Exploring feminism through textile – Emma Steele

Emma Steele is an artist that uses a combination of photographic images and text in her work in order to reflect on feminist issues. Her background is in textiles and this is reflected throughout the work that she produces. The body of work that she has created is constantly growing and promises to continuously provide her audience with thought provoking imagery.


Accompanying your work on your website are the words, “To be a woman, is tough. It’s a struggle we face within a male dominated world. To be a feminist is to be an artist.” What do you mean by this?

As women we are consistently having to prove to men that we are equal. As a young woman I am consistently dealing with the struggles of living in a society where men are superior to women. Each one of us are feminist; but not every person’s voice is heard.
I am a feminist. I am an artist. I have a voice. I have a story. I will not back down on what I think is right for women. I want my voice to be heard. I want people to understand. To see. To listen. To learn. To understand.
I use my political views on feminism to drive me as an artist. I want people to hear my voice. My art becomes a form of expressing my thoughts; stories and views as a feminist within society.
Art is the perfect form to communicate feminism. Art can be interpreted in different ways. Each person sees a piece of art in different ways. Feminism is a complex topic that can be seen and interpreted in different ways. Art is one way to communicate feminism.
Art is a form of education. Feminism is history. It is rights for women. Women should be seen as equals. We are in the twenty-first century and it’s time for women to take a further stand and for our voices to be heard.


There is a dark and slightly harrowing feeling in most of your images. How does this relate to your views of the female psyche and its interaction with the current situation of society?

I moved to London at eighteen and being a young woman in London I was always having to constantly prove to people to stop stereotyping as a stereotypical woman. My personal views and experiences are what has driven me to explore feminism.
I am a feminist and I have a voice. Within the past year I have related myself to core politics that are occurring within society today. We women are beginning to fight back against objectification. Women are finally speaking out about sexual violence. Peoples voices are being heard; people are beginning to realise that within current society there is a massive issue with the amount of sexual assaults/rapes that occur.
This is just the beginning; the sad fact about rape cases are that not that many get convicted. Rapists are still getting away with their crimes. Women are still afraid to come out with their stories. There is not enough finance to support women. Women are having to wait on a waiting list to seek help. No woman should have to deal with it alone. We are never alone.


How is the interplay of textiles, photographic imagery and text relevant to the theme of your work?

Every artist has their own way of starting a new project, for me it is about using my knowledge of feminism as a starting point. I became very interested in feminist during my second year where I began to learn more about feminism and femininity and that really opened my mind to the issues surrounding women today.
I use my personal issues and views on femininity to create art based textile pieces. Each piece becomes a piece of a story; which is created to make a statement. My work is about getting an emotional reaction.
I currently start my process of creating by using personal experiences and expressing it into photography as well as create statements. Through the statements I create knits that are photographed and either further digitised or printed on. I use sublimation printing to transfer my photographs on onto my knits.
There is a definitive link between feminism and textiles, especially knit. As an artist I see how people react to hearing I was on a knit course definitely drove me to prove to people to stop stereotyping women. I was constantly being defined as a superficial housewife type because I did a degree in knit. I am having to consistently prove to people who I am as a woman. I define myself through my femininity. That was a core part to my project.
People need to stop; listen; learn; understand and respect. My project is there to give a statement. It’s a voice within the textiles. My work is defined by my views on feminism.


Feminism is a multifaceted theory. What is it about feminism that you are trying to explore within your work and why does this radiate as an issue that you feel the need to address?

The question to be asked is what is consent? Who is the victim? Within my project I explore the concept of consent because consent is not always granted. A simple word was never granted. Consent is something that is not given enough and not taught enough.
This is my story. My voice. My experiences. One decision that changed my life. I am a woman with a story. My journey began in 2013 but has not been told to now.
Consent is not always granted. This does not mean I was asking for it. This does not mean I was leading him on. I am a victim of rape.
I began my story with deciding to do my project on my rape that occurred when I was eighteen. My project became a form of therapy; it was a way for me to fully come to terms with what has happened to me and to tell my story. It became a way for me to cope with what occurred and to find a way to finally admitting and forgiving one’s self for what occurred.
Society believes that women should watch out and they teach us to ‘not to get raped’ rather than teach people to ‘not to rape.’
I got victimised for my rape, I got told it was my fault. I believed what people told me. No one should be victimised for something that was not one’s fault. This is a huge issue still in society where men feel there are no boundaries when it comes to woman. No woman should have to worry if they will ever be raped. It is something no one should ever have to go through. This project is to finally show people to stop being afraid and to use their voice.
My project became my voice. I have a story that needs to be told. This is a true story. It begins in 2013 it is called Consent.


Do you think that your work will be engaged with in different ways by different gender?

When people engage in my work I have had the two stereotypical reactions being either sorrow or judgement. In my opinion gender does not play a massive part in the reaction of people’s views on my work. Within society gender plays a massive role in defining the difference between man and woman. My core goal for my project was to get different reactions from people.
Gender does not define how people will react to my project. Emotions and full respect towards women are what will define the different reactions I receive about my project. That is the defining point of how people will react to my project.
Every time I tell someone I have been raped, their first reaction is to feel sorry for me or to tell me that it’s not my fault. I become seen as a wounded woman who needs to be sheltered. They immediately classify me as a victim; but I am who I am. I don’t want anyone’s sympathy I just want people to understand. I have been victimised my rape.


This is an early project of yours. Where do you hope your work will go in the next few years?

I am hoping my project will allow other people to come out with their stories and for people to find their own way of coming to turns with what happened. For me; my project was a way for me to accept what happened to me and to share with people my experiences.
I am beginning to create a blog called ‘No Judgements Allowed’ which is a place where I am continuously exploring my project Consent. I would like people to fully understand the rape/sexual assault culture and the difficulties one faces. This is not a topic that may people talk about openly. It is a subject that people dismiss but it is something that a majority of women will experience.
I want my blog to be a place where people do not judge, they learn, they begin to understand, and they fully listen. Some women will be lucky enough to never experience rape, but this does not mean that they won’t experience other situations. The one thing people do not realise is that the experience becomes defined within your life.
I have a voice and a story which I would like to share with people. My blog is that place where I can openly express what many of us are feeling. No one can fully understand what you are going through, but people can relate to your story.


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