Magdalena Sikorska

Panel 6C: Avant-garde and Artist’s Books
Session 6 – July 3, 15:30 – 17:30

The Texture of Stories – The Multiple Use of Fabric and Embroidery in Contemporary Crossover Picturebooks

The topic of my presentation could itself become a main theme of a conference and I am well aware of the fact that within the space of a paper, I can only touch a very limited number of relevant issues. Hence, I have decided to discuss three aspects I find crucial in the discussion of the literary examples I have selected for the presentation. These are, first of all, the elusive borderline between art and craft. Secondly, how modern technologies, if used knowingly, can help emulate the original materiality of the books’ projects, and, finally, how the tactile can become metaphorical during the making and reading processes and, in turn, an indispensable component of the very story.

To highlight the main points of my presentation, I will discuss three picturebooks in greater detail: Esther Nisenthal Krinitz and Bernice Steinhardt, (2005), Memories of Survival, Nina Sabnani (2011) Stitching Stories: The Art of Embroidery in Gujarat, and Iwona Chmielewska (2019) Lullaby for Grandmother (this year’s winner of BolognaRagazzi New Horizons). All three picturebooks belong to a broadly defined category of artistic non-fiction and all of them can add to our understanding of storytelling and retelling processes in the context of materiality and craft.

As the aim of the presentation is rather to delineate the possible domains of research within the area than to discuss a single idea in detail, I will draw upon a number of sources I find particularly inspirational: the writings of Juhani Pallasmaa, Glenn Adamson, and Clare Hunter.


Magdalena Sikorska is Assistant Professor of English at Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, Poland. She researches visual literature with a focus on affective narratology and multisensory experience. Her essays on narrative strategies, image interpretation, and the Holocaust postmemory in visual narratives have appeared in publications in the UK, USA, Canada, and Poland. Her recent published work includes “Re-reading The Red Tree: the art of Shaun Tan” (NJES, Special Issue Visual Poetics, Vol 17, No1, 2018), and a co-authored book in Polish on humanistic approaches to visual literature (2019).