Charlotte Bilby

Doctoral Researcher

Charlotte has a background in criminology, where she researched the impact of court mandated programmes aimed to change people’s offending behaviour. She became dismayed at the deficits model of this work, and after seeing a talk on the historical social impact of quilt making started to consider whether, how and why people made creative things while being managed, punished and rehabilitated in criminal justice systems. She moved from evaluating how making might change people’s behaviour and sense of self, to using making while having difficult conversations with women about the harm done to them by others. Charlotte has carried out research for the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and has worked in criminal justice settings.


Soft materials, harsh actions: women’s co-created making in shaping understandings of the aesthetics and narratives of harm


Charlotte’s research uncovers and explores women’s narratives, lived experiences and understanding of crime, harm and community (re)belonging through participatory textile making. Women inside and outside the criminal justice system make textile and mixed-media labels, medals of courage and envelopes that reveal real and perceived connections between craft, making and criminologies. The metaphors of touch, space, temporality are explored in developing an understanding of the aesthetics of harm.  The research explores the practicalities of carrying out participatory textile making inside prisons, how groups separated by varied boundaries are able to co-create work and the whether the elusive ‘something’ about collaborative stitching can be uncovered.

Charlotte’s projects