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Paper Dolls

In 2017 I was invited along with 24 other international textile artists to be part of an exhibition titled “Stitched Up”, an exhibition acknowledging 150 years since the Newcastle Girls School began.  

It was an exhibition portraying and giving a voice to the 193 girls who were inmates at the infamous Newcastle Industrial Girls School. Attending the school was not a choice but implemented as a government mandate at the time. Our brief was to choose a girl and give her story a voice in textiles - with the title "Stitched Up" relating to both the textile aspect of the exhibition and their stories were often tragic - being betrayed by adults. The exhibition was held at Timeless Textiles, Newcastle, Australia.

In researching the many aspects of life in Australia in the late 1800’s I was drawn into the story of the Young sisters and these 2 artworks became my interpretation of their story.

Paper Dolls by Lois Parish Evans | Textile Artist and Designer


© 2017 


140cm (w) x 122cm (h)

Free machine embroidery & quilting, raw edge applique, hand colouring, free hand stitching

Private Collection

2017 Exhibited at Timeless Textiles, Newcastle, Australia

2017  Exhibited at the Christchurch Quilting Symposium, Christchurch, New Zealand 

The ‘paper doll’ is a symbol of childhood; of fun, of playfulness, of imaginary worlds and this possibly contrasted with the reality of the Young sisters childhood.  The clothes to dress the dolls in this artwork symbolise domestic service in contrast with the garments made by the girls for the ‘well to do’ in the area, and speak of childhood not experienced.  A childhood that appears to have had many labels attached.

This artwork is about the lack of choices for girls with the labels and stigma of their background – their choice was to be apprenticed to domestic service.

Research shows that both girls married, had children and lived to a good age.  My musings are that although the sisters were betrayed by the adults responsible for them, the strength of sisterhood helped them to survive the challenges and circumstances of their childhood.


Continuing with the layers, labels and paper dolls theme, this artwork focuses on the notion that labels can enclose people and are potentially restrictive and stigmatising.

In research compiled by Jane Ison ( the young sisters were given the title of the most confusing research and there certainly appears to be much confusion mostly due to inaccurate records being kept. Confusion around lack of clarity regarding arrests, around accurate birth-dates, around accurate names and which of the sisters actually attended the Newcastle Industrial Girls school.

Paralleling the confusing research I wanted to explore the confusion that the sisters may have felt about the circumstances and challenges they faced in their young lives.  How do children/teenagers make sense of their world if they do not have responsible adults/authorities to guide them?  In this sense, they have been betrayed by the adults in their lives.

Paper Dolls by Lois Parish Evans | Textile Artist and Designer

Exhibited:  “Stitched Up” Invitational exhibition at Timeless Textiles, Newcastle, Australia 2017

Exhibited:  Art Quilt Australia 2017, Queen Victoria Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Exhibited:  AQA2017, Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, Victoria, Australia

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