Rewriting His Story: Matt Smith in conversation with Liz Hoggard for EMBROIDERY Magazine

Liz Hoggard, EMBROIDERY Magazine, January 4, 2016

Rewriting his story


Matt Smith is best known as a ceramicist but a move to textiles is allowing him to challenge the status quo in new ways


THERE’S SOMETHING REALLY NICE about taking an old textile that nobody knows what to do with and giving it a new chance,’ Matt Smith tells me.



Best known as a ceramist – in 2014, he won the inaugural Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize and is currently artist in residence at the V&A’s Ceramics Gallery – Smith has recently undertaken a fascinating textile project, reworking vintage tapestries and domestic textile kits. Four and a half years in the making, and exhibited at Brighton’s Ink_d Gallery last July, the Trouble with History series features a selection of tapestry artworks, which explore the intersection between craft and LGBT identities. Smith is interested in how history is a ‘constantly selected and refined narrative’ that edits out marginalised histories, presenting itself as a fixed and accurate account of the past.


Drawing on his PhD in Queer Craft, also called Trouble with History, he wanted to explore the notion of queerness within society. ‘I’m very interested in looking at this period from 1870 to 1970 and looking at what happened to gay male identity in that period.


After sourcing the original tapestries, mostly on eBay and auction sites, Smith laboriously unpicked and re-stitched them to subvert their original meaning – often ‘sewing out’ the central figures or intended focal points, in order to challenge our perceptions, and highlight the fluid nature of memory and history.