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Les Bicknell

Les is Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Textile Design and Unit Tutor for MA Textile Design.

I have been making, exhibiting, selling, designing, curating, teaching and talking about art, design and creativity for a long time in a broad range of situations and I bring this extensive experience to the post of Senior Lecturer at NUA. The Textile Course has a creative and flexible, approach to thinking, teaching and making which is student centred and on reflection this is why I feel that I am teaching in the right place.

My current research focuses on an arts council funded project titled unpicking and rebinding which seeks to map and present the making of and thinking behind a body of new work that explores the fold.  I have been working with a number of archives and collections in the Eastern Region to present the idea of an entry point for exploring and utilising the collections.

My practice has covered a range of activity from large scale public art projects to intimate personal commissions. The conceptual thinking behind this work is the idea of ‘bookness’. The book a symbol of power and knowledge, a tool which communicates directly; it is a form that is understood in these terms. Repositioning its context and redirecting its purpose challenges these very notions. The work becomes a question rather than an answer, a collaboration in the mind and hand between maker and reader/viewer. Les’ work is available to view on his website.

Les is a member of the Pattern and Chaos group of collaborative, interactive and networking designers, artists, theorists and innovators in education, all of whom are based at Norwich University of the Arts.


  • 2018/2019/2021: Synthetic anatomy. Delivering an interdisciplinary module within the school of Anatomy at Kings College, London. Collaborating with Celia Pym and a team of science academics on the provision of reflective practice with Bio-medical, Anatomy students within a 3D printing programme.
  • 2018: #knownknowledge. Working with Essex County Council and Commissions Projects to develop 6 steel plasma-cut public art sculptures for Goldlay Square in Chelmsford.
  • 2017: unfoldingthinking. A year with NanoTech DTC collaborating with PhD students and academics at the Maxwell Centre for Nanotechnology in Cambridge. The project sought to extend an understanding between cutting edge science and contemporary art, specifically making connections between nanotechnology and the making of bookworks. Outcomes include a series of interventions within labs and communal spaces, films, artworks, exhibitions, papers and workshops.
  • ​2016: NanoArtDTC. Working within a team of nano scientists, a collaborative project organised with Jeremy Baumberg within the NanoDTC Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge. This included presenting a paper at the Festival of ideas in Cambridge.
  • 2016: Build your own: tools for sharing. Working in the Castle Museum, Norwich during the Build your own exhibition. Engaging with members of the public and creating a number of films exploring the process of making. The work built on the collaborative work I had recently engaged in within the NanoPhotonics Centre in Cambridge University. Working with the Director Prof. Jeremy J. Baumberg on an experimental project
  • 2015: Dementia Quilt. Supporting and co-ordinating a student engagement with a local nursing home in Norwich with NUA. Working with the residents, staff and students to develop a number of artworks to be located within Grenville Court residential home.
  • 2014-15: Parallel Practice: Squeeze fold bend and expand – Structural Memory in Deformable Objects. Was a Project organised in collaboration with the Crafts Council and Kings College London. The project set out to explore ways of controlling movement and the articulation of objects to build new structures whose functionality and manipulation will be framed and enriched by knowledge of soft robotics.
  • 2014:  squeeze fold bend and expand – Structural Memory in Deformable Objects. It is a Project organised in collaboration with the Crafts Council and Kings College London. The project sets out to explore ways of controlling movement and the articulation of objects in order to build new structures whose functionality and manipulation will be framed and enriched by knowledge of soft robotics. Source
  • 2013: Unpicking and Rebinding: unpicking and rebinding mapped and presented the making of and thinking behind a body of new work that explored the fold. Working with a number of archives and collections in the Eastern Region the project presented the idea of an entry point for exploring and utilising the collections. In partnership with The Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL) Suffolk, Carrow House – Norwich, Norwich Castle Museum, Suffolk County Council Archives and Norwich University of the Arts (NUA).
  • 2013: unpicking and rebinding exhibitions –
    • Bury St Edmunds Record Office
    • Lowestoft Record Office
    • Ipswich Record Office
    • Norwich Castle
    • MEAL
  • 2013: Creative Carers – a pilot Artlink project working within residential homes with carers of the elderly
  • 2013: borders and crossings exhibition – impact 8 Dundee
  • 2012: Bookmare. Creating a body of work for the first bookmare at Camberwell College of the arts – including an illustrated talk and design of the limited edition printed material.
  • 2012: The big book. The creation of a large bookwork for the learning programme at firstsite gallery. The piece celebrates the history of the space from its inception to the first exhibition alongside ideas including looking, thinking, colour and illusion. The book is to be used as a tool to engage the public in the exploration and understanding of the permanent and touring exhibitions.
