Bluecoat Display Centre – ‘Storyville’ : Rachael Howard and Melanie Tomlinson

‘Storyville’ : Rachael Howard and Melanie Tomlinson
12 March – 7 May 2011

Two-person exhibition featuring textiles by Rachael Howard and metalwork by Melanie Tomlinson for both drawing and narrative are central. 

Rachael Howard

Rachael uses her unique and insightful drawings to capture the very essence of her subjects, transporting the mundane and every-day into something far more beautiful and enticing than the sum of its subject matter parts.

Her fascination with the passing world, and her habit of capturing it on paper, may be the start of the process – and an important one at that – but it is just a beginning. Those early drawings are transplanted into graphic, screen-printed; appliquéd and machine embroidered narrative images – beautifully crafted and exactingly worked motifs.

And in doing so, the sort of events and people which normally would not raise an eyebrow – such as mums with prams or passing dogs – become the centre of our attention, causing us to examine the beautifully intriguing real-life canvasses which surrounds us, but are so often taken for granted.

Rachael was one of the Royal College of Art’s first six embroidery postgraduates in 1992, and since then she has become renowned for devising new ways of combining screen-printed drawings with appliquéd fabrics and machine embroidery. She has been involved in a variety of projects, including the prestigious Jerwood Textiles Prize (1997) for which she was short-listed.

Melanie Tomlinson

I have a deep passion for nature and its protection, which inspires all my work. I believe that narrative, particularly folklore and mythology can help us better understand all living things and how we need each other to survive.

My sculptures are inspired by narrative from all over the world and also my own experiences of being with nature.  Sometimes I write my own short stories to give a contemporary twist to a theme. I like to step into this other world, to explore the world of the unfamiliar.

The work I create sometimes has roots within other cultures and may appear deliberately mysterious or strange. Romania is very close to my heart and often I include traces of its culture within my work. At the same time, I find sources of inspiration wherever I am.


I illustrate my work using very fine brushes and gouache and hand print these images onto metal sheets. My designs often incorporate illusory symbols that relate to the piece’s theme. For instance, a lacy skirt might on closer inspection be composed of spiders, wolves, snowflakes or birds.  My intention is to continue highlighting the traditions of folklore as a way of commenting on what I experience in the here and now.

Melanie Tomlinson