Elizabeth’s hands

We’ve just heard that one of Tom’s photographs has been shortlisted in this year’s EEF Manufacturing Photo Competition!

The theme of the competition this year is “Made by Britain, Loved by the World” and surely few manufactured products speak better to that theme than Shetland wool? A fibre raised and processed in a particular locale; which involves highly specialised skills to manufacture; and whose end products are rightly the focus of global admiration, emulation and renown?

Many of the specialised skills involved in the manufacture of Shetland wool have historically been, and largely remain, those of women.

Women like Elizabeth Johnston, whose small successful business, Shetland Handspun, thrives on the traditional skills of transforming fine Shetland fleeces into equally fine yarn . . . and then transforming that yarn, in its turn, into hand-knitted haps and hats, gloves and garments.

This is Tom’s image of Elizabeth’s hands spinning which has been shortlisted in the competition, and which will shortly go on display in Westminster, alongside images of manufacturing everything from steel to whisky, from ball grid array rework stations to the Ocado robots who pick and sort our supermarket shopping.

As well as loving the image, and feeling quite proud of Tom, most of all I am glad that Elizabeth’s extraordinary talents are being shouted about within a bigger manufacturing picture, and feel pleased that the highly-specialised, but frequently unsung, skills of women makers can be celebrated in this context.