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.


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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

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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.

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 18 Textiles In Lockdown

Textiles in Lockdown was a wonderful project I worked on in 2020. Gawthorpe Textiles Collection commissioned me to research textile making practice during the 2020 lockdowns and to create a digital resource for their museum collection. I chose to make a podcast and ebook for them, sharing your stories of stitching and sewing during the first few months of the pandemic. It was such a wonderful project for me and I know it meant a lot to so many to have their work and story captured in this podcast and ebook. In this episode I introduce the podcast and afterwards talk to Gawthorpe Textiles Collection Director Charlotte Steels about the project and its impact.

About Gawthorpe Textiles Collection.

Gawthorpe Textiles Collection was founded as an educational charity for the teaching of practical craft skills by the Honourable Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth MBE, inspired by the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement. As an accredited museum today we continue to preserve this rich craft heritage and to share it with the public through exhibitions, artist collaborations, formal and informal learning opportunities and outreach, working with diverse communities.

Further information

The survey is still open if you want to contribute your story

Textiles in Lockdown is still available to buy in paperback here

We are currently working in collaboration with the University of Central Lancashire and Super Slow Way to create an online digital resource linked to the textile heritage of Lancashire. We will be producing cross collection curations from heritage venues across the region and there are opportunities for public interaction contributing towards curation and research. The first version of the website will be launched in June 2022, to receive project updates you can subscribe here

Textiles in Lockdown was funded by Arts Council England.


Play 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.


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.

I run Maker Membership through Podia which is an online school platform. If you are thinking of creating an online workshop website or similar online community through podia, please use my affiliate link below to sign up. Thank you ! https://www.podia.com/?via=ruth-singer

Making Meaning Podcast Episode 17 Maker Membership

I truly believe that connection and community are vital to creativity. It’s hard to be making work on your own without conversations, feedback and inspiration from others. I created Maker Membership, my online community, during the pandemic to bring makers together to share, talk and be inspired. This podcast episode is based around one of our Membership Live group sessions with three long-standing members Alison Foster, Cheryl Hewitt and Lucie Bea Dutton discussing their work, development and the support they receive from Maker Membership.

Maker Membership is an online community for makers who want to build more meaning, research and connection into their creative practice. It’s a wonderful creative space that I am so proud of creating during the pandemic to enable connection and creativity to flourish. We have members from across the world, involved in all kinds of different making practice. As well as monthly resources, reflections and blog posts from me, I host a monthly group mentoring session for anyone who wants to talk about and get feedback on their work in progress. I’ve re-created one of those sessions for this podcast so you can share the fascinating stories and thinking about creative practice from our members.

You can hear more from members about their creative practice in Making Meaning Live Gathering in July, an online social event to talk about craft and narratives as well as from other professional makers and creatives, all for free. This episode has been supported by Nicola Thomas through my crowdfunder. Thank you Nicola!

The Members in this podcast are

Alison Foster: I am drawn to the past and inspired by how people used to live, the unspoken, forgotten & hidden, as well as literature, science and natural history. I am fascinated by historical clothing for the intimate connections to the wearer and the memory and stories that garments may hold – what they tell us about the past and how this links to the present and future. I greatly enjoy working with old textiles and papers and I’m developing my practice to include historical stitching techniques, cameraless photography and printing. I have no professional training in textiles but I love learning and connecting with other creative people who inspire me.

Cheryl Hewitt: I am a Herefordshire based hand stitcher, storyteller and maker of curious things. I happened upon my practice after being a stay at home mum and returned to my studies at Hereford College of Arts, where I achieved a Masters degree in Contemporary Crafts. My practice involves repurposing and responding to materials that have had a previous life, making and stitching new, sometimes playful stories with them. I often make dolls and 3D objects that communicate themes of childhood memories, absence, loss and repair. I like the idea that my objects have been rediscovered after being lost or forgotten and I like them to have an ancient or old feel to them. Another part to my creative practice is that I work at About Face puppet theatre company where the actors have learning difficulties, I work with the actors and director, I maintain and I am also learning to make puppets of different sizes. I am also the co-founder of Laughing Betsy, creative workshops run by myself and another artist within our local community.

Lucie Bea Dutton: I am a handstitcher – I have focused on quilting in the past but am also producing flatter embroidered work at present as part of my large Cromwell Trillogy project. This long-term project was inspired by Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy; I worked on a 46 feet long stitched and quilted interpretation of Wolf Hall during lockdown, and am currently working on The Mirror and the Light, which is rather more fluid in format.


Play 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.


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.

I run Maker Membership through Podia which is an online school platform. If you are thinking of creating an online workshop website or similar online community through podia, please use my affiliate link below to sign up. Thank you ! https://www.podia.com/?via=ruth-singer

Volunteering events

Take part in a community arts project in Leicestershire celebrating volunteers

Volunteering during lockdown is one of the best things I have ever done. I felt like I was doing something positive and important and I got to meet people and feel connected. I have seen just how hard volunteers worked to keep our communities together during lockdown (and continue to do so now) and I want to celebrate their work through creativity and sharing. I’m working with Voluntary Action Leicestershire to collect stories of local volunteers and to create a collaborative artwork at events co-designed by Laughing Cactus Printmaking Studio.


I’d love to hear your stories if you volunteered and bring you into our events to make commemorative rosettes which will be shown locally then shared out to volunteers to mark their amazing work. We have free events in Leicester on 5th, 7th & 9th June (weekend, weekday & evening) and I would love to see you there. Please pass on to anyone you know who has volunteered and ask them to share their story online or at an event. 

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.