NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Write, stitch, unpick

BY CLAIRE WELLESLEY-SMITH – The use of textile as a creative recording method alongside my PhD (2023, The Open University) extended a practice I began in 2013. Stitch Journal is a long length of linen cloth, pieces added in sections.

It is covered in rhythmic, improvised, hand stitches. This solitary activity in a working life based in socially engaged arts projects is a material-based method that carves out a different sort of thinking space. It acts as a counter to the busyness of community spaces, the constant reflexivity required as practitioner- researcher, offering a stillness and quieter contemplation. During my PhD I used it as another way of managing often messy real-world multi-site research and also as a mirror of it. 

Needle-weaving with leftover threads, Stitch Journal detail (2013-23)

Doing edits I make small needle-woven shapes using scraps of leftover thread. I have begun to see them as interruptions, small but significant. Completing fieldwork and writing up through a pandemic has interrupted my life and my every day in a legion of ways, my thinking practices seem altered, scattered. I always seem to be picking things up and putting them down again. I am reminded of a quote I have used in teaching over many years by Lucy Lippard, writing about quilts as art, that women’s time ‘comes in small squares’.1

Stitch Journal, reverse detail (2013-23)

My notes – language, ‘scaffolding’, intense focus on my document, the writing, editing, rewriting, doing and undoing of texts, thoughts, moments. The textile as document again. Highlights added to the text for correction/ clarification. Coloured page marker stickers doing the seemingly endless editing, refining. How was this like the precision of my needle puncturing the cloth?  When looking at it again from the back it became clear. Mess, improvisation, becoming, undone.2

10 years of daily stitching, Stitch Journal (2013-23)

Notes

  1.  Lippard, L.R. (1983) ‘Up, Down, And Across: A New Frame for New Quilts.’ In The Artist and The Quilt ed. Robinson, C. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 33-43 ↩︎
  2. My fieldnotes, September 2021 ↩︎

Clare Wellesley-Smith is an artist, researcher and writer based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK. Her projects are situated within arts, heritage and community wellbeing. The ability of textile to transform and connect over time informs her studio, community and research practices. Her doctoral research project Crafting Resilience: Cultural heritage and community engagement in post-industrial textile communities (2022) with The Open University was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She is currently an Economic and Social Research Council postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies also at The Open University.

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