Sharmin Faeq Sadiq from Kurdistan, Iraq supported by the 'Swansea Women's Asylum and Refugee Support Group' 2022

ACE Arts Embroidery Event

Somerset, UK / January 2022


During the exhibition at ACE Arts in Somerton, a group of artisans (with varying styles, interests and ideas whom I had been synchronistically connected to over the previous few months) came together to add their voices to the Red Dress’s fabric.

As well as the artisans, the gallery was full to bursting with visitors who were keen to see the works being created, the atmosphere was electric and many interesting and inspiring conversations were had.


Jan Ollis


SECTION OF THE DRESS: Hope

A message for us all

I have been a textile artist/maker for 20 years but had never really used Embroidery in my practice however it became my solace during 2020, the slow rhythm of stitch helped me through lockdown, focusing on words that expressed my feelings and emotions during this time.

To be asked to contribute to ‘The Red Dress’ felt a great honour & privilege, Hope was the word that came to mind straight away. Within the word Hope are embroidered various Irises, the Iris flower symbolise faith, hope, courage, wisdom and admiration, all qualities that I belief the Red Dress represents.

Contact: Instagram: @janollisart

Jenny Henderson


SECTION OF THE DRESS: An archway from Wells Cathedral

An honouring of something special

I feel it would be appropriate for me to add an image of Wells as I have been

looking after the choir robes for over 20 years now, having taken it on as a temporary helping out task, but it’s become a very important, almost defining, part of me and a vital part of the cathedral’s life – every cathedral needs a Mistress of the Robes, but Wells didn’t have one so I’ve developed the role from nothing.  It makes sense of other bits of my personal journey from my first ever visit to Wells when I was only 13, to how we ended living here, raising our family here, and plenty more besides.  I believe I was called to come to Wells  for that job…

Contact: Please message via Kirstie on reddressembroidery@gmail.com

Linda Green


SECTION OF THE DRESS: Map of Somerset

A celebration of roots
My stitching depicts the landscape I live within, and has been my home for forty years and I feel deeply connected to it. The Somerset Levels and characteristic hills are very familiar to me. The River Parrett with its seasonal flooding impacting my daily journeys to work and the school run etc (a seven mile journey building up to twenty plus when the floods were up - “Isle Bridges is down”, “Hambridge is blocked” etc..

We have always lived with Burrow Hill in our sights, it’s a landmark I almost unwittingly seek out when I am travelling locally. My children’s school logo was Burrow (One Tree) Hill. We walk up it at sunset, at full moon, and love it when it’s illuminated at Christmas.

We’ve picnicked on it and the children have run and rolled down it. I feel very much “at home” in South Somerset.

Contact: Instagram: @lindagreen2

Nathalie Frost


SECTION OF THE DRESS: Embellished shell

Memories from home

Originally from Barry in South Wales, Nathalie’s first memory at just 2 weeks old was a feeling of being connection to the sea. Her father had wrapped her in blankets and taken her to their local beach on freezing cold January day.

Much of Nathalie’s childhood was spent in the sea in her naïve Wales and as well as being in the water, she was always drawn to the rocks, pebbles and stones and filled the coastline.

Now living in Hastings, Nathalie works as a textile artist and is currently embroidering on to and around broken shells that she collected form the coastline. Her work is incredibly fine, detailed and particularly beautiful

“ I use shells as I'm drawn to the sea, and because I like to combine the fragility of the thread with the well travelled robust surface of the shells. I invent and play with weaves and stitches and in doing so hope to celebrate crafts women who throughout history have stitched and tatted tirelessly to create works of perfection for their employees. I feel so many crafts women and artists from the past (and working now) are overlooked”.

Just before Nathialie left, she also embroidered the words “ CALON LAN’ which means ‘PURE HEART’ on to the Red Dress.

Contact: www.nathaliefrostdesigns.com | Instagram: @nathalie.frost

Sarah Ashford


SECTION OF THE DRESS: ‘S’

Important values of being

“An ‘S’ for strength, support, sisterhood (and Sarah!)”

Contact: www.sarahashfordstudio.com | Instagram: @sarahashfordstudio


Sivani Mata Francis


SECTION OF THE DRESS: Yoni

The source of all creation

Sivani Mata now living in Glastonbury was born and bred in London, her mother has Celtic roots and her father is originally from Trinidad (with a lineage from both Kenya and Nigeria).

An artist who is moved by a sensory and elemental exploration of life through practice that evokes the liminal experience of trance-like states of consciousness (such as Kirtan, Yoga Nidra, Cacao Ceremonies) as a way to cultivate a harmonic relationship with the Earth, and to build the relationship of self love and acceptance. Sivani Mata also offers women’s circles and yoga therapy for menstrual health and wellbeing.

Having followed the Red Dress for a few years Sivani Mata was excited to learn the garment was coming to be exhibited in Glastonbury at the end of 2021.

The night before coming to the exhibition at the Goddess House, Sivani Mata had a vivid dream that she embroidered a yoni on to the cloth of the garment.

The next day her visit to the dress perfectly coincided with the 10 minutes when I was there having a chat with my sister - who knows Sivani Mata’s partner! We all connected and I was told of Sivani Mata’s dream…..

It felt synchronistic, and I explained when there was next an opportunity to work on the garment I would get in touch. A few weeks later - I did.

Sivani Mata honoured her dream and stitched a beautiful and powerful yoni on to the Red Dress’s skirt.  She explains “Yoni is the source of all creation, we all come from yoni”.

