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Harriet Riddell

Harriet is a Textile Performance Artist.  She grew up in Oxfordshire and completed a degree in Contemporary Applied Arts at the University of Hertfordshire (2012).

Harriet travels the world with her sewing machine pitching up in challenging locations from the slums of Nairobi to the tea fields of the Himalayas. Through free motion embroidery she captures her surrounding environment and the people she meets.
Adventure and interaction are key elements to each piece of Harriet’s work. Behind every ‘stitch’ lies a narrative of the people, place and culture.

When in England, Harriet focuses on stitching portraits and illustrating special events in stitch. You can book Harriet to come to your home and stitch a family portrait or illustrate a Wedding Day. To deepen the interaction between herself and her subjects, there is the option of using a bicycle to power the sewing machine for either events or portraiture.
Her work has been exhibited in London, Delhi, Nairobi, Toronto, Paris and Hong Kong.

Artist Statement

Travelling with my sewing machine, I set up in public locations to draw in stitch. 

Observing the surroundings and people, I create a narrative, recording the ‘here and now’. The experience I gain from the interaction with the environment feeds in to my stitching.  Snippets of conversation and scraps of material are woven into the piece.

My work is produced ‘live’ with an audience in the public eye. By observing and responding to my immediate surroundings I quickly and intuitively capture the moving world around me; I believe this absorbs life into the stitched lines. 

My adventures have led me to India where I trekked with my sewing machine to the tops of a Himalayan mountain to stitch the skylines and the tired donkeys hauling their heavy packs. Carrying a sewing machine, table, chair, batteries and fabric is not a light load, but with effort comes great reward. My art gives me a purpose and a role within new places, allowing me to become a part of the environment.

Each new venture leads to learning about a culture. When I head outside with the sewing machine I feel open to the world, observing and responding to people and places. The people I meet, the obstacles I face add to the narrative behind each piece of art. I believe it is important to share my discoveries and the whole adventure through my stitches, sketches, photographs, film in exhibitions and documenting the whole process on my website.

Submersing myself within a new culture is integral to my intrepid nature within my art. It develops as I travel, responding to culture, people, textiles and landscapes. Stitching portraits and scenarios in public places challenges our expectations and perceptions. Audiences are curious with a rally of responses to my performance. When I set up my sewing machine in a new location, onlookers can be suspicious of my presence but as the art unfolds the community become welcoming and understand my honest intentions.

I love the interaction with foreign communities using my art as a tool of communication and sharing my experiences and inspiring others.

You can learn more about Harriet here:

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