The Shepherd’s Daughter

I am pleased to announce the forthcoming exhibition of textiles and drawings from 6th to 29th June 2019 at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, Co. Armagh.

As a textile artist I am inspired by family history and a love of nature, using digital print and embroidery as a means to explore ideas of memory, myths, fact and fiction. I am fascinated by the different ways our identity is shaped by place and experience, which has led me to understand that my interests and taste have been forged by the wonderful upbringing I have been fortunate enough to have. 

This exhibition of drawings and textile artworks uses the lens of mother’s life as a vehicle to look at our shared experiences of the contrasts inherent in living in a rural farming town whilst working in the textile industry. Colour, texture and materiality are underpinned by a rich palette of craft and textile processes.  


The Shepherd of Bumblebee Cottages

My mother’s birth certificate lists her father’s occupation as ‘Shepherd of Bumblebee Cottages’. It is the stuff of fairytales. In response to this landscape and experiences take on magical, poetic and fantastical qualities.

As the 4th daughter of 9 children she talks so fondly of her childhood in a small village outside of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, where her freedom to explore and discover a love of nature more than made up for any lack of material possessions. She remembers her father as a vital farm labourer, a man of all seasons in tune with the rhythms of the land. In her mind he is driving the Ferguson tractor and dealing with all aspects of livestock and arable farming, whilst I can only remember him as my elderly grandfather suffering from chronic ill health. 

After school she went on to become a machinist in ‘Symingtons’, the long since closed lingerie factory that dominated the town where she met my father. As a child I grew up with an industrial sewing machine in our living room as she was an outworker. Instead of wandering the fields with rabbits we had a pet rabbit in the hutch in the back garden. Listening to her anecdotes has always provided limitless inspiration. 

The exhibition encompasses several themes that range from the nostalgic black and white photographs of family and buildings, in contrast with detailed drawings of farm animals and colourful interpretations of a magical forest filled with wildlife.

Harrogate 22nd to 25th November 2018

Hope to see many old friends and meet new ones at the final leg of the Decorated Tour of Duty with the Knitting and Stitching show. In Hall M next to the Royal Hall at Harrogate Convention Centre. Showing a new configuration of the exhibition.

Come and see how this turns into a pristine exhibition !!!!!


Tipperary Peace Prize

I am honoured and humbled to have been asked to show the series of artworks entitled ‘Naseby 11’ (from the Decorated show) at the Excel building in Tipperary on the 16th November 2018.


Dublin 8th to 11th November

I am delighted to be showing the Naseby 11 in Dublin in November. New work will be on show so I hope to see many friendly faces then.

PRESS RELEASE :  Nigel Graham Cheney

Knitting and Stitching Shows

11th to 14th October, 2018 : Alexandra Palace, London 

8th to 11th November, 2018 : Dublin, Republic of Ireland

22nd to 25th November : Harrogate

Nigel Cheney is a textile artist, designer and educator with over 30 years of experience. Until 2017 he lived and worked in Dublin as Lecturer in Embroidery at the National College of Art and Design. At the Knitting and Stitching shows this Autumn he will profile a selection of his recent work reflecting on WWI, especially the ‘Naseby 11’; whose names appear on the village War Memorial.

’Decorated – Tour of Duty’ 

This exhibition encompasses over 4 years of research and practical textile experiments that reflect on the ideas of loss and commemoration. It explores just what we mean by the term ‘decorated’.  2017 saw the centenary of the death of my Great Grandfather, a person who for me was never anymore than an old photo of a soldier that used to be on my grandmother’s sideboard. Like many of those who served and died in WW1 he was ‘decorated’ with three WW1 medals. Before starting this project I had only a vague sense that these existed or what they signified. It has been a vast undertaking to try and be both respectful to the memory of those who died in the First World War and also to try and reflect what it must have been like for those who survived. The sight of the vast graveyards and memorials in France and Belgium are places that seem so far away from our everyday experience. They are in sharp contrast to the war memorials in every English town and village that seem to blossom and become visible only when they are decorated with wreaths of poppies on Remembrance Sunday.

Taking personal starting points of family and local history, I have produced a number of ‘body bag’ forms that graft actual uniforms with army kit bags in the form of ‘sentinels’. United by an enquiry into the nature of ‘decorations’ in both form and function there is an extensive use of vintage, digitally printed pieces of cloth, embroidery and textile processes to alter these existing objects and allude to narratives of individuals. 

