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A participatory textile work Social Fabric of Migration by Varvara Zhemchuzhnikova.

Stories of migration shared through textile artwork

A participatory textile work Social Fabric of Migration is an art project by Varvara Zhemchuzhnikova, a textile artist and designer currently graduating from the Fashion and Collection Design programme at Aalto University. Anyone who wants to share their own story of moving to or from Finland, or a story that connects them to the challenges of any kind of migration, are welcome to participate in the project. «My experience helped me see parallels between immigration processes—some strict and challenging, others welcoming and supportive—that new migrants struggle with. As an artist I aim to find ways to visualise migrants' stories and emotionally connect migrants to their new community, with the aim of fostering empathy within contemporary society».

April 24–May 2 Collection of stories at Library 10 (Postitalo) and Kallio libraries in Helsinki and Otaniemi library (Espoo)
May 5–26 2017 Exhibition at the Harald Herlin Learning Centre Aalto University

A large number of headlines related to migration issues have been in the news these days. While officials put forward their vision of migrants’ future in the country, the voices of those who experienced migration are often left unheard. Once lived, migration often becomes a hidden part of one’s personal history, not necessary shared even with close friends. The artist started working on the project while reflecting on and grappling with her own experience of moving from one country to another.

Varvara Zhemchuzhnikova’s working practice focuses on sustainable development and emotional attachment in design and textiles. Zhemchuzhnikova is using canvases that evoke the Finnish traditional craft technique ryijy as a means to visualise how similar and different migration experiences can be nowadays. She invites people to pick a yarn that they feel is connected with their story of migration. Participants may also share their experiences by answering a series of questions or writing a statement in their own words. Each yarn is incorporated into the canvas, and together the stories become part of a fabric, just like individuals become interwoven into communities. A journal is created for each canvas to archive the stories of participants.

Two libraries in Helsinki and one in Espoo (Otaniemi) will host collection stands between April 24–May 2. To take part in the project, visit one of the mentioned libraries and follow the instructions found at the stands on the poster “Tell Your Story of Migration”. Materials are provided at the collection point, but participants can also bring along a yarn that has a special meaning for them.

The project will result in an exhibition at Aalto University, at the Harald Herlin Learning Centre, Otaniementie 9, Espoo, on May 5–26, 2017. All those who contributed yarn are very welcome to attend the official opening on May 5 at 16:00. The exhibition is part of Aalto Festival, which welcomes audiences of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Learn more about the project:

Contact details:
Curator Ksenia Kaverina,, 0458854585

Harald Herlin Learning Centre / Otaniemi Library

Otaniementie 9, 02100 Espoo

Mon–Thu 9:00–20:00
Fri 9:00–18:00
Sat 10:00–15:00

Library 10 (Postitalo)
Elielinaukio 2G, 00100 Helsinki

Kallio Library
Viides linja 11, 00530 Helsinki

Aalto Festival