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Claire Barber

Claire Barber is an artist and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music and Design Arts at the University of Huddersfield with an interest in the interconnection between place and the way people are

Claire Barber has pursued a peripatetic career since her graduation from the Fine Art department of the Royal College of Art in 1994 exhibiting widely and completing over twenty artist-in-residencies and commissioning models in the UK and across Eastern Europe, Australia and Japan. Claire is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music and Design Arts at the University of Huddersfield with an interest in the interconnection between place and the way people are connected to their surrounding environment.

The investigation of cultural traditions and vocabularies for textiles is a fundamental component of the creative practice using site-responsive methods of research. Incorporating a broad approach to creating in diverse forms including installation, photography, social engagement, collage and inflatable sculpture the artwork is not limited to a production using textile materials. Rather, it is her perception of textiles, and weave in particular, that directs how ideas are put together as an integral approach to an enquiry combining elements of industrial and historical studies and clothing design. A large-scale commission for Hull City of Culture presented at Hull Paragon Station called The Train Track and the Basket (2017) commemorates the historical route of transmigration from Eastern Europe to America, and the woven baskets carried by migrants passing through Hull. Woven textiles enabled her to think about patterns of motion overlaid with one another each time someone enters or exits the station building.

Alongside her solo practice, Claire often seeks out ways of creating new work with others, exemplified by current co-produced research with sound artist Gavin Osborn. Claire’s first experience of Osborn’s work was at the exhibition they both participated in called Unravelled Wetlands presented at the London Wetland Centre in 2021 and since then they have been testing the versatility of sound and embroidery to inspire an intricate interplay between graphic form and tactile language of embroidery with the acoustic structures of sound-based work. This included a collaborative exhibition A Stitch for Every Sound & talk at the Festival of Quilts (FoQ), NEC Birmingham in August 2022. 

Claire shares her practice with broad audiences, engaging with local communities to contest inequalities in cultural access. This exposure to community contexts has led to a number of journal articles, papers, books and conference organisation. For example, the book co-edited with Penny Macbeth Outside: Activating Cloth to Enhance the Way We Live (CSP 2014), explored the complex and multifaceted relationship humans have with cloth, and examined the constantly evolving fields of expression outside traditional gallery, institutional or campus settings. This is the context for the Arts Council funded socially engaged artwork Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences developed in 2019 with June Hill which involves processes of interaction designed to facilitate the empathetic imagination through stitched-based practice and communal making at a community centre and pay-as-you-can café in Bradford. A further commissioned essay, ‘Stitch as a compassionate action: The War Widows’ Quilt’ presented in the Insights book published by The Textile Study Group in 2020 presents an investigation into the art duo Arthur & Martha, discussing the terms used to describe their community-responsive work.

In the summer of 2022, Claire was the appointed artist in residence with Patricia Mackinnon Day to develop initial proposals for interventions as part of the future developments planned for Barlby Road. Events and happenings as part of their public engagement activities included a dance experiment with choreographer Gemma Fisher on the industrial Forfarmers site Gemma Fisher - Dust (2 June 2022), a critical reflection by international choreographer Dawn Shultz, and a participatory dance re-enactment on Selby Park called The Last Dance (16 July 2022). The event was centred around the Selby Park bandstand and involved music and dancing, an outdoor bar run by the Jolly Sailor brewery and an invitation to contribute oral histories and reminiscences. Posters, bunting, cups and even beer tap labels were all specially designed to transform a corner of the Park into The Last Dance. They are currently working with development teams to realise their proposals for the new construction and development projects planned for Barlby Road.

In 2016 Claire received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Publication in recognition of a programme of work entitled Cloth in Action: The Transformative Power of Cloth in Communities as evidence of the significance of textiles as an aesthetic experience within a socially engaged form of practice, some of which involves other people.


A Stitch for Every Sound

Cactus Shadow

Stitched chime within a lamppost

Stitched roof canopy sounds

Rudimentary possibilities for stepping lightly

The last of the dandelion seeds: Part II

Tears to wake the flowers III

Stitched electromagnetic sounds

The Hunt

Quilting the Estuary

Light stitches

Yarn teased from satin

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