Three Girls (2023.3)

Catalogue Record



Alice Kettle


Three Girls




The three girls feature at intervals in my work.
They have a personal and symbolic resonance. I have 3 daughter and am one of 3 sisters. I see these women as both observers and participants in shaping destiny. They are implicated in the everyday and the wider aspect of social and political events. They are meant to hold a kind of sanctity, a way to represent the world, a meeting of adversity and shaping of a new order. Maybe I am one of them. I see stitch as a creative enlightenment a way to negotiate the demands of life and affect actual change within one self and in relationships with others including with the world.

Materials and techniques

Print and Stitch on Linen.
Digital print designed by Alice Kettle and printed at Centre for Print Glasgow School of Art
Digital and 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:  124cm
length:  54cm

Object number




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

Maker's statement

This work uses stitch as a language of story-telling and commentary, drawing on historical precedents which are contemporised through autobiographical and current biographical references. Personal experience, the mythic and contemporary events are entwined to offer a feminine view with thread explored as a material and metaphorical means to offer an alternative version of events. The work shows 3 girls, a common feature of my work. makes reference to the mythological naiad or water nymph, whom Ovid describes fleeing from the god Apollo, who is intent on sexual violence and rape. The story concerns domination, violation and transformation. Ovid’s stories in Metamorphosis speak of transformation and Daphne changes herself into a laurel tree as a means of partial escape. While Daphne is saved from the assault of her human form, her objectification remains. This story is echoed as a universal story of women and more forcefully with #️MeToo, a social movement which came to prominence in 2017, promoting consciousness and showing solidarity for victims of sexual abuse and harassment. The specific cases of deaths of young women in London in 2020 and 2021, is also portrayed in this work, which pays homage to these particular events at the time when the work was made.
I am one of 3 sisters and I have 3 daughters. There is great symbolism in 3 female figures. For me, they hold personal significance as a representation of my mother [and myself each with] three daughters: the inherited transmission through generations as a mirror of the cyclical nature of the past. Jung describes the territory of motherland where, ‘Every woman extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter’ (Jung, cited in Hirsch, 1981:209). Jung goes on to describe the trans-generational experience as a prolongation with ‘peculiar uncertainty as regards time; a woman lives earlier as a mother, later as a daughter’ (Jung and Kerenyi, 1969:162).38. The symmetry of mother/daughter is ‘part of the unity of symbolic order’, which Hirsch views as an entrapment for women. Hirsch uses the philosopher Julia Kristeva’s term of ‘in process’ (Kristeva, cited in Hirsch, 1981:210) to describe the plurality and continuity of being that the connected mother/daughter relationship can engender. This allows the past to be fluid and constantly exchanged.

The work seeks to place power, human dignity and autonomy in women’s hands.