Suffrage is a new exhibition at Llantarnam Grange Art Centre focusing on textile art and political expression to mark the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage. I am one of the exhibiting makers alongside Morwenna Catt, Eleanor Edwardes, Caren Garfen, Rozanne Hawklsey and Sue Shields. The exhibition opens Saturday 6th October 2018.
My piece, Prison Apron, explores the prison sentences of suffragettes, expressed through stitch. Over the last year I have been reading accounts of suffragettes in prison for my project Criminal Quilts and considering the bravery of those women who knew their actions would inevitably lead to prison sentences. Over 1000 people, mostly women, were imprisoned for criminal activity related to suffrage campaigning in the early 20th century. You can also find out more about the exhibition in the online catalogue. I will be at the exhibition preview on Saturday 6th October in conversation with the curator and other artists. I am also running a professional development day for makers at the gallery on 20th October. The exhibition continues until 17th November 2018.
Recently, I have become very interested in using data as a way of telling a story. For me, using data allows me to step back from the personal story and away from the more obvious interpretations to find a new route into the narrative I am exploring. I have chosen to work with prison sentence data to create this piece, looking at sentence records of women including the famous Pankhursts, Alice Hawkins from my home town of Leicester and Welsh women including Lady Rhondda and lesser-known Kate Evans.
The apron is an antique piece, selected for its similarity to those seen in prison photographs and descriptions I have read in documents. Prison clothing was marked with painted-on arrows to show the items belonged to the government. Rather than paint on these arrows, I have hand stitched them on using threads in shades of grey.
I have taken a series of prison sentences imposed upon suffragettes, ranging from 7 days to 9 months as the starting point for this work and created arrows using one stitch per day in prison. Each sentence is a different thread. One of the arrows is made up of 270 stitches of a single 9 month prison sentence, while the others are made up of numerous shorter sentences served by different women.
The stitch is hand embroidered chain stitch, a symbolic choice, where each single stitch forms a connected chain which completes the whole. There are a total of almost 1000 individual stitches in this piece, representing the 1000 individuals sent to prison. Hand stitching, and the slow, careful work it involves, reflects the time spent in prison doing repetitive labour including needlework.
Llantarnam Grange Art Centre
St David’s Road
Torfaen NP44 1PD
Tel: 01633 483321
Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5pm
(Closed Bank Holiday Mondays)
Saturday 9.30am – 4pm
Admission is free