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Wales Window Project

The 'Wales Window' story inspired a series of handwoven designs to commemorate the 60th anniversary of artist and Carmarthen School of Art lecturer John Petts (1914-1991) who inspired the Welsh nation to respond to the white supremacist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Four young black girls attending Sunday School died in the blast with many more injured. Compelled to act when he heard the news, Petts worked with the Western Mail newspaper to raise funds for a stained-glass window to replace the one shattered in the blast. The window, depicting a black Christ for the first time, was designed and made by Petts in his studio in Llansteffan, then installed in the rebuilt church in America and dedicated in 1965 with the inscription "Given by The People of Wales".

The atrocity and related events marked a turning point in the fight for racial equality, leading eventually to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The story appears to have been largely forgotten, but, with its underlying message that any individual CAN do something about atrocities and disasters far away, it deserves to be re-told.

The story formed the inspiration for my final major project: five woven panels, each representing key elements of the story.

Wales Window Project

On 15th September 1963 at 10.22 am, 19 sticks of dynamite planted by white supremacists detonate in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young black girls preparing for Sunday School. The blast could be heard 20 miles away.The murder of friends Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, all 14 and Denise McNair, 11, shocks the world. 23 more are injured. Martin Luther King gives a reading at their funeral and the bombing becomes a pivotal point in the civil rights movement.

Wales Window3
Wales Window Project
We honour your names

This panel uses a technique called Name Drafting to create a unique woven pattern for each of the girls in a woven code.

Wales Window Project
Make It Right

Artist John Petts hears the news in Llansteffan, Wales, and is horrified. As a father, an artist and a pacifist he makes a decision to do something to show sympathy and solidarity.

Wales Window Project
Half a Crown

Petts contacts the editor of the Western Mail, and they propose a fundraising campaign to raise money to make a stained glass window to replace one of those shattered in the blast. Individual donations are limited to half a crown and thousands of people across Wales make donations.

Wales Window Project
The Wales Window for Alabama

Petts makes the window and takes it to America in 1965. It is installed in the rebuilt church with the inscription ‘given by the people of Wales’, where it is still admired and appreciated today both as a piece of art and now an icon of the civil rights movement.

Contemporary woven textile design studio in Cheshire

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