Narrative threads

‘Narrative threads’ is a beautifully apt description of textile art that tells a story.

It stayed with me since I came across it in the exhibition titled “Criminal Quilts” that paid a very short visit to London in November. The exhibition is touring the country, and is now on show in The National Justice Museum in Nottingham until March 2020.

The picture above is of a quilt showing prisoners’ faces. It is one of a series of works by Ruth Singer that was inspired by some 500 photographs of women held in Stafford prison between 1877 and 1916. The prisoners are often depicted with their hands showing as a way of helping to identify them.

Ruth Singer and a team of volunteers researched the lives of these women who were in prison mostly for petty crimes. The pieces bring to life a story of poverty, poor education and lack of opportunity.

A recent work mixes embroidery with cyanotype print, a photographic technique that achieves a beautiful shade of blue in sharp contrast to the subject matter.