Hiraeth: Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre / by Rhiannon Williams

Hiraeth, Solo show
Llantaram Grange Arts Centre: National Centre of Applied Arts
Dec 2nd 2017- Jan 20th 2018

“I feel at home when I embroider, lost in a playful world of making. Working with fabric feels familiar and comforting. My Welsh nan taught me to sew. I remember the first feeling of a shiny, sharp needle piercing through the smooth skin of fabric, taut in the hoop like a drum, the thread slithering through the cloth, ready to rip colour through its perfect woven structure. It felt exciting, like I could be a creator of anything, and I wanted to sew my mark into everything.   

Immersed in making, I am in my own world, and it feels instinctive to begin each piece with a face, a character to inhabit this internal space. I don’t work from models, and rarely sketch out an idea before I embroider, I dive into the process and see where it takes me. Ideas develop as I'm working, and a story begins to unfold, usually based on what is going on in my life at that time. They tell stories of my relationships, lust, love triangles, betrayal, moving home, belonging and homesickness. I enjoy the organic process of playful stitching with unknown ends.  

The concept of 'hiraeth' resonates in all of my work. Hiraeth is a Welsh word meaning a deep longing for home. It's a yearning for a feeling in the past, for the lost and departed, a nostalgic aching for a place and time where you belonged. Through embroidery, I try to capture my own hiraeth, for my Welsh roots, past relationships, lost identities, and the lost places of my past.  

I was born in Cardiff, and went to a Welsh speaking school where I was immersed in Welsh culture, singing in choir and competing in the Eisteddfod. I lost the Welsh language when my family relocated to the border in Herefordshire. I remember the excitement of hearing stories of my namesake, the horse goddess Rhiannon in the Welsh folk tales of 'Y Mabinogi', where people turn into animals, and love treads close to death and tragedy. I'm fascinated by symbolism, and its use in medieval tapestry, particularly our relationship with animals and how they can represent emotions.  

Embroidery and textiles are imbued with connotations of Victorian homeliness and domesticity. I embroider using a free-hand Irish Singer, a specialist skill on a machine which ceased production in the 1950s. The machine chugs and rattles as I sew, beating away at the fabric, an energetic process far from its gentle ancestry.  

The word tapestry literally translates as 'an intricate or complex sequence of events' and I channel the stories of my own life into my embroidery. Taking inspiration from medieval tapestries full of history and symbolism, these exuberant and whimsical narratives are an amalgamation of collected memories, myths and poetry, mapping out my own personal histories in cloth." 

Rhiannon trained at the Royal College of Art with a masters degree in 2014. She lives and works in Herefordshire. 

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