Harriet Riddell

Born 1990
Graduated from The University of Hertfordshire in 2012

I draw by stitching live scenarios with a sewing machine, typically in unusual locations. By observing and responding to my immediate surroundings I quickly and intuitively capture the moving world directly onto canvas; a live narrative; a document of the ‘here and now’.


This approach to drawing allows it to become a performance of public interaction. As a direct consequence, it follows that their perceptions, expectations, and physical participation are subtly intertwined in the resulting work.

I have often set up 'the stitch' in challenging places, such as within Nairobi's slums, on top of Himalayan mountains, upon a float moving through a religious parade in India, or in south London pubs. The adventure and freedom of the performance, together with the interplay of an audience, directly feeds life into my stitched lines.

Power is a reoccurring theme within my work, as I need electricity to create my art. Currently, I am using a bicycle to create power. The public are invited to pedal the bike which powers the sewing machine. This dependency empowers the viewer as we work together to create the art.

I continue to look for new ways of involving the audience and deepen their influence upon the resultant art. Often the materials I use are themselves connected to the subject.


In all the countries I have worked in I have found that the sewing machine has its own dignity and forms an immediate bond with its audience. It becomes a trusted communication tool, often breaking down barriers in testing circumstances. The role of 'artist' gives me purpose and acceptance, allowing me to travel and learn about the people, cultures, and politics of the world.  I feed these experiences into the art pieces, storytelling, photographs, film and publications which I then share with a wider audience.