Meet One of the Small Works Project Artists:

Alice Dillon

Alice Dillon is one of thirteen artists selected as a Gallery 263 Small Works Project artist. This project presents artwork in flat files at the gallery and on our website for the duration of one year. All artists are based in Massachusetts. Visit Dillon’s Small Works Project page>>

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Alice Dillon and I’m a fiber artist from Worcester, MA. I graduated from Clark University in Worcester, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in art history and history, and a Master’s degree in history studying women in the HIV/AIDS activist art movement. I enjoy exhibiting my work in Central and Eastern Massachusetts whenever possible, and my work has been featured in Sunspot Literary Journal and Juniper Rag. When I’m not making artwork, I’m working at ArtsWorcester as Associate Director.

What kind of art do you make?

I am a fiber artist and I create all kinds of work using fabric and thread as my base materials. My primary focus is embroidery, but I’m learning how to quilt as well.

What concepts does your art explore?

I tend to work in series that are quite different from one another. Across all my series though, I am interested in putting a more androgynous spin on fiber art- a historically feminine medium- while still honoring its origins as a tool of expression for oppressed groups. I embrace negative space, linear designs, and repetition as a way to simply and (sometimes more than others) subtly get my message across.

One series was inspired by words and phrases that entered a new public vocabulary when Covid started. These pieces, made of canvas fabric, are sewn to look like notebook paper. I then hand-sew the phrases over and over, mirroring the way we have all been repeating these words for years now.

Another series, currently in early developmental stages, explores the iconography of hands in lesbian culture. Used to caress, to please, to hold, and to build, hands maintain a duality of softness and erotics unique to this community. Holding hands becomes a revolutionary act when the hands are not heterosexual, cisgender, or white.

Can you tell us about the work you have on view in your flat file drawer at the gallery?

My drawer features some recent work in which I hand-stitched drawings of cows onto butter wrappers. The cows are colored in with alcohol-ink markers. I started this series after seeing other fiber artists on Instagram incorporate reused material into their work. Impulsively, I started washing butter wrappers to do something with, and decided they just had to have cows on them.

Though I really liked the work, I could recognize they were kind of weird and wasn’t sure if anyone else would like them. To my surprise, they got amazing feedback when I started posting and showing them. There’s something kitschy/folksy/farmy about them that I think is sweet. They’re nice to return to after working on other pieces that aren’t so care-free.

While I don’t want the work to be taken too seriously, there’s also room to think about the design of everyday objects we all encounter. Butter wrappers are iconic for their simple, functional designs–measurements on one side, USDA ratings and “salted” or “unsalted” on another. Some brands step it up, adding flourishes or images. My personal favorite is Cabot’s design- it does so much with only two colors and tiny little cows.

Where do you make your work?

I do not have a studio, so all of my work is made and stored in my bedroom in my third floor apartment in Worcester. My cat/studio assistant Keith loves to walk all over my work to test out the fabrics.

What are your favorite materials to use? Most unusual?

Every fiber artist has the infamous “stash” of beautiful fabric that may or may not ever get used, since it can be so scary to cut into fabric sometimes. Even though the stash can take over sometimes, I really enjoy getting to work with fabric because of the different textures, patterns, and weights there are. When you pull out the perfect fabric for a project, it’s the best feeling.

The most unusual material I’ve used is definitely the butter wrapper. The wrappers were very hard to work with at first. Unlike fabric, you can’t manipulate waxed paper much without leaving creases or ripping it. You also can’t make a mistake with where you put the needle, because it leaves a hole, and you can’t pull the thread too hard. It was fun to experiment with such a finicky material, especially when the outcome
really was just for fun.

What historical and contemporary artists inspire you?

My favorite artist is Keith Haring. I love his linear style and how he was able to convey serious messages through a very accessible style. I did not learn much about fiber arts in school, so I am continuing to learn more about its history as well as contemporary fiber artists. Some of my favorite artists I’ve found through Instagram are Sarah Joy Ford (, Dagmar (@dagmarstap), and Sophie King (@kingsophiesworld). I’m also inspired by the academic work of Ellie Medherst (@dressingdykes, @elliemedhurst).

In my day job at ArtsWorcester, I am constantly meeting and talking to other artists. I am always impressed with the work that each artist brings to new shows. In particular, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Nathan Manna’s (@nathandmanna) unapologetically queer collages as I continue to express queerness in my own work.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

I have been interested in crafting since I was very young, but I didn’t really consider myself an artist until I was in college and settled into fiber art. I had been seeing more and more contemporary embroidery online and wanted to try it out, so I looked up a Youtube video on how to embroider a bird and just kept at it.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Cabot Cheese has liked two of my cow pieces on Instagram and commented “We <3 this!”, which is up there in my list of top experiences as an artist.