By Emma Whitehead


‘For as long as I can remember, the story of the objects and material we surround ourselves with has fascinated me. I work with the worn, the used, the discarded and the broken to illustrate the journey of personal artefacts as they travel from usefulness to inevitable redundancy and then renewed, resonate personal stories in new work. A few years ago, I had what they call a life-changing diagnoses; it made me reassess how I work and what I do. It gave me new material to work with literally as well as metaphorically. There is a huge amount of paper, foil, plastic, fabric, and metal waste generated by treating a serious medical condition. So, at the start of my treatment, I decided to keep my pharmacy-associated medical waste to use in new work. In 2019 I received the IDA Award to research artistic processes adapted to and referencing ability related themes. This hand and machine-stitched quilt, made from pharmacy waste, recycled materials, hospital linen and hand-dyed silks, is my attempt to trace a journey – the flow of a circulatory system – to the spaces between; renewing and discarding, nurturing and wasting, benign and aggravating; referencing the value we place on our health and the attention we give to the cost.’


Materials: Pharmacy waste, recycled materials, hospital linen, hand-dyed silks and Irish linen.  Measurements: 170cm x 127cm


Artist Bio

Emma Whitehead is a textile artist, designer & teacher from County Down, Northern Ireland. She transforms fibre, recycled textiles and found objects to explore the transitory nature of our personal histories and memories. She uses maps, paper ephemera and mementoes in conjunction with hand-dyed material and yarns to create totems that reflect the connections people have with each other and their geography, the journeys during their life, and how they mark significant events.

Primarily a surface embroiderer, most of Emma’s work is created using a needle and thread, hand sewing being one of the oldest, simplest, and truly transformative mobile technologies still in use today.

She is co-director of the artist-led gallery Top Floor Art Gallery & Open Studios and runs the TFA Studio Group. In 2019 she received the IDA Award from the University of Atypical to research & develop new ways of working adapted to disability.