caribbean to add some of my bijou accents to a private villa there. It was an amazing experience to be taking part in New York Design Week, not to mention the opening night party in MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art). Having visited the gallery many times during the day it was really cool to get in to see it after normal opening hours. I’ve since been invited to take part in ‘Maison & Objet’ in Paris later this year so I’m really looking forward to that. 

Tell us why you love Irish Linen?

Firstly, for its unique look, colour, feel and texture which is unparalleled. It’s very special as not only does it encapsulate our history and heritage but it’s an excellent eco-friendly choice. There has recently been a widespread and fashionable return to natural fibres, which makes Irish Linen all the more desirable now. Made from the flax plant it’s cultivated using just a little water, and so is an alternative to crops that seem to rely on fertilisers and pesticides. Basically, grown as a weed, it is transformed into the most luxurious of fabrics today, and the whole plant is also used, making it a waste-free crop. I’m also fascinated by the old production methods of the past and found some historical photographs documenting the bleaching process whereby rows of long lengths of linen were laid out on the fields to be whitened by the sun’s rays. These archival photographs have been a source of inspiration for my designs. From a high level view the dramatic stripes created by ‘bleaching greens’ was astonishing and made very striking patterns across the landscape, and so I tried to translate this image into my cushion design ‘Erina’. I love visiting all the old linen mills that are scattered across the country, as they contain so much history and character, Clark’s of Upperlands being a picturesque example with its old stone buildings with soaring red clay brick chimney set within a luscious woodland.

Do you feel you are contributing to part of a revival of Irish Linen?

There is a sense of that, which is very gratifying, and it’s nice to think I’m celebrating what our city was known for, our industrial heritage. At one time, there were tens of thousands of mill workers in Belfast alone, and now there are only a handful of mills left in the whole country still producing linen, but its niche is the luxury market. It’s a beautiful fabric with so many appealing qualities but it tends to be offered in quite a traditional way, whereas my aim is to create contemporary designs with a fresh approach and I love the idea of helping to keep this wonderful fabric alive and being able to promote it abroad. 

What do you do in your spare time? 

I always like visiting art galleries and museums wherever I go, and it has always been a pleasure in my spare time, although it often ends up as a stimulating influence in my work. I’m passionate about my design business so I never really 100% switch off. Experimenting with making quilts is very time consuming but also therapeutic. I construct them with what are essentially the left-over pieces of linen from my cushions and so the size and form of these sections often dictate the shapes in the piece. I see them as one big picture and often look to icons of abstract art like the paintings of Rothko, and the graphics of the Russian Suprematists, and the Dutch De Stijl group for inspiration, which brings me back to my favourite hobby in my spare time – going to see these original works in galleries around the world.

Katie’s Heal’s cushions can be seen gracing the front cover of this month’s House Beautiful magazine, and her silk scarf creations are featured in ‘Antiques & Home Magazine’. Visit to see more.


One of the most glamorous and gifted personalities in Upperlands passed away, after a long and

brave struggle with illness, on May 5.  June Clark, born in Dublin in April 1933, had a long and happy

marriage to Wallace Clark, who was a director of William Clark and Sons and a respected historian

of linen. During the years when Wallace was marketing director, June accompanied Wallace on many

global sales trips, using her knowledge of French and German, and her natural charm, to

consolidate some important business partnerships. When agents or business friends came to Upperlands,

they were warmly received at her home, Gorteade Cottage. She and Wallace attended textile and clothing

fairs all over Europe. They often went to England for formal events, from black-tie dinners

to balls, where people in the clothing and textiles trade used to meet, socialise and network. They

were a popular and charismatic couple.  Having worked as a model in her early years, she was a natural,

walking advertisement for linen skirts and blouses as a uniquely comfortable and stylish form

of apparel, especially in sunny locations like the French or Italian Riviera.


Our thoughts are with June’s son Bruce and all the family at this time.

Official Statement on the fire at William Clark

February 27th, 2017

Unfortunately, yesterday afternoon we had a fire break out in one of our older outlying buildings. We would like to sincerely thank the passer-by who raised the alarm. The fire was dealt with quickly and efficiently by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, resulting in the damage being contained to one building which will not affect our operations – production is continuing largely as normal. We were not operating at the time of the incident so thankfully no staff members have been affected.

We would like to assure both customers and staff that we are currently working as normal. We greatly appreciate the messages of support offered from customers, suppliers and the general public.

If you have any questions or queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 02879 547204.

