Contextual research (textile practitioners) Part 1 – essay

I have spent considerable time researching a wide variety of textile artists and practitioners who use recycled/up-cycled materials an incredibly useful source being  – this one website has not only provided examples but also often interviews which have supplied the information I require and is sometimes not necessarily in artist statements (please note 6 textile practitioners have been emailed but at the point of writing I have not had replies at this point – the emails were sent later than I would have liked due to illness).  Further practitioners have been discovered through groups such as Studio 21, 62 Group of Textile Artists and google search.

Rather than write up this contextual research in the way I normally do as artist studies I have decided to instead look to answer the questions I derived from my tutor feedback plus any others I feel would be relevant to form my essay – this research will enable me to both write an essay plan and draft the essay whilst also giving me an overall feel and view of the subject which I feel I have in my mind at this point but need to now vocalise using the written word.  Although there is a wide selection of textile practitioners in this blog post I can assure this selection was whittled down and my essay itself will be based on those that I feel resonate with me and also provide the required information.


Jill Flower. Modern Woman III (The circle of llife). 500 mm x 500 mm x 60 mm (perspex box display). (Pinterest)

What appeals and drew me to the work?  primarily the dipiction of Elizabethan ruffs with their appearance of intricate lace which also have a slightly comical feel due to the imagery and words of the magazines used to create them but also the techniques to create illusions of reptile skins, lace and mosaics.

Use of sketchbooks which for me is indicative of a design or process led approach? yes – sketchbooks filled with sketches, mark making, imagery including photographs or from magazines etc.

Process? Hand stitching including embroidery, machine stitching, distressing of papers and magazines after considerable sketchbook work and research

Narrative? to create the illusion of fabric whilst also telling a “human story in a cheeky manner” (Flower, 2015)

Upcycled/recycled materials used?  Magazine, newspapers, found papers appropriate to the specific subject in mind

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation?  papers are chosen in order to enhance the resulting end design e.g. research tells me that for the male ruff in Ms Flower’s Trinity of Ruffs used financial papers, weather reports and crosswords plus obituraries pages whilst the child’s version includes the words of the Shakespeare play which inspired the series intertwined with paper fabric that created the illusion of lace.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? The process includes distressing the papers if required  combined with machine stitching in order to replicate the illusion of lace or in the case of current work reptile skins (2015 at point of interview with and available information on Ms Flower’s website).

How does changing the material change what it is saying?  My interpretation of the work is that the papers are not changed so much as used interactively to enhance and provide humour in the final concept.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  I feel that the work of this textile artist is innovative in itself but takes inspiration from and combines the recycled papers with traditional techniques.


Debbie Lyddon. Pinterest

What appeals and drew me to the work?  work is informed by the natural and particularly coastal environment and uses non traditional materials  to change the qualities of the cloth that is used with work also using found objects

Use of sketchbooks?  Yes – this is the artist’s way of thinking and working out ideas, materials to use, concepts and developments of ideas.  Ms Lyddon also has elements of  being process led during the making of her pieces e.g. how do the colours work together or how the material responds to being manipulated or stitched and she responds to these various aspects making adaptations where required.

Process?  primarily hand stitching is suggested from my research in conjunction with cloth, wax, varnish, bitumen, sea water and salt

Narrative? to create non representational textile art, objects and installations which are informed but are not representational of the coastal environment in which the artist lives near for part of the year – the pieces appear to be abstracted in order to create a multi-sensory interpretation that crosses boundaries between tactility and visuality but also aural too which for me is a definitive part of living near the coast i.e. the sounds as well as the sights and textures make up the whole experience of the landscape.  The aural aspect also stems from the Ms Lyddon’s alternative work as a musician which I feel is notable.

Up-cycled/recycled materials used?  Found objects appear to be a definitive part of the works but I am unsure as to whether the tarpaulins and wax cloths also used are purchased or recycled – I am suspecting the latter as they are such an intrinsic aspect (awaiting response to my email to confirm).