Uniforms are designed to make everyone of the same rank and regiment equal. A military decoration is an award of medal and ribbon that denotes heroism. To decorate expresses the need to personalise or make more attractive. For those whose loved ones have served in the armed forces I feel there is a fundamental need to imbue these pieces of clothing with more individual and personal memories that go beyond serial numbers or army insignia. As transitional objects we hold clothing to us to experience some sense of the person to whom they belonged. Mythologies are created through repairing, altering and embellishing these. As an embroiderer the methods and tools I have at my disposal lend themselves to the act of repair. The making of the work has been a method to explore many of the questions that I have had about remembrance and sacrifice and of how people put themselves back together after experiencing a traumatic loss. For me this is a domestic and highly personal act that is concerned with creating memories and re-telling stories through colour, texture, materials and imagery.  During the centenary of the Great War many people have embarked on researching their ancestors and discovering through these connections. As a nation we have lost the ability to understand the language of military regalia and most of us would struggle to recognise and name a WW1 medal or be able to identify the cap badge for a specific regiment. Many contemporary military historians are preoccupied with banishing the myths and making the tragedy of war more understandable. Moving away from blank, colourless memorials, even going so far as colouring archive footage to allow it to resonate with the viewer.

Selvedge Interview

I was featured in the August 2018 edition of the Selvedge magazine.

Taking place in the iconic Alexandra Palace, the Knitting & Stitching Show is the biggest textile event in the UK and features some of the top textile artists exhibiting their work. Textile artist Nigel Cheney’s exhibition Decorated – Tour of Duty will be on display at the Show. He talked to Jessica Edney about the story behind the exhibition.

“I have been working on this project for over five years and it began at the junction of three elements. The first was physical. There was a time in the summer of 2012 when I was simply creatively exhausted. I picked up some simple Aida canvas and just started sewing. Playing with colour relationships; trying not to over think, just enjoying stitching. Very quickly they started to look like medal ribbons and I began to consider the language and codification of these.

Read the full article


Based on the Machiavellian themes of Richard 3rd. The sense of disputed territory. The border of Northamptonshire ( Richard’s birthplace) and Leicestershire ( his death, burial, discovery under a carpark and interment in the Leicester Cathederal). It’s about the last 3 years of my life. Ghosts. Loss and only survived to see the light of day after crying my way through Lazurus…
Oh the bluebirds of happiness.
9 I,3,632
I was; but I do find more pain in banishment
Than death can yield me here by my abode.
10 I,3,652
What were you snarling all before I came,
Ready to catch each other by the throat,
11 I,3,680
And leave out thee? stay, dog, for thou shalt hear me.
If heaven have any grievous plague in store
12 I,3,699