Over the past year our home in Upperlands has seen some significant changes; the beginnings of our factory expansion, hiring a new creative director and a state of the art digital printer. A vision that is now becoming real with this week’s launch of our new contemporary soft furnishing brand Earthed.

Earthed is a brand rooted in this land and worked out through the technology of the future. It represents the pioneering spirit that exists at the core of our company’s genetic makeup. Combining 300 years’ worth of linen expertise that is unmatched anywhere else in the world with new thinking to deliver collections as captivating as the land surrounding it.

At Earthed’s helm and directing this thinking is our new creative director Duncan Neil. Born in Scotland, Duncan has trained and worked throughout the UK creating patterns and producing prints for Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs, Andrew Martin and Marks and Spencer. Duncan brings with him a natural fascination and curiosity for how materials and patterns combine.

Earthed is the combination of a number of interests; nature and colour. Inspired visually from the natural world surrounding us, not just as we first see it aesthetically but also how we interact with nature and study its elements. Colour will always be at the fore throughout the collections, with a central focus on the emotive feelings that colour evokes. Duncan speaking earlier this week gave us an insight into the brand’s vision-

I love the power that colour has to change our mood and central to our ethos are colours that excite, inspire or relax. A large part of the vision for Earthed centres around UK textile manufacturing. Textile production throughout the UK and Ireland was once at the forefront of global trade and it is saddening to see how much industry has been lost, and most importantly the skill sets that are fading. Creating quality, beautiful prints is far from easy as there are so many variants; from the fibres used in the base cloth, to the bleaching and preparation, to the chemistry required for printing, to the steaming to fix the dyes to the washing and softening- each part is pivotal to the outcome of the final product.

Earthed is different to other furnishing brands on the market, emerging within William Clark puts Earthed in quite a unique position. We have a team of highly skilled workers with years of experience working with these processes and this expertise has been instrumental in allowing us to create quality digital prints.

This was a major thought in how we launched our collection. We wanted to honour our worker’s craftsmanship. By creating a bespoke book that would help distinguish us from other brands on the shelves; it can be quite daunting walking into an interior designers or fabric showroom and seeing the huge selection of pattern books available to browse – where to begin can be hard to know. Our beautiful wooden books are made from Black Frake which is a durable African hardwood. The grain of the wood is stunning and the wood is responsibly and ethically sourced – at Earthed we appreciate the natural world and love to work with it but realise the importance of using our world’s resources in a responsible manner. We found a great partner to work with in the UK to produce the book cases. Laser cutting is a process I love to work with so we played with cuts on the wood using our beautiful logo (by Pale Blue Dot) to give us a striking window through to our designs.

Our first print collection, ‘The Upperlands Collection’ represents where we have come from, we really wanted to celebrate the history of our company. As this is very much a new aesthetic look for William Clark and our history is truly compelling. The idea of Earthed was in the ether before I joined William Clark. When I joined the company and read ‘Linen on the Green’ by Wallace Clark I was blown away in the first pages by the dedication;

‘To the Clady River which has fed and cloth us all in Upperlands for 240 years.’

It struck me that the concept of Earthed was at the heart of William Clark, the company exists because of the natural resources on this very site that has allowed the production and finishing of linen since the 18th century. Water has been at the heart of our processing for over three centuries. So the Upperlands Collection was born – a celebration of nature supporting humanity.

Follow us on our social media channels as we start our journey. There are many interesting projects lined up for Earthed over the next year. We will be launching two collections in Spring 2017 which will involve working with some new faces which we are looking forward to. We are also looking to explore what processes we can develop within the existing finishing production here at William Clark to create some exciting products. The visual direction and inspiration is under wraps for now, so you will have to wait and see.

Picture by Dave Thompson/Route One Photography 

You can find the Upperlands Collection arriving in stores across the UK over the next number of weeks. We will be updating the stockist section of our website regularly, so keep checking back to find the dealer closest to you. If you are interested in any of our designs in the meantime you can order samples on the Earthed Website.

We are excited to reveal Earthed and the ‘Upperlands Collection’ to you and hope that you will love this collection as much as we do.

At William Clark we are passionate about Linen and creating the best material possible. We find ourselves drawn to brands and businesses who have that same mindset. Working with the tailors on Saville Row, local designers such as Katie Larmour, Deborah Toner and international brands such as Mulberry is a natural fit for us. On the 19th of July we welcomed to the Mill a customer who have been in business nearly as long as William Clark- Richard James Weldon. Since they started in 1826, Richard James Weldon have been working closely with us to provide a number of products.

