The Sewing Machine Project (Part 1)

For two years textile group Studio 21 has been working on a project that will be exhibited next month at the Bracknell Gallery, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell. As a member (and chairman) I have taken an active part in the leadership and evolution of this project and it is exciting to see it finally all coming together.

flyer 1

flyer 2

Here is a little bit about the project (the photos are of work I made as part of the project) ….

The Sewing Machine Project is a well-researched exhibition that explores all aspects of the sewing machine. Subjects range from sewing machine mechanics, decoration and operation to personal, cultural, political and social histories. Each member of Studio 21 has produced a comprehensive body of work that reflects their personal interest in this transformational machine.


The Sewing Machine Project falls into three parts. Part 1 is a visual, aural and tactile response to the Sewing Machine. Part 2 is a cultural, social, historical or personal response to the Sewing Machine and Part 3 is a joint project that uses the sewing machine as the main method of construction and stitching. Part 1 was done during the first year of the project, and Parts 2 and 3 during the second year.


Throughout the two years of the project members of Studio 21 took part in regular informal workshops and creative activities. Drawing, mono-printing and sculpture sessions took place during their monthly meetings to enable the group to work together in a supportive manner and to allow individuals to increase their knowledge and enthusiasm and to develop work in their chosen area.


The initial activity was to take apart three abandoned machines to reveal their workings: nuts, bolts, levers, drive belts and camshafts were all stripped down to leave the solid metal hulk of the machine. The sewing machine parts gave the group their first inspiration and the shapes, lines and textures of the mechanical paraphernalia were explored and developed in the first phase of the project with rubbings, wire sculptures and sgraffito sketches.


The group went on to discuss the sensory effects of the sewing machine: its sound and its feel, and what the machine means to their practice. These discussions resulted in each member choosing three words to describe their response to the sewing machine. These three words formed the basis of their first personal project which was made at the end of the first year of the project. Words chosen and responded to include: Rhythm, Repetition, Lines, Circles, Excitement, Cogs and Stitch.


The second phase of the project saw each member researching one topic related to the cultural, social or political history of the sewing machine. The next large pieces of work were linked to these individual areas of research so a variety of work and approaches can be seen in these pieces reflecting each artist’s individual approach to the project.


A joint project ran alongside the second part of the project and used the sewing machine as the only method of construction or stitching. All members took part and a different member set each task.

The tasks were:

  1. Blue
  2. Little Boxes, Little Boxes
  3. Interlocking Forms
  4. Machine Sound
  5. Automatic Stitches

Work from all parts of the project can be seen at the exhibition.


Next time I’ll show you the two pieces of work that I have made!



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