Making Meaning Podcast Episode 16 with Claire Wellesley-Smith

Wellbeing through stitch and communal creative practice runs through Claire’s practice, writing and projects. She’s just completed a PhD exploring this subject in depth and we both love talking about the importance of community making practice, about textile and local heritage and about the power of textiles to change lives in all kinds of subtle ways. This conversation ranges across all these areas of interest and we talk about how our work in communities is so important yet so often overlooked in the wider art world. I was honoured to be included in Claire’s recent book Resilient Stitch – more about this below and also grateful to her for sharing her thoughts on textiles and community making for Textiles in Lockdown podcast which I made in 2020 with Gawthorpe Textiles Collection. That’s coming out on this podcast very soon so you can catch up with it right here. Claire has just relaunched her incredibly popular online teaching sessions, again links below. Claire will also be part of Making Meaning Live Gathering in July, an online social event to talk about craft and narratives. I hope you enjoy this conversation and our delve into textiles and community.

Claire Wellesley-Smith is an artist, writer and researcher based in Bradford. Her practice includes long-term community-based projects and residencies that use textile making to explore textile heritage. Her PhD research with The Open University is multi-site ethnographic research into community resilience through engagement with textile heritage and craft and is based in post-industrial textile areas in West Yorkshire and East Lancashire. Her most recent book ‘Resilient Stitch: Wellbeing and Connection in Textile Art’ was published by Batsford in 2021. She teaches and lectures internationally.


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Claire’s Books


Resilient Stitch

Claire asked me to suggest some pieces of my work for inclusion in the book and write about what resilience means to me. I sent her a selection of my work, mostly from my 2018 Emotional Repair exhibition. She chose this piece, Forget.


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 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. Find out more here.


This episode is sponsored by Beyond Measure, a shop of beautiful things for folk who make.

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 15 with Louise Jones-Williams

I’ve been enormously lucky over the last 10 years or so to work with Louise at Llantarnam Grange on both group and solo exhibitions. In this conversation we talk about how she creates and curates exhibitions, finds artists to work with and shares stories through craft. We also talk about the importance of the artist-curator relationship, about my work with her and the gallery and how important exhibitions are for both artist and visitor. This was recorded in person at the gallery in March 2022.

Louise has worked in the arts in South East Wales for over 25 years and became Director of Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre in 2019. She is part of a committed and talented team and leads on the strategic business and creative direction of the organisation, liaising with partners and networks to develop relationships and projects. Louise is an experienced curator whose exhibitions have focused on ideas of domestic heritage, the role of women’s work in society and storytelling. Louise has been a selector for several guilds and craft festivals including Makers Guild in Wales and the Contemporary Craft Festival.

Square image with swirl circle logo including portrait photo of Louise Jones-Williams, a white woman with white blond hair. Text says Making Meaning Podcast with Louise Jones-Williams. Hashtag Making Meaning Podcast. @llantarnam-grange (instagram link)

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Images show in-conversation and preview events with me at Llantarnam Grange. There is a recording of my Textile Traces 2019 exhibition launch conversation with me and Polly Leonard, Editor of Selvedge here.

The current exhibition at Llantarnam Grange is The Sketchbook, curated by Louise and Exhibitions Officer Savanna Dumelow continues until 11th June


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 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 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. Find out more here.

Woodgate Wellbeing

Creating art projects with and for communities is a huge part of my creative business. For years I’ve worked on projects to support creativity and wellbeing for those with limited access to the arts for various reasons. Recently I’ve been creating projects myself rather than just working for other people and one of those is the Woodgate Wellbeing project I’ve developed for the users of the foodbank I helped establish in 2020. I’ve brought together a group of local artists and practitioners to create activities and events that are creative, accessible and relaxing and which also link to the local area of the city. To make the activities as accessible as possible, I’ve put together this magazine with loads of activities and an accompanying materials box to go with it. Workshop activities start later this month too. I’m so excited about this getting this project launched and hopefully supporting people to have a bit more creativity and wellbeing in their lives. 

The cover of Woodgate Wellbeing magazine is one of my Foodbank Stories embroideries. I created this project concept in early 2021 and applied for two different funds through the foodbank. The second was successful (Places Called Home fund from The National Lottery & IKEA). I have created the concept, commissioned the content and designed the magazine and kits. I’ve been supported in this project by Mandeep Dhadialla. She is also delivering one of the workshops for the project. Mandeep is also associate artist with my Community Spirit project.

