Words, words, words – Inspired by Lorina’s letters (part 2)

Lorina-Bulwer-inspiredFollowing my visit to the exhibition ‘Frayed: Textiles on the Edge’ at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth I was inspired (as I wrote in my previous post) to use words as part of a silk scarf design.

Lorina Bulwer’s work was embroidery wool on cotton. But I work with silk, and paint work that will be worn. I chose to use chiffon as the lightweight, translucent quality allows the words to be partially glimpsed as the scarf moves and slides across the different coloured backgrounds of the clothing underneath.

You can see when the chiffon is pulled flat over either a black background or a white background just how different the colours can appear and how the words stand out more or less.

I used bold, capital letters in the manner of Lorina Bulwer’s embroidered work and painted naive, simplistic figures similar to those punctuating the original long samplers. The words are places in East Anglia and lines of text from the poetry of William Blake. Of course, gathered up and worn the text becomes even more fragmented and less obvious.

Words, words, words – Lorina Bulwer’s inspirational embroidered letters (part 1)

Lorina-Bulwer-red-manEarlier this year I went to the exhibition ‘Frayed: Textiles on the Edge’ at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. The aim of the exhibition was to highlight examples of embroidered work that had been created by people at times of mental distress. Perhaps the most eye-catching works were two long embroidered ‘letters’ sewn by Lorina Bulwer.

These two pieces are 12ft and 14ft long by about 14 inches wide.  Each ‘letter’ has been worked in coloured wools on pieced cotton grounds using various colours to ensure the text is clear and readable on every different ground.

Lorina (born in Beccles, Suffolk in 1838) made her letters whilst residing in the lunatic wing of Great Yarmouth Workhouse between 1900 and 1910. Many of the words are underlined as she angrily relates her story including writing about her family, neighbours and her troubled life.


When I saw Lorina’s work I remembered Tracy Emin’s provocative textile creations. Maybe the soft pliable quality of embroidered cloth and the frequent prettiness of embroidery magnifies the power of angry text. It was an inspiring exhibition and has led me to work a design for a scarf using text. My words are places in Suffolk and Norfolk surrounded by a few lines of verse from various poems by William Blake. I chose Blake as his words were also the words of an angry outsider.