Community Spirit of Leicestershire launch

My project celebrating the Stories of pandemic volunteering in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland is going on tour

I’ve been working on this project most of the year and even longer in the planning and development. It’s finally almost out in the world! Back in 2020 when volunteering to help run a local foodbank, I realised just how important volunteering was to me and other volunteers. We felt useful and engaged and were making a real difference. I wanted to capture that energy and celebrate it and make sure that volunteers got a proper thank you for their incredible work.

Eventually I turned this into a funding application and created Community Spirit of Leicestershire with support from Arts Council England and Leicester city community funds.

From 5th September the resulting work, created by volunteers, will be shown in libraries and community centres as well as the foodbank where it all started for me. And you can also see the project film here.

There’s details of the tour venues here and a press release here.

I’ve worked with Mandeep Dhadialla as associate artist while I’ve been both lead artist and project producer (plus marketing, admin, funding, workshop-leader!). It’s been a real joy to see this come together and to be able to use a creative project to say THANK YOU to all volunteers for your amazing work.


Creative Producer

Projects around making things happen and bringing together people, places and stories

I love working with people to explore places and stories. I create and deliver projects inspired by my three sources of joy: textiles, artists and heritage. I add in research, partnerships and funding to produce experiences around People, Places and Stories

The experiences I create might be for artists, for textile-lovers, around heritage and stories, by, with and for communities.

Find out more about my Creative Producer work here.

Goal setting when projects are over

I’m in a curious space at the moment. I have been working on project with external deadlines (like my Community Spirit and Criminal Quilts projects) for years, and finally, by the end of October, all of them come to an end. I had applied to do another big project this winter but that didn’t happen, so here I am contemplating the autumn and winter with no ongoing things with external partners. I still have my ‘own’ projects like my Maker Membership which will keep me busy and inspired, but I won’t be working with anyone else, project-managing, delivering workshops, designing print or moving exhibitions around. It’s both WONDERFUL to have a break and quite disconcerting to have the space.

I’ve been on this project-to-project rollercoaster for so many years I can’t even think about adding them up. There was a bit of a pause at the start of the pandemic when my exhibitions got cancelled and I stopped doing anything external, but I soon got stuck into Textiles in Lockdown and then other projects happened and have continued, until now.

I usually do my planning and goal setting in January but there’s no point in waiting, so here I am heading into autumn, the new academic year, thinking about my annual reflection and figuring out what I want to be doing at least for the next 6-12 months.

I’m starting this process with a week-long artist retreat with the wonderful Gillian McFarland so I can really think about my creative goals for the next while, separate from my more business-focussed plans. Because of the way I work, I find it easier to separate the two, although my long-term intention is to bring the two more closely together.

During this break I will be working on my own Gentle Goal Setting workbook, really digging into what matters to me, why I do the work I do, what my goals, hopes & dreams are and how I can be working towards them, steadily but crucially – gently – over the next year or so.

My Gentle Goal Setting process is designed to be responsive to your needs, energy, creativity and working life. I believe that goals should be more like guiding lights, directions to follow not a time-restricted set of things you must do or you have failed. I create goals which take me towards they kind of life I want to live, not goals that make me feel pressured, exhausted and risk falling behind before I’ve really got started. The self-study workbook is available here for £20

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my goals that I’ve been working on this year and how I’ve made progress. You can also, if you wish, look at my 2021 goals in two blog posts here and here.


If you are looking for a creative community with ongoing support and resources to challenge your thinking and take your creative practice further, have a look at my Maker Membership. It’s a monthly rolling membership that you can join any time. I create workbooks, blog posts and videos about all kinds of things including research, creative development and reflection. There’s also a lively community who share their work and their thoughts via the members chat and we meet monthly on Zoom for a group mentoring session which is always really inspiring and encouraging. Find out more here. It’s £25 per month to join with no minimum term. Find out more here or click the button below to join.

Sanctuary Stories and Research Resonance

A couple of weeks ago Mandeep Dhadialla and I concluded our summer community project called Sanctuary Stories. I wrote a little about the project development here. The work made is now on show at Leicester Central Library until 31st August. Sanctuary Stories was part of the city-wide Journeys Festival run by ArtReach and we worked with participants from Roots Group who are all Leicester-based but from sanctuary-seeking backgrounds.

Mandeep created the project concept and ran most of the workshops while I worked on the behind-the-scenes project producer work. But delightfully, she also invited me to be part of the creative workshop side. The project focussed on print and book making exploring stories of nature, wellbeing and belonging. My part was to introduce slow stitch on the papers and books with the idea of a meditative stitch practice.