Contact: www.naturalmysticbhajans.co.uk | Instagram: @sivanimata

Lydia Needle


SECTION OF THE DRESS: Bees

A celebration of interconnection

I chose to stitch bees onto the beautiful Red Dress in honour of the Interconnectedness of All Things: the women stitchers around the world, our families, the natural world - the one we are all part of. The bees I chose have all featured in the project FIFTY BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things and each bee has been companioned and championed by seven members of my family.

Bee 1 is the Queen Moss Carder Bee or Bombus muscorum, from the first ever FIFTY BEES exhibition. My daughter, Grace, made the companion piece, a series of photographs that helped to illustrate the ecology of this particular bumblebee. This Moss Carder was once widespread in Britain but has suffered a severe decline due to loss of habitat and changes in farming methods. Grace’s photographic piece showed the coastline of Penwith in Cornwall, one of the places where this bee can still be found.

Bee 2 is next to the incredible French knot design by Mexican artisan Zenaida Aguilar, above the Parisian border which has been worked into and stitched by many hands, and just below one of the large blue and red floral shapes created the Fansina Artisans, sits the Large-headed Resin Bee or Heriades truncorum. I stitched this bee onto the red dress because in 2017, for the first FIFTY BEES I asked my husband, Shaun, to make a piece in response to this bee’s ecology. What we got was a collection of sticks, old hollow logs, and pine cones, highlighting that a bee friendly garden needs some mess.

The 3rd bee, the Blackheaded Leafcutter Bee or Megachile circumcincta was companioned by my sister, Imogen, who made a repeat print response to this little creature. Have you ever had the joy of watching a Leafcutter working their mandibles on the leaves of a rose and then flying the off cuts to their nest - they’re just a joy?

Bee 4 is above the snowdrops stitched by Nina Gronw-Lewis and next to the kimono by Ruriko Wyborn, is the Long-horned Bee or Eucera longicornis. I stitched this one as my mum, Faith, painted the most beautiful response piece for the first FIFTY BEES. And have you seen the male’s antenna? Bonkers. I’ve never seen one of these in real life but I intend to…

Bee 5 is under the blackbird by Amanda Wright, HOPE by Jan Ollis and the Australian embroidery. This bee is Bombus ruderatus or the Large Garden Bumblebee, which used to be widespread in Great Britain but sadly declined.  This bee was also in the first FIFTY BEES and my cousin, Ruth Lyne, made the companion piece.

Bee 6 is stitched to the left of a tiny red fox, under the poetry birds by Sister Stitch, a group of female Kosovo refugees, and the Peruvian panel by Martha Carrión Jaulis, and the piece by Elna Carr from Sweden, and to the left of The Kenyan Embroiderers Guild in Nairobi’s panel. Such fabulous company to be in. This is from the second FIFTY BEES. It is Andrena angustior or the Groove-faced Mining Bee one of the many solitary bees we have in Britain. It’s companion was created by my sister, Elinor, who created a box, with a beautiful peephole made from a piece of wood, and inside she created hawthorn blossom, one of the bees favourite food stuffs.

Bee 7, my final bee on the dress. This is the Cryptic Bumblebee, cryptic because Bombus cryptarum is almost impossible to distinguish from the White-tailed Bumblebee. It was first scientifically described in 1775, but the Cryptic Bumblebee was only recently confirmed as a distinct species following DNA studies. I needle felted and stitched this bee onto the dress as my brother, Pascoe, made its companion piece, a peep show using microscope slides with pollens from UK plants.

Contact: Instagram: @lydianeedle or www.lydianeedle.com


OUR SUPPORTERS

A huge thank you to all who have given their time, energy, enthusiasm, advice, experience and financial support to the Red Dress project over the years.

In addition to the institutions below, funding has been gratefully received from a number of private donations and 344 individuals around the world via a Crowdfunded campaign in 2020.

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The Red Dress is one of the most power pieces of clothing I have ever seen
Angelica Colleluci, Head of Design & Productions at Ozwald Boateng
The Red Dress in its final incarnation, a magnificent, regal robe, symbolises the empowerment of women through the creation of something beautiful, something which began with bowed heads and tired fingers but also with faith and joy, an openness and willingness to be a part of something which they could not see at that time but in which they could believe had meaning and worth connecting with other women around the world
Lady Alison Myners, Chair of the Royal Academy Trust 2020
The Red Dress is in some respects similar to Mail Art, the populist artistic movement centred on sending small scale works through the postal service. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s – but on a larger scale – the journey of the work is part of its identity, process, and in fact function. A signifier of the temporal and physical nature of the process inherent in the creation of the piece. The surface of the dress layered with embroidery slowly transforming into a specific topographical map – completely particular to the work’s journey – and reflective of the burgeoning sculptural landscape of the object
Paul Black, Artlyst 2015
It’s her (Kirstie’s) red silk Dupion bodice and voluminous skirt created for the Red Dress that fully demonstrates her commitment to embroidery and the immense respect for the international community of makers
Denna Jones. Embroidery Magazine 2010
I can't remember when they embroidered that piece of silk (2018?) but I feel that something has changed since. The fact that they could embroider what they wanted and that it is appreciated has given them some strength, some confidence that I didn’t feel so strongly before. Last year, I sent them a drawing and asked them to “interpretate" it the way they wanted; again it came back with a lot of emotions, another beautiful story. Thank you for giving them this opportunity
Nicole Esselan, Founder of Kisany Africa (supporting artisans in DR CONGO and RWANDA)
This is both an extraordinary work of collective art and profound and eloquent social commentary. It is also an example of how potent the Attire language is capable of becoming
Attires Mind (Fashion Blogger) 2020
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