‘Henry VII (before accession known as Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond, Welsh: Harri Tudur; 28 January 1457 – 21 April 1509) was King of England, ruled the Principality of Wales[1] (until 29 November 1489) and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor.
Henry won the throne when his forces defeated the forces of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. Henry was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III. Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the political upheavals of the civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. He founded the Tudor dynasty and, after a reign of nearly 24 years, was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII
Although Henry can be credited with the restoration of political stability in England, and a number of commendable administrative, economic and diplomatic initiatives, the latter part of his reign was characterised by a financial greed which stretched the bounds of legality. The capriciousness and lack of due process which indebted many in England were soon ended upon Henry VII’s death after a commission revealed widespread abuses. According to the contemporary historian Polydore Vergil, simple “greed” in large part underscored the means by which royal control was over-asserted in Henry’s final years.’
‘Lady Anne Neville (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485) was an English queen, the daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (the “Kingmaker”). She became Princess of Wales as the wife of Edward of Westminster and then Queen of England as the wife of King Richard III.
As a member of the powerful House of Neville, she played a critical part in the Wars of the Roses fought between the House of York and House of Lancaster for the English crown. Her father Warwick betrothed her as a girl to Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI.[1] The marriage was to seal an alliance to the House of Lancaster and continue the civil war between the two houses of Lancaster and York.
After the death of Edward, the Dowager Princess of Wales married Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV and of George, Duke of Clarence, the husband of Anne Neville’s older sister Isabel. Anne Neville became queen when Richard III ascended the throne in June 1483, following the declaration that Edward IV’s children by Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate. Anne Neville predeceased her husband by five months, dying in March 1485. Her only child was Edward of Middleham, who predeceased her.’
Whenever I watch or read Shakespeare’s Richard 3rd I can never focus on any one character more than Anne Neville… she got several outfits….
‘On Friday, June 13, 1483, William Hastings walked into what he thought was a routine council meeting called by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. When Hastings left the chamber a few hours later, it was as a prisoner being hustled out to execution.
No trial was given to Hastings, whose death on Tower Green was such a hasty affair that no scaffold had been erected. He was the first of the four men who would die violently before Gloucester, who had been serving as protector of England during the minority of Edward V, took the throne as Richard III.
As with so much involving Richard III, there are conflicting theories as to why William Hastings, probably the most loyal friend Edward IV ever had, met his death at the hands of Richard, Edward IV’s supposedly devoted brother. Richard himself claimed that Hastings had been plotting against him, though he never produced any proof to substantiate his claims. Those defenders of Richard who have taken him at his word suggest that Hastings was driven into conspiracy by concerns that under the protectorate, he would lose the power and prestige he had enjoyed during Edward IV’s reign or by his suspicion that Richard meant to take the throne for himself.
The alternative explanation is that there was no plot at all and that Richard, having planned to seize the crown, ruthlessly eliminated Lord Hastings as the man most likely to stand in his way. This theory was propounded by those writing under the Tudors, but it was also that of Dominic Mancini, writing shortly after the events in question at a time when Henry Tudor was still an obscure exile:’
“The Princes in the Tower” is an expression frequently used to refer to Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. The two brothers were the only sons of Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville surviving at the time of their father’s death in 1483. Then 12 and 9 years old, they were lodged in the Tower of London by the man appointed to look after them, their uncle, the Lord Protector: Richard, Duke of Gloucester. This was supposed to be in preparation for Edward’s coronation as king. However, Richard took the throne for himself and the boys disappeared.
It is unclear what happened to the boys after they disappeared in the Tower. It is generally assumed that they were murdered and the most common theory is that they were murdered by Richard in an attempt to secure his hold on the throne. The murder may have occurred some time around 1483, but apart from their disappearance, the only evidence is circumstantial. As a result, a number of other theories about what happened to them have been put forward, including the suggestion that they might have been murdered by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham or Henry VII, among others. It has also been suggested that one or both princes may have escaped assassination. In 1487, Lambert Simnel initially claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, but later claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick. From 1491 until his capture in 1497, Perkin Warbeck claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, having supposedly escaped to Flanders. Warbeck’s claim was supported by some contemporaries (including the aunt of the princes, Margaret of York).
In 1674 workmen at the Tower dug up a wooden box containing two small human skeletons. The bones were found in the ground near the White Tower, which is close to one reported site of their burial. The bones were widely accepted at the time as those of the princes, but this has not been proven. King Charles II had the bones buried within Westminster Abbey.’
When Bowie died I doubted the whole collection., I doubted bothering to make or show anything. I had lazarus in repeat and simply ceased to function in any real way for about 2 weeks. There was always a white bride, there was always a leather warrior jacket… but nothing made sense of them…
the of course I realised, my whole interest in Richard 3rd as the last Plantagenant was really in relationship to the Tudors, to Elizabeth, to the child, warrior and virgin bride. The last act was always a trinity. and always had Bowie’s Lazarus bluebirds… singing in my ears like the birds helping disney’s cinderella to make the ball gown…
‘Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed two and a half years after Elizabeth’s birth. Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary’s reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir to continue the Tudor line. She never did, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity. A cult grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.
In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was “video et taceo” (“I see, and say nothing”). In religion, she was relatively tolerant and avoided systematic persecution. After the pope declared her illegitimate in 1570 and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers’ secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain. England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 associated Elizabeth with one of the greatest military victories in English history.
Elizabeth’s reign is known as the Elizabethan era. My mum is Betty and everyone thinks she is really an Elizabeth but the Betty Era is immense and magical. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Francis Drake. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and had executed in 1587. After the short reigns of Elizabeth’s half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.’
The final outfit was originally all white, was originally floor length, was originally worn with the jacket backwards… but ear queen Liz needed lap dancer shoes, and a bleeding heart and the skirt hoiked up to her hosters…. but of course with a mask, best not to et them see the real face.