Covid takes it’s toll on Women

Just a quick share as I just had to! This Guardian article by Natasha Walker sums it all up so well and it’s statistics like this from the first lockdown that prompted the launch of the Instagram call.

This is something we need to keep talking about, both in solidarity and in terms of demanding change. It’s been such a hard slog to get where we are today, we’ve not come this far to lose all now. So in the spirit of International Women’s Day and coincidentally the day the schools reopen here in England – let’s get stitching and show them what we’re made of!

Picture below: Vanessa stitching her Covid experiences in a lockdown quilt

Retelling Cinderella – book launch

Right back at the very beginning of this project, I explored the domestic origins of fairy tales as stories that women shared whist working – usually with thread or cloth, and usually in a domestic setting. Since then the project has gone in many directions, but fairy tales remain a relevant and inspiring theme.

I’m excited to announce that a selection of dusters from the project now accompany my chapter: Cinderella – The Ultimate Domestic Narrative‘ in a new book published by Cambridge Scholars: Retelling Cinderella- Cultural and Creative Transformations.

Edited by Nicola Darwood and Alexis Weedon from the University of Bedfordshire, it explores Cinderella’s transformation from a lowly, overlooked servant into a princess who attracts everyone’s gaze has become a powerful trope within many cultures. Inspired by the Cinderella archive of books and collectables at the University of Bedfordshire, the essays in this collection demonstrate how the story remains active in various different societies where social and family relationships are adapting to modern culture. The volume explores the social arenas of dating apps and prom nights, as well as contemporary issues about women’s roles in the home, and gender identity.

You can order a copy here:

Cinderella: The Ultimate Domestic Narrative by Vanesa Marr


The Cinderella story has it all; birth, death, jealous siblings, wicked stepmothers, Prince Charming, a fairy tale ending, and the curse of women the world over – domestic drudgery. The underlying messages in this tale are pretty clear: don’t trust your stepfamily, you apparently need a man to be truly fulfilled, and crucially, hard work without complaint makes for a good girl. Female domestic labour is at the heart of the Cinderella tale, completed with a smile for the promise of fulfilment. This needs to change. For too long girls have consumed narratives that position domesticity as the route to happiness. My artwork, which will be discussed within this chapter, claims dusters and embroidery as means of challenging this, supported by my associated collaborative research project, which invites perspectives and experiences on the relationship between women and domesticity to be embroidered upon a duster. Through embroidery mundane household objects are transformed into a route to empowerment and catalyst for change, providing an outlet for women to voice their personal domestic experiences and claim a fairy tale ending of their own choosing.

The myth of happy domesticity still persists; according to social standards presented by popular media culture a woman’s fairy tale dreams of happy ever after are no less relevant today. They would have us all be like Cinderella, never complaining and ever happy with a broom in our hand!  Yes, the tale saves her from the wicked stepmother and her kin, but why give up on all that domestic bliss? This idea was embraced by the advertising industry in the middle of the last century when post-war policies encouraged women back into the home, but it is still very much in evidence today. Modern women are seen daily, happily dancing across our TV screens with mop in hand around a sparkling kitchen floor. Fairy tales were originally told to women, by women, often while they worked. The original Old Wives Tale. They provided a narrative means of making sense of the world around them and reflected the moral codes and social expectations of the day – what better way to sell the domestic dream than through the oldest tales of all?

Stitch Magazine Feature – Spring 2021

I’m super excited to share that the dusters have a mention in this months issue of Stitch magazine!

I really hope this will reach out to even more women to join the project, to stitch and share their domestic experiences upon a duster. The Instagram site @domesticdusters is buzzing with regular submissions and comments, so if you’re discovering this project for the first time do pop over and take a look. The call for submissions is always open. We have a particular focus on the domestic stresses and strains of lockdown at the moment, but essentially it’s all about sharing our stories, finding support in solidarity and hopefully enticing change by challenging the balance of roles within the home. Celebrations, rants, comments, images, poems – all are welcome.

Stitch Magazine have a great set of projects for embroidery enthusiasts to work on, all with a Spring theme. It’s bursting with colour and new life to explore with your needle and thread. Enjoy fantastic floral projects designed to restore order – inside and out. Taking your embroidery to the next level couldn’t be easier. If you’d like to read more, just head over to:

Online Workshop Fun!

I’m happy to report that the online workshop venture is a success, so I’ll definitely be exploring this more next year. Hopefully it will be a really positive way to keen sane and connected during the dark winter months ahead.

The workshop advertised on this blog was with The Virtual Thread – a seriously good natter and stitch where we put the world to rights!