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation?  The cloth used is tarpaulins, cotton duck, linen, muslin and silks which are often used as base fabrics in coastal environments – they are suggestive of the cloths used for boats, sails and other coastal paraphernalia particularly when combined with rings, eyelets and other found objects such as driftwood.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? The cloth and found objects may be waxed, varnished or distressed using the coastal waters and ever changing weather – salt, seawater and bitumen along with the weather and applied colour using paint (watercolour or acrylic) may also create impressions of decay or destruction – the pieces on first glance appear apparently utilitarian but become more abstract as the viewer looks more closely.

How does changing the material change what it is saying?  My thoughts here are that the foundation materials are chosen in order to be able to manipulated through stitch, added colour or erosion – they create the skeleton of the piece whilst also being an intrinsic part.  As stated I do have a question of how much of the cloth is recycled or up-cycled as stated so my interest lies more in the found objects such as the driftwood or shells and ropes that the artist finds on regular forays around her local coastline which again may be combined with other materials, coloured, manipulated or distressed to enhance or create a greater sensory experience and interpretation of the landscape.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  My research suggests that Ms Lyddon uses primarily hand stitching but combines with a combination of new available materials in terms of yarn or any cloth purchased with her work being suggestive of traditional techniques but the work itself appears innovative and exploratory.


Hannah Lamb.

What appeals and what drew me to the work? Wide variety of differing narratives but with a primary sense of recording place through material investigation and observations.

Use of sketchbooks? written notes in a journal recording ideas, research or observations; some sketching to work out ideas

Process? … no generalized media or process used as each is decided depending on the piece being worked on but includes wax, photography, wool, silk, paper or photography amongst others

Narrative?  As noted above primarily recording a sense of place and the detail within it i.e. the textural surfaces and details

Up-cycled/recycled materials used? Found objects, sample squares from the textile industry (‘bastards’)

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation?  My impression is that the materials may be specifically chosen to capture a concept that records where this artist fits in the world.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative?  Depending on the concept a variety of processes may be used in order to create the textural or linear details that this artist requires – hand stitch, machine, adding colour through dyeing or distressing appear to be processes used within the work.

How does changing the material change what it is saying?  I am currently awaiting a reply to my email but research suggests the materials that are chosen are done so in order to enhance the narrative through manipulation and stitch – again in effect they provide the foundation with some found objects or materials creating further visuality and tactility.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work? It appears this artist uses a combination of new and traditional processes and materials within her work.

Susan Stockwell. Map dresses. Pinterest


What appeals and what drew me to the work? Use of site specific installations in a variety of differing venues that comprise of common domestic and manufacturing products – these connect both the product’s past and materiality with contemporary issues according to Ms Stockwell’s artist’s statement.

Use of sketchbooks?  Not known at this point

Process?  Questioning as I research this artist’s work in more depth whether her work comes under textiles or whether it comes under the umbrella of contemporary art through due to the site installations, sculptures, collage, films and drawings that make up the work.

Narrative? Variety of differing political based narratives including colonial implications, trade, ecology – contemporary issues

Up-cycled/recycled materials used? wide variety of domestic/manufacturing products sourced from around the world

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation? Information suggests the materials in their ‘raw’ state are chosen to highlight directly the concept/narrative

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative?  The chosen materials are often displayed or installed as large scale shapes and structures which evoke the desired narrative plus an overall sense of the historical or contemporary implications.  The materials or objects may or may not be manipulated directly but are manipulated through becoming part of a collective structure.

How does changing the material change what it is saying?  Many of the materials chosen are not necessarily adapted but used together and in doing so it takes something that seems insignificant and on its own has no or very little impact but when seen as part of a larger collection it creates a stronger and more succinct, defined visual narrative.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  It appears that much of the work involves a wide variety of materials and techniques but I have emailed Ms Stockwell for clarification.

Anne Kelly.


What appeals and what drew me to the work? the variety of work involving narratives of memory, travel and vintage imagery – there is a beautiful delicacy and story telling in the pieces that immediately draws you in.

Use of sketchbooks?  Information is suggestive of a design led approach or at least using sketchbooks as part of the overall process.