I’d love to keep this project going and replicate it elsewhere. If you are interested in supporting creativity and wellbeing for underserved communities in a similar way, please get in touch.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 14 with Sharon Adams

Sharon’s work really fascinates me. Her objects tell intriguing stories of the landscape she is rooted in and allow for contemplation and imagination of the viewer too. Sharon and I have had such interesting conversations about place, belonging, boundaries and landscape containers, it was a pleasure to talk to her more about her work in this podcast. Sharon also supports artists through Herding Fish, her 1:1 coaching business.

Sharon Adams is an applied artist living and working in rural Northern Ireland. She works with wood, metal and textiles to create objects which respond to the surrounding landscape.

Having left home to study in London at 18, she remained there for over 20 years, mostly working in events management. But in 2008 she headed off to a full-time art degree at Brighton and in 2012 moved back to Northern Ireland where she now lives and works from an old stone farmhouse and farmyard next to her family’s farm.  

Previous work includes interpretations of tools and of land & weather measurements. Her current work involves direct explorations of her connection to the townland where her family has farmed for five generations, and is specifically focused on the area that lies within the horizon seen from her home at Frocess Yard.

In 2020 she completed a coaching qualification with RD1st and now offers one to one support to individual artists and makers.

A correction: I say in the podcast that the Four Nations project we are working on is funded by Creative Scotland. In fact it is jointly funded byCreative Scotland, Arts Council England, Arts Council Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Wales/Wales Arts International. Just the application process was through Creative Scotland. You can find out more about our work for this project here.


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You’ll know from listening to this podcast, just how much I value conversations about creative practice. Over many years of mentoring and being mentored I know just how impactful it can be in moving in the right direction. If you would like to find out more about 1:1 mentoring with me, there’s lots of information 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, workbooks and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 13 with Helen Hallows

It’s great to be back with a new series of Making Meaning. In this episode I’m talking to artist Helen Hallows about living a creative life with a deep connection with nature, about the challenges and joys of being a professional artists and about what it means to be embodying her philosophy of nurturing creativity within our lives.

Helen Hallows is a mixed media artist based in the UK. Her work is deeply connected to nature and the process, ebb and flow of creativity. Layering paint, papers, colour and stitch her work is intuitive and holistic. Sharing her ideas through her online courses and creating an online community allow Helen to create with purpose.


Play 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.

Words about Women co-creation artwork

Would you like to stitch part of a collaborative artwork for my Criminal Quilts project? Throughout the years I’ve research women in Stafford Prison, I’ve noticed the words used to label women. The nature of the prison documents means the words are quite judgemental and absolute.

With this project I want to reflect on the words used to describe and label women then and now. The artwork will be made of stitched words, both positive and negative, created by women participants through community workshops and women working on them at home. Being part of a collective project about women’s lives and the perception of women is really powerful. I’d love to hear your voice in this work. Find out more and how to contribute your stitched words on my website here.

I’ll be running free drop-in sessions at Llantarnam Grange on International’s Women’s Day 8th March, stitching words for the artwork. You can book yourself a space here.

Criminal Quilts final exhibition 2022

My Criminal Quilts exhibition has been touring since 2018 and after some pandemic cancellations and rescheduling, the last hurrah is coming up in February 2022. The exhibition will be on show at Llantarnam Grange 5th February – 2nd April.

I will be hosting an an online preview event accessible to all on Friday 4th February time TBC.

The exhibition will include lots of new work made in the last couple of years which you can see here as well as other pieces still in progress plus new collaborative community work.

There will be events in the gallery and online during the spring including a collaborative project inviting contributions from around the world.

After the exhibition, I’m creating an online live gathering event with other artists to share stories about making craft with powerful social and historical narratives. If you are interested in sharing your work at this event please contact me.

Launching and Letting Go, my review of 2021.  

I talked a little in my last full podcast episode about what I’d done over the last year and my plans for the future. I said in the podcast that I didn’t want to be one of those people listing all their successes…. there’s being inspiring and there’s being annoying. I prefer the former! I’m not sure anyone (other than my parents) would want to read a list of my achievements in 2021. But then I am not sure that a list of failures and things I didn’t get round to is any help either. Believe me, there are plenty of highs and lows over the year of running my creative business and getting on with my life. 

Last winter I created my own review process to close the year and a structure for creating doable goals for the new year, called Gentle Goal Setting. I’m running this again in January in a new format with a live session exploring why you do what you do and how to apply these values in your gentle goals. That’s alongside my workbook which I’ve revised following feedback from last year and some ongoing support for people who take part throughout January. 

