Meet the World: Stitching Stories
Lorina Bulwer, embroidery and literary experimentation
Join us as we explore how art and craft inform the way we can write and tell stories in a more tactile way.
Lorina Bulwer was a Victorian woman who spent her time in the Great Yarmouth workhouse embroidering angry letters to the world. Ruth Battersby Tooke, Curator of Costume and Textile at Norfolk Museums, will give an illustrated introduction to Lorina, whose samplers remain an inspiration today.
Then, three writers from around the world – Jennifer Anne Champion in Singapore, Mariko Nagai in Tokyo and Sally-Anne Lomas in Norwich – will talk about their encounter with Lorina Bulwer’s embroidery and where it has led them in their own literary work. Their discussion will be chaired by historical fiction novelist Sarah Bower.
This event will take place on YouTube. Register in advance to receive a streaming link.
This event was curated with Jennifer Anne Champion as part of her virtual residency with NCW, generously supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore. We are also grateful to the Norfolk Museums Service for their support of this event.
About the speakers
Ruth Battersby Tooke is Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles at Norfolk Museums Service. She curated the exhibition Frayed: Textiles on the Edge at the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth, which featured embroidery by Lorina Bulwer. Lorina’s embroideries are part of the Norwich textile collections and her work is explored in the Letters from the Workhouse Gallery at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum.
Jennifer Anne Champion is from Singapore and a poet-in-digital-residence with the National Centre for Writing. During the pandemic, she picked up embroidery and has since been working on ways to marry textiles with her craft. She recently exhibited her work in the group Into Softer Worlds organised by Art Outreach Singapore. Unable to travel to Norwich, Champion’s appreciation for Bulwer’s story and work comes digitally and from afar and yet has become quite intimate, examining transcripts of Bulwer’s work generously provided by the Norfolk Museum Services.
Sally-Anne Lomas is a writer, film maker, artist, and keen swing dancer. Live Like Your Head’s on Fire is Sally-Anne’s first novel and was long listed for the FISH Publications Children’s Fiction Prize. She was also a 2016 winner of the National Centre for Writing Escalator scheme. She is Creative Director of The Cloth of Kindness, a textile-based health and well-being project, inspired by the writings of Julian of Norwich and the embroideries of Lorina Bulwer. They work in hospitals, cancer centres, mental health units, care homes, and women’s refuges to create embroidered blankets that bring creativity, community, comfort and legacy to people living through hard times.
Having grown up in Europe and America, Mariko Nagai currently lives in Tokyo and is Professor of Creative Writing and Japanese Literature at Temple University Japan Campus. She is the author of Histories of Bodies: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2007), Georgic: Stories (BkMk Press/University of Missouri Kansas City, 2010), Dust of Eden: A Novel (Albert Whitman & Co, 2014), Irradiated Cities (winner of 2015 NOS Award, Les Figues, 2017), Under the Broken Sky (MacMillan/Henry Holt / Christy Ottaviano Books, 2019), and forthcoming Body of Empire (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2021) and The Sword of Yesterday (Little, Brown / Christy Ottaviano, 2023). Her work has been translated into Vietnamese, French, Chinese, Romanian, Bulgarian, and German.
Much to her own surprise, Sarah Bower has found recurring inspiration for her fiction in needlework. Her first novel, The Needle in the Blood, was about the making of the Bayeux Tapestry. She is currently working on a novel for her creative and critical writing PhD which follows the lives of women who stitched balloons for the Montgolfier brothers in 18th century France and those working at Playtex in the 1960s who made the Apollo space suits. Sarah can scarcely sew on a button.
Meet the World
Our Meet the World series aims to celebrate our ongoing connections with international writers and translators by sharing their writing and ideas with new readers.