Process? Available information suggests the use of machine or hand stitching, collage, hand dyeing

Narrative? Folk, naive or outsider art inspired pieces based on travel, memory and vintage imagery as mentioned above.

Up-cycled/recycled materials used? recycled textiles and mundane objects and papers.

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation?  I do not have any of this artist’s books which I presume have more information that I can currently find online but my feeling and impression from looking at her work is that materials are carefully chosen in order to  build up and create the small scale artworks.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? It seems most of the materials are cut into appropriate sized and shaped pieces and stitched in layers – each piece is a small element of the whole picture.

How does changing the material change what it is saying? On its own the paper, object or fabric may just be that – a piece of paper, object or fabric with or without its own specific narrative although every piece of scrap paper and piece of recycled fabric will have its own distinct memory or history which may become part of the finished imagery or may be known only to the artist.  By changing the material through the processes the recycled materials gain a new value as rather than being discarded they have a new life as part of an artistic image.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work? My  impression is that Ms Kelly uses primarily traditional techniques of machine stitching and embroidery, collage and hand stitching to create contemporary textile art pieces that also pay homage or are directly representation of traditional styles of folk, naive and outsider art – there is a combination of old and new to create each piece which is enhanced further by the use of recycled and found materials.

Caroline Bell. Pinterest


What appeals and what drew me to the work?  Use of upcycled materials and natural dyes and mordants – this ethos echoes what I would ideally like to be doing in the future if both practically and financially possible (the financial aspect comes from being able to purchase the required dye stuffs if my small garden is not sufficient to grow what I need).

Use of sketchbooks? As with Hannah Lamb sketchbooks Ms Bell states that her sketchbooks are used more in a journal format to make notes and some drawings but photography plays a major part in her work – I can only presume, as I myself find, that photography is a quick way of recording the natural world where sketching is not always practically possible and can record details that might otherwise be missed.

Process? Use of natural dyes, mark making with regards to eco printing onto either cloth or paper and also the use of up-cycled materials.

Narrative? Natural environment and the marks within it appears to the the primary narrative through the use of eco printing and current work also focuses on the rhythm of the seasons

Up-cycled/recycled materials used?  The artist states on her website that the environmental impact of the cotton industry means that she looks to source this fabric from secondhand and up-cycled alternatives and this combines with the raw dye materials needed which consist of plant stuffs which could be classed as found objects technically.

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation? As with other textile practitioners the base cotton cloth is used as a foundation material on which to print marks or to be dyed or over dyed, stitched etc.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? The fabric is dyed and printed on by the transferring of plant imagery and patterns – Ms Bell states that she harnesses ‘the substances contained within the plants themselves to provide print and colour’ (Bell, 2013).

How does changing the material change what it is saying? The base cotton material is used as a carrier for the dyes, marks, prints and patterns that depict the natural environmental narrative – in itself the cotton could be classed as part of that narrative due to the fact in itself it is also a plant material and hence it is in essence also almost the skeleton.  By changing the fabric it enhances and becomes the narrative rather than a blank canvas.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work? Information is suggestive of using paper thread and fabric working by hand so this process strikes as a traditional slow-stitch technique which also uses traditional ecological dyes and materials but in new innovative ways to create textile art.

Susan Lenz. Grave Rubbing Quilt Series. Pinterest


What appeals and what drew me to the work? Use of vintage and recycled materials focusing on the memory of discarded objects – there is a sense of history and a sense of the person within the pieces.  I also just like Mrs Lenz’s attitude upon reading her artist statement – the fact she states she is a post menopausal woman with years of experience, visual expressions and a wish for one of her pieces to be kept through the generations whilst also being very much aware of having no formal art education in what she perceives is a male dominated art world with high-brow approaches and critical words by professionals which despite and perhaps because of my degree studies I am now beginning to understand. 

Use of sketchbooks? No which leads me to the impression that she is an artist who is very much process led.

Process? Hand work combined with self guided machine embroidery whilst working with vintage and recycled materials and objects.  Techniques range from the use of resin, altering books, quilting, working with stitch on paper, hand stitching and whatever other technique suits the pieces that are being worked on.

