top of page

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 through which the ‘Traces: Stories of Migration’ project has evolved and builds on burgeoning sustainable and socially inclusive textile practices that are developing in East London, as well as elsewhere in the UK. 


The process of engagement is embedded within the community, working in partnership with local organisations. The first series of workshops invites 50 local residents across the boroughs of London Boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets to take part, with a key objective to develop a model for future community-based textile practices.  


The project’s methodology is articulated through a programme of workshop activities with local residents who are invited to share their personal or family migration stories with each other. Oral story telling is used as a device to develop pictorial narratives that are shaped into textile artefacts in activity sessions outlined in the Community Activity Book. Integral to the workshop process is the exchange of textile craft traditions, sharing and gaining new knowledge through making, which can be applied to the creation of individual Story Cloths. 


The creative medium of textiles is a common artistic expression that aims empower people involved. The marks and motifs stitched onto each participant’s Story Cloths 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. 


Alongside the workshops a range of practitioners and academics will also develop their original outputs inspired by the project. Lucy Orta will create a new body of work in the form of a textile portraits of each participant, bringing together the project’s collective outcomes into an original format for exhibitions. 


‘Traces: Stories of Migration’ builds on Professor Lucy Orta’s ongoing socially engaged practice and commitment to creating platforms for marginalised voices, and particularly the visualisation of migrant histories. 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. Measure of impacts include gathering qualitative data about the social dynamics of co-creation as an empowering force and if the creative processes and whether the outcomes have successfully created a new agency for individuals and communities involved. 

Project Outputs

The storytelling process will inform and generate a range of outputs: 


Creative outcomes 

  • Story Cloths: a collection of personalised textile artefacts that depict and resume each participant’s migration journey. 

  • Portrait Gallery: a collection of large format textile portraits of each workshops participant inspired by the Story Cloths, created by Lucy Orta. 

  • Creative writing: a collection of poems weaving together migrant stories through the Rag Trade history, with participant stories, composed by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi and published by Fair Acre Press (June 2023). 

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

  • Film: documenting the process of realising Story Cloths. 



A touring exhibition and community showcasing that supports underrepresented people’s ideas and visibility, including: 


Inspirational pedagogy 

  • Curriculum projects including: MA Cultural and Historical Studies, MA Collaborative Unit, MSc Applied Fashion Psychology in Fashion, BA Fashion Textiles. 


Community Resources 

  • A Community Activity Book 

  • A workshop protocol and tour pack, to inspire further public engagement and exhibitions. 

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.

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



bottom of page