Alice Kettle: Threads of Change

An exhibition of work by Professor Alice Kettle at the Saïd Business School, Oxford.


In her role as Professor at Manchester School of Art, Alice Kettle has researched the meeting place of traditional analogue stitching skills and digitised contemporary methodologies. She has developed a unique practice, creating textile works which employ a combination of stitch techniques, bringing together the use of antique machines from early last century with hand stitch and contemporary digital technology.

Textiles offer a powerful medium through which to explore themes of cultural heritage, journeys and displacement. This exploration was central to Alice Kettle’s ambitious Thread Bearing Witness project shown at The Whitworth, Manchester, and the British Textile Biennale in 2018 and 2019. Through this project Kettle connected communities and individuals across the UK with the making of three monumental works inspired by the strength, resilience and hospitality of refugees and asylum seekers. One of these, Ground, at 8 metres long, is being shown at Oxford Saïd as part of the Threads of Change exhibition.


In Kettle’s recent practise she has extended her reach to beyond the UK, working with communities around the world. In 2018 for the Karachi Biennale, Kettle worked with groups of women in Pakistan to co-create a stitched piece. Kettle returned to Pakistan at the end of 2019 to focus on a series of portraits and work with expert stiches from villages and communities in the Sindh province. Individuals based in England: Asmaa from Syria, Monica from Iran and Susan from Uganda are also very important as contributors to these
portraits, some of which are collaborative. Oxford Saïd are delighted to have co-funded this project alongside the Arts Council of England through the National Lottery Funding. The result is a body of work entitled Within each other, portraits of ourselves, some of which will be shown as part of Threads of Change this spring.

Kettle is engaging with these groups and individuals as part of an on-going relationship to encourage sustainable practice and empower artistic creativity. She is passionate about supporting traditional stitch ancestral knowledge, alongside new and emerging techniques, as part of the rich vocabulary of stitch. By working with these communities and individuals she is encouraging the retention of their knowledge and their cultural and artistic identities. This communal way of working reflects the ability of stitch to intersect across divided spaces and connect with others through a common language of making. These new works create a quiet space for action where stitch can encounter what it means to be human. The works simultaneously explore individual and collective identity, divided and shared through social, political and economic circumstances.


Elsewhere in 2020 Alice Kettle is showing her work through the Candida Stevens Gallery at the London Art Fair in January. Kettle is an invited artist for “Untitled, 2020” at Punta Dogana in Venice curated by Thomas Houseago, Caroline Bourgeois and Muna El Fituri with the Pinault Collection from March to December 2020.