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Student Showcase Archive

Emma Shercliff

PhD Work

PhD work

  • Play
    GOB Feeling A Way
  • Monologue

    Linen cloth hand-stitched with linen thread

  • Taking a Thread for a Walk

    Taking a Thread for a Walk
    Hand-stitching workshop, Arts University Bournemouth

  • Taking a Thread for a Walk

    Taking a Thread for a Walk
    Hand-stitching workshop, Arts University Bournemouth

  • Taking a Thread for a Walk

    Taking a Thread for a Walk
    Hand-stitching workshop, Royal College of Art

  • Part of a Piece

    Part of a Piece
    Hand-stitched cotton patchwork pieces

  • Play
    Feeling A Way
  • Joining in

    Joining in
    Collective and collaborative stitching with a community embroidery group

  • Sknitch at the Clothes Show Live

    Sknitch at the Clothes Show Live
    Hand-stitching workshop with Craftspace Collective
    Photographer: Joey Vivo for Craftspace

Articulating Stitch: skilful hand-stitching as personal, social and cultural experience

My research investigates the nature of embodied knowledge acquired and practised through the rhythms and patterns of hand-stitching processes performed as recreational craft, artistic expression and social life. Making hand-stitched works, and especially the relationship between practical skills, the body and its proximity to tools and materials, is the focus of my study. I ask in what ways might this skilled activity articulate dimensions of subjective experience? In turn, this leads me to question ways in which the relationship between an individual and a group might be articulated through their crafting skills.

A combination of ethnographic and creative research methods including interviews, observation, video recordings of a patchwork quilting group, participation in practical stitching sessions with a village embroidery group, undertaking workshops with students, and my own reflective stitching practice has enabled me to draw from a variety of experiences in order to gain insight into the particular characteristics of this meticulous hand-eye-mind coordination. 

I suggest that hand-stitching surpasses its technical or artistic attributes when considered as a material practice that offers particular types of metaphor for other processes of joining, collaboration, integrity, or even separation and isolation, and which needs to be understood as a mode of interaction if it is not merely trivialised as quaint, as domestic labour or archived as ethnographic curiosity or as art object.

Supervisors: Dr Prue Bramwell-Davis and Freddie Robins



  • Emma Shercliff
  • PhD


    School of Design


    Textiles, 2006–2014

  • As a practitioner-researcher I am curious about the contemporary values of hand-stitching skills. My research considers differences between implicit and explicit forms of knowledge and the meanings of hand-making within post-industrial digital cultures. Hand-stitching is for me a contemplative act, but also forms the basis of my collective projects as a shared social exchange. The particularities of these making processes inspire my interest in metaphor within creative textile practices, in the acquisition and transmission of embodied knowledge, and in experimental creative workshops as research methods.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Fashion and Textile Design, Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, 1995
  • Experience

  • Senior lecturer in textiles, Arts University Bournemouth, 2009-present; Freelance textile design consultancy for Peclers, Premiere Vision, Caulliez, Promostyl, Paris, 1997-2006 ; Studio assistant, Lucy + Jorge Orta, Paris, 1995-2001
  • Exhibitions

  • Session_22_Reading of All Words, ICA, London, 2012 ; Sknitch with Craftspace Collective, Clothes Show Live, Birmingham, 2011 ; Craft, Participatory Practice and Social Change (panel discussion), The Naughton Gallery, Queens University Belfast, 2010 ; Amateur Making (panel discussion), Jerwood Space, London, 2010 ; Session_7_Words, Am Nuden Da gallery, London, 2009 ; Trust Fall (reading and screening), Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2009; GOB, Royal College of Art, London, 2008
  • Conferences

  • 'Hidden values and human inconsistencies in hand-stitching processes', TRIP: Textiles Research In Process, Loughborough University, November 2011; 'A Poetics of Waste: evaluating time and effort spent sewing', Making Futures 1, Plymouth College of Art, September 2009
  • Publications

  • 'Monologue', MATERIAL (2), 2009, pp 90-94