Little Bird (2023.2)

Catalogue Record



Alice Kettle


Little Bird



Materials and techniques

Print and Stitch on Linen.
Digital print designed by Alice Kettle and printed by Centre for Print Glasgow School of Art
Digital and free machine embroidery using variety of thread, rayon, metallic, cotton.

The technique is embroidery, freely done on the sewing machine, where the fabric is pulled one way and another in order to create a line. The expressive line is distinctive of her work and used to describe figures and evoke their own sense of place in the world. In effect there are two lines, one from the bottom and one from the top which are stitched and linked through the cloth. The tension between these threads is constantly changed so that one thread is seen in relation to the other, with colour, type and scale of threads played off against each other, using shifts in direction of stitching, repeated marks to capture light and shadow. The repeated mark creates swathes of movement which are the physical rendition the movements of making.
The work is stitched often primarily for the back, so that the thicker threads are on the surface. This means the drawing is done to a large extent unseen. Mistakes and mishaps occur, which are restitched over and over, layer upon layer and sometimes are cut, patched and collaged. Digital embroidery is incorporated in the work, often used as repeated motifs or translations of drawings and again often done in reverse, to encourage a mix of threads. The work is also sometimes stitched on printed backgrounds from paintings, leaving areas of cloth unstitched where the print can be seen.
The works evolve, they are unpredicatable. Many are discarded and reused. The desire to use threads and fabric that is sustainably sourced and to use up the store cupboard threads, has become a key concern. This dictates new approaches to the work that test how to stitch and the backgrounds they are on. But these limitations are useful and become part of the subject in the work.


height:  130cm
length:  120cm

Object number




Brookfield Properties Crafts Council Collection Award winner, 2023. Purchased with support from Brookfield Properties.

Maker's statement

The work follows a period of self-reflective practice post pandemic. I moved to the country in Somerset from Hampshire and planted a garden. This period meant I was closer to nature and more closely aware of my relationship to it. The garden is home form any birds, there are soaring kites and flocks of crows. The hedges are filled with little birds. We have out up swift, swallow and house martin boxes. the first year there were many. This year I have seen none. This is the contemporary challenge a critical moment of climate change if not catastrophe for our natural world.

I left my home recently to find a new home. I have felt the intensity of losing my city home and the unfolding life of discovering the new rural home.

It has been a time of intense self-reflection whilst being locked up at home during the pandemic.
It has been a time of national and global turmoil and conflict and with constant images of destruction where homes are destroyed.

So home is the place I save as the most fundamental place of retreat, of hoped for safety, of being immersed and enclosed in this private place, of being whoever you want to be.

I extend home to encompass my garden and the countryside around, with no city streets and passing people. It is the place you can live, be alive, be creative and find new friends. I found little bird.

It is the place we search for to find stability and have dreams. Love, laughter, loss and collapse have all taken place there. I have friends who have lost their homes but in my mind, like little Bird they have become part of mine.

Home is where I make my work so feels like the centre of the universe where I can make the world I want to be within