The Sewing Machine Project

A Contemporary View of the Iron Needlewoman

This well-researched exhibition explores all aspects of the sewing machine. Projects range from sewing machine mechanics, decoration and operation to personal and social histories. Each member of Studio 21 has produced a comprehensive body of work that reflects their personal interest in this transformational machine. You can see how they interpreted the challenge by clicking here.

Following a preview at SIT in early October 2015, the Sewing Machine project was first exhibited at South Hill Park, Bracknell in October/November 2015 and will travel to Stroud in 2016. Our visitor’s book contains praise for being thought-provoking and for its variety of interpretations and media. The word inspirational appears regularly as you can read here.

The project was developed over two years with the group working individually and collaboratively. The work falls into three parts. Parts 1 and 2 were exhibited together in the main gallery and Part 3 in the small area alongside a working treddle machine and pieces by pioneering machine embroiderers Dorothy Benson and Winifred Reed.

Part 1: A Visual, Aural and Tactile response to the Sewing Machine

This part was the main focus of the first year of the project and began by taking apart three abandoned sewing machines. The nuts, bolts, levers, drive belts and camshafts were stripped, leaving the solid metal hulk of the machine. These elements became the focus of group drawing, sculpting and printing sessions and as each artist was inspired by different aspects of the shapes, lines and textures individual responses emerged.

Part 2: A Cultural, Social, Historical or Personal response to the Sewing Machine

Each Studio 21 Artist researched a particular aspect of the sewing machine in the context of their life and created a piece as a response to what they discovered. There was a great deal of diversity in approach to this challenge however overall the connection between the pieces is still clear.

Part 3: A group project using the sewing machine as the main method of construction and stitching

This part of the project is a collection of pieces which each artist created in response to a challenge set by one of the group. Over the year five different challenges were set:

  • Blue
  • Little Boxes, Little Boxes
  • Interlocking Forms
  • Machine Sound
  • Automatic Stitches
  • We have created a booklet detailing the Sewing Machine Project, if you would like to purchase one for £5 please contact us by email.