Steve Messam

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Date: November 2009 - January 2010

Client: Oriel Davies

Location: Llanllwchaiam, Newtown, Powys. UK

Dimensions: 11m x 5m x 5m

Materials: Raw sheep fleece

Further info: Clad on Oriel Davies website

Beyond Pattern Catalogue

Clad blankets



An eighteenth century canal-side cottage was clad with the fleece from 300 local sheep, recreating the original timber-frame pattern. Commissioned by Oriel Davies in Newtown, Powys as part of their ‘Beyond Pattern’ exhibition. The piece brings together the distinctive black and white timber frame pattern with the black and white of the two sheep breeds that made the town of Newtown. 

Newtown was built on the wool industry and is still home to the Wool Board’s Welsh depot - every fleece in Wales goes through Newtown. Sheep were bred exclusively for the wool market in the surrounding hills - their temperament and behaviour suited for the steel hills and harsh winters, their fleeces soft and uniform in colour. Due to slumps in the wool market Kerry Hill sheep were until recently on the rare breeds list. However, their distinctive black and white markings, complete with ‘panda eyes’ have made them popular again and are considered a rare success of the smallholder movement. In effect their pattern having saved the breed. 

The timber frame architecture of East Montgomeryshire is the result of vernacular architecture - the area being a source of good straight oak trees. Over the centuries the patterns became a status symbol and more intricate patterns evolved. The patterns continued after the railways arrived along with bricks and tiles - the houses then painted in ever increasing intricacy. The vast country home of the Davies sisters who bequeathed the gallery to Newtown is the epitome of timber-framed pattern, although made from cast concrete sections.
Clad brought these two aspects of the town together in a simple and visual symbol of the patterns dictated by landscape. For the final piece I worked closely with Kerry Hill breeders locally as well as historians and architects.

The fleece from the installation has subsequently been scoured, spun and woven into blankets with the same pattern by the Welsh National Wool Museum as part of a commitment I have to recycling temporary pieces.