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Participants holding fabric samples.

Led by researcher and artist Lucy Orta, ‘Traces: Stories of Migration’ unites the memories and experiences of migrants to reveal the stories of our local communities. The project, articulated through story telling workshops, explores ways in which fabric and stitch can be uniquely expressive and inclusive, recognising the creative value of diversity through each persons’ lived experience. 


Alongside the programme of community workshops delivered by Making for Change, creative practitioners and academics will engage with the topic of migration to develop a diverse range of outputs and dissemination events inspired by the stories collected. 

Socially Engaged Practice 

Traces: Stories of Migration explores the experiences of communities affected by migration and the memories accumulated as people journey from one place to another. It considers the trajectory as a state of being that amasses signifiers in the form of layers, which punctuate a state of transition; from one place to another, from a period in life to another, to new languages, cultures, and convictions, as well as physical marks left across geological times as humans progress through life.  


The migrant history of the East End rag trade provides the economic, cultural and historic context for ‘Traces: Stories of Migration’ and builds on sustainable and socially inclusive textile practices across East London, and elsewhere in the UK. The community engagement phase of the project is undertaken in partnership with local community organisations in East London in the boroughs of London Boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets and project managed by the Portal Centre for Social Impact. Participant recruitment was undertaken via an open-call, social media, posters and flyers across partner channels. 


The project methodology is articulated through a programme of hands-on workshop activities that encourage the realisation of distinctive creative outcomes by participants and members of the team. A Community Activity Book is the key-resource used to deliver a seven-week programme. Oral and visual mapping, text-based storytelling and textile-based practice in group settings with trained facilitators as its main methods, where participants shared personal narratives and textile knowledge, ultimately creating unique ‘Story Cloths’ that figuratively or conceptually depicted familial or personal migration experiences. 


The medium of textiles is a common artistic expression through which the participants and team are creatively empowered. The stitched motifs reflect migrant histories and give visibility to a myriad of personal trajectories through life. The learning and experimenting with tactic textile techniques encourages ways in which fabric and stitch can be uniquely expressive and inclusive and recognises the creative value of diversity through each persons’ lived experience. 


‘Traces: Stories of Migration’ builds on Professor Lucy Orta’s ongoing socially engaged practice and commitment to creating platforms for marginalised voices to be heard, and particularly the visualisation of migrant histories using textiles as a medium. The project intends to respond to the experiences and aspirations of cultural minorities, to reverse the often-negative narrative around migration, and to activate positive change in our communities. As a measure of impact, qualitative data regarding the effect of participatory art methods on the identity, sense of belonging and self-development of first and second-generation migrants has been published as in a final evaluation report (Fulton, Orta, 2024).  

Traces: Stories of Migration

Exploring textile practices as a medium through which diverse cultural and social experiences of migrant communities can be acknowledged and celebrated.

Traces: Stories of Migration. Photographer: Lori Demata, Nunnery Gallery 2022

Project Outputs

Creative Outcomes

  • Story Cloths. Participants realised 67 textile 2D and 3D artefacts depicting each their migration journey.  

  • Portraits. Lucy Orta created 47 textile portraits participants, each 90 x 90 x 4cm. 

  • Creative writing. ‘A Needle Around Her Neck’, a collection of poems by author Nathalie Abi-Ezzi published by Fairacre Press, 2023 

  • Critical writing and essays by academics and early career researchers.  

  • A documentary film by David Betteridge  

Participant Story Cloths. Diverse textile techniques. Photographer: Jack Elliot Edwards, UAL East Bank 2023


Community Showcase


Public Exhibitions

Panel Discussions

  • ‘LCF Sampled / Designed for Life’. UAL East Bank, London College of Fashion (22 November, 2023) 

  • ‘Craft/ing: Exploring Migrant Memory and Identity’. University of Birmingham (10 June, 2024) 

Key Notes

  • ‘Reimagining Research: Migration, Community, and Aesthetics through Participatory Approaches’. Kingston University (11 June, 2024)

  • ‘Body Matters’. 21st International Conference Architectural Humanities Research Association. Norwich University of the Arts (21 November, 2024)


  • Orta, L ed. (2023). Traces: Stories of Migration. London, UK: University of the Arts London, May 2023. 

Inspirational Pedagogy 

  • Curriculum projects engaging 9 LCF courses and over 130 students from, MA Cultural and Historical Studies, MA Collaborative Unit, MSc Applied Fashion Psychology in Fashion, BA Fashion Textiles.  

  • Bow Arts public programme



Project Team

  • Professor Lucy Orta, Chair of Art and the Environment – Lead artist and researcher 

  • Jo Reynolds, Project Manager, Making for Change at London College of Fashion (LCF)

  • Cheski Granger, Project  Manager (maternity cover), Making for Change at LCF

  • Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, Author 

  • Jasmine-Karis Fontiverio-Hylton, Textile Designer 

  • Jasbinder Jhumat, Specialist Garment Technician at LCF

  • Camilla Palestra, Curatorial Associate at CSF  

  • Lorenza Demata, Photographer and LCC PhD candidate 

  • David Betteridge, Film-maker 

  • Caroline Stevenson, Programme Director, Cultural and Historical Studies at LCF

Get Involved

Interested in getting involved in the project? You can contact the project team via email:

UAL Postgraduate students can join the Post-Graduate Interest Group via UAL's Website.

Follow the project via Instagram on @Making.For.Change

Contact for the project 

Professor Lucy Orta, Chair of Art and the Environment



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