Dusty Feet

Pub signs stacked on a pallet

an exhibition about meaning

Commissioned by Wiltshire Libraries, we designed a project with engagement activities for a range of local participants, culminating in a gallery exhibition which featured some of their contributions alongside items from Wiltshire’s museums and archives. The exhibition was accompanied by a short publication we designed and produced.

There were over 7,000 exhibition visitors, and we worked with 370 participants including primary school children, teenagers, library users and embroiderers from across Wiltshire.

What are Dusty Feet?

Dusty Feet comes from the name of a Marlborough court where cases about a group of bakers were heard in 1543. They used stamps to mark their breads so buyers would know who was responsible for each loaf.

The name seemed apt for an exhibition that looked at marking provenance and ownership as a starting point for imparting meaning.


Taking messaging back to a labour-intensive medium, where the beauty of the object created is as much the point as the words used. We invited library users across Wiltshire to embroider handkerchiefs with a text message and as much or little decoration as you like around it. There were sessions to learn how and hear about the project, making a start over a cup of tea, but people could pick up a handkerchief to embroider from the information desk any time. Many of the completed handkerchiefs were included in the exhibition before being returned to their creators.

Handkerchiefs embroidered with messages
Feedback from a visitor


We put a few special items into the library’s collection. You can still find them by searching the library catalogue for Dusty Feet. They’re not books, but they still have something to tell. You can take them home like any other library item, and during the exhibition there were opportunities to respond when borrowers opened the boxes!


In July and August, there was our Dusty Feet exhibition in the Young Gallery and around Salisbury Library. In addition to the things people have made for the exhibition, and items from Wiltshire’s museums and archives around ideas about signs and meaning, there were opportunities for visitors to leave their marks, too – and lots of them obliged! We had cards, blackboards, and a special door, all providing different kinds of opportunities for leaving marks and messages.

Door marked by visitors
Bread stamps


Working with local children, we designed some stamps for bread loaves, and gave away bread marked with the stamps in the library in return for stories. The logos designed by children for marking bread linked to their family or birthplace through the use of iconic images.

The original records of the court of dusty feet (Wiltshire Archives)
Installing the exhibition
Stonehenge tea set
blackboard with chalk marks


created by Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie

Thanks to Wiltshire Libraries, Arts Council England, Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, English Heritage, Wadworth Brewery, Wiltshire Museum (Devizes) and Market Lavington Village Museum