Richard James Weldon are one of Britain’s oldest tailor’s trimmings merchants. Since they began they have been supplying our high quality linen products to tailors across the globe. Dedicated to sourcing the highest quality merchandise, they have access to exclusive and rare materials and boast the broadest selections of products within the trade. Their staff are experts in the field possessing extensive knowledge and an expertise of trimmings, understanding tailors’ specific needs.

Living in Linen- Richard James Weldon

It was great this summer to welcome back Curtis Haley (Commercial Manager) and David Bunce (Sales Manager). Showing them some of the changes to the Mill since their last visit; our new heat recovery solution and machinery that allows us to diversify market conditions, whilst still continuing with our famous heritage beetling. During the course of the day we got Curtis to tell us more about Richard James Weldon’s story-

1.Can you tell us a little more about the story of Richard James Weldon?

Our company was born from the joining of two of Britain’s biggest companies C & J Weldon and Richard James & Son. In 1983 the two oldest established names in British tailoring joined with West End woollen merchant, Wain Sheil, to form the company known today as Richard James Weldon.

Richard James Weldon is a family owned British Company that prides itself on its long standing tradition of quality, service and selection of tailor’s trimmings to the bespoke trade.

‘Tradition’ is not just another word to us, but is instilled with a greater sense of meaning that affects all aspects of our business operations today. Existing in the high quality products that we select for our ranges, present in the high standards of service that we provide our customers. It is crucial to us that we succeed in continuing the time honoured values of quality, selection and service that formed the foundation of our business at its beginning.

We are powerfully proud of this heritage, our hope is that by knowing a little more about our journey you will have a better sense of who we are and what we stand for.

2.How long have RJW and William Clark been working together?

At a guess, probably since our inception in 1826. Certainly throughout the whole of the 20th and 21st Century.

3.What is it about William Clark that Richard James Weldon loves?

William Clark not only provide a number of unique, high quality products but they offer a heritage within the cloth industry that is even richer than ours.

Traditional techniques used by Clark’s during their manufacturing process are incredibly specialised and have been honed over centuries, this allows them to create finishes that cannot be matched by modern technology.

4.Heritage materials are experiencing a resurgence in the media at the minute e.g. wool. How do Richard James Weldon see this shaping the garment trade?

I feel that the movement has been gathering pace for some time, particularly in the denim world, with the resurgence of selvedge denim.

We believe it has a very bright future and hope that post-Brexit Britain can benefit from better export opportunities that will help fuel the resurgence of quality manufacturing in this country. Hopefully helping to position “Made in UK” heritage materials at the heart of premium and luxury garments.

We love meeting with our customers who feel as strongly as we do about our country’s textile manufacturing strength. Getting excited with the areas and projects that each are working on. If you would like to find out more about Richard James Weldon and what they offer then please visit their site here.

The place we know now as Upperlands sits at the foot of the Carntogher mountain, shrouded by the Glenconkeyne Forest and given life by the Knockoneill River.

Home to an abundance of wildlife, the opportunity that this land offered was spotted early on. Harnessing the power of the rivers, a Linen Mill and community was created that would grow and sustain the area for over 300 years.

With over 600 employees William Clark and Sons held the position as the largest industrial operation in Mid-Ulster during the first half of the 20th century. Proving resilience by surviving two world wars, the major fire of 1929 and the economic upheaval of the Linen Trade in the 1930’s. Upperlands was home to some of the finest and most reputable Linen Mills in Ireland. To this day Upperlands is still defined by its relationship with Flax. Our linen mill continues to provide employment and a sustainable way of life for those living there.

Last Friday we were invited to join with our community and First Minister Arelene Foster to celebrate the hard work ethic of the Upperlands people- in the opening of the Flax Visitor Centre. A beautiful facility conceived by the tireless members of the Upperlands Community Development Ltd. Whose dedication to preserving our area’s history and developing a sustainable community is unmatched.

A former working beetling mill- ‘Road Engines Beetling House’ the visitor centre is itself a physical reminder of our community’s heritage. Fusing local history with the present day. Visitors can enjoy an immersive learning experience on the area’s history, witness a commercially active Beetling machine and enjoy handmade refreshments in the Flax coffee shop while taking in the spectacular surrounding landscape.

The event was attended by our own Managing Director Paul Callan and Sales Director Paul Jenkins. We spoke with Paul Jenkins earlier to hear more about the day-

“Myself and Paul Callan attended the official opening of the Flax Visitor Centre in Upperlands, the key note speaker was The NI First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and Bill Maguiness.

