CASE STUDY: Lynn Setterington – Scaffolding for Life

This case study explores a participatory textile making project by Lynn Setterington. To see more case studies or find out how to contribute one yourself, click here.


Title of case study project or workshop

Scaffolding for Life (a test which will inform a larger research project)

Name(s) of practitioner(s) and institution/organisation, if any

The patchwork installation is a partnership between myself, a Senior Lecturer on Textiles in Practice at Manchester School of Art; Conlon Construction; and Mates in Mind, a mental health charity.

Context for project

Scaffolding for Life is a new large scale interdisciplinary project focused on mental health, particularly in relation to the construction industry, where the suicide rate amongst workers is three times the national average. This is a pilot project supported by the Arts Council’s Developing your Creative Practice fund and after the initial trial, funding will extend the work to engage and stitch with core groups. This includes those involved in the construction industry on a daily basis, to the families and friends of those affected by poor mental health. Mental health charities and students in art and psychology will work along the lead researchers and a short film capturing elements of the shared work will offer a lasting legacy of the project.

When did the project take place?

March 2020

Background(s) of the practitioner(s)

My research is situated at the intersection of craft and community, social engagement, design and activism and I completed my practice-based PhD in 2018 after many years working in the field. The study interrogates the hidden values and tensions in collaborations using hand stitch as a method and is timely given the huge ground swell of interest in craft and collaborative making. My innovative stitch-based research methods have helped to establish many new communities of practice and the collaborative outcomes offer alternative, flexible forms of commemoration, countering the fixed, hard memorials, ubiquitous in many parks, city centres and stadiums.

Creating innovative partnerships with a wide range of hard to reach groups, organisations and charities drives much of my research and teaching. Successful collaborations include projects with the RNIB, the IQSC, Lincoln, Nebraska, Touchstones Gallery, Rochdale, the Bronte Parsonage Museum and several Manchester communities including Hulme Community Garden Centre, Venture Arts and Rainbow Haven.

Stitching the letters, February 2020

Aims of project

The text reads ‘There is no health without mental health’. It can be seen on Ormond building at the All Saints campus of Manchester Metropolitan University until May. The artwork re-appropriates and re-imagines debris or scaffolding net, a ubiquitous material used on many building site across the world and employs scale, colour and text to visually question and interrogate attitudes and myths surrounding poor mental health.

Scaffolders fixing the first letter,  March 2020

Description of project

This large-scale site-specific project explores ways to destigmatise mental health today and facilitate discussion about this important subject. The work was a collaboration between myself and Conlon, a local construction company. I designed the layout, stitched the text and then following discussions, the letters were fixed on site by two scaffolders employed by Conlon.

The first word in place, March 2020

Why did you choose to work in this way?

I wanted to challenge myself to explore stitch in a new context, scale and location and examine an important issue in society today.

What did you learn from the project?

That I want to do more. This was a very positive approach that has much scope. I also need to consider the site of my work carefully to achieve maximum impact.


The work went up on site on the week of lockdown so staff and students were leaving University. However as it is only really a test piece, it was been a useful and worthwhile exercise. Everyone that has seen the work, in person or online has been very positive about it and Conlon were a great partner organisation.

The work on site at MMU, March 2020


My 2017 outdoor installation Sew Near – Sew Far for the Bronte Parsonage museum informed this work, as did patchwork itself, colourful scaffolding net on building sites and the artworks of Christo.

Scaffolding netting on a site in Manchester, February 2020

Related projects

Stitching Up Oxford Rd (2007)

Respect and Protect (2009)

Hulme Sweet Hulme (2009)

Who Cares about Mental Health (2011)

Please Sign Here (2013)

Remembering Emily (2013)

Kotha and Kantha (2016)

Threads of Identity (2016)

Sew Near – Sew Far (2017)

Radical Locks (2019)

Further information

Instagram: @lynnsetterington

Stories of Collaborative Making: Two Rochdale Quilts with Alison Slater, in Quilt Studies Journal (2016)

My work is also featured in Hand Stitch: Perspectives (2012) ed. Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating and Machine Stitch: Perspectives (2010) by the same authors

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