Exhibition Opening – Thou Shalt Knot: Clifford W. Ashley

July 7, 2017   
6 pm – 8 pm
free and open to the public
RSVP here or call 508-997-0046.


There are still old knots that are unrecorded, and so long as there are new purposes for rope, there will always be new knots to discover. — Clifford W. Ashley


Learn more about the exhibition

Thou Shalt Knot: Clifford W. Ashley is sponsored by The Family of Clifford W. Ashley and made possible, in part, by support from the International Guild of Knot Tyers and the Boston Marine Society.

This summer, the Whaling Museum celebrates the work of master knot tyer, maritime artist, historian, and author Clifford W. Ashley in a monumental exhibition in two of the Museum’s most prestigious galleries: the Wattles Family Gallery and the Dr. Gilbert and Frima Shapiro Gallery.

Thou Shalt Knot: Clifford W. Ashley premieres a recent gift to the Museum of Ashley’s private knot collection with interpretative material from the Museum’s permanent collection, as well as the artist’s paintings, prints, and works by other knot tyers and artists.

Caption: Decorative Knot Demonstration Piece, early 20th century. New Bedford Whaling Museum Collection. Gift of Captain William Lawton Hawes.

Knots are ubiquitous, sculptural, and mathematically elegant. They are both ancient and modern, and are the subject of cutting-edge research and ongoing practice in the fields of mathematics, physics, life sciences, materials engineering, and art, not to mention within a wide range of industries and recreational pastimes. Thou Shalt Knot takes on many of these themes.

Ashley’s daughters, Phoebe Chardon and Jane Ashley, donated their father’s collection of knots to the Whaling Museum in 2016. A focal point of the new exhibition, the collection includes many of the knots Ashley used as models for the almost 7,000 illustrations in his encyclopedic magnum opus, The Ashley Book of Knots, which has been in continuous print since 1944.

Marc Chardon, grandson of Clifford Ashley said, “We, the family of ‘Grandfather Ashley,’ hope that you’ll come to know him through the upcoming Whaling Museum exhibit. That you’ll be transported back to a time when entertainment was something people created, rather than watched. Back to a world which felt huge and mysterious. And to a place where knots were used each and every day by people in all professions and walks of life. We hope you’ll come and visit and that you’ll walk away happier for having shared in and explored the life and works of Clifford Ashley.”

Complementing the Ashley Collection in the exhibition is a broad range of objects and rare books drawn from the Whaling Museum’s permanent collections, partner institutions, and private collections that help to place Ashley’s work within a larger cultural, social, industrial, artistic, and utilitarian context.