For this year’s review, I thought I would reflect on the gentle goals I set for myself this time last year and see how those goals have helped me. This doesn’t involve any targets or tick lists, it’s just a reflection on how those gentle and inspiring goals worked for me. You can read about last year’s goals below.

My 2021 review to goals

Develop and nurture connections with others

I’ve probably done less of this than I might other have done because of moving, so even in less horrendous pandemic phases I’ve not seen many in person. But I’ve made new friends this year and nurtured professional relationships and networks but also let some fall by the wayside. The work-specific element of this goal group was to create programmes to support other creatives and for that I’m going to give myself a big tick. The thing I planned when I wrote that goal hasn’t actually come to fruition yet but instead I created Maker Membership and it’s been an absolute joy. Things I have established and created myself have definitely worked better for me, rather than trying to adapt and modernise an existing group to which I eventually admitted defeat a few months ago. Management doesn’t work for me. Creating communities really does. So that’s something to remember for my 2022 goals. 

To work with coaches and mentors myself

I recognised last year that I was giving a lot to support others and not filling my own well sufficiently so this year I have made that a priority and invested time and money into supporting my own development. I have tried a membership group, several courses and one-off sessions and a 6 month coaching programme with Sarah Fox, as well as a peer-support group with two other artist-coach/mentors. I’ve got a much clearer idea now of what I need to nourish myself so I can better support others and myself!

To nurture my own creativity and set aside time for studio practice

I set a goal to work on my own stuff. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? But I haven’t done this anything like as much as I wanted to. Instead I’ve poured my creativity into other projects and made some wonderful things happen. They just aren’t textiles. Or my new book, which was also on my goals list and hasn’t progressed at all this year. Looking back at these goals, if I had given myself the goal of creating new things that I am passionate and excited about (whatever the output) then I would have achieved this goal too. So for next year my goal will be more broad about being creative and doing things that I feel passionate about at the time, not just what I wanted to do in January!

Write more funding applications 

This is a good demonstration of my gentle goals principle. It’s specific but not target-focussed. I didn’t set myself a goal of getting XX amount of funding or even applying to a set number of funds. I just wanted to do some. I’d lost my momentum and wanted to find a way back into it. What helped in the end was collaboration. I worked with a group of other artists to do a funding application. And then another, which has also been rejected too. But I’m going to try again in the new year and hopefully we will succeed. I’ve also been persistent with others and have finally got some progress. The goal was just to try and that has paid off in the end. 

Decluttering my house

This goal I absolutely succeeded with! At the start of the year I was giving myself a couple of years to move but by February things had changed a bit and I decided to try and move as soon as possible. In the end I sold my house in April and finally moved in August, with a lot less stuff than I’d had in January (although you wouldn’t believe it looking at this photo of my stuffed studio!).

My new studio, part unpacked!

Build rest and retreat into my life

On a small scale, I haven’t really managed this. Moving house is far from restful and I’ve had a couple of 3-day holidays in the autumn as my only time off. I’ve not had a creative retreat as I’d hoped either, which is why I’ve not got very far with the goals around making / creating new work. Having said that, moving house, once done, is massively achieving this goal as my home situation is much more conducive to rest. I’m enormously lucky and grateful to have been able to move to a nicer house. Overall I’ve not been too bad at resting, other than in the moving house period. I’ve been better health wise this year than some years so I think I’m doing ok. There’s always room for improvement here and I maybe need to get more specific here for myself.

And finally I set myself a goal of doing more PR and marketing to build my profile and sell more of my work. Again I’ve not done what I thought I wanted to do with this – press releases to magazines, online shop growth and product sales, new product ranges and all kinds of things that I can’t even remember now. If I’d written the goal more gently and less specific, I would have achieved this without a doubt. The podcast has been an amazing profile-builder and connection with audiences. The other work I’ve done has all connected me with others. I haven’t sold much textile because I haven’t tried. But I have sold my other work, my memberships and courses and books and mentoring. And that’s a wonderful thing. 

The pandemic changed my priorities in work and life and continues to change how I want to work and live in the near and distant future. My goals haven’t been a stick to beat myself into working harder, they have been a guiding light for how I want to live my life and run my business.  By reviewing my goals I can see how much my thinking has moved on in the last year and how I can be more gentle with my goals this time around and adapt to the changes life keeps throwing at us. 