William Clark amongst others sponsored the event, as a local employer we are keen to develop local relationships and links with the community. There were local MLA’s and councilors , and members of the local Upperlands Community Development Group. The museum and visitors centre show the history of the area and indeed feature the history of William Clark, Bruce Clark helped a lot in the set up of the centre with information and images, and it is hoped that it will attract tourists to the area.” (Paul Jenkins, Sales Director).

We are excited to have such an engaging attraction promoting an awareness of linen and celebrating the area’s history. Upperlands Community Development Ltd are a group that match our beliefs as a business and we are thankful to them for asking us to be part of such a special day.


Photo from left to right Ian Orr of Ardtara , First Minister Arelene Foster, Paul Callan Managing Director of William Clark and Marcus Roulston of Ardtara.

Linen has been around for thousands of years and seen millions of uses. That’s a long stretch of time, and the samples of linen from that period are still in great shape today. Which says a lot for the materials longevity and durability- making it ideal for preserving other things to last as long as it.

As a family we have been in the linen business a long time. Not quite since its conception thousands of years ago, but 300 years is no small figure. In that time, we have learned a trick or two. So when it comes to linen we are peoples first and only stop.

Linen as we have already stated is very robust and that makes it well suited to protect valuable documents. Being creatives and inventors we like to innovate with linen and push the boundaries for how it is used. So in 1983 when the Bodleian Library wrote us a letter outlining their requirements for a Linen box fabric we set to work.

19 years later we were again approached to think outside the box and create ‘boxes’. Our new brown and navy box linen was conceived in 2002 by Tony Mack following a meeting with the Oxford Conservation Consortium in 2002 to match a fabric known as ‘Islandreagh Linen’, which was used in the conservation of rare books.

Bridget Mitchell owner of Arca Preservation, a specialist conservation company and a long time user of our box linen spoke to us about why the material is so important to her.

1 – Bridget, you are an Institute of Conservation Accredited Book Conservator with 20 years’ experience, can you tell us a little about Arca Preservation.

I set up Arca Preservation in 2003 after leaving my position as Senior Book Conservator at the V&A in response to requests for cloth covered book boxes for volumes belonging to various collections. Working for myself fitted in well with having a young family and we moved from London to Norfolk to set up my studio.

A Latin word, “Arca” means a box or place to put things. I set the business up with the specific aim of supplying book boxes and preservation enclosures of the highest quality that provide individual preservation requirements for each volume contained. I assess the preservation needs of volumes for clients or take instruction from other book conservators who manage the conservation of collections. If the artefact has very specific or unusual requirements I design new box formats to accommodate unusual or required features. I fit the box to the book, not the book to the box.

The conservation of rare books, manuscripts and parchment charters, the preparation of printed and manuscript volumes for exhibition and the making of book cradles for display represents much of my work, but concentrating on box making in the early years means it is still the back bone of my business and the range of designs I now make has expanded enormously. Box designs now incorporate glazing for display, the housing of multiple objects within a single box and the provision of layered handling access to multiple artefacts. I have a design that allows the rotation of the object within the box so both the front and back boards could be viewed without handling the object and designs that allow the removal of the item from the box without handling the object itself.

The size of boxes I make varies enormously and I specialise in the making of outsize boxes for an equally varied range of contents. Books, manuscripts, charters and albums are in the majority but the range has included a 2.5m long Narwhal tusk, parchment manuscript rolls, Annie Leibowitz’s immense photographic portraits of the Queen, enormously long public school photographs, Charles I Wedding gloves, theatre portraits painted on glass panels. Mementos of lives taken too young (bereavement boxes) and human ashes have brought an interesting and poignant dimension to my work.

2016 will see Arca Preservation move into new, purpose built premises, designed to more easily accommodate the making of very large boxes, the running of box making courses and the purchase of new equipment. 2017 is shaping up to be equally as exciting with the taking on of new staff, revamping of our website, ( the purchasing of new technologies and the further expansion of our range of preservation solutions.

2 – Arca performs a variety of conservation services. How do you select the best conservation material for the project?

Much of my work is concerned with the housing of treasure objects, so it is vital that the materials I use in the construction of my boxes are not deleterious to the contents, whether it is in direct or indirect contact with the artefact. The materials must perform their function over the lifetime of the enclosure and that the lifetime of the enclosure is as long as possible, so physical durability and chemical stability are critical. The material should be of the right substance and weight for the task required and must have the right finish for the project; this is particularly important for historic library settings and treasure objects. The material should also be affordable within the budget.

