He is one of the most distinctive artists of our time – a Turner Prize-winning potter who is as recognised for his striking work as for his own colourful image.

Grayson Perry courts publicity and fame with his unusual attire, over the top pantomime-style cross-dressing, coupled with his feminine alter ego, Claire. His ready wit, insight and TV appearances appearances have earned him a place in the heart of a British public who, perhaps, know little of his eye-catching work.

From this weekend, two less trumpeted pieces of his work get an airing in the, perhaps unlikely setting of Banbury Museum.

The pair of large-scale detailed tapestries form part of the latest acquisition to the Crafts Council’s national collection. The pieces – The Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope (2015) – contain a social history of modern Britain that many of us will be able to relate to.

Rich in cultural and architectural detail, they tell the story of the fictional Julie Cope: an Essex ‘everywoman’ inspired by the people Perry grew up with.

Banbury Museum is the first venue of the exhibition’s two-year national tour following its launch at the Saatchi Gallery, London as part of Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects.

The tapestries are the only pair in a public collection that can be viewed outside Perry’s bizarre folly-like House for Essex, built beside the River Stour at Wrabness, for which they were commissioned. They are shown alongside a graphic installation, and specially commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3,000 word narrative written and read by Perry that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life.

“Why tapestries?” asks Perry: “I always work with traditional media.

“Each historic category of object has accrued over time, intellectual and emotional baggage. I depend on this to add inflection to the content of the works.

“Tapestry is the art form of grand houses. On my television taste safari I only saw tapestries hanging in stately homes. They depicted classical myths, historical and religious scenes or epic battles like Hannibal crossing the Alps. I enjoy the idea of using this costly and ancient medium to show the commonplace dramas of modern British life.”

In collaboration with Perry, the Crafts Council has created a web app which allows visitors to find out about the technical, historical and narrative elements that went into producing the tapestries. It commissioned Perry and designer Kit Grover to create Julie Cope’s Grand Tour shopper and china mugs.

Simon Townsend, Director of Banbury Museum, says: “We are delighted to exhibit this work by Grayson Perry. Through the Art Fund, the Crafts Council were able to purchase these tapestries, and we are enormously proud to bring this significant work to Banbury, the first venue in a national tour.”

In an effort to widen the reach of the exhibition, the museum is collaborating with Chiltern Railways and the Crafts Council to offer an engaging way for passengers travelling on the line to pass the time. For nine weeks, seats in a number of Chiltern Railways carriages will be tagged with #juliesseat head rest covers. Train users will be encouraged to use social media to post a short note about their journey, inspired by what they see from this seat – sharing moments in their lives, thoughts about their day or journey on the train.

Where and when

See Perry’s tapestries at Banbury Museum

Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm until May 13