GPS Embroidery

Global Positioning Systems were invented in the service of imperialism.

So was the confinement of the mother to the home.

Residues of 18th-century colonialism still cling to our ideas of mother, of landscape, and of nation. They are emotive and highly political (mother country, home office, domestic policy).  Romantic literature frequently frames the landscape as mother, but doesn’t leave much room for her as individual within it.

This project has had several iterations.  In 2016, in response to Brexit, I decided to hijack these tools, to talk back to big power. I ‘embroidered’ quotations about nationhood by forgotten Romantic artist-mothers in picture postcard places, finding new meanings in the relationship between their words and my location.

In 2017, I invited other people who mother to enjoy the conviviality of embroidery, to broaden ideas about who-gets-to-write-what-where in and about the British landscape and to draw attention to silences it still contains. We also hijacked another tool of war – the drone- to record the act of writing.

Recently, I was commissioned by the AHRC-funded research project Outside the Box: Outdoor Performance as Pandemic Response ( to create “Acts of (In)visible Repair” in Exeter. We used GPS Embroidery to address climate change and protection of biodiversity through visible mending stitches.

You can see all the embroideries here:

You can read more about this project here:

Philps, E (2019) A global positioning system – On “finding myself”” in the Romantic Landscape,in K Johnson and J Johnston: Maternal geographies: mothering in and out of place, Bradford, Canada. Demeter Press.

Philps, E (2022) GPS Embroidery: walking as re-articulation of the written maternalised landscape, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance.

Eventually we will create a multiplicity of 21st century embroideries, legacies to pass down like the domestically-produced examples from the past.

Home isn’t the only place that’s sweet.

What will you embroider?