3 – What drew you to William Clarks brown/navy box linen fabric?

The linen has a natural cloth finish which is aesthetically appropriate in close proximity with historic binding and artefacts. The brown cloth fits well into historic library settings, the natural finish is unobtrusive and the colour blends with the leather bound volumes on the shelf. However it is the strength of the linen fabric that I find is its greatest attribute. This has allowed me to produce boxes of larger dimensions than I might otherwise have felt was inappropriate with other fabrics on the market.

I also like the simplicity of this product, the use of natural fibres and finish means it does not contain plastic or synthetic compounds making the product sustainable and biodegradable.

4 – What performance abilities does the box linen have that makes it well suited to document conservation?

Strength and physical durability of the cloth are characteristics I require, particularly for my large boxes with hinging pressure flaps and lids. I can be confident that the box/binding I make using this cloth will perform its function for many years, the cloth protecting both the contents and the structural integrity of the box. The physical durability of the cloth means that the box or binding will continue to look good throughout its lifetime. The cloth also accepts gold foil finishing easily and labels can be easily adhered to the exterior surface.

The cloth is lovely to work with being of a suitable thickness to allow the making of small boxes for fine bindings whilst providing the strength required for larger more robust structures. The cloth’s substance and forgiving nature means that it always gives the construction a high quality finish.

That this cloth is biodegradable means that it is permissible for use in churchyard settings for the burial of human ashes and remains.

5 – How does a material like box linen perform compared to other materials for conservation.

William Clark linen is critical for my business. It has allowed me to be more adventurous with the boxes I design because I can be confident that this cloth has the strength to cope with the physical demands of outsize enclosures. I have used William Clark’s box linen fabric since it was first produced. My business relies on this covering cloth for its strength, quality and object sensitive aesthetic.

The cloth is also a pleasure to work with as it remains relatively dimensionally stable when glued compared with some other cloths. It does not curl or stretch excessively when damp and this ensures that, as it dries on the board box carcass, it does not uncontrollably warp or distort the board to which it is stuck. This feature is critical for the production of very large boxes. The natural finish of the cloth allows internal paper linings within the box to be adhered to the exterior face of the cloth with ease.

The exterior of this cloth is not acrylic coated so care must be taken when glueing out to ensure no adhesive is applied on the visible surface, however the cloth will tolerate light wiping with a damp cloth.

6 – Can you tell us a little more about the development and design process Arca uses in the construction of its tailor-made boxes?

The starting point for any enclosure is to assess the preservation requirements of the object. If the object is complex; a binding with clasps or raised board decoration I take photographs, tracings and measurements. I am currently investigating the use of 3D scanning technology for this purpose. I note the materials from which the artefact is made as this may affect my choice of materials for the internal cavities of the box. A discussion with the owner/curator clarifies; the level of physical and chemical protection required, any requirements to be able to display the item within the box, the desired accessibility of the various components of the object, likely level of use/handling of the artefact and its storage situation i.e. will it rest vertical or horizontally on the shelf, is it housed in a historic setting etc?

With a clear understanding of the requirements of the box for both the object and the people who will use it I then settle on an appropriate design and the materials that will fulfil the objectives, designing any adaptations to the interior space I feel are necessary. This could mean making a standard pressure box but adapting the pressure flap to be wedge shaped or designing tailored pads to accommodate physical features on the boards of the binding.

If I feel that none of the standard box designs adequately meet the requirements of the object(s) and custodian, I will design a box that does. These designs are usually based on the typical box formats with which readers have become familiar, such as a drop-spine or charter box but will include major adaptations such as additional drawers, multiple base trays, glazing to restrict access to components, rotating or removable trays to eliminate the need for direct handling of the object. I draw these designs on CAD software which allows me to send illustrations and plans to clients. The affordability of new technologies will mean that in the future we will be able to send these drawings directly to computer cutting machines, speeding up the production of these bespoke designs.

I fit the box to the object, not the object to the box and my design must inflict no new damage on the object contained within, instead, help to reduce the rate of deterioration, physically and chemically. The box must be as simple and self-explanatory to use as possible and if it can contribute to the interpretation and understanding of a complex object without causing harm, it should do so e.g. Correct orientation, separate object components should be housed in the appropriate order etc. The aesthetic of the box should be sympathetic to the object, so fine bindings should be housed in a refined box and the materials from which the box is made should be of archival quality wherever possible and not visually jar with the artefact.

