Textile artist Polly Meynell lives in West Sussex and makes bespoke textile art works for individuals, private, public and sacred spaces.

Having already worked on designing and creating a series of textiles for the Cathedral over many years – which also inspired the kneeler work of the ‘Stitching the Cathedral group’ – Polly was commissioned by the Bradford Cathedral congregation in Spring 2021 to create a special stole for the Very Revd Jerry Lepine, who retired as the Dean of fBradford that summer. We pick up the story almost one year on as work is completed on what is planned to be the first of four stoles.

Following an Instagram post about the completed stole, we caught up with Polly Meynell as she was deep into another design, to discuss the project, beginning with how it came about.

“I was asked if I could produce a leaving present for Dean Jerry, in the form of a personalised stole for his retirement.

“Of course, I was thrilled to be able to do this.

“He and I had had a lot of time to talk and build a relationship whilst I was working on the project for Bradford Cathedral and I really enjoyed his company, so it was a lovely thing to be commissioned to make him this gift, on behalf of the Cathedral.”

The design of this stole is a reference to the green frontal in the Cathedral, but has not been created to co-ordinate.

“It was a reference to the work I had done, but it also needed to stand alone, and speak of what he wanted to say about that particular season and, his personal faith.”

We moved onto talking about how conversations with the Very Revd Jerry Lepine fed into the design, and how it is the first of four to be created.

“I’m going to be making a full set for him. This was the first one – in green. He particularly wanted to concentrate on the words ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’.”

These words, from St. John’s Gospel, spoken by Jesus to his disciples, appear in Bradford Cathedral, behind the altar.

“I used that inspiration to dictate the design of the stole. He talked to me about the ‘I am’ being the divine name, and the ‘is-ness’ of God. Taking that sentence apart really struck me: looking at the gravitas of what ‘I am’ actually means, and trying to communicate that in a visual way, but also talking about journey and discovery, and bringing together the whole sentence in a design.”

We moved on to talking about the process of design and creation.

“I like to design with words. I encourage whoever I’m working for – whether it’s for a worn garment or for an installation – to give me words and not pictures to inspire me: to talk about specific poems or passages that they would like to resonate through the work.

“Those words are things that I find really helpful in steering me to create a visual.

“Sometimes it comes easily, and I can immediately see a visual connection to words or a passage or a poem; sometimes it’s more difficult.

“It’s not the quantity of what people can give to inspire me; it’s very much the way they communicate and the words they choose to use. Good conversations are an essential start to a working brief.”

We ended the conversation with a look at the other projects Polly is working on.

“I’m very busy at the moment, which is great, but slightly manic, as I’m designing robes for three Bishop’s at the moment, two of whom I’m hoping to deliver for Easter. I’ve certainly got my work cut out!

“I’m also designing a large piece for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee for a livery company.

“I relish being busy. I’m always grateful to have work. The last couple of years have been pretty tough, so it’s great to be back on a roll again.”

You can find out more about the work of Polly Meynell on her website or by following her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. You can also see the textiles she created for Bradford Cathedral by visiting us during our usual opening hours, or for our events and services.

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