‘Digital Embroidery’, Paula Roush

The ‘Digital Embroidery’ project aim was to develop a participatory project with offender-learners in the art & design programme run by Amersham & Wycombe College at HMP Pentonville, as part of the government’s offender learning initiatives to transform the skills and employment prospects of prisoners when they leave jail. The course at H.M.P. Pentonville provided work related training in the areas of machine sewing and embroidery. The participants under Paula Roush’s guidance, worked with the software programme of the prison’s computerised embroidery machine. Machine embroidery is the use of a computerised embroidery machine to automatically create a design from a pre-made pattern that is in-putted into the machine. Learners used specific software to create their own designs and patterns.

All works in the exhibition developed out of a series of workshops with Paula Roush, resulting in the design and production of 2D projects, which integrated visual arts with the medium of digital embroidery. The participants looked at the pre-historic evolution of embroidery from tattoo and body art through the prism of current counter-culture; and explored images of architecture and subjective elements of custodial experience, including representations of the panopticon, to images of cells and the body. The themes explored also related to the motto of ‘making more people better off’ and the prison services’ goal of reducing repeat offending.

‘Digital Embroidery’ was commissioned by HS Projects in 2006 and was funded by the Insight Community Arts Programme (2002 – 2015).