Friday, 04 August 2017


Featuring 24 contemporary international and national fibre artists, STITCHED UP gives a voice to the 193 girls who attended The Newcastle Industrial School, in the 150th-year since its opening.

Between 1867 and 1871, one hundred and ninety-three girls aged from two and a half to 18 years attended the Newcastle Industrial School. These girls came from backgrounds of poverty, cruelty and discrimination endemic in immigrant and marginalised communities during Australia’s ‘Gold Rush’ era. Many became notorious in the locality for a series of daring escapes which led to repeated incarcerations. Some of the girls went on to gain national infamy.

The initial concept for the STITCHED UP project came from a chance discovery that some of the girls had been detained in the Newcastle lock up (now home to The Lock-Up and Timeless Textile Gallery) after short-lived escapes from the school. Following discussions with Dr Ann Hardy of the Coal River Working Party, the project idea was seeded. Having met with local historian, Jane Ison, Anne and Wilma were immediately captivated by the life stories of the young girls of the Newcastle Industrial School. The research and writings of Jane Ison and subsequently Canberra based anthropologist, David Eastburn and Bernadette Sheahan have inspired this project to engage worldwide interest in this fascinating part of Newcastle’s history. 

Curated by Anne Kempton (Creative Director Timeless Textiles Gallery) and fibre artist Wilma Simmons,

24 internationally renowned fibre artists from Canada, Hungary, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark and nationally across Australia have contributed the project. The pieces include a large quilt as a comforter; dolls to compensate for lost childhood; cloth books for story-telling; shadow threadworks; and visual poetry.

Adding further dimension and community participation in the project, 30 women from The Wednesday Maker’s group at Timeless Textiles Gallery stitched embroidered narratives of each of the girls’ lives, working for two years on the project and resulting in seven volumes of cloth books, each page dedicated to one of the girls or a family of sisters.

“We have lived with these girls for almost two years,” said co-curator Wilma Simmons. “We have been moved to tears, and even horror at times, by the depth and suffering. We have learned to love and protect them, as most never were in life. Through this exhibition, we have to give a voice finally to these lost girls and their extraordinary stories,” she continued.  

STITCHED UP is an exhibition that is presented at The Lock-Up in partnership with Timeless Textiles galleries.


Established in 2011, the aim of Timeless Textiles Gallery is to raise the awareness of the beauty and collectability of fibre art, and provide an opportunity to people to find themselves through creativity.

Timeless Textiles gallery is the only commercial fibre art gallery in Australia which showcases fibre art with monthly exhibitions, national and international curated exhibitions, master class workshops and a Gallery Shop. Community arts programs is a major focus.


Located in one of Newcastle’s most significant heritage buildings, The Lock-Up is a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts space and inner city hub for creative thinking and doing.

The Lock-Up was the Newcastle Police Station and lock up from 1861 until its closure in 1982. Today it stands as a purpose-built gallery space alongside rare heritage listed cells, an event and installation space in what was the former men’s exercise yard and an onsite apartment for its nationally-renowned residency program.

Through its artistic and public programs, The Lock-Up aims to stimulate and challenge audiences and to promote the current, cross-platform, experimental and diverse practices of local, national and international artists.

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Written by Newcastle Live

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