Standfast and Barracks is a textile printing factory in central Lancaster that has been on site since 1924.
I met with Mary Stansfield, their Design Manager, who very kindly showed me around their very large factory which is located in central Lancaster. I firstly visited their factory shop, which I would highly recommend as it has a wide selection of beautiful fabrics at cheaper prices. I was met by Mary Stansfield at the main reception area, and put on a pair of safety shoes. Standfast and Barracks have a lot of visitors from clients.
Standfast and Barracks carry out three types of printing – Rotary or Roller printing, flatbed printing and digital printing.
Mary explained how they have a large on site design centre and separation studio. Standfast and Barracks can design for their clients, or they can produce pre designed fabrics for fashion or interiors. They work with a range of high-end clients, and Standfast and Barracks is currently owned by Walker Greenbank.
The extensive history of the company is detailed in a current exhibition called Behind the Wall, at Lancashire City Museum where Standfast and Barracks have worked with Mirador Arts to explore the history of the building and business, and commissioned artists to make work in response to the factory, including works by Michael Brennand Wood and Caroline Bartlett. You can read more about the history of Standfast and Barracks on Mirador Arts’ website.
Standfast and Barracks also designs ready to buy designs for trade shows. Some of their designs are created from inspiration from their extensive archive, however some of the archive was badly water damaged during the recent floods from Storm Desmond in 2015. The company had to re sources examples of their designs. Their clients are international, big brands at the higher end of the market. The factory is a mass manufacturer, with minimum 300M rolls fabric order.
At the height of its manufacturing trade Caton Road, Lancaster, where the factory is situated, was populated fully with different textile manufacturers, all of which, apart from Standfast and Barracks have fallen into decline.
I asked Mary about the day to day workings of the factory. The company employs just under 200 people. In the factory areas, the factory runs two shifts 6-2pm, and 2-10pm. Most of the staff live in Lancaster or Morecambe, and there is a very low turnover of staff, with most of the staff staying for decades, and they are still of a feeling that working within the factory is a job for life.
The company also run an extensive placement programme for textile design students at universities including University of Central Lancashire, Bolton, Huddersfield and Loughborough. The engineering staff in the factory are usually recruited through apprenticeships, or via family members. I asked Mary about the gender of staff, and she said that usually the staff working on the factory floor were men and the design team were female.
We began the tour in the design studio, and then moved onto the extensive colour separation studios, before moving to the factory itself, where the whole process from washing the fabric to be ready for printing, to finishing and packaging before being dispatched to the client.
The fabric is washed, dried and prepared before being measured and selected for designs for clients. The rolls below are a range of fabrics ready for printing in digital, roller and flat-bed processes. The scale of the factory and processes are immense.
During the project Behind the Wall, with Mirador Arts, Michael Brennand Wood, worked with local groups to create three new artworks in response to the factory, two of which have remained in the factory (below), and one is exhibited in the exhibited at Lancaster City Museum.
Mary Stansfield very generously took me to every area of the factory. Below is the colour mixing studio, where inks are mixed exactly to reproduce large quantities for printing. I met one of the colourists who explained the process interpreting colour and design to create the exact colour for printing, which requires a great amount of skill, experience and knowledge of their inks, machinery and fabrics.
As I mentioned previously, Standfast and Barracks, print in three processes; roller, flat-bed and digital printing. Below you can see the roller printing processes and engraved screens stored above the printing area.
The flat bed printing process is fascinating, as it is produced on such as large scale, with several screens (see image below), and automated machine, and the fabric moved underneath the bed. It was really exciting to see such a complicated and detailed design be produced at such a high level.
With thanks to Mary Stansfield, Design Manager and Standfast and Barracks for allowing me generous access to their factory and processes.