The Subversive Stitcher

Holly Searle is The Subversive Stitcher, who reclaims, adapts, and modifies old tea towels to offer commentary, elegy and provocation for the 21st Century. She describes herself as ‘a nasty woman, making you think with a needle and thread and other methods’ and offers this as an introduction to her work and self:

For as long as I can remember I have always been making something. In retrospect, I may well have picked this desire to create up from my nan and my mum, who were always making something as well.
I was an analogue child that was closer to the make do and mend generation than the digital children of the 21 century, who have a screen that feeds their desires, but not necessarily their creativity.

For that I will always be truly grateful.

I always loved to embroider, but as the years passed and my life became more focused on single parenting and domestic issues, I seemed to have lost the desire to create. I just lost my creative mojo.
Then one day, several years ago, I attended an exhibition on mental health and saw the most incredible sight. It was a sampler that had been sewn by an inmate of a Victorian Asylum.

The inmate Mary Frances Heaton had used a needle and thread and other accessible materials to petition Queen Victoria about her own personal experiences of her own social injustice that had befallen her.

In that moment, as I stood there looking at this piece. I was transfixed and amazed by her ingenuity and her passion to be heard.

Her passion reignited my desire to create and to use embroidery and textiles as a basis to draw attention to social issues and to empower women, especially those that deserve more attention than afforded them.
Mary was incarcerated for 41 years, but she never gave up using her voice. I like to think you can hear an echo of her in mine.

Since then, my work has featured in solo exhibitions as well a group shows.

I am continuously inspired and welcome all interest in my work, exhibitions, commissions and collaborations,

I am happy to report that my creative desire has now been fully reinstated.

Visit for more information and her shop

Follow her on Instagram: @the_subversive_stitcher

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