Next year’s goals are going to be even more holistic, reflecting the reality that work and life are not two separate states of being, especially as an artist. But I’m not choosing my goals just yet, I’m letting this review and reflection sink in. I’m spending time using my own reflection prompts from Gentle Goal Setting workbook and waiting to see what I really want for 2022. 

Once that’s settled and feeling good, I can then look at the building blocks of making my goals a reality – the planning, the structure. My goals will help me evaluate projects and ideas to see if they really fit in with my wider ambitions and the way of working that suits me and my life. And then I can happily plan, schedule and make lists in my new notebooks, diaries, journals and Trello boards and fulfil all my planning nerd dreams. 

If you would like to work with me on finding your gentle goals by reviewing your year, your needs and creating your own criteria for success, join me in Gentle Goal Setting in January. Find out more here or book now below if you are ready.

I’m running two live sessions: Monday 10th January 5pm-7pm GMT

Monday 17th January 12-2pm GMT

These live Zoom sessions will focus on your creative values and introduce the review and goal setting workbook. 

All participants will also have access to 1:1 support via email or message chat at set times throughout January. 

Podcast Fundraiser Success!

With the help of an amazing 52 supporters, I have raised enough money to cover the costs of the new series of Making Meaning. My crowdfunder raised £880* which will pay for the hosting, admin and editing of another series of podcast in 2022. It was nervous about trying a crowdfunder for my own projects, having done it a few times for the foodbank I volunteer for. I won’t deny that it was a lot of work to set up, promote, do images and videos, write endless social media posts and remind people to donate but I’ve also had loads of help with other people sharing it on social media and a lovely plug from Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet podcast too.

I have a couple of single episode sponsors from the crowdfunder too but have plenty of slots available for any individuals or businesses who would like to support one or more episodes. I’m also very pleased to have a whole series business sponsor which I will be announcing soon. Please get in touch if you think this might be right for you.

In the meantime, you have a few months to catch up on the rest of series one of the podcast before the new one starts. I’m really excited, I hope you are too.

*For transparency, there are fees and vat to be paid on this so I will actually make about £770 from this fundraiser. I think it’s useful for others to know when they are considering a similar thing. Any additional sponsorship will first go towards paying my guests for their time and then maybe paying myself a small amount too.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode Eleven – Reflections with Ruth Singer

Graphic image with the text: Making Meaning in a swirl logo. Additional text saying A Podcast by Ruth Singer exploring the meaning behind what we make.

I’m an artist & maker exploring personal and collective narratives through textiles. I create for exhibitions, commissions and projects. I also write books, support other creatives through mentoring and consultancy / research work and I love generating my own projects, artist residencies and making things happen. 

All of my work, across all of these different aspects is centred around making with meaning. I am fascinated by the hidden stories in all our lives and in historic objects and places. My work grows from research and contemplation and from collaborating with others.

This end of series episode of Making Meaning is just me. I wanted to reflect on the series, to share my thoughts and feelings about the amazing conversations I’ve had. I also wanted to add a bit more context about my own work and share more about myself and some of the projects I have worked on in the past, present and future. The themes that come up again and again in this series are about connection and collaboration, about the creative impulse and the value of our ideas, about research, about materials and making and about change, movement and belonging. I also introduce some ideas for the new series of Making Meaning, including a live event and longer, even more in-depth conversations.

And of course, there’s more of me asking for you to support the podcast with a contribution towards my crowdfunder to cover the costs of the new series and make it even better.


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Recent work


Support the podcast

My Making Meaning podcast of conversations with creatives is coming to the end of 2021 series. I want to make the new 2022 series of Making Meaning even better. If you have enjoyed these episodes, please consider making a donation to my crowdfunder campaign before it closes on Monday 13th December at midday GMT.

So many of you have loved listening to Making Meaning over the last 6 months. It’s been a wonderful project for me too. I planned and recorded most of it while we were still in lockdown as a way of connecting with others and now being able to share these rich and inspiring conversations is a joy.

The podcast has really resonated with you, enabling you to learn more about your own making or creative work and to understand how artists think and work. It’s made connections across creative work and within and outside of my own textiles discipline. I’ve been able to share stories from museum work and other kinds of creative practice as well as craft and they are all so relevant and inspiring to hear. 

I’ve been doing this out of my own pocket for the last year but really need to make it financially viable for 2022. I have to pay hosting fees, editing and marketing costs and then there’s my own time.. and I would love to be able to pay my guests something too as they have so generously given their time. There are a range of rewards including episode and whole series sponsorship.

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.