  • 2012: Journey to the podium. A commission for Essex County Council – to create a collaborative bookwork with an athlete for the 2012 Olympics. Working with Dan Bentley, paralympian gold medallist, boccia player to create a piece that connects the audience to the experience of Boccia. The work has a functionality that mirrors the initial simplicity of the sport; but when handled reveals the complexity and gamesmanship which is embedded within the game play.
  • 2011: Interactive print. Working with Firstsite, Colchester museum service and Essex schools to develop specialist print around the Roman Berryfield mosaic which is embedded within the floor of the space.
  • 2010: Wrapping the Corn Exchange with cornfields and sky. A temporary piece which celebrated the history of the space whilst generating a moment of calm within the town. The 75m x 10m printed piece wrapped Ipswich Corn exchange while it was being redeveloped.
  • 2008 – 09: bench for Leiston. Working with Suffolk Coastal District Council on the creation of an ‘art bench’ for the town of Leiston. The project involved working with all of year 8 pupils from Leiston Middle School, creating drawings at The Long shop Museum that were developed into designs which were then sandblasted into recycled stone blocks and sited in the main square.
  • 2007 – 08: Beyond. A piece for the Hythe area of Colchester which celebrates the stories of the people who used to work, live and play in the area before its redevelopment. The two piece artwork sits either side of a path and the continuous text is derived from reminiscence work with past residents of the area and workers from the laundry. The shapes are derived from the distinctive laundry building roof that was on the site. Supported by Barratt’s and delivered by Colchester Borough Council
  • 2008: Diss stones. The creation of a work with Diss Town Council and Cittislow sited at a Morrison’s store. The work celebrates the history of the site while providing a talking point for the residents of the town. The piece takes the form of 4 large granite pieces in the shape of buildings formally located on the site with text/equations generated from community involvement sandblasted into it.
  • 2007 – 2010: Board member Commissions East
  • 2007: Temporary installation – based on ideas around Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Large-scale installation for St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity in Valletta. The piece explored concepts around the science of seeing and the myth of believing.
  • June 2007: Residency St James Centre for Creativity, Valletta
  • 2004 – 08: What is important? – Working on a housing estate in Great Cornard within the Housing Department of Babergh District Council.
  • This became a 4-year project working to develop a permanent creative shared space. The work included working closely with the residents and all stakeholders to development a shared language with which to develop concepts and drawings. These became final inclusive pieces, including paths, which realigned the estate.
  • 2003: Commissions East/Eastenglandarts – Awards for Artists
  • 2002-5: Lead Artist ‘Home Zone’, Suffolk County Council Environment and Planning Department. Redesign of two new streets in Lowestoft within the context of the national ‘homezone’ design criteria with the residents of those streets, the business’s, local and national services. This was a 3-year project and also included in the last year the generation of a creative team to build a new kind of manual for the residents to understand their new street which resulted in many digital interventions, a bookwork, CD ROM, web site and conference
  • 2002: Writing instructions / reading words – a site-specific text based work at the Poetry Society and an artist book Here are my instructions. 2002
  • Curated, produced and edited by Redell Olsen and Susan Johanknecht with support from an Awards for All grant
  • 2002: Commissions East/Eastenglandarts – Awards for Artists
  • 2001-03: Lead Artist Marriott’s Way, cycle path, Norfolk County Council Planning and Transport Department. Working over 21 miles in liaison with 12 Parish Council, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council on the development of an artistic vision for the path. The work over a 3-year period included numerous consultation situations, developing the signage, the creation of a number of sculptural text interventions, the interpretative material, working with the Poet Esther Morgan on a YOTA project and the design of a bridge
  • 2001: Multi-functional street furniture in the Quayside area and at St Crispin’s Urinal in Norwich. Developed with Norwich Planning Department a large text fence and ‘functional’ text feature that explored the history of the developed space
  • 2001: Residency – Physical Poetry, YOTA, NCC
  • 2000-1: Artistic Director of the Millennium Gorleston Psalter Project. A collaborative community art project that included building an art team, working with over 200 volunteers and a team of artists and designers to develop, design, and create a one off Psalter. I then worked in collaboration with musicians, both professional and amateur to enact the book in a performance in the church that was involved in the commissioning the initial Psalter
  • 2001: Commission East – Awards for Artists
  • 2000: Member of Eastern Arts Board’s Regional Artists Advisory Group, The Year of the Artist
  • 2000: Lead Artist YOTA – Arts Council. Working for a year with my Parish Council exploring the role of the artist in society. The outcomes were rich and varied including abstract signage, lighting the church, exhibitions in the village hall and editioned artworks each month for every household.
  • 2000: Louth Millennium sculpture project. A number of interventions around Louth with the sculptor Lawrence Edwards including 3 life-sized bronze figures and floor text panels. The work also involved working with local media to generate text, alongside workshops in schools and the generation of a one-off book and exhibition for the library.
  • 2000: Queen’s Suffolk Book. Creating an editioned book, a one off bookwork and web site for Suffolk County Council in celebration of the Queen’s jubilee visit to Suffolk.

