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Textile artist wins UK craft award

Swatches | June 1, 2023 | By:

Vira in My Garden, 2022.

A textile artist took the top contemporary craft prize for U.K.-based artists this spring out of 400 artists of varied disciplines, with the winning pieces joining the U.K. Craft Council’s national collection. The winning works will be on display this summer in London, England. 

Artist Alice Kettle, presented by Candida Stevens Gallery at Collect 2023. Photo: David Parry/PA Media

Alice Kettle, recognized as one of the most important textile artists in the United Kingdom, creates huge figurative stitched works through free machine embroidery that capitalize on the textures and effects made possible through sewing.

“She uses thread like a painter,” says Candida Stevens, founder and director of the Candida Stevens Gallery, which represents Kettle’s work. “Great gestural sweepings of color and movement are used to tell her stories with immense feeling and extraordinary results. Figures both fictional, and recently more real, have been central to her storytelling, which she has always said is about the human condition and our place in the world.”

Alice Kettle in her home and studio, photographed by Alun Callender.

Part of Kettle’s winning body of work concerns the theme of the oceans and our collective need to protect them. Overall, the artist’s work is characterized by a blend of traditional and digital techniques, improvisation and a strong focus on materiality and skilled drawing. Her works depict contemporary events, but she draws references from the history of figurative textiles and monumental narrative tapestry.

“Craft is so important,” Kettle says. “It is about the deep understanding of the material that captivates, provokes and conveys experience and inherently connects and transforms lives. Working in craft is life-changing, and I am proud to champion all forms of making.”

Close-up of stitching, photographed by Alun Callender.

Her work has been held in numerous international public collections for decades in locations as varied as Turin, Italy; Suzhou, China; Riga, Latvia; Ararat, Australia; and Kansas City, Mo.

The Brookfield Properties prize was awarded this spring at Collect 2023, an international fair for contemporary craft and design. “Now established as one of the leading national prizes for contemporary craft, the Brookfield Properties Craft Award annually commends the achievements of a maker who has significantly shaped the story and success of craft across the U.K.,” notes the Craft Council website.

The Swimmers. Artwork images: Candida Stevens Gallery

The award is worth 60,000 British pounds (about $75,000); it includes the purchase of the winning works and their donation to the Craft Council’s national collection as well as a solo exhibition of her works at two Brookfield Properties in London this summer, from July 3 until September 29, with the main exhibition at 99 Bishopsgate.

Yellow Bloom. Artwork images: Candida Stevens Gallery

Kettle is a professor of textile arts at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, and has coauthored various publications, including Machine Stitch: Perspectives and Collaboration through Craft.

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