Katie Schwab Blog Post


Katie Schwab, Work Hands 6, 2015. Embroidery, beech frame. 15 x 10 x 5 cm. Photograph © Malcolm Cochrane.

Blog Post: Katie Schwab


7 September 2015

The four embroideries that I am showing in BNC 2015 are part of an ongoing series called ‘Work Hands’. The works began in 2014 and each embroidery is constructed from cotton thread stitched through mesh: mounted and displayed in a handmade beech frame. These works draw on the bright colours, improvised rhythmic patterns and abstract shapes of modern textile design; in particular, the embroideries of Sophie Taeuber-Arp, the wall hangings and tapestries of Bauhaus weavers Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers and Otti Berger, and my grandmother’s textile works.

My practice often combines elements from my personal history with references to histories of domestic design, craft processes and learning environments. I am interested in the ways in which current generations inherit and reinvent skills, tools, designs and ideals from the past, especially in relation to the construction, decoration and inhabitation of domestic space.

This year’s BNC venues have a strong textiles history: Nottingham was once a centre of the lace industry, and London has a history of textiles trade and distribution. The developing landscape of these cities is an indication of the changes brought about by industry and modernisation. The title of the ‘Work Hands’ series was taken from a sign in my father’s kitchen that reads ‘Work Hands Entrance’. I asked my father where the sign came from and he said: ‘The sign came from over the door of a workshop in Shoreditch. At least it used to be a workshop. I think it had been gentrified by the time I got the sign’.