City Lit Blog

'Crossing Borders' - Exploring Textile Art - 26 June - 1 July

Story added 23rd May 2018

Chantal Vouillemin


Private view: Thursday 28 June 18:00-21:00
Tuesday 26 June – Sunday 1 July (Tuesday-Saturday 13:00-19:00, Sunday 13:00-17:00)
Espacio Gallery, 159 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 7DG

City Lit presents an exciting range of contemporary textile art exploring themes of the body, history, culture, place and memory through print, stitch and mixed media.This exhibition is the culmination of 2 years of study on the City Lit advanced textiles course


Yvonne Blackmore, Karen Byrne, Rose Chapman, Sally Eland, Sarrah El-Bushra, Annette Herrington, Shirley Hunter, Deb King, Liz Parry, Suzie Tucker, Chantal Vouillemin, Yvonne Wilson

Instagram: @explorationsintextiles

'The best thing about the course is finding a tribe of people with shared interests and having tutors of a very high standard (all my tutors have been practicing artists), who from the first day of any course I’ve attended (18 to date), take learning very seriously, set high expectations and then set about getting you where you’d like to go.' Shirley Hunter, 2018

Interested in the City Lit advanced textiles course?
Contact  the art and design team or book a drop-in session for professional one-to-one advice on your portfolio and career next steps

Artist statements

Deb King - Let the light in

Deb has taken inspiration from wrought iron gates.  Made from dark, weighty and inflexible material they form delicate and flowing shapes, resulting in a very real physical barrier which provides protection but still lets light and air through.

Gates, windows and doors give protection and concealment whilst offering clues to what’s on the other side, often framing the view between spaces.  Like garments they may be modest or ostentatious, in good or bad repair, simple or decorated.

These pieces echo both the delicacy of the wrought iron patterns and the physical barrier between spaces.  The shapes are repetitive yet random, obscuring some areas and leaving others completely open.  The viewer can see both the garment and the body inside reflecting the way we choose our clothing to both hide and reveal ourselves, both physically and psychologically.

Cotton and linen, cotton and silk thread 

Yvonne Wilson - Flying the nest and discovering new possibilities

Yvonne was interested in exploring different ways of expressing “flying the nest”, the empty nest syndrome, after her daughter left home last year. It was an emotional time and Yvonne wanted to use stitch as a way of experimenting and looking at these feelings.

The stitched panels were Yvonne's initial attempt at this and then decided to see if working in 3D helped with getting a feeling of movement and flow, connection and disconnection.

Then Yvonne decided to make two more panels in which she wanted to give a feel of her daughter discovering new possibilities, making new connections. Again using colour and stitch to give a feeling of optimism when starting a new life.

Hand painted, heavy weight paper, hand painted calico fabric and silk, hand stitch, crochet, wire and feathers

Sarrah El-Bushra

Inspired by her mixed Sudanese/ British heritage, Sarrah has explored ideas about mixed race and dual personality through the use and development of an abstract fusion of English and Arabic calligraphy. 

Her work layers text and imagery with calligraphic markings and forms, representing her multi-layered cultural background and thoughts on identity and belonging. 

Sarrah uses homemade dyes and inks using natural pigments from Sudan in her work, including henna, sandalwood and hibiscus. The work is a mixture of screen printing, digital print and free hand lettering.

The text for these pieces has been developed through interviews with others of similar mixed Sudanese/ European backgrounds.

Cotton, silk, linen thread, wire, jute, paper yarn

Liz Parry - Coming Full Circle

Liz has a continuing passion for colour and pattern and has been exploring this both with dye based, hand painted papers for paper weaving, and rubbings transferred onto fabric. She creates moving and shifting dynamic patterns by adding layers of cut through designs along with a change of scale and colour. The compositions can be changed to re-create ever evolving patterns. Liz is exploring how to extend her designs into digital print.

Water colour paper, dye based inks, acrylics and pastels, electronic die cutting machine, handmade stencils

Polyester fabric or paper fabric, digital print

Karen Byrne - Beyond the body

Karen explores the fears and constraints of female identity and the way in which society often defines women purely by their physical form. Her work sometimes looks at tropes that can be humorous in expression – the idea of a woman who is literally ‘all legs’ - but she also explores the fears and anxieties around the body and how we might be perceived to be always on display.  Watching and being watched, judge and judged an existence limited to outward appearances can create a terror at the inevitable ending of that physical self - by addressing those anxieties visually Karen seeks to confront them and allow us to put them aside.

Vintage cotton sheets, polyester satin, paper yarn, thread

Mixed media techniques including sublimation print, photo lamination, stitch and random weave basketry

Shirley Hunter - Peregrinate

Stemming from an interest in how the calligraphic, arabesque and geometric lines and shapes found in Islamic art have been used as a means of recording and transporting stories across time, geography and cultures, Shirley has used a repetitive and rhythmic folded surface as a means to explore the passage of time.  

