Sea, Ground and Sky

Sea, Ground and Sky are three large textile works forming Thread Bearing Witness, a major series by artist Alice Kettle. Shown at Gawthorpe Hall until November, as part of the British Textile Biennial, the pieces consider issues of cultural heritage, refugee displacement and movement.

Alice worked with individuals and groups of refugees and asylum seekers on this project in the UK and in camps in Europe, asking them to contribute to and inform these large artworks through the common language of stitch.


First shown at the Whitworth Art Gallery in 2018, the works present the individual and collective textile narratives of all of those involved. They embrace both the personal testimonies of the refugees Kettle has met and textiles’ role, from the domestic to the spectacular.

For example, the ‘Sea’ piece is an expression of the overwhelming shock, horror and impotence instilled by the repeated media images of sinking overcrowded boats of refugees at sea. At the same time, it is an abstract pattern – made up of repeated motifs and layers.

As a project, Thread Bearing Witness began in 2017 and includes Stitch a Tree, a community activity. Stitch a Tree aimed to connect communities and individuals across the UK to show support for displaced people. Participants were invited to stitch a tree which was later arranged by Alice into a large embroidery called Forest.

As part of the Biennial, Kelly Quinzel will be leading drop-in stitching workshops, to contribute a tree to the growing forest of trees in the Stitch a Tree piece. To date, contributions have been made from all over the world, as a demonstration of unity and solidarity for refugees.

Alice will be ‘In Conversation’ on Tuesday 17th October in Padiham – click here for more information.

Click here for Stitch a Tree workshop details.

The British Textile Biennial is also listed on Selvedge's events page.

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