Narrative? Mrs Lenz’s artist statement on her states her primary themes are those of personal legacy, universal mortality and memory but there is also evidence of the feminist art movement which she herself states her work is also a part of and also her work can concern the loss of our environments and consequentially lessons of history – for me this is an interesting combination that is both self reflective and also reaches out on a personal level through the use of memory as one of the primary concepts.

Up-cycled/recycled materials used? As stated vintage and recycled objects are at the heart of this artist’s work.

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation?  The found objects themselves provide the narrative – in the interview available on Mrs Lenz states that anything old and vintage inspires her and these are used create pieces that range from two dimensional pieces to three dimensional larger scale art works and installations.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? The materials and objects are adapted through the use of meticulous hand stitch that appears sympathetic to both the original fabric/objects and the concept in mind.

How does changing the material change what it is saying? Due to the use of the objects/materials directly inspiring the individual pieces of work I feel that the changes are only worked in order to enhance the narrative which they inspire – the changes are a part of the process that forms the story but does not necessarily change what the materials themselves are saying.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  Traditional techniques include hand stitching and there is evidence of dyeing or application of colour and my feeling is from looking closely at the work there is suggestions of eco-dyeing (rust), use of resin to seal textiles, machine stitch and a wide variety of techniques that combine tradition with innovation (I love in particular the resin over the textiles which enhances the pieces creating an impression, to me, of looking through a film of water).

Jennifer Collier. Pinterest


What appeals and what drew me to the work?  Use of recycled paper which are treated as cloth and used to create almost mundane household objects – the manual typewriter and Singer sewing machine are personal favourites due to my former career as a secretary and owning a similar machine.

Use of sketchbooks? No simply through lacking time according to the artist.

Process?  Sourcing papers from flea markets, charity shops and then treating them as cloth using stitch (hand or machine)  with some use of resin if required.

Narrative? Household objects which range from the above mentioned typewriter and sewing machine to shoes, cameras or even dresses.

Up-cycled/recycled materials used? Old books, magazines, unloved papers of any variety

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation? the paper itself suggests the objects that will can be made and provide the inspiration.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? The papers are cut, stitched and formed to create the objects which the materials themselves have suggested.

Jennifer Collier. Pinterest

How does changing the material change what it is saying?  Again the narrative is enhance by the papers which suggest a history, memories and sense of place, time or a life – by cutting and stitching the artist states that they are given new life and that the viewer can attach their own narratives to the pieces.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  Machine stitching is at the core of the work along with cutting and piecing, waxing, bonding and trapping – I presume the waxing gives strength to the papers either pre-stitching or after the object is made and the bonding is also used as a strengthening technique.  The techniques themselves appear traditional but are used innovatively to create the objects.

Cas Holmes. Pinterest


What appeals and what drew me to the work? Simply one of the best known textile artists in the UK who often uses recycled objects and materials within her work.

Use of sketchbooks? Yes as a method of recording, sketching out ideas and informing the process of making

Process? Paint, dye, stitch and layers combine with use of found materials, paper and discarded cloth (recycling) with inspiration being derived from walks and bike rides in the natural and urban environments.

Narrative? On Ms Holmes’ website she states “the history and familiarity of the worn cloth, linen and paper surfaces inform the narratives contained within Cas Holmes’ work”

Up-cycled/recycled materials used?  Variety of cloths and found objections.

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation?  Information suggests that often the materials and objects suggest the piece but they are also auditioned to consider which will work most effectively within the chosen narrative or concept.

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative?  Ms Homes uses a combination of paint, layer, stitch in order to adapt the materials where necessary to the concept and create marks and colour that are suggestive or representative of the narrative – the materials are combined where required to create a foundation upon which to layer, cut and stitch.

