Being a Contemporary Practitioner

The last few weeks at Uni we’ve been looking at the role of a Contemporary Practitioner.

As far as I can gather this is an artist/crafter who works on commission based projects and community groups.

We’ve looked at the work of Lise Bjorne Linnert and her DESCONOCIDA UNKNOWN UKJENT project, trying to raise awareness of missing women in Mexico and Leigh Bowser’s Blood Bag project that raises awareness of the rare blood condition Diamond Blackfan Anaemia.

We made large group sculptures from yarn and looked at the Plutchnik Emotion circumplex that relates colour and emotion.

One project I really enjoyed was the Grayson Perry tapestries and the idea of class that led me on a whole path of exploration.

I took a trip to London and visited the disobedient objects exhibition at the V&A.

It all ended up with two project ideas that I might even take further.

Both ideas revolve around my work with street workers in my home town and the Joanna project.

Quilts of Hope came from my thinking that we are wanting women to give up their prostitution lifestyle (a way of making money) but not offering anything in it’s place. The Joanna project has recently opened a building that will be a safe house in the daytime. I looked into an idea of teaching women sewing skills through the making of a joint quilt filled with messages of hope. The women hopefully could go on to make and sell their own sewn items and the project could use the quilt as a comfort blanket in times of distress.

Dark Sided came from the experience of opening the Joanna building. Neighbours complained that we would be bringing prostitution into the area, which has been a red light area for decades. It plays on the idea that we don’t see the dark sides of life under our noses, but if we made them pretty people might take notice.

It took everyday images of life and turned them into individual crafted objects in the hope that the messages might get across.

I crocheted a condom, placing it in an alleyway and photographing it. Actually, with time running out I photographed it against my own wall at home. The first time I came out with the condom and camera my neighbour had a visitor (he sells cannabis, so I had to wait a few minutes for his client to be served and leave).


I took a quote from a victim and embroidered it as a sampler, I don’t know many people who can’t avoid reading embroidered text.


Another idea was taking a sleeping bag and embroidering something pretty on it, because no one likes to see homeless people. This wasn’t something I could physically do, so I recreated the image in CAD.


I really enjoyed these projects and although I don’t think I’m a contemporary practitioner I think there will always be an element of the community work in what I do.


Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

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