Denise Jones

Denise’s practice and research for the past six years has been focused on probing the process of hand embroidering through cloth. Acknowledging the cultural ‘baggage’ that is fastened to embroidery, she scrutinizes it from the tangent of being a ‘thread act’.

Since completing her MA in 2016, and using her curiosity of the historical, she is now directing her interest towards embroidered cloths as material objects.

Her research and current work for a doctorate at UCA Farnham (2015-2020) is concerned with embroidered cloths worked in Holloway Prison by Suffragettes between 1911-1912.

Denise uses natural materials and hand-embroidery in her practice.


For this project, I have focused on five cloths embroidered in Holloway Prison by suffragettes between 1911-1912. They were worked at the height of the window smashing campaign orchestrated by the Women’s Social and Political Union, the militant WSPU, and when the hunger strike and forcible feeding of suffragettes in prisons had already been established. My overarching question asks, “Why did suffragettes embroider in prison?”

I have researched the wider context of the cloth objects in order to locate them in time and place: the historical and political climate of their making, the rise of the suffragette movement, and the escalation of violence towards suffragettes and by suffragettes.

My interest however, lies in scrutinizing the cloths as material objects and through my own practice, with the hope that by approaching the subject matter from this tangent a more nuanced and micro perspective of the meanings of the cloths and of embroidering might be revealed. I see the cloths as complex and entangled, with the human and with each other.

I approach my practice from these starting points, creating work rooted in textile know-how and the use of thread. I am responding through making, particularly through the process of embroidering, not knowing what I might discover. In doing so another insight might be gleaned about imprisoned suffragettes: how they worked together, how they felt and developed their thinking, and the significance of their embroidering.

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