How does changing the material change what it is saying?  As stated many materials are changed in order to create the narrative and form the foundation for it rather than being the narrative itself – some pieces are chosen specifically for their textural, linear or colour qualities which can be further adapted and enhanced using a wide variety of media to create the required marks and lines with some pieces having been dyed or printed upon in earlier sessions.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  Ms Holmes uses a wide variety of traditional techniques including embroidery, machine stitching (including machine embroidery), printing, dyeing, mark making but seeks to use them innovatively and experimentally in order to create the desired effect.  On occasions Ms Holmes states that she will sometimes start with stitch as opposed to mark making in order to hold pieces together whilst the marks echo the linear and textural elements of the environment she wishes to portray.

Becca Birtles. Making the Invisible Visible. Cassette tape and wire. 2019. Own photograph


What appeals and what drew me to the work? I met Ms Birtles earlier in the year at Uttoxeter Quilt and Stitch Village and her work appealed in part due to her accurate portrayal of hidden disabilities including her own deafness (I am partially deaf).

Use of sketchbooks?  Unknown

Process? Combination of stitch, fabric manipulation, textile, knitting, weaving, stretching or other techniques appropriate to the pieces.

Narrative? To vocalise hidden disabilities and chronic illnesses have formed current work.

Ms Birtles has been kind enough to answer the following questions:

Up-cycled/recycled materials used (how do  you decide which to use?)?  Cassette or video tapes, wire and cloth (although the latter is not known if recycled).  Apparently there is a lot of experimentation and trial and error to get the effect that Ms Birtles desires for a particular project but she also states that she also chooses materials that she likes to handle and manipulate.

What does the material provide on its own without manipulation? Apparently sometimes is the handle of the fabric i.e. how it feels or how it takes to being manipulated or stitched whilst on other occasions Ms Birtles states that it is the “look of the pieces, the colour, the weave the smoothness” (Birtles, 2019).

How is the material adapted to tell the narrative? Heat or water is used to manipulate materials such as lutradur or paper in order to disintegrate them or weaving, knitting, stretching may be used with materials such as cassette tape to show how perfect sound changes to distorted sound (one of Ms Birtle’s pieces of work used cassette tape in a cage format which I found really powerful on a personal level).

How far do you take the abstraction of your narrative and how the materials relate to the metaphor/analogy? Ms Birtles tells me that it really depends on what she is trying to say – hearing loss is not a visible disability and hence with some work she has tried to show how it effects what you hear.  The materials will not necessarily relate to the work directly but are manipulated in order to vocalise the intended narrative.

Does the artist include any innovative or new materials or traditional techniques within the work?  From information gained and from directly being able to view Ms Birtles work it is clear that stitch, manipulation, weaving, knitting etc are amongst the traditional techniques used but these are combined with stretching or manipulating the materials innovatively where it is appropriate to the piece.


About (2011) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2012) ‘Reflections, life, home and work’ by Cas Holmes. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2013a) Caroline Bell Interview: Eco printing. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2013b) Debbie Lyddon: Responding to environment. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2013c) ‘Small Worlds’ – Recycled textile art by Anne Kelly. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2013d) Susan Lenz Interview: A partnership with my materials. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2013e) Susan Lenz Interview: My true calling. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2014a) Hannah Lamb interview: A kind of gentle presence. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2014b) Jennifer Collier: Paper & Stitch. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2015) Jill Flower: A dream achieved. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2016) Debbie Lyddon: Art that inspires. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
admin (2017) Cas Holmes: From conception to creation. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Anne Kelly Textiles – About (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Bio / CV (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
cas holmes (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Debbie Lyddon | 62 Group of Textile Artists (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Hannah Lamb | 62 Group of Textile Artists (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Jennifer Collier (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Jennifer Collier: Finding your artistic voice – (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Jill Flower – My Site (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Jill Flower ~ textile artist (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Statement | debbie lyddon (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Susan Lenz (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Susan Stockwell (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Susan Stockwell – Who Are We Project (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Traverse Textile Art: Becca (s.d.) At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).
Video: Interview with artist featured in Quilts 1700-2010: artist Susan Stockwell (2011) Directed by Victoria and Albert Museum, D.M. webmaster@vam ac uk. At: (Accessed 14/10/2019).

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