Nurturing talent with textile art workshops

Nurturing talent with textile art workshops

Jo Smith is a textile artist of great vision and originality; she has been featured on in an interview she did for us in which she discusses the themes that interest her, the techniques she uses to realise an idea and what inspires her work. More recently she was kind enough to contribute an excellent review of Sue Stone’s solo exhibition Stuff and Nonsense. Here, Jo tells us about the textile art workshops she’s been running for the National Art & Design Saturday Club and why she feels the initiative is of great value to children and young adults.

Sharing my passion

Earlier this year I was delighted to be invited to teach textiles at the National Art & Design Saturday Club at the Grimsby Institute, working with 24 creative young people, aged 14-16yrs, from the local area with an interest in the arts. I relished the opportunity to pass on my passion for the subject and introduce a new generation to the diversity of contemporary textiles and all its exciting possibilities.

What is the Saturday club?

The club is an initiative of the Sorrell Foundation to revive the idea of the free Saturday classes that ran in local art schools from the 1950’s – 1970’s and which many of today’s leading designers benefited from. Now in its fourth year, it boasts 26 clubs with 735 members and 145 tutors, assisted by 85 student volunteers, with young people coming from 220 schools to attend free classes at Universities and Colleges throughout England and Wales.

Members of the National Art and Design Saturday Club hard at work in a textile art workshop

Members of the Saturday club hard at work

The Grimsby Institute has been part of this initiative for three years and in that time they have seen the students thrive, tackling each challenge head on regardless of medium, materials or discipline they have consistently and confidently produced outstanding results. Dedicated tutor and programme leader Darren Capp and his team encourage the young people to create without limits, giving them the freedom to explore and experiment whilst providing them with plenty of inspiration, expertise and enthusiasm.

In a packed programme of activities the club members took part not only in textile art workshops, but photography based projects with Jez Goffin, screen printing onto clay with Sara McKenna, enjoyed a Masterclass with visiting architect Joel Cady and had a trip to the ‘20-21 Visual Arts Centre’ in Scunthorpe to view the exhibitions.

Ryan Smith created this embroidered piece in a class held at the Grimsby Institute

By Ryan Smith

Textile art workshops

Obviously I’m biassed, but the highlight of their year for me was working with the group on the production of a large textile piece interpreting their ‘Hopes & Fears’ for the future using birds, bugs and insects as a vehicle for their expression.

Textile art lessons for kids and resources within secondary education vary from school to school and depending where the students were within their arts studies. This meant that some had little experience of textiles and embroidery in particular and some were more confident. Although most had no experience of machine embroidery, all had never worked with dissolve before and some felt uncomfortable using the machine altogether, opting to hand stitch their contributions.

A piece of textile art created by Holly Fuller in a textile art lesson for kids

By Holly Fuller

Exploring creativity through stitch

Working on individual pieces, the students drew their designs onto the heavy weight soluble fabric prior to stitching, some chose to bond complimentary fabrics in place to appliqué whilst others produced concise line drawings. Using plain natural cotton muslin stained with tea between two pieces of the soluble fabric the students then stitched their designs using free machine embroidery techniques.

A piece of art created with embroidery techniques in a textile art workshop

By Stefania Olasfsdottir

Once completed the work was attached with simple rudimentary stitches to a larger piece of muslin and suspended with thread in a purpose built frame, intentionally double sided and see-through in order to extend the narrative and create more interest for the viewer.

I have personally been very impressed with the club members that I have had the pleasure of working with in the textile art workshops and the quality of the stitched textiles they produced, which looked stunning on display in the recent annual ‘National Art&Design Saturday Club Summer Show’ at Somerset House in London.

A detail of Hopes and Fears - a large piece of fiber art on display at Somerset House

Detail of Hopes and Fears – The End by Adam Walker

A worthy initiative

I cannot sing the praises of the Saturday Club loud enough; it is a wonderful and worthy initiative to inspire a generation of young people with an interest in the arts, affording them the opportunity to take part in the many interesting projects, learn new skills and techniques and receive expert tuition, all for free, not to mention making new friends along the way; textile art lessons for kids are just one aspect of the training they receive.  Each Saturday Club also receives a Masterclass delivered by some of the best artists and designers currently practicing in the creative industries, giving the students a unique insight into their professional journeys.

Hopes and Fears is a piece created by members of the Art and Design Saturday Club during a series of textile art workshops

Hopes and Fears on display at Somerset House

An invaluable experience for all out there aged 14-16yrs with a passion for the arts, especially for those wishing to pursue a creative career and who are planning on further and higher education in this field, the future starts here.  Go to for more details.

Saturday club members stood with their textile work at Somerset House

Club members at the Summer show at Somerset House

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Thursday 28th, September 2023 / 09:36

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe



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Share in the creative secrets of the world's most celebrated embroidery artists.

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