Once all aspects of the design, materials and finishing/labelling or decorative elements have been decided then I begin construction. I make all my boxes using double wall, step jointed construction techniques to produce strong, rigid and durable box carcasses. I also pay great attention to the finish of the box ensuring that it fits the object exactly, that it is easy to lift the artefact from the box with both hands as necessary and that the quality of the finish befits the quality of the contents.


7 – What sort of documents are currently protected and housed within William Clark Box Linen?

Most recently I have been designing and constructing boxes for a renowned collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Some of these volumes are particularly large and heavy and all the boxes were covered in the brown William Clarke Linen. A large charter box for an Oxford University parchment charter will incorporate Perspex glazing to allow display of the artefact. Many rare manuscript volumes, incunabula, printed books, fine bindings, single sheet and rare pamphlet collections are housed within a variety of preservation enclosure types constructed with William Clark linen. These are housed within Cathedral, library, stately home and private collections across the country.

We love to hear how individuals like Bridget are using our products to create solutions for businesses and individuals. As a family we believe in keeping history at the forefront develops our foresight. It helps guide each and every venture and new development. If you would like to find out more about our box linen or other fabrics, please contact us using the details below. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Article Images by Keith Osbourn Photography.

William Clark has been made up of pioneers, innovators and inventors since its very conception almost 300 years ago. Today is no different, new fabrics are being developed seasonally and our team is constantly experimenting with what is possible to achieve with fabric. Our latest project ‘Earthed by William Clark’ will soon be live and available for purchase. What better time than now to introduce you to one of our latest hires and the creative director of Earthed- Duncan Neil.

Deciding to go Digital- Duncan Neil

Duncan is a well accomplished textile designer with a long background working in the fashion, interior and academic industries. This unique balance gave him the perfect opportunity to perfect technique whilst familiarising himself with all new styles and ways of working.

His journey into textiles was determined from an early age as he became obsessed with Art in primary school. Art shaped Duncan’s path throughout school and into university where he planned to begin studying as a graphic designer. But after 3 weeks Duncan realised that graphic design wasn’t the medium that inspired him the most. Experimenting with different mediums at University, Duncan eventually got to try textiles, where he found that he much preferred the textile aspect of design.

At this stage the most common print method in the industry was analogue screen printing. An experimental medium that took an image exposing it on a screen. Duncan loved the flexibility it provided. You could take one thing and see it in an endless number of ways. Fascinated by colour and loud colours in particular, he began to push the boundaries of what could be done with the colour spectrum. During his time at university Duncan’s work had a particular focus on photography, coupled with his insatiable curiosity it was inevitable that he would be drawn to the university’s first digital printer during his final year.

We caught up with Duncan to find out more about his process for design.

Duncan is there a particular process you have for design?

All designs start somewhere. At the beginning there needs to be a concept.

Earthed’s first collection was inspired by my journey here to Upperlands, the people I have met, the Mill, factory and the history. When I begin working on a new collection, I immerse myself in the subject or history. Before I started anything I spent time wandering the property, reading the archives, talking to staff, learning everything I could about the Clark family.

I then experiment in different mediums to determine the best route to creatively reflect the concept. It all starts by various hand work, initially drawing, painting and photography. Then comes the digital aspect, scanning them into the computer where I build up all designs in photo shop. To fuse the two together I work primarily with a specific textile design software called AVA.

Then the designs must be pieced down and established how they will work in repeat. Typically it takes around three months to design a single collection and an additional two months to get from sampling to production, ensuring colour and detail are right on cloth.

How would you describe your print style?

I don’t have any one defining style. With every new collection it shifts and changes to best suit the concept. Fusing digital and hand created elements is a big part of what I do.

What can we expect to see from Earthed and William Clark in the coming seasons?

As a brand we will create quality digital prints, fusing technology with our deep heritage.

Colour will be a central focus in each collection. I have always been fascinated by colour and how subtle shifts in palette, depth and vibrancy can transform emotion. It will always be a strong element in all that we do.

Duncan will be overseeing the Earthed brand and fusing our quality Irish Linen products here at William Clark with cutting edge creative technology and design. You will soon be able to purchase our beautiful fabric from our new website and selected retailers. If you have any more questions please get in touch using the details below.

William Clark and Sons

72 Upperlands Maghera

Co. Londonderry

BT46 5RZ

United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)28 7954 7204


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