Creativity in Prison - One Stitch at a Time

Creativity in Prison - One Stitch at a Time

Fine Cell Work has had a long and prestigious relationship with art and artists. We bring art, creativity and broader cultural experiences to prisoners’ lives by teaching them to create high-quality needlework products and commissions which are sold to museums, designers and private customers.  

To celebrate these creative collaborative relationships, we are hosting a Drinks Reception on Thursday 18 May 2023 at the fantastic studios of artists Carolina Mazzolari and Conrad Shawcross.

This is an exclusive opportunity for patrons of art and Fine Cell Work supporters to experience the work of these incredible artists in their studio and to learn more about Fine Cell Work’s contribution to art while carrying out its mission of rehabilitation of prisoners.

The evening will also include talks by these two prestigious artists about the connections between their art and prison.

To RSVP please email

Please note: There is a limited number of attendees that we can welcome this evening. Whilst this is a free event, we welcome any donations to support the rehabilitative work we do. Click here if you wish to donate.

Fine Cell Work and Carolina Mazzolari

Carolina Mazzolari’s relationship with Fine Cell Work began over six years ago and has since been very creative and collaborative. Carolina’s commitment to Fine Cell Work is based on her belief in offering hope to prisoners through meaningful work and the trust she places on the quality of the work of our stitchers.

Carolina plans her work on pure linen off cuts or upcycled linen curtains and sheets. Then she carefully plans out her Voids by drawing them in pencil and then in indelible pen, marking out the shape of the emotional field she wants to produce and then leaving it to the stitcher to interpret the Voids. The work, completed by Fine Cell Work stitchers in prison, then forms the background for the raised, brightly coloured explosion of embroidery at the centre of her work….the emotional field.

This partnership led to Carolina’s artwork Void being part of the Fine Cell Works, Human Touch exhibition at Sothebys in 2020.

“I believe there is nothing more powerful than creativity to help a soul recuperate. All the hard work and the challenges presented by craftsmanship are translated into a beautiful artwork or object. To complete a difficult task, learning patience along the way, and to make something entirely using your own hands - or in collaboration with someone that you potentially admire - is deeply therapeutic. It enables one to see positive aspects of oneself and encourages them to cultivate that positive aspect with a desire to do it again and improve upon it. Although the stitchers and I never met in person, I feel that we met through our craftsmanship, and our ideas. We met in the line of thought. The stitcher has used thick wool threads but it is so well interpreted that it looks like liquid or something melting. Originally, I had planned to add to it but I was very impressed with what the stitcher had done, so I decided to let that area be the main embroidery. I finished the work myself with a pen instead.” – Carolina for the Sotheby’s programme

 Fine Cell Work trustee Nikki Wright says, "Fine Cell Work’s creative rehabilitation programmes teach prisoners to make high-quality needlework products that are then sold to individuals and businesses. Collaborations between prisoners and artists such as Carolina Mazzolari bring together the contemporary art world and a very important social purpose. As a Trustee of FCW I am proud that these connections are being made and that lives are being transformed in the process. This event is a wonderful celebration of the creativity that is possible in prison."

Conrad Shawcross

Imbued with an appearance of scientific rationality, Conrad Shawcross’ RA (b. 1977) often monumental sculptures explore subjects that lie on the borders of geometry and philosophy, physics and metaphysics.

Inspired by different technologies, the artist's structures may retain in appearance the authority of machines – yet their raison d’être remains elusive, filled with paradox and wonder. Some have a melancholy feel, while others tend to the sublime, substituting the purely functional for phenomenological experience.They interrogate what we take for granted and encourage us to see beyond the physical and remember how limited our perception envelope really is.


Shawcross has completed numerous monumental public commissions and exhibited at various institutions across the world. He is represented by Victoria Miro in London, Tucci Russo in Italy, and Galerie Isa in India.


Photo Credits: Daniel Alka


Carolina Mazzolari

Carolina’s practice involves textile manipulation, printing, painting, photography, video, and performance. Her creative process explores symbols, techniques, and forms, leaving the traces of her exploration visible.  Mazzolari is inspired by psychoanalysis, intuition, cognition, human behaviour, and social development.


In her ongoing series “Emotional Fields”, presented firstly as a solo show at Tristan Hoare Gallery in September 2019, Mazzolari portrays the materialization of elusive states like “Love”, “Hesitation”, “Awe”.


These ideas are manifested as painted, deep-dyed hand-embroidered, maps. They have a distinctive silver grey stitch exoskeleton that interacts with light, creating changing depths and luminous illusions.  Carolina makes these larger hand stitched works with the help of ‘Fine Cell Work’.


In each map, there is a sense of intimacy as the artist has physically interacted with the fabrics over many hundreds of hours. The resulting maps are reminiscent of mandalas where love, hesitation, loss, awe, and struggle are described in a personal language, suggesting a deeper human pattern.

1 comment

  • Diana Springall on

    Simply wonderful achievement both in human terms and in the unique part played in creativity

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published