One-Person Shows

  • January 2000: the lesson. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
  • January – March 2000: reading landscapes. Focal Point Gallery, Southend
  • June 2000: rural but not isolated. Peasenhall and Sibton Youth club
  • May 2001: sibton. Peasenhall and Sibton Youth club
  • April 2003: folded space. IP Gallery, Colchester
  • April 2005: suppose it is true after all? The Cut Arts Centre, Halesworth
  • September 2008 – March 2009: threads: mapped. Gallery 1.1 Town Hall Gallery, Ipswich
  • November 2013:  unpicking and rebinding. Small tour including Norwich Castle Museum, Museum of East Anglia Stowmarket and  Suffolk Record Offices in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds
  • April 2014: Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE Bristol
  • September 2014: plis croises. Imprints, Piegros La Castre France

Group Shows

  • 2000: Views across the Pond. Blickling Hall National Trust House
  • 2001: Inside Cover. Touring inc Oxford Brookes
  • July – August 2001: On Paper. New paper art. Crafts Council
  • July – August 2001: Edges, Crossings, Thresholds. Elizabeth Fry Building, UEA
  • February – March 2002: paper past/paper perfect MoDA
  • May – June 2002: paperworks. Norfolk Creative East Tour
  • September 2006: Right here, right now. the Herbert, Coventry
  • March 2007: looking for. University of the Arts, London
  • May 2007: Action/interaction. Chicago Centre for Book and Paper
  • March 2007: Picasso’s Laboratory. St James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity, Valletta Malta
  • March – April 2008: From Book to Book. Leeds Art Gallery
  • May 2008: The Last Book. National Library of Spain
  • June – August 2009: imprints. mediatheque La Durance, Cavaillon, France
  • March – April 2010: we are the history of textiles. Dragon Hall, Norwich
  • July – August 2010: exhibitor. Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
  • April 2011: Prospero’s Library. Studio 75, London
  • July – September 2011: Modified Expression. National Craft Gallery of Ireland, Kilkenny
  • November – December 2011: “Between You and Me’. Samwon Paper Gallery, Seoul Korea
  • December 2011: rewind. Texere bi-annual, Kaunas
  • January 2012: repeat. Norwich Gallery
  • July 2012: bookmare. Camberwell space
  • 2013: The Art and Soul of Paper. Various locations Norwich
  • 2013: Codex: Between This and That. bookartbookshop London
  • Aug – 2013:  Boarders and Crossings. Dundee
  • October – 2013: International Artists Book Prize. Bank Street Arts, Sheffield
  • November – 2013: Resurrecting the Book. Library of Birmingham,
  • May – 2014: DIY Cultures. Rich Mix – London
  • 2014-15: RUKSSIAN Artists’ Books. Touring exhibition Tsaritsyno State Historical, Architectural, Art and Landscape Museum-Reserve, MoscowPavel Kuznetsov Museum, Saratov – Russia 
  • 2016: fashion 360. fashion week at NUA
  • 2016: Art Language Location. Cambridge
  • 2016: paperscissorsbook. a Northern craft touring show.
  • 2017: we love your books.
  • May – 2017: of average sunlight. Kingsland Project Space, March –
  • Sept – 2017: Intersections. Loughborough University – unfoldingthinking.
  • May – 2018: of average sunlight. Poetry Library, Southbank Festival Hall.
  • March – 2019: PAGES. Touring – Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham.
  • May – 2019: Print Matters – books from the archives Przy Rektoracia Gallery. Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Art and Design, Poland.
  • June – Sept 2019: Constellation Inspiration and the Artist Book. Laramie County, Wyoming, USA.
  • July – 2010: gommisti. imprints, Crest, France
  • Aug – 2020: site specific online The Cut, Halesworth.
  • March – 2021: Wood-Sun-Stone – Friends of Roger Ackling. imprints, Crest, France

Other Activities

  • 2007 – 2010 – Board member Commissions East
  • 2016 – Mentor Crafts Council Parallel Practices
  • 2016 – Mentoring role within the Crafts Council Parallel Practices 2 programme.
  • 2016 – Speaker at Make:Shift Crafts Council.
  • 2017 – Speaker at Making Materials Matter conference.
  • 2017 – Consultant with Synthetic Anatomy at Kings.
  • 2017/18 – Mentoring role on The Critical Practice Program at Tashkeel.
  • 2018/19/20 – Workshop/presenter Making Materials Matter conference.
  • 2020 – Materials Research Exchange – Business Design Centre.
  • 2021 – Bookness course – Leicester Print Works