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.

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

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.

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.

New Edition of Criminal Quilts Book

Two years ago I created Criminal Quilts exhibition and self-published the accompanying book, alongside each other. Looking back, I am not sure how I managed to do both in a few short months as well as my other work. But somehow I did. It’s has taken a couple of years for the first print run of the book to sell out so I have revised and reprinted this year. The new version has a couple of extra pages and some new images as well as (hopefully) no more page reference errors!

The first print run was only ever sold directly by me online, at events and alongside the exhibition in gallery shops. The new version has an ISBN number and is already listed on Amazon and I will be selling wholesale to bookshops too. Self-publishing allows me total control of the book production and sales. Both editions are printed on recycled paper with no plastic coating of the cover, for maximum sustainability. This has cost me more but fits with my values. It is also printed by a small (female-owned) local company, a few minutes from my house so I can walk to the printers to check things. My brilliant graphic designer Sophie has done a great job as always. The downsides of self-publishing are that all the copies have to be stored in my (small, already crowded) house! Please help me make space to move by purchasing a copy (or 10) of this book.

It’s been an amazing couple of years with this book. The best part of being both author and publisher is that I know exactly where this book has been sent. It has travelled all over the world which amazes and delights me. It has been devoured by textile enthusiasts, criminologists, historians, Stafford residents, prison, probation and community work professionals, schools, photographers, universities and academics. It’s been reviewed in an academic publication too as well as in textile press.

The back cover blurb reads:

Criminal Quilts is an art & heritage project created by artist Ruth Singer which explores the stories of women photographed in Stafford Prison 1877-1916. This book covers the research which Ruth and a team of volunteers undertook in the development of the project, including many of the personal stories of women in the archives of Stafford Prison.
It also covers additional research around clothing in the photographs as well as daily life in a Victorian prison.

This book is also a catalogue of the textiles pieces which Ruth has created alongside her research, giving the full background from the initial commission in 2012 to the work created in 2018 for the touring exhibition. This is a revised edition for 2020.

Ruth Singer is an established British textile artist with a background working in the museum sector. Her training and first career continue to influence her artistic practice through her interest in heritage, narrative, material culture and society. Ruth’s work is focussed on research and personal exploration of stories, resulting in subtle, emotive and sensitive work. She creates exhibitions, commissions, community projects and undertakes artist residencies to explore subjects and places in detail. She has presented a number of solo exhibitions as well as Criminal Quilts and was awarded the Fine Art Quilt Masters Prize in 2016, and written several books. She also works as a consultant, artist mentor and tutor.

Criminal Quilts Case Study – Fanny and Ada Riddle

Criminal Quilts is my an exhibition, research project and book.  The textiles I have created are inspired by the stories of women who were photographed on release from Stafford Prison between 1877 and 1916.

I was fascinated when I first saw the photographs from the 1870s where the women have their hands on their chests. This was in case of missing fingers which would be used for identification. This is the first time prisons took photographs of prisoners to identify them if they offended again. They are usually photographed in their own clothes so we get to see what they really looked like. Photographs of working women are very rare so these are very special images of women who wouldn’t normally have photographs taken.

Find out more in the online exhibition of Criminal Quilts including a film and all the exhibition text. My Criminal Quilts book covers the photo albums in detail, includes many more case studies, a background to women in prison in the 19th century and is illustrated with my textile works. It is available in my online shop along with cards, books and artworks.

This is the first in a series of case studies of some of the women recorded in the prison photographs.

Fanny and Ada Riddle

Sisters Fanny and Ada Riddle were born in Rutland to a family of labourers. In 1881 they were both at school but later worked as servants in Handsworth, Birmingham where some of their family also lived. They seem to have lived in Loughborough at one point but by 1895 were living in Birmingham. Both were able to read and write which is very unusual in the records of women prisoners.

This photograph was taken on 1st January 1895 when they were both released from Stafford Prison. Fanny was 21, Ada was 20. Fanny was convicted of obtaining money by false pretences. We think Ada was convicted of the same crime at the same time. Over a few years they were often convicted together for thefts of food, clothing and other small items for which they received sentences of 21 days to 3 calendar months.

Despite their respectable clothing and jobs, life was clearly difficult for them. Our research shows that their mother died in 1888 when they were 15 and 16 years old which may have been when the went out to work. By 1901, they were both in the Wolverhampton Union Workhouse, and Ada had a one year old illegitimate baby son with her, called Victor. Both of them worked as laundresses in the workhouse. Their family are quite easy to trace and both of their older brothers worked as postmen and were married with children. Sadly it seems their family were unable to support them and keep them out of the workhouse. I can’t trace either of them after 1901 but Ada’s son Victor does appear in records as emigrating to America as an unaccompanied child and seems to have family in Canada too. Fanny and Ada’s father remarried and had another young family in Handsworth and one widowed son lived with them too, but there is no sign of Fanny or Ada returning to live with them. They may have been cut off from their family because of their criminal records.

I have made a couple of small commissioned pieces featuring Fanny and Ada by customers who were touched by their story. I am happy to make commissions using other photographs from Stafford Prison or your own family photos.

Criminal Quilts : The Book

Criminal Quilts Book is open for pre-orders now!

Pre-orders are open until 20th July at a discounted price of £10 per copy which includes a signature, free postcard and the chance to include your name as a supporter in the back of the book.

ORDER HERE

The books will be printed at the end of July and posted out from mid-August. You can also collect at Festival of Quilts.

As well as the discount, your pre-order will help me pay for the massive printing costs for this book. I really appreciate you pre-ordering and will include your name (or another as preferred) in the back of the book. Please include your preferred name in the order.

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