A Darker Thread: Rhiannon Williams

A Phoenix Yet in Flames, 2016 (detail)

Embroidery on mixed material

“I make visual narratives through embroidery, exploring human relationships, and feelings of love, fear, belonging, betrayal and tragedy. I’m inspired by the Celtic mythologies of my Welsh roots, in particular the collection of tales from ‘The Mabinogion’. These medieval fables were passed down through oral tradition, and include enchanting stories where people are turned into animals, and where love treads close to death and tragedy.

Embroidery and textiles are imbued with connotations of homeliness and domesticity, and have emotive qualities relating to memories of people and comfort. In my work, I channel the stories from my own life into textile narratives, pulling on the themes and styles of the medieval cyfarwydd (‘storyteller’). I am interested in the connection people have with animals, and the way we find comfort in their company, and I often use animals as metaphors and as a way of representing emotions. Using embroidery techniques, I stitch together the stories of my own life, depicting the stillness of an emotion in a moment in time.

I embroider using a free-hand Irish sewing machine, a specialist technique with a machine that ceased production in the 1950s.”


Rhiannon was born in Cardiff, attending a Welsh-speaking school in Llantrisant where she was immersed in Welsh culture, singing in the local choir and competing in the annual Eisteddfod. She remembers the excitement of hearing stories of her namesake, the horse goddess Rhiannon, in the Welsh fables of Y Mabinogion. She lost the Welsh language when her family relocated to Herefordshire, where she currently resides.

Rhiannon graduated from University College Falmouth in 2011 with a first class BA (Hons) in Textiles and in 2014 with an MA in Textiles from the Royal College of Art. In 2011, she received a Texprint award for the top 24 textiles graduates in the UK, exhibiting in Paris as part of Première Vision. Since, she has worked in fashion studios in London, New York and Stockholm as a textiles designer, where she developed her love of pattern and embellishment. Rhiannon was awarded the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers Scholarship in 2014.

In 2015, she was commissioned by Hampshire Council to produce a large scale WW1 memorial embroidery, permanently displayed in Whitchurch Town Hall. Other recent exhibitions include Made By Hand, Cardiff City Hall 2016, Act Up World Aids Day, Hackney Picturehouse (in collaboration with Faye Oakenfull) 2014, Portal, Llantarnam Grange, 2014, Show, RCA Battersea 2014, New Visuality, According to McGee, York 2011

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