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Arnolfini welcomes you to discover Threads, a major exhibition featuring 21 contemporary international artists and makers, who use textiles as their chosen medium.

Celebrating material and making, these artists use the storytelling power of textiles to connect with past traditions, find commonalities between cultures, time and place, and to ‘breathe stories into materials’.*

Threads encompasses processes of weaving and spinning, rug-making, stitching and embroidery, print, knit, threading, mending and found materials, with materials and techniques handed down, reused and reinvented.

Co-curated by leading textile artist Alice Kettle, Threads weaves throughout Arnolfini’s three floors, to reveal how textiles ‘remember’**, how memory is ‘embedded within the process of making’*** and how new narratives are created.

Anya Paintsil’s artwork God Will Punish Him, a hand hooked large scale textile piece made using traditional rug fabrication techniques, depicting an adult with long loose hair holding a child in one arm, the other arm raised forwards – a bright blue tear falling from their eye matches the blue of their nails.
Anya Paintsil, God will punish him (2021) Photograph courtesy of the artist and Ed Cross Gallery

Reflecting a range of experiences, materials, processes and artistic impulse, exhibiting artists are: Caroline Achaintre, Mounira Al Solh, Ifeoma U. Anyaeji, Olga de Amaral, Will Cruickshank, Monika Žaltauskaitė-Grašienė, Lubaina Himid, Young In Hong, Raisa Kabir, Alice Kettle, Anya Paintsil, Anousha Payne, David Penny, Anna Perach, Celia Pym, Richard McVetis, Ibrahim Mahama, Farwa Moledina, Lucy Orta, Yinka Shonibare and Esna Su.

Artists explore narratives of movement and exchange, environmental concerns, sustainability, labour, trade, migration, post-colonial narratives, identity, gender, politics, community building and place making, reflecting our histories in a current context.

Through these acts of making, each artist engages with the idea of how we remember, asking us to question where, and how, and with what the work has been created. Threads are unravelled as new stories become intertwined, and audiences are invited to engage with their own memories through material and making.

A colour photograph of an artwork of a human figure, arms in the air, squatting slightly. It is made from a mixture of materials with the main body wood and wooden mesh and parts of the body in wools and material.
Anna Perach and Anousha Payne, Backward Eyes, 2021.
Benjamin Deakin Photography, courtesy of Cooklatham Gallery.

Threads also includes:

New artist commissions by Birmingham-based Farwa Moledina and Bristol-based South Korean artist Young In Hong.

A reimagining of the work Ezuhu ezu by Nigerian artist Ifeoma U. Anyaeji during her residency in Bristol as the first recipient of the Arnolfini ACBMT International Artist Residency Award.

An opportunity for audiences to engage with Bristol’s own complex textile history through a digital memory map and audio stories focusing upon the sites of the Great Western Cotton Factory and Bristol’s new ‘textile quarter’ – home to Bristol Weaving Mill, Threads collaborative partner and pioneers of a thriving new textile industry in Bristol – creating an additional historical context for the narratives explored in Threads.

An accompanying exhibition of work showcasing the talents of refugee women who attend Arnolfini’s Women’s Craft Club and members of Bristol-based charity Bridges for CommunitiesStitching Together, refugee sewing group.

A supporting programme of engagement activities including family workshops from Let’s Make Art, participatory artworks, Celia Pym’s Mending Project, interactive activities from Bristol Weaving Mill and talks, music, dance, and film, will further bring the building to life with opportunities to ‘make, unmake, and remake connections’, creating a new community of makers and memories.

A knitted jumper that has been visibly mended by artist Celia Pym. The jumper features a geometric pattern in various shades of blue, red, cream and black. Various aspects have been visibly mended in purple wool stitches, creating a deliberate visual contrast with the original pattern of the jumper.
Celia Pym, Hope’s Sweater, 1951 2011
© Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Michele Panzeri.

About the Curators

Threads has been co-curated by Arnolfini and Alice Kettle an artist who has established a unique area of practice. Her large figurative stitched works, exploit the textures and effects made possible through the harnessing of a mechanical process to intuitive, conceptual and creative ends, in which stories collide with autobiographical and contemporary events, folklore and mythology. Her work is represented in various international public collections including the Crafts Council, the Whitworth Manchester, Liverpool International Slavery Museum, Museum of Decorative Art and Design, Riga, Latvia, Ararat Art Gallery Australia, the Belger Collection, Kansas City USA. She is professor of Textile Arts at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University and has co-authored and edited various publications including Machine Stitch Perspectives, Hand Stitch Perspectives, Collaboration through Craft, and The Erotic Cloth with Bloomsbury. She is represented in the UK by Candida Stevens Gallery.

Kettle’s contribution to Threads acknowledges the influence of research carried out as part of a wider project with Professor Lesley Millar, University for the Creative Arts.

Threads: Breathing Stories Into Materials Film

This gorgeous film, created by the team at Latent Pictures, gives you an introduction to Threads and hears from co-curators Alice Kettle and Gemma Brace.

Audio Playlist for Threads

Resources for Threads

The artwork in Threads ‘breathing stories into materials is full of incredible colours and textures. Here are some exciting resources for your to enjoy while in browsing through the exhibition and some activities for you to try.

Gallery Guide – An invitation from our partner Bridges for Communities and creative prompts to help you think about your own stories as you walk around the show.

Eye Spy Trail – A challenge for you to try to find which artworks in Threads with these eight details come from!

Bristol Textile Memory Map – listen to some stories and memories shared by the local community, and find out more about Bristol’s long history of textile production and Bristol’s current textile community. Maybe go and visit some of these places on the map!

Learn and Make Cards – A resource filled with information about different textiles techniques that artists in Threads use such as Weaving, Mending, Knitting, Crochet and Embroidery.

Unravelling Threads: Stories from the artists

On the opening weekend of the exhibition we hosted a series of informal in-conversations between co-curators Alice Kettle and Gemma Brace and exhibiting artists (including Ifeoma U. AnyaejiYoung In Hong , and Richard McVetis) to unravel just some of the interweaving stories and memories explored in Threads.

You can listen to the recording below.

Artists’ Films

Threads ‘breathing stories into materials includes a number of artist films – David Penny’s Screen for Another Focus can be seen in the Dark Studio at Arnolfini, while there is a selection being shown in the Reading Room. If you are unable to make it in, or would like to watch again, please click on the links below.

Ibrahim Mahama

Farwa Moledina

Richard McVetis

with thanks to the Directors of R & A Collaborations.

David Penny

Celia Pym

Anousha Payne

Raisa Kabir

Alice Kettle

A close up colour photograph of an element of Olga De Amaral’s artwork Viento 2, gleaming gold threads woven to create a piece of material.
Viento 2, 2014 by Olga de Amaral.
© Olga de Amaral; Courtesy Lisson Gallery. Photography by Theo Christelis.

* From Esna Su’s artist statement for Threads in which she describes her works as ‘breathing stories into materials’.

** From Jessica Hemmings The Textile Reader (London: Bloomsbury, first edition 2012, 2023) p52/57 Alice to confirm in which she states “Textiles remember. This is not something that we necessarily ask of them, nor is it something we can divert them from doing. They do it regardless… moments of joy and tragedy are recorded on the surface and embedded into the structure of the cloth, without permission and often without intention. Textiles remember, in part, because they are hostage to their own fragility.”

*** Pamela Johnson discusses the relationship between the process of making textile works and how memory can be embedded in their making in ‘Acts of Memory’ in Textures of Memory: The Poetics of Cloth (Nottingham: Angel Row gallery, 1999), page 7.

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