The Beauty of Stains


The first Beauty of Stains tablecloth was created in 2015. Full story below.

These embroideries are old tablecloths which I have placed in cafes and at gallery events to gather the marks of wear and use. I then embellish them by stitching the stains, preserving them like memories or tales being handed down through generations. Visitors and participants have a real impact on the work: it does not exist without their input.

National Centre for Craft & Design Cafe 2015

R-Space Gallery ‘Food’ Exhibition 2016

Llantarnam Grange Art Centre exhibition preview 2018


The full story of the first Beauty of Stains, 2015.

The Beauty of Stains is an old tablecloth which has been used in The National Centre for Craft and Design’s cafe for 9 months, gathering stains, wear and marks of use.

Each month I have taken the piece to wash and embellish, stitching the stains, preserving them like memories or tales being handed down through generations.The cloth itself was from my Grandparents’ extensive stash, a humble, everyday, worn and darned cloth full of narratives.

I have a fascination with old, domestic textiles. Within their stains, tears repairs and creases, they hold stories of lives lived. I have a huge collection of linen, mostly table cloths and napkins from my Grandparent’s airing cupboard. My step-grandmother’s family ran a small laundry in rural Berkshire and as a result, they acquired an unnecessarily-large amount of abandoned linens, including a lot of very fine quality which my modest grandparents had no real use of. The fine linens are little used in comparison to the everyday linens and have much less to say.

This work aims to challenge established ideas about art textiles exhibited in galleries. I like the idea that work changes; it isn’t static or fixed. It is different every day and will continue to develop. Audiences have a real impact on the work: it barely exists without their input. The process of making the work is as important as the piece itself.

The Beauty of Stains when first placed in the cafe, with just my interventions.



The cloth I chose to use for The Beauty of Stains is an ordinary, mid-Twentieth century cloth, much used, full of well-worn darns and some holes remaining as yet un-repaired. It doesn’t have tea stains but it does have some mystery rusty marks.

My intervention into this piece is quite minimal and the cafe’s visitors will be the main source of additional marks through coffee spills, lunch splats and sticky fingered baby touches.

The words The Beauty of Stains are stitched across the piece using threads dyed when I make bundles. Rather than use string or other disposable cord, I wrap dye bundles in embroidery threads which I can reclaim and later use. The process of bundle dyeing leaves irregular splashes of stain-like subtle colour on the thread which seemed appropriate to this piece.

Like Many Hands, this piece has evolved over time and through daily use.

5 thoughts on “The Beauty of Stains

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  3. I am so glad I fell upon your site. I too share your love of textiles. I often think at the end I would like to be wrapped in my various dish towels, linens and rags.. sort of mummified. I have textiles from way back. I too inherited loads which I dearly love. I sleep on linen pillowcases 100 years old from my paternal grandmother’s trousseau. They seem still new and white. I have my maternal grandmothers beaded roaring 20’s dresses and rare lace picked up 120 yrs. ago in Europe and still basted on the paper it was bought on. But the old patina linen and the flax have soul. Thank you for being there through your video and posts. So appreciative.

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