Presence of Mann has its base located within Laxey Woollen Mills. The Laxey Woollen Mills were established in 1881 by a Lancashire silk weaver called Egbert Rydings, who wanted to revive the traditional skills of woollen spinning and handloom weaving. At that time the local population, male and female, were otherwise mainly employed in the harsh environment of the nearby lead mines. With the support of prominent Victorian artist and writer John Ruskin and his Guild of St George the mills were converted from a corn mill to a water-powered woollen mill incorporating a dyeing, spinning and carding manufactory and became well-known for their high quality 'homespun' cloth. "From mountain track to wearers back" was their coined motto!By the turn of the century though, the competition from imported synthetic fabrics proved too much and the mills resorted to using power looms. After the Second World War the business changed tack once again, handlooms were re-introduced and to this day they are the sole method of woollen fabric production at Laxey.
The Wood family took over the business in the 1950s and it has remained a family concern ever since. Robert Wood was a highly skilled woollen weaver and designer from Galashiels who reintroduced hand looms to Laxey. He and his wife Sally steered the business through the hectic Sixties when the coach trip reigned 'king' of the tourist industry. To this day, the Mill is still adapting to new challenges under the guidance of the next generation.
The Mills current owners are Dian Skelton, director, and her brother John Wood, managing director and weaver, were both born on the Isle of Man into a weaving family, John has been a professional weaver since the age of 16. He served a five year apprenticeship under his father Robert at the Laxey Woollen Mills and, after training at the Scottish College of Textiles and various Scottish mills, he returned to the Island to work with his parents in Laxey. On his father's retirement, John took over the business where he still continues to weave the famous Laxey Manx Tartan.
John is the only commercial pattern weaver on the Island and one of the few skilled Manx handloom weavers still remaining. He specialises in producing rugs and scarves in a vast array of designs and qualities and his love of working with colours and yarns is particularly evident in his one-off, limited edition designs.
The product range on offer at the Laxey Woollen Mills includes traditional rugs, lengths of cloth, scarves, clothing, giftware, ties and accessories many made from John's own Manx tweeds.
All the old looms can still be seen in full working order as well as the new modern one which produces the Laxey Manx Tartan and Manx Tweeds. Check out the Weavers Tale with lots more on the Isle of Man woollen industry
The Mill is also home to the "Hodgson Loom Art Gallery" with Julia Ashby Smyth as its curator.
This lovely space was provided by the current owner of the mill as an arena in which Manx artists, of all genres, could showcase their talents. The Isle of Man is blessed with a surprising number of incredibly talented artists, many of which show all over the world. We show the work of established artists alongside that of new artists, plus also give an opportunity for the many different craft and textile groups and collectives to showcase their prowess. Being a working woollen mill, it seems fitting that we show and promote many of the traditional arts and crafts being revitalised on the Island, something that co-founder of the Mill, John Ruskin, would have whole-heartedly approved and supported.
The gallery hosts monthly exhibitions showing a diverse range of mediums, whether it be traditional paintings and drawings; contemporary abstracts; textile art; sculpture; ceramics; photography, or any thing else for that matter!
For T.T. race fortnight and the Festival of Motorcycling periods, there is generally a motorbike themed exhibition in place and over Christmas and the New Year the gallery holds a themed art competition open to the general public.
As this space was the old Loomery, there still exists in the back of the room, possibly, the only example of the 1918 Hodgson Loom still in existence, alongside the old wooden 1958 Arrol pedal loom.