Technology and traditional craftsmanship combine to highlight women’s safety
An intercontinental project led by a researcher from Northumbria University is using traditional craft techniques and the latest technology to explore the international issue of women’s safety.
Dr. Angelika StrohmayerAdjunct Professor at the Northumbria School of Design and Head of Program for the BA (Hons) in Interaction Design, is collaborating on the initiative with Dr Özge Subasi, Director of Futurewell Research Group at the Department of Media and Visual Arts of Istanbul Koc University.
The partnership resulted in the creation of two “sister quilts” featuring symbols, words and shapes inspired by resistance against poverty, threats to women’s security and the breakdown of traditional gender roles.
Funded by the British Council Global Crafting Futures Program “Embroidery Protection” included contributions from professional textile artists in Turkey, the public, especially those who work in or on issues related to women’s safety, such as support workers, representatives of charities, researchers, activists and people in the public sector.
Collectively created through live and online workshops held simultaneously in Turkey and at the Northumbria campus as part of the Istanbul World Women’s Festival, as well as other hybrid and in-person events, the quilts will remain in their respective cities, continuing to connect the individuals who came together to create them.
Dr Strohmayer explained: “We embraced technology to ensure that this topic of global significance could be explored in a multicultural way, but beyond that what makes this project so incredible is its legacy, as those involved continue to rely on the relationships formed or strengthened that day, as well as the information and resources shared to help women feel safer.
“In addition, these quilts, one of which will remain in Newcastle and the other in Istanbul, will also be digitally connected via augmented reality markers, virtually connecting the stories stitched into them.”
The project brought together diverse groups of women, some of whom connected to the event via an online video call, to collectively create a series of quilt squares inspired by the subject for two hours. In Newcastle, discussions focused on childhood and growing up, childcare, accessibility of cities for people with disabilities and cyclists, and systematic oppressions.
Meanwhile, side by side in Istanbul, patches have been embroidered by members of a non-governmental organization (NGO) supporting the blind, cycling activists, NGO staff tackling migrant food poverty, and more.
Dr Özge Subasi added: “These sister quilts exist to represent the breakdown of traditional roles, exploring how we can fight poverty and support solidarity between women in two cities thousands of miles apart.
“At the same time, the project helped us, the team, to rethink our design positions. In addition to the topics discussed at the events, the informal help we received throughout the project to find the best quality and most innovative materials with fair production cycles, and the local craftsmen’s in-depth knowledge of this to be valued as beauty and in craftsmanship have shown us important considerations in our development as justice-focused designers.
Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture, Design and Fashion at the British Council, said: “The British Council’s Crafting futuresaims to help create a sustainable future through collaboration and to support a future for craftsmanship by understanding its value in our history, culture and contemporary world.
“The program achieves this by bringing together artisans, designers and organizations from around the world to explore possibilities for the future. We’re proud to support the Embroidering Protection Project, which demonstrates how craftsmanship, collaboration, community, and technology can come together to solve one of today’s most pressing problems; women’s safety.
Northumbria University is ranked fourth in the UK for its research power in art and design in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework. Read more about ‘Embroidery Protection’ on the project website and visit northumbria.ac.uk/design to find out more about the design-driven research taking place in Northumbria to help bring about positive change in the real world.
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Notes to editors:
About Northumbria University
Northumbria is a modern, research-intensive university with a worldwide reputation for academic excellence. Learn more about us at www.northumbria.ac.uk
About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It supports peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries around the world. It does this through its work in arts and culture, education and the English language, working with people in over 200 countries and territories and on the ground in over 100 countries. In 2021-22, it reached 650 million people.