sarah burgess





 My training in embroidery gave me making skills, a meticulous approach to working with materials as well as an eye for the experimental possibilities of a wide range of media and methods. Having worked for many years with a broad range of students across further and higher education, I prefer not to categorise what I do now. Stitch, print or installation - it’s just my work.

I use whatever method seems appropriate to what I am working on.

 Drawing is always important to my practice, allowing space for thought and investigation of my subject matter. Often using mono-print methods the exploratory drawn mark develops its own voice and may also incorporate text, both readable and unreadable. I enjoy the unexpected marks and textures which disrupt my print drawings and often find they prompt a new thought.  Prints may be layered with transparency or cut and pieced, inserted with silk making complex printed surfaces layered with marks of stitch, colour sometimes veiled by time or weather.

I am excited by the qualities of materials, including fabric but also ceramic, glass, wood, metal or feathers; materials strongly contrasting in weight and character and used for their expressive properties.


Previous work explored themes of glove making and working hands, in collaboration with several museums for G’love Stories, a solo touring exhibition.  Tracing older glove makers, I incorporated their stories as well as artefacts from the glove industry.

Following MA studies at Manchester School of Art, my work explored the accidental incidents that disrupt the smooth order and predictability of everyday life. Dementia and memory loss have been important themes, linked to the finding of pot shards from old hydropathic institutions. The shards and their emergence from the earth are important evidence of lives lived and points of change.

Responding to the unexpected and embracing risk has become important. My work for the DIS/rupt exhibition, Drowning by Numbers; 2 degrees and 4 degrees, develops the idea of risk and uncertainty in both its theme and working method. Allowing the work to absorb dye during the exhibition period was exciting and was a literal demonstration of drowning that I want to explore further.

 Working with tutor groups as a mentor and teaching occasional freelance workshops and summer schools stimulates my own ideas. Recent experience as an exhibition curator was fascinating and I find building creative partnerships particularly rewarding.  I enjoy working with architects and clients and have completed several large commissions for both private and church clients in both textiles and stained glass, including an innovative glass which retains the image of textile structures.



1975Cambridge College of Art. 18+ Foundation
1979 – 1983Chesterfield College of Art & Design. C&G Part 1 and 2 Embroidery. Dist.
1988Cert. Ed in FE. Huddersfield University
1983 – 1993Part Time and Fractional Post teaching for the Sheffield College, Chesterfield College of Art and West Nottinghamshire College.
1993 – 2000Full time lecturer, the Sheffield College
1993 – 2003Course Co-ordinator OCN Access to Art and Design
1996 - - contTextile Study Group membership
2000 -2008Fractional posts, Sheffield College
2000 - contTutor to textiles group, Mainly Stitch.
2003 - 2008.Personal tutor, textiles tutor HND Design Crafts, HND Fine Art
18+ Foundation, Access to HE
C&G Embroidery
2008 – 14Mentor and tutor to Sheffield Mentor Group
2009Summer School, Stirling University.
2009Art in Action, workshops
2010Embroiderer’s Guild Eastern Region Summer School
2010Textile Study Group Summer School Tutor
2007 - 2011Distance Learning Tutor, BA Hons Textiles.
2009 - 2011MA Textiles Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University
2011 - contFreelance exhibiting and teaching
2014Member Sheffield Printmakers
2014 - contMentor to Edge Group Scotland
2015 - 2018Exhibitions organiser and curator Textile Study Group
2016 - contTutor to Textile Group Chesterfield

I taught art, design and textiles in college for many years whilst maintaining my own practise. The stimulus of teaching was also part of my continuing art education with the need to motivate  students often generating new ideas and ways of working with diverse materials. I do much less teaching now but it is still a powerfully motivating force for me.

Returning to study in 2009 on an MA Textiles course at Manchester School of Art provided an opportunity to explore the context and ideas around my work in greater depth. The experience of a late MA has been very rewarding and revealed links between my work and life that I had previously not suspected, opening up freer ways of working as well as confirming the importance of drawing in my practise.

Previous training in stitched textiles gives me deep technical knowledge and problem solving skills but recent work has become simpler, more restrained and powerful. Quality of line and mark are always crucial but I feel confident  about working with whatever materials and methods will express my ideas. Heavy materials such as wood, glass and ceramic shards are often contrasted with fine threads, semi-transparent fabrics and drawn thread structures. This approach was encouraged by collaboration with a glass artist, originally on commissions for stained glass windows but recently on more innovative, experimental work combining glass with textiles.

I enjoy collaboration with museum collections, the stimulus of unexpected objects sparks new ideas and connecting thoughts about display and the placing of work.

Living  away from a city has  limitations but my sources are close at hand and having a studio at my home allows me to work at whatever time of day or night seems right. Being surrounded by countryside has an effect on my work, not always obvious to a viewer, but cycles of life, growth and plant structure are often in mind.


Exhibition History

2019international Textile Biennial Belgium
2018 - 2019Textiles of Today, Triennial Bratislava and touring, Hungary, Poland and Cxech Republic
2017 - 2018DIS/rupt Tour. Oldham, Wales, Peebles
2017DIS/rupt. Stroud Textile Festival
2016Harley Gallery Open, Welbeck
2014 and 2016Art in Action, Waterperry House.
2014Printing Sheffield. Millennium Gallery Sheffield
2013SGFA Drawing exhibition prize winner. Menier Gallery, Southwark. London
2013Pinpoint 1. One Church Street Gallery. Gt Missenden
2013 Art in Action, Waterperry HouseExhibiting and demonstrating
2011 - 2012Derbys City Open. Derby City Art Gallery
2011MA Show Holden Gallery, Manchester School of Art.
2011Memory Blanks, Crewe
2011Individual and Collective, Textile Study Group exhibition, London Dublin and Harrofate
2010Visual Thinking. The Hub, Sleaford
2009 - 2010Textile cfor St Edmund's Church South Chingford
2008 - 2010Creative Dialogues, Bankfield Museum Halifax.
Walsall Museum and Art Gallery.
Taunton Brewhouse Gallery.
Peebles Art Gallery.
Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery.
2008 - 2009Art of the Stitch, The Waterhall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Deutches Textilmuseum, Krefeld, Germany.
Museum of Applied Arts Budapest.
2008G'love Stories. Wirksworth Festival.
2008York Minster, commissioned designwork
2008Prism Exhibition. Mall Galleries, London.
2005- 2007G'love Stories, solo exhibition, Ashton Under Lyne Art Gallery.
Bankfield Museum, Halifax.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
2006The Art of the Stitch.
Bristol Royal Academy
The Hub Sleaford
The Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead
2005Not What it Seams, Part 2. Bankfield Museum Halifax
2004Stained class window, Designer and collaborator, All Saints' Church Matlock
2004Not What it Seams, Part 1.
London. Dublin, Harrogate
2003Material Works, Off the Wall. Curator and exhibitor, Enginuity, Ironbridge Gorge Industrial Museum.
2002St Wilfrid's Church Egginton. Stained glass design and collaboration
2001-2002Bold as Brass.
Cajoba Gallery, Birkenhead
Fire and Iron Gallery, Leatherhead.
The Otter Gallery, Chichester
Salisbury Museum
Museum of South Devon
2001Art of the Stitch
The Mall Gallery, London
The Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead
2000Textile panels series, St Helen's Church Etwell
2000-2001To Boldly Sew, Textiles for the Twenty First Century.
Dundee and Edinburgh