Iris Todd’s stitches through time

editorial image
Have your say

A free exhibition which celebrates the work of a Seaham-born stitcher has opened in Durham. Katy Wheeler finds out more.

From hand-stitched crafts to machine-embroided artworks, Iris Todd’s work covers a spectrum of stitching.

Now the late artist’s work is being displayed for all to see at the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre in Durham.

The exhibition, “Stitching in my own way – the embroideries of Iris Todd”, explores the scope of Iris’ work, beginning with hand-stitched panels and ending with a mix of free machine embroidery, collaged cloth and complex sewn surfaces.

Iris was born in Seaham Harbour in 1933 and later returned to Durham City in 1964, where she lived for the next 47 years until her death in 2011.

Speaking before her death, she said: “I like to build up a collage using my own hand-printed materials and often cutting up and using old embroideries which have been abandoned for one reason or another.”

Iris’ embroideries often use a layering effect to create a sense of history.

Durham World Heritage Site co-ordinator, Seif El Rashidi, said: “This method gives the embroideries an immediate sense of history, of connecting with other pieces of work and times.

“The figures which find their way into and out of the layered grounds are stylised and have embedded within them a sense of the past. Many of the works are characterised by threads or tiny wisps of material escaping the confines of the frame or border, and something sparkling there which catches the light.”

He added: “Textiles have played a key role in Durham’s history for a thousand years and embroidery is a living tradition, still kept alive in the Cathedral today.

“It is an honour for the World Heritage Site to exhibit a collection of work that is so integral to Durham’s identity, past and present.”

* A Stitch-In session, which is open to the public, will take place on Saturday.

* The exhibition is open at the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, Owengate, Durham, and can be seen daily until March 30 from 9.30 to 4.30 pm.