Pairings (touring exhibition)


MMU Special Collections; the Otter Gallery, Chichester; Farfield Mill, Sedburgh; National Centre for Craft and Design, Sleaford; Craft in the Bay, Cardiff (dates, start and end of tour) 2010-2011

The work was undertaken within the context of the Pairings Project, which explored collaborative creative practice. Initiated by Alice Kettle and Alex McErlain at Manchester Metropolitan University, the aim of Pairings was to bring together makers from differing craft specialisms and institutions to work together on a joint collaborative project, in order to develop and expand their creative and research practices.


Alison Welsh was paired with Claire Curneen, a ceramicist from Cardiff Metropolitan University. They produced a hand embroidered textile work and a digitally embroidered garment Shroud, which were exhibited as part of the touring exhibition Pairings. They set out to explore new ways of expressing figurative narratives in textiles, using traditional Kantha and contemporary digital embroidery techniques.


Welsh and Curneen developed an understanding of their shared reference points, and investigated the common territory between their practices. This territory proved to be narrative and figurative, in particular a shared symbolic use of hands, which both artists have used in their individual projects as a metaphor of manual collaboration.

The embroidered pieces they constructed together also explored a shared interest in the work of Piero della Francesca, particularly the painting ‘Madonna del Parto’, housed in Monterchi, Tuscany.


The artists communicated through the use of photographs and drawings to develop the imagery for the embroidery work. Drawings and designs were exchanged, and repeatedly re-worked. The final collaborative Napkin piece (above) was begun by Curneen and completed by Welsh utilising Kantha hand embroidery techniques. This was then replicated digitally onto a garment constructed by Welsh, using ApS-Ethos, Virtuoso Plus software. The hand-stitched artwork was translated into a mechanical design and stitched onto the Shroud garment, on a 12 needle Brother industrial embroidery machine, exploring the relationship between the hand made and new technology.


The work is located in the tradition of narrative embroidery, dating back to the Bayeux Tapestry, and found in the more contemporary works of Arthur Bispo Do Rosario, a Brazilian ‘outsider’ artist.

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