Criminal Quilts is an art and archives project, crafted and researched by textile artist Ruth Singer. During 2017 and 2018 Ruth is Artist in Residence at the Staffordshire Record Office, researching and creating artworks inspired by images of female criminals who were photographed in Stafford Prison from 1877 to 1915. These pictures provide a compelling glimpse into the lives of around 500 women imprisoned for crimes such as drunkenness and theft, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
These photos form a rare insight into working class women’s lives and the clothing they wore. Some appear to be wearing prison issue clothing along with their own extravagant hats while many others are enveloped in large wool shawls. Clothes are often ripped or poorly fitting and are a stark contrast to the formal portraits we normally see of wealthier Victorian women in their Sunday best.
Criminal Quilts came into being in 2012 as a series of miniature quilt pieces created with a colour palette influenced by these sepia toned photographs as well as the historic Staffordshire court buildings. The project aims to bring contemporary textile art together with archival research, community engagement and local history, and will premier at the Festival of Quilts from the 9th until the 12th of August 2018.
New Criminal Quilts, Festival of Quilts 9-12 August 2018.
The full Criminal Quilts exhibition then tours to Brewhouse Arts Centre, Burton on Trent 7 September - 27 October and Wolverhampton University 1 November 2018 - 4 January 2019.