Emma Shankland, Victoria Park and Restoration

Emma Shankland, Victoria Park, detail

Emma Shankland, Restoration detail

By its nature hand embroidery is both restrictive and enabling. At first sight it can resemble a brush stroke or the marks created by pen and ink but it doesn’t have the flexibility of speed that this kind of mark making allows. This has proven useful for someone who’s impulsive and lacks patience as the story is forced to emerge syllable by syllable. A novice to hand embroidery, the slow reveal has turned out to be an unexpected facilitator to freedom of expression and allowed a lack of inhibition that other materials prevented.

As healers of frayed fibres and accidental rips, needle and thread renew and reinvent, yet the physical act of stitching can be aggressive.  For the objective of my work this is an important detail as in each piece the act of construction plays an essential role. The tug of the thread, uneven stitch and buckle of the fabric fragment all work together as equal communicators to convey and emphasise the final narrative.

These pieces have been chosen as they chronicle an instance in the journey of the Warrior Goddess. In the present she can’t exist as an archetype in isolation, she needs to multi task all aspects of life and spread her strengths in many directions. This is an exhausting role even for the most confident and sturdy warrior. As cycles occur new decisions arise causing periods of reflection within the environments and circumstances created. Letting her guard down for an instant the Goddess is seen in her most human and vulnerable state. Should she push through restrictions or give in to the extraneous and self imposed influences that hold her back.

Living for a time suspended between activity and stillness, the Goddess is shown weighing her decisions carefully. External pressures that hinder movement are realised in both real and fanciful forms, objects and landscapes, recognising that concrete and imagined forces can be as crippling as each other. In this way the voice of the Goddess reflects a multitude of women who’ve stood before a challenge and struggled to take the assertive measures needed to resolve it and change her course.

None of the narratives in the work have a definitive meaning. The viewer sees what they want to see and develops their own back story and judgement according to their own experiences. This allows the viewer to expand the narrative beyond the imagery and ask ‘what if?’, ‘what next?’ and emphasises the ambiguity of the journey that led to this point. The borders of the pieces also aid this enquiry by extending threads and reaching towards untold pathways, recognising that once the next step has been taken there’ll be another decision to make, another challenge to confront, and another story to create.


Victoria Park,  textile art, stitch 38 x 34cm uf €490 + 10% IVA

Restoration, textile art, stitch 32 x 26cm uf €490 + 10% IVA


Emma Shankland

Leaving England at 19 in 1990 I travelled, studied and worked in Europe, Asia and Canada before returning to the UK in 2010. During this time alongside working in hotels, teaching English, picking fruit, running art camps and making mascots I trained as a costume maker at the Stratford Festival in Canada. This led me to complete a three year diploma in Sculpture/ Installation at Ontario College of Art and Design, graduating from their self directed thesis programme in Florence, Italy in 2002.

 Following this I was employed as a soft props builder for large stage productions, returning to England periodically to assist with the production of traditional fabric parade banners and in school artist residencies. My experience with young people brought me to pursue an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Education at Newcastle University. Since then I’ve become the senior outreach worker for Durham Bannermakers (durhambannermakers.co.uk). I also act as lead designer and decorative painter for all of the banners and work closely with communities to design projects and build their funding applications. I’m now in a position where I can steal time from the business and continue developing my personal artistic work.

I am a member of the Society for Embroidered Work.

INSTAGRAM: em_shankland