The undulating shapes draw the eye around, over and through the surfaces, revealing surprising relationships between line, marks, colour and texture.  The surface has been torn and repaired, disrupting the narrative and inviting the viewer to take pause and look closer.  

The nomadic act of assembling (unfolding), disassembling (folding)  and transporting the pieces is meditative, calming and satisfying, touching on different places and influences over time. 

Cotton organdy, textile dyes, stitch

Peregrinate: To journey or travel from place to place.  To travel through or over. To live in a foreign country. To go on a pilgrimage.

Rose Chapman

Rose’s work has explored medieval textiles and tiles inspired by the collections of these at the V&A and other wonderful museums and churches in the UK.

Rose is captivated by the ‘personalities’ found in some of the motifs used by medieval crafts people. The pieces shown have emerged from manipulating line drawings of various characterful motifs.

Rose has used pieced felt or stitched applique techniques to produce several different but related pieces which explore this theme.

For the felt pieces Rose has referenced the Shyrdak felt carpet techniques from Central Asia. Rose loves the fact that with the ‘sister’ technique (cutting the same design in several same sized piecing and swapping the pieces around) nothing is wasted.

Traditionally the stitching used in felt carpets is purely structural.  Here Rose has chosen to make the stitching a visible part of the work; using an adapted blanket stitch to both secure the pieces together and to provide a decorative effect.

Wool, cotton, dyes and pigments, cotton thread

Yvonne Blackmore

Yvonne is interested in the shifting boundaries between visible and invisible, solidity and fragility, energy and stillness. By building up rhythmic layers of transparent fabric with thread lines moving between and through, Yvonne explores these intangible states.

Silk organza, acrylic ink, thread

Chantal Vouillemin

Chantal is inspired by what is left behind, abandoned bundles of rags, peeled posters, skeletal communications that no longer serve their original function, odd remnants of collections, reconfigured to take on a new aspect.  Using cast off paper, paint, posters, wire, comics and fabric she creates pell-mell assemblages of useful and useless information, colourful rich bound bundles, worn and popular images, once essential messages, fragments that can cluster or disperse again over the years.

She has taken the course theme of the border crossing as the idea of visual transmission of information and the chance encounters of materials, working up the idea of a notice board as one device and the cast off materials of other disciplines (telephony, packaging, factory selvedge), forging elements that are cheerful and noisy, too much to say, too much to take in, all valid, swollen with images, groaning with clutter and messages.  

Paper, fabric, paint, wire, string, glue

Annette Herrington

Annette originally began her research by looking at photographs of Syrian refugees crossing borders to escape from a war which was tearing their country apart. The toll on the migrants was immediately apparent not only in their faces but their physical appearance too.  However their clothing retained a vibrancy and determination to portray their heritage despite suffering from the ravages of many hundreds of miles travelled.

Further inspiration came from visiting the Islamic section at the V&A where she decided to develop a series of prints with contemporary colours and styles to support and acknowledge the sacrifices these people have endured.  Annette's work attempts to recognize the relief of reaching safety in her use of the tones and vibrant colours juxtaposed beside each other.

In these pieces she has crossed any predetermined borders and by exploring elements of printing colour on fabric, paper and acetate and, by using machine and hand stitching to highlight some distinct divergent layers, she has produced a group of unique and contemporary prints.

Silk, satin, cartridge paper, acetate

Sally Eland - The Dark and the Light

Sally uses the human form to explore the relationship and connections between self, other, place and mortality. The pieces explore the body as a landscape and draws additional imagery from vanitas paintings. 

Found and hand painted cloth is layered, distorted and distressed to prove a working surface. Machine and hand stitch is used to support, embellish and provide structure. The resulting textiles have a rich, decorative and strong physical presence. 

Found and hand painted cloth, kid leather, machine and hand embroidery, beads and gold purl

Suzie Tucker

Suzie’s work was inspired by the famous ‘Maps Descriptive of London Poverty’ published by Charles Booth in 1889. The maps classified every street and building in the city into one of seven colour-coded categories indicating the income and social class of the inhabitants. As well as being a striking visual record of Victorian London they offer an insight into the moral values of the time – the middle classes are described as ‘hardworking, sober, energetic’ while the lowest class are ‘vicious, semi-criminal’ who live ‘a life of savages’. They also vividly illustrate how, like today, Londoners from all levels of society lived cheek by jowl, and remind us how much the city has changed and yet in many ways remains the same in the 21st century.

This work aims to explore these different layers of meaning, as well as using the intricate patterns and colours of the maps as visual inspiration for print and stitch.


Espacio Gallery