Harriet Riddell – December 2017

What a great treat to welcome our surprise speaker Harriet Riddell to our Christmas meeting this week.  I first saw Harriet at Art in Action when she had just left University so it was interesting for me to hear what she had been up to during the past five years.
After our “bring and share” lunch the raffle was drawn and the winner Margaret Gow, had her portrait drawn by Harriet on her sewing machine. It was interesting to see how, starting with the left eye and continuous free machine embroidery, Margaret’s face was created on the canvas.  

Harriet explained that she followed a course in Contemporary Applied Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. At a life drawing evening class her tutor suggested she bring in her sewing machine to draw with instead of the conventional materials and she has not looked back since. At the age of 10 her grandmother had taught her to do free machine embroidery and this has become her chosen technique ever since. As long as she had a plug, a table and chair she could head off to various locations to find subjects – the launderette, the greasy spoon cafe, a nursing home where she was working part time and Greenwich market.  
After graduating Harriet worked for a shoe company and was sent to their factory in China to record the process in stitch. Harriet has now travelled extensively on her bicycle in India with her sewing machine, table and a motor cycle battery to power her machine and has published a book of her experiences. She went on to become an artist in residence in Kenya and, as she could not work in Nairobi, she found herself in the countryside and in the slums. 


In addition to portraits, Harriet has drawn the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Albert Hall and various other locations around London and told us how she invites people to ride her bicycle to power her machine. These works have been exhibited at several galleries in London.

I am sure I speak for everybody when I say we wish Harriet well with her wonderful creations and her travels and we will enjoy following her career.

So inspired by Harriet’s talk our member, Nikki VW decided to have a go at her own self portrait and the result is below.  

Report by Ros
Photos taken by Ros and some taken from Harriet’s presentation
Thanks to Lindsay and Nikki for their photos

​Sewing Stories below is a Youtube video of Harriet time in India.

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