The second, I ran today as part of the School of Art Research Week at the University of Brighton, which is an internal event where we staff staff share our research with other staff and students. Over 40 people signed up (my biggest turn out yet!) We explored some guided creative research techniques, contemplating the duster as a cloth that acts as a catalyst for the expression of our unique domestic experiences.

It was so lovely to meet new people and catch up with some familiar faces too, in each of these events. Thank you to everyone as always for your generous sharing and stitching.

Online Workshop – Wednesday 11th November 2020

Are you fed up with housework and the never-ending list of domestic tasks that somehow seem to land in your lap? Would you like to take part in a craftivist-inspired workshop that lets you have your say, using stitch to change the world (or just your home)? Then join me, Vanessa, for a fun evening of domestic ranting, celebration and stitchery, hosted by the wonderful Virtual Thread.

Wednesday 11th November, 7.30pm GMT. Tickets £15

Please book through the the Virtual Thread website:

You will need a yellow duster (or closest equivalent if you’re not UK based), embroidery thread (ideally red), needle and scissors. A soft pencil or erasable fabric pen is also useful.
(I recommend Sainsbury’s dusters – not their value range).

The embroidered duster you complete (or start) in this workshop can be treasured and displayed in your own home, or sent to me to join the touring exhibition collection. I’d also love to share all contributions on the Instagram page @domesticdusters interview

Wow, this is an exciting month! Today I’m excited to be the featured artist on the popular site, which you can read here.  I’m so pleased with this interview, which reflects my work and ethos so well, a huge thank you to their editors for making it happen.

Duster submissions are always ongoing so if you’d like to take part in the project please get involved  and also visit our instagram site @domesticdusters to view some of the lockdown focused contributions. You can also find me on instagram.

V Marr Fair Maiden 2

Doll from a collection of seven, made from dusters, featuring archetypal female fairy tale characters and my own poetry.

Mothers Who Make Photoshoot

During lockdown I was honoured to be part of a photoshoot about making and motherhood, with the organisation Mothers Who Make, which is run by the inspiring Lizzy Humber. My children are all in their teens and twenties, so it was interesting to reconnect with mums whose children are still quite small and to be reminded of the all consuming nature of mothering that age group. When they’re older it can be less intense but their need for you doesn’t go away.

During lockdown, two of my elder daughters returned home and as I took the opportunity to use my ‘spare’ time, which was usually spent commuting, to make and create, so did they. A reshuffle of bedrooms and spaces to make room for four home-workers and two extra bodies moved the sewing machine to the kitchen table, which sits in the adjoining conservatory. This space quickly became a hive of creative activity (read mess!) with the youngest dressmaking and up-cycling her clothes, another making cushions for her new flat and the other painting her leather jacket. I of course continued my obsession with dusters. I intended the shoot to be a reflection of this family-making-mayhem but a FaceTime conversation with the wonderful photographer Viola beforehand inspired me to take it a step further.

I’d been reading about domestic installation artists like Cathy Wilkes for my PhD and so, inspired by the cardboard dream sequences in Michel Gondry’s film The Science of Sleep, I created a duster world in my kitchen. Usefully I’d already had it painted duster yellow. On the morning of the shoot I was busy sewing dusters together into huge quilt-like sheets to pin around the kitchen island, having spent the night before covering an old iron in dusters. My elder children chose not to take part but my youngest rose to the challenge and baked a huge cake, iced in bright duster-yellow for the purpose. We used heaps of dusters from the collection as props, which we piled over the ironing board and out of the (now clean) food mixer.

I was so nervous before the shoot as I actually hate my photo taken, but Viola really put me at ease. Because of the Covid restrictions she couldn’t visit our house so we linked up over FaceTime on my husband’s phone. Through this app she was able to press the shutter whilst my husband clambered onto chairs and tables to hold his phone at the right angle for the best shot! Viola was on speaker so we all shouted suggestions as the ideas flowed.

I’m so proud of the result, which was so much fun, and I can’t wait to work with Viola again. Thank you Mothers Who Make for a wonderful opportunity!

The final six:


Some amazing portraits, which were such a laugh to make:


And a couple more shots from overhead. Yum, duster muffins!

New submissions

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks and its been good to get to know so many new people, especially through the new Instagram site @domesticdusters

Here are a few of the amazing new submissions that are starting to come in in response to the new call, which is all about domestic experiences during lockdown, several of which are very relevant to the main project too.

Keep them coming! 🙂

Therese Stein 2 - lo-res

Therese Stein 1 - lo-res

Therese Stein


Vanessa Haley Hudersfield, UK

Vanessa Haley, Huddersfield, UK.


Bobby Lloyd - London UK

Bobby Lloyd. London. UK


Deborah EddyBrisbane, Australia

Deborah Eddy, Brisbane, Australia