The previous week the group made collograph-style collages which Mandeep blind embossed onto heavy white paper to create beautiful textured, simple pieces. We stitched into these pieces and Mandeep later made them in to folded forms.

I created my samples around a theme I’m working on for myself on borders, boundaries, paths and journeys. The stitches represent a border, a path, containment and freedom. That’s where the research resonance of the title comes in – making the samples for this workshop created all kinds of connections with my own work. Talking to Mandeep about her work and the meanings behind this workshop programme also sparked ideas for both of us. She and I will be talking more about this in a podcast due out in mid-September. It was a real pleasure to work with this group and to collaborate with Mandeep on this project and the results are so lovely. I hope plenty of you will be able to see them in Leicester Library in the next week.


Creative Producer

Projects around making things happen and bringing together people, places and stories

I love working with people to explore places and stories. I create and deliver projects inspired by my three sources of joy: textiles, artists and heritage. I add in research, partnerships and funding to produce experiences around People, Places and Stories

The experiences I create might be for artists, for textile-lovers, around heritage and stories, by, with and for communities.

Find out more about my Creative Producer work here.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 23 Highlights from Making Meaning Live with Amy Twigger Holroyd, Claire Wellesley-Smith, Lokesh Ghai and Charlie Birtles.


Making Meaning Live was a fantastic online event which I created and hosted in July 2022. The event brought together creative people to talk about the meaning behind what they make with a live audience. The next three episodes of the podcast are highlights of the programme – the bits that work without images and video. This episode includes Amy Twigger Holroyd talking about Fashion Fictions with participants Wendy Ward, Ruhee Das Chowdhury and Kate Harper, a conversation Claire Wellesley-Smith & Lokesh Ghai and artist-maker Charlie Birtles talking about thinking practice. There’s more background and images about their sessions below. You can also watch the whole event recordings for free here.

Play here


Other links

Listen to Claire in Episode 16 of Making Meaning Podcast.

Watch the Fashion Fictions film here.


Session descriptions


Amy Twigger-Holroyd, Fashion Fictions
This session will focus on a particular Fashion Fiction: World 54. In this world, production of new textiles has been severely restricted, leading to the development of a resourceful yet opulent fashion culture in which sheets of cloth, ingenious straps and random objects are used inventively to dress the body in different ways. Amy will present a short film showing a participatory enactment of World 54 and host a panel discussion involving three Fashion Fictions participants: Wendy Ward, Ruhee Das Chowdhury and Kate Harper. Together, they will discuss the ways in which making and embodied material exploration have been intertwined with storytelling in the development of World 54, and consider how such activities can help us to bring alternative fashion systems to life.

Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd is a designer, maker, writer and researcher. As Associate Professor of Fashion and Sustainability at Nottingham School of Art & Design, she leads an international participatory project, Fashion Fictions. Launched in 2020, the project brings people together to generate, experience and reflect on engaging fictional visions of alternative fashion cultures and systems. Participants can get involved in writing outlines of fictional worlds, creating visual and material prototypes, and enacting practices from the imagined worlds.

Common Threads: Lokesh Ghai and Claire Wellesley-Smith in conversation

Common Threads: Lokesh Ghai and Claire Wellesley-Smith in conversation

Claire and Lokesh will discuss commonalities in their textile practices through examples of projects delivered alongside communities in the UK and India. Stories told through cloth, memory and making will be illustrated with images from their working lives.

Lokesh Ghai is a textile artist and researcher working with traditional craft practice. He is interested in cultural-making of craft and clothing. He has showcased his textile art at V&A Museum of Childhood, London. As a designer and associate curator, he presented ‘India Street’ exhibition in Scotland. Lokesh is currently a design faculty at UPES, Dehradun. Claire Wellesley-Smith is an artist, author and researcher based in Bradford. She works on long term community-based arts, health and heritage projects which often explore textile stories. Her most recent book is Resilient Stitch: Wellbeing and Connection in Textile Art (Batsford, 2021). Claire and Lokesh met in 2016 at a community textile garden in Bradford and are currently developing ideas for future work together.

Charlie Birtles

Thinking Spaces

With a view to open out a discussion, during this session Charlie will share her own personal reflections on thinking spaces, inevitably told through objects and stories, and will invite the wider group to share their own strategies around integrating space for thinking and questioning into their own lives and practices.

Charlie’s practice is about bringing people together, learning from each other and creating an environment for others to explore their own creative thinking. Whether through making artwork, facilitating spaces, or sharing skills, what is important to Charlie is the wider conversations and impact that is generated when we make way for creativity; process is just as important as a finished article. Increasingly, Charlie values the importance of reflective thinking within her own creative practice. The reflective process shows up for her in a variety of ways: reading, writing, talking, walking, making, collecting, questioning, or sometimes just sitting and embracing silence.


Maker Membership

My Maker Membership is now open for all makers wanting to explore their motivations and to build meaning and research into their practice and be part of a supportive creative community. We meet once a month and I share resources, tips and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 22 Highlights from Making Meaning Live with Michaela McMillan, Wendy Ward and Kathryn Parsons


Making Meaning Live was a fantastic online event which I created and hosted in July 2022. The event brought together creative people to talk about the meaning behind what they make with a live audience. The next three episodes of the podcast are highlights of the programme – the bits that work without images and video. This episode includes Michaela McMillan, Wendy Ward and Kathryn Parsons and all involve interaction and activities which the participants really got into. There’s more background and images about their sessions below. You can also watch the whole event recordings for free here.

Play here


Other podcast episodes

Listen to Michaela in Episode 21 of Making Meaning Podcast.

Listen to Kathryn in Episode 5 of Making Meaning Podcast


Session descriptions


Michaela McMillan, The Naming Ceremony
My entire making process starts with notes and stories. These have been shared with me at shows, found in books I’ve read, are from issues happening in the world around me and from events that have shaped my life. This session will be an introduction to the beginning stage of putting a collection together. Tying materials to names and stories, thinking about how to tell a visual story through collected recycled objects – naming pieces and giving them a brief history. Everyone attending will be invited to offer their own associations with materials I present, or show their own piece of treasure and share their own connections and names with it.

Michaela creates individual handmade sculptures that are thoughtful and vibrant objects for interiors. Her work is playfully serious, and made from recycled and found objects with decoupage, assemblage and stitch. The pieces are visions of her imagination mixed with historical and contemporary realities, depicting scenarios of animals, people and nature.


Wendy Ward, People’s Wardrobe
The People’s Wardrobe invites you to wear (or have to hand) a well-used, well-loved garment for this participatory event. As a group we will share the stories of our garments by writing love letters to them and describing them in just three words. This is an activity I am running with lots of different groups of people and from these collected responses I want to start building a library of the public’s best-loved garments which might help to answer these questions: Why do we keep and use some garments for much longer than others? What can we learn from these garments to help us better appreciate the rest of our clothes and keep them for longer? ‘Big Fashion’ has made us believe that we are simply consumers of clothes, but more importantly we are users and wearers and we all need to find new creative ways to build more enduring relationships with the clothes we already own.

*note – Wendy would be delighted to hear from you with your Love Letter to your garment.

Wendy Ward is a PhD researcher at Sheffield Hallam University investigating product attachment, craft and broken-ness in fashion. Prior to her PhD she taught sewing to adults and wrote five best-selling sewing books. Wendy has long had an interest in sustainability within fashion, she worked at both extremes of the fashion industry: as a designer in fast fashion and for a small sustainable brand, then went on to explore novel ways to recycle textiles for her MA. Wendy got her love of making from her dad and a pair of his leather gloves helped to inspire her research.

Kathryn Parsons, The Naming of Moths
Moths are utterly fascinating creatures, and last year I started learning fly-tying so I could create miniature moth sculptures. In this session I’ll talk about my work and show you some fly-tying. There will also be an opportunity to join in a mini creative workshop, and make an ephemeral moth collage from natural treasures. It’ll be a gentle amble through stories of materials, techniques, local history and wildlife conservation, while we sit and make together.

I create artworks that weave together tales of place and people, history and nature. My work is research-based and multi-facetted. The materials I use depend on the story to be told – from miniature moths made of feathers found on nature reserves, to tiny porcelain lichens planted in a poet’s garden! I have created site-specific artworks for Derby Museum, Langdyke Countryside Trust and the University of Leicester, and exhibitions for the National Centre for Craft & Design. I also love to run creative workshops, nurturing people and their creativity while inspiring deeper connections with the natural world.


Maker Membership

My Maker Membership is now open for all makers wanting to explore their motivations and to build meaning and research into their practice and be part of a supportive creative community. We meet once a month and I share resources, tips and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.

Stories in Cloth

Commissioned artworks in response to a family textile collection

This project has been one of my slowest ever, but it’s finally coming together. Months ago I was commissioned to make a new piece of work inspired by a family collection of textiles and clothing. It’s been tricky all along because the client wanted the textiles back intact so I couldn’t cut and stitch the cloth into something new so that limited my options. Intriguingly, the client also doesn’t want an artwork back so I suggested creating works which could be scanned / photographed so she can have a digital version. In many ways an open brief is harder to work with than a very tight brief. Too many options can be quite overwhelming so I struggled for a while to work out what to make. But it’s up and running now and nearing completion and I’m very happy with what I’ve done.

I decided to make a series of small pieces presented like museum prints or drawings in an acid-free box. The client has worked in archives for many years so the connection made immediate sense. I’ve used print, drawing and photography techniques to create an archive of the collection without using any of the textiles in an irreversible way. As time has passed, the client is actually happy for me to use the textiles as I wish but I’ve gone down the route of preserving them so although I’ve done a little stitch work with some smaller textile pieces, no scissors have been involved and everything I have done is reversible, like in textile conservation – a regular source of inspiration to me.

Until I decided to stitch a few of the textiles, this project was more like a museum project – creating work inspired by but not using this collection and that’s been enjoyable and challenging for me. I’ve never done anything like this before, using a personal / family collection of treasures and stories which have huge importance as a group. I think find it particularly fascinating as I don’t actually have a family textile collection of my own. The museum / archive / stories aspect of this project has given me a lot to think about and a lot of reflection on my own future work in collaboration with museums, and maybe with other family collections.

This project forms part of my research and development for my new long-term creative work around evidence and absence, looking at histories and objects, movement and loss. I’m hoping to show the finished work in an exhibition next year. All along, I’ve been sharing the development of this work with my Maker Membership group over the last year or so, as an example of how I go from idea to finished work. This project has been particularly relevant to our earlier theme of Objects where I shared my experience of working in museums early in my career and now working with museums (and old things) as my inspiration. These resources are still accessible for all members of the group too. Find out more about membership here.

What family archives / textiles collections do you have? Do they inspire your creative work? Or don’t know where to start? I’m open to similar commissions with other family collections of textiles and clothing, it’s been so much fun to explore new ideas.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 21 with Michaela McMillan

Michaela McMillan’s wonderful work often defies categorisation. It is craft or is it assemblage? Is it sculpture or is it textiles? It is meant to be serious or is it meant to be fun? Michaela’s work is full of elements of her personality and her passions. She describes it perfectly as playfully serious. In this podcast we reflect on how much of ourselves we reveal through our making practice, what rules and boundaries we use or choose to break to make our respective takes on non-functional craft objects! We also talk about writing as part of a creative practice and about using titles and words to add to the narrative of what we make.

I am a mixed media artist working with recycled materials and story telling. I create non-functional objects for interiors with their own stories which are part truth part fiction, and often autobiographical. The new collection I’m working on is The Legion of the Lost and Found and will be available after the summer. I also work with community groups and deliver workshops.


Play here



See / buy Michaela’s work

The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester, 13-16 October

Lustre 4-6 November, at Lakeside Arts, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Cheltenham Craft Festival 26-27 November

Current work is available through her website and at Court Barn, Museum of Craft and Design, Chipping Camden, GL55 6JE



Maker Membership

My Maker Membership is now open for all makers wanting to explore their motivations and to build meaning and research into their practice and be part of a supportive creative community. We meet once a month and I share resources, tips and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.

Sanctuary Stories Community Project

I’m working on a new community project this summer in collaboration with Mandeep Dhadialla / Laughing Cactus Print Studio. Mandeep is doing most of the workshops including leading this one using print making and book construction, and I’m adding in some textile elements and stitch in future sessions.

Sanctuary Stories is a project for ArtReach, working with their Roots group for people from sanctuary-seeking backgrounds. Their work will be shown in Leicester Library as part of Journeys Festival in August.

 The Roots group are local participants from around the world, who come together to learn new skills and engage in cultural activities throughout the year. The project, Sanctuary Stories, is all about inspiring conversations around stories of individuals from sanctuary seeking backgrounds, and their connection to community, home and environment. 

Mandeep Dhadialla

In this project I’m more behind the scenes while Mandeep does most of the workshop side. The project concept was developed by her with project planning and support from me and I’m really enjoying this way of working. I’ve got a couple of decades of experience in running arts projects, exhibitions and engagement activities so it’s great to be able to collaborate and share with someone else. Mandeep is also working with me on Community Spirit project. I’m keen to do more of this kind of project management where I get to be creative and not just admin, and work with great groups on meaningful projects. I also worked for ArtReach a very long time ago on a great museum project so it’s good to be involved with one of their projects again.

I’d love to work on more community projects around my on practice and the themes that inspire me with local and regional groups. Please get in touch if you think this might work for your organisation. You can find out more about the kind of things I love to do here.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 20 with Ruth Singer on Research

Research and stories are fundamental to my work. Everything I make has some kind of message or meaning which I want to express through making artwork. I talk about research a lot, both in the podcast and in my Maker Membership but I know that it isn’t always clear what I mean by research and narrative textiles. The podcast episode focusses on what I understand by research, what I do and what it means to me. Building more research (of whatever kind) into your making is one of the cornerstones of my Maker Membership and it’s something I love to explore with other creative people. There’s a lot more about research in creative practice to come in my Making Meaning Live Gathering – coming up next week if you are reading this when it comes out – or in later episodes of the podcast if you are catching up later!

Ruth Singer is a professional artist, mentor and creative producer of arts and heritage projects. Ruth’s textile practice draws heavily on her first career in museums, she is fascinated by material culture, history and the power of objects in human lives. She aims to explore and illuminate human experience, our understanding of material heritage and the traces and stories we leave behind. Ruth often works in collaboration with other artists, with heritage collections and spaces and with communities to create exhibitions, commissions projects and publications. She works mainly in old cloth, full of complex histories and stories, along with slow stitch techniques to create one-off textile works which have a sense of history with subtle but powerful stories to tell.


Play here



More about my work

Some of the projects I talk about in this episode

Ruth Singer. Figures of Africa
Monumental Folly
Stitched artwork with a hundred names embroidered by hand in various colours.
Ruth Singer Memorial Sampler
Criminal Quilts

Making Meaning Live Gathering

Craft telling stories

Let’s get together to talk about craft and narratives. Making Meaning Live is an online event full of creativity, connection, conversation and the stories behind what and why we make.  It’s for artists and makers, teachers, curators, and collectors, anyone with an interest in craft and storytelling. I’ll be bringing together makers to talk about and share their work in a sociable online space.  It’s open for bookings now, and it’s completely free!

It’s not a standard online conference where you just sit and listen. It’s much more active. There will be different kinds of sessions including discussions, films and small groups to meet and talk to others. There will be things to do and take part in or you can just listen if you prefer. You can meet like-minded people and be part of fascinating conversations to spark your creativity and learn new things. And it’s free. Book your place here.


Maker Membership

My Maker Membership is now open for all makers wanting to explore their motivations and to build meaning and research into their practice and be part of a supportive creative community. We meet once a month and I share resources, tips and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 19 with Alice Fox

Alice’s practice is deeply embedded in land and place. She makes with found and natural materials using textile processes and others drawn from basketry and bookmaking. Alice and I met some years ago through exhibiting in the same places and having a shared understanding of making a living as an artist and in particular, writing books about our work. Alice is well-known in textiles for her book Natural Processes in Textile Art and her new book Wild Textiles comes out this September. In this podcast we talk about her journey to the materials and engagement with the land which guides her work and the many complexities of being a working professional artist who wears many hats. We share having textiles as a second career too and talk about the many positive aspects of this in the work we do now. This is a great conversation full of stories and details about Alice’s life and work.

The desire to take an ethical approach has driven a shift from using conventional art and textile materials into exploring found objects, gathered materials and natural processes. The work that I makes is process led. I gather the materials that are available to me, testing, sampling and exploring them to find possibilities using my textiles-based skill set and techniques borrowed from soft basketry. I make sculptural works, often on a small scale and bringing different materials together to form tactile surfaces and structures.

Alice Fox

Play here



Alice’s books


Further info

Alice is represented by Jaggedart


Making Meaning Live Gathering

Craft telling stories

Let’s get together to talk about craft and narratives. Making Meaning Live is an online event full of creativity, connection, conversation and the stories behind what and why we make.  It’s for artists and makers, teachers, curators, and collectors, anyone with an interest in craft and storytelling. I’ll be bringing together makers to talk about and share their work in a sociable online space.  It’s open for bookings now, and it’s completely free!

It’s not a standard online conference where you just sit and listen. It’s much more active. There will be different kinds of sessions including discussions, films and small groups to meet and talk to others. There will be things to do and take part in or you can just listen if you prefer. You can meet like-minded people and be part of fascinating conversations to spark your creativity and learn new things. And it’s free. Book your place here.


Maker Membership

My Maker Membership is now open for all makers wanting to explore their motivations and to build meaning and research into their practice and be part of a supportive creative community. We meet